Hen History: The Scots Dumpy

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Recently Burns Cottage has welcomed in a group of hens to bring life to the smallholding area of the land which the Cottage sits upon. A Scottish type of hen called the Scots Dumpy is one of the breeds that we selected. However, within the Scots Dumpy breed there are so many varieties – such as the Moniker Dumpy which is a particularly short and stout chicken. The most defining characteristic of short legged Scots Dumpy’s is the shortness of their legs; adult birds are less than 5 centimetres (2 inches) off the ground. In terms of their behaviour, occasionally the males can be aggressive but females are calmer. Sadly, the Scots Dumpy conservation status is at risk.

Henriettea and Cloutie, our Scots Dumpy hens!
Henrietta and Cloutie, our Scots Dumpy hens!

Similar breeds can be traced back to AD900 as it is said that the Picts used to carry them into their battle camps to warn of approaching strangers because their hearing is very good. Other tales tell us about them being trained to crow by the hour, day or night. The standardisation of the breed emerged in the 19th Century. However, while this is a Scottish breed, there have been archaeological findings of them in York, England. Scots Dumpy’s were first shown to London in 1852.

Their main use is for eggs and meat and the egg colour is off white. Originally the Scots Dumpy would have been Cotters fowl and their main uses would be producing eggs, meat. They could also be useful as they would eat any spillage which would otherwise attract vermin. The Dumpy’s would’ve exercised less back then so older bird’s flesh is less toned resulting in meat that would be more succulent and tender.

When breeding the hens, it is safer to cross a short legged and long legged Dumpy. If you cross two short legged then you’ll end up with 25% of the chicks dying once they’re hatched. Here is a table showing the results:

Table sourced from http://www.scotsdumpyclub.org.uk/breed/
Table sourced from http://www.scotsdumpyclub.org.uk/breed/

Cp in the table means ‘Creeper Gene’, which refers to a semi-lethal gene in the Scots Dumpy which shortens its legs in a single dose (heterozygous) or causes the embryo to die during incubation in a double dose (homozygous). It is interesting to remark that, of their many names, Scots Dumpy hens are also known as Creepies!

I hope that this has made you aware of the older breeds of Chicken that families like the Burns Family would have had.


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