Known primarily as a cottager’s fowl, the Scots Grey is revered for its hardiness and ability to thrive in any climatic conditions. They lay a large egg for the size of bird and the chicks grow well and mature quickly – a distinct advantage in the short northern summers. Most poultry books class the Scots Grey as a non sitter; being a light breed. But they occasionally do. When so, they will make a good mother if left relatively undisturbed, and will look after the chicks assiduously, teaching them all the free and far ranging habits of their ancestors, their long legs no doubt benefiting their passage through the tussocky grass or heather around the homestead.
About the only fact the Victorian poultry books agree on is that the Scots Grey is a very old breed, going back to the sixteenth century. Over a long period of time the Scots Grey has been known by many names in different districts including: Chick Marley, Shepherds Plaid, Chickmalins, Mauds, Greylings, and Greylocks and were mostly kept by Cottagers and farmer’s wives. This variety of naming made for great difficulties in the tracing of its precise history. The Scots Grey is of great antiquity and little is know of its exact origins, although leading poultry historians are inclined to support the idea that the breed is a refinement from the Scottish native fowl, which was to be found on farms. A book published in 1862, dealing with poultry on the farm makes it clear that the breed was quite popular (The Henwife by Mrs Fergussson Blair).Harrison Weir traveled to Dumfriesshire regularly between 1862 – 1864 and studied in depth the local poultry. The fowl kept in the area he traveled were the old sort, square and plump, and short in thigh and medium in shank. They had single combs, relatively large heads, ear lobes white to light pink, shanks and beak white, and an upright carriage.The overall colour was a cuckoo grey, with a large and full tail of the cocks a dark or mottled black and white. Sometimes there other colours mixed in such as straw and, occasionally, red. The hens had a brown colour on the body, or a grey- brown, with darker hackles.
These birds, he noted almost 50 years on, are what became known as ” Scotch Greys” – now known as Scots Greys. They were modified and looked more Gamey. Possibly there had been a cross with Old English Game or an Asian breed. He felt quite positive from his knowledge and experience of the Dorking with its five toes, that they had never been crossed with the Scots Grey.In 1902 Lewis Wright commented on the utility value of this breed in his book ‘ The New Book of Poultry’, saying”…we have often wondered it has not been more popular in England. “He describes its appearance as ‘sprightly’ and having something of the Old English Game style about it. At that time he reported the breed was making good progress both on the Continent and in the USA.