The Barnevelder

My Barnevelders in the sunshine

The Double Laced Barnevelder is a large, soft feathered, docile and very good natured chicken. They are very tame and do not fly well. They are a very pretty bird with interesting markings and a beautiful iridescent beetle sheen on the feathers. Barnevelder chickens are a rare dual purpose breed producing about 180/200 large brown speckled eggs per year. A Barnevelder hen averages between 6.5 and 8.5 lb and the cockerels about 10/14 lb althought the breed standards are quite strict on the size and weight of showbirds.

Barnevelders are good with children and make excellent backyard chickens. If handled when young they can be very tame. They adapt well to both free range and urban environments. Barnevelders are excellent foragers and feed themselves well if allowed to roam.

The Double Laced Barnevelder is a wonderful bird that has a good reputation as a winter layer. To my knowledge this breed produces the most consistent supply of eggs year round without any artificial light. I chose them specifically because they are hardy birds with small combs that tolerate the cold.

The History of the Barnevelder

Barnevelders come from the town of Barneveld in the Netherlands. Barneveld is a town east of Utrecht in the Netherlands, part of the poultry centre of the Dutch poultry industry. Barneveld has an agricultural college that specialised in poultry and the region is thought to have exported 40 million eggs a year during the 1930’s. Whilst we know roughly what chickens were kept in the region at the time, the real sources of the Barnevelder can only really be guessed at.

From 1870 to 1900 a transformation was happening the egg markets of northern Europe and the first requirement for Dutch chicken breeders was to satisfy the desire for brown shelled eggs for the English market. Egg producers need to make sure they had the hens to satisfy demand, once the breeds with winter laying ability had been produced to smooth out supply which was an absolute necessity in the northern latitudes.

The first step to standards was done by B.H. Bertels in 1898 when imported gold laced Wyandotte’s, from America, were added to the gene pool. The new breed was first exhibited in 1911 in The Hague but there was still considerable variability in the look of the birds.

The First World War interrupted the development of the breeding, for showing, of all chickens not just Barnevelders.

The breed was introduced into England after the breed was seen at the World poultry congress in 1921 and shortly after a shipment of day old chicks was flown to the UK, spare birds were sold quickly and the Barnevelder club was formed the year after.

Classic painting - notice the solid black breast

barnevelders painting.jpg

Original artist A.J. Simpson. Poster was a free gift in feathered World Magazine in October 1926

When the Barnevelder breed was first being standardised, it should be remembered that the plumage pattern were variable and a breed standard could not be published for the Barnevelder until the matter had been fully settled. The British Barnevelder club couldn’t just translate and ratify the standard of the Netherlands as the plumage varied there as well.

Then in 1923 after feathers were sent to England from the Netherlands, the first Barnevelder breed standard was passed by the Poultry Club Great Britain in 1923 and the Barnevelder as we know it today became the standard, up until then the partridge was more common with the bird really only being selected for its brown egg and winter laying abilities.

The standard called for a Solid black breast on the males and allowed for either a partridge or double laced,  which has gone on to be by far the most common type similar in markings to the familiar dark Indian game. All types required predominately black neck feathers.

The difference can still be seen today with the single laced breast of the English males and the deeper, more solid black of the European type. It should be noted that it is impossible to breed males with a double laced breast and there has been plenty of trying over the years.

The quest to produce the clean even lacing is what ultimately ruined the egg colour of the original Barnevelder, crossing with Indian game as the black breasted males struggled to produce good lacing in the hens. Brown egg birds have a tendency to be lighter in colour and have a paler undercolour.

The standards were revised 8 years later in 1931 and the newer type single laced breasted males with wing bars and the partridge keeping to the original standard.

In the Netherlands only the double laced is standardised but here in the UK the partridge is still allowed but is thought to be extinct.

The barnevelder breed standard is now over 90 years old and is experiencing a resurgence in popularity along side the increase in people keeping chickens at home. The advantage of larger breeds like the barnevelder is they are less susceptible to attack from cats and tend to be more docile making better pets. The breed standard has been relatively well maintained as the Barnevelder was a popular bird for many years although the eggs are not as dark as they used to be. The eggs have become lighter as the breed moved from being a utility bird to the show arena. The eggs used to be really dark similar to Welsummer eggs, except the barnevelder eggs have always been speckled. I gather that birds that lay lighter eggs are better layers as evidenced by the fact that birds like Rhode Island reds ( light brown ) and barred rocks ( white ) lay closer to 250/280 eggs per year.

Types of Barnevelder:

There are a great many types of barnevelder , alot of them are in the hands of dedicated breeders and not really readily obtainable . Often the rarer types are poor examples of the breed. The breed was developed in the 1850's by crossing the local fowl with imported breeds from the east. The barnevelder breed was standardised in 1921. The original and most widely available is the double laced variety. Several other varieties have been produced since by cross breeding, including a bantam double laced (1931).

Most of the dates may not be particularly accurate, unless official ratification dates by poultry standards. Also If you are looking at re-creating any of the breeds you will need to quite a lot of your own research as the birds used in the production of others are heresay reporting or in some cases guesswork. 

This is how we re-created the Silver Double Laced Large fowl Barnevelder.

Double-laced (large fowl) . Bred in Barneveld, Netherlands in the late 19th / early 20th century. 

Double-laced (Bantam) Recognized in 1931 in Germany. Bred from a 'petite' double-laced hen and a Bantam Rhode Island Red cock, followed by crossings with Bantam Golden-laced Wyandottes, Bantam German Langshan, and Bantam Indian Game (Cornish). 

