Over the centuries breda have been called by many forgettable names –kraaikops, guelderlands, grueldres—that paradoxically were attached the one of the most unforgettable and visually arresting chicken breeds in the world. As one of our chicken wranglers noted at Greenfire Farms, breda are so wild and extreme in their appearance they look like they were designed for the movie Avatar. With their unique posture and gait, flowing tail feathers, and complete absence of a comb, breda are the sole inhabitants of an important branch of the evolutionary tree of domestic chickens. They probably served as a foundational breed for a number of popular breeds that were to later emerge, and yet it is hard to say that any breed to which they might have contributed is as exciting as breda themselves.
The origins of breda are a mystery: Scholars debate whether breda first emerged in Holland, Belgium or France. (Although Breda is city in the Netherlands.) We do know that breda were once common in the United States but began a decline after the Civil War and by the early 1900s were probably extinct in America. They have fared little better in Europe, and while small flocks of breda still exist on that continent, they are extremely rare. They are altogether absent from entire European countries. Greenfire Farms searched far and wide for the best breda stock, and with the help of a few international poultry experts we were able to locate excellent birds from some of the last remaining flocks.
We have imported both blue breda and black breda. The blue breda roosters have remarkable two-tone paint jobs; deep blue on top, light blue chests with dark blue lacing on the feathers, and a hint of copper in their hackle feathers. The blue breda follow conventional poultry color genetics and produce chicks in a number of colors including blue.
What the black breda lack in a flashy paint scheme they more than make up for in sheer sculptural virtuosity. The black breda, with their lavish leg feathering that flares at the bottom to form a pool around their feet—and I’ll admit this sounds weird—look like they share the same dress designer as Madame X when she was painted by John Singer Sargent. The effect is simply jaw dropping; as if a highly stylized artist’s interpretation of a chicken had somehow come to life.
Despite their exotic appearance, breda are large and powerful and make excellent free-range birds. The hens are reliable producers of white, delicious eggs. Greenfire Farms has twice imported breda and established separate bloodlines to ensure the genetic integrity of this vanishing breed. After being absent from this country more than a century we find ourselves at a remarkable moment: For a few lucky poultry enthusiasts breda will once again grace the barnyards and backyards of America.