Saturday, May 7, 2011

Naked Necks - Chickens that Look Like Turkeys

Naked Neck - Black Cockerel
Photo: Courtesy of

The first time I saw a picture of a Naked Neck chicken I thought the poor thing had a disease.  When I found out it was actually a very old historical breed, I wondered who would want these ugly things.  The main characteristic of this breed is that virtually all the neck and crop area is naked of feathering, just a rich red coloured skin, giving the birds a revolting yet fascinating appearance. I must admit that now, the more I see of them, the more I like them.

Naked Necks - Black Pair
Photo Source:  Istruzione Agraria Online

The history of the Naked Neck is not very well known although they are documented to have existed in Europe since the beginning of the 18th Century having been mentioned in an Austrian poultry book dated from 1701. Winkler (1921) and Bakoss (1931) presume that the ancestors of these birds were brought into the Carpathian basin from Asia by the Hun conquerors at the end of the ninth century. Evidence for this is given by the fact that chickens without feathers around their necks are portrayed in old Japanese art.  As well, claiming the Asian link, other poultry historians cite the fact that the Malagache, one of the fighting breeds from the Malay Peninsula, also have no feathers around their necks.

“From what I have read the Naked Neck was originally derived from the Madagascar and the Ga Noi game breeds when crossed to common chickens. They supposedly originated in Malasia and Southeast Asia and radiated out from there through trade with other countries. The Naked Necks as a type have been around for several thousand years and their history is rather obscure.” – Dean Shuck

Madagascar Game Fowl (Magalache) - Close Up
Photo Source:

Madagascar Game Fowl (Magalache) - Frontal View
Photo Source: Ultimate Fowl Forum

Ga Noi (Vietnamese Fighting Fowl)
Photo Source: SAK Rassen Information

Ga Noi (Vietnamese Fighting Fowl)
Photo Source: SAK Rassen Information

Naked Necks - Black Flock
Photo Source: The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

The name Transylvanian Naked Neck was given this breed as it is claimed that the modern breed originated in the part of eastern Hungary known as Transylvania (this location is now part of modern day Romania). 

Mr. Lewis Wright, in a book on poultry, says this of the origins of the Naked Neck:

“An amateur who had travelled in Transylvania (the home of these fowls) told us there was a tradition their origin had been from a bird injured by a severe scald on the neck which had caused utter loss of plumage, which was afterwards transmitted. We can only give the legend for what it is worth” – (Wright, 1890)

The breed received the name Turken and "Churkey" as it was also once believed that it came about as the result of a cross between a chicken and a turkey.  However, this has long been since disproven; the Naked Neck is chicken through and through. 

Naked Neck - Blue Rooster
Photo Source:  Istruzione Agraria Online

A farmyard fowl known for its fast growth and good foraging abilities, its popularity spread quickly. They became birds of preference, not only for their relatively good year round egg production but also for their excellent meat quality, this said to be a result of their "seeking habit", scratching for food regardless of hot or cold weather. Also adding to their popularity was the fact that Naked Necks were hardy birds, resistant to diseases and the costs of keeping them were very low. 

Naked Neck - White Pullet
Photo Source:  Istruzione Agraria Online

By the 1800's, the Naked Neck was bred throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Here it became known as the Szeremlei chicken, named after one of its first documented breeders in the early 1800's (Bakoss, 1931).   Romanian archives mention a Mrs. Luiza Hohenberg from Siebenburgen (the German name for the part of Transylvania in western Romania) as one of the earlier poultry fanciers known for the breeding and selecting of Naked Necks.  It is said that birds from her flock formed the basis of the exhibition Naked Neck with progeny being sent to Germany, Austria and France.

