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Cou-Nu (Neck-Naked) of France

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You may have seen the pictures of our new enclosure on a previous post (which is now completely finished) but I think it’s worth showing who now occupies it, because you won’t see them in the UK. Cou-Nu are one of the French breeds for the table. The farm nearby has 4 barns with perhaps 2000 in total in them, so it’s not intensive. They all free range in generous enclosures and sometimes fly out to range in the fields outside. This is a breed in its own right and comes in 3 colours being brown with yellow feet (ours), black with grey feet and the white are for show only. They were extremely timid when they arrived, simply because they are not handled during rearing, just arriving as chicks up to 4 weeks old and leaving for the abattoir at between 12 to 26 weeks, 14-16 being normal (5 1/2 in the UK a vet told me). The photo shows ours at 20 weeks, having arrived at 16 and having finally plucked up courage to come out of the run.




The first thing that struck us was the amount of feathering; much more than expected, based on those we saw further North. The second was the size of their bright yellow feet and legs. They are very large and powerful chickens and unless they have a large area to run around in and are motivated to do so, they are quite happy to sit, eat and get fat. This means scattering grain for them to scratch up and then clearing the moss regularly. Just 6 of them in 220m2 have stripped out all the moss and eaten all the shooting grass in two months. Their powerful legs will easily propel them onto the run and then onto the coop roof, which is about 2 1/2 metres high, so high fencing is essential. 


There is some confusion about this breed. They are not the Transylvanian Naked Necks that you see in the UK. The TNN is a pure breed from Romania, although Transylvania is a region of Hungary I’ve been told. This is a photo of Prescilla. She is a very good (and pretty) example of a pure bred TNN. Her ‘father’ was hatched from a batch of eggs imported from Romania.




Note that her neck and crop are entirely naked. Any neck feathering is a serious defect in the breed and is a result of cross-breeding. Cou-Nu are therefore obviously a cross-breed between TNN’s and some mix with other breeds, a mix which has become forgotten in time (my French breeds book says). You will also see that her feet are much smaller and her overall movement is quite ‘dainty’ compared with other breeds and certainly the noticeably clumsy Cou-Nu. She’s 8 years old and perhaps two thirds the size of the Cou-Nu at 28 weeks, even though she is the largest of our TNN's. She also ’speaks’ a different language; more ordinary clucking, rather than the growling noises of the Cou-Nu.


We bought these chickens for eggs so, despite the pullets only costing €5 each, first eggs were a major disappointment. The first started laying at just over 20 weeks and the rest followed at 23. Lots of soft shelled eggs laid off the perches at night and lots of double yolks, but for such big birds the eggs were TINY.




The egg on the left is an early Cou-Nu and weighed 42 grammes. The next is a bantam at 43 grammes. Next is a Cou-Nu double yolk at 64 grammes and last is a single yolk Marans at 70. Fortunately the eggs have, in 5 of the 6, increased is size and now average 60 grammes, which is only medium, but one (not sure which) is still consistently laying 45 gramme eggs.




This is little Lily, the bantam that laid the egg in the previous photo. She’s a Brown English Leghorn and weighs about a fifth of the Cou-Nu and consumes about the same proportion of feed. So if you want eggs at lowest cost, that’s the breed to go for. They don’t go broody either and would you believe it, at just 26 weeks Ermintrude (black tail) has, big time!


Well, I don’t regret getting them. Nice to give them a chance to live a full life (only 2 years we are told) and they occupy an area that would otherwise be useless and are conditioning it. Their lack of feathering should allow them to cope with the Summer heat, although I have had to drag out 80 metres of hosepipe to water the run a few times because they were panting a bit. The eggs are OK and the poo will give us lots of top quality compost. We always have the option of getting a cockerel and breeding for the table and for replacements, although we have been warned that the huge cockerels can be dangerous, so perhaps tread carefully with that idea. They are very different to any other breed we’ve had and I’m sure in time we’ll learn more about them. The size of coop, run and enclosure they need means you need a lot of space to keep them and they are becoming very confident so may become a handful; I don’t think they will be a first choice for many keepers and I doubt they will mix peacefully with other breeds.

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Very interesting and informative, Thank you Beantree.  From what I can see we also have Cou-Nu, or something very similar, here in Portugal.  As you say, they do cope well with the heat.  Friends have some, and have hatched a couple (both boys).  The adult cockerel seems to be OK with my friend and her daughters, but it isn't keen on her husband. The chicks are lively, so I think they will grow up to be a bit boisterous as well.  Hers are brown (darker than yours and not as attractive), but I didn't notice the leg colour, I must take a look next time.  They have a massive area to FR in, and their pen is also large, with high fencing, just like yours.  The eggs are a medium size as well.

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The Cou-Nu I have seen before were much darker brown Daphne and the ones at the farm were mostly darker. I don't know if the farmer picked these out specially? One is almost buff coloured; called 'Blondie' of course. I get surrounded at the gate now and they follow me everywhere in the hope of getting an early grain treat. Not sure feeding them from my hand was a good idea as Blondie and Miranda are getting very close.

Even now we are getting 4, 5 or sometimes 6 eggs in a day Luvachicken and usually all before midday, so despite the smaller weight they are actually producing well. They are in a spot that gets full light and we do get longer days down here in Winter (mid-Winter 1 ¼ hours more than England) plus it's much warmer, so that all must help. Longer term it remains to be seen how well they lay, as we have no idea how the first moult next year will affect them.

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