What makes your product special? These hens are very rare and all originate from only the Shetland
Isles. It is a precious breed to be valued for the Ark.
Who cares about it? The few people who are interested in saving this genepool are helping to keep this
breed in existence, none of which would have been possible without the Isbisters of Trondra who saved
this breed single-handedly. Thanks to them the true breeding Tappit Shetland Hen is still in existence.
Who still uses/eats it? They have been breeding Tappit (tufted) Shetland Hens since the 1970’s at
Burland Croft on the island of Trondra.
Is it hard to find? Why? Rare breeds of poultry seem often to be unfairly undervalued. Their biodiversity
is invaluable and their genetics must be kept in living genebanks. They are so easily cross bred and lost
forever – these were saved just in time before extinction.
What factors make it at risk of being forgotten and/or extinction? There are as yet too few for it to be
well known so a supply and demand has yet to be created to stabilize numbers of breeding flocks. There
are approx 3 dozen pure bred Tappit Shetland Hens left.
What does it taste like? Because these first have a long and happy life they tend to be mature before they
end their life so a moist slow cooking method is both advisable and delicious.
Where does it come from? They are originally from South America then arrived on Shetland via Spain
430 years ago. They may even have been brought to the islands by a Spanish galleon. There were 2
Spanish galleons actually wrecked on the Shetland shores. These hens were remembered by many of the
older generations of crofters approached when initial research was done.
The surviving hens were from Foula (meaning bird island), a remote western isle 20 miles west of Walls,
the westernmost part of Shetland mainland. From Foula they came to Walls and it was this surviving
flock that the Isbisters purchased to start the breeding programme. These fowl matched the type
described by many independent sources.
What makes it distinctive? It is descended from South American hens likened to the Araucana Hen from
Chile and is relatively heavy with a characteristic tuft ‘Tapp’ (as known on Shetland) of feathers on its
head. Tappit means tufted in Scots. There was a mutation in South America before the Spanish conquests
for tufted hens and the blue green egg colouring comes from the Spanish influence in its genetics. Finally
it gained influences from the Original Shetland Hen already present on Shetland centuries ago. The breed
comes in a variety of colours.
How is it grown, raised, or produced? Burland Croft started a breeding programme with both The Tappit
Shetland Hen and the Original Shetland Hen, the only two types of indigenous Shetland Hen. It is
fantastic both breeds are still in existence, although near extinction.