The Appenzeller chicken breed comes in two varieties of very interesting-looking chickens. The Spitzhauben and the Barthuhner varieties both originate from Appenzeller, Switzerland, and share similar features and characteristics but their appearance is very different. Is this rare, small breed right for your happy, healthy flock?
History of The Appenzeller Chicken Breed
|All Other Class
|4 – 5 Pounds
|Barthuhner, Spitzhauben (in their color variations)
Both varieties of the Appenzeller are rare. There are very few pictures of them available and even fewer good pictures.
The exact origins of the breed are uncertain. However, there are records of these variations being developed from Appenzell, Switzerland, since the mid-1860s.
Neither of the Appenzellers is recognized in America by the American Poultry Association although there is a movement to them added as an accepted breed.
The Appenzeller Spitzhauben is the Swiss national breed that was developed in Appenzell, Switzerland. The women of this area wear a ceremonial lace bonnet known as a Spitzhauben.
The Spitzhauben has been a part of the Alps for centuries. It was said to have been bred as early as the 15th century, according to unverified claims. It was discovered to be only in Appenzell during the last century, which is why it was called the “Appenzell Pointed Hood” Hen.
In the United Kingdom, a Black Spitzhauben is available, but in the United States, it’s mostly the Silver Spangled variety. The spangled varieties have black polka dots on their feathers and they look like they’re wearing black tiaras on their heads.
The Barthuhner has feathers puffed up under its beaks to resemble fluffy beards. Their tiny wattles are tucked away behind the beard, allowing them to do well in harsh winter temperatures. They are available in Black, Blue, Laced, and Black-red. They’re crossed with Andalusians to developed a blue color.
After World War II, a doctor named Albert McGraw brought the Spitzhauben to the United States. They’re usually kept as show birds, although they are used as a laying breed for the 3 – 5 eggs they lay every week. Their eggs are not known to have consistent abnormalities.
Both varieties of the Appenzeller chicken breed are quite rare in America. Only a few hatcheries have the Silver Spangled Spitzhauben available for purchase and even less have the Barthuhner variety.
Appenzell Hens begin laying around the same time as most other breeds, between 5 to 6 months of age.
They lay medium white eggs and are considered average layers since they lay only around 150 eggs a year.
|Barthuhner – Rose
Spitzhauben – no true Comb, V shape “comb” in front of feather top notch
|Barthuhner – Bearded; Spitzhauben – Yes
|Number of Toes
Bearded Hens weigh an average of 3.5 lbs to 4 lbs (1.6 to 1.8 kg), roosters 4.5 lbs to 5 lbs (2.0 to 2.3 kg).
The Pointed Hood Hens weigh about 2 lbs (1 kg) on average, with roosters weighing around 3 lbs (1.5 kg).
The Spitzhauben, which means lacy bonnet or pointed hood, has feather crests and a V-comb which stands up in front of its “lacy bonnet”. These “devil combs” along with the wild-looking hood of feathers on top leave little risk for frostbite in the cold.
On the Barthuhner, which means bearded hen, there is no crest on either the rooster or the hen and both have a small, close rose comb. Its beard protects its ear lobes and wattles from the cold. This protects them from being frostbitten in the cold.
Both varieties are well-suited to mountainous terrain and conditions. They are excellent climbers on rocky ground and can fly, adding to the wild chicken effect. They will spend the night in a tree even if it snows.
|Hardy in Winter
|Tolerates Heat Well
|Active, Noisy, Excellent foragers
The Appenzeller chicken breed does well when they are free to explore and roam around. You may need to protect your garden if it is not fenced because they will explore it and eat what they discover there.
If you can’t free range them, provide them with a large covered yard and some forms of entertainment. They don’t like being confined and will become bored and agitated.
The hens are not prone to becoming broody, nor do they make attentive mothers.
They have the reputation of being wild and unfriendly, but most people who have them say they are friendly and inquisitive. They can be noisy as they like to chatter with or at one another, people, and other animals.
Although they are not flighty in temperament, they will fly up into a tree to protect themselves or if frightened.
This is one of the few breeds that do well in both hot and cold climates.
Where to buy Appenzellers
The Appenzeller chicken breed is rare in the United States, and only a few hatcheries sell them.
We found the Appenzeller Spitzhauben for you.
We located the Appenzeller Barthuhner for you as well.
You can thank the few breeders in the Appenzell Hen Club for their efforts in saving this hen. Only four of the original ten colors were able to be maintained from the few remaining hens in the 1950s.
The most common Spitzhauben is the silver-black spotted one. People often show this type of hen at exhibitions for breeders. The gold-black spotted variety is not as common and pure black and pure blue are very rare.
The most common Barthuhner is the black and red. The other colors are rare in the U.S.
The Appenzeller breed is among the world’s most rare breeds of chicken. It is believed to have been developed in Switzerland by farmers who wanted a chicken that would survive the harsh climate on their mountains.
Both varieties are excellent climbers and can fly. Both have little exposed areas which makes the risk of frostbite small.
Both are one of the few chickens who do well in both cold and hot climates.
They are average layers of medium white eggs, around 150 a year, 3 – 5 a week on average. They are not prone to broodiness and are not good mothers.
They have a friendly disposition and can be noisy with chattering.
They do not do well in confinement because of their free spirit attitude. If you have the place to allow these birds to free-range, they may be the unique, active breed you are looking to add to your backyard flock.
As always, we’re here to help.