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A visit to the Dutch National Poultry Museum on the outskirts of Barneveld reveals much of interest
and fascination to the chicken-keeper – and shows that in Holland commercial poultry-keeping
doesn’t have to be all about intensive methods.
Barneveld was (and still is) the poultry ‘capital’ of Holland and, despite the many breeds of chickens
that originate from the Netherlands, including the Welsummer, Brabanter, Lakenvelder, Drente, and
at least three breeds of ‘true’ bantams, probably the best known is the Barnevelder. A soft-feathered,
heavy dual-purpose type the Barnvelder is, arguably, the breed on which Barneveld’s fortunes were
built. The necessary fluctuations in the national price of eggs and poultry meat have long been set by
weekly meetings in Barneveld and the museum houses the original antique ‘auction clock’ from the
former Barnevelder Egg Auctioning Hall, under which visitors can sometimes bid for eggs.
Poultry writer and author
Jeremy Hobson
takes a trip to Holland, discovers a
magical museum – and reawakens some old memories
This particular area became well known because of
the excellent soil and numbers of small farmers,
some of whom branched into poultry as a main
business whilst others followed tradition and left the
chickens to their wives in order than they might earn
a little ‘pin money’.
As the area developed what would eventually become its worldwide reputation, manufacturers of
chicken-related equipment necessary to the industry set up business there. Amongst them was the
Barneveld College, a national and internationally-known practical training centre for poultry and
husbandry, hosting over 2,000 students on full-time and/or vocational courses.
Barneveld is, without doubt, the place to go to learn about ‘best practice’ when it comes to
commercial chicken-keeping!
Brightest and best
It would be foolish to pretend that intensive methods have not been used in the past – old
photographs of such operations and examples of battery cages are included in the museum, but what
is most readily gleaned from a wander through the halls and exhibits, is the sympathetic free-range
systems used to take advantage of the ideal terrain, soil conditions and farming methods which ran in
perfect conjunction with the poultry flocks.
Egg sellers at the Barneveld auction hall
The old ‘auction’ clock, and a Barnvelder cockerel