This native breed was once typical of the area encompassing northern France and Germany. Its most striking characteristics are the black streaks, called peels, distributed throughout its silver-white plumage.
The Chaam chicken, whose first official description can be traced back to 1911, was raised free-range on farms south of Chaam, in Breda county. Through the 19th century selection by farmers in the county resulted in a chicken that yielded more meat and was renowned on the tables of well-to-do Dutch.
There are probably still somerecipes for Chaams Hoen dishes, which were served at gala dinners at the Royal Palace in Apeldoorn.
According to documentation dating back to 1881, a chicken breeder from Breda delivered several hens and roosters to the court of William III. The decline of the Chaam chicken began in the 1920s when, the breed gave way to more productive breeds like the Northern Dutch Blue.
The situation worsened until 2001, when a group of friends dedicated themselves to rescuing this breed. The group bought the best specimens and began breeding them in some farms scattered around the village of Chaam. In a few years, the group managed to obtain extraordinary results. They set up a foundation to protect the breed (Foundation of Friends of the Chaam Chicken, which includes breeders, restaurateurs, poulterer and Slow Food members), created the Chaamse Hoender Club (which is open to all supporters of the initiative) and increased the number of Chaam chickens to 300.
Foundation chickens are free-range: the animals stay outside all year round with eight square meters of grass lawn to roam and are fed completely natural grass and locally grown cereals.
The Foundation members have also created a system that distinguishes Chaam chickens from different breeds. Shortly after a chicken is born, it is given a plastic ring for its leg, bearing a unique identification number and the inscription "Chaamse Pel". Each ring is registered in the Foundation herdbook, along with the name of the breeder, the date of birth of the animal and the date of slaughter. Only producers who are members of the Foundation are allowed to use the name Chaamse Pel on their product, and only the breeders within the area around Chaam can become members of the Foundation.
The availability of Chaam chickens depends heavily on the season. They can be found at the county’s butchers or tasted in local restaurants only from July through January.
Nevertheless, breeders have not been able to legalize the castration techniques that were once practiced on farms. Because of health regulations, this can now be carried out only in sanitary cabinets at an extremely high price.
Castration is important not only for historical reasons, but also for the more delicious meat that is produced: capons are quieter and develop more intramuscular fat.
One of the objectives of the project is to find a solution allowing farms to recover this tradition.
The presidium, through the Foundation of Friends of the Chaam Chicken's Friends, will help breeders and restaurateurs to register the breed trademark, to promote it and to protect it from falsification.
Chaam, Noord Brabant
Foundation "Vrienden van de Chaamse Pel" Fondazione "Vrienden van de Chaamse Pel"
Jack en Mariette Rombouts
tel. +31 652398239