Appenzeller is a region in Switzerland. It is also the birthplace of the Appenzeller chicken. Chickens come in all shapes and sizes and this breed is the national chicken breed of Switzerland. There are two varieties - the Spitzhauben and the Barthuhner.
The Spitzhauben has a very unusual crest and comb. 'Spitzhauben' means 'pointed hood'. This type has a forward pointing crest and V-shaped comb. 'Barthuhner' means 'bearded hen' and has a rose comb and no crest. Although it is quite a good layer, it is kept mainly as an exhibition bird. The eggs are white and of medium size. In their first year of laying, you can expect 150 eggs of around 55 grams each.
The most common colour out of its home region is the silver spangled Spitzhauben. Black and gold spangled varieties are also available. A blue spangled version can be produced by crossing the Appenzeller with the Andalusian.
The breed is not recognised by very many breed registries and is very rare in North America. As mentioned, it is kept as an exhibition bird and has value because of its rarity. The Appenzeller is temperamental and nervous. It is suited to its mountainous home pastures and doesn't take kindly to confinement. It is a lightweight breed with hens averaging 3.5 pounds and cocks 4.5 pounds. Being suspicious and edgy improves its survival rating. It is a good forager and a great climber, clambering up trees to roost well away from predators. It is not inclined to brood and eggs are best brooded under a hen of another breed or hatched in an incubator. The wings are powerful. The body is carried high giving it a proud appearance.
'Bearded hens' have been in Switzerland since the mid 1860s. Crosses of various types of local chickens were carried out for some time before eventually the schemes resulted in the development of this powerful chicken with its distinctive comb and beard. The bird is not as subject to frostbite as some breeds because of the beard which protects the throat and ear lobes. The small rose comb is also unlikely to be frostbitten.
While the black type is not endangered, the other colours are very scarce. Until 1985/86, there was a partridge coloured Appenzeller Bearded Hen. The Swiss Association for the preservation of national breeds is Pro Specie Rara. This association has taken on the task of preserving the country's heritage breeds. Pro Specie Rara and the Appenzeller Hen Club have set up an emergency program in an endeavour to prevent the demise of yet another lovely chicken breed.