It is a great shame that due to their not-so-beautiful looks that Transylvanian Naked Neck chickens are not more popular. The hens have wonderful gentle temperaments, lay large eggs, fair very well in hot climates, and are also tasty table birds. Many folks who do keep them say they are the best chickens they’ve ever owned. In this article, we will be finding out all about the Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken, or Turken as they are often called.
Table of Contents
- Very heat tolerant
- Have no feathers on their necks
- Good layers of large eggs
- Tasty meat birds
- Gentle natured hens
Background and History of the Naked Neck Chicken
Although Transylvanian Naked Neck chickens look more like a Frankenstein cross between a chicken and a turkey, they are 100% chicken. This is how they got the name Turken, as many people truly believed that they were a Turkey Chicken crossbreed.
Other species of birds from hot climates, such as Emus, Ostriches, Cassowaries, Ibises, Condors, and Vultures, also have naked necks. It seems that nature reduces feather growth to help them survive the heat.
This assumption can also be adopted for the Naked Neck chicken, as there are species of Asian fowls, including the Madagascar Jungle Fowl, that have featherless necks too. The origins of the Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken are thought to be related to these birds, possibly originating in Malaysia.
The theory is that Hungarian conquerors brought some of these exotic wild birds back to Europe in the middle ages and bred them with native chickens.
Naked necked chickens weren’t only found in Transylvania, but also in other parts of Europe, including France and Germany. There are even some found in the Middle East.
Early breeders from Sibiu and Sighisoara in Transylvania developed the imported wild birds to have dual-purpose characteristics. Historical archives from Romania mention Luiza Hohenberg, who bred Naked Necked chickens in the second half of the 19th Century. It is thought that possibly her birds were the ones that spread to other parts of Europe, including France, Germany, England, and Austria.
The first Transylvanian Naked Necks to be exhibited were shown at the International Agricultural Show in Vienna, Austria, in 1875 by Szeremley and Hohenberg Onderka. Unsurprisingly, the birds caused something of a stir.
It wasn’t long before the German military showed an interest in the birds. Before World War One, the Germans had troops stationed in Africa and needed a way to provide them with food. They sent out several chicken species, but only the Transylvanian Naked Necks survived in the extreme humidity and heat, supplying the troops with eggs and meat.
The two world wars that followed were almost the end, not only for the Naked Necks but for all the traditional chicken breeds. When chicken farming restarted after World War II, the focus was only on creating birds that were more like machines, capable of producing vast quantities of eggs or growing incredibly rapidly for meat. Battery birds.
Luckily, in more recent times, an appreciation of the older breeds has resurfaced, particularly with the growing number of people keeping backyard chickens. Today, many of the historic heritage breeds, including the Transylvanian Naked Neck, are recovering.
Why Naked Neck Chickens Have Bare Necks
Despite coming from Transylvania, the reason the naked neck chickens have no feathers on their necks has nothing to do with making them easier pickings for vampires.
The actual reason is a genetic mutation that causes an overproduction of BMP12, a feather-blocking molecule.
A study was conducted at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institue. The study leader, Denis Headon, explained that the birds didn’t produce feathers when the gene was combined with a Vitamin A derivative, which naturally occurs on the chicken’s neck skin.
Headon went on to say that they believe the birds can lose neck feathers in order to make themselves more tolerant to heat. Just like many other bare-necked bird species.
Temperament and Behavior
Transylvanian Naked Neck Chickens are well known for the hens’ gentle temperaments. They are easy to tame from chicks and make good pets. Although their appearance may not be that enticing to kids, they do have excellent natures, which makes them very endearing despite their odd looks.
Turkens are also well known for being very disease-resistant. They are active birds, good at foraging and living free-range, or equally able to tolerate confinement. They are not overly broody, but when they do hatch chicks, they make great Moms. Their eggs are large, and they are good layers, also producing high-quality meat. All of this makes them very suitable for beginners who are new to chicken keeping or for anyone who raises chickens in their backyard or farmstead.
The roosters are generally very protective of their hens and will vocalize loudly if any danger is present. Although not typically aggressive to people, this can vary.
Breed Specifics and Traits of Turken Chickens
It takes approximately 20 weeks for a Turken chicken to mature, and hens will start to lay from around 22 weeks, although this varies.