Austro-Hungarian Empire circa 1800's
Map Source:

Naked Necks - Black Flock
Photo Source: National Geographic Images

German fanciers are credited to have "perfected" the modern exhibition Naked Neck by taking the common farmyard variety and breeding it into a more consistent form devoid of any feathers on the neck.  The first Naked Neck chicken seen in exhibition was shown in Vienna in 1875 when Herr C. E. Weber, Mrs Hohenberg and Mrs. Szeremley entered some large fowl. The birds created quite a stir and the two women, Mrs. Hohenber and Ms. Szeremley were recipients of awards of highest distinction for their entries.  Bantam Naked Necks were soon developed with the first shown by Herr Karl Hurth at the German National show in Frankfurt in 1898. From then on, their popularity amongst poultry fanciers grew quickly. In 1905 the Sonderverein der Züchter, der Nackthalshühner, Zwerg- Nackthalshühner und Rumänischen Nackthalstümmler  (The Special Breeders Association for Naked Neck Chickens, Bantam Naked Neck Chickens and Romanian Naked Neck Pigeons) was formed. In 1907, at the Leipzig Poultry Show, 110 Naked Necks were exhibited. One of the breed clubs, the Nackthalszuchter-Verein, even commissioned a postcard in 1911 illustrating the Black, Cuckoo, and White Naked Neck varieties.

Naked Neck - White Bantam Cockerel head shot
Photo Source: Jugendseite-Westfalen

Naked Neck - Black Bantam Cockerel
Photo Source: Jugendseite-Westfalen

Naked Neck - Cuckoo Bantam Pullet
Photo Source: Jugendseite-Westfalen

Naked Neck - White Bantam Cockerel
Photo Source: Jugendseite-Westfalen

Naked Necks are documented to have been in Britain from the early 1870’s, with Mr. John C. Fraser exhibiting them in 1874.  They never became popular in Britain as poultry fanciers considered it too much a common farmyard fowl. These impressions are basically summed up by Lewis Wright in his illustrated book of poultry from 1890, whereupon he says:

“By this name is known a curious variety imported from Austria, and in which the feathers are entirely absent from the neck, the head being feathered as usual. The effect is peculiar, but most unpleasant. There is nothing fixed about the birds otherwise, the last pair we saw having the cock feather legged, and the hen bare-legged, and the plumage the commonist barnyard mongrel type” - (Wright, 1890)

Naked Neck - Buff Rooster Head shot
Photo Source:  Unknown

Naked Neck - Black Hen
Photo Source: Unknown

Naked Neck - Black Cockerel
Photo Source: Unknown

Naked Necks appeared in North America in the late 1800’s but never caught on like they did in mainland Europe, in part because of the myth that they were not a true breed of poultry, but rather an inter-species cross.  It was not until 1927 that the United States Department of Agriculture declared it a breed, patented the name “Bare-Neck” and assigned it to thus.  Prior to this date, Dr. Morley Jull of the U.S.D.A. and other poultry scientists had referred to the breed as Transylvania Naked Neck chickens, even though the names Turken and Churkey were more commonplace due to the popularity of the myth of its origins.

Dr. Jull, however, was quite adamant that the Naked Neck was not a result of a cross between a turkey and a chicken.

“Such a claim … is not founded on established fact, and no records have been published for such a cross.  Moreover, if such a cross were possible, the progeny would, in all probability, be sterile. The turkey and the chicken do not belong to the same species of fowl and are too distantly related to cross with even the remotest hope of securing progeny.” – Dr Jull as quoted by Linda M Gryner

Naked Neck - Black Rooster
Photo Source:

Naked Neck - Black Cock
Photo Source:  Mad Poultry

Unfortunately, the World Wars took their toll on Naked Necks as they did on so many poultry breeds and varieties, and the fact that the Naked Neck was considered an “anti-Nazi” breed accelerated the demise of various colour varieties and the Bantams in mainland Europe.  In Britain and America, the bird was deemed to be too “Germanic” and with wartime feelings running high there was a sharp decline in its numbers.  In fact, by the early 1950’s there were no Bantam varieties left, and subsequently they had to be recreated.

