Best of Both
The La Fleche
THE LOW DOWN
The combination of the deep red horned comb, strong beak, cavernous nostrils and beetle black plumage, as well as the solid stature of this breed, mean that it is well suited to its nickname of Satan’s Fowl. It is quite a large chicken and it makes a good layer, but it grows quickly and is an excellent table bird that is well known in its country of origin.
IN THE BEGINNING
The true origins of the La Fleche are not fully known. It is thought to have been in existence for many centuries with documentation describing them as being present in the 15th Century around the town of La Fleche, just north of the River Loire. This is probably where the name originated, although the game-like look of the bird has led people to believe that they stem from Belgian game.
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?
The La Fleche is a fairly upright bird, which nods towards a game-like provenance. It is large in body with wide shoulders and a large breast, plus it is tight feathered and long in the back. It has a reputation for excellent tasting meat and prolific egg laying that can be on a par with the Mediterranean breeds, such as the Ancona and the Leghorn. It is a slow maturing breed which, when coupled with its preference to range over wide areas, probably accounts for the taste of the flesh.
The La Fleche hen weighs 6-7lb (2.7-3.2kg). She has an alert appearance akin to that of the layer breeds, which is enhanced by her bright orange eyes. On her head she sports a small horned comb, coupled with comparatively large wattles. Rarely do they go broody, but when they do they can make fearsome mothers.
The La Fleche cock is another powerfully built bird. It is raised high on its legs and carries a well-developed ornamental tail which gives the male a very stately appearance. Closer inspection shows the ‘devil head’ associated with this unique breed. Piercing eyes, a deep red upright horned comb, large wattles, wide, cavernous nostrils and glossy beetle black plumage make for a stunning presence within the flock. Weighing in at 8-9lb (3.6–4.1kg), its table qualities are evident.
The eggs of the La Fleche are a good size and white in colour. The breed is capable of laying good numbers in a season and for a number of seasons which, when coupled with the excellent table qualities, means that it is easy to see how the breed became prized for its abilities.
DOCILE OR DOMINANT?
Feisty and flighty is perhaps the best way to describe the La Fleche. They are wary by nature and they do not tame easily. They are better kept in a single breed flock and they don’t mix particularly well with other breeds. That said, they are not an aggressive breed despite their Asiatic appearance and likely roots.
HARDY OR SOFT?
The La Fleche benefits from being able to free range as they are excellent foragers and will cover large distances in search of food. This makes them a very economical breed ideally suited to their dual-purpose function. They are also capable of flying quite high despite their size and so they do need high fences or roofed areas if they are not to be found roosting in trees. They don’t function as well if they are kept confined in the smaller spaces that suit other breeds.
The La Fleche can be a difficult breed to source. They are found on the exhibition circuit and, although this is infrequent, you will usually find a very enthusiastic owner behind the bird. Demand is quite low for the breed in this country and, as a consequence, good examples, assuming you can find a source, will set you back £50-60 for a trio of birds, with single pullets usually exchanging hands for around £20-£25.
The La Fleche is wary by nature and does not tame easily. Females also rarely go broody
The La Fleche is not an aggressive breed despite the bird’s Asiatic appearance and likely roots