Backyard chicken keeping is an increasingly popular hobby that is experiencing a resurgence. More and more cities are rolling back ordinances that prevent keeping chickens on your property, leading to an uptick in interest. There are hundreds of different types of chickens to choose from – hybrids, heritage breeds, crosses. One of those breeds is the Barnevelder chicken. In this article, we’ll be talking about everything Barnie, from temperament to egg-laying to breeding.
All about Barnevelder chickens
When it comes to picking the right breed of chicken for your home or farm, knowing the basics of the breed will help you make that decision. Let’s take a deep dive on the Barnevelder chicken basics:
- Other names: Barnies
- Appearance: Brown with ‘arrowhead’ markings
- Origin: Barneveld, Netherlands
- Temperament: Docile
- Noise: Low
- Purpose: Eggs, meat
- Eggs per year: 220+
- Egg color: Brown
- Size: Large
- Hen weight: 5-6lb
- Rooster weight: 7-8lb
- Broody: No
- Lifespan: 7+ years
- APA Recognized: Yes
Barnevelder chickens, sometimes called Barnies by breeders, are medium-sized chickens with brown feathers. Hens have a distinct ‘arrowhead’ marking on their feathers – roosters lack these markings. They are considered docile as a breed, tending to be more friendly than flighty or aggressive. They are talkative birds but are considered quiet due to the low, quiet nature of their chattiness.
Barnies are kept for both eggs and meat, though they aren’t the optimal bird for either. Hens will weigh up to 6 pounds and lay 220 or more large brown eggs per year. Roosters will weigh up to 8 pounds. Barnevelder hens aren’t known for their broodiness, so breeding them will likely require an incubator. This APA-recognized bird will live on average about 7 years.
History of Barnevelder chickens
As the chicken’s name might suggest, the Barnevelder was first bred near Utrecht, Netherlands in the town of Barneveld. Barneveld is well-known for being a hub of poultry activity during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Barnevelder breed was standardized following the efforts of the Barneveld Breeders Association. It was first recognized in 1923, but how the breed was produced is subject to debate.
It is believed that beginning in the 1890s, Langshans, Malays, Brahmas, and Gold-Laced Wyandottes were bred together to create the Barnevelder.
Barnevelder chickens are well-known for being docile, chatty birds. Keepers of these chickens report that they will often come running to you, looking for treats and greeting you with their low, quiet chattiness. These chickens are great for families looking for an easy-going chicken that lays nice, big, brown eggs.
When it comes to roosters, and this applies to just about every breed of chicken, if you treat them with respect and are kind, they will typically return the favor. Knowing their boundaries and reading their body language is important. If despite all your best efforts, your Barnevelder rooster won’t stop being aggressive, it may be best to remove him from the flock and look for a nicer rooster.
The Barnevelder is kept both for eggs and meat, though it is not a truly optimal bird for either. These chickens will lay 3-4 brown eggs per week, though the eggs are large. Hens tend to weigh up to 6 pounds, roosters up to 7 pounds, making it a bit on the low side of a large breed of chicken.
A breed-standard Barnevelder chicken will weigh 6 pounds if a hen, 7 if a rooster. Pullets weigh 5 pounds. They should have a single, medium-sized comb that stands upright and has 5 well-defined points. Their beaks are short and well-curved and their faces are smooth and mostly free of feathers.
Barnevelders have bright, prominent eyes, medium-sized wattles, medium-sized ear lobes, and a head carried high on a long neck. The back is well-balanced and slightly concave. A Barnevelder with white earlobes is considered imperfect and doesn’t qualify as breed-standard.
Coop and run
Chickens tend to pick up bad behaviors when their coop and run aren’t up to their standards, so making sure you have the appropriate cook and run for your Barnevelder chickens is vitally important.
Barnevelders like to have plenty of coop and run space to go about the business of being a good chicken. The more space you can provide them, the happier they’ll be and the more eggs they’ll lay. Barnevelder chickens should be provided 10 or more square feet of free-range area per bird.
Chicken runs and coops should be kept properly cleaned out and provided fresh straw regularly. At least one nest box per laying hen is preferred, although they can tolerate “buddying up” and laying eggs in the same nest box. These chickens are known to wander some and will occasionally find creative places to lay their eggs.
The Barnevelder is a hardy heritage breed that is said to be especially prone to Marek’s Disease, so it’s best to vaccinate chicks at the time of hatch. They do tend to dislike high heat and humidity, making this a less than ideal bird for that climate. However, if provided fresh water and shade during the summer, they’ll fare just fine.
Like all chickens, they are susceptible to mites and lice, so keep an eye out for those infections.
Breeding Barnevelder chickens
Breeding your Barnevelder chickens doesn’t differ significantly from breeding other types of heritage chickens. Providing your Barnie hens access to a rooster of the same breed and allowing nature to take its course will yield healthy, strong chicks. A ratio of 10 hens for every rooster will typically yield good fertility rates. You can allow a broody hen to sit on her eggs, but Barnies are not known for being broody chickens and may not readily sit. Using an incubator is a better bet. A quick guide to hatching:
- Incubation time: 21 days
- Incubator temperature: 37.5°C (99.5°F)
- Incubator humidity: 40-50%
- Egg turning: 4 times a day
- Candling eggs: Day 7
- Lockdown Date: Day 17
- Lockdown temperature: 37.2°C (99°F)
- Lockdown humidity: 65%
For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on incubating chicken eggs.
What to feed Barnevelder chickens
Up until about 16 weeks old, your Barnevelder chicks should be fed a commercial chick starter feed with 18% protein. This added protein will help your young chicks grow and develop into healthy birds. After 16 weeks, they can be switched to a 16% protein layer feed to support healthy feathers and good egg production. Chickens enjoy being put out to pasture where they can eat grass, bugs, and other plants. They will also gladly eat some fruits, vegetables, grains, and leafy greens. Free-ranging your birds will also cut down significantly on your feed costs.