Reading Time: 5 minutes
Breed: The Langshan chicken in China and America, and the Croad Langshan in Britain, is a heritage utility breed. It has given rise to show breeds in Australia (Australian Langshan), Germany (German Langshan), and the UK (Modern Langshan).
Origin: Langshan means Wolf Hill, and relates to a scenic area in eastern China, just south of Nantong on the Yangtze River. Although only 350 ft (107 m) high, it is prominent on the Jiangsu plain and the most beautiful in the region. As well as a tourist attraction, Wolf Hill is important in Buddhist culture, featuring a temple at its apex. Moreover, it has been the home of Langshan chickens for centuries.
Different Strains: Croad, Australian, and German Langshan
History: Major F. T. Croad first imported Langshan chickens to England in 1872. British breeders originally debated whether it was a unique breed. Some argued strongly that it was a “poor variety of Cochin”. Others bred them with Cochin chickens to improve the latter’s black plumage. The major’s niece, Miss A. C. Croad fought tirelessly to establish the breed against fierce opposition. The new breed proved to have exceptional utility properties and was finally accepted as a distinct breed. Croad Langshan became popular until the rise of commercial breeds after World War II.
In 1878, birds from the Croad flock were imported to the United States. During that century, they were highly favored in America. The APA recognized the original Black variety in 1883 and the American Langshan Club formed in 1887.
Related breeds arose through breeders focusing on longer-legged strains for show purposes. In Britain, the Modern Langshan features tighter plumage and a slimmer breast. The German Langshan’s long legs are free of feathering. The Australian Langshan was developed from birds imported from China in 1905 with Croad and Modern Langshans, plus the original Black Orpingtons. They were found to have an excellent feed to egg ratio and became one of the most popular utility breeds. However, these days they are leggier and mainly bred for show.
A Useful Breed in Decline
Although specialist breeds have taken over within the industry, the Chinese government has aided an initiative to preserve the original breed in China. Jifa Zhang, an undergraduate working at Langshan Chicken Farm in Nantong, reported the farm’s efforts to preserve, breed, and improve the breed since 1959.
Conservation Status: Watch on The Livestock Conservancy Priority List. The FAO reports 1389 head in four flocks in 2015, up to 1000 in the UK in 2002, while in China there may still be many thousands. In Britain, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Croad Club support conservation efforts, although fertility issues have arisen due to small population size.
Biodiversity: This unique heritage breed has a long history in its place of origin.
Langshan Chicken Characteristics
Description: A tall, large bird with a full breast, and deep body, although relatively small-boned. Tail feathers are carried as high as the head, giving a distinctive U shape. Eyes are dark brown. Legs are fairly long, with moderate feathering on shank and outer toe. Shanks are blue-black with pink between the scales, pale pink soles, and white toenails.
Varieties: The original Black has a green sheen. The White was developed from the Black in England in 1885 and accepted by the APA in 1893, followed by the Blue in 1987. Bantams have been developed and recognized in all three colors.
Skin Color: White.
Langshan Chicken Egg Color and Dual-Purpose Traits
Popular Use: An adaptable dual-purpose bird for the backyard and the foundation of many other breeds, such as Orpington, Plymouth Rock, and Jersey Giant. Langshan chicken eggs are valued for their unusual color.
Egg Color: Mid to dark brown, sometimes with pale purple bloom.
Egg Size: Large.
Productivity: Averaging 150 eggs per year, birds lay during winter months, only declining after six years, although they may continue to ten. They start laying from six months and are slow growing. Their abundant white meat is juicy and flavorful.
Weight: Rooster 9.5 lb. (4.3 kg); hen 7.5 lb. (3.4 kg); cockerel 8 lb. (3.6 kg); pullet 6.5 lb. (3 kg). Bantam rooster: 36 oz. (1 kg); hen: 32 oz. (900 g); cockerel: 32 oz. (900 g); pullet: 28 oz. (794 g).
Hardy, Friendly, and Adaptable
Temperament: These intelligent and inquisitive birds are active, graceful, and easily tamed. Their calm and friendly disposition makes them great around children and males are normally not aggressive.
Adaptability: Hardy foragers who can adapt to any soil type and extremes of temperature and humidity. They even thrive in conditions far removed from their native land. They originated in a humid subtropical climate with damp chilly winters and hot humid summers prone to downpours and storms. Such conditions honed them into the only Asiatic suited to the Southern States. However, they cope better on well-drained land and require shelter from the sun and rain. Hens become broody in April/May, setting well, but not over-persistently. They make attentive mothers, but need space to avoid treading on chicks. Due to their weight, heavy birds require lower perches (six inches/15 cm high) and bedding to cushion the jump. Furthermore, some prefer to sleep in a well-padded nest.
Originally published in the April/May 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.