The Belgian d’Uccle Bantam
By Marie Reddy
Tucked in a little corner of Loxahatchee, Florida, in the western part of Palm Beach County, is DMD Farms. It is the home of Donna Ulrich and her husband, Jerry, along with horses, chickens, dogs and a coop-guarding cat. Donna’s work day begins early—out to the barns to dress wounds, wrap fetlocks, or dispense medication for the many horses she tends in her “horse hospital”—polo ponies, jumpers, race horses that need extended rehabilitative care. Donna’s work with these horses is her passion.
A Passion for Poultry
Her passion also extends to the chickens she tends that provide eggs and entertainment for her, her husband and Donna’s sister, Jean, who lives next door. Donna is also a member of the Palm Beach County Poultry Fanciers Association, a club that includes members with flocks of many chickens to members with just a few chickens in their city backyards. The farm’s daily demands prevent her from attending club meetings, but doesn’t deter her enthusiasm for the club or her chickens.
The breed that gives her the most pride is the Belgian d’Uccle, an esoteric and sometimes hard to find bird. The breed was bred first in Uccle near Brussels, Belgium by Michel Van Gelder, sometime between 1890 and 1900. The “d” in front of the d’Uccle means from, or of, Uccle. In Belgium they are referred to as “uccles.” Most believe that the Belgian d’Uccle bantam is a cross between the Dutch Booted Sabelpoot bantam and the Antwerp Bearded bantam, but this fact is not known for sure. They are believed to contain some Japanese bantam blood. So the d’Uccle has both Asian and Belgian roots.
The Belgian d’ Uccle is a “true” bantam, meaning there is no standard size counterpart. The first varieties of Belgian d’Uccles were the Mille Fleur, Porcelain, and White, but the Mille Fleur was the first variety entered into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1914, an old breed indeed. Donna’s d’Uccles are mostly the Mille Fleur variety but she has one Porcelain.
Donna raised this flock from chicks she got from Nature’s Hatchery. Nature’s Hatchery has many varieties of chickens from which to choose, including rare or hard to find breeds. They will ship eggs, chicks and older chickens. (See Nature’s Hatchery ad on page XX or visit their website: www.natureshatchery.com.—Ed.)
Donna doesn’t let her hens set on the eggs, but removes them to hatch in her incubator.
Spacious Housing Plan
Donna’s coop is large and divided into sections. It used to be a shed but she put doors in the east and west walls and divided the interior in half. There is also an extension along the side that houses more chickens. There are plenty of perches in both the coop and the runs. The two doors provide great ventilation and the runs are all covered with metal roofs to keep out the Florida rain. The roof overhangs the run by about a foot or so to help protect the floor of the run. The floor is dirt with wood shavings spread around that is cleaned out once a week. There are nest boxes both on the walls of the runs and coop.
The coop and runs are surrounded by cement pavers made into walkways and a patio area. The pavers help protect the poultry from predators digging into the run and coop. This setup also makes it easy for walking around the coop area. The chicken wire is also buried down about 6″ inches for safety.
Within two of the runs she came upon a great idea. She took one of the standard cages you might buy at a feed store, cut a hole in the floor of it. Then she surrounded the legs and the entire outside of the cage with chicken wire buried into the run so the chickens have two levels, one to perch in and a run to scratch around in. She uses these for poultry she wants to keep isolated. For the most part, Donna keeps the d’Uccles separated from her other breeds. It is also useful for introducing new chickens into the established flock.
If you would like to contact Donna, you can e-mail her at email@example.com. Some of the Mille Fleur d’Uccle roosters are for sale. Good luck in getting her to part with a hen!
More information on the Belgian d’ Uccle bantam can be found at The Belgian d’ Uccle & Booted Bantam Club.