Poultry Breeds At Risk

2013 UK Poultry Breeds At Risk

Breeds on the new UK Poultry Breeds At Risk list are not categorised and not all of the breeds are to be considered numerically rare, although some certainly are, but all fulfil the RBST definition of being a UK native breed and/or other criteria. RBST recognises large fowl and true bantams but acknowledges that some miniatures of these breeds are also rare. Download our leaflet http://www.rbst.org.uk/poultry-breeds-at-risk.pdffor your handy guide to poultry breeds at risk. The list includes turkeys, ducks and geese.

Chicken Breeds



Old English Game


Indian Game

Old English Pheasant Fowl



Orpington (non Buff)

British Araucana Legbar Rhodebar

British Faveroll





Rumpless Game

Buff Orpington

Marsh Daisy

Scots Dumpy

Burmese Minorca Scots Grey


Modern Game



Modern Langshan

Sicilian Buttercup

Cream Legbar



Croad Langshan Norfolk Grey Sultan

Derbyshire Redcap

North Holland Blue





Turkey Breeds


Bourbon Red             

British White         





Norfolk Black



Duck Breeds

Abacot Ranger          

Appleyard Silver        


Black East Indian






Rouen(Exhibition) Shetland Silver Bantam Duck
Stanbridge White Welsh Harlequin  

Goose Breeds

Brecon Buff                  


(as standardised in the UK)              





Toulouse (Exhibition)

West of England



Guidelines for acceptance of breeds on to the RBST list of UK Poultry Breeds at Risk

A Breed is defined as:

A group of animals that has been selected by humans to possess a set of inherited characteristics that distinguishes it from other animals within the same species. In case of poultry, breeds must be recognised by a governing body and accepted as a standardised breed according to British Standards. Colour variants will normally be considered as part of the same interbreeding population unless there is evidence of genetically distinct origins and these variants are not interbred.

For recognition by the RBST a breed must be an original breed, or a native breed of which at least one parent breed is believed to be extinct. A native breed is defined as:

  • Breed history documents the breed origin within th UK (including from amalgamation of native breeds), and the UK has formed the primary environment for the development of the breed or the breed of origin in it's current adapted form; and
  • Breed history documents it's presence in the UK for 40 years plus 6 generations (where a generation is 2 years for poultry breeds); and
  • Not more than 20% of the genetic contributions come from animals born outside the UK (other than those imported for an approved conservation project) in any generation for he last 40 years plus 6 generations.

Evidence of its continuous documented existence will take the form of written material e.g. newspapers of the time, or historical writings. In future this evidence should be recorded at the Trust.

Breed Societies and Clubs will be regarded as the official source of breed information.

An imported breed may qualify for inclusion on the Watchlist on the grounds that the UK has become the main breeding centre for a breed or original population that is seriously endangered or extinct, or has undergone significant breed development with the UK to distinguish it from the breed in is country of origin.

If insufficient information exists to fulfil all current guidelines, RBST may occasionally recognise breeds it considers to be of sufficient genetic conservation importance.

The RBST list of poultry breeds at risk differs from other lists of rare poultry breeds published. Other lists may be classify a breed as rare which is not found in the UK not in sufficient numbers to have its own Breed Club, covering both native and recently imported breeds. The DEFRA Rare Breed List includes native and imported breeds "that are predominately or significantly domiciled in the UK". The RBST list in comparison, lists native breeds or those imported breeds which have undergone significant development within the UK.

It is estimated that 11 billion chickens populate the planet. It would be impossible to count them all - from the small flocks scratching a living outside a smallholder's dwelling to the thousands bred in huge industrial complexes. They are all, however, derived from the Red Jungle Fowl Gallus gallus, of southern and southeastern Asia.

DNA studies have shown that domestication of the Red Jungle Fowl probably began about ten thousand years ago. Poultry have historically been kept for several reasons: as clocks, for cock-fighting and for religious reasons, but only in the last 200 years or so, have they been selectively bred for eggs, meat or exhibition.

It was probably the enterprising Egyptians who started the mass production of chickens and eggs for food. At the time of the Roman Empire, Europeans started to breed chickens for meat and eggs but it wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that breeding for exhibition really became popular. Queen Victoria herself became interested in chickens, which popularised poultry keeping as a hobby and several colour variants of British breeds were produced as a tribute to her.

Poultry keeping was revolutionised after the Second World War. In 1945 less than one per cent of laying hens were caged, but by 1986 ninety three per cent of the national flock was kept in cages. Battery cages in the UK are now being phased out as more consumers have become opposed to the welfare implications. Free-range eggs are becoming more popular and now nearly one in four British hens is free-range. Intensification for meat production has become equally extreme. Pre-war it took 126 days to produce a 4lb bird, it now takes 42 days. There are also welfare concerns about broiler chickens and many people prefer to buy birds that have been reared in less intensive conditions.

Many people have decided that quality, welfare and traceability are of the utmost importance, and prefer either to buy their meat from places such as farmers markets or to produce their own. Hens can make very good pets and have the added advantage that they produce eggs. Most people with a garden will have enough room for a few hens and there is nothing more satisfying than collecting home produced eggs from happy and well kept hens. With the addition of a cockerel, many people get added satisfaction from breeding their own rare breed poultry and conserving our valuable rare breeds.