The first record of the bantam was from the Utrecht show in 1921 when Mr Van Dyk won the class. German strain appeared in 1922 by crossing undersized Barnevelders with other bantams and were exhibited from 1927 to the 1930’s. It is unlikely that pre-war bantams either laid brown or survived the Second World War but when peace returned breeding continued with the production of black and white bantam Barnevelders between 1954 and 1960 by crossing with Wyandotte’s and then breeding to remove the rose comb. 

Mrs Mainwaring is credited with the production of the English bantams during the 1920’s and won several prises with them at shows in the north of England in 1928. I have never seen a bantam Barnevelder that lays a dark egg, the best mine produce is a speckled cream tinted one.

Double-laced Blue (large fowl) - Blue laced – the blue double laced is very attractive and has blue lacing over a red brown colour and was developed by Dutch and German fanciers. There genetics of the blue is complicated and it is difficult to produce evenly colours birds. 

Double-laced Blue (Bantam) Originally bred in the Netherlands. Bred again in Germany from a Bantam double-laced Barnevelder cock and a Bantam blue-laced Wyandotte hen; recognized in 1987.

Blue (large fowl) Recognized in Germany in 1997. Bred from Black Barnevelder and Blue Niederrheiner. Not recognized in the Netherlands.

Silver (large fowl) Appears to be a recognised variety in the British & Australian Poultry Standards. Single-laced.

Silver-black double-laced (Bantam) Developed in the first years of the new millennium by Dutch breeder Bert Beugelsdijk from crosses of double-laced Barnevelder bantams and Silver-pencilled Wyandotte bantams. Recognised in 2009. With black pattern over a white ground colour was standardised in 1938 but good quality specimens are very rarely seen, there is a problem with red leakage in most hobby produced birds and errors in the markings stick out like a sore thumb.

Silver-black double-laced (large fowl) Developed by the Dutch breeders Gerrit Simmelink and Cor Tensen from crosses of a large Silver-pencilled Wyandotte rooster and large double-laced Barnevelder hens. Recognised in 2013. Also recognized in New Zealand Poultry Standards 2013.

Silver Blue barnevelder. Cross of the Silver and blue double laced.

Black (large fowl) 1920s. Black came as a sport from the partridge. Black Plymouth Rock and Black Wyandottes were crossed in to achieve pure black. they have always had a tendency to be dark and a few people had the idea to select the darker birds and selectively breed a black variety, as they were too dark for show and normal breeding programmes. A separate club for the blacks was founded in 1925 in the United Kingdom and the new type was accepted by the poultry club in 1928. There was always a little brown until they were crossed with pure black breeds lie the black Plymouth or Wyandotte. Although when using the Wyandotte several years would be required to dispose of the rose comb. The ubiquitous problem in Barnevelders that have been crossed to produce types is they are unlikely to produce brown eggs, an ability, once lost are very difficult to restore.The clubs eventually merged into 1.

Black (Bantam) Recognized in 1954 in Germany. Bred from Black Barnevelders and Bantam Black Wyandottes in Germany.

White (large fowl) 1934. Occasionally occurring recessive white birds were crossed with white Plymouth Rocks and White Leghorn to produce White Barnevelders.

White (Bantam) Recognized in 1960 in Germany. Bred from Black Barnevelders and Bantam White Wyandottes in Germany.

Autosexing barred (large fowl). 

Autosexing barred (Bantam) Recognized in Germany in 1988. Bred in Germany with the aid of autosexing Bantam Bielefelder. Bantam Niederrheiner and Bantam Italiener (German-type Leghorn) were also crossed in.

Dark brown (large fowl) Recognized in 1982 in Germany. Bred from Black Barnevelders, Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires in Germany.

Dark brown (Bantam) Recognized in 1987 in Germany. Bred from Bantam Black Barnevelders, Bantam Rhode Island Reds and Bantam New Hampshires in Germany.

Partridge (large fowl) Partridge Barnevelders were still kept in Britain in the 1990s, possibly still derived from early imports. Available in silver and gold.

Chamois(Large fowl & Bantam) Double laced feather pattern of gold-mahogany and white, recognized in New Zealand Poultry Standards 2013.

Barnevelders as layers 

over the years they have been subject to a few laying trials, the first , organised by feathered magazine, won them a silver medal with an average of 200 grade 1 eggs in 12 months. This figure compares well with my birds today, kept free range on the north Yorkshire hills they record an average of 186 eggs over 3 years. The main advantage was the bark brown shells for which people were prepared to pay a premium. They certainly never lived up to the tongue in cheek claim of the devout Dutchman that they would lay from Monday to Saturday and have Sunday off.

Our barnevelders 

are allowed to roam free across about 2.5 acres from first light until they roost. The flock consists of 27 hens and 4 unrelated roosters. We are mad about our Barnevelders but we do have other hens and are enthusiastic about chickens in general. We are great advocates of chicken keeping and their place in a self-sufficient society is beyond doubt.

Watch out for new pages on all different types of chickens coming soon.

The top picture shows a few of our adult Barnevelders and a few young pullets basking in the June sunshine.

This one of our young pullets roaming around in the bitter January Cold. The barnevelder is a good winter layer and is at home in the cold of a northern winter, it was after all developed in the Netherlands where winters can be quite bitter, prolonged and with short days


A fully grown Hen can be seen free-ranging in the fields in the final image.

barnevelder in the field

Chickens are omnivores and will both graze on a wide variety of greenery and insects. They will even eat mice and frogs! From our experience chickens are happiest when allowed to wander, find their own food and will spend about 40% of their time scratching around.