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Another breed entirely thanks to the Isbisters at Burland Croft. These hens are very rare and all originate from only the Shetland Isles. They have been breeding Shetland Hens since the 1970’s at Burland Croft on the island of Trondra.
Rare breeds of poultry seem often to be unfairly undervalued. Their biodiversity is invaluable and their genetics must be kept in living genebanks. They are so easily cross bred and lost forever – these were saved just in time before extinction. It is a precious breed to be valued for the Ark.
They are originally from South America then arrived on Shetland via Spain 430 years ago. They may even have been brought to the islands by a Spanish galleon. The surviving hens were from Foula (meaning bird island), a remote western isle 20 miles west of Walls, the westernmost part of Shetland mainland. From Foula they came to Walls and it was this surviving flock that the Isbisters purchased to start the breeding programme. These fowl matched the type described by many independent sources.
It is descended from South American hens likened to the Araucana Hen from Chile and is relatively heavy with a characteristic tuft ‘Tapp’ (as known on Shetland) of feathers on its head. Tappit means tufted in Scots. There was a mutation in South America before the Spanish conquests for tufted hens and the blue green egg colouring comes from the Spanish influence in its genetics. Finally it gained influences from the Original Shetland Hen already present on Shetland centuries ago. The breed comes in a variety of colours.
photo: Wendy Barrie, Tappit Shetland Hens at Burland Croft, Trondra, Shetland