Ancona is a port in the province of Ancona in Italy. It is also the birthplace of the Ancona chicken. This chicken breed has been around since at least the 17th century. Its ancestry is rather mixed and it was once known as the Black Leghorn. Being a hybrid, they have great hardiness and fertility.
The first Ancona found its way to England in 1851 when specimens were taken there for the Great Exhibition. Further imports followed in the 1890s. The first Anconas reached America in 1888.
Originally different varieties of Anconas in Italy were red, brown and white. This accounts for the copper-coloured neck hackles which still make their appearance occasionally.
Today the Ancona has black plumage with a green, metallic sheen. Each feather has a crisp, white V-shaped tip. Both sexes show this spangled effect. The plumage overlaps tightly. This 'close feathering' creates a very smooth surface to the plumage. The dark plumage gives good camouflage.
Like most Mediterranean poultry breeds such as the Minorcas, Columbians, Andalusians and Leghorns, the lightweight Ancona can be flighty. If handled quietly and calmly (and regularly) they become quite tame. Flightiness is a characteristic of Mediterranean breeds as is their disinclination to go broody, their flying ability and the colour of their eggs ie white.
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It is an economical bird to keep. It is a good producer. They are active, busy birds and are excellent foragers. But the cockerels are slow to grow and difficult to fatten. They prefer free range conditions but adapt to more intensive systems of management. They have no trouble coping with a range of climatic conditions.
Mature hens weigh around 4 ½ pounds and cocks about 6 pounds. There is a bantam variety as well. They may have a single or rose-comb and long wattles. The face is red and free of feathers. The ear lobes are white and they have yellow, feather-free legs mottled with black. The skin is yellow.
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Anconas are not inclined to go broody and will lay throughout the year. An average of five eggs a week make them a great backyard breed for egg production. The eggs are white or tinted and of good size. Exhibition birds are classed as 'Mediterranean' and 'light/soft feathered'. Single or rose-combs are both accepted by the American Poultry Association.
Backyard chickens give a lot of pleasure - not to mention eggs - to their owners. This may not be the best breed for you to choose if you want a friendly, calm chicken. It is not the best table bird in the world so if you intend eating surplus stock you may prefer a different breed. It doesn't go broody very often which means you will need to buy in chickens from time to time as numbers decrease. However if it's a plentiful supply of fresh eggs that you are after, then the Ancona will suit you perfectly.