Posted by: John Perry | July 19, 2014

Hill farming in southern Spain – Gallina Piñeira – a new race of chicken

These chicks are nine days old and live in a "brooder" - an artificial mother chicken

These chicks are nine days old and live in a “brooder” – an artificial mother chicken

I thought you’d like to see these baby chickens. A month ago I ordered two dozen fertile eggs from Lugo in Galicia, north west Spain. They arrived the following day, 27 eggs packed tight in sawdust. I set 24 in an incubator, 5 were clear (unfertilised) and from the remaing 19, 14 hatched.

Gallina  chick, Piñeira with full eye make up

Gallina Piñeira chick with full eye make up

Piñeira are a new race of chickens developed from the  campo (countryside) chickens of Galicia, developed by a vet who has a special interest in poultry in association with elderly chicken farmers of Galicia, whose chickens were almost wiped out by the incursion of the Rhode Island Red – an American commercial chicken quicker growing and more productive than the  Piñeira.

chick face

The breeding programme was started 20 years ago by a vet called Arzua Jesus Garcia Rodriguez who wanted to preserve a typical Galician hen. He wanted to preserve a non commercial, slow growing breed, a hen absolutely adapted to its environment, not needing special facilities to breed, nor a commercially fortified food.

Four chicks drinking from a dish. You have to put in marbles so they don't drown

Four chicks drinking from a dish. You have to put in marbles so they don’t drown

He aimed for a fertile breed that was a dual purpose bird, good for meat and eggs, capable of laying at least 150 per year with no special food or artificial lighting. Using local farmers he sought to use what remained of the existing gene pool to develop the rare breed that had existed before the arrival of the Romans 2000 years ago. So the chickens are a new breed and a rare breed and an ancient breed, which even in ancient times was on the verge of extinction because the size of the cock’s comb was an aphrodisiac symbol to the Romans, and the Piñeira has a small comb!

Portrait 2

They are tough as anything – ballsy little birds already flying, which is unusual for domestic chickens. The cock bird when fully grown has a magnificent spectrum of colours from reds and yellow to the green sheend black, but the hen is patterned in brown and black and  has the mottled feathers of a pine cone. Hence the name “Piñeira” – like a pine cone. The meat is supposed to taste  like a cross between chicken and game. We will have to wait a while to find out!


Responses

  1. I’m not going to lie, I’m very jealous of your chickens. It’s been years since I’ve kept hens (I used to keep Maran’s because I loved their dark brown eggs) I’d keep keep hens again like a shot but we don’t have enough space. I’m glad that you mentioned the marbles, at first glance I thought they were black olives in their water…..I know that they are Spanish hens and all that but….

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  2. Hi Lottie Glad you like the “chaps” who are doubling in size every day. Marans sound wonderful. I’m going to have too many birds before long and will have to start eating them. Not looking forward to that . .

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  3. If and when we’re settled one day, we want to keep chickens so will follow their progress with interest. Love the marbles in the water, who’d have thought the reason…

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  4. OOHHHH these are little beauties, aren’t they? Would love to come and see them. I’d love to keep chickens, too, but it wouldn’t be fair as we tend to go away too much. How long will it be before they start laying, John?

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