Naked Neck - Blue Flock
Photo Source:  jmhappycowboy a.k.a. James May

Naked Neck:  Blue Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  Blue Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

After World War I and the redrawing of national boundaries, the Government of Hungary took it upon itself to standardize many of its animal breeds.  A major breeding program in poultry was started at the Institute for Small Animal Research in Gödöllõ in the early 1930s. The breeding program had as its goals to make the Hungarian breeds uniform in colour and body shape, increase body weight as well as to improve egg-laying capabilities. 
Success in creating dual-purpose birds in many of the Hungarian breeds including the Transylvanian Naked Neck, was attained by the late 1930’s. 

Naked Neck:  Red Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  Red Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Unfortunately, during the Second World War the majority of these birds were killed. So once again, after the war, systematic breeding programs were established at Gödöllõ, and Mosonmagyaróvár.  Through the efforts of various poultry researchers and breeders, the Transylvanian Naked Neck and other Hungarian indigenous chicken breeds were not only saved but by the 1950s their numbers were steadily increasing. (Biszkup and Beke, 1951; Báldy, 1954; Annual Report, Institute for Small Animal Research, 1954).

Naked Neck:  Buff Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  Buff Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

The gene that causes the neck to be naked and a general reduction of the feather tracts had been isolated by Poultry Geneticist F.B. Hutt in  about 1949. This gene was designated “Na” as it is a dominant gene; a single dose will cause the offspring to display the bare neck and reduction in feathers.

Naked Neck:  Silver Penciled Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  Silver Penciled Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Many poultry breeders have since made great use of the dominant nature of the Na gene to achieve quick improvements in type or color crossed to other dual-purpose chicken breeds. The Na gene has also been shown to improve breast size and reduce heat stress in those chickens carrying it. In tropical climates, lower body temperatures, better food conversion rates and increased weight gain are associated with the Na gene.  As well, crosses have shown that the gene affects egg size and has therefore been used in Europe to increase egg size and amongst industrial flocks.

Naked Neck - Buff Flock

Scientific research into the Naked Neck is still ongoing.  The following comes from an article in the March 31st, 2011 edition of The Economist titled, "Some Chicken, Some Neck":

“The Transylvanian naked-neck chicken may, to mix bestial metaphors, sound like a poisson d’avril (as the French call an April fool), but it is a real breed, probably originating from the eponymous Romanian region. Nor are Transylvanian chickens the only naked-necked birds in the world. Various vultures have featherless necks, presumably to stop the blood and gore from their meals matting their plumage. And ostriches and emus, too, are bare-necked—in their case to radiate away the heat generated when they run.
All this avian nakedness has caught the attention of researchers, who wonder what mechanism underlies it. Denis Headon of the Roslin Institute, in Edinburgh, and his colleagues, now think they know. The result, described recently in the Public Library of Science, shows how fiendishly complicated genetics and evolution actually are.
The naked-necked chicken’s distinctive feature is caused, not surprisingly, by a mutation in its DNA. This mutation is not actually in a gene, though. Instead, it is in part of the DNA which is not translated into protein and which geneticists once, in their ignorance, referred to as junk DNA. But little in biology is junk. Natural selection sees to that. So, although the mutation does not change the composition of any protein, it does change the activity of a nearby gene that encodes a protein called BMP12. Specifically, it causes more BMP12 than normal to be produced. BMP12 is one of a group of proteins that control the density of hair in mammals and feathers in birds. In the case of BMP12, it slows down the growth of such features.
Indeed, Dr Headon was able to make cultured skin samples from ordinary chickens featherless by dosing them with BMP12. The extra retinoic acid did the trick nicely. And, though this has yet to be tested, it might help explain those other featherless species. That they developed naked necks is surely the result of natural selection. That they were able to develop naked necks may, though, be because the extra retinoic acid in the neck made the evolutionary transition much easier.An inherited mutation of this sort will, however, be present in all cells, so the question is: why does it express itself only in the chicken’s neck? To investigate that, Dr Headon turned to a second chemical, retinoic acid. This substance, a derivative of vitamin A, is a well-known regulator of the differentiation of tissues in developing embryos. But it can still spring surprises. Dr Headon discovered that retinoic acid enhances the effect of BMP12 so that it does not merely slow the growth of feathers, but stops such growth altogether. And, for reasons as yet undiscovered, the embryonic neck-skin of birds produces more retinoic acid than the embryonic skin from any other part of their bodies.” – (The Economist, March 32, 2011)

