Campine Chicken

Gallus gallus domesticus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Erni/Shutterstock.com

Campine chickens were exported from Belgium by Julius Caesar!


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Campine Chicken Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Gallus
Scientific Name
Gallus gallus domesticus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Campine Chicken Conservation Status

Campine Chicken Locations

Campine Chicken Locations

Campine Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects, other invertebrates, larvae
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
Campine chickens were exported from Belgium by Julius Caesar!
Estimated Population Size
Fewer than 1,000 worldwide
Biggest Threat
Lack of interest in the breed
Most Distinctive Feature
Solid color white or coppery gold feathers on head and neck, with black barred pattern on the rest of the body
Distinctive Feature
Red face, wattles and large, single comb; large white earlobes; dark blue legs and feet
Other Name(s)
Kempish Hoen
Temperament
Curious and active
Incubation Period
21 days
Predators
Owls, hawks, eagles, foxes, raccoons, weasels, snakes
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Flock
Favorite Food
Commercial feed
Origin
Belgium
Number Of Species
1
Location
Belgium, England, other parts of Europe, the United States, Australia
Group
Flock
Nesting Location
Coops

Campine Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Silver
  • Golden
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
At least 6 to 7 years
Weight
4 pounds for hens, 6 pounds for roosters
Age of Sexual Maturity
16 to 20 months
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Campine chickens were exported from Belgium by Julius Caesar!

Campine chickens are an ancient breed, originating from the lowlands in the Flemish region of Belgium and part of the southeast Netherlands. These small, slender chickens descended fromTurkish fowl. Breeders originally rased them for their strong egg-laying properties. They lay up to 200 medium size, white eggs per year, and although they are not the best chickens for meat production, they reportedly make a delicious soup.

Exported across Europe and to the United States, these chickens reached peak popularity in the early 20th century, but then began to disappear. Breeders favored larger chickens that produced more and bigger eggs and were more tolerant of the cold. Today, the Campine chicken is critically endangered, and is considered one of the rarest chickens in the world. Breeders work diligently to preserve the Campine chicken, networking with one another and trading chicks to maintain the quality of the breed in both its feathering and its form.

Incredible Campine Chicken Facts

  • The creator of the Punnett square used Campine chickens in his early research.
  • Campine is pronounced “kam-peen” not “kam-pine.”
  • They name came from the de Kampen, or Campine region from which they originated.
  • Breeders crossed Campine chickens with other Belgian breeds, the Braekel and the Malines, to improve their quality.
  • Julius Caesar may have been the first to export Campine chickens following his conquest of the region.
  • Contemporary breeders work together, even utilizing Facebook to network and trade chicks to ensure the continuation of the breed.
  • The Campine chicken weighs less and stands smaller than its close cousin, the Braekel, but bears an appearance that is otherwise practically identical.
  • These inquisitive and intelligent birds are curious, but not particularly friendly.

Where to Find Campine Chickens

Campine chickens are rare today, with fewer than 1,000 individuals estimated in all the world. These ancient chickens are native to the Flemish region of northern Belgium. They flourished there for centuries, living on the lowlands of the Campine, or de Kempen, region that spans the northeastern part of modern Belgium and a southeastern portion of the Netherlands. The earliest known export of the Campine chicken may have occurred more than 2,000 years ago, when Julius Caesar conquered the region and reportedly took home some of the native fowl.

Many centuries later, in 1865, a Belgian named VanHorn began breeding Campine chickens “for feather and form.” He spent decades improving the birds and working toward perfection of the breed. In 1885, importers brought Campine chickens from the VanHorn stock to England. By 1893, Arthur Murphy, of Maine, imported these birds to the United States. Campine chickens made an initial appearance in the 1894 edition of the American Standard of Perfection, but the organization removed them by 1898.

The English type of Campine chickens were imported to the United States by M. R. Jacobus, a breeder in New Jersey who was partial to Hamburg chickens. The hen-feathered variety of the Campine chicken originated in Belgium in 1904, on the farm of Oscar Thomaes. By this time, breeders began crossing Campine chickens with their larger relative, the Braekel chicken, and with Malines chickens to improve their quality and hardiness.



