Bielefleder Kennhuhn are some of the hardiest chickens around when it comes to cold weather. Developed in Germany in the 1970s, this relatively new breed is a cross between cold-hardy Welsummers, plump malines, and heavy-laying Plymouth barred rocks.
All three of these breeds can tolerate quite a bit of cold, but put them all together, and you have a meaty, hardy, prolific layer that can brighten up the chicken yard with splashes of barred colors. The most common color is a lovely cuckoo pattern of black, red, and white.
Learn why you should be adding this little-known breed to your flock.
I love my chickens. Ten years ago, my husband and I got six basic, laying hens and built them a little coop in the yard. We had barred rocks, wyandottes, and buff Orpintons.
They pecked and scratched around the yard, eating ticks, grubs, and my newly planted lettuces. When they started laying, we were thrilled at the quality and flavor of fresh-laid eggs.
Now, I have more than thirty hens and a rooster to keep them in line. We still have some basic breeds, but we’ve started growing our flock with an eye to variety in egg color, feathering, and cold-hardiness.
Because we live off-grid in famously cold northern New England, our chickens have to be tough. They overwinter in a solid but unheated coop. When expanding our flock, we looked for cold hardy birds. Northern European breeds stood out as some of the toughest around.
Bielefleders provide that and so much more.
Bielefleder chicks are auto-sexing, which means that males and females have different color patterns. This makes it easy to distinguish between the sexes early on – when you order Bielefleder pullets, you’re sure to get just pullets.
No surprise roosters six months down the road!
Bielefleder chickens are a great dual-purpose breed. They are fast-growing birds with nice, meaty bodies. The hens usually produce about 230-280 eggs each year. The eggs are larger than average and a nice, traditional brown.
Bielefleder hens are somewhat broody. They have decent maternal instincts, and while they’re less likely to go broody than buff Orpintons, they’re more likely to brood than one of more production-minded birds, like Rhode Island reds.
Like many cold-hardy birds, Bielefleder hens tend to stop laying in the winter. This is normal. Even with a heat lamp in the coop, it’s healthier for the birds to give their bodies a break in the winter and focus on getting through the season.
What About the Heat?
Bielefleders are an excellent choice for those in a more temperate climate. They are moderately heat tolerant. If you’re deep in the heart of Texas, you may want to look at lighter breeds, but otherwise, they’ll do well in just about any North American spot.
In extreme heat, Bielefleders, along with other heavier-bodied birds, will usually stop laying to conserve energy. It’s a good idea to give your birds plenty of fresh, cold water, shade, and a dusty spot of ground to cool off in.
You can also offer your birds frozen berries to help them keep their bodies cool.
Bielefleder roasters are large, meaty birds. This breed grows relatively quickly, and males can reach up to 15 pounds. At about 22 weeks, these birds are at maturity weight.
Generally, the 15-pound birds are a little older than most people like to harvest. But don’t worry too much about age; even at a year old, they will still provide a tasty bird.
Despite being some of the biggest birds in the flock, Bielefleders are known for their sweet, gentle personalities. These are incredibly social, friendly birds. Even the roosters are well known for being kid-friendly, gentle giants.
If you’re building a flock for your family and want to ensure your small children can confidently handle the birds, Bielefleders are one of the best options. They’re docile and seek out human company. My kids love it when these sociable birds come running over for a treat.
But, despite their friendliness, Bielefleders are good foragers. They keep an eye on the forest and are wary of predators. The big, sweet roosters are willing to defend their hens from outside attacks. I’ve never lost a Bielefleder to predators.
Bielefleder Breed Characteristics
Bielefleders are beautiful, unique birds. From the moment they hatch, you know you have something special. Remember, they are an auto-sexing breed. So, as soon as they hatch, you know how many males and females you’ve got.
Male chicks are light-colored little balls of fluff with a white speck on the top of their head. Female chicks have a dark stripe down their backs, like a fluffy little chipmunk.
As they age, and their adult feathers come in, the distinctive patterns of adult Bielefleders come in. Females usually have a brown breast, with black and white bar patterning on the wings and back. Males often have more white and orange, with black tails and barring.
The variants include a black and red cuckoo pattern and the rarer silver-barred Bielefleder.
They have clean-looking, yellow feet and a simple, single comb that tends to be less prominent than many other breeds’ combs.
Crossing Bielefleders for Egg Color
Olive eggs are incredibly popular among chicken raisers breeding for egg color. But olive is a tricky color to maintain in layers. The best way to get an olive layer is by crossing a blue egg-laying chicken with a brown egg layer.
One of the best combinations to get olive egger hens is breeding a blue-egg Arucana or Ameraucana hen to a Bielefleder rooster.
Unfortunately, the green eggers won’t pass this coloration down to their offspring. You’ll have to replace aging olive eggers with new crosses to maintain olive egg production.
Health and Wellness
Bielefleders have no breed-specific health issues. They’re a healthy, hardy, and strong breed. But any bird will sicken with improper care. All chickens need space, plenty of fresh water, and a balanced diet.
Being larger, heavier birds, they will need more food, more water, and more space than smaller breeds. Ensure your growing chicks can access all the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. If you’re raising young Bielefleders with small birds, like silkies and sebrights, you may want to provide separate brooders for your large and small chicks.
Separate brooders will give the baby Bielefleders room to spread out and keep them from overwhelming the smaller chicks. It also ensures that your hungry, young Bielefleders don’t hog all the food.
Bielefleder Pros and Cons
These extra-large, hardy birds have many positives, but a few aspects of the breed might make them less than ideal for your homestead. No bird is perfect for every home, so make sure you know what you want in a chicken.
Bielefleders have so many good points.
They’re great foragers, reducing your feed bill and the local insect population with their businesslike attitude to foraging.
They are friendly and sociable. They get along well with other chickens and people of all ages. That makes them one of the best breeds for homesteaders with young children.
They are incredibly cold-hardy and relatively heat tolerant. In all but the most bitter winters, they can even maintain moderate egg production throughout the cold season.
They are truly dual-purpose birds. They can provide a steady supply of large, brown eggs and a large, tasty roaster.
These birds are naturally auto-sexing, which makes it so easy to tell the difference between males and females.
No bird is perfect, and while Bielefleders have a lot going for them, they’re not for everyone.
They are extra-large chickens. Remember, they can grow to be up to 15 pounds – that’s an extremely big chicken. If you don’t have the space for big birds, or you don’t have the budget for heavy feeders, they may not be the bird for you.
You can reduce feed costs by allowing your birds to forage, but if foraging isn’t an option, they will need a lot of chicken feed.
Bielefleders are also expensive chicks. They’re not common birds, and unless you have a niche local hatchery, you’ll be ordering them online. Female chicks are often almost double the price of basic chicks, and even pricier than some other specialty breeds.
If you choose to spend the money on them, they’re an investment – which may put them out of reach of new chicken owners, homesteaders with a significant population of local predators, or just backyard coops with a budget.
Also, like many larger breeds and dual-purpose breeds, they’re slower to reach butchering weight or laying age than their single-purpose peers.
For meat birds, Bielefleders should be given 18-22 weeks before butchering, while you can process the typical Cornish cross roasters at eight weeks. For layers, Bielefleders often don’t start laying until at least 22 weeks, while many other birds will begin at 16-18 weeks.