Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

40. Chickens

Buff Orpington cock Warwickshire

The fluffy-bottomed Buff Orpington—which also comes in blue, black, white, jubilee, cuckoo and spangled versions—is a chicken with personality, the Marilyn Monroe of the flock and a hen to aspire to. Developed in 1886 by poultry journalist William Cook, a purveyor of fattening powders, in Orpington, Kent, one of its keenest champions was Debo Devonshire, who had them flouncing around Chatsworth, to visitors’ delight. Hens are back in fashion. They’re more amusing company than they’re given credit for and knowledgeable fanciers keep such delightful old breeds as the Scots Dumpy, Marsh Daisy and Speckled Sussex in existence. However, there’s just as much fun—and probably more eggs—to be had with a cheerfully clucking former commercial hybrid.

‘There’s no such thing as equality for hens;
whoever invented the phrase “pecking order” was very clever’
(Deborah Devonshire)

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