Naked Neck - Cuckoo
Photo source: Unknown

The obvious chief visual characteristic of the Naked Neck is an absence of feathers around the neck and the vent. The bare skin on the neck continues to the crop while on the top of the head there is a small cap of feathers. Overall it is said that Naked Necks have between 20% and 60% fewer feathers than breeds of a similar size thus making them much easier to dress.  They are similar to many dual-purpose chicken breeds in general shape, especially Sussex or Plymouth Rocks, but without having the long backs associated with these two breeds.  Naked Necks are generally wide shouldered with the wings being carried fairly high. The comb is single and of medium size with five well-defined points.  It is a rich red colour as is its wattles and earlobes. Eye colour is a reddish-brown with beak, shanks and toes being yellow in the lighter colour varieties and shanks being a slate blue in the darker colour varieties.

Naked Neck hens are good layers of medium to large, light brown eggs.  They have a reputation of laying even throughout the coldest winter months. Not really known for their broodiness, those hens that do go broody are said to make excellent mothers.  Baby chicks are born with naked necks and are thus easy to recognize in mixed batches.

As a breed, they are considered docile and very friendly and one of the easiest chickens to tame.  They are well suited to hot weather and are surprisingly cold hardy. Naked Necks have a reputation for actively foraging and are thus suited to free range as well as backyard environments.  If kept outside under good sun exposure, the skin colour turns a bright red. In confinement, the skin colour is usually a yellowy-orange to light pink.

Naked Necks - Black Trio
Photo Source:  Unknown

Cou-nu and Cou-nu du Forez

The French have two recognized Naked Neck breeds - The Cou-nu du Forez and the Cou-nu. The Cu-nu du Forez is an old breed created from crossing a local farm breed dating back to the 1700’s with a Gatinaise-type fowl. It is named Cou-nu dud Forez after the region where it was developed, the "Forez" or Loire Region. 
The major visual difference between these two Naked Neck breeds is that the Cou-nu has a totally naked neck and the Cou-nu du Forez has a patch of feathers on the front of the neck and whereas the Naked Neck (Cou-nu) comes in several colour varieties, the Cou-nu du Forez is only recognized in the White variety by the French Standards.

Gerard Boyer and a Cou-nu du Forez Cock
Photo Source:

Cou-nu du Forez - Hen
Photo  Source:  Unknown

Cou-nu du Forez - Hen
Photo  Source:  Unknown

Cou-nu du Foret Flock
Photo Surce: Unknown

In France, the Naked Neck is mainly bred as a meat bird even though the hen is an early, robust, good layer.  It is known for its excellent  tasting flesh, probably due to the fact that it is mainly free-range produced.

Chicks at One Week Old

Chicks at Seven Weeks

Chicks at 11 Weeks

Commercial Naked Necks at 13 Weeks

Free-ranging at 15 Weeks

The French Standard is fairly recent considering their past. One major difference between the French Cou Nu du Forez and the American and British Naked Neck is that the French Standards for the Cou Nu du Forez demands a neck that is completely bare with the exception of a tuft of feathers in the middle, set apart from the rest. It is recognized only in the White colour variety. Cocks are to weigh up to 3.5 kg while Hens weigh between 2.3 and 2.8 kg.


The Dutch Poultry Standards recognizes Black, Black Mottled, Blue, Cuckoo, and White colour varieties of Naked Necks (Naakthals).  Buff, Red, and Silver Penciled are not yet officially recognized but are popular colours.

According to the Dutch Standards:
weights of Cocks 2.00 – 2.5 kg and Hens 1.75 – 2.0 kg.  

The French standard recognizes Cou Nu (Naked Necks) in Black, White, Cuckoo, Red, Buff, “Andalusian: Blue, Golden-Salmon, Mille-Fleur (Tricolor or Jubilee), and Black Mottled.

