Englisch version Chaamse Chicken

The Chaams Chicken by: Ad Taks.

It is not clear how the Chaams hoen was developed although it is known it originated from Campine fowls. All so-called Campine breeds are distinguished from other fowls by their characteristic markings, hardiness and laying capacity. Throughout the centuries Campine breeds spread from the coastal areas far into the Ardennes, mainly through monasteries that were situated across the country. In olden days it was quite common to name each breed after its area of origin. References to area-specific Campines like the Hoogstaats hoen and the Kempisch hoen may be found in a number of old books, along with the Chaams hoenChapons from Breda (read: Chaams hoen). The Bertram company from Breda raised and slaughtered birds known to be Chaams hoen, because of the fineness of the meat and the superior flavour. The Chaams hoen was so popular it was often on the menu of the Royal family, and in 1881 King William III ordered a large flock of Chaams hoen from the Bertram company. The Chaams hoen was standardised around 1909-11 and in 1911 the breed was accepted into the Dutch Poultry Standards. Bredania, one of the oldest poultry clubs in Holland, held lectures about the Chaams hoen in the early 20th century, and they were exhibited regularly until around 1950. The breed lost popularity and they disappeared. Although there were rumours the breed was still in existence, and there were fanciers wanting to keep them, they remained lost.

The Chaamse Hoender Club
On 29 November 2001, the Chaamse Hoenderclub was founded in the village Alphen-Chaam in the province of Brabant. The club is run on a nonprofit basis with the aims of protecting and improving the Chaams hoen breed, and to further increase its popularity. The club undertakes some fundraising activities to help defray its costs.

Breeding programThe Chaams hoen
Chaams hoen come in two colours; gold and silver. From literature and from experience it is advised that each colour be bred true and not crossed. Once gold is crossed into a silver line, the gold reappears for many years. When selecting breeding birds, look for the following:

  • good type in both cocks and hens
  • broad primary flights
  • orange eye colour
  • white coloured legs
  • blue nails with no white tips on the toes
  • a medium-sized, single comb that is not too large
  • flat, white, oval-shaped ear lobes
  • no spurs on the hens
  • a breeding cock should have good spangling as a chicken.

It is generally accepted that the female passes on type to the young birds and the male passes on colour, quality of the head and the laying ability.

It is generally accepted that the female passes on type to the young birds and the male passes on colour, quality of the head and the laying ability.

Description of the breed
The Chaams hoen is a rather large, tall bird with a long body, full rounded breast carried well forward, and full abdomen. The standard weight for males is 2.75- 3.25 kilograms and 2.25-2.75 for females. The Chaams hoen is a robust yet elegant utility breed. The single comb is of medium size, upright in the male and gently falling to one side in the female. The eyes are orange surrounded by white skin. Black or dark pigment on combs or around the eyes is a serious fault, as are overly large combs and wattles. The ear lobes are white (indicating white eggs); Beak and legs are blue. The tail is carried rather high and the plumage should be tight on the body.

The colours
The silver males are silverwhite on head, hackles, shoulders, back and saddle. All ther feathers are white barred with black markings, in which the black and white is of equal width. The silver female has a white head and hackles. All other feathers are barred with black with the bars being of equal width as the ground colour. The main tail feathers of the male should be greenish black. The females may have some markings in the tail. The gold variety has identical markings to the silver, except the white ground colour is replaced with a deep, warm, goldenbrown colour.

The Gold
The most common faults in the gold variety are: eye colour too dark; comb and wattles too large; and narrow tails. The eye colour this year has shown improvement. Some pullets have combs with a fold in the front. This is caused by the comb being too large and thin at the base. It was decided by the breeders to use birds with smaller combs in the breeding pen. The cocks are still a little small, but the hens already show good size and type. The colour and the markings in the gold variety are excellent this year. By selecting the best birds for breeding, spurred hens have disappeared.

The Silver
The type of this variety has really improved and generally they are quite good. The birds are now up to the standard weights in both sexes. Larger 18mm and 20mm rings are now required. The required red eyes have been achieved. Combs are becoming smaller but are still a little too large. In the cocks there still too many birds with long or folded wattles and some have wattles that do not attach correctly. Squirreled tails have all but disappeared, however some birds still carry their tails a little too high. Some birds are showing poor quality tails which is a problem that breeders will be working to rectify. The ground colour in general is pure silver white, although this year we did see some cockerels with yellow tinge showing through. Many hens are too dark on their backs and we see hens with incorrect markings and webbing in the white, while others have black markings at the base of the hackle. Some birds show white peppering in the black markings and these birds tend to have weak and broken markings on the breast. The barring tends to break across the feather shaft. The birds do show a good colour overall (black and white of equal width). It will not be easy to breed the perfect silver Chaams hoen.

The members of the Chaams Hoenderclub are fully aware that much more needs to be done to improve the Chaams hoen to match the standard. Considering the breeding program only began five years ago with just a few birds of poor quality, the progress made has been quite remarkable. The Chaams hoen is regularly seen at shows where exhibitors and visitors alike appreciate the breed. Even those people who have played no part in recreating the Chaams hoen agree the breed is now well established and is worthy of serious consideration.

Recognition of Chaams Hoen
The Dutch Standard Commission for Poultry gave their approval to the birds that were shown at the National of the NHDB in Zuidlaren between 5-7 of January 2006. The commission accepted the quality of the Chaams hoen in gold and silver was good enough for official recognition for inclusion in the Dutch Standard for large fowl and bantams. Slowly but surely the Chaams hoen is being bred to the right type and size, with the head points and orange eye colour greatly improving each year.

A Presidium for the Chaamse Pel (read: hoen) as a product of the regionfoundation, which oversees the rules and promotes the sale of the birds as being authentic and locally produced on a small scale. Because of this fantastic project we are able to raise our birds, fatten them and bring them to restaurants as a traditional delicacy. It is also good that the birds can be sold for some profit. When the birds are adult some cockerels catch our eye, although they did not as younger birds. This shows that often the birds have to be fully grown to be able to select them properly, but who can afford to raise 150 young birds? Our way of management makes it much easier. Slow Food was founded in 1986 in Italy and is an international movement concerned with promoting quality food and drink. Presidia are projects that promote traditional, local produce and work to save agricultural traditions, production procedures and cultural landscapes. Projects of Presidium are coordinated by Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity Salone del Gusto 2006www.slowfood.com). As mentioned previously, the Chaamse Pel is the exclusive line of the Chaams hoen. In top restaurants as Wolfslaar in Breda and Het Jagthuys in Ulvenhout the birds are a specialty for those who enjoy a delicious meal. The birds live in freedom for over five months. They are raised on the grasslands of Brabant, fed and fattened with local grain. The birds are killed using a traditional method that helps make the meat especially tender and more tasty. The label affixed to the breast (see picture on the left), is put on the birds, giving assurance of an authentic, local product.

Unique breeding project ; Chaamse hoenderhof De Baronie.

Since 2013 we have an officially recognised breeding centre by gaining the SZH badge.