Considered as being the original type of Shetland Hen, the Papa Stour Shetland Hen is a small predominantly black fowl around the size of a large pigeon pointing to a fowl of bantam proportions even when fully mature. The Papa Stour Shetland Cockerels have a glossy black plumage with copper, dark red wine and deep iridescent green hues. The females can have some breast feathers with a narrow red/brown strip down the vein. The legs and beak are black and the very small comb is a dark red.
These hens are very very rare and their existence was made possible thanks to the Isbisters of Trondra who saved this breed single-handedly. Rare breeds of poultry are often undervalued and easily cross bred and lost forever. Their biodiversity is invaluable and their genetics must be kept in living genebanks. Nowadays there are barely 12 left; their number is dramatically low even to create a demand. There are currently 2 cockerels and about 10 hens of these pure bred originals in existence.
Their descendants were remembered by many of the older generations of crofters approached when initial research was done. It is thought this small hen was the first type to be brought to the Islands, resembling the wild ‘jungle fowl,’ the ancestor of all modern chicken. They were brought from the continent to the islands centuries ago.
The actual location of the fowl was done when a retired teacher George Peterson of Brae formerly of Papa Stour described birds he had once owned and that had been maintained in a pure true breeding state on the island of Papa Stour and were now resided in Muckle Roe, all part of Shetland. These original fowl were viewed and as they matched the type that has been described by many independent sources they were purchased to start a breeding programme.
The hens lay a good number of bantam sized white eggs. The incubation period is 21 days that consolidates the theory that it is a true hen not a bantam that incubates for only 19 days. The marks on the plumage of these hens and cockerels is startlingly like early species of jungle hens, showing strong genetic links to Asian ancestry via mainland Europe. Their legs are long, another clue to their ancestry that this is a very old breed. These hens were brought to Europe at least two thousand years ago, pre Viking, for cockerel fights and not for eggs, hence the long legs.
Culinary: a moist slow cooking method is both advisable and delicious.
Eggs – boiled, poached, fried, scrambled or omelettes, soufflés, flans, cakes and desserts. Hens’ eggs make a good binding agent in all sorts of recipes too. The flavours in the yolk are excellent because they live outdoors and eat insects, seeds and weeds.
Hens – jointed and slow cooked on a stove for several hours with seasonal vegetables and Shetland Black Potatoes, lightly seasoned and served steaming hot in warmed bowls. Can be accompanied with a condiment such as rowan or crab apple jelly. This type of hen can be used for dishes where you allow the flavours of the local herbs/spices absorb into the meat during the long cooking. This just does not work with modern fast growing breeds.