In the early 20th century, Campines reached the height of their popularity. The American Poultry Association accepted the breed into the Standard of Perfection. Exporters took the birds to a number of countries, including France, Switzerland, and Italy. Today, only small flocks exist in Belgium, England, the United States, Australia, and perhaps a few other countries.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Campine chicken is Gallus gallus domesticus. This is the same scientific name that is given to breeds of domestic chickens all around the world. The bird’s common name derived from the area in which it was originally bred. The de Kempen region, or Campine as it was known in French, is a lowland in northeastern Belgium and the southeastern part of the Netherlands. The Campine chicken, also known as the Kempisch Hoen, roamed this part of Europe as early as the ninth century.

Appearance

Two types of Campine chickens, the Golden Campine and the Silver Campine varieties, are recognized today. Silver Campine chickens sport solid, pure white plumage on their head and neck. This transitions to a shiny, barred, greenish-black and white pattern which covers the rest of their body. Breeders desire precise penciling as a standard. Modern hen-feathered Campine roosters lack the long sickles, hackles, and neck feathers that were common in the older version of this bird. Therefore, they look very similar to hens. Golden Campine chickens are similar to the Silver Campine variety, except that their base color is a deep, coppery gold instead of white.

The Campine chicken is a rather small bird. Hens weigh approximately four pounds, and roosters weigh in at about six pounds upon reaching maturity. They have a slender, V-shaped appearance due to their uplifted tails and tight-fitting feathers. Campines have prominent, dark blue legs and feet with long middle toes. They have large white earlobes set against a bright red face. Their wattles and large, single combs are also bright red.

Silver Campine chicken crowing

A Silver Campine

rooster

crows in the morning light.

Behavior

Campine chickens are naturally curious and inquisitive. Breeders insist that they constantly want to know what is going on around them. These active chickens have a cheerful demeanor and seem intelligent. They love to roam around and forage freely, and they are adept at flying. Many breeders allow them to free range over their property rather than keeping them confined to an enclosure.

Although these birds are good egg layers, they are outproduced by hardier breeds such as the Leghorn. They are also not particularly good meat producers, although they reportedly make a delicious soup. Ownerss raise these chickens today primarily as ornamental or show birds. Breeders work hard to preserve the Campine chicken and increase interest in both the Golden variety and the Silver, which is harder to find. Campine chickens can make fun and entertaining pets, but they are not especially friendly or cuddly. They can exhibit a low tolerance for young children. They may experience difficulty living in mixed flocks because they are likely to be bullied due to their small size.

Diet

Campine chickens, like other domestic breeds, are omnivores. Due to their active and curious nature, they are excellent foragers. These birds consume commercial feed, but happily supplement that with whatever they can catch, including invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and worms. Chickens such as the Campine also regularly consume vegetation such as seeds and green plant parts.

Campine chicks grow and produce feathers rapidly. Therefore, they need a diet rich in protein.  Hens, which produce a substantial number of eggs, also need lots of protein and calcium in their diet. Campine chickens are likely to enjoy treats, such as fruits, vegetables including leafy greens, and even meats.

Reproduction

Campine chickens reach sexual maturity relatively early. Hens begin laying eggs between 16 and 20 weeks of age. They lay between 140 and 200 eggs per year, and Belgians originally used Campine chickens for egg production. However, they rarely go broody, so breeders may need to use a brood hen of another type or an incubator to produce chicks. Campine eggs are white and medium size, which is a bit large for the size of their body.

Because Campine chickens are so rare, breeders fervently work together to preserve both the Silver Campine and Golden Campine varieties. They network in clubs in the United States and Europe, and they trade chicks among themselves utilizing a public Facebook group dedicated to the breed. The breeders are generous and supportive of one another, sometimes offering chicks for free to other breeders in need of a particular type of rooster or hen.

Campine chickens have long been a breed of particular interest to scientists because they are auto-sexing. That means baby chicks are recognizable nearly from the time they hatch based on the color of their down. The offspring of Silver Campine hens which are mated to Golden Campine roosters can be differentiated by sex as early as one day old. Male chicks present with gray on top of their heads, while female chicks lack this marking and have a reddish tint. By contrast, when Golden Campine hens mate with roosters of the same variety, it can take weeks to differentiate between the sexes of the chicks.

Scientific Research

Campine chickens played a pivotal role in early genetic research. Geneticists, Reginald Punnet, of the famous Punnett square, and his colleague, Michael Pease, worked with this breed at Cambridge University. They crossed Campine chickens with Barred Rocks to create the first auto-sexing hybrid, the Cambar. Breeders introduced this hybrid at the World Poultry Congress in 1930. They continued their research, creating auto-sexing hybrids with Barred Rocks and other breeds, such as Leghorns, Dorkings, and Rhode Island Reds.  

