The name of the breed (gallina menorca) is toponymically derived from the island of Menorca in the Balearic Archipelago. The correct date of birth of these feathered creatures on the island is obscure; in any case, some protohistoric discoveries prove their reality on the island somewhere between 1000 and 600 B.C., when their quality was not yet known on the Iberian Peninsula. It is an unmistakable type of the Mediterranean trunk.
The Official Catalog of Spanish Livestock Breeds incorporates the Menorcan poultry breed in the Group of Native Breeds in Danger of Extinction. (See Article: Turdus Viscivorus)
The international type of Menorca was created by the British from native Menorcan birds. This process began during the British occupation of the island from 1708 to 1783, but it is not clear whether it took place there or in Britain. It is likely that it began in Menorca and continued in Britain, where imports of Menorcan chickens are documented in the 1780s.
Some 100 years later, the breed (which was considered a variety of the “Spanish”) was common and long established in Devon and Cornwall in southwest England, where it was considered an egg-laying breed. It had been exhibited in Paris, under the name “Barbezieux”, and was widespread throughout the world. It arrived in Germany in the late 1870s, and was added to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1888. (See Article: Phoenicurus Phoenicurus)
Several attempts were made to modify some of the physical characteristics of the breed, including body size (crossing with the Langshan), size of the comb and earlobes, and position of the neck. None of these attempts had a beneficial effect on their egg-laying abilities.
Until recently, Menorca’s island of origin was rare. In 2004, a project was completed at the Centre de Capacitació i Experiències Agràries de Mao, the Higher School of Agronomy in Mahón, to evaluate the quantity and quality of the remaining herd on the island’s farms and farmhouses, and the results were published in 2006. The school established a breeding flock selected for its quality, consisting of 30 roosters and 150 hens, and 600 birds distributed among local breeders.
In 2012, a program for the conservation and improvement of the Menorcan breed was approved, to be managed by the Associació de Gallines Menorquines, the association of chicken breeders on the island of Menorca.
The Menorcan hen is listed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, among the native breeds in danger of extinction. The population in Spain at the end of 2012 was 460 birds, all of them in the Balearic Islands.
Characteristics of the Menorcan hen
The hen menorca, mainly characterized by having a long head, to some extent straightened at the back. The face is full and smooth, bright red and totally free of feathers and lightened. The beak is single, bright red, broad, straight and very straight. It is consistently serrated, with 5 or 6 teeth, boasting the longest focal button length, vast and slender, without folds or wrinkles, bright red and tight at the base.
Ears broad, smooth, flat, totally white, almond-shaped and all around tight to the head. The mouth is not long, however stout, framed by extremely opaque, dark-colored horny material. Eyes large and oval, dull, bright and expressive. Long neck, delicately angulated, with a rich slave buoyant on the back.
Trunk long and deep, with a slight tendency towards the tail. Deep chest, tight and unmistakable. Tail broad, rich and never inclined to the other side.Wings reasonably long withdrawn to the body. Energetic legs and medium to long lasting improvement. Dark tarsus or dull slate. Dark greenish, shiny plumage. Legs, bone structures and toes dark or slate. The normal weight of adult chicks is 3,430 grams.
- HEAD : Moderately long, broad, deep.
- FACE : Full and smooth.
- BEAK : Long, vigorous and curved.
- EYES : Large, oval.
- CRESTAL : Simple, rather large compared to the size of the bird, straight and well carried. Sharp and even above the middle of the head. Smooth and evenly serrated, has six even and fairly well defined teeth. The middle teeth are longer and of similar length to the width of the spur. The front should not extend beyond the middle of the beak. Its back should reach well above the nape of the neck, tending to follow the shape of the neck.
- BARB : Long, large, thin, without wrinkles and folds, smooth, its texture is characterized by being fine.
- EARS : Large, almond-shaped. Smooth, thin, free of wrinkles and folds. Close fitting to the head.
- NECK : Characterized by being long, arched, abundant neck, floating well over the back.
- WINGS : Large, well folded; primaries and secondaries broad and overlapping in natural order with the wing closed.
- BACK : Long, flat on the back, broad and rounded on the sides, dropping slightly towards the tail; long caireles.
- CHEST : Deep, well rounded and prominent.
- TAIL : This is large and full of rudders which are placed at an angle of 45° to the horizontal. Sickles large, long, well curved. Abundant covers, wide and overlapping rudders.
- THIGH : Medium length, vigorous.
- TARSUS : Rather long, straight and strong, well separated.
- FINGERS : Straight and in number of four.
- BEARING : Strong and vigorous.
- HEAD, BEAK AND EYES : As in the rooster.
- CRESTA : Simple, large, forming a camber to one side over the beak and then falling completely over the opposite side of the head, but not covering the eye.It is slightly rough to the touch but free of roughness; Deep and uniformly serrated, with 5 or 6 well defined teeth.
- EARS AND. BARBELS : As in the rooster, although the first ones are more rounded.
- NECK AND WINGS : As in the rooster.
- BACK : Long, flat on the back, broad and rounded on the sides and sloping slightly towards the tail.
- TAIL Long, well set on at an angle of 40° to 60° above the horizontal due to the lesser inclination of the body. Wide and overlapping rudders and rectrices.
- Thighs, tarsi and toes : As in the cock. with dark slate-colored tarsi to black as well as the toes, which have them in number of four.
- BEARING : As in the cock.
- CRESTA. Bright red.
- FACE AND BARBELS : Bright red.
- EARS : White.
- EYES : Dark brown.
- BEAK : Black.
- LEGS AND TOES : Black, or dark slate.
- HENS’ EGGS : White.
Beak straight, bright red, of considerable size, turning on one side on the beak, framing a drop and then dropping completely to the opposite side, but not covering the eye. It is constantly serrated, with 5 or 6 teeth. The tail is long and bushy. The rectrices or rudder pinnae are broad and overlapping, and shape a point with the ground level somewhat better than the chick, 50º or 60º, due to the lesser tendency of the body. Adult females have a normal weight of 2,495 grams. In every other character they are like the chicken.
Although the Menorcan breed is available on all four continents, within our country, the proximity of unadulterated individuals is, for all intents and purposes, restricted to the islands of Menorca and Mallorca, the main one being the one that gathers the vast majority of them. (See Article: Care of the lovebird)
The magnificence and lifespan of the Menorcan hen, together with its unusual aptitude for producing a high clutch of expansive, white eggs, attracted the support of breeders from all over the world. In a short time they moved from England to the Continent, to North and South America, and all over the British spaces.
In each of these nations they continue to be developed for both soft and utilitarian purposes, and in some they have additionally been utilized for the change of certain neighboring breeds. Three assortments of the Menorcan breed are known: the Black, the White and the Fawn, with two subvarieties each, single beak and pink beak, although in Spain only the straight Black beak is presented and endorsed.
Production characteristics and exploitation system
The Menorcan hen is a hen of medium hardiness with a great aptitude for egg production. In the middle of the main laying year, the hen’s estimate is more than 150 eggs, delegated extensive, when they are contrasted and of different breeds, whose normal weight is about 60 grams.
Why have a Menorcan hen?
Menorca hens are graceful, energetic little ladies that share their name with a beautiful island off the west coast of Spain. Adopted by the British in the late 18th century, these elegant ladies with spicy personalities were popular for about 100 years before being trumped by hybrid breeds and other more prolific laying hens in the late 20th century. Now on the verge of extinction, these truly remarkable ladies deserve to have their names in lights in backyard coops everywhere!