This year (2013) we have bred more Silver Pencilled Hamburghs to add to our existing small flock. We now have just over 20 birds. These birds are often described in books as, standoffish, flighty, avoids human contact, etc. We’ve found if you take the trouble to talk to them and slowly let them get to know you, they respond well and will often let you handle them. The breed was developed in Germany and Holland prior to 1700. They produce a good quantity of glossy pure white eggs, which are slightly larger than most bantam eggs.
Our flock are housed in a roomy coop, attached to which is a sizeable run. The run however is a bit redundant now, as they are let out into the garden proper each day and come and go as they please. These birds do love to forage and will cover some ground, ours are often to be seen beyond our main gate on the track. They like each other’s company and parade about in little groups, often trying to slip into the garage when the door opens in the hope of getting some wild bird seed.
Both the male and female of this particular variety are truly beautiful. The delicate pencilled markings are shown to perfection on the white background, whilst the steel blue legs are just right. The lovely large eyes are quite a surprise on such a small bird.
For some unaccountable reason they prefer to roost in our trees and bushes at the moment. So at bedtime, we have to remove them one by one to the safety of the coop. For such highly strung birds they are very amiable about it and rarely protest, so we can collect 3 or more at a time. Stroking their heads whilst transferring them usually helps and they will often close their eyes and appear to doze.
We got to know the breed quite by chance. Brian went to collect some Brahmas from a guy in Tain who just happened to mention he also had some Silver Pencilled Hamburghs for sale. On seeing them Brian couldn’t resist and he brought back a trio. That was over 4 years ago now, so slowly we have increased the flock to it’s present size using our own stock and also hatching eggs from elsewhere.
There is one down side to Hamburghs, they are susceptible to Marek’s disease, a Herpes virus infection. The first signs of trouble is usually unbalanced walking, tottering gait accompanied by one wing drooping, falling over and unable to get upright. The common form of this disease causes tumours which attack the nervous system. We have lost a number of birds to this very distressing complaint. There is no cure, nor is there any hope of any bird making a recovery either unfortunately. The kindest thing is to put them to sleep well before they lose all control. It should be pointed out that most backyard flocks around the world have this disease, it’s common. The number of exposed birds that actually go down with it are small. All bantams are vulnerable to Marek’s, particularly Silkies, Hamburghs, and Seabrights.
On the whole, these lovely beautiful birds are well worth the trouble in seeking out. Apart from their desire to wander far and wide, they make wonderful pets and are ideal if you are looking for a breed with that extra something.