The Altsteirer or Styrian chicken breed profile

a flock of Altsteirer chickens

The ancient Altsteirer hen is a very hardy bird. Laying very well about 200 plus large sized eggs. Eggs are white to tinted in colour.

Both sexes have a small crest and a single comb with a slight S curve in the comb of the hens. They are cold hardy and mature early. They originate in Austria and are one of the oldest breeds in Europe, dating back to the 13th century.

Below: An Altsteirer hen.

The Altsteirer has a plump and round body, and produces an excellent carcass when slaughtered for meat. The prolific nature of the hens adds to it as a practical utility breed. Altsteirer hens lay an average of 180 white eggs per year over their lifetime but are rarely broody.

Starting from the second year of laying, numbers of produced eggs will reduce to around 180 a year but the birds remain productive for many years.

The Altsteirer mature earlier than many breeds and hens lay a large number of white eggs, while the roosters, though medium in stature, make an excellent table meat. This breed is hardy, calm by nature, but alert and ever curious.

Primary use: Eggs, dual purpose.

Conservation status: Altsteirers are considered endangered.

Size: Large fowl, 18 to 22 inches tall.

Weight: Cocks weigh 2-3 kg, with hens reaching up to 2.5 kg.

Origin: The Altsteirer is an ancient breed of Chickens from Styria, a state in south-eastern Austria.

Eggs: 180-200 large white or Ivory  coloured eggs per year. The hens lay a decent number of  eggs.

Egg colour: Ivory white to light tinted.

Class: Large fowl.

Temperament: Altsteirers are very active birds and prefer to be on the move, and get a good portion of their diet by free-ranging.

Cold hardy: Because of their thick under fluff, they are best suited for cooler to snowy climates and dislike warm sunny locations. All the other breeds you listed will probably be okay where temps might rise higher but I don't know how your climate conditions are for keeping Altsteirer.

Colours: This breed exists in a number of colours that include white, cuckoo, partridge, and the most common, the black-breasted red.

Broodiness: Hens tend to be non-sitters but they do occasionally go broody.

Productivity: 180 to 200 eggs in first year.

Availability: Rare breed, only available locally and from some breeders and hatcheries.

Useful to Know: Very productive ancient crested breed.

What do Altsteirer chickens look like?

This is a hardy, broad-breasted medium-sized chicken. They are single combed and the comb on the hen is short and curved into an S-shaped , with a small crest behind it.

Below: A close up of the heads showing the smaller fine combs.

The Altsteirer is a medium-sized hardy chicken with thick under-fluff, small and white earlobes, and whitish-yellow legs. It is characterized by its small crest, which is sticking upright behind its single comb.

Superficially and from a distance they can be mistaken for Welsummers and without the crest you would struggle to tell the difference.

They feel heavier than they look when you pick one up.

Breed images showing the different colours:

Chicks in the brooder. Altsteirer chicks have a dark strip down their back.

Breed video:

No breed video yet. do you have one,  contact us to see it here.

White earlobes and other traits associated with Mediterranean breeds hint that this may be a foundational breed for many more modern breeds.

Breed FAQ:

What colour eggs does the Altsteirer lay?

White, off white, light cream or Ivory coloured eggs. Below is some eggs in the incubator.

Are Altsteirer good layers?

Average by modern hybrid standards but good for rare breeds.

How many eggs does a Altsteirer chicken lay?

Altsteirer lay approximately 200 eggs in their first year and remain productive for around 5 years before egg numbers taper of considerably. They average 180 per year.

How old are Altsteirer chickens when they start laying eggs?

They are a fast growing chicken that is quick to point of lay. Under the right conditions first eggs can be had 24 weeks after hatching.

Are Altsteirer chickens friendly?

Yes they have a calm temperament and make good free range backyard chickens.

How big is a Altsteirer chicken?

The average size is 18 to 22 inches tall and between 2 and 3 kg in weight. The roosters are 2 to 4 inches taller than the hens and 0.5 Kg heavier than the hens.

Where do Altsteirer come from?

The Altsteirer or Styrian hen is a very ancient breed from the Styria region of Slovenia and Austria and records of its existence can be traced to the 13th Century but may be considerably older given that the region has been inhabited for thousands of years.

It is believed that the Alsteirer is the foundation breed for other Mediterranean breeds and particularly the Sulmtaler, which bears a resemblance.

Do Altsteirer need any special care?

They are easy to care for and require no special care as such being a fully hardy chicken.

How long do Altsteirer chickens live?

6 to 9 years, the same as most rare breed chickens.

How much space do Altsteirer need?

Quite a lot, they are active birds and like to fly up and sit in trees and do not take well to confinement. They really need to be out and about as they are busy and active fowl. They will need a tall coop and run with high perches and plenty of air space to stretch their wings if you intent to keep them inside.

Are Altsteirer roosters aggressive?

Any rooster can be aggressive but for the most part they are family friendly with no problems especially if kept free range.

Are Altsteirer hens broody?

No. Broodiness is not a characteristic of this breed. Mine never went broody in their first year and around 5% of hens go broody in years three to five. This is not a good breed to keep if you raise your chicks naturally with broody hens.

Where to get Altsteirer and how much to pay for them:

They are a rare and difficult to find bird, often only available locally. They are eye wateringly expensive, hatchery chicks are $30 each unsexed.

You can try specialist Facebook groups and hunt down breeders. There is only one US hatchery that stocks them as far as I know.

Expect to pay $30 to $90 per chicken.