Predators & Threats

Because Campine chickens are small and prefer to forage freely over large areas, they can be vulnerable to birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles. These birds can swoop down on an unsuspecting chicken or chicks. Terrestrial predators such as foxes, weasels, and raccoons may have a tougher time catching a Campine chicken. This breed is particularly flighty and adult birds can easily evade a predator on the ground if they have somewhere high to perch. Nest predators, such as snakes, pose a serious threat to young chicks and eggs if coops are not completely secure.

Campine chickens today are hardier than their ancestors. Breeders crossed them with breeds such as their very close cousins, the Braekel, and with Malines chickens, also of Belgium, to improve their quality. However, the Campine chicken is still not hardy when it comes to cold. With their large combs and lack of dense, downy feathers, they are susceptible to frostbite. These birds do much better in warmer climates. They must treat them with care if they are to live in the cold.

Lifespan & Conservation

Campine chickens can live at least six to seven years or more. Unfortunately, they are one of the world’s rarest chickens. The Livestock Conservancy lists the Campine chicken as critical. That means there are fewer than 1,000 individual birds worldwide. Some recent estimates suggest there are fewer than a dozen active breeders in the United States. Enthusiasts actively support one another in their efforts to keep the breed going. Breeders can purchase Golden Campine chicks from a small number of hatcheries, but Silver Campine chicks are exceedingly hard to find.

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

Campine Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do Campine chickens look like?

Silver Campine chickens sport solid white plumage on their head and neck. This transitions to a shiny, barred, greenish-black and white pattern which covers the rest of their body. Golden Campine chickens are similar to the silver variety, except that their base color is a deep gold instead of white. The modern hen-feathered varieties lack the long hackles, sickles and neck feathers that were present on older versions of the breed.

They have a slender, V-shaped appearance due to their uplifted tails and tight-fitting feathers. Campines have prominent, dark blue legs and feet with long middle toes. They have large white earlobes set against a bright red face. Their wattles and large, single combs are also bright red.

How big are Campine chickens?

The Campine chicken is a rather small bird. Hens weigh approximately four pounds, and roosters weigh in at about six pounds upon reaching maturity.

How well do Campine chickens fly?

Campine chickens are adept at flying. They are small and lightweight, and very aware of their surroundings. They can fly quickly and easily to avoid terrestrial predators.

How many varieties of Campine chickens exist?

Campine chickens are native to the lowlands of northern Belgium, and the first known export of these birds may have taken place more than 2,000 years ago by Julius Caesar during his conquest of the Gauls.

Where do Campine chickens live?

Campine chickens, native to Belgium, are very rare. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these chickens were exported to England, the United States, France, Switzerland, and Italy. They currently live in parts of Europe, including Belgium and England, in the United States, and Australia.

What do Campine chickens eat?

Campine chickens eat primarily commercial feed, but they will also eat whatever they can catch, including invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and worms. Additionally, they regularly consume vegetation such as seeds and green plant parts.

What animals prey on Campine chickens?

Campine chickens are small and prefer to forage freely over large areas, so they are vulnerable to birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles. These birds can swoop down on an unsuspecting chicken or chicks. Terrestrial predators such as foxes, weasels, and raccoons may have a tougher time catching a Campine chicken. This breed is particularly flighty and adult birds can easily evade a predator on the ground if they have somewhere high to perch.

How many eggs do Campine chickens lay?

Campine chickens lay between 140 and 200 medium size, white eggs each year.

When do Campine chickens begin laying eggs?

Campine chickens begin laying eggs between about 16 and 20 weeks of age.

How long do Campine chickens live?

Campine chickens reportedly can live at least 6 to 7 years.

Are Campine chickens rare?

Unfortunately, they are one of the world’s rarest chickens. They are listed as critical by the Livestock Conservancy. That means there are fewer than 1,000 individual birds worldwide. Some recent estimates suggest there are fewer than a dozen active breeders in the United States.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. Livestock Conservancy / Accessed May 26, 2023
  2. Campines Silver and Golden/ F. L. Platt / Accessed May 25, 2023
  3. Facebook / Accessed May 25, 2023
  4. Julia Dayly / Published June 10, 2016 / Accessed May 26, 2023
  5. The Poultry Club / Accessed May 26, 2023