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The Black Spanish chicken is truly the aristocrat of the poultry world. The chicks can be rather flighty, as all Mediterranean breeds can, but the adults hold themselves as benefits a Spanish Don – Head up, one foot forward, calm. No other breed of chicken so embodies the word “aristocrat” in its posture, as does the Spanish chicken. The breed is of ancient and unknown lineage.
In plumage, the Spanish chicken is a lustrous greenish black in color, tight fitting of feather, and with moderately flowing tails. What sets this breed apart is the tremendous white ear lobes and white on face – resembling something the artist Salvador Dali might have painted, in that the faces appear to have melted and extended downward. But this breed predates Mr. Dali and it would be more likely to have influenced his art.
Spanish chickens have been widely known and recognized for their ability to lay a very large number of very large white eggs – gaining recognition for this even before 1816 in England. The breed came to America from Holland, and from 1825 to about 1895 was one of the best-known breeds of poultry. During the early 1860s, Spanish chickens were popular in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and as far west as Ohio. Farmers with flocks specializing in market eggs kept large flocks of this breed as late as 1892-1895. Eggs from Spanish chickens have been record in weights ranging from 2.75 ounces to 4.25 ounces (in 1852).
Spanish chickens were exhibited at the first poultry shows in both America and England. In England, it was the first breed for which classes were maintained at all the poultry shows. In America, the breed was exhibited as early as 1854, at the New York State Poultry Society show by Mr. J.P. Childs of Woonsocket, RI.
The downfall of the Spanish chicken came because of a combination of two attributes: the breed’s delicacy and its white face. As breeders paid more attention to increasing the size of the white faces in the Spanish chickens, a great loss of hardiness was observed. This combined with the delicate nature of the chicks soon led to a loss of popularity as hardier breeds began to arrive.
Spanish chickens were admitted to the American Poultry Association standard as a recognized under the name of White Faced Black Spanish in 1874. They are a non-sitting fowl with: dark brown eyes; dark slate shanks and toes; white earlobes and faces; and lay chalk white eggs. Males weigh 8 lbs and females weigh 6.5 lbs.