If you’re as fond of black flowers, fruits, and vegetables as you are of roast chicken and fresh eggs, then look no further than the Barbezieux chicken.
These large birds don’t just look like Gothic rockstars: they’re ideal choices for multi-purpose mixed chicken flocks.
Read on to learn more about them and whether they’re right for your homestead.
Barbezieux Chicken Characteristics
Barbezieux chickens are also known as “Poules de Barbezieux” and were originally from the region of Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire in southwestern France.
Medieval farmers crossed their domestic birds with Asian breeds imported along the silk road, resulting in birds with large statures, flavorful flesh, and great personalities.
Hens stand at around 25 inches tall, and roosters are a bit larger at 27-28 inches on average. Their plumage is black with iridescent green, and they’re beautiful enough to be considered ornamental birds as well as poultry animals.
As such, you may be interested in displaying them at poultry shows or fairs if there are any near you.
These birds are remarkably docile and non-aggressive for their size. Although many people might be intimidated by their stature, they’re basically the wolfhounds of the chicken world: large, but super chill.
While they aren’t necessarily as cuddly as some smaller breeds, they’re inquisitive and friendly, they like toys and other engaging activities and aren’t likely to terrorize small children.
Barbezieux chickens live an average of eight to 10 years, and hens will start to lay large white eggs when they’re around five or six months old. Their egg-laying capabilities start to wane after four years or so, at which point most people process them for their meat.
Uses on the Homestead
Although Barbezieuxs are primarily raised for their meat, they’re also fairly prolific egg layers. You’ll get an average of 150-200 eggs from each hen annually, but don’t expect them to be particularly broody.
They’re not great at mothering their own eggs. If you plan to expand a mixed flock, consider tucking some of your Barbezieux eggs under some Barbe d’Uccle hens to be reared. Alternatively, get yourself a good incubator.
Barbezieuxs’ calm, docile nature makes them excellent for any farm or homestead, and they get along well with just about every other chicken variety. While they’re a bit large for urban settings, they’ll do okay if they have a large backyard to run around in.
Additionally, their larger size makes them less likely to be picked off by smaller raptors, and they make good “guard birds” for smaller breeds. Furthermore, if you let them run around freely in your garden, they’ll make short work of caterpillars and slugs that may annihilate your greens.
As an aside, insects aren’t the only things that these birds will devour.
Barbezieux chooks are great hunters and foragers and are known for catching mice, shrews, and small snakes with great enthusiasm. Considering their significant size, it’s unsurprising that they should be such great hunters, but it’s still impressive to witness!
Ideal Meat Birds
When we say that Barbezieux chickens are ideal for their meat, it’s for a reason. They’re one of the largest chicken breeds on the planet, with hens weighing in at an average of 9lbs, and roosters averaging 11-12 pounds.
As you can imagine, this breed is great if you have a large family to feed or if you’re stocking the pantry for a possibly lean winter.
Apparently, their flesh gives off the scent of freshly baked bread, and is as succulent as it is fragrant.
Taking Care of Barbezieux Chickens
Taking care of these birds involves the same diligence as any other breed. In addition to a standard poultry feed, ensure that you either allow them to forage, or that you provide them with insect snacks such as mealworms on a regular basis.
They’re quite hardy when it comes to varying temperatures, though they can be more affected by extreme cold as mentioned below.
Ensure that they have a safe place to nest and roost; preferably an enclosure that’s predator-proofed against foxes, weasels, raccoons, and snakes, if there are any in your area.
Be sure to check your birds regularly for mites, ticks, and other parasites, but that goes for all chicken varieties.
These chickens benefit from having a rooster present, but not necessarily one of their own breed. Barbezieux roosters are known for being loud and rowdy, and can harass your flock as much as they can annoy your neighbors.
If you have a mixed flock, consider keeping a rooster from a smaller variety around to maintain order. Alternatively, if you’re keen on only breeding these birds specifically, make sure that your coop is far enough away from your neighbors that they aren’t bothered too much by crowing and scuffles.
Barbezieux chickens are some of the strongest and healthiest around. In fact, they’re some of the least susceptible to the health issues that often plague other varieties. The one issue they’re prone to is frostbite, but that only happens if you live in a colder zone.
This breed has large, raspberry-colored combs and wattles that are particularly susceptible to cold damage. If you’re in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and below, make sure to provide your birds with a warm, insulated space if you’re aiming to keep them alive and safe over the winter.
Should you see any signs of frostbite—such as grayish, black, or white spots on the aforementioned combs and/or wattles—treat them with warm water and heat lamps, and seek veterinary attention if it’s needed.
There’s only one additional issue with these birds, and that’s a lack of availability. Since this breed is slower growing due to its longer life span, it’s often glossed over in favor of those that develop more rapidly.
As a result, Barbezieux numbers are declining worldwide. You may have difficulty finding local breeders, and as such may need to import chicks from other states or countries, depending on where you’re located.
A Great Investment for Your Homestead
If your goal is to keep your family well-fed, then Barbezieux chickens are definitely among the top five to consider raising.
The fact that they such great, large eggs on a regular basis paired with the sheer amount of protein you’ll get from each bird makes them a spectacular investment. Furthermore, if you breed them, you can expand your flock exponentially within a few short years.
Finally, if you’re of a Gothy lean and are trying to keep your homestead on theme, these dark, iridescent, rockstar-looking birds will fit in absolutely perfectly.