If I were asked, which is the best all round chicken breed for kids, new poultry keepers and general chicken enthusiasts, I would choose the Bielefelder. With their cuddly natures, excellent egg-laying abilities, attractive plumage, and ability to forage and thrive free-range or in a coop, the Bielefelder is a wonderful breed. Find out why these exceptional chickens are known as the Labradors of the chicken world.
Table of Contents
- Dual purpose
- Very docile and friendly
- Great for kids and new poultry keepers
- Attractive feather pattern
- Excellent layers of extra-large eggs
- Originated in Germany
Background and History of the Bielefelder Chicken Breed
The Bielefelder chicken is a relatively new breed created in 1976 by Gerd Roth, a German chicken breeder who lived near Bielefeld, Hanover, in Germany.
The original name he gave to the breed was “Deutsches Kennhuhn,” but when this was submitted to the BDRG (Association of German Poultry Breeders ), there were objections, and it was recommended that the name should instead reflect where the breed originated. So this is how they became known as “Bielefelder Kennhühner” or just plain Bielefelder for short.
The Kennhuhner part of their name is to do with the fact that males and females can be differentiated as day old chicks.
The breed was fully recognized by the BDRG in 1980 but they have not been admitted into the breed standards of the American Poultry Association, yet. In 1984 a bantam version was also accepted in Germany, but not at this time by the American Bantam Association.
The chickens were created by crossing Cuckoo Malines, Amrocks, New Hampshire Reds, and Wyandottes.
Importation of the Bielefelder into the United States first started in 2011, and various bloodlines now exist here.
Although the breed is not a recognized American heritage breed, it does come from other heritage breeds, so it is of that type. Its many great attributes are causing it to be something of a sensation with backyard chicken enthusiasts, and it isn’t considered endangered or listed on the Livestock Conservancy Organization’s watch list.
Temperament and Behavior of the Bielefelder Kennhuhner
As chickens go, this one is regarded as being more like a dog than a chicken. Called the “Labrador” of chickens, it is large, good-natured, and enjoys human contact.
At feeding time the Bielefelder will come eagerly galloping to you ready for food and any attention you wish to give. Even the roosters are well known for being docile. This makes them very well suited for keeping as pets by children or by new chicken keepers.
Other great attributes of the Bielefelder are its winter hardiness, fast growth rate, and suitability as both an egg layer and table bird.
Possibly its only drawback is that it rarely goes broody, although some may see this as being a positive point rather than a negative one. Particularly if you want to keep them just for the purpose of laying lots of eggs.
For a large breed, they are placid with flock mates and relatively quiet. One thing they need protection from is other more aggressive breeds, as they don’t tolerate stress well.
You can choose to keep them in an enclosure or free-range, as they are good natural foragers, which has the added benefit of reducing your feed bills somewhat.
Being large, they tend not to fly and can become overweight quite quickly. This makes them rather attractive to larger predators, for which they are pretty easy prey.
The Bielefelders Breed Specifics and Traits
As a breed, these fowl would be classed as heavy, dual purpose as they are great for egg production and use as meat birds. They are one of the larger chicken breeds with roosters weighing an average of 8 ½ lbs., hens 6 ½ lbs., cockerels 7 ½ lbs., and pullets 5 ½ lbs. Bantams weigh in at 1,300 grams for a rooster and 1,100 grams for a hen.
If well cared for, a Bielefeld can live for between 8 and 10 years. But this does vary according to living conditions, climate, food, and overall health.
There are two colors of Bielefelder, Red Cuckoo (Crele) and Silver Cuckoo. In Germany, the red variety is called “Kennsperber” which means red-fawn-sparrow-hawk, and the silver variety is “Silber-Kennsperber” which means silver-sparrow-hawk.
The red cuckoo – crele, is the most common color, with the silver cuckoo being very rare. This is because they were not seen as a desirable coloration and were generally eradicated.
Crele birds have the typical cuckoo pattern with red, silver, and gold feathers barred with white, dark gray, and black. The silver cuckoo has the same patterning but only black and silver-white feathers embedded with gray striping. The coloration is not seen in any other breed.
