Lakenvelder chicken breed review

Back in April 2011 I ordered some new chicks. We wanted good foragers and smaller hens so they would eat less. I picked out 15 Lakenvelders as the core of my new flock and everything sounded great on paper. We’ve had this breed for 8 months now and I will go so far as to say we absolutely hate them.

I should note a couple of nice things about the breed before I start complaining:

  • They are pretty.
  • They are excellent at foraging.
  • They are very alert and unlikely to be eaten by predators.

As chicks the Lakenvelders were extremely dominate over the other breeds and would beat them up. The male Lakenvelders reached chicken puberty about a month early and it was all downhill from there. We soon had to separate all the non-Lakenvelder chickens from the piranhas (as we came to call them).

The Lakenvelder rooster violence was partly our fault. We kept holding off butchering because the roosters were so tiny and it was our first time butchering chickens by ourselves. If we were to do it again we would have culled the tiny roosters and just composted them. It would have been better management on our part, I think, and we wouldn’t have had so many shredded hens.

One of the most annoying Lakenvelder rooster traits was their crowing. They NEVER stopped. Listening to continuous crowing all day was literally making Lee and I irrationally angry. We were originally going to keep at least one rooster but decided against it for the sake of our sanity.

The Lakenvelder breed is very flighty. This is a good trait for a foraging breed, granted, but an annoying trait when you walk into their pen everyday and they are trying to kill themselves getting away from you. The hens are very good at flying so we have about four that roost high up in the trees at night

The hens lay tiny, and I do mean tiny eggs. I knew they would lay smaller eggs when I got them, but I was not expecting the actual scale (or rather lack there of). Even worse, with the short winter days the hens have completely stopped laying. Every other breed we’ve tried has still laid all winter without supplemental light. By comparison, our original 2 1/2 year old hens (who need to be retired) are still laying at about half their usual rate.

So here Lee and I are stuck with 7 Lakenvelder hens and we don’t know what to do with them. They are too small to be worth the trouble to butcher, they aren’t laying eggs, and I don’t think I could even catch them to sell them. I don’t suppose that anyone reading this blog is desperate for some backyard Lakenvelder hens after reading this indictment of the breed? 🙂

Lee and I feel like every new chicken breed we ordered this year has been a failure for various reasons. As mistakes go, it hasn’t been that expensive. At least you gain experience from your failures. We’ll think twice before ordering another “good forager” in the future. I’m not sure the high cost in frustration is worth the potentially small savings in food.

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45 Responses to Lakenvelder chicken breed review

  1. We mixed our flock up this year, with Americaunas, Brahmas, and Leghorns along with Barred Rock and RI Reds. Our conclusion: you just can’t beat the Reds. They’re friendly but not needy, healthy and not broody, and they never cause trouble in the coop. They’re the go-to chicken, those plain brown hens. While it’s nice to have variety, and tempting to go for good foragers or pretty feathers, those Reds are simply the best chickens ever.

    My condolences on your Lakenvelders.

    • lee says:

      We’ve had a similarly positive experience with our RI Reds as well. I hadn’t thought about the broodiness, but you are right. We’ve had broody Barred Rocks and Wyandottes so far, but no broody Reds.

      The other breed we are pretty happy with are Auracanas. Perhaps we are just easily amused by the novelty of green and blue eggs. They are a little less friendly than the Reds, but have been healthy and consistent layers. Their plumage can be found in many different colors, which is nice for a little diversity in the flock.

  2. Ron says:

    I’m fairly happy with the Buffs and Australorps… they are big, calm birds. They lay well, forage well, go broody once in a while which doesn’t bother me. Maybe it is due to their fairly docile nature, but I don’t seem to go through much feed at all.

    • robin says:

      I’ve never had any of those breeds. Lee and I are already taking about what chickens we are going to get this spring to replace all the other ones with. I’m going to keep these in mind.

      • Robin says:

        You should try Welsummers. Read up on them and you will be hooked. I have some and they are wonderful. They get along well with others and are very good layers and meat birds.

  3. Bill Gauch says:

    Small or not, I bet they make good stock/soup. If you only have 7, I would do a couple per weekend, canning stock and/or soup each time. If you boil the chickens, you won’t even have to carve them, as the meat will just fall off the carcass into the stock.

