The Barnevelder is a medium heavy breed of chicken named after the Dutch town of Barneveld. It is a cross of 19th century Dutch landrace chickens with Asian breeds imported to Europe in the mid-late 19th century such as the Brahma, Cochin, Croad Langshan and Malay.
Hans Schippers, the Dutch authority on the breed, reports the following on the development of the Barnevelders: Between c. 1850 and 1875 Cochin, Malay, Brahma and Croad Langshan arrived from Asia and were crossed with local fowl. One particular strain of brown egg laying fowl were like Black Cochins in appearance and were kept as a meat bird (these were not, however, purebred Cochins). Around 1885 these birds were crossed with Brahmas and the offspring of this cross was crossed with Langshan. In 1898 American utility birds (“Amerikaanse Nuthoenders”), a rough version of the Golden Wyandotte (apparently not dissimilar to the American Winnebago, a ‘precursor’ to the Golden-laced Wyandotte) were crossed into the developing breed followed in 1906 by Buff Orpingtons. Overall in the development to follow the Croad Langshan continued to have the biggest influence and contributed hardiness, brown eggs and good winter production.
The breed gained worldwide recognition and was exported to many countries because of its ability to lay approximately 180-200 large brown eggs per year.
Today, Barnevelders are bred both as a utility breed and a show breed. They are medium heavy dual-purpose chickens laying a good number of eggs but also yielding a reasonable carcass. They are hardy birds and good foragers. While they became famous for their dark brown eggs in the first half of the 20th century most birds now appear to be in the hands of show breeders and not much attention has been given to maintaining the dark brown egg colour or to productivity with the focus being on external characteristics instead. Many flocks now lay eggs of a much lighter brown than before and are sometimes not quite as productive as befits their reputation. They are good winter layers and have a quiet disposition.
The original and most well known Barnevelder is the double laced variety with a single vertical comb and yellow legs, but white, black, brown, partridge, blue and double laced blue varieties also exist. Not all countries recognize all these varieties in their Poultry Standards. There are large fowl as well as bantam versions of most of the different colours.