A pair of White Moorhead Owlbeards, the cockerel on the left
Photos © Hans Schippers

Text by

Hans Schippers

The Owlbeard is a very old, if not the oldest, Dutch poultry breed. It appeared in many paintings from Old Dutch masters. There is some sort of relation between it and the bearded Poland. Certain breeders believe that Polands were cultivated from this breed. Later on, crossings between them and the Kraaikop, Thüringer bearded fowl and La Flèche were made to maintain the breed. They have no wattles and instead we find a beard and muffs, which cover the "chin and cheeks." Very striking is the horned cock's V-shaped comb. This is nearly twice as high as that of the hen, respectively two and one centimetres. The Owlbeard is a rather large ornamental chicken with a beautiful upright carriage and a sloping, medium long and -wide backline. Characteristic is the broad, deep and full breast and the richly developed neck hackles. The upright tail is also well developed with nice, broad tail coverts and long, broad and well-curved sickle feathers. The eye colour is brown-red and the earlobes are white. The colour of the beak depends on the colour variety. This also is the case with the leg colour, which is white pinkish for the Cuckoo variety, light blue-grey for the White and slate blue for the Golden Spangled variety. The Owlbeard is known in Black, White, Black-laced Blue, Cuckoo, Golden and Silver Spangled, Yellow-white Spangled, Golden Pencilled, and Silver Pencilled varieties as well as the so-called Moorhead. The latter is known in White, Blue, Golden and Buff varieties with a totally black head. This is a very attractive variety.

In general, the Owlbeard is a healthy, hardy and vital breed, which satisfies best when kept on free range. When locked up they tend to become fatter than normal and egg-production will drop. This is a real showy bird to have walking free in your garden or in a park. They are good layers, excellent table birds and also good for poultry shows, where they usually get a lot of attention. They are early layers. Under the right management, they can lay at the age of just five months, but some strains will start to lay at a later age. Also, there is some difference in egg production between the colour varieties. The Black and the White are the best layers with nearly 200 eggs per hen per annum. The egg form is more oval than pointed on one side. Generally speaking, they are non-sitters but if they do hatch chicks, they are great mothers. It is a friendly intimate breed with few problems. They weigh between 1600 and 2500 grams depending on the age and sex. In Holland, we have a very active breeders club for this nice breed. The breeding basis is very small and from time to time they have been on the border of extinction from this and also because they are not as widespread as other breeds. Presently a strong and renewed interest in them is found in Holland, Germany and England.

Breed clubs:

The BKU Club
Midden 127
8351 HE Wapserveen
The Netherlands
phone: 3742653 (I think)

Owlbeard Links:

Here's the Chickenbox page on the Owlbeard

A White Owlbeard cockerel
Photo courtesy of ChickenStreet

Owlbeard hens -- Blue, Gold Spangled and bantam Silver Spangled
Photos courtesy of Sascha Michel

Yellow White Spangled Owlbeards
Photos courtesy of Sascha Michel

A White Owlbeard chick
Photo courtesy of ChickenStreet

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