Everything You Need to Know About the Crèvecoeur Chicken

Posted by Daphne Cybele
Crevecoeur chicken
Photo: Crevecoeur Chicken Conservation Project Facebook page

Is the rare French chicken with an Elvis-like pompadour a good fit for your flock?

First of all, the Crèvecoeur chicken breed population is at a critically low level. This chicken needs individuals dedicated to reviving the breed. The Livestock Conservancy estimates there are five or fewer breeding flocks in the Americas; less than 500 Crevecoeur chickens in the United States, and less than 1,000 birds worldwide.

Crevecoueur chicken
The Illustrated Book of Poultry by Lewis Wright (1880) via Hathi Trust

The breed originated in Crèvecoeur-en-auge, Normandy, France centuries ago. It is one of the oldest standard breeds in France, and the oldest French standard-bred chicken in the United Kingdom. The Crèvecoeur chicken came to America in 1852 and the American Poultry Association recognized the breed in 1874.

READ MOREHeritage Chicken Breeds Are Disappearing and Here's Why They Are Worth Saving

The Crèvecoeur is a heritage breed. Historically, the Crèvecoeur was a very valuable bird. Tenants in Normandy hundreds of years ago used this chicken to pay part of their landowner rents. Fattened capons filled the markets in Paris due to its table bird qualities, and was more popular then any of the other chicken breeds in France.

The effect of nearby warfare on farming and the appetite of occupying forces during WWII in Normandy nearly drove the breed to extinction.

Hover over the image to learn more. 


The Crèvecoeur chicken is reputed to be a calm and content breed. They do not mind confinement and posts on Backyard Chickens report that they are excellent foragers, good to free-range, somewhat flighty, and not very social. Because of this, they probably require a lot of handling to tame and socialize.

General Appearance

The Crèvecoeur chicken is a dual-purpose breed. The comb is v-shaped, they have a prominent crest, and a fluffy beard. The crest is quite distinctive: it looks like a rebellious Elvis hairstyle. Interestingly, the name Crève-Coeur translates to “heartbreak” or "broken heart."

Standard bred males are typically 8 pounds and females around 6.5 pounds. American-bred birds tend to be smaller than the breed standard and there is a breeding effort underway to restore weightier birds. Some think this breed is similar in appearance to the Houdan chicken. In fact, the Crèvecoeur chicken may be key to the Houdan's crest.

The birds are reputed to be quite cold hardy, particularly in drier climates. They are more sensitive to damp conditions than other chicken breeds.


Most Crèvecoeur chickens are solid black with a beetle-green sheen. The only recognized color in the United States is solid black; while-blue, and white color varieties do exist in France.

Legs are slate in color and the breed is clean-legged.

Egg Laying

The Crèvecoeur chicken lays large white eggs. As a heritage dual-purpose poultry breed it is a moderate layer.


Several large hatcheries do sell this breed but breeders can be difficult to track down. Learn more at the Crèvecoeur Chicken Conservation Project and at The Livestock Conservancy.

Do you have or want a crested chicken like this breed? Tell us why in the comments below!

Body image via Photo: Crevecoeur Chicken Conservation Project Facebook page

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Everything You Need to Know About the Crèvecoeur Chicken