The Penedesenca is a breed of chicken native to the Spanish region of Catalonia, near Vilafranca del Penedés. It was developed in the first half of the 20th century from native poultry, and today it stands out for the coloration of its eggs, which are said to be among the darkest of all chicken breeds.
This Spanish breed is the exception to the rule that birds with white ears lay white eggs. Penedesencas are famous for their dark brown eggs, which are among the darkest eggs in the poultry world. These birds have a different type of comb than most chickens. It starts out as a simple ridge but expands into several lobes at the back. In the Catalan language they refer to this as a «peine de clavel» (crest en clavell) or a «peine de rey» (cresta de rei).
There are 4 four varieties of the breed; three were developed for egg production, while one (the black variety) was developed as a dual-purpose bird and its conformation is heavier: Negro, creole, partridge, and wheat are the standardized color varieties for the Penedesenca.
The Penedesenca prefers to be raised in the wild and will forage for its own food in the fields most of the time, except in winter. They need special care and supplementary feeding at this season. Because they are not cold hardy birds and they do best in hot climates. Like most other Mediterranean chicken breeds, Penedesenca chickens are also very active and flying.
In their first year, hens lay very dark eggs that are almost black. After the first year, the hens of the Penedesenca lay slightly lighter eggs with a reddish-brown hue. They are tightly layered (about 140 – 160 eggs per year), but they do not usually hatch their eggs.
This breed was developed in the Catalan province of Spain during the first half of the 20th century. They were developed from a stock of native poultry known to produce extremely dark eggs.
It is not known how long farmers in Catalonia have raised chickens that lay dark brown eggs. The first documentation of the breed is from 1928 when efforts were made to prevent the breed’s extinction. In 1932, a group of breeders began the selection of a variety of the black type in a town near Vilafranca del Penedès. The standard of the black variety of Penedesenca was approved in 1946, with the name of «Villafranquina Negra», or black chicken from Vilafranca.
The breed was almost extinct in the early 1980s, but thanks to the efforts of a biologist with the support of the Spanish government, the recovery of the breed began. Since then, it has made a real comeback, but not only has it been returned, but now there are four varieties: Criollo, partridge, wheat, and black (the last developed as a dual-purpose bird).
The Creole variety has the characteristic of auto sexed, which means that the sex of the chicks can be determined by their color at one day of age. The roosters will be gray, while the chickens will be brown.
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