Houdan pair, illustration from the Geflügel-Album of Jean Bungartz, 1885
|Other names||French: Poule de Houdan|
|Country of origin||France|
|Standard||Standard-sized (in French)
Bantam (in French)
|Use||meat, eggs, fancy|
|Comb type||shaped like a butterfly or oak-leaf|
|ABA||all other comb clean legged|
|PCGB||rare soft feather: heavy|
The Houdan or Poule de Houdan is an old French breed of domestic chicken. It is named for its area of origin, the commune of Houdan, in the département of Yvelines to the west of Paris. The Houdan has an unusual butterfly-shaped comb, and is one of few breeds to have five toes rather than the usual four.
The origins of the Houdan breed are unknown; as they predate modern agricultural writing, little can be said with certainty. The breed was described in detail in 1858. The Houdan combines a number of distinctive features, which in the nineteenth century gave rise to speculation about the breeds that might have contributed to its development. The Crèvecœur or perhaps the Polish was suspected to have given the Houdan its crest, and either the Dorking or the native five-toed fowl of France was thought have to resulted in the Houdan's five toes (most chickens have only four).
Houdans have small earlobes and wattles, a backward flowing crest, and facial feathering consisting of a beard and muffing near the ears. On hens, comb and wattles are sometimes completely obscured by the feathering. Houdan combs are V-shaped in the American standard, and butterfly-shaped in the British, Australian and French standards.
In terms of plumage, the Houdan is recognized in most countries in the Mottled color variety (or Caillouté, "pebbled" in France); Mottled being a poultry plumage term referring to a particular pattern of black with white spotting. The Houdan's original color pattern was a lighter variation of the mottled pattern, and predates the use of the plumage term Mottled; in the 1800s, Houdans were simply called Houdan Fowl, and were often closer in color to the splashy mixture of white and black which today is called Exchequer. While most Houdans were and remain mottled, in the early 1900s, additional color varieties such as white were created by poultry fanciers. White Houdans are still recognized alongside Mottled in the American standard, although the White variety is uncommon.
Originally a dual-purpose fowl kept for both eggs and meat, and for part of the 1800s one of France's main meat breeds, the Houdan today is primarily a rare show bird. However, with a fairly quick rate of maturation and the ability to lay a respectable number of white eggs, it is still occasionally kept in backyard flocks.
- APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties as of January 1, 2012. American Poultry Association. Accessed August 2014.
- Liste des races et variétés homologuée dans les pays EE (28.04.2013). Entente Européenne d’Aviculture et de Cuniculture. Archived 16 June 2013.
- Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Accessed August 2014.
- Charles Emile Jacque (1858). Le poulailler: monographie des poules indigènes et exotiques, aménagements, croisements élève, hygiène, maladies, etc. (in French). Paris: Librairie agricole de la maison rustique.
- Charles Lee (1874). A Practical Guide to the Breeding, Feeding, Rearing and General Management of the Houdan Fowl. London: W. Hawkins. p. 11.
- Victoria Roberts (2008). British poultry standards: complete specifications and judging points of all standardized breeds and varieties of poultry as compiled by the specialist breed clubs and recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405156424. p. 121.
- Standard de la Houdan (in French). Houdan–Faverolles Club de France. Accessed August 2014.
- Ekarius, Carol (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. 210 MAS MoCA Way, North Adams MA 01247: Storey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58017-667-5.
- Graham, Chris (2006). Choosing and Keeping Chickens. 2-4 Heron Quays London E14 4JP: Octopus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7938-0601-0.
- Hobson, Jeremy; Celia Lewis (2007). Keeping Chickens. 4700 E Galbraith rd, Cincinnati OH 45236: David and Charles Ltd. ISBN 0-7153-2567-1.
- Périquet, Jean-Claude (2006). Coqs et Poules: les Races Françaises. Éditions Rustica. ISBN 978-2-84038-613-1.
- Russell, Craig (2000). "Old French Breeds: Houdans and Crevecoeurs". SPPA Bulletin. 5 (2): 3–4.