Recognized colour varieties in the British Poultry Standard are Black, White, Cuckoo, Buff, Red, and Blue.

Weights approved by the British Poultry Standards are:
Cocks 3.20-3.60 kg  (7-8 lb)
Hens 2.50-2kg (5 1/2 - 6 1/2 lb)

The American Poultry Association recognized Naked Necks in 1965 in four colour varieties: Red, White, Buff, and Black. They are shown in the All Other Standard Breeds Class.
Weights approved by the A.P.A. for Standard Naked Necks are:
Cock:  8.5 lbs    Cockerel:  7.5 lbs
Hen:  6.5 lbs     Pullet:  5.5 lbs

Other Colours

Some of the other colours which are being worked on for acceptance into the Standards include a true Salmon (like the Salmon Faverolle), Mottled Blue, Chocolate, Dun and Golden Cuckoo, amongst others.  

Rose Comb Naked Neck
Photo Source:

The new fad, if I may call it that without people shooting darts at me, are the "Show Girls"  - basically a Silkie looking like a Cou-nu du Foret.

"Show Girl" Pair
Photo Source:  Unknown

On a site similar to E-Bay called, I came across the follwing pictures illustrating the Golden Cuckoo:

Bantam Naked Necks

The first Bantam Naked Necks were a creation Herr Karl Huth of Frankfurt, Germany. Very little is known about the history of their creation  but it had to have occurred in the early to mid-1800’s as documentation shows that Bantam Naked Necks were found in the poultry market of Frankfurt in 1961. However, between 1861 and 1898 there is little if any documentation to show the evolution of these small birds.  In 1898, Karl Huth exhibited his Bantam Naked Necks at the German National Poultry show held in Frankfurt.

Naked Neck - Bantam Chick
Photo Source:  Bantam Club

Mr. Karl Huth and Mr. Otto Marhold from Berlin were instrumental in the promotion and breeding of Bantam Naked Necks.  Mr. Marhold, who would later become Chairman of the biggest Naked Neck association (the Sonderverein der Züchter, der Nackthalshühner, Zwerg- Nackthalshühner und Rumänischen Nackthalstümmler 1905) spent over 10 years breeding Naked Neck Bantams in Black, White and Partridge varieties. The creation of more colour varieties and the formation of breed clubs and associations for Naked Necks helped promote the bantams and they thus became quite popular throughout Germany.  Unfortunately, World War I put an end to this popularity as many breeders and birds were lost.  Due to being unable to secure proper feed for his stock and then the necessity to eat the birds, Mr. Marhold himself lost all of his stock; years of work were destroyed. Basically, he had to start from scratch but he did manage to secure a few birds which became the foundation of the next generation of Bantam Naked Necks.

Naked Neck - Black Bantam Rooster
Photo Source:

Between 1917 and 1918, Mr. Marhold was able to create and exhibit numerous Bantam Naked Necks in various coulours.  Most unfortunate for the poultry fancy was his premature death in 1922. According to German author and famous Naked Neck breeder Bernhard Noack in his book "The Naked Neck Chicken" (no longer available), Mr. Marhold wrote a detailed account of his extensive experiments and breeding secrets.  These were subsequently published in the 1918 Yearbook of the Bantam Breeders Association.  It was almost as if he had a premonition of what was to come.  It is said that Marhold arranged to have all of his Bantam Naked Necks slaughtered in the event of his death, instead of passing these birds on.  So, with his death and the slaughter of the birds, the Bantam Naked Neck once again disappeared.

However, it is still all nude neck breeders understand that Marhold is said to have arranged his lifetime, to slaughter in the event of his death, all naked neck Dwarfs completely. And again it was done for the dwarf naked neck chickens.

During this time and independently of Marhold and of each other, three breeders of Standard Naked Necks were trying to create Bantams. There is reference to the Kaiser (August Kaiser aus Hamburg) of the breeding of Bantam Naked Necks and the showing of these birds in Hamburg shows where apparently he did quite well.  Upon his death, his breeding flock was slaughtered.

