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Hamburg

A small breed with slender legs and a neat rose comb, the Hamburg was developed in Germany and Holland prior to 1700. It is comparatively rare, with less than 1000 registered worldwide each year.


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The Hamburg fowl was one of the first pure breeds of poultry to be introduced to Australia. They were exhibited at the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales show in 1867.

Hamburgs are hardy, active birds who are capable of flight and these qualities also make them excellent foragers-our Silver Spangled hens and cockerel are a sight to behold scratching and strutting around the farmyard gardens. They are voracious insect eaters often leaping airborne after a moth or fly and are also keen ‘gardeners’. Silver Spangled Hamburg's are a combination of beauty and utility. These birds have a small symmetrical body, graceful carriage and attractive black and white spotty colour that is a lot of fun in the garden, catching my eye with their antics and banter among the shrubs and flowers hunting for bugs. Being small, light framed, active and flighty birds, backyard enthusiasts or suburban breeders will need to plan high fencing to keep these birds contained. 

There are many different colourings available in the Hamburg chickens but I love and breed the Silver Spangled. Not everyone’s idea of a utility ‘egg layer’, Hamburg’s are now comparatively rare. I think of these birds as a relaxing garden ornament with very reliable bonus eggs!

Roosters are small, around 2 kilos fully grown and flighty with a large rose comb and large round white ear lobes. Hens are smaller and weigh around 1- 11/2 kilos and mature quickly. Hamburgs are attractive looking layers for small holdings, and are not prone to broodiness so while their size makes them thrifty to keep-they are renowned for their laying capacity and are considered good producers of small glossy, white eggs with a very high yolk to albumen ratio. 
In old Holland they were known as the Dutch Everyday Layers for their reliable egg-a-day laying and have been a traditional breed of chicken and part of European households in Germany and Holland since the mid 1600s.  Hamburg’s are very active, can be good flyers although they do not roost and do not do well in confinement so secure housing ensures a steady supply of eggs, and protects them from foxes, cats, vermin or other night predators. 

I don’t know if my birds are different having been raised from chicks, with free range of the house garden and handled lots, but I find them very personable and friendly birds.  I’ve been out in the garden in the rain with an umbrella and the hens have clucked and chased after me moving from place to place alongside, seemingly to share the shelter of the brolly.

Definitely one of my favourites, Hamburg’s perfect dainty little eggs make great hard boiled treats for my grandchildren’s lunchboxes or well sized for summer salads.

Billina the hen

Perhaps the most famous devotee of the Hamburg chicken was L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz books. He began a monthly trade journal, Hamburgs, in 1880 and published a book on the subject, The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

In Baum's third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, he introduces Dorothy Gale's chicken, Billina. He must have drawn on his experience in breeding Hamburgs when creating her character, as she is appropriately spirited and active.