Without a doubt, feather-legged chickens are adorable to look at. In fact, they are a great addition to your existing flock. However, these chickens are facing some health issues. As you continue reading, you’ll learn how to help your chickens face those challenges, and also, you will be able to meet the chicken breeds with feathers on their feet.
Here are the 9 chicken breeds with feathers on feet:
1. Belgian D’Uccle
2. Booted Bantam
9. French Marans
These captivating chicken breeds will be later discussed as we go along with the article. Keep on reading!
Why Do Some Chickens Have Feet Feathers?
Scientifically speaking, chickens that have feathers on their feet have a genetic trait called “ptilopody.” This can be characterized either by partial or full development of feathers on the chicken’s shank. Earlier studies reveal that this phenomenon is caused not by one, but by two independent dominant alleles, which are denoted Pti-1 and Pti-2.
Advantages of Chickens With Feathers on Feet
Many people thought that the only advantage of feather-legged chickens is the additional attraction. But actually, there is another advantage. Chickens with feathered legs are less prone to frostbite. As you probably know, frostbite is a skin injury caused by freezing or prolonged exposure to cold. And yes, frostbite can cause severe pain.
Unlike us humans, chickens cannot wear thick jackets, gloves, and boots during winter. They only rely on their feathers to protect their skin from frostbite. Although all chickens can have frostbite, those with unfeathered feet and have larger combs and wattles are more vulnerable to frostbite. Feathered feet also help chickens feel warm during winter.
Disadvantages of Chickens With Feathers on Feet
The main disadvantage of chickens with feathered feet is they can easily get wet. You see, chickens hate getting wet because it makes them feel cold. Needless to say, they easily get sick when they are cold. This is why brooders and coops need artificial heat. This is also why chickens dust bath instead of taking a bath using water as ducks do.
Aside from getting wet, feathered feet are also prone to dirt and mud. The problem with muddy feet is that chickens bring the mud inside the coop and, most of the time, in the nesting box. Although eggs getting dirty is not really an issue, poop can get stuck on wet feet. The dirt may be carrying some diseases that could spread to your entire flock.
Chickens with feathered legs are also more susceptible to scaly leg mites. Scientifically called “Cnemidocoptes Mutans,” scaly leg mites are external parasites that reside underneath the scales of the legs and feet of chickens. These microscopic pests dig tiny holes on the feet and eat the tissue, which causes significant discomfort to their victims.
Lastly, chickens with heavily feathered legs are prone to pecking by chickens with unfeathered legs. This usually happens once you introduce new chickens to your flock. During this time, chickens will have to establish a new pecking order. Aggressive chickens tend to attack the smaller ones, especially if those with thick and heavy feathers.
How to Care For Chickens With Feathered Feet?
Chickens with feathers on feet need extra care. To start with, make sure that their feet and legs are always clean and dry. If unavoidable, you should immediately dry them. You may also want to replace coop bedding regularly. To avoid excessive pecking and minimize bullying, separate them from the chickens that have no feathers on their feet.
How to Treat Chickens With Scaly Leg Mites?
Scaly leg mites are invisible to the naked eye, so you will find it hard to see them. However, you will notice that your chicken’s feet start to thicken and will have a rough appearance. This is a huge indication of the presence of scaly leg mites. Infected chickens may also start to find difficulties in standing, walking, and perching on roosting bars.
First of all, never use alcohol, kerosene, or any toxic chemical in treating chickens with scaly leg mites. Instead, soak the infected part to warm water with soap, then dry them thoroughly. Using an old, clean toothbrush, you may also gently scrub the wound with petroleum jelly or garlic juice. Repeat this method regularly until the wound is clear.
Chicken Breeds With Feathered Feet
As of posting, there are eight different chicken breeds with feathered feet that are recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) and American Bantam Association (ABA). These chickens belong to a group called “the Feather Leg Class.” Nevertheless, other feathered-legged chicken breeds fall into another category.
1. Belgian D’Uccle
The Belgian D’Uccle, pronounced as “dew-clay,” is a chicken breed that originated in Uccle, a small town in central Belgium. These chickens are true bantams and have no standard-size counterparts. They have muff and beards, and their legs are heavily covered with feathers. They have four toes, but only the outer toe has feathers.
Belgian D’Uccle comes in 28 color varieties, and their feathers are so lovely, making them one of the best ornamental birds in the world. But because of their small size, their hens can only lay about 100 creamy-white eggs a year, which equates to only 2 eggs a week. There is no official record about its population, but it is considered “critical” as of 2020.
2. Booted Bantam
Booted Bantams are basically the same as the Belgian D’Uccle, except that they have no beard and are a bit bigger. Their roosters weigh about 850 grams, while their hens usually weigh 750 grams only. Also known as “Dutch Booted Bantam,” this European chicken breed comes in 20 color varieties, and the most common color is millefleur.
