Critically Endangered: The Barred Holland

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    It may seem odd to consider the possibility of a chicken breed going extinct, but it has happened in the past and could very well happen again. In fact, according to the Livestock Conservancy, the Holland chicken is number five on the list of the Top 5 Endangered Livestock Breeds. While it is hard fathom a chicken breed going extinct due to the plentiful nature of chickens, it all comes down to breeding. Chickens with desirable traits are bred while those that do not have as many of that type of trait are not bred and thus they fall to the wayside until the breed becomes extinct. Once such example of this is the Holland.

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    In the 1930's at Rutger's University, a breed of chicken was developed and dubbed the Holland. It was given this name due to its ancestry as Holland stock was incorporated in its breeding, but the bird itself was very much an American creation. Around this time, eggs that were white in color were more in demand, but birds that laid white eggs were light-bodied and did not carry much meat. Preferred to those birds was one that provided a dual purpose, such as laying eggs and being an adequate source of meat. Most dual purpose birds at this time laid brown eggs, but through selective breeding, a bird that laid white eggs and had a heavy body was developed. The resulting bird was the American version of the Holland, which gained acceptance with the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1949. The Holland came in two varieties, the White Holland and the Barred Holland. The Barred Holland was more popular and the White Holland not as prized, thus the Barred Holland was bred more profusely. It is thought that another reason for the lack of popularity of the White Holland was its highly visible feathering which may have made it an easier target for predation. The disinterest in breeding the White Holland has resulted in the probability of it being extinct at this time, and the Barred Holland is very likely to be the most critically endangered breed remaining in existence at this time.

    White Holland:

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    Barred Holland:

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    Holland chickens are medium in size but have heavy, meaty bodies that grow and develop slowly, which could be another reason the breed was ultimately less of a preferred one. They have yellow skin and legs and produce eggs that are white and medium to large in size. Hollands are well-suited to farm life and survive well in an array of different climates although they are susceptible to frostbite like many other breeds. The hens have a broody nature and average about 6.5 lbs while the roosters come in closer to 8.5 lbs; Bantams average 30 and 34 ounces respectively. All are hearty foragers and can accumulate a large percentage of their consumption needs on their own when allowed to free range.

    Since it was likely the appeal of a white bird to predators that caused the lack of popularity of the White Holland, why is the once-favored Barred Holland now struggling as well? This is thought to be due to the preference of the Barred Plymouth Rock, which is actually a breed incorporated in the creation of the Barred Holland along with Australorps as well as White and Brown Leghorns. Barred Plymouth Rocks are larger and equally attractive to look at as well as similarly marked. They lay brown eggs, which have become a popular preference over time.

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    If you have a desire to have a Barred Holland, they are still available through breeders. Even though they were more popular than their white counterpart, they simply never got enough of a foothold to truly hang on, but don't let that discourage you. As far as chickens go, they are a diamond in the rough with plenty to offer if you can handle the slow maturity rate. While they are currently on the critical list, that does not have to remain the case. If enough people take interest in this once prevalent bird, perhaps the breed will go on to roam more widespread once again.

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