German Breed Standards
As Bielefelders are not as yet recognized in the United States, we have to look to their place of origin for an idea of their breed standards.
Overview – They are heavy and of medium height, with a long, straight backline. The thighs are not visibly prominent.
Body – This is box-shaped with a long and straight topline. They are referred to as “brick type” and appear wide, with a broad arched chest merging into a wide belly.
Legs – These are medium length, strong and yellow.
Comb – They have a single red comb with four to six points for both roosters and hens.
Wattles & Ear Lobes – Wattles are oval and not too long. The ear lobes are of medium size and blend in with the coloration of the chicken.
Head – The head is of medium size. The face is red with orange-red eyes and a yellowish, horn-colored beak of medium length.
Tail – On a rooster, the tail is not overly long and is carried in an airy, spread way arching at 45° to the backline. In hens, the tail is flatter and more flowing from the body.
Differences between Rooster and Hen – There are a few differences between the hen and the rooster. The rooster has a larger tail, the plumage is slightly more colorful, and their overall size, as well as that of their comb and wattles, is larger.
Besides their calm but active natures, Bielefelders are cold-tolerant and will require someplace sheltered to retreat in bad weather.
Their roosts should be kept fairly low, as for Orpingtons, and other large breeds. Nest boxes may need to be slightly larger than for the average hen.
Chicks are auto-sexing so you can differentiate the males and females from the day they hatch.
Baby roosters are a yellow-ocher color with gray stripes and a pale sparrow hawk spot on the top of their heads. Baby hens are a browny-yellow with black or dark brown-black stripes and a dark sparrow hawk spot on the top of their heads.
As the hens aren’t broody, unless you are fortunate, you’ll need to use a foster chicken or hatch eggs in an incubator to raise chicks.
All chicks must be kept warm and dry, and this can be done with the use of a chick crate and a heat lamp or heat pad.
They will be mature enough to venture outside from around eight weeks of age. Providing the weather is fine. At this point, it is best to separate hens from roosters so appropriate feed may be given.
Health and Disease
The biggest enemy of the Bielefelder seems to be stress. They don’t tolerate bullies well and need places to escape should another chicken try to dominate them.
As they are heavy, non-flyers, allowances must be made for the height of perches and nest boxes. If these are too high the birds either won’t use them or could potentially inflict harm upon themselves when jumping down.
Nest boxes also need to be scaled up in size to be large enough for a Bielefelder to turn around and be comfortable.
The Bielefelder starts laying from a relatively young age for such a large bird. On average you can expect them to start producing from seven or eight months of age.
In their prime, hens will lay in excess of 200 eggs a year, but as with other breeds, this will decline as they age.
Another great bonus of the breed is that they will often lay in winter, providing there is sufficient daylight.
The eggs themselves are large, some even describe them as being jumbo and weighing around 55g to 65g. The shell color is unique to the breed, being brown with pink undertones.
Where to buy
As the popularity of the amazingly easy to keep Bielefelder continues to grow they are becoming easier to find. A good place to start is by searching on the internet for breeders or looking out for them at poultry shows.
Hatcheries are another option and more establishments are importing Bielefelders or raising their own flocks to use as source birds.
We use Cackle Hatchery, but it is always best to find a reputable hatchery that is located close to you to ensure your chicks have the shortest possible journey time when being shipped.
Remember that the availability of chicks is seasonal and minimum and maximum quantity requirements may need to be adhered to and can differ between suppliers.
Cackle Hatchery Chicks
Unsexed – Minimum order 3 – $3.95 to $6.95 each
Female – Minimum order 3 – $7.05 to $11.25 each
Male – Minimum order 1 – $3.40 to $6.95 each
Bielefelders are excellent all-around chickens, well suited for all chicken keepers, and a truly wonderful addition to any flock.
With their exceptional temperaments, they are ideal for children or less experienced keepers and are great for providing eggs and meat or having them as pets.
Originally from Germany, they have only been in the United States since 2011 as they are still a relatively new breed. Providing their popularity continues it’s likely they will eventually be recognized by the breeds associations.
To learn more about a huge variety of other poultry take a closer look at our website at Heritage Acres Market.