The Swedish Black Hen: A Treasured Heritage from Sweden

In the heart of Sweden's poultry heritage lies a remarkable feathered jewel – the Swedish Black Hen, the Bohuslän-Dals Black Hen, or Svarthona. This enigmatic breed, is not just another chicken in the coop; it's a living testament to the enduring legacy of traditional poultry breeds. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Swedish Gene Bank, this breed, with its deep historical roots and distinctive characteristics, has been meticulously preserved for future generations to cherish and learn from.

The Swedish Gene Bank plays a crucial role in safeguarding the genetic diversity of Sweden's native breeds, including the captivating Swedish Black Hen. This institution's commitment to conserving genetic resources symbolizes a bridge between the past and the future, ensuring that the unique traits and histories of breeds like the Swedish Black Hen are not lost to time.

Join us as we delve into the world of the Swedish Black Hen, exploring its storied past, fascinating physical attributes, and the enduring legacy upheld by the Swedish Gene Bank. This journey is not just about understanding a breed; it's about appreciating a piece of living history, nurtured and protected through the efforts of conservationists and chicken enthusiasts alike.

The Mysterious Past of the Swedish Black Hen

Ever wondered about a chicken breed that embodies a rich history and a mysterious past? Let's delve into the world of the Swedish Black Hen, known in its native tongue as 'Svarthona.

A Historical Mention

Mentioned as early as the 17th century by Nieremberg, these hens, often referred to as 'negro hens' or 'moray hens,' are notable for their distinct black color. The precise origins of this coloration in the old landrace hens of northern Bohuslän, Dalsland, and parts of Norway remain a fascinating puzzle. Were they brought by seafarers from distant lands, or did they naturally evolve within the landrace?

Rune Andersson's Legacy

The gene bank of this breed owes its existence to Rune Andersson from Gregeröd. In 1958, Rune acquired these hens from two brothers in Bullarebygden, northern Bohuslän, who inherited a flock of "black hens" from their mother. This lineage, with its Norwegian roots merging with Swedish heritage, forms the backbone of the breed we know today.

Physical Traits and Characteristics 

The Svarthona, a cherished breed from Sweden, stands as an exemplary folk hen, a term denoting unprocessed landrace chickens. This breed is known for its perfect balance of robustness and graceful body structure, making it a fascinating subject for chicken enthusiasts. Let's explore the intriguing physical traits that set this breed apart:

Weight and Size

  • Hens: They generally weigh between 2.2 - 3.3 lbs, showcasing their compact yet efficient body structure.
  • Roosters: Roosters are slightly larger, typically weighing in the range of 3.3 - 4.4 lbs. This size difference is typical in poultry breeds, with roosters being more prominent.


  • Legs and Beak: The legs are smooth with a unique slate gray to black coloring, complementing the overall black plumage. The beak follows a similar color scheme, adding to their distinct appearance. The number of toes is usually four, a feature of keen interest to breed connoisseurs.
  • Body Shape: Despite their smaller size, these hens exhibit a robust body shape, which is neither overly bulky nor frail. This balance in physique contributes to their agility and adaptability.

Feather Type

  • Texture: The feathers of these hens are typically smooth, contributing to their sleek and streamlined appearance. This feather type not only adds to their aesthetic appeal but also plays a functional role in their adaptability to various environmental conditions.
  • Variations: In some instances, birds may exhibit a woolly feather structure. While less common, this feature is notable for its unique texture and can influence the bird's insulation against colder climates.

Color Variations

  • Primary Color: The predominant color of these chickens is a deep, iridescent black, which has been a signature trait throughout their history.
  • Variations: Interestingly, some birds may show hints of white, red, or wild boar colorations, particularly noticeable in roosters. These color variations, while less common, add to the breed's diversity and visual appeal.


  • Hens: Display small to medium-sized combs, which are not only a physical feature but also an indicator of health and vigor.
  • Roosters: Typically have medium to large combs, often slightly bent to one side. This feature is not just aesthetic but also plays a role in thermoregulation and mating displays.

Adaptation and Selection

  • Hardiness: These hens are celebrated for their hardiness and resistance to common chicken diseases, traits that are crucial for their survival in the challenging conditions of northern Bohuslän.
  • Egg Production: They lay approximately 150 eggs per year, with each egg weighing about 1.6 - 1.8 oz and sporting an off-white to light beige hue. This production rate is quite impressive for a landrace breed.
  • Breeding Focus: Maintaining the breed's characteristics, especially the dominant black color, is vital. Breeders are advised to avoid consistently selecting birds with woolly feather structures or white feather color to preserve the breed's integrity and historical significance.

In Conclusion: Preserving a Legacy of the Swedish Black Hen

As we immerse ourselves in the captivating world of the Swedish Black Hen, it becomes increasingly clear that our role extends beyond mere chicken-keeping. It's about embracing and perpetuating a living piece of history, a breed that embodies centuries of agricultural tradition and cultural heritage. These hens are not just birds; they are storytellers of the past, each feather a page in the annals of poultry lineage.

The responsibility we hold at Cluck It All Farms goes beyond the day-to-day care of these magnificent creatures. We see ourselves as guardians of a legacy, stewards of a lineage that has weathered the tests of time and emerged with a story to tell. In nurturing the Swedish Black Hen, we are not only preserving unique genetic traits but also honoring the rich tapestry of poultry heritage that has been intricately woven over centuries.

Our commitment to these timeless breeds is a testament to our dedication to biodiversity and the importance of preserving rare and heritage breeds. By sharing their stories, we aim to enlighten and inspire current and future generations of chicken enthusiasts and breeders, fostering a deeper appreciation for the diversity and richness of our poultry heritage.

Let us cherish these feathered friends, not merely as birds in our backyards but as living symbols of a rich and storied past. It's our collective duty to ensure that the legacy of the Svarthöna, along with other heritage breeds, continues to thrive and inspire. Through thoughtful breeding, mindful conservation, and a deep respect for their history, we can help keep this coop not only the best in town but a beacon of heritage and tradition for generations to come.

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