When Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape there were already chickens there. He refers in his diary in October 1652 to fowls which were “reared here”, but nothing is known of how they came to be at the Cape. The English and Portuguese had been there before the Dutch, so perhaps they brought them. Virtually nothing is known about what varieties he found here.
Nowadays, there are several local chicken breeds in South Africa such as Potchefstroom Koekoek, Venda, Naked Neck, Ovambo, Natal Game, Zulu, Nguni and Boschvelder, to name a few of the most popular ones. In some cases the origin of the breeds is known, but not in all of them. Most of them were bred in this country.
The Potchefstroom Koekoek is a composite of the White Leghorn, Black Australorp and Barred Plymouth Rock. The name “Koekoek” describes a colour pattern rather than a breed. The Potch Koekoek is a hardy dual-purpose breed.
Venda chickens were first described by a veterinarian, Dr Naas Coetzee, who noticed these distinctive chickens in the Venda area of the Northern Province. Although similar chickens were later identified in the Southern Cape and in the Qwa-Qwa region, the name derived from the original description has been kept. The basic colours of the fowls are similar to the indigenous cattle and goats, namely black, white and brown. Little is known about the origins of this breed.
The South African Naked Necks are thought to have originated in Malaysia and are now found mainly in the rural areas around the huts of the local population. These chickens have a variety of colour patterns. The breed is particularly popular amongst commercial poultry producers for a number of reasons. A considerable amount of dietary protein is used in the growing of feathers. The Naked Necked chickens have 30% fewer feathers than fully feathered birds and can therefore produce the same body weight with less food. Also there are fewer feathers to remove in the slaughter line and therefore they pass through much faster and they are more heat tolerant.
The Boschvelder, developed by Mike Bosch and it is the result of a cross between the Venda, Matabele and Ovambo.