    • robin says:

      For some odd reason all 4 chickens that usually roost high up in the tree didn’t make it up there tonight. Lee and I went out and clipped wing feathers so now they will at least be easy to catch at night. I’m thinking about seeing if I can sell them for a nominal amount on craigslist before we butcher them. Otherwise, we have about 21 chickens headed for the freezer and we don’t have space for all that right now.

  4. Ali says:

    I have to put in a word for our lovely Golden Comets. Our first 6 hens were all Comets, and they were gems. We mixed it up a bit in subsequent years, adding Ameracaunas, Barred Rocks and Black Stars. While the mixed flock makes nice eye candy, the Comets are carrying the other slackers. Actually, the Stars are almost as good, and pretty, ad we now have one RI Red who is a gem, but the Barred Rocks have been a pain, and the Ameracaunas are freeloaders.

    I say do ’em all in on one weekend and pressure can the chicken.

    • robin says:

      Oh wow, more chicken breeds I’ve never had. I don’t even know what a Golden Comet or a Black Star is. Our Ameracaunas have been pretty good for us but I have heard that same sentiment you expressed about them by a friend. I wonder if we got lucky.

      The pressure canning idea sounds great! I’d never thought of that before. That would save us some freezer space…

      • Ali says:

        There are lots of great pressure canning recipes for chicken.

        The Comets and the Black Stars are both hybrid hens, crosses that also have sex linked coloration so the hens are easily identified as chicks — an added bonus. We got both from our local feed store, but I think he orders from Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

  5. Ginger says:

    I have a very large mixed flock and have been happy with al but my Sussex. They are so noisy! My hens are as bad as you Lake roos. Currently I have RIRs, NH Reds, Rocks (Partridge & Barred), Jersey Giants, Easter Eggers, Ameraucana ( the true breed), Welsummer (excellent foragers, light eater, friendly, good layers, dark brown speckled eggs – you’d like them), Barnevelder, Buttercups, Leghorns, Wyandottes (Lace & Columbian), Orpington, Australorp, Marans, Andalusian, Black Stars, and Sussex. Our’s forage the ranch every day it is not snowing (we’re in the Rockies). I was considering adding Lakes to my flock, but now I think not. But I do agree with Bill. Sounds like the time to make stock, chicken & dumplings or some such delight.

    I stumbled on your blog looking at your pig page. Excellent. Thank you. We moved back home from where you are to a ranch in the Rockies and I’ve been working on Doc to add pigs to the mix. I think your info cemented it for me.

    • robin says:

      Ah man, you don’t like your Sussex? Those were on my original chicken wish list. I mainly wanted them (along with the egg production numbers) so I could go around talking about my Sweet Sexy Speckled Sussex’s and what not. Ok, so I’m weird and like making odd sentences that start with the same letter so I can giggle about it. Welsummer’s were also on my list so thanks for the recommendation. Maybe you would like Lakenvelder’s. We could have just gotten a weird batch and had a off experience with them.

      I’m glad you liked our pig post. We really liked having them. I wish our pig supply in the freezer would go down faster (is that an odd thing to wish for??) so we could get some pigs again in 2012. I guess we will have to see how the freezer situation looks come summer.

      • Ginger says:

        The Sussex is only an average layer (2 to 3 per week) and otherwise a pig of an eater and very vocal. But ones you get may be completely different. So far I like the Welsummer, Rock and Easter Eggers best for quality of production, foraging and personality.

        We did get 2 pigs. So in about 4 months we’ll be headed to the butcher.

        • robin says:

          How exciting for you. I hope you have fun with your pigs. 🙂

          • Ginger says:

            Pigs are now 4 months old. We weigh this weekend. They look like they are getting close. I also went crazy and got a flock of Cornish Cross chickens for the freezer. They look to be ready when the pigs are. My butcher is trading me my Cowboy (cottage) bacon recipe for the use of his poultry cleaning equipment. And then we will dip our toe into ducks for meat. Even more exciting, it looks like we will get a bison instead of a cow – trade for our gunsmithing services. I’m super psyched about that one. Need to find another freezer though.

