While some chicken breeds are considered rare, others are considered rarer. One such breed is the Swedish Orust chicken, which sits on the “Near Threatened” side of the bar. This breed originated on the remote Islands of Orust and Tjörn. This bird survived on the rocky shores of these Islands and was commonly raised by local fishermen in the area for egg production.
So, other than the local fishermen, who actually fed these birds with fish leftovers, the Swedish Orust remained to be an unknown breed on the Swedish mainland. Although this chicken breed was used to supply eggs to fishermen for decades, their inability to go broody caused a major setback. In 2013, less than 500 Orust chickens were recorded to be alive in the entire continent.
But, other than their scarcity, the Orust chicken is a breed that has unique fascinating features. One of these features is their beautiful plumage that has a mosaic-like spotted appearance. Both sexes have streaked black and white color patterns with roosters having gold or metallic wattles that turn to purple when they’re excited. So, whether you’re excited to raise this rare breed or you’re just curious to learn about it, this guide will cover everything you need to know about the Orust chicken.
A Short History of Orust Chicken
The Swedish Orust is one of the rarest birds with an interesting history. First, this chicken is considered landrace meaning it adapts naturally to its surroundings without being domesticated by humans. The breed was first evidenced in the Orust and Tjörn Islands, which are on the western coast of Sweden.
Now, the specific origin of the Orust chicken is unknown and can only be guessed. Some sources state that this chicken breed was brought to Sweden by seafarers and foreign settlers to use it as a food source and for trading whenever they needed services and food supplies from the natives.
According to various documents, this happened around 300 years ago. From this point onwards, the Swedish Orust became a traditional farm hen with the locals using it for meat and egg produce. Its beautiful mosaic-like feathers were also harvested and used to stuff pillows and blankets during cold weather.
But, despite its immense benefits to both the locals and the settlers, the Swedish Orust was never given much attention. This made it a landrace chicken as it had to scavenge in the wild in search of fish, insects, nests, and roosting places. In fact, some sources mention that this chicken lived on the rocky coast of Western Sweden where it scavenged near shallow pools in search of fish and insects.
In 1840, however, Sweden decided to import foreign chickens to breed with the native ones. This move brought the Sweden Orust to the spotlight where it was rediscovered after a series of selective breeding. In 1950, native breeds such as the Orust were availed to the public to be raised as backyard chickens.
Today, the Swedish Orust is recognized by most breeders in Sweden. Sadly, its population is decreasing remarkably with less than 500 birds recorded in 2013. Thankfully, attempts to restore this Swedish chicken breed are being made by Svenska Lanthönsklubben (Swedish Country Chicken Club) to see whether they can increase the numbers.
Specifications of Orust Chicken
Now, before we get to the physical appearance, temperament, and productivity of the Orust chicken, we would like to spare some time to give you an overview of what to expect from this chicken.
|Uses||For Egg Produce|
|Egg production||Around 150 Eggs Annually|
|Egg size & color||Large to Medium Sized White Eggs|
|Weight||Roosters: 4.5 Pounds; Hens: 3.5 Pounds|
|Personality||Alert and Nervous|
|Color||Black & White Sparkles|
|Additional information||The Orust Chicken Breed is rare hence very expensive|
Physical Appearance and Breed Standard of Orust Chicken
The Sweden Orust chicken is a medium-sized breed that doesn’t get too big. The roosters weigh around 4.5 pounds while the hens stand at 3.5 pounds. About the appearance, this chicken breed has one of the most fascinating feather patterns you can ever think of.
The hens have a strikingly gorgeous streaking black and white plumage that’s impressive to watch. The roosters, on the other hand, have the same plumage only that they have more impressive coloration on the neck and the tail. To be exact, the wattles and the tails have gold and metallic tones that make them quite ornamental.
This elegant black and white mosaic-like pattern extends to the shanks and the toes with the claws having grey to dark spots. The eyes of the Orust chicken are orange/yellow while the beaks have a combination of black and white patterns.
Besides its striking gorgeous plumage, the Orust chicken has one more interesting feature. In case it’s scared, excited, or angry, the plumage on the wattles of the roosters turns from metallic red to purple to scare predators away and also alert the rest of the flock of a possible predator attack.
