Many decades ago, in the early 1800s, there lived a breed of landrace chickens on the rocky shores of the Orust and Tjorn islands in Sweden. They were hardy, free-ranging birds who learned to scavenge to survive.
Around 1840, Sweden began importing foreign breeds and bred them with their native chickens.
Finally, in 1950, after a series of crossbreeds, the Orust and other breeds began being marketed. It wasn’t until 30 years later that the cultural and genetic value of the breed was finally recognized.
Today, there are less than 4,000 of these birds recorded to be in existence. They are very difficult to purchase, as breeders are few and typically sell out fast.
Quick Facts About the Orust Chicken
|Breed Name:||Orust Chicken|
|Place of Origin:||The Orust and Tjorn Islands of Sweden|
|Uses:||Mostly to produce eggs, and as pets|
|Rooster (Male) Size:||2 kilos, almost 4.5 pounds|
|Hen (Female) Size:||1.5 kilos, a little over 3 pounds|
|Color:||Streaked black and white|
|Lifespan:||6 to 8 years|
|Climate Tolerance:||Can withstand intensive climates|
|Care Level:||Easy due to being excellent free-rangers|
|Production:||Up to 150 medium eggs per year|
|Optional:||Typically costs $30 to $150 per bird|
Although its history is somewhat uncertain, it is believed that the Orust chicken was first raised in local fishing villages on the western islands of Orust and Tjorn in Sweden. It survived by free-ranging along the rocky shores, and learned to scavenge a varied diet in order to survive. It is likely that fishermen often fed them leftover fish as well.
Orust chickens are a rare breed, and can be extremely difficult to find. There are few breeders who raise these chickens. Orust hens are typically calm and gentle, but the roosters are known to be aggressive. They can, however, be tamed if done properly.
They are quick to react to protect their flock. The hens of this breed are unlikely to become broody, but if they do hatch their eggs, they possess good mothering skills. The eggs are medium-sized and can be cream to white in coloring.
These chickens are not ones to enjoy staying in their coop. They would much rather enjoy getting out to explore.
The Swedish Orust is important for preserving the biodiversity we need on this planet. They can also contribute to the sustainable development of agriculture. They are used mostly for their eggs, and also as pets. They are small birds, so not commonly used for their meat.
Appearance & Varieties
The Orust is a small to medium-sized bird. Their plumage consists of contrasting black and white colors, in somewhat of a mottled pattern. Even their legs boast an unusual black and white mosaic pattern on their scales.
As in most chickens, the males have a more impressive patterning than the females. The plumage on their neck and tail can often have gold or metallic tones.Roosters’ wattles can become a bright iridescent violet color. The chicks are also black and white, most of them presenting white as their main color, with an almost panda-like appearance.
The roosters possess a very unusual characteristic, in that when they are easily agitated, which is a common state for them because of their natural desire to protect their hens.
Population, Distribution & Habitat
As previously stated, this is a very rare breed of chicken.
In 2013, there were known to be only 463 remaining in the world, and they were facing possible extinction.
By 2016, due to responsible breeding, and because it is a hardy breed, their numbers had climbed to close to 3,000 in the world.
Are Orust Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?
Orust chickens are average egg layers. They can be used for small-scale farming, but a wiser choice would be a chicken breed that is more proficient at laying eggs.
However, their ability to withstand intense climates does make them a good, hardy breed.
To sum it up, Orust chickens are very strikingly colored birds that easily call attention to themselves because of their contrasting colors and streaked feather pattern. They are hardy and excellent foragers, needing very little care.
They are rare, and even in their home country of Sweden, they are an expensive chicken to buy—whether as a chick or adult. If you don’t mind the wait, have the extra money, and want to observe a beautiful flock, then this might be the breed for you.
Featured Image Credit: a40757, Shutterstock