Jaunty, alert and eye-catching are some of the words that could be used to describe the wonderful Rosecomb bantam, which has become more popular again in recent years with more colour varieties appearing locally.
Poultry breeds are often named after the area they originally came from, the port they were shipped from or the person who created the breed but, in this instance, the Rosecomb is named after its most striking appearance, which is its distinctive Rose comb.
This is a bantam that could be kept in the smaller garden or penned in a shed and unlike other breeds they seem to do as well if not better in confinement. When the weather turns colder, mind, they do better indoors.
Although my strains are hardy and well used to inclement weather, the breed – unless they are used to it – could soon succumb to the cold.
The advantages I find by keeping them in small coops in the garden all year round is that they become hardy and very rarely suffer from illness, with birds living long lives.
Here we are in October and some of my Rosecombs are still laying, having started in February.
The Rosecomb have a great propensity to go broody and I have had hens bringing out two clutches of chicks in a year.
Unlike other breeds I keep, I would rarely use them to hatch out other breeds as being very small they are best suited to hatching out their own.
If Rosecombs are hatched in an incubator and reared in a mixed group of breeds, I tend to rear them on their own because in their early chick stage they could lose out to bigger breeds and, if reared with similar sized chicks, they can be quite bossy.
Rosecomb cockerels can be quite cheeky with other cockerels, so I have to keep a close eye on young cockerels that they don’t damage each other when fighting.
The introduction of an older cock bird tends to stop fighting among the young ones.
Even the young females can be quite tough on each other and I avoid introducing a new female to a group of females.
I’ve kept Rosecombs in both black and blue over a number of years and have started others in the breed.
The black version of the breed is easily bred, selecting for shape and the head, where you are looking for a nicely shaped comb with a good straight leader and nicely shaped lobes.
Whereas with the blue variety you have the problem of producing a well coloured blue bird.
We have found that the easiest way to produce blue birds is by using a splashed cockerel with black pullets and the resulting cross normally gives 100 per cent blue birds, whereas crossing blue to blue only gives 50 per cent blue, 25 per cent black and 25 per cent splash.
The splash variety of Rosecomb is a light coloured bird with some darker feathers. The splash is a lovely colour and although it is regarded as a non standard colour in showing, it is a very useful colour to have when breeding blues.
I’ve read that crossing splash to splash gives 100 per cent splash. I may consider keeping a pen of this non standard colour in the future.
The Rosecomb breed has been recorded as one of the oldest breeds of true bantams with it being documented that in 1483 the owner of the Angel Inn in Grantham, Lincolnshire, raised black Rosecomb Bantams which were inherited from his father.
This breed may then have been in existence for well over 500 years.
The breed came to the monarch who at that time was King Richard III, who would have stayed at the Angel Inn. Soon the breed made its way around the English aristocracy.
The Rosecomb was one of the first breeds exhibited in England in the 19th century and exhibited in the USA in 1849.
The breed still enjoys good popularity and hasn’t changed much over the years, apart from the introduction of more colours.
I would like to thank those poultry keepers who are dedicated to keeping this very old breed of fowl alive.
My thanks go to David Neill, who helped me prepare this article and produced great photographs of his black Rosecomb Bantams and other new colours of Rosecombs which are kept locally; John Neill, who has worked hard on the production of good quality Blue Rosecombs, and William Moorcroft, who has good quality black and blue Rosecombs and produced very nice splash Rosecombs.
These are some of the main breeders of the Rosecomb breed in County Armagh but quality Rosecombs exist across the country.
The breed is supported by the Rosecomb Bantam Club, which can be contacted by emailing
This is a breed that although at the moment is enjoying a good deal of support, hopefully will attract new poultry keepers to keep the breed going in future generations.