Other than that, the Sweden Orust is a single chicken breed that tends to adapt quite well to both hot and cold environments.
About its status, the Orust chicken is yet to be recognized as a standard breed as it’s not recognized by poultry associations outside of Sweden. However, breeders are working extra hard to see that this breed gets recognized.
Orust Chicken Characteristics (Personality and Temperament)
If we can jump to history a bit, you’ll realize that the Orust chicken was once abandoned and left to scavenge and fend for itself. As a landrace chicken, this breed is a prolific forager that can hassle for its own food without the presence of humans.
With such a wild lifestyle, it’s clear the Orust is an independent bird that likes to free-range, roam and explore on its own. They’re naturally confident, intelligent, and very alert. So, in case of an attack, this chicken will react accordingly by either defending itself or perching on top of an elevated place to dodge a predator.
But, other than being intelligent, the Orust is a bird that has a calm, gentle and friendly attitude. Even roosters are known to be less aggressive, especially when socializing with humans. Now, speaking of humans, the Orust chicken enjoys being recognized by humans and will often follow you around, especially when treats are forthcoming.
This breed will also tolerate being around children as it doesn’t mind loud noises. When it comes to backyard manners, the Orust will rarely get into confrontations with other chickens making it an ideal choice in a backyard that has docile chicken breeds.
The only noticeable setback with the Orust, however, is its chatty nature. This bird can get really loud making it a poor choice as a backyard breed. It also doesn’t like going broody meaning you have to get an incubator in case you need to hatch some chicks.
Productivity of Orust Chicken (Egg Laying and Meat)
The main reason for the domestication of the Swedish Orust was specifically to lay eggs. This chicken breed is a prolific layer that can gift you around 4 – 5 medium-sized white eggs each week. This translates to around 150 – 200 eggs annually, which is a decent number. So, if you’re planning to raise them for egg production, then you won’t get disappointed at any given time.
In fact, with the appropriate egg-laying diet, this chicken can even proceed to lay during winter. However, you also need to consider the condition of the coop to ensure it’s insulated against cold. Also, you can add heaters and additional lighting to give the hens an excellent egg-laying mood.
The size of the eggs is 45 – 50 grams making them large enough for consumption. A proper diet is ideal for the eggs as it makes them hard-shelled and safe to transport.
About meat production, the Swedish Orust chicken is not famous for its meat output. The roosters weigh around 4.5 pounds making them quite small to offer a decent serving.
Common Health Issues of Orust Chicken
The Swedish Orust is a landrace chicken that’s used to fend for itself. With excellent wild instincts, this chicken is super healthy with very few health concerns (if any). If you’re raising it as a backyard breed, you need to give it enough outdoor freedom rather than put it into confinement.
The coop should be cleaned regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria. You should groom their feathers often to remove any parasites such as lice and mites. The Orust should be fed nutritious feeds and should not be raised in an overcrowded coop. Lastly, make sure that you supply fresh food and drinking water regularly.
Required Environment for Orust Chicken
Based on their initial origin, the Swedish Orust is a chicken that’s known to be hardy. This breed can live in regions with cold to hot temperatures in the range of 32 – 70°F. These birds are curious and adventurous with wild instincts that allow them to survive without any special care.
But, despite being hardy, the Orust will need some special care in case of extreme weather. During winter, the coop will demand additional insulation as well as some heaters to keep the flock warm.
These chickens are also prolific foragers. For that reason, you need to provide them with a large backyard space to quench their wild instincts. The backyard should be natural with soil and sand rather than being paved.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Raising Orust Chicken
- Docile Birds: The first major advantage of raising Orust chickens is that they’re docile and gentle. This kind of temperament allows you to mix these chickens with other breeds without worrying about chaos or fights.
- Hardy Birds: Since they once survived on their own, Orust chickens are considered hardy, flexible, and easy to adapt to different environments. These birds are tipped to survive in environments different from their native area.