The second of these breeders, Richard Mueller of Meuselwitz in Thüringen successfully created black Bantam Naked Necks by mating Standard Naked Necks to various black bantams.   At the same time, Michael Drexler from Munich, also dealt with the challenges of creating Bantam Naked Neck chickens. According to various documents, he took Standards and crossed with German bantams of various colours. These blood lines brought the desired results, proven by the show results of a poultry exhibition in Munich. However, by the early 1920’s all evidence of Bantam Naked Necks had disappeared, along with those who were responsible for their creation.

In 1932, Bernhard Noack from Zossen near Berlin, once again started on the task of creating Bantam Naked Necks, and by 1937 was rewarded for his work with bantams that bread true to size andcokour variety. Mr. Noack was unquestionably one of the greatest promoters of Naked Necks in Europe, and he gave many breeding workshops throughout Germany and abroad. Bantam Naked Necks again enjoyed a rise in popularity, but as luck would have it, once again it was short lived.

It was at this time that the political climate in Germany had radically changed.  The Nazis, who had come to power and proclaimed their Third Reich, were “racial cleansing”; not only persons but also animals associated with “inferior races”.  In 1938, it was declared that Naked Necks were not Germanic enough and were refused exhibition status at poultry shows, and then it was even declared that they should be kept. Mr. Noack, in many submissions and complaints constantly fought for the readmission of the Naked Necks.  The second World War began before Noack was officially informed that the labeling disqualification of the Naked Necks from the list of “eligible” breeds was a mistake.  The war did what the Nazis could not do and the Bantam Naked Necks once again disappeared.

Throughout the late 1940’s and early 1950’s various breeders experimented with the creation of the Bantam Naked Neck. It was said to have been recreated by the late 1950’s.

Currently, Germany is said to have the largest base of breeders and fanciers of Naked Necks both in the Standard and the Bantam forms.  

The German Poultry Association recognizes Bantam Naked Necks in both Single Comb and Rose Comb in the following colour varieties:

Einfachkamm (Single Comb)
Schwarz - black
Weiß - White
Blau-gesäumt – Blue (laced)
Rot - Red
Gelb - Buff
Gesperbert - Cuckoo
Wildbraun – “Wild” Brown
Silber-schwarzgeflockt – Silver Penciled
Braun-porzellanfarbig – Millefleur or Jubilee colour pattern

Rosenkamm (Rose Comb)
Schwarz - black
Weiß - White
Blau-gesäumt – Blue (laced)
Rot - Red
Gelb - Buff
Gesperbert - Cuckoo
Wildbraun – “Wild” Brown
Silber-schwarzgeflockt – Silver Penciled
Braun-porzellanfarbig – Millefleur or Jubilee colour pattern

(The above information comes from the website of the Sonderverein der Züchter, der Nackthalshühner, Zwerg- Nackthalshühner und Rumänischen Nackthalstümmler 1905)

The Dutch Poultry standards recognizes Black, Cuckoo, and White colour varieties of Bantam Naked Necks.

Bantam weights are Cocks 750 – 800g and Hens 650 – 700g.

The American Bantam Association recognizes Black, Blue, Buff, Cuckoo, Red and White colour varieties.
Weights approved for Bantam Naked Necks are:
Cock:  850g (30 ounces)         Cockerel:  765g (27 ounces)
Hen:  765g (27 ounces)         Pullet:  680g (24 ounces)

For Both Standards and Bantams

Plumage Colouring:

Male and Female: A dense black with a rich green shine

Naked Neck:  Black Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  Black Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Male and Female:  A snow white throughout [too much sun or too much corn (a.k.a. Maize) in feed can turn the snowy white a yellowy-cream]

Naked Neck:  White Rooster
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Naked Neck:  White Hen
Photo Source: Kippen Encylopedie

Male and Female:  Colour as in Buff Plymouth Rocks; a clear, even golden buff throughout to the skin, the tail clear buff with the male having a more brilliant shine or lustre then the female

