The Fayoumi (Sometimes spelled Faiyumi) is a very old breed of chicken that originated in Egypt (specifically the Nile Valley). They have been around for a very long time. In fact, many historians believe that they were among the first domesticated chicken breeds…
History & Origin
Due to Egypt’s historical demand for spices (for the purpose of mummification), the spice trade boomed. Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl (Fayoumis’ ancestors) where introduced to Egypt through this trade. However, the Sri Lanka Fowls where kept more for ornamental purposes rather than meat or egg production.
Fayoumi name origin
Fayoumis got their current name from a region in the middle of Egypt. This region is known as the Fayoum depression…
In ~1990 BC, Amenemhat became the ruler of Egypt. One of his accomplishments in political power was channeling water from the Nile river into what as known as the Fayoum depression (a depression in the ground that spans for hundreds of miles). This created a lush, marsh-type environment. However, the Fayoum began to dry up, leaving stagnate, unsanitary pools of water. These pools became breeding grounds for many types of bacteria (such as Maleria) and flies. As a consequence, many of the local population left. However, the local Sri Lanka Fowls learned to adapt to the environment and through natural selection, the Fayoumi chicken breed emerged.
Because of the Fayoumis’ natural breeding history, they are more resistant to many strains of bacteria/viruses than most chickens. They are also colored to camouflage well into the rocky, sandy, marshy environment in which they lived (similar to Plovers). Since the Fayoumis had limited options in the department of food, they became superb at catching flying insects (mid-air). In fact, in some rural areas of Egypt, Fayoumi chickens can be found wading in the marshes and living largely off of airborne insects.
Fayoumi chickens also learned to live by cooperation. In the wild, Fayoumi roosters generally get along very well with one another. In fact, in some Fayoumi flocks, there can be as many as three roosters per single hen. Wild Fayoumi roosters are also family oriented. In fact, Fayoumi roosters often help care for young chicks. This gives the mother hen the ability to hatch multiple clutches in a more rapid succession.
Note: The area which is called Fayoum was previously called ‘Ijtawy’. The people that inhabited the area where called ‘Ta-Itjawy’. The fowls of the area where also known by that name because they where often kept by the Ta-Itjawy people. However, the name later evolved into ‘Bigawi’. To this day, in Egypt and throughout Africa, Fayoumis are known as Bigawi fowls.
Fayoumis lay ~150-200 white eggs per year (for the fist few laying years). However, They mature more quickly than most breeds. Fayoumi hens begin laying at ~4-5 months and cocks crow at ~5-6 weeks. For comparison, Jersey Giants and Crevecoeurs may take 9 months to fully mature. Most classic egg layer breeds (such as Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, Leghorns and Sex Link Hybrids) don’t usually begin laying until at least 6 months.
Fayoumis chickens are small and slightly built. Fayoumi roosters weigh~4 pounds and Fayoumi hens weigh ~3 pounds.
Fayoumis are very good foragers/scavengers. This makes them very self-sufficient. However, this means that they handle confinement poorly and do best Free-Range.
Fayoumis roosters are generally very non-aggressive. However, both Fayoumi hens and roosters tend to be noisy. They are generally on the flighty side and can become overly stressed easily.
Fayoumis chickens have a natural genetic resistance to certain strains of bacteria and viruses. Some scientists and avian specialists are still researching the extent of Fayoumis’ resistance. Another breed that is suspected to be resistant to certain strains of bacteria is the Naked Neck (Turken).
In addition to possible disease resistance, Fayoumi chickens are very heat hardy. They generally prefer warm, wet climates. However, they also do alright In the cold for such a slight build.
Although this rare chicken breed is not widely available in the US, it’s popularity is beginning to grow. In fact, Fayoumis can now be ordered online from quite a few hatcheries. However, the Fayoumi is not yet legally recognized by the APA (American Poultry Association). Therefore, Fayoumis have no true breed standard (making their appearance carry more than true breeds) and are often excluded from poultry shows and contests.