Silver Spangled Banner: An Intro to Hamburg Chickens

The History of Hamburg Chickens

hamburg chickens
A Silver Spangled Hamburg Male and Hen Credit: Cackle Hatchery

The Hamburg is one of the oldest documented breeds of domesticated poultry.  Originating in Holland, the first recorded descriptions and illustrations of Hamburg chickens were made in 1599 by an Italian naturalist named Aldvovani.  Aldvovani originally named the breed the Turkish chicken.  The Dutch developed what we now call Golden Penciled and Silver Penciled Hamburg Chickens.  It was at some point before the year 1785 that these birds were taken from Holland to England.  England embraced the Hamburg Chicken.  They embraced it so much that they developed a few more color varieties of the breed, most notably the Golden Spangled and Silver Spangled Hamburg.  The Hamburg arrived in the United States in 1856 and was extremely popular among farmers and families alike for its prolific egg production.  Hamburg chickens were officially added to the Continental class in the Standard of Perfection almost 20 years later in 1874.  They are officially listed as a white skinned, ornamental, non-sitting, egg laying breed that lays medium-sized white eggs.

The Low Down

Hamburg chickens are an active breed whose flightiness and alert disposition make them less tolerable of confinement than other heritage breeds.  Most owners choose to own Hamburgs for their productivity.  Weighing about 4 pounds on average and laying almost 200 eggs per year, a Hamburg Hen is pound for pound one of the most productive breeds of chicken.  And it’s not even their average egg count in a single year that makes them popular egg-layers.  It’s their endurance over time as a viable contributor to the farm that makes them truly incredible.  Most other breeds will see a sharp decline in egg-output after just one season of laying, much less after the next two or three, but not the Hamburg.  While yes, it is quite unlikely to see a chicken outdo itself in any year after their first laying season, Hamburgs are known for their ability to just keep on going.  They’re like the Peyton Manning of chicken breeds (if you don’t count his last season [Superbowl champs though.])  Hamburgs will give you productive seasons year after year.  This is as convenient as it is economical for you as the owner.  Pullets will begin laying at 4-5 months.

Hamburgs are also very cold hardy.  They don’t need too much help to survive.  If they have access to a free range environment, Hamburg chickens also make incredible foragers, meaning that they can supplement their diet and save you money on feed (not to mention keep pests to a minimum around the farm or garden.)  Though other breeds have eclipsed it as a go-to choice for egg-seekers, Hamburgs can still get it done on the farm.

The Beauty

As of 2016 there are 11 different color varieties of Hamburg chickens, but only six of which are recognized by the Standard of Perfection.  Of those six, we find the Golden Spangled, Golden Penciled, Silver Penciled, and Silver Spangled varieties to be the most beautiful!

The Silver Spangled Hamburg

hamburg chickens
Another Silver Spangled Hamburg

All Hamburg color varieties have a medium sized rose comb. Silver Spangled males have white feathers with black tips on their head and hackle.  The saddle has similar feathers but they are a bit thicker.  The male’s sickles (long tail feathers) are longer with a slightly thicker tip.  Most of the male’s plumage is similar throughout, though on the wing the spangled color pattern seems to lineup, whereas it might seem random on other parts of the bird.  

Females look similar to males but with slightly smaller wing tips on their head and neck.  They also have more black spots than males.  Both sexes have a dark horn colored beak.

The Golden Spangled Hamburg

Golden Spangled Hamburgs have a similar appearance to Silver Spangled Hamburgs except instead of a silver or white base and black dots, they have a golden or mahogany base with black dots.

The Silver Penciled Hamburg

The Penciled varieties of Hamburgs are interesting due to the difference in plumage between males and females.  A Silver Penciled male has mainly white feathers.  But it does have black sickle feathers and coverts with a fine white lining around the edges of both.  Their wing coverts are also mainly white with black upper webs.  The sides of the bird’s body feathers below the wings have penciled black bars.

The hen has a white head, neck, and primary wings, but their body, breast, lower thighs, front of their neck, back, main tail, tail coverts, wing fronts and more (so yeah basically the rest of their body) are white with each feather having equidistant parallel bars of alternating white and greenish black coloring.  

This is quite a rare and beautiful color variety that is known to be a hot topic at whatever exhibition show you may find them.

The Golden Penciled Hamburg

hamburg chickens
A Golden Penciled Hamburg rooster. Credit: Cackle Hatchery

 

Like the difference between Golden and Silver Spangled color patterns, the difference between Golden and Silver Penciled is pretty simple.  The Golden Penciled Hamburg has the same discrepancy between male and female plumage, but with a golden mahogany base instead of white or silver.
Like its Silver Penciled counterparts, these birds are also popular at chicken or bird exhibitions.

This year, eFowl is once again sponsoring the Mother Earth News Heritage Chick Giveaway. This is a heritage chicken starter flock of Silver Spangled Hamburg Chickens donated by eFowl and raised by Seed Saver’s Exchange. You will also get a chicken coop and supplies from Tractor Supply Company. The sweepstakes is also sponsored by The Livestock Conservancy, where you can find invaluable information regarding heritage livestock and their conservancy status in the United States. You can enter to win the sweepstakes by vising the Mother Earth News Sweepstakes page here. Or you can still order your flock of Hamburgs from eFowl today!


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