Male and Female:  Dark red colour; similar to that found in show quality Rhode Island Reds

Male and Female: A soft medium blue, free from lacing, the male being darker in the hackles, wing and back

Male and Female
The colour is best described as dark blue-grey bands crossing the feather against a bluish-grey ground colour; the males hackles free from any golden or red tinge and tail tail free from pure black or white feathers

Naked Neck - Cuckoo Cock
Photo Source: Jo Fargas

Serious Defects:
-       any noticeable feather, fluff or stubs on the neck
-       an absence of cap feathers on the head
-       feathered legs
-       having more or less than four toes; crooked toes
-       any other deformity

A Good article on Naked Necks can be found at Aviculture Europe:

The Naked Neck in the American Commercial Poultry Industry

The popularity and use of the Naked Neck and has lately caught on amongst North American producers.  Industrial crosses are known under such names as Redbro Cou Nu, Gris Barre Cou Nu, S 77 N, and S 88. (A.L.B.C.)

From the Ashley Farms Website:

For many years in all parts of Europe, farmers have been growing heritage breeds in their natural and organic programs. These birds are old, slow growing breeds that have a proven track record for livability, flavor, and meat texture. Most of these older breeds have colored feathers, and on average, require a minimum of 70-84 days of growing time before they are processed. At this age these birds are healthy and can still stand and run well.
It not only takes more time to grow these birds, but more feed to produce each pound of chicken weight. The results are enhanced flavor and meat texture, and a rugged, hardy nature that does not require drugs, antibiotics, or other medications to remain healthy. In fact, their immune systems allow them to live well, even when spending time outside. Another difference is body conformation. Generally these birds have elongated breasts, longer legs, thinner skin, and less fat than commercial breeds.
The French Label Rouge Program
Of all the specialty programs, the French Label Rouge program is regarded by most as producing the best poultry and meat products in the world. Although these products cost over twice as much as commercial products (which the French refer to as "industrial" products), Label Rouge chicken accounts for 30% of the poultry sales in France.
The Label Rouge requirements are much more stringent than any program in America, including "All-Natural", "Free Range", "Certified Organic", "Certified Free Farmed" and "Certified Humanely Raised".
Label Rouge began in France in the sixties as a grassroots movement led by farmers in the Landes region in Southwestern France. After World War II, as poultry became more industrialized, demand grew in France for the taste of traditionally raised farm chickens.
The Label Rouge program focuses on high-quality products, mainly meat, with poultry making up most of the products. It emphasizes quality attributes such as taste, culinary qualities, free-range production, and food safety. The average consumer can note a positive difference in taste between Label Rouge poultry and industrial poultry-in fact, regular taste-testing is a certification requirement to prove that these products are "vividly distinguishable" from conventional poultry.
The main reason for the superior taste is the use of slow-growing birds instead of the fast-growing birds used for industrial production. The slow-growing birds are from old rustic genetic stocks and are grown longer than industrial birds before they are processed. The meat is flavorful and firm, but not tough.
In France, these birds are labeled and marketed as "Poulet Fermier" (farm chicken) and the region from which they are grown (ex. Poulet Fermier du Normand is Farm Chicken from Normandy).
The reputation of the higher culinary qualities of French Label Rouge poultry makes it popular throughout Europe with both retail customers and fine dining chefs.
Label Rouge Requirements
Genetics: Only certain genetics are allowed; older, slow-growing breeds that tend to be heartier and more disease resistant than commercial breeds. This makes them better suited for outdoor production.
Houses: Smaller chicken houses than those used in industrial production are required, and the number of houses per farms is limited to four. This assures the birds are grown by small farmers who give the birds more care and attention.
Maximum density in houses: There is a maximum density requirement that ensures these birds are allowed more room in the houses than industrial birds.
Access to outside: All birds must have access to the outdoors from 9 a.m. until dusk after 6 weeks of age, and must be outside for at least 42 days of grow-out.
Feed: Feed rations must consist of at least 75% cereal and must be non-medicated. Feed cannot contain animal products, growth stimulants, or other unnatural ingredients. Fishmeal is not permitted.
Medications: Although routine medications are not allowed, antibiotics and vaccines prescribed by a veterinarian are allowed when needed for the treatment of disease but are given with sufficient withdrawal times that there will be no residues in the birds when processed. Coccidiostats are permitted but must be withdrawn 5 days before slaughter for the same reason. Beak trimming is not allowed.
Slaughter age: Birds are grown much longer than commercial birds, a minimum of 81 days, some farmers go as long as 100 or more days.
Minimum dressed weight: All birds must be at least 2.2 lbs without giblets.
Sanitation period: There is a minimum sanitation period of 21 days between flocks to rid the houses of any parasites or disease.
Transport: To ensure that the birds are not dehydrated and are handled humanely, they must travel no more than 2 hours or 64 miles to the processing plant.
Processing: Air chilled.
Shelf life: Sold fresh within 9 days after slaughter.  (

