Just how old the Hamburg breed is or where it came from, we may never know. Conflicting information abounds today. Some believe the breed traces back to the 1300s, while others suggest it is of more recent origin. Many experts claim that the Hamburg was first developed in Holland, while it is sometimes rumored that it hails from Hamburg, Germany, or perhaps even Turkey.
We do know that the modern-day Hamburg has a strong British influence, as it existed in that country by the late 1700s. It was evidently considered a productive egg breed, as it has long been called the Everlayer. English poultrymen crossbred the Hamburg to various local breeds to develop several color variations, giving the Hamburg a strong ornamental appeal, as well.
The Hamburg could be found in the United States by the mid-1800s. L. Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame was an early breed proponent, even writing The Book of the Hamburgs regarding raising his favorite chickens.
But while Baum highly praised the beauty and cheerful demeanor of the Hamburg, the breed was never really a great success in the United States. Compared to the dual-purpose breeds that were in vogue at the time, the Hamburg was excessively flighty, and at the end of its productive lifespan its small size and dark-colored bones made it less than appealing as table fare.
The Hamburg is probably more popular in America now than it has been at any other time. That said, it is estimated that there are fewer than 5,000 breeding birds across the United States.
The Hamburg is often regarded as primarily an ornamental breed. This does not entirely do it justice, however, as it is also a very capable layer.
It has been said that the Hamburg is remarkable for its zest for life, and this is a completely accurate assessment. No other chicken breed has such a happy disposition. It loves to roam and forage, singing as it goes, and it has a strong preference for the highest available roost, where it can see everything taking place around it.
Containing this cheery little explorer can be a real challenge, as it is a regular escape artist. It can fly extremely well, but it is not above slithering under fences, either. The Hamburg will likely need regular feather trimming to ensure its survival, but if you are going to expect it to remain contained, plenty of room and foraging opportunities are an absolute necessity. Close confinement will make the Hamburg completely miserable.
In keeping with its abhorrence of confinement, the Hamburg is not terribly amenable to human handling. However, it enjoys the company of other chickens, particularly those of the same breed. A group of Hamburgs that has been raised together will form a remarkably tight-knit clique.
The Hamburg rooster, although not easy to tame, is reasonably agreeable as far as roosters go. He may spend a great deal of time strutting around, flapping his wings, and trying to appear bigger than he is, but he is actually not as aggressive as he might like you to believe.
An adult Hamburg is extremely hardy. This breed is far more likely to succumb to a free-range accident than to disease. Regular wing-feather trimming is highly recommended to protect your Hamburgs from escaping and coming to harm. The silver-spangled variety in particular is thought to be easy for predators to spot.
Some find Hamburg chicks to be delicate for the first few months. While this is not invariably the case, it never hurts to be careful. Make sure your brooder is clean, warm, and draft-free. Also make sure that your chicks always have access to fresh, cool water. Hamburg chicks become extremely active as they grow and may either knock over their waterers or fill them to the brim with bedding.
- Suitability for all climates (especially colder climates).
- Ability to thrive in a free-range setting.
- Foraging ability.
- Low feed requirements.
- Early maturity.
- Long productive lifespan.
- Prolific egg production.
- Ability (and tenacity) as an escape artist.
- Failure to thrive in confinement.
- Strong desire to lay eggs anywhere except the nesting box.
- Lack of broody instinct.
- High mortality rates among freshly hatched chicks.