    • hi Ginger,
      one quick question….is that all you have to choose from? 🙂
      I’m just about to start back up after many years an your like a mirror if ya know what i mean..i never know when to say when..i love critters 2 feet 4 whatever.
      good luck,

      • robin says:

        Oh wow Ginger, four months old already. Time sure flies. I would love to get some pigs this fall again. I can’t believe you are getting a bison. That is sooo COOL! You are going to need another freezer!! lol. I really want to get some ducks or geese this year but I may wait until next. If we don’t get new chicks this spring then maybe I will.

  6. Joanne Rigutto says:

    I’m a big fan of the bigger heritage breeds too. My partner and I started out with black astralorps and barred rocks. Then he decided we should get some white leghorns for higher egg production. Very forward birds and they will do what ever they want to do, go wherever they want to go and to heck with what we want. Not as flighty as your lakenvelders, but just as much trouble.

    What I’d do is to catch your lakenvelders at night when they’re roosting (that’s the only way I can catch my guinea fowl). For the ones that roost in the trees, don’t feed the birds for a day or two, then put feed in the coop. When they go in, lock the door. Essentially you’re using the coop as a big live trap.

    When you go to butcher, you can either scald and pluck or skin the birds. Then use the carcases for stock or stewing. When I’m going to use a bird for stock or stewing, I’ll disjoint the carcass and remove the breast meat prior to gutting. Makes things easier, or you can just breast them out, take the legs and wings, then compost the carcass.

    BTW, the breast meat on even an older bird will still be tender enough to fry or roast. I’ve got 2 20 month old turkeys I’m going to be slaughtering this week and I’ll be taking the breast and thigh meat for my own cooking and feeding the rest to my dog who’s on a raw diet.

    • lee says:

      The chickens didn’t make it into the trees tonight (the weather turned dark I guess), so we clipped all their flight feathers. Unless we missed one, the chickens-in-trees problem is at least resolved.

      Thanks for the tips on butchering. Taking just the breasts, legs, and wings seems like a pretty simple way to handle them all, and more appropriate for their diminutive size. We’ve butchered 8 Lakenvelder roosters so far, and gutting small birds is pretty annoying.

      If Robin can’t sell them, there is either a big batch of stock or a big bag of tiny wings in our future. We made stock from the chicken feet of the Lakenvelders. It was kind of a gross job, but it made for delicious stock.

  7. Ali says:

    BTW, Lee and Robin, how’re the plans coming for your trip East? We’d love to see you guys!

    • robin says:

      The plans are still a work in progress. I thought I would get everything planned out on Lee’s vacation this December but somehow the month flew by. I’m going to buy tickets next week, which means I will have most of the trip roughly planned out. I don’t suppose you know which airport is the best one to fly out of in Maine? Once I get the tickets I will give you an email to tell you the date we will be there. I hope it works out as we would love to meet you both! 🙂

  8. Ali says:

    Well, it depend somewhat on where you want to go in Maine, but for the most part the Portland Maine Jetport is the primary airport (PWM). That is incidentally closest to us. The only other real airport is in Bangor, but it is often more expensive to fly in there.

    The other option is to fly in to Boston and take the train or the Concord Trailways bus to Portland. I myself prefer the bus, as it has lots of available times, departs from the airport, is cheaper and you get a movie. Look for the express to Boston. If you have more questions I’m happy to chat, just send me an e-mail and I’ll give you my phone number. What exactly do you hope to do/see in Maine while you are here?


  9. I might have a friend interested in them! She’s been thinking about adding to her flock. We live just outside of Canyonville, OR… south of you by about 1.5- 2 hours depending on where in the valley you are…

    • robin says:

      Never say you know someone that would want these annoying chickens!? lol That is kind of a long way to drive for some birds though. 🙁

  10. ..great summary! What size eggs did the roosters lay? hehe

    We got 3 RI Reds this year and we like them..but truthfully we like them all so far…quiet, no fighting or crowing, no blood and none of them seem aggressive and they all get along. Also the Barred ROck are great and hardy too..but they crow alot ( I have only 1 this year and it is a female hatched this summer )

  11. Lynn says:

    We had 4 RIR roosters that we hated! They fought all the time, they were vicious, even though I held them all the time as chicks- they tore up the 19 hens we had – 2 hens were hurt so badly they died. If we kept them any longer they would have killed all the chickens. The guineas, however, came to the rescue of the chickens and started fighting the RIRs, and the guineas always won! Even the female guineas fought! It was crazy! I was always outside with a broom breaking up the wars! The RIRs would give up the battle and just put their heads down in a circle and their tails up and the guineas circled around screaming and ripped out all the RIR tail feathers! I never want RIRs again!