Sources of Information:

Mr. Dean Shuck
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
“Hungarian Indigenous Chicken Breeds -Origin, breeding purposes and standard characteristics” by 
István Szalay, PhD.
Rare Poultry Breeds, by David Scrivener 
The Chantecler and Other Rare Poultry Breeds, by Linda M. Gryner
American  Standard of Perfection 1998, American Poultry Association
Aviculture Europe
Illustrated Book Of Poultry, by Lewis Wright
Les vollaies francaises  -
Ashley Farms -
Sonderverein der Züchter, der Nackthalshühner, Zwerg- Nackthalshühner und Rumänischen Nackthalstümmler 1905 -
Jugendgruppen der Rassegeflügelzüchter im Landesverband Westfalen-Lippe

Photo source: Unknown

If Anyone Would Like to List Themselves as Sources or If You Have Any Photos to Share, Please Contact Cameron (


  1. Came here from the RHT Yahoo group...WOW!!! What an impressive article. As you said only a mug a mom could love...but by the end I am truly enamored.

  2. This is a fascinating blogsite!!! I have never seen nor heard of these types of chickens - they are "otherworldly." I can tell this will be very, very educational for me. I can't wait for the next posting!!

  3. We recently acquired a lovely black pair of these birds from the Wernlas Collection that have totally clean necks. We also have some ginger ones, with feathered ruffs around their necks, that I bought as day olds. Those came over from France. The girls make wonderful layers and are big and gentle. The four boys are going for meat, although they don't know it yet. I am really interested in finding out more about these fascinating creatures.

  4. I have come to really like the positive feed I'm getting about the naked necks. Are the Naked Necks also known as the "Poulet Rouge" ??..

    Can any one tell me if there is a reputable breeder of the Naked necks who will ship them to Canada!?.

    Thanks in Advance.

    Ray Daniels.

    1. I have come to really like the positive feed I'm getting about the naked necks. Are the Naked Necks also known as the "Poulet Rouge" ??..

      Can any one tell me if there is a reputable breeder of the Naked necks who will ship them to Canada!?.

      Thanks in Advance.

      Ray Daniels.

      My email address:

  5. With all do respect for the author, some of the informations are pure
    The breed was brought by the huns at the end of IX century???Are you making politics now or you are trying to provide some correct info about thhis breed??Where was it brought, on the bach of theyr horsees??Huns where in this part of Europe in the 5th century but they were exterminated, X century hungarian tribes arrived, maybe they brought them on the bach of theyr góhorses isnt it? Lets just choose the less believable theory but lets go with it just because some idiot provided some stupid infos.Except for the fact that hungarians took some of them in the middle of the XXth century for standardazing they hads no contribution in developing this breed, what contribution would have a place which is at the border with Austria?? Contribution for this had the romanians and the hungarian and saxon inhabitants of Transylvania, not hun from the 9th century as you say!

    1. wow I mean I'm all for accurate info but no need to attack. Politely educate is the better way to go. You really come off rude and basically jerky

  6. Apologize my writing errors, usually I do pay more attention.

  7. I love this website and keep coming back to it again and again.