Barnevelders originated in the Netherlands near the town of Barneveld, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. They were first brought to Britain in the early 1920s and were bred as a good utility bird until after World War Two. Since the 1950s, like all pure breeds, they have largely been replaced by hybrids for utility purposes and are often better lookers than they are ‘do-ers’. Despite that, if you can get a utility strain, I would recommend them as the ideal smallholder’s bird, or for someone starting with chickens for eggs and meat who does not want to go the hybrid route.

Purebred double-laced Barnevelders from a good strain will produce around 200 eggs each hen per year and the cockerels make a good killing weight of about 7lb after about six months. Their plumage is a rich brown with the characteristic ‘lacing’ in black around the outside of each feather. The cockerels and pullets have bright yellow legs, as do the hens at the start of the laying season, although they pale as the season goes on. Barnevelder eggs are dark brown, again very dark at the beginning of the season and paling slightly towards the end.

They are a good-tempered, inquisitive, friendly breed suitable as garden hens as well as a free-range flock.