When Jan van Riebeck arrived at the Cape the inhabitants already owned chickens. Very little is known about the different varieties that they owned.
Records of Naked Neck chickens have been found in areas as far apart as central Europe to Malaysia. The South African Naked Necks are thought to have originated in Malaysia and are now found mainly in the rural areas around the huts of the local population. These chickens have a variety of colour patterns. There are two types of Naked Necks one of which is purebred and has a completely naked neck and the other, which is not purebred, has a tassel on the front part of the neck.
Naked Neck Chickens
In France the naked neck factor is used to advantage in commercial production for three reasons. Firstly, a considerable amount of dietry protein is used in the growing of feathers. The Naked Necked chickens have 30% less feathers than fully feathered birds and can therefore produce the same body weight with less food. Secondly, there are less feathers to remove in the slaughter line and therefore they pass through much faster and, lastly, they are more heat tolerant.
In 1979 a veterinarian, Dr Naas Coetzee, noticed a distinctive new breed in Venda and named it after the region. Similar chickens were later seen in the southern Cape and in Qua-Qua. The Venda's are multicoloured with white, black and red as the predominant colours. Rose coloured combs and five-toed feet are not uncommon. In contrast to other indigenous breeds, the Venda is fairly large and lays tinted eggs of a generous size. The hens are broody and are very good mothers. Little is known about this breed which is presently being collected and evaluated.
The Ovambo chickens originated in the northern part of Namibia and Ovamboland. Unlike the Venda chicken where white feathers occur, the Ovambo is dark coloured. It is also smaller in size and it is these two differences which help to camouflage the bird and protect it from raptors. The Ovambo is very aggressive and agile. It has been known to catch and eat mice and young rats. This chicken can fly and roosts in the top of trees to avoid predators.
The Koekoek chicken has been popular for a long time. What is not generally known is that the term Koekoek describes the colour pattern rather than the breed. The Koekoek colouring is recognised as a variety and is present in as many as nine different breeds.
The first chickens with the Koekoek colouring in South Africa were the North Dutch Blue breed, brought into this country by Jan van Riebeeck. Later, the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken was imported from the United States of America - this was also known as the Koekoek. This breed was very popular at that time because it laid large numbers of dark brown eggs. When slaughtered at the end of its productive life, this hen had a very attractive deep yellow meat.
The Koekoek feather colouring is sex-linked which makes it very useful in breeding programmes. If a black or red cock is crossed with a Koekoek hen, the sexes of the offspring can be separated when the chicks are only a day old. Sexes can be identified as the females are completely black whilst the males have a white spot on the head. The Potchefstroom Koekoek was bred locally from crosses between the black Australorp and the White Leghorn.
Further information is available from H.J. Fourie.
Also see Fowls for Africaź - (distribution of poultry resources)