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The Norfolk Grey

Norfolk Grey

The Norfolk Grey was bred by a Mr. Frederick Myhill, who was born in 1875 the son of a Norfolk farming family. He took an interest in poultry from an early age and during these early times he started to develop what he hoped would become a utility breed. Unfortunately the Boer War interrupted his efforts. After the relief of Mafeking he returned to his fathers farm at Hethel near Norwich and continued with his breeding programme. Such was his dedication to the fancy, that after the first World War he was appointed Head Steward at the poultry section of the Royal Norfolk Show, a position he held for 40 years and was often the official escort to Royal visitors.

In 1920 at the Dairy show his new breed was first exhibited under the name Black Maria”, this name did not catch on due to its association with the German shells of the war. Consequently around 1925 Mr. Myhill applied to the Poultry Club to change the name to Norfolk Grey, after this was approved the breed prospered for a number of years. By the early 1970’s, due to the introduction of a Hybrid, most of the Pure breeds declined in numbers and the Norfolk Grey was believed to be extinct. However in 1974 the Reverend and Mrs Bowden visited a farm near Banbury where they found 3 hens and a cockerel of the breed, the ancestors of which had been in the farmers hands for many years, but these were thought to be the last of the breed. The farmer agreed to sell his stock to the Rev’d Bowden and it is mainly due to his devotion that we have the breed with us today.

The Norfolk Grey is to my mind the ideal utility breed as they are a reasonable layer of medium sized eggs, a good winter layer, also a good-sized table bird of good flavour. They are an active foraging breed, ideal for Smallholdings or large gardens with some rough cover, as they will find most of their own food, needing less bought in feed. They are a docile, hardy and friendly breed.

The Norfolk Grey is classed as a rare heavy breed, a well-matured cockerel should weigh 7lbs but females are not so weighty by nearly a couple of pounds. The colour scheme is a simple one to master, males being silver hackled with good black striping and the rest of the top of, a clean silver-white, black elsewhere .The females however bar possessing similar hackles and the throat lacing should be a sound deep black all over.

They are a very striking bird to see on grass, which makes their colours stand out. The Norfolk Grey makes a very good show bird. We have had a lot of wins with our birds, in fact they won a ticket every time we entered them in shows in Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria, Yorkshire and the Borders .We have been asked to show them at the Royal Norfolk Show their home county, to win there would be great (or a least get a place).

We hope these articles arouse some interest in the rare breeds of poultry, as they need all the help they can get. The modern hybrids are all right, but would not be here if it were not for our very old breeds from which they are all bred.

Dave Renwick