The Valdarnese is an Italian breed of chicken originating from Upper Valdarno, in the heart of Tuscany. The breed was believed to be extinct for many years in the 20th century, but today various organizations dedicated to the preservation of birds are making efforts to save the breed from extinction.
The Valdarnese has no relation to the popular Valdarno breed originating from the lower part of Valdarno and is black in color.
This breed is known for its rusticity, being rebellious to confinement, as they prefer to roam in freedom. It has a large simple 5 to 6 crest that is bright red in color. . The earlobes are creamy yellow with some red veins. The average weight is 2.9–3.3 kg (6.4–7.3 lb) for roosters, 2.0–2.5 kg (4.4–5.5 lb) for hens.
The Valdarnese is a white-feathered bird with dark yellow stalks and a large bright red single comb. Their earlobes are creamy white. The Valdarnese is also characterized by its underdeveloped squirrel-shaped tail. The legs are orange-yellow in color, and the skin is yellow.
The Valdernese is a rustic bird, which rebels to stay indoors, preferring to live in freedom. That is why it is advisable to keep the breed in the open field and have high fences to avoid escapes.
Valdarnese hens lay a good amount of white eggs (about 135 eggs per year weighing 58-70 g each). They tend to hatch their eggs and are exceptional mothers. Valdarnese meat is firm and flavorful, and markedly different from that of broilers produced by intensive farming methods.
The name of the Valdarnese derives from the valley of the River Arno, Valdarno. In the past, it was a very popular bird that quickly spread to various territories in Italy.
Several examples of white Valdarnese chickens were exhibited in Cremona and Varese in the 1950s. The breed’s popularity spread rapidly in Italy, and a breed association was formed in 1955. Studies of the breed’s qualities by de Quilici in 1957, director of the Stazione Sperimentale di Pollicoltura (experimental poultry breeding station in Italy) of Rovigo led to the first scientific description of the Valdarnese breed.
On the brink of extinction
Beginning in 1960 there was a rapid decline in breed numbers, exacerbated both by the growth of intensive poultry farming methods and by competition from the White Leghorn breed.
The breed association was closed in 1964 and the Valdarnese continued to decline until the end of the 20th century until they practically disappeared.
The breed’s risk of extinction was recognized in the 1990s, and the Veneto Region Conservation Center for Endangered Avian Breeds began a recovery program. When the Conservatory closed in 2001, the remaining breeding stock was transferred to the Valdarno area. This stock formed the basis of a project for the recovery and protection of the breed launched by the Regional Agency for State and Innovation in the Forest Agricultural System (ARSIA), a part of the Tuscan regional administration of agriculture.
The Valdarnese is not included in the official standard of the Italian Federation of Italian Poultry Associations, which is the national authority governing poultry farming in Italy. However, it is recognized by the Regional Administration of Tuscany, which published the breed standard.
Breed numbers remain low. A study published in 2007 revealed the figure of approximately 1,200 for all breeders, of which approximately 300 were roosters.
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