The Minorca is an old chicken breed coming from the Mediterranean area. Beloved for their extra-large white eggs and because of its self-reliant, easy to care for nature. Often compared to the Leghorn, the Minorca can be a great addition to a mixed flock, especially if you want to keep them free range. Here we discover more about the Minorca chicken breed, a true Mediterranean beauty.
Table of Contents
- Largest Mediterranean chicken breed
- Layer of very large white eggs
- Excellent free-range birds
- Heat tolerant
Background and History of the Minorca Breed
Once upon a time, a large population of Minorca chickens lived on the Spanish island of Minorca. How they came to be there is a matter of speculation.
Possibilities include their arrival on the Spanish mainland when the Moors invaded Spain in 711 AD, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “Moorish Fowl.”
The Moors certainly brought poultry with them to Spain and much more when they crossed the Straights of Gibraltar from northern Africa, including oranges, lemons, apricots, peaches, figs, dates, pomegranates, ginger, saffron, silk, cotton, rice, and sugar cane. As for introducing the actual Minorca breed? We can’t be sure.
Another theory is that the birds were actually introduced from Italy during the expansion of the Roman Empire. So really, it’s anyone’s guess!
The ancestors of the Minorca came from the Castile area, north of Madrid in Spain. Still, their exact movement and heritage are not fully understood. Whatever their origins, they were taken from Minorca and introduced to English poultry fanciers at some point in the late 1700s, as there were fowl matching their description in Devon and Cornwall around this time.
The Minorca’s Arrival in the United States
The Minorca chicken came to America from England. We know that the breed was imported into the UK by Sir Thomas Acland, the 9th Baronet of Killerton in Devon, and Holnicote in Somerset, England, in 1834.
In 1884 interest in the Minorca, then referred to as “The Spanish,” spread to America when Mr. J.J. Fultz of Mount Vernon, OH imported Black Minorca chickens. The following year Francis A. Mortimer in PA imported the Whites.
As the principal problem with the Minorca chicken was their inability to avoid a frost-bitten comb, George H. Northup of Raceville, NY, developed rose comb versions of both types in the late1800s and early 1900s.
Minorca chickens are a heritage breed and are currently on “Watch” status with the Livestock Conservancy Organisation.
Temperament and Behavior of the Minorca Chicken Breed
Minorcas are active birds that can be flighty and are a little highly strung. That said, they still enjoy human contact, although never become genuinely tame. Due to their size, setting boundaries while they are young can be advisable.
A Love for Wide Open Spaces
They have exceptional foraging abilities and, despite being large, can find a good deal of their own food when allowed to range over large areas, providing there is an abundance of natural food available.
If you don’t have large swathes of land on offer, they will also tolerate a degree of confinement, providing they have enough space to move around freely.
Breeding Minorca Chickens
If you’re hoping to raise chicks, then Minorcas may not be the best breed as they are not a broody type. Using another mother hen or an incubator will likely be your only option for hatching chicks. If, however, you’re after a good quantity of very large eggs with white shells, then they may be perfect.
New Keepers and Children
The Minorca will be a good choice for new keepers, as they can largely take care of themselves being pretty independent. They aren’t really suitable for younger children being too flighty and don’t make good pets, although older more experienced children may enjoy adding them to their flock.
When it comes to the flocks pecking order, Minorcas tend to keep themselves to themselves and don’t go out of their way to pick fights. Due to their size, most other breeds will normally leave them alone.
Although they aren’t silent birds, you won’t find them particularly noisy either. Roosters will crow, there’s not much getting around that, but hen noise is somewhere in the middle of the flock when it comes to noise level, being neither quiet nor noisy.
Minorca Chicken Breed Specifics and Traits
Although Minorca chickens can be used as meat birds, their carcass is tough and not good for eating. They are excellent layers and today, that is their primary purpose, along with showing and exhibitions.
Weight of the Minorca
They are the largest of the Mediterranean chicken breeds, and roosters average 9 lbs. while hens are 7 ½ lbs. Cockerels are also 7 ½ lbs. while pullets are less at 5 ½ lbs.
Being quite large, they aren’t hugely long-lived and average around 7 to 8 years.
Varieties of Minorca Chicken
They come in several varieties, including the most common – Single Comb Black.
The American Poultry Association standard has recognized:
- Single Comb Black since 1888
- Single Comb White since 1888
- Rose Comb Black since 1904
- Single Comb Buff since 1913
- Rose Comb White since 1914
Other unrecognized colors include Blue and Barred. The Single Comb Blacks are the easiest to find, with the other varieties being far rarer.
