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Photo: Jolanta CalikGreen-legged Partridge hens of Poland

"Green-legged Partridge hens were recognized as a breed in the late nineteenth century. They were first noticed around 1892 by Prof. Karol Malsburg, who referred to them as Galician hens. On his advice, the hens were reared by Roman Ujejski, who exhibited a flock of Green-legged Partridge at the National Show in Lvov in 1894. At first, the improvement and popularization of Green-legged Partridge hens faced many problems resulting from the fact that there was no standard for the breed. The most important promoters of the breed were: Klementyna Stasiewiczówna, Stanislaw Kwiecinski, Henryk Mankowski and Bronislaw Obfitowicz. In 1906, the latter described Green-legged Partridge in the Hodowca Drobiu (Poultry Breeder) magazine. In 1921, the standard for the Green-legged Partridge breed was elaborated by Maurycy Trybulski, the President of the Principal Committee for Poultry Breeding and a well-known author of poultry books. The requirements of the time were that the hen´s head and neck should be yellow with a dark shade that turns into brown; every feather on the neck should have a stripe running along the shaft; the breast part should have salmon-pink feathers; the underbelly feathers and wings should be brown-black; and the shanks "reseda" green.

In 1930, poultry breeds were regionalized and almost 70 percent of Poland´s area was designated for Green-legged Partridge breeding. However, egg production recording carried out at that time showed considerable variation in production traits, and usually a poor laying performance. In the 1950s and 1960s, Green-legged Partridge hens were bred mainly in southern and eastern Poland. Over the years, the share of the Green-legged Partridge in the total chicken population decreased very quickly, from 11.4 percent in 1961 to only 1−2 percent in 1973. The poor laying performance and the difficulties of selling birds with dark skin and shanks limited interest in this breed and reduced the number of large flocks. In addition, cannibalism, feather-eating and loss of feathers (especially tail feathers) often occurred on farms where hens were kept indoors or in small outdoor yards with little greenery. The fact that Green-legged Partridge were no longer bred on a mass scale was also largely related to the abandonment of the regionalization of chicken breeding in Poland in 1958. This exempted the animal breeding services from the obligation to keep the breed.

In the 1970s, to protect the dwindling native breeds from extinction, the National Research Institute of Animal Production and the Central Poultry Research and Development Centre (COBRD) developed programmes for the conservation of native breeds of chickens, geese and ducks. After conducting an inventory of domestic poultry flocks and describing their genetic and production characteristics, a unique ex situ in vivo conservation method for the protection of native domestic fowl was developed. The terms conservation flock and genetic reserve flock were defined, the size of protected populations were determined, and an appropriate mating system aimed at preventing an undesirable increase in inbreeding and the occurrence of genetic drift was devised.

Green-legged Partridge hens were kept in two distinct closed populations, which resulted in creation of two lines:

  • Z-11: kept since 1972 at a poultry farm in Zyczyna, and moved in 1995 to the Experimental Station of the National Research Institute of Animal Production in Chorzelów;
  • Zk: kept since 1945 in Felin on a farm belonging to the Agricultural University in Lublin.

Currently, approximately 660 birds (60 males and 600 females) from lines Z-11 and Zk are included in the "Laying Hen Genetic Resources Conservation Programme"."

Source: "Jolanta Calik & Józefa Krawczyk, National Research Institute of Animal Production, Department of Animal Genetic Resources Conservation, 32-083 Balice n. Kraków, Poland"


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