    I do have 2 Cuckoo Maran pullets that I like pretty much. They are sweet and lay every day. Good luck with your chickens!

    • robin says:

      Those RIR roosters of yours sounded awful. My parents had some mean roosters when I was a kid. I can’t remember if they were RIR’s of BR. I haven’t been super thrilled with our rooster experience here but I think part of our problem was we just had too many. Our lone rooster we have now seems to be the perfect fit.

      Nice to hear a good word for the Cuckoo Maran breed.

  12. Anne says:

    just wanted to say i had Lakenvelders but i only had 2 females, along with various other chickens, i had 5 Sex links, 2 california whites, 5 americanas, 2 leg horns, 2 rhode island reds and 1 Golden lace wyandotte rooster, they were all very laid back, the laken velders laid medium sized eggs for us. my one Sexlink ( who was also the head hen) became a broody, anytime we went out to sit with them they all would come running up to us. I never really had to worry about them being flighty because we also had 4 geese that i purchased the same time as the chicks and they were raised together. Have to say they are great watch dogs for the chickens. Even my rooster was very well mannered.

    • robin says:

      It seems that since we got rid of all the roosters but one, the Lakenvelders have calmed down a bit. When they lay we are still getting small eggs though. I’m glad you’ve had a good experience with them. I’ve heard that geese are good watch dogs. I want to get some but I think it will next spring before we do.

  13. Lyssa says:

    I second the black star hybrid – they are my favorite chickens yet! They are a cross of RIR and Barred Rock, seem to have the best of both in personality, and the eggs are huge. I’m not sure about the foraging, though. My ameracaunas have been the best foragers I have had.

    • robin says:

      Yeah, more chicken recommendations! I am looking forward to what our farm store has to offer this spring. Hopefully I can find a mix of the many birds that have been recommended by everyone.

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  16. stephen tate says:

    i was just about to pick the lake’s AFTER years of not having a flock now i am not sure lol

    • robin says:

      You may just love them. I think the Lakenvelder breed would fit well with some people. The seven hens are up to about 5 or 6 eggs a day and the size of their eggs have gotten a little bigger. They keep their distance from me but I don’t think they are nearly as spastic as they were when they were younger.

  17. Lisa says:

    I’m so happy I came across your site! I’ve been trying to figure out what this “free rare breed” rooster is that I received with my order of austrolorps. It’s the lake!! So weird though, he has been my best rooster so far. Very protective of his flock, super mellow with the other roosters, but not a coward. All around awesome boy. Sounds like i got very lucky!!

  18. Suri says:

    Sorry to hear about your lakenvelder.. I am thinking of getting just one chick and mix it with the other chicks I’ve here.. So far my chickens are very pamper especially the araucaunas.. They like to fly on my shoulder and stand there whenever they being chased by the guineas.. I guess it’s how you trained the chickens when they were chicks.. I didn’t handle my welsummer as much as I handle the other chickens when they were young…. and my welsummer are very flighty but tolerable. She didn’t like to be touch nor hold, very independant.. Anyway, it depends on how you trained the chickens, if you want them to be friendly and come to you often.. then you have to hold them often when they were younger.. Just my experience..