Minorcas are an impressive breed. Their large stature combined with tight, smooth feathers that in the Black variety has a beautiful iridescent green sheen and are really quite lovely.
The face, comb, and wattles are all bright red. Earlobes are very large, oval and white. The skin is white, and in black Minorcas, the legs are dark slate.
Their bodies are long and often appear larger than they truly are due to their feathering, stance and regal strut.
Black Minorca chicks are black with a yellow throat and belly. Buffs are a deep golden yellow, while whites are a paler yellow. They are all super cute and fluffy!
Both males and females should exhibit a six-pointed comb, although seven points are also accepted.
Roosters’ combs should be large and upright. Unlike a Leghorn rooster, the Minorca’s comb should follow the head and neck line in a downward fashion and not lift up when it joins at the ends.
In the United States, bigger is always thought of as being better. As a breed, this trait has been encouraged, while in Spain, they are smaller and more of a medium size. That said, bantam versions of Minorcas also exist.
During their annual molt, their large combs shrink quite dramatically, by as much as 50%, which can seem quite alarming if you’re not expecting it.
It’s normal when not in molt for the hen’s comb to lop, and it is only during the molt that it becomes upright like the male’s comb. However, there’s no need for worry as once they finish molting, egg production recommences, and their comb and feathers return to normal.
Minorcas mature at between 20 and 23 weeks of age, but pullets won’t usually begin to lay until 25 to 27 weeks or even in the following egg-laying season depending when they were hatched.
The development of the comb in the Minorca is also much later than for other Mediterranean chicken breeds. This can be a little frustrating if you’re looking to raise high-quality breeding or showing birds as selection must wait until later.
Taking the Heat
The Minorca is known to be very hardy and suitable for hot, dry conditions. They don’t do so well in the cold unless they are the rose comb variety. Single combed roosters suffer from frostbite when temperatures get low, unless they are very adequately protected.
When it comes to predator resistance, the Minorca chicken does quite well at fending for itself. If there are plenty of trees, they fly up into them to evade predators such as coyotes. Hawks also seem to ignore the Black Minorcas. Perhaps they think they’re crows.
They differ from other Mediterranean breeds in a few ways. Despite their large size, they have quite high-pitched voices, more so than Leghorns. Hens cackle more rapidly and at a higher pitch than their closest relatives. They are also less wild than Leghorns.
Health and Disease
Other than not being cold tolerant and suffering from frostbite on their large single combs, Minorcas have no particular health or disease problems.
Coming from the summer heat of the Mediterranean, Minorcas enjoy sunbathing and also a good dust bath.
Ensuring they have the following things should keep them healthy:
- Clean living conditions
- A well-ventilated coop
- Good quality food of the right type for their age and purpose
- Insoluble grit of the correct size for the age of bird to aid food digestion
- Crushed Oyster Shells for laying hens for additional calcium
- Access to clean, fresh water
Routinely treating for lice, mites and worms should be done for all chickens in the flock.
Looking back a hundred years or so, the Minorca chicken was celebrated for its egg-laying abilities. Since arriving in the United States, more attention has been given to how they look rather than how many eggs they lay. This has resulted in a reduction to the average number they produce per year.
You still won’t be disappointed with your girls, as the eggs they do lay are glorious, being very large and powder white. But don’t expect this from day one, as it takes a while for the production cycle to really get started. On average, they produce 120 to 220 eggs per year and are not winter layers.
Where to Buy Minorca Chickens
Minorca chickens can be purchased from good breeders. Find them by searching online, or, if you’re lucky, you may spot them for sale on notices at your local feed store. Another way of buying Minorca’s is from a commercial hatchery where you can order day-old chicks.
The cost of chicks is dependent on the quantity ordered. Please check with the hatchery for availability and transportation costs.
Black Minorca are available from Hoovers Hatchery:
- Unsexed – $5.22 to $5.82 per chick
- Male – $4.12 to $4.72 per chick
Black Minorca from McMurray Hatchery:
- Unsexed – $3.20 to $4.14 per chick
- Male – $2.46 to $3.18 per chick
- Female – $4.02 to $5.20 per chick
Buff Minorca from McMurray Hatchery:
- Unsexed – $3.20 to $4.14
- Male – $2.46 to $3.18
- Female – $4.02 to $5.20
The Minorca is often compared to the Leghorn, being another Mediterranean breed. Although the two share some similarities in appearance, there are some definite differences.
The Minorca has a less wild temperament than the Leghorn. They enjoy human interaction, even if they’re never going to make lap chickens.
Single comb Black Minorcas are relatively easy to find, but other colors and rose comb varieties can be harder to come by.
Keep them as a beautiful addition to your flock and for their extra-large, powder white eggs.