The Faverolles is a breed of chicken originally developed for one purpose: to keep the Paris market well-stocked with meat and eggs, even during the winter months. Created in the late nineteenth century, the creators of the Faverolles took the absolute best quality meat chickens available and combined them with the massive imports from abroad. Soon the region of Eure-et-Loir in France would be known for producing a bird with “superb table qualities, combined with hardiness and quick growth.” (The New Book of Poultry, Wright, 1902).
In order to create such a superb bird, the French called upon some of the most valuable pure breeds of the day: the Houdan and the Dorking. Both premium table birds in their own right with respectable winter laying abilities, the only thing left to do was to add some size and improved vigor.
For this, the French turned to the Brahma. Responsible for the infamous “hen fever” that swept the US and England in the mid-19th century, the Brahma was fast becoming the “king of poultry.” With the Brahma, reputed for their rapid growth, hardiness and enormous size, the French were pulling no punches. As this “complicated” cross was honed, the end result was a revelation. And is some cases, a revolution.
The Faverolles was so popular among the “feeders” in France, that it even surpassed the Houdan in the Houdan’s own district. As Mr. Wright explains in his 1902 The New Book of Poultry, the Faverolles had become France’s “last and favourite production” (p.126). Moreover, writing about table birds at a contemporary exhibition, Wright states, “the Faverolles displayed were considered by all poulterers, without exception, about the best birds at the show” (p.126).
Once regarded in France as a “simply useful fowl,” this melting pot of the poultry world quickly became the bird of choice among French table birds. Receiving perhaps the greatest compliment of all, Mr. Wright, an Englishman himself, stated that “the breed has found much favour with the fatters, some of whom declare it to be the nearest approach to the old Sussex breed they have met with for some time” (p.459). High praise indeed! (“Fatters” were professionals finishers of poultry, dedicated to the natural and artificial fattening of birds).
And what about their laying qualities? The Faverolles’ abilities as a layer were only slightly exceeded by its qualities for the table. The Faverolles was renowned for laying throughout the winter, a time when most heritage breeds go “off the boil.”
How did this breed, recognized in the early 1900’s as the “finest French breed ever produced,” find its way onto the Livestock Conservancy’s “Threatened” list? Regrettably, like many of the outstanding dual-purpose breeds from the 19th and 20th centuries, time marched on. As the poultry industry specialized for industrial food, the dual-purpose breeds were forgotten. Producers preferred instead the specialization of the cornish-X and the commercial Leghorn. Unfortunately, with only fanciers left to support the breed, it’s table qualities gave way to the beauty of the ring. In the end, a once superior dual-purpose chicken was reduced to a mere reflection of itself.
The Faverolles Today
Today the Faverolles is edging toward the brink of extinction. In the latest census from the Livestock Conservancy, it is estimated that less than 1000 birds remain in the US. These birds are split between hatcheries and private breeders. Most of the hatchery stock remain good layers. Unfortunately, egg size has diminished along with its once-famed table qualities. However, a few committed breeders have kept quality dual-purpose stock. Thanks to them, the Faverolles is poised for a comeback for those willing to embrace this amazing breed.
Why choose the Faverolles
Few birds in history have the dual-purpose chops that can be found in the historic Faverolles. A preeminent table bird, the Faverolles is no less proficient at laying. With some strains producing over 200 eggs a year, they are famed winter layers, “not easily checked by climate changes” (Wright, p.459). Though pullet eggs are smaller, the mature hens can easily lay large, tinted eggs in great quantities. Excellent mothers and even better foragers, the Faverolles prefers to rustle its own food. Remarkably, at a week old the chicks are keen to get onto the field.
Finally, its production qualities are only equaled by its beautiful looks. The hen’s salmon coloring is unique in the poultry world. The rooster’s bold beard is set against cascading straw-colored head and hackle feathers, flowing over a broad black base. Throw in feathered feet and a bird that thrives in nearly any climate, and its hard to find any fault in this fowl. That they have a docile temperament only adds to the overwhelming conclusion: the Faverolles should be abundant on the small farms of America. Do we need to go on?
Large Fowl Faverolles*
- Rooster: 7-8lbs.
- Hen: 5.5-6.5lbs.
- Eggs: Tinted, Large
- Comb: Medium single
- Skin color: White
- Origin: France
- *This breed is named after its city of origin, Faverolles, France. As such, even in the singular it should be spelled “Faverolles.” The APA has decided to officially recognize the spelling as “Faverolle” in the singular, without the ‘s.’ Frankly, we feel this is ridiculous. To quote our friend Mr. Lewis Wright, “Faverolles is the name of a place, and should properly be always spelt with the terminal s. Such a word as Faverolle is a barbarism, but it seems creeping in as the English form, and perhaps cannot be helped. The effort should however be made, to which end we make this direct mention of the matter” (Wright, p.457). Here at Sunbird Farms, they will forever be the Faverolles, plural or singular.
(Fowl Features are short posts about the rare and interesting breeds of chicken. While we can’t raise all of these amazing chickens, we wanted to have an outlet to promote them nonetheless. We hope you enjoy these posts- SF)