  19. Lorraine says:

    Different hatcheries carry different lines of the breeds they sell. My current flock comes from Murray McMurray Hatchery and my Barred Plymouth Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Red Laced Wyandottes, Golden Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Silver Pencilled Plymouth Rocks have all been outstanding Excellent temperments, very good layers of brown eggs ranging from 52grams up to 70 grams. The Barred Rock roosters were gentle. Do not keep the Silver Laced Wyandotte roosters if you value your backside. They are unbelievably vicous. So were the Orpington Roosters. I had only one or two of my hens of these breeds go broody. I could not break up the Red Laced so purchased her 12 Loehmann Brown pullet chics before she starved to death. She was an excellent mother. Those Hybrids are a delight and have outstanding production. My largest eggs from the LBs weighted 104 grams and 128 grams. I thought they could use a good stiff drink after that! My other observation is “birds of a feather”. They like to hang out with their own kind. The Rocks and the Wyandottes get along very well together. This year the whole flock will go to one purchaser for their backyard and I will purchase only two breeds, I have not decided yet but am leaning toward Salmon Faverolles and Rhode Island Reds or back to the Barred Plymouth Rocks. If I could choose only one it would definitely be the Barred Plymouth Rocks. They are placid, good producers, excellent foragers, are not prone to picking on one another, quiet and excellent with my 3 and 4 year old granddaughters.

  20. Michelle Deupree says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad luck with the Lakenvelders. My daughter wanted to show chickens this year for 4-H so I contacted a vet student that raises poultry and he gave me a list of breeds he had available. I ended up getting 40+ chicks…we have Golden Penciled Hamburgs, Silver Campines, Cubalayas, Golden Polish, White Polish, and ended up with two Lakenvelders, one pullet and one cockeral. ( I went for unusual breeds for something different) I must say the Lakenvelder pullet is one of my favorite birds we have! She always comes to greet me and she likes it when I sit down so she can perch on my arm. I don’t know if its because we have a mix of breeds in the pen or what it is but she is very friendly and I’ve looked at other websites on the breed and they all say the breed is not a friendly breed. I’m not sure I’d get more of this kind because she might be a fluke and I haven’t heard any other good comments about the breed.

  21. Top Hats n Spats says:

    Sorry you had such a bad experience with your Lakies. They are my favorite breed, isn’t it funny how different tastes can be LOL. I love mine but they are not as flighty as yours seem to be, they are great foragers and I am happy they roost in trees because even with the guard dogs, we still have sneaky coyotes than can be a problem. Mine come when I whistle, and though the eggs are not huge they lay well. I have several that follow me around. I use the eggs either to raise chicks for resale or for baking or feed them to the dogs for extra protein. They have nice flavor and larger yolks than average for that size of egg. I wonder if the difference is that I raised mine very hands-on and spent a lot of time with them as peeps. They get along with the other chickens well, not had a problem there. Sounds like yours were really hard to deal with, hope you find a breed you like better. I have noticed that the breeds that lay the best also seem to be kind of flighty, that was also true with our Leghorns, they lay great but not as friendly as the others. Maybe yours were just antisocial? 😉

  22. edwin says:

    interesting to hear. I had thought about hatching some lakenvelders mainly because it is a rare breed. Supposedly they lay 170 eggs a year that supposed to be 50 grams which is a normal size, maybe they just need a long time to grow before they do :-).
    I just hatched some brabanters who supposedly lay some big eggs (albeit not so many), but after seeing your pic, The Auracana seems interesting too. Not sure if I can easily find that breed here

    • lee says:

      50 grams might be normal size, but only if you aren’t used to the “Large” or “Extra Large” eggs you’ll see at the grocery store or from other mainstream breeds. Nearly every breed we’ve raised produces eggs that weigh over 60 grams. The Lakenvelders did slowly produce larger eggs, but it didn’t make up for all their other issues.

      In our area, Auracana/Ameraucana are pretty easy to find. Farm stores always have at least one batch in stock if they sell chicks. In a mixed-breed flock they also make it easier to hatch a second generation that is breed true. As long as your rooster is also an Auracana, you only let the blue eggs hatch.

  23. Angela Carr says:

    I’ve just bought a lakenvelder Roo to go in with my hybrid hens. Had dog attacks by neighbours dog and thought a tough bird might scare the dog off. He’s been in with them a few hours now and the girls don’t seem too thrilled thought they would have put their lippy on by now lol. Has anyone ever hear of a Lakenvelder Crossed with a hybrid? Mine are light sussex, Blue Haze, Rhode Island Rock and bog standard Gingernut?

  24. Jolie Ballard says:

    I have one rooster “Linq”. I luv to hate him. He occasionally tries to attack me. My husband says he displays no such behavior with him. However, I really luv this guy. I recently breed him to my white easter egger and got three beautiful birds… we’ll see where this goes.. keep you posted.

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