La Fleche History
La Fleche translates in French as “the arrow.” It has been said that the La Flèche chicken gets its name from the arrow-like shape of its V-shaped comb, but the name actually was derived from its geographic origin. The town that bears the name La Flèche is a town in the department of Sarthe within the Pays de la Loire region of France. It’s a village which lies to the east of Paris and is near the famous racing city of Le Mans. The name of the village was given to it by the Church of St. Thomas in reference to the arrow that martyred their patron saint. This breed of chicken is said to have first been produced in Le Mans during the fifth century, and then Mizeray and finally at La Flèche.
A large population of La Flèche chickens made their way to America in the 1850s. They were found to be not hardy enough by producers, especially so in the eastern and middle States, and were soon abandoned for hardier newly arriving breeds. Poultry author W.B. Tegetmeier purchased some La Flèche chickens and imported them into England in 1882
This breed is a medium-sized but slender pure black bird that is much heavier than it appears. It has longer than normal legs so they appear quite tall. The blackness of their feathers shines beautifully as a petrol/beetle green sheen in the sun. White earlobes are in stark contrast to the black feathers. La Fleche is often called the devil chicken because they sport a V comb which looks like the horns of a demon. They also have large nares (nostrils) which makes them look even more unusual. As a breed, they can be quite a flighty bird but if they are handled regularly they can become very sweet and interactive. They lay a large white egg and lots of them. Many Spanish chickens resemble the La Fleche but with the exception of their comb.
This breed is also quite a gourmet bird for table use being very prized in their native country and are famous for producing magnificent capons (castrated cockerels) and poulardes (fattened pullets) that are much celebrated in the Paris and Anjou markets. Today in the farmers market of La Fleche, these birds are sometimes sold as the “Fowl of Le Mans.” Of all the French breeds of chicken, it is said that the La Flèche stands at the head for table qualities. They have thin white skin with tender, juicy, delicate, short-grained flesh. Their breasts are meaty and full in shape. The breed fattens well, with the fat distributed across the breasts, legs, thighs, and even the back.
The La Fleche is very rare. They also come in blue and a cuckoo variation which is even rarer.
They are a very active bird which makes them undesirable to some people. They can fly well so are likely to need wing clipping to keep them out of harm’s way. If they are well handled when young they can be positively velcro-like and totally trusting. They are non-aggressive. The cockerels can be very over amorous to the hens if you keep more than one boy at a time.
The La Fleche is classified as large fowl – light.
A large white egg is laid in very good numbers.