by E. S. Traverse

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 1999, 4(2):2-4

"Indigenous Barnyard Fowl of north Britain" was a catch-all phrase used to denote a general purpose utility chicken that thrived on a free range system, and encompassed many breeds: Lancashire Moonies, Copper Moss, Old English Pheasant Fowl, Scots Greys, Yourkshire Pheasants, as well as the subject of this article -- the Derbyshire Redcap, or more commonly referred to simply as "Redcap."

Typically, each of these breeds (the Lancashire Moonies and Yorkshire Pheasant are extinct, but were the parent breeds of the Silver Spangled Hamburg) are well characterized as being hardy, long-lived, non-sitters, excellent layers, very good fliers, active, alert and well able to look after themselves; traits that make them ideally suited to a free range system. The Redcap is no exception to any of these points.

The Redcap differs from other members of the Hamburg family in that they are the largest of the group. Without exception, all of the old poultry books (old here meaning 150+ years ago) specify that the Redcap was bred originally for both egg and meat production while the Hamburgs were bred for egg production.

What sets the Redcap apart from all other breeds, identifies them at a glance and is responsible for their name is the rose comb, which has been over many generations selected for size and, on a good specimen, is proportionate to the bird without being heavy or exaggerated. A lop-sided or poorly developed comb on an otherwise fine Redcap is a miserable sight. Since a perfect comb on a perfect bird is difficult to achieve, this, along with their active nature, may explain why they are not popular show birds. Kept and maintained for its original intent of a dual purpose Cottager's or Homesteader's fowl, this very old, very rare breed has many strong points in its favor and deserves to be better known.


Solid white ear lobes; combs other than rose; decidedly wry or squirrel tails; crooked backs; foreign colored feathers indicating impurity, except white in the tail and primaries; mottled breast upon the male; any feathers on shanks or toes; shanks other than slate or lead-blue in color.


Cock: 7 1/2 pounds
Cockerel: 6 pounds
Hen: 6 1/2 pounds
Pullet: 5 pounds

The Male

Head: Short, deep; plumage rich dark red. Beak, rather long, stout at the base, well curved and dark horn in color. Eyes bright red. Face bright red.

Comb: Rose, large -- the larger the better (a good male specimen will have a comb measuring 3 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide), not overhanging the eyes; square in front, free from being hollow in the center, uniform on each side and even on the head without tilting to either side; the top covered with numerous small points, the back terminating in a well-developed spike. Wattles and ear lobes of medium size and bright red.

Neck: rather long with full hackle cascading well down over the shoulders; plumage blue-black, with each feather edged with red; the hackle shading to black at the base.

Back: of medium length and sloping well to the tail; plumage rich red and black. Saddle feathers rich dark red with a bluish stripe down the center of each feather.

Breast: broad, prominent and full plumage of a purple-black. Body; long, rather round, broader in front and tapering to rear. Plumage a dull black, short fluff.

Wings: large, well folded, rich, deep red to mahogany colored bows. Primaries are dull black; secondaries with upper web of black, lower web black edged in brown. Coverts deep nut-brown with each feather ending in a black spangle shaped like a half-moon.

Tail: carried rather upright but not fully erect and green-black in color. Abundant coverts, well curved sickles.

Thighs: well developed, of medium length. Shanks and toes slate colored, or leaden blue.

The Female

Head: short and deep; plumage brown. Back long, stout and well curved, light horn in color. Eyes and face bright red.

Comb: rose comb, like the male but smaller (generally about half the size). Wattles and earlobes bright red and of medium size.

Neck: rather long with full hackle, plumage black with each feather laced with a light golden red color.

Back: long, rich nut-brown plumage each feather ending in a half-moon spangle of bluish-black.

Breast: broad and prominent with nut-brown plumage; each feather ending in a half-moon spangle of bluish black. Long and deep, straight keel bone, plumage is similar to that of the breast, only shading lighter to the underside, fluff short.

Wings: large and well folded; bows rich nut-brown with each feather ending in a half-moon spangle of bluish black. Primaries a dull black with narrow edge of brown on the lower web. Secondaries; black upper web with lower web being black with broad edging of brown., each feather ending in a half-moon spangle of bluish black. Coverts are marked very similarly to the bows.

Tail: long and full, dull black in color. Coverts are brown, each feather ending with a half-moon spangle of bluish black.

Thighs: of medium length and well developed. Shanks and toes slate colored or a leaden-blue.

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