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Have you heard of the queen chicken? The Bresse is known for its fantastic meat; often claimed to be far superior to your standard market bird. Bresse chickens can cost a few hundred dollars to purchase and are hard to come by.
Bresse chickens are large-framed birds with a unique history! They were created in a region of France called Bresse by cross-breeding some unknown breeds. The meat from these chickens has a distinct and fantastic taste, so the farmers wanted to continue this breed.
Because they are so unique, for a chicken to be considered a true Bresse, they MUST come from the “historic region and former province of Bresse, in eastern France.” They are relatively new to the United States, making their appearance in 2011. Bresse chickens in America are called the American Bresse.
The Bresse chicken has four varieties: white, blue, black, and gray. The white is the most common and typically weighs around 6 pounds. The other three kinds tend to be smaller in size. All four varieties have bright red combs and blue legs and feet. Bresse chickens are known for their light, thin bones and thin skin, which is one of the things that makes their meat so tasty! They are good layers, averaging around 250 eggs per year.
Bresse chickens are unique to French culture, but should you add them to your flock? Read on to learn more about this unique breed and see if they would make a great fit into your flock!
|Size||White:6 pounds or more; other varieties: 5 pounds|
|Color||White, black, gray, blue|
|Temperament||Nervous but no sign of aggression|
|Egg Color||Creamy white|
History & Origin
The Bresse chicken is originally from an area called Bresse in Eastern France. The breed dates back over 500 years. They were created by cross-breeding two different kinds of chickens, that are unknown, to create the Bresse. The farmers then used breed selection to keep this breed pure and unchanging due to the amazing meat quality. Cross-breeding with other breeds changes the meat taste and integrity.
It’s a widespread understanding, if you don’t get a Bresse from the Bresse region of France, you don’t actually have a Bresse chicken. With that being said, you can find Bresse chickens in America but they are known as the American Bresse.
What do they look like?
The Bresse comes in four varieties: black, white, blue, and gray. White is the most common color. They all have a bright red single comb and blue legs and feet. The white Bresses are known for having bright white feathers. Some claim this is to represent the French flag with their red, white, and blue colorings.
The white Bresses weigh around 6 pounds or more, and the other varieties are smaller, weighing around 5 pounds.
The APA does not accept this breed, so there are no set breed standards to speak of. This means that they cannot be shown at APA chicken shows.
The Bresse chicken tends to be a nervous bird. Similar to Red Rangers, they don’t like to be confined and prefer to be in large pastures or free-roaming. Bresse chickens are social birds that like a large flock. They prefer little human interaction but are not generally aggressive.
While they may not be aggressive, they are still not the breed for a family bird. They are very independent and won’t tolerate being held and loved on by little kids.
What is their purpose?
They are most known for their meat. It has a much thinner skin and lighter bones than regular chickens. Bresse chickens have a unique way to metabolize feed that makes their meat different. Their meat marbles similar to beef, so there are fat pockets throughout. In France, they are fed a diet of corn and foliage and then finished on a diet of milk and corn. Because they are so rare and special in France, they are actually under protection by the French government. They are the only chicken in the world with government protection.
Care and Health
Bresse chickens do not have any known health problems that are particular to their breed. Although, they can get broken bones more easily since their bone density is more delicate than your average layer. They don’t like to be cooped up and will flourish in a large pasture or roaming free in your yard. They want to forage and are happiest when they are left alone. Being confined for too long may cause personality changes and should be avoided with this breed. They require a lot of space and will eat more feed than your typical egg laying hen.
If you are raising them for meat consumption, there are some diet guidelines to ensure the meat is the best! Start the chicks on corn, then move them to foraging for a few months. Once they hit the 3-4 month range, switch them to corn and dairy for the final step.
Why is Bresse chicken so expensive?
Bresse chickens are so expensive because of the unique genetic breeding for their delicious meat. To be an authentic Bresse chicken, it must come from the Bresse region of France and be eaten locally. The bird is also butchered on the same farm it was raised. This causes less stress on the bird, meaning a more tender meat.
There are Bresse chickens in America and they are called the American Bresse. You can get excellent meat from them, especially if you follow a diet similar to the French diet they are provided. You will have to find a speciality breeder to find a Bresse chicken, as they are not very common.
What is special about Bresse chicken?
Bresse chickens have a delicate skin that is much thinner than your average chicken. Their bones are lighter, as well. The third thing that makes Bresse chickens’ meat so special is that their meat marbles in the final stages of development.
Marbling in meat is when there are pockets of fat throughout the meat, not just on the outside. This is typically a trait in red meats, but the Bresse chicken is an exception.
Why is Bresse chicken so good?
The meat has a distinct taste that is succulent and tender. This is due to the chicken being able to metabolize its diet differently than traditional chicken breeds.
The French also follow an uncommon butchering process. They wrap the meat tightly in a cloth bag with the head out of the opening. This preserves the meat and puts pressure on the fat to more evenly distribute throughout the meat.
What does Bresse chicken taste like?
The flavor of the Bresse meat is quite different from commercial chicken. It is a succulent meat with intense flavor.
“The breast is on the large side, its juicy flavor a million miles away from supermarket blandness. The white meat is soft but firm, under a thin, brown-seared skin that lacks excessive fat.” John Malathronas
At what age do Bresse chickens lay eggs?
Bresse hens will start laying around 4.5 months. This is around one month before other chicken breeds. If a Bresse hen is healthy and well-nourished, she can lay up to 250 eggs a year.
The breed is a seasonal layer, which means they will stop laying in the winter months; typically between December and February.
Are Bresse chickens broody?
Bresse chickens are not broody hens.
How much do Bresse chickens cost?
Bresse chickens are going to be on the expensive side. There aren’t a lot of breeders around and you may have to find a specialty breeder. Their prices can vary but you can typically find hatching eggs around $10, day old chicks around $30, and a breeding pair around $200.
As you can see, Bresse chickens are a special bird with an interesting history. The main takeaway is they like large open spaces, have fantastic meat, and would prefer to be in a large flock. Maybe you will consider adding some to your flock.