“Romagnola” hen

An endangered breed of chickens: the Romagnola.
An old chicken coop designed by an architect.
A genetic safeguard project in favor of biodiversity.
A tribute to the ancestor Raffaele Ricci Curbastro.

Anyone who visits the Ricci Curbastro Agricultural and Wine Museum and the cellars of the Ricci Curbastro estate in Capriolo in Franciacorta cannot fail to be impressed by the particular structure of the hen house located in the middle of the garden.
It is actually a very curious construction, with an hexagonal plan that culminates in a turret that performs the functions of a dovecote tower and a tower for sparrows; a sort of small “turreted castle” with an important history.
In fact in the Ricci Curbastro archive are still preserved the original drawings of the project created in 1873 and 1874 by the architect Antonio Tagliaferri from Brescia and built before 1878 when it first appears on cadastral maps.
In 2001, with a patient restoration work, the structure, still used as a chicken coop, was restored to its original splendor, including the original “tricolor” painting, perhaps wanted to remember the very recent Risorgimento wars.
The breeding of the pigeons, to which the turret was intended, represented an important complement to the economy of the family to which women normally dedicated themselves. Sparrows instead represented a kind of gift from nature; usually present around the farms to take advantage of their protection and the presence of food (chicken coops, barns etc.), “reciprocated” the hospitality by providing nestlings for succulent skewers.
With the restoration of the chicken coop, the Ricci Curbastro farm also wanted to use it to participate in an important project to safeguard a core of Romagnola chicken breeders. Originating in the area that included Romagna with the provinces of Ravenna, Forlì, part of Emilia with Bologna, extending to Florence, Arezzo, Pesaro, Urbino and the Republic of S. Marino, that is, in what was the Roman Empire called Flaminia, a primitive breed of chicken was quite uniform in its characters, of a slightly below average size, defined by some as the perfect type of hen for farm and for extended fields (Trevisani G., 1936).
The Romagnola breed has a fine skeleton and bone structure, is very robust, living mostly accustomed to the opposition of the environment. It sheltered on tall trees preferring them to the enclosure of the chicken coop.

It is characterized by a simple, medium-sized crest, straight in the rooster and folded in the hen, of an intense red color, fine texture without the presence of granulations. The wattles are somewhat developed, the oval-shaped mumps, small, light cream color, smooth, sometimes shaded with blue especially in young subjects. The legs vary from pure yellow to spotted yellow, greenish and totally dark. The livery is somewhat varied, as shown by the few photos of the time, but it can be assumed that were common the silver coat, the “silver black bows” gray, the golden red “gold black bows”, white and perched. The weight of the rooster ranges from 2.0 to 2.5 kg, 2.0 kg for the hen. At four months the chicks weigh about 1.0-1.5 kg; the average annual fetation reached 150 eggs with an average weight of 60 g. The skin varies in color and can be yellow or white.
This breed was selected both at the Experimental Polliculture Station of Rovigo, and by the Provincial Inspectorate of Agriculture of Ravenna, which obtained homogeneous groups of golden and gray varieties.
The Romagnola breed, although worthy of greater consideration, due to its geographical location in areas always devoted to poultry farming, underwent successive crossings and was then completely replaced with earlier and more productive breeds (Pozzi G. 1961; Trevisani G., 1936; Pascal T., 1925; Ghigi A., 1930).
Recently recovered, a small nucleus is raised in collaboration with the University of Parma at the Veterinary Faculty.
Precisely from this nucleus come the specimens entrusted to us for the continuation of the species and the preservation of a DNA as precious as it is rare for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, with the aim of being among the protagonists of the overturning of a risk situation that the humanity lives with the processes of extinction of animal and plant species. Processes that are proceeding at an uncontrolled speed.
The Romagnola project in the Ricci Curbastro chicken coop as well as an act due to an animal that has accompanied our life for a couple of millennia is also a tribute to Raffaele Ricci Curbastro (Gualberto’s grandfather) Lugo (Ravenna) 18 19, an illustrious farmer from Romagna who with his poultry selections he obtained important awards in the Romagna and regional exhibitions of 1903 and 1904.