Euskal oiloa, everything you didn’t know about this hen breed

The Euskal Oiloa, Spanish: Gallina Vasca, is a breed of domestic chicken from the autonomous community of the Basque Country in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is the traditional rural chicken of the area, a rustic dual-purpose Atlantic-type breed, which differs from Spanish Mediterranean breeds such as the Castellana Negra and Menorca in several respects: it has yellow legs and feet, red lobes and lays brown eggs. (See Article: Agapornis Canus).


The Euskal oiloa is the local breed of Basque hens. It has 5 formally perceived assortments: Beltza, Gorria, Lepasoila, Marraduna and Zilarra. Request of the Regional Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, of March 15, 2001, to support the particular principles of management of “Euskal Oiloa” type poultry, published in the Official Bulletin of the Basque Country (BOPV) of March 16, 2001.

Five color varieties are recognized: Beltza (black), Gorria (red), Lepasoila (naked neck, red-brown), Marraduna (golden cuckoo) and Zilarra (white black tail). The Lepasoila, like other naked-necked chickens, has red skin on the neck.

It is included in the Official Catalog of Basque Autochthonous Animal Breeds, in Decree 373.The comb, face, wattles and earlobes are red; the earlobes are narrow and pointed. The beak is curved in the rooster, less so in the hen. The legs, feet and skin are yellow.

Five color varieties are recognized: Beltza (black), Gorria (red), Lepasoila (naked neck, red-brown), Marraduna (golden cuckoo) and Zilarra (white black tail). The Lepasoila, like other naked-necked chickens, has red skin on the neck.

Dr. Fernando Orozco and his group in 1975, within a program of search, rationing and concentration of native hens that was completed in the Department of Animal Genetics of INIA, presented a series of Basque milling hens exhibiting various shades and chose them to obtain unadulterated assortments. In the light of this work, Dr. José Antonio Mendizábal composed the breed standard.

  • It is a semi-abundant winged creature, with a basic and medium beak, red ears and yellow bone structures.
  • It is a natural breed with a mixed inclination: satisfactory in both laying and meat generation.
  • Plumage: Medium tight and tightly feathered.
  • Eggs: Quite large, about 60 grams and with dark colored skin.
  • Weight: Rooster about 3.6 Kg. – Chicken 2.5 Kg.
  • Distance between rings (in mm): Rooster 20 – Chickens 18.

Chicken morphology

It is presented as follows:

Head: Long and broad

  • Face: Soft and bright red.
  • Beak: Simple, medium, straight and firm. It has five to seven very characteristic teeth.
  • Tufted appears slightly elevated from the neck line. Splendid red in shading. Jaws: Long, thin and smooth, with tight base edge. Bright red in shading.
  • Ears: Medium-sized, close fitting to the face, violin-shaped, smooth and lanceolate. Bright red in shading.
  • Pinnacle: Strong, overwhelming and very curved. In Gorria, Lepasoila and Zilarra assortments, the upper mandible is dominantly darker over the yellowish cornea; in the lower mandible, faint dark spots may appear, however, only in the proximal part. In the Marraduna it is completely yellow, without spots, and in the Beltza it is dark.
  • Eyes: Large and oval, with darker, lighter iris.
  • NECK: Moderately long, very curvaceous, with a broad neck, skimmed at the back.


  • Back: Broad and drooping marginally towards the tail; rich and medium length caireles.
  • Chest: Broad, deep and balanced.
  • In the central region: Quite well developed.
  • Tail: Medium. Wide and overlapping rudders, set at 45º on the plane. Sickles of medium length, very bent.


  • Wings: Large, very collapsed and close to the body.
  • Thighs: Strong and powerful.
  • Tarsus: Quite long, thick, solid and yellowish in shade, with four toes.

Like the rooster, with the exception of the mouth, which is less curved, the beak, different from the Mediterranean breeds, is straight, does not hang sideways and is less created than in them. The jaws are shorter and rounder. The ears are smaller, however they are lance-shaped. The chest is projected and broad but not exactly in the chicken. The tail is quite small and somewhat elevated (35º), with wide and enveloping rudders. The thighs and bony structures, as in the rooster, however in the normal sex extensions.


Euskal Oiloa hens lay between 209 and 220 brown eggs with an annual weight of about 60 g. Much of the meat production is in the form of capons; chemical castration is not used. In 2008 the Euskal Oiloa was added to the Slow Food Ark of Taste.

Impact in the USA and Canada

When Basque breeders developed the Euskal Oiloa breed in the 1970s, they must have done it very well. That is what is clear from the description of this breed by James, a breeder of birds with a “label” from Tennessee (USA). In his definition of this breed, also known as “Marraduna Basque”, he states that they are the best “eaters” of all the breeds he owns, besides being friendly, intelligent, and with a great personality. In other words, a breed created in the “Basque way”.

Testimony of an owner of Euskal Oiloa

I now have about 60 Marraduna Basque and would like to find others in the United States with (Euskal Oiloa) Basque. This breed has become one of my favorites. They are without exception my best finders of all the breeds I have and I have a lot of breeds! I call them my little exterminators because nothing stands a chance in their way. They are some of the friendliest birds I have ever had – extremely intelligent birds! Basques have a very distinct personality. Very active happy birds.

What are Euskal Oiloas or Basque Hens and why would anyone want these Chickens?

Those of you on poultry forums know the excruciating question, “If you had to choose one breed, what would it be?” After 40 breeds in 4 years, and I can confidently say it would be these wonderful Basque hens. Although Silver Grey Dorkings and Lavender D’Uccles are in the top 5! I will share my experience with these beautiful Euskal Oiloa chickens. This breed is not in Hendersons guide or Storeys book as it is relatively new to North America. (See Article: Maize Duck).

Care and feeding

  • If possible let the hens out during the day to walk around, and then put them back in at night.
  • Suitable bedding should also be provided for these birds, with wood shavings and other materials where they can lie down.
  • It is necessary a space where dust baths can be given, which is an instinctive need of the bird.
  • It is necessary to clean the poultry house at least once a week to avoid the appearance of parasites or mites.
  • You can supply the hens with pre-mixed food that exists in the market, which has a special composition to satisfy the needs of the hens according to their age; and you can also complement it with other types of food such as seeds, wheat, fresh vegetables, rice, among others. But always be careful not to give them food containing salt or meat.
  • Watering troughs must be available, since chickens, like other living beings, require water to live.
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