Booted Bantam hens lay only about 120-150 white eggs a year, and as expected, the egg size is extra small. They usually start to lay eggs once they are about 18-22 weeks old. Booted Bantams are too small to be meat birds. Nonetheless, this very rare chicken breed is generally calm, friendly, and makes a great pet even if you have small children.
The Brahma chicken breed has no official records about its history. However, many people believe that it is a descendant of Shanghai chickens. Brahma chickens are very large at 12 pounds (5.5 kilos) for males and 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) for females. They can stand up to 30 inches tall and are almost as big as their closest rival, the Jersey Giants.
Hens lay about 150-180 brown eggs a year, which is equivalent to 3-4 eggs a week. Brahma chickens have thick feathers which extend down to their feet, particularly to their middle toe. These elegant birds are generally friendly, docile, and quiet. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are not aggressive to smaller chicken breeds.
Originally called “Cochins-China,” the Cochin chicken breed originates in Shanghai, China, sometime in 1840. In 1850, Americans and British breeders began to be obsessed with raising chickens as dual-purpose birds. This was known as “hen fever,” and Cochins, along with the Brahmas were among their favorites because of their sizes.
Due to their thick and fluffy feathers, Cochins are described as “head-to-toe” feathered birds. They are available in many color varieties, including brown gold laced, silver laced, black, blue, buff, cuckoo, partridge, and white. Except for the cuckoo, all of them are recognized by the APA. Meanwhile, they lay about 150-180 light brown eggs a year.
The Faverolles chicken breed originates in Faverolles, a small village in France. Note that the letter ‘s’ is silent in French and used to spell in both singular and plural forms. This French chicken breed was originally bred as dual-purpose birds. But because of their elegant feathers, Faverolles is now considered an exhibition bird.
French Faverolles comes in many color varieties, but only salmon and white are widely accepted in the US. They are also extremely docile and friendly, which makes them a good target of bullying by aggressive breeds. Nonetheless, hens lay about 150-200 medium-sized, light brown eggs a year, which equates to 3-4 eggs a week.
The Langshan is the third feathered legged chicken breed that originated in China. There are four types of Langshan chickens – the Croad Langshan (original and most common and was used for the development of Jersey Giants), the German Langshan (no feathers on legs and feet), the shorter-legged version, and the Modern Langshan.
Generally speaking, Croad Langshans have fewer feathers on feet as compared to the Brahmas and the Cochins. Langshan hens lay about 150-200 brown eggs a year or 3-4 eggs a week. As of posting, the American Livestock Conservancy considers Langshan under “watch,” which means it has an estimated global population of less than 10,000.
The Silkie chicken breed has no official record about its history except that it originated from ancient China. The general appearance of the Silkies is completely unique in that its entire body is covered with silky, fluffy feathers down to its legs and feet. They come in 8 color varieties – black, blue, buff, gray, lavender, partridge, splash, and white.
Silkie hens lay only about 120 small to medium-sized cream eggs a year. They tend to go broody and are known as excellent mothers. This fluffy, one-of-a-kind chicken breed is very docile, friendly, and suitable for families with small children. In general, Silkies are great foragers but can also do well in confinement and are relatively quiet birds.
The Sultan chicken breed originated in Turkey and is considered extraordinary due to its large crest of feathers on its head. In fact, their total appearance and plumage are so unique, from head to toe. Instead of the usual four, they have five toes, and all of them are covered with thick feathers, making them a very elegant ornamental chicken breed.
Given their small size and eye-catching looks, Sultan hens only lay up to 50 white eggs a year. This is equivalent to only 1 egg a week. Aside from getting wet and dirty feet, their eyes are usually covered with feathers. This means they don’t see if a predator or an aggressive chicken will attack them. These are the reasons why they need extra care.
9. French Marans
As the name implies, French Marans originated in France. Just like the Faverolles, the letter ‘s’ in Marans is silent and is used in spelling both in singular and plural forms. The Marans is so unique that their hens lay dark chocolate brown eggs. They lay about 150-200 extra-large eggs a year. Interestingly, their eggs are a bit thicker than ordinary eggs.
For the record, there is a strain of Marans chickens that have no feathers on their legs and feet. This strain is the English Marans, which became unpopular when the APA decided to recognize the French variety. Also, the APA categorized the French Marans as continental birds and not “feathered-legged,” despite having feathers on their legs.
As you can see, chickens with feathered feet come with a price. In some cases, you might think that trimming feathers is a good option. First of all, these chickens are biologically designed to have feathers on their feet. These feathers are also helpful to them. So instead of trimming them, why not raise chickens without feet feathers?
Related: 12 Chicken Breeds That Lay Brown Eggs
List of Sources
Parallel Genetic Origin of Foot Feathering in Birds
Keep Your Chickens Healthy and Producing During Winter Months
Common Diseases in Small and Backyard Poultry Flocks in Great Britain (Excluding Gamebirds)