Docile, loving and beautiful: the Belgian hens of Uccle love ‘living flowers’ | Midwestern messenger
One of the finest breeds of chicken in the world is the Belgian d’Uccles, also known as the Barbu d’Uccles, or abbreviated as d’Uccles.
The pint-sized bird was created in the late 1800s by a wealthy Dutch businessman, Michael Van Gelder. Barbu means “bearded” in Dutch; Uccle is a region of Belgium. The lowercase “d” in front of Uccle means “of”.
D’Uccles are true bantams, meaning there is no large poultry counterpart for the bird.
They have a lot of personality and enjoy the company of people.
Rich Vaughn has bred Uccles for years and loves them.
“They’re not only beautiful,” the Lincoln, Neb. resident said, “but the most docile, loving, and friendly breed of dwarf there is.”
He calls them the “ultimate 4-H girl’s dream.”
“If you buy one from me and hold it in your lap on your way home, pet it, feed it and water it, it will be your faithful friend for life,” he said. declared. “He will sit on your lap and snuggle up.”
The birds are too small to be kept for meat production and are decent layers, but their eggs are small. Vaughn used eggs from Uccle when he needed a smaller egg while halving a recipe.
They’re just friendly, he says. “They’re very popular in the backyard herding world because you can walk over there, sit down, and they’ll come running. They will jump up and sit on your legs. You can put them on your shoulders and walk around like a pirate with a parrot.
Sometimes, d’Uccles is indignant when we do not pay attention to him.
“Sometimes they get mean to you if you don’t pick them up,” Vaughn said.
His cocks like to pose in front of the camera.
“They’re natural posers,” he said. “You pass an enclosure, they get up. They love to pose and they love the attention.
Because they are more susceptible to predators due to their small size, Vaughn keeps them penned day and night. He covers his enclosures with poultry netting and ensures that they are locked in at night.
Vaughn pointed out that there is a difference between hatchery eggs and breeder eggs. They are almost completely different breeds, he said, with hatchery males tending to be mean and aggressive and females tending to be skinny, temperamental and scared.
He attributes this to genetic selection and the fact that hatcheries don’t spend time with their birds.
D’Uccles have simple combs and red or orange eyes. The birds have a muff and a beard that extends around the head. Hens have very small or no wattles. Their beak is horn-coloured.
Their neck is short, their skin is white and their legs are feathered.
Recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1914, the APA accepts seven varieties: mille fleur (the most popular), porcelain, white, black, golden neck, marbled and lavender.
The feathers of the mille fleur variety, which means “many flowers”, are a rich red-brown with an almost mahogany base and an iridescent black crescent band halfway down. The tips of the feathers look like a white half moon.
Hens weigh an average of 22 ounces, while roosters weigh around 26 ounces.
Due to the feathering on their legs and feet, muddy yards can be a problem for them. They don’t like the cold, but some insulation in the coop can help.
They are often called an ornamental breed, but their calm, placid nature makes them wonderful birds for children.
D’Uccles was even called “lawn ornaments” and by the turn of the 20th century they were nicknamed “living flowers of our gardens”.
Vaughn and his brother Rod Vaughn of Fort Thompson, South Dakota, work as a team when it comes to Uccles. Rod raises them but due to his job doesn’t take time to show them. Rich does the projection.
They are the third generation to look after poultry. Their grandparents, Marvin and Ruth Vaughn, were involved with Wyandottes and their parents, Robert and Joyce, raised silver Wyandottes, turkeys and buff geese.
When Rich shows off his birds, instead of using his first name, he uses the Vaughn family name in honor of his grandparents and parents’ work.
Rich is a board member of the Nebraska State Poultry Association and also breeds Jersey Giants. He is a primary breeder in the nation of Uccles and Jersey Giants and exhibits both breeds at shows across the United States.
Usually the Uccles birds that Rich shows are pre-sold, and he finds great satisfaction in doing well with the birds at shows and then having the new owners pick them up after the show.
He enjoys mentoring others and selling national level show birds that make their new owners smile. They are usually the big winners at poultry shows.
He estimates that about 90% of the time Vaughn of Uccles wins champion or reserve at the contests he attends.
Freelance writer Ruth Nicolaus loves (almost) everything about the Great Plains, But mainly his people. She lives in eastern Nebraska. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.