Bresse Chickens: Dual-Purpose Chicken with a Prestigious History

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by Brin Jackson

Depending in which country you live, by whatever name you know it, American or Canadian Bresse –  the Bresse is an exceptional bird. 

Known in France as the poulet de Bresse, or volaille de Bresse, this breed enjoys a vaulted reputation as being the best quality table chicken in the world. 

The Bresse received legal protection in 1936 in France, and in 1957 was registered as a Protected Designation of Origin. Only white chickens raised within a specific area may be called “Bresse.” Outside it, they are given the name “Gauloise” and the breed name combines both. The Bresse Gauloise is raised within an area of the former historic province of Bresse, in Eastern France. 

Four colors are recognised for the Bresse Gauloise: white, blue, black, and splash. 

It is the white Bresse de Beny chickens and capons raised in the area of Bresse which have the Protected Designation of Origin and are marketed as poulet de Bresse. 

The white variety is the best known and regarded as a premium product and commands higher prices. 

The American Bresse and Canadian Bresse Chicken

First imported into the United States from France in 2011, due to import restrictions, all Bresse chickens in the U.S. and Canada, are called either American Bresse or Canadian Bresse. For simplicity in this article, the name is shortened to Bresse.

As in France, four colors are recognised in the U.S. and Canada: white, blue, black, and splash. 

To be authentic, you must be able to directly trace the bird’s genetic lineage to the flocks of eastern France. These chickens are a genetically distinct breed that metabolizes its feed in a particular way, distributing certain types of muscle across their bodies in a certain pattern, producing meat with a unique and distinct flavor. They have light bones and thin skin. 

These differences from other breeds are due to over 500 years of breed selection creating a bird that cannot be replicated by crossing other unrelated breeds of chickens to create a Bresse look-a-like.

These are impressive and beautiful birds with their large red combs, bright white feathers, and steel-blue legs. Newly hatched chicks have yellow legs.

The Bresse chicken makes a perfect dual-purpose meat bird or egg layer. A hen may produce up to 250 large cream to light brown eggs per year.

General Breed Characteristics

Overall, a medium sized bird. Elegant, alert, fine-boned, thin white skin.

  • Weight: Rooster: 7.5-8.5 lbs. Hen: 5.5 – 6.5 lbs.
  • Body: Well built, long, slightly upright carriage in roosters, level in hen carriage.
  • Neck: Short. Roosters have a neck full of long, thin hackle feathers.
  • Head: Short and fine.
  • Back: Broad, quite long. Roosters slightly inclined downward to the tail, hens level to the tail.
  • Shoulders: Broad and balanced to their body size. 
  • Wings: Carried upright and straight, tightly closed and close to the body. 
  • Saddle: Well-developed.
  • Tail: Full, well-developed main tail carried at 45 degrees.
  • Breast: Full and prominent breast. 
  • Abdomen: Well-developed with depth.
  • Comb: Red, single, fine texture, triangular serration.
  • Wattles: Red, medium size, smooth and fine texture.
  • Ear Lobes: White, medium-sized, almond shaped.
  • Eyes: Yellow to brown. Brown being desired.
  • Beak: Moderately long and stout. Bluish white.
  • Thighs: Balanced to size and visible in shape.
  • Legs: Slate Blue. Medium, free of feathers coming straight down from body.
  • Toes: 4.
  • Plumage: Close-fitting, white.


The Bresse tends to have a calm, even temperament toward humans, but can be dominant toward other breeds of chickens within a flock.

They are happiest when allowed to forage rather than being enclosed. With this in mind, depending on the number of birds, they do well in small to large types of chicken tractors which can be moved about the property, or raised in a large chicken house with enough outdoor space for them to forage.

As with any breed, aggressive birds may need to be culled.

Bresse pullet
Bresse Pullet with Splash Maran and Bielefelder Pullets in a Small Chicken Tractor

Caring for Bresse Chickens

When considering purchasing this breed, ask yourself what will you do with them – are you:

  • Raising a specific number of birds to process?
  • Raising them to add to an existing flock with the intention of allowing them to lay eggs and perhaps process them later? or,
  • Raising them to create a steady supply of Bresse on your farm?

Feeding practices will vary depending upon your answer.

  • If raising them to add to your flock, or to maintain a breeding flock, you can raise them as you would any chick: Starter, grower, layer pellets. 
  • If you intend to raise them in a traditional manner for processing, the chicks will be fed starter then free range on pasture or a mix of pasture and woodland. This allows the birds to forage for insects and greens. They may be supplemented with a low protein pellet but ensure they will do most of their eating outside in a natural habitat. At approximately four months of age, the birds are brought into the barn or enclosure for finishing – approximately two weeks. Their diet becomes one of fresh, raw milk mixed with grains. Finishing the Bresse in this way ensures the distinct genetic fat marbling throughout the meat in order to enjoy the breed’s renowned flavour.

Always have fresh water available, and provide shelter – particularly night-time shelter safe from predators.