- Alert and Protective: Orust roosters are known to be gentle, just like the hens. However, when it comes to protecting the flock, the roosters are alert and very protective. In fact, the roosters are known for changing the color of their wattles from red to purple just to scare predators away.
- Prolific Egg Layers: One of the main uses of Orust chickens back then was to provide native farmers with eggs. That’s because these birds are prolific layers that manage around 150 medium-sized eggs a year. The best thing about these chickens is that they don’t halt egg laying during cold months. Provided you insulate their coops and feed them with laying feed, these chickens will not fail to offer you a decent amount of eggs annually.
- Quite Beautiful: Finally, the black and white spotted feathers of the Swedish Orust make them one of the most beautiful chicken breeds in Sweden. In fact, the red wattles of the roosters, which switch to purple when excited, is one feature that seems to stun most enthusiasts.
- Very Expensive: Orust chickens are listed as being near threatened. Since there are just a few of them left, raising an Orust-only flock will be very expensive as you’ll have to spend a lot of money to buy them.
- Don’t go Broody: The Orust chicken is among those breeds that rarely go broody. So, if you’re planning to use the hens to hatch chicks, then this will be quite challenging as hens have a 30% chance of going broody.
Raising Tips for Orust Chicken
When it comes to feeding the Swedish Orust, high-quality nutrient-dense feeds are hugely advised. The chicks require feeds rich in protein while egg-laying pullets require feeds rich in calcium. Since these birds are excellent foragers, allowing them to roam around is essential as it allows them to collect nutrients from the ground.
Orust chickens have medium-sized bodies. This is a huge advantage to most chicken keepers as you don’t need to build a large coop to accommodate them. In most cases, at least 3 – 4 square feet of space is essential for each chicken.
If you’re raising them in rural areas, allowing these birds to forage is usually considered the best idea. Remember, these birds have wild instincts so they don’t take confinement well. About the coop, you need to build nesting boxes for the hens to lay their eggs in.
Lastly, the Swedish Orust is a chicken breed that prefers warm and cool temperatures. So, in case the weather gets extreme, you should consider the following measures.
If the weather gets extremely cold, you should insulate the coop and install heaters to keep the chickens warm.
If it gets too hot, you should ventilate the coop to allow cool air to circulate inside. You should feed the flock with cool fresh water and cold fruits such as watermelon to help them regulate heat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What’s The Lifespan of The Swedish Orust Chicken?
The Swedish Orust chicken is a breed that’s hailed for being tough and hardy. Although it doesn’t need humans to survive, proper care and maintenance are key in ensuring that this breed lasts long. On average, the Orust can live for 5 – 8 years. With a proper feeding program and regular checkups, this chicken can even surpass this range.
Q2. At What Age Do Swedish Orust Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
The Swedish Orust begins its egg-laying journey at around 17 weeks old. This makes it one of the chicken breeds that lay eggs very early in their life. Some common breeds that start laying within this range include the Leghorn, Golden Comets, Australorps, and Rhode Island Reds.
During the first stages of egg laying, the eggs will seem small and quite delicate. However, with proper feeding, the eggs will get larger and develop hard shells.
Q3. How Much Do Swedish Orust Chickens Cost?
Now, the Swedish Orust is one of the chicken breeds that are considered rare and very expensive. In fact, the cost is sometimes not an issue provided you get an Orust chicken for sale. Nonetheless, if you’re lucky enough to get one, then you should be prepared to pay around $10 for a single egg, $30 for a chick, and upwards of $60 for an egg-laying pullet.
Now that you’ve read this guide, the final question you must be asking yourself is whether the Swedish Orust is the right chicken for you. The truth of the matter is that this Swedish breed is the best for you, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced farmer.
First, this chicken is hardy making it resistant to many environmental challenges. It’s also gentle and friendly making it easier for you to mix with other breeds. This prevents you from building additional coops to separate it from the rest.
Finally, this chicken is dual-purpose as it can serve as a layer and as a broiler. Although it has a medium-sized body, feeding it with fresh broiler feeds is enough to improve its weight in case you need it for meat production.
That said, we believe that this guide has offered valuable information that will be useful when deciding on whether to raise this rare chicken breed or not.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!