They were bred to be dual-purpose birds, and although their egg production isn’t as prolific as many other breeds, it is very consistent. The meat quality is said to be excellent.
Weights of the Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken are:
- Rooster = 8 ½ lbs.
- Hen = 6 ½ lbs.
- Cockerel = 7 ½ lbs.
- Pullet = 5 ½ lbs.
- Rooster = 34 ounces
- Hen = 30 ounces
When it comes to how a Naked Neck chicken should look, the most distinguishing characteristic is of course, the lack of feathers on the neck. In all, this breed has around 40% to 50% fewer feathers than other chickens.
Purebred Turkens don’t just have a bare neck. Their crop is also featherless. This is a good indication of the true purity of these birds. Those that have been cross-bred will often have a feathered crop and sometimes additional feather patches on their necks.
- Comb – The comb is of a medium to large size and ideally has five bright red, well separated, upstanding points on roosters. Hens usually have much smaller combs that are less red in color.
- Wattles – These are large and red on roosters but smaller on hens.
- Earlobes – Medium size, bright red, and oblong.
- Neck – Besides being naked, the neck of a rooster should be bright red. This intensifies with sun exposure. In hens, the neck is often paler, but it too will depend in color with the sun.
- Skin – The rest of a Turkens skin is yellow. In light color varieties, the legs and feet are also yellow, but in dark types, the legs can be dark slate or blue.
- Eyes – Reddish bay.
- Body – This is well developed, broad, and carried obliquely. The back is long with a deep breast.
It’s not only the adults that have naked necks; the chicks do too. They have quite a funny vulture-like appearance and are pretty fast to feather up.
The Transylvanian Naked Neck was first accepted by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1965, in colors – Black, Buff, Red, and White into class AOSB (Any Other Standard Breed).
Non-recognized colors for standard-sized birds in the US include – silver, blue, and barred, although many more color varieties are available in Europe.
Bantams were also admitted into the APA and are recognized in colors – Buff, Red, and White.
Besides the incredible heat hardiness of the Turken, they are also very adaptable to cold climates too. Due to their lack of feathers, they must have access to a well-insulated draught-free coop.
They are not predator resistant as they don’t fly. Although roosters will often defend the flock to the death.
Health and Disease
Transylvanian Naked Necks are noted for their excellent health and natural disease resistance. They appear to be far less susceptible than other breeds to many of the common chicken ailments.
It is, however, still necessary to practice good coop hygiene, regular worming, and pest treatments for lice and mites, particularly in the summer months.
Protection of the comb from frostbite in winter is also necessary.
The eggs of a Turken are light brown and large in size. Statistics for egg production seem to vary dramatically, with some hatcheries claiming they can lay 180 to 240 eggs a year, while other breeders say the number is closer to 170 maximum. This could be to do with the purity of the birds. Pedigree specimens are likely to produce a lower number of eggs than those that have been cross-bred.
Want Some Transylvanian Naked Necks?
Only recently has the interest in the Turkens begun to grow again in the United States. This makes them still quite rare. They are available as some hatcheries, although the purity of the strain may be questionable. You could be lucky enough to find some advertised in local feed merchants or farm stores or even online.
We use Cackle Hatchery for our chicks, and they also stock hatching eggs during certain times of the year. Please keep in mind that both chicks and eggs are seasonal, so they arent’ available at all times.
Prices will depend on the quantity ordered and are subject to change. They don’t include delivery costs.
- Unsexed chicks – $2.20 to $3.60 each
- Female chicks – $3.01 to $3.96 each
- Male chicks – $1.60 to $2.60 each
Hatching eggs – $36.36 for 6, $54.36 for 12, $90.24 for 24
Hatching eggs are only available from January 25th to June 6th.
Somehow, the ugliness of a Naked Neck chicken makes them even more endearing. Their temperament, hardiness, and general good health definitely make up for their lack of feathers!
These birds are a great addition to any flock being especially well suited for anyone living in hotter climates – Arizona, California, Texas, or Florida, for example.
Yet equally, they will do well in colder areas too, and many owners have no problem keeping them in northern American states.
To discover more about other fascinating chicken breeds, check out our blogs!