A few of the flock free-ranging
A Few of the Flock Free-Ranging

Pros & Cons of Raising Bresse Chickens

  • Chicks can be purchased from a number of reputable farms/hatcheries in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Sold as straight run (unsexed), price ranges from: $6.78 – $34 per chick. (2023). Check with the supplier as there may be minimum and maximum quantities available per order, and they often sell out fast. 
  • Search for high-quality hatcheries or passionate smaller breeders.
  • Straight run chicks are unsexed chicks. Expect half to be roosters, half hens.
  • As with any chick, heat sources/brooders growing spaces are required.
  • Providing adequate housing/shelter for birds to be raised either as free run or pastured birds.
  • Providing adequate nesting boxes/materials if raising Bresse for egg production.
  • Hens may go broody and hatch eggs. 
  • If you are interested in raising a flock, you will need to practice gene diversity. This may prove problematic due to the small genetic pool in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Start-up costs for raising purebred birds can be costly.
  • Greenfire Farms originally brought the Bresse stock to North America. There are also lines at Grade Eh Farms in the Lower Mainland,  British Columbia, Canada. 
  • Hens lay a lovely, large cream to light-brown egg.
  • They are excellent foragers and free-ranging birds. This is their preferred environment.
  • They are an attentive bird. My experience has found them to be a friendly breed.
  • Their meat is succulent and flavourful.

Bresse Chicken FAQS

Can they be coop raised?

Though they can be raised in a coop, allowing a minimum one square foot per bird, the Bresse chicken likes to have open space and, if possible, pasture to forage and roam. This produces a happy contented bird.

Can Bresse eat corn?

As a rule, they are pasture raised, limiting the amount of corn and grain they are fed until the last several months before processing when the amount of grains and dairy is increased to finishing age. Keep in mind that corn is very low protein with less than half as much protein as a layer feed or a meat bird feed, so if you feed straight corn, egg production and meat production will suffer.

Can Bresse tolerate heat? Cold?

In my experience they tolerate a range of temperatures. In the Pacific Northwest, temperatures often fluctuate from rain and snow to mild and hot.


The American and Canadian Bresse chicken is a true dual-purpose bird producing both a delicious finished bird and medium to large pale to light-brown eggs. They are tolerant of heat and cold and prefer to free-range whenever possible.

Though some sources say the Bresse is a shy, flighty bird, I find them to have a calm and curious nature. I conclude each of these beautiful white feathered, steel-blue legged birds is unique!

Want to learn more about raising chickens? This beginner’s guide to raising chickens (+pro tips) will help you ask yourself all the right questions, and it will also give you a realistic idea of what to expect as a chicken owner.

Curious about the other chicken breeds? Delve into a wealth of information on various chicken varieties by exploring our comprehensive list on “Encyclopedia of Chicken Breeds”.

Click here to visit our Amazon store, which includes lists of things chickens need, as well as our favorite chicken books!

Bresse Chickens in the backyard

2 thoughts on “Bresse Chickens: Dual-Purpose Chicken with a Prestigious History”

  1. Thank you for the article.! I purchased Breese chicks last year, but had to wait 11 months to get them due to the long waiting list. At $15 each plus shipping, I finally received them in November 2022. They are laying age now, and the eggs are pretty small. One of the roosters are aggressive, and it seems like they actually prefer to stay in the coop rather than forage… What gives?? Some of them have the blue legs and some don’t. One of them is a greyish brown color. And much smaller than I anticipated. I got them from a hatchery in Mississippi stating they where the original French bread and not American bresse. Kind of wondering about their genetics at this point because everything they are doing seems contrary to how they are meant to behave. But I may try another hatchery. So my question is… Since I have not raised a heritage breed before, how do I know when they’ve gone broody? And how often do they do that? Will they still do that if we collect the eggs everyday? Or should I leave some ? Any help would be so appreciated!!
    Sincerely, Cindy

    • Hi Cindy!
      I’m sorry the birds you received were not what you were expecting. Instead of ordering from another hatchery, you may want to see if you can find a breeder to purchase from. They will likely cost a bit more, but if you can find someone breeding toward the breed standard, you will be much happier with what you get. With the exception of a very few larger scale hatcheries, they do not cull for improvement of breed characteristics, so you can end up with undesirable traits.
      If you want to encourage broody behavior, you can purchase some fake eggs to leave in the nest, or you can visibly mark a few real ones, so you can continue to collect fresh eggs.
      Unfortunately, there really isn’t much more that you can do to encourage it. Even though some breeds are better known for broody behavior, some birds are very prone to going broody, while others never do.
      You will know a bird has gone broody by its behavior. They will stay on the eggs ALL the time, only getting off once or twice a day very briefly to quickly eat and relieve themselves. The hen will also likely pluck feathers from beneath her body to have better contact with the eggs. Some birds become a bit aggressive and will peck your hand if you attempt to reach beneath them, while others will vocalize sounding similar to a cooing dove.


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