The Ixworth chicken is a breed of poultry developed by Reginald Appleyard in 1932 in the East Anglian county of Suffolk, England, in the village of Ixworth. A pursuer of perfection, Mr. Appleyard was looking to create the ideal dual-purpose chicken. This was an effort in tandem with his creation of the Appleyard Duck around the same time.
The aim of the Ixworth, much like its American cousin the Delaware, was to create a fast-growing table bird, with respectable laying ability. To that end, Mr. Appleyard drew on the white Sussex, the white Minorca, white Orpington, the Jubilee and Indian Game. With a pedigree like that, it is clear that Mr. Appleyard had production in mind.
Light-boned, with a covering of pure white feathers, the Ixworth was a hit in the British poultry markets in the mid 1930’s-1940’s. Hens laid eggs only slightly smaller than the white Sussex, usually around 64g (US extra-large), and weighed over 7lbs at maturity. The roosters fattened nicely as well, and the breed was a proficient forager. With a bright red pea comb and waddles, the breed was well-suited for the colder weather often found on the island. In its heyday, this outstanding breed fetched a top price for its premium flesh, a testament to the success of Mr. Appleyard’s efforts.
However, much like the Delaware, the flame of its popularity flared quickly, but within merely a decade, it was on a drastic decline. Owing more to timing than anything, the Ixworth came into its own just about the time that the American poultry industry was conducting its “Chicken of Tomorrow” experiment. Soon, the world would come to know the cornish-cross, with its incredible ability to put on table weight in a fraction of the time.
As a result, the world no longer had a need for “dual-purpose” breeds. Soon, heritage table birds everywhere would slide on a steady decline toward obscurity. In perhaps a case of adding salt to the wound, the all-white feathering of the breed compounded its fall. Sadly, where several heritage breeds kept a devoted following among show fanciers, the Ixworth found no such safe haven.
The Ixworth Today
Today the Ixworth remains on the UK’s watch list of the Rare Breed Survival Trust. In 2008, it was listed as “endangered.” Few outside of its native England have ever seen the breed. However, efforts are underway to help reignite interest in this important chicken.
The Ixworth remains an excellent breed for the small, premium poultry farms popping up across the UK and America. Importantly, it is designed to do what has become fashionable again, keeping a family in good-supply of eggs, while delivering a delicious Sunday dinner. Perhaps our favorite fact about the Ixworth: in the 2009 British Poultry Standards, it is the only breed who’s “Scale of Points” includes “Table Merits.” No other breed has this as a criteria. In fact, 40% of the total points awarded for the Ixworth are dedicated to this character. Additionally, unlike many large breeds, it’s light-boned structure means there is more meat on the finished live weight. Moreover, the Ixworth’s white feathering means a cleaner carcass with less fuss. Finally, its hardiness and excellent foraging ability make it a first choice in the free-range world of poultry. What more could the aspiring poutlryman or poultrywoman ask for?
Large Fowl Ixworth
- Rooster: 7-9lbs.
- Hen: 6-7lbs.
- Eggs: Tinted, Large to Extra-Large (63g)
- Comb: Pea
- Skin color: White
- Origin: United Kingdom
Sunbird Farms will be experimenting with this breed beginning late 2017, with the hope of offering them on a dinner table near you in 2018. Breeding stock will also likely be available.