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Long effort of rebuilding traditional Dutch chicken possibly doomed

Rare fowl varieties further endangered by disease

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

CHAAM, the Netherlands - Avian Influenza (Fowl Plague) has become a threat to efforts to breed back a nearly extinct variety of Dutch chicken, the once fairly common ‘Chaams Hoen’. Agricultural disease control measures in recent weeks have hit the chicken farm sector hard when authorities forced the destruction of all birds at over 190 farms. Chicken coops of hobbyists now are to be emptied also, re-gardless of rarity or kind. Millions of chicken already have been gassed on these farms by special destruction units.

The Chaams Hoen breed literally has been brought back to life by one man in Ouddorp, a coastal community on the former island of Goeree Overflakkee. The man who already has been working on the breed for twenty years, helped the Chaams Hoender club with breeder stock. While the Chaam Hoender variety in Ouddorp - the town hardly has a poultry sector - is not in any immediate danger, many other rare fowl breeds in the regions where the poultry industry is concentrated may not be so fortunate.

Poultry and fowl hobbyists keep a wary eye on the Fowl Plague situation which still is spreading. They fear that the work of rebuilding rare varieties’ stock could wipe out decades of painstaking work. This possibility in recent years became a harsh reality for numerous other animal breeders who were hit by the feared hog cholera and by the cattle hoof-and-mouth disease.

More areas infected

Each segment tried to preserve and rebuild threatened varieties which in earlier centuries were mainstays in Dutch agriculture. In an ongoing drive to produce the most food for the lowest price, modern breeding techniques aim to develop varieties which mature faster and produce more, while trying to keep up with the expectations of the consumer. Various traditional animal varieties in the process were abandoned for new ones with a greater promise for a solid bottom line on the farmers’ balance sheets.

The Flowl Plague meanwhile has jumped from the poultry-rich central region of the Netherlands to North Brabant and Northern Limburg, the region with the highest poultry concentration of the country.

The counter measures are disastrous for the country’s exporters of poultry and eggs. Farmers who keep other animals may not move those either for fear of them becoming carriers of the fowl plague. The Netherlands is a poultry market leader. The poultry and eggs sectors are afraid that the plague will cause loss of foreign customers.