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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   25 February [1869]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb. 25th

My dear Sir

With respect to Fowls, I shall be truly obliged if you can assist me on the following points.

Does the plumage of young birds when about 7 or 8 weeks old closely resemble that of the adults in

Cuckoo Dorkings (or other Cuckoo sub-breeds)

& Sebright Bantams

& Silver Laced Polish: with respect to these latter I want specially to know what is the character in colour of the topknot at 7 or 8 weeks old.—1

In Buff Cochins, the adult sexes are nearly alike or not very different, whilst in Partridge Cochins, the adults in your Poultry Book differ considerably; therefore I shd like to learn the character of the young. Could you aid me about Cochins? My cook2 doubts rather whether she could manage to remember & keep distinct so many as 5 lots of fowls; but if you could procure me eggs of Buff & Partridge Cochins, perhaps this would be the best plan. Also eggs of Pile Game, Golden Pencilled Hamburghs & Golden Spangled Polish: so that there will be 3 or 5 lots of eggs.— Golden Spangled Polish will be very interesting, in comparison with silver Polish, because I see in former that the topknot differs in colour in adult males & females; therefore I want much to know what is character of top-knot in chickens 7–8 weeks old.—

My Cook says she shall have hens ready in under a fortnight.— If eggs are sent by Rail, address them to “C. Darwin care of Down Postman, Bromley Kent”—or I could send carrier on any Thursday morning to Field Office.—3

You said you wd. ask Mr. Teebay what breed of sheep his estimate of sexes referred to. Will you further ask him what is colour of Black Hamburgh chickens about 7–8 old; he is such a splendid observer, he may perhaps remember.— His statement about the chickens of all 4 sub-breeds4

When shall you be able to send me the m.s. about sexes of cattle, dogs &c fowls, ducks &c.; not that I am in a hurry, for my subject has grown very large in my endeavour to trace sexual differences througout the animal kingdom.5

Forgive me for earnestly begging you to keep some memorandum of the time consumed in correspondence, personal enquiries &c &c &c for me; for it would greatly distress me to think that I had prevented your writing Reviews or Books, which would have been more profitable & more interesting to you. You will be able by keeping a memorandum to put some value on the time which you so very kindly give to me, & I shall then feel at ease & thoroughily grateful to you. In simple truth I shall otherwise feel great perplexity & discomfort.—6

With sincere thanks | Believe me, my dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


In Descent 1: 294–5, CD noted that young birds of breeds of fowl in which both sexes are similarly coloured resemble the adult from an early stage. He mentioned Cuckoo sub-breeds and the Sebright bantam and discussed the early appearance of the crest in Polish breeds. Tegetmeier was not cited for the information.
Margaret Evans.
A carrier service to and from London was operated every Thursday by George Snow, the village coal-dealer (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1866, Freeman 1978).
Richard Teebay’s article on different breeds of spangled Hamburgh chickens was published in The poultry book (Tegetmeier 1867, pp. 154–8). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 800–3). CD cited the article in Descent 1: 281. Teebay’s information on sexes of sheep has not been found.
See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 5 February [1869] and n. 2.
CD had earlier asked Tegetmeier to keep an account of the time spent working on the results of his questions on proportion of sexes (Correspondence vol. 16, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 15 February [1868] and n. 3).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.


Inquires about colour and development of plumage of poultry breeds. Is endeavouring to trace sexual differences throughout the animal kingdom.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6633,” accessed on 26 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17