Appenzeller Spitzhaubens are small- to medium-sized chickens native to the Appenzell canton of northeast Switzerland near the German and Austrian borders. (Switzerland is comprised of 26 districts called cantons.) Appenzell is an alpine region with a strong tradition of herding and other agricultural enterprises. Spitzhauben are ceremonial hats worn as part of elaborate costumes by the women of the region, and they sport a large crest on the top of the bonnet. In about the 1500s a chicken breed emerged in the monasteries of Appenzell, and the birds had a forward thrusting crest of feathers on their heads. It was only natural that the birds would be locally called Appenzeller Spitzhaubens.
Appenzeller Spitzhaubens fall within the class of large fowl but are usually rather small. They are very active foragers and for their size lay relatively large white eggs. They tend to be cold hardy. The Spitzhauben is completely unrelated to the much larger and differently-shaped Appenzeller Barthuhner chicken breed that was also imported from Greenfire Farms. The sole link between these breeds is that they were developed centuries apart in the same region of Switzerland.
Following World War II, a German prisoner of war who spent time in a military detention camp in Alabama returned to his native country and acquired some silver Spitzhaubens. With the help of his friend, Dr. Albert McGraw, the German then brought some hatching eggs to the United States when he returned to gain citizenship to this country. These eggs hatched what was to become the foundation stock of Spitzhaubens in the United States. More recently, gold Spitzhaubens also were imported by means that remain unclear.
There are some nice examples of Spitzhaubens in America, but many American birds lack the proper forward thrusting crest of the breed. At some point another crested breed –probably Polish— was introduced into the bloodlines and crests tended to be more rounded and puffy.
More than two years ago Greenfire Farms imported from German stock a number of rare Spitzhauben colors including blue, black, and chamois. We have been working with this breed ever since and are now producing beautiful chicks in a number of color varieties.
In addition to bringing a new color variant to the American poultry scene, our imported chamois birds are extremely large examples of the Spitzhauben breed, and their blue legs create a striking contrast with their rich fawn coloration. Our blacks and blues are also marvelous birds, and unlike the sometimes compromised gene pool of Spitzhaubens in this country, they produce chicks that usually have the correct forward-thrusting Spitzhauben feather head crest.