Having helped to do our part with the conservation of the Canadian Horse, in 2005 we decided that it was time to turn our attention to another little known, and rapidly disappearing Canadian developed breed – the Chantecler chicken.
Finding these chickens anywhere in western Canada proved to be impossible. Since the majority of White Chanteclers were located in QC, we decided to obtain our stock from there. So in 2005, while in QC for our Canadian Horse AGM 2005, we were able to source some white and partridge Chantecler hatching eggs from a variety of sources. We hatched these very first eggs out with remarkable success and went on to become the very first breeder of both white and partridge Chanteclers in western Canada.
Today, this type of chicken continues to be quite rare, with them being maintained in small numbers on farms with an interest in rare breed preservation. They previously could only be found in Canada, however over the past 5 or so years, interest in them in the US has steadily increased so they can be found there as well.
Just as with the Canadian Horse, both types (white and Partridge) of this rare poultry variety were also developed in Canada, and thus are uniquely adapted to harsh Canadian climatic conditions.
White Chantecler - ideal shape
The original Chantecler, white in color, was created in the early 1900’s by a monk named Brother Wilfrid, who lived in Oka QC. He made the realization that there was no Canadian breed of chicken and decided to remedy this. He critically reviewed other chicken breeds available at that time and noted in which aspects that they were superior in, and which they were inferior, and basically came up with all of the characteristics of his "ideal". He then took the next decade to make a whole series of systematic crosses, eventually coming up with his "ideal" - the White Chantecler.
For more info on Brother Wilfrid and the White Chantecler, see articles below.
This unique and very attractive dual purpose chicken breed, declared a “heritage” breed of QC by their parliament, is little known by the rest of Canada.
The Partridge Chantecler was developed approximately 30 years after the White Chantecler, by Dr J E Wilkinson of Edmonton AB. Just as Brother Wilfrid made a series of crosses to come up with his "ideal", so did Dr Wilkinson. Ultimately he came up with a bird that he called the "Albertan". It is important to note that they actually had nothing at all to do with Brother Wilfrid's White Chanteclers and that they were essentially completely different breeds. However when Dr Wilkinson submitted his "Partridge Albertan" birds for recognition by the American Poultry Association, they did accept them but then rather arbitrarily renamed them as a Partridge Chantecler, much to his huge disappointment!
It is important to note that even though they carry the same name, the Partridge Chantecler and the White Chantecler are in effect, separate and very distinct types, having been developed on completely opposite sides of the country and by very different strategies. Accordingly if both are kept, they should be maintained separately to ensure they remain as such.
History of the White Chantecler
by Wayne Smith (text used with permission)
The Chantecler has the most unique beginnings of any of our present fowl. The exact development of most breeds of poultry is either not known, or the exact method of their development blurred by time and circumstance. Some breeds just seemed to happen as a the result of the efforts of many people trying to improve the production qualities of the birds on their farm. Eventually these breeds gained recognition from poultry men and standards were developed.
In August of 1907 at a French speaking agricultural college in Oka, Quebec, Canada a humble Cistercian monk, Brother Wilfred Chatalain, had a visit from his father. Brother Wilfred, having been in charge of the poultry section of the college for several years, took his father on a tour of the flocks. He showed him the many breeds of chickens that were kept by the collage at that time. After observing the Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and several other breeds the elder Chatalain said; " This is all very well, but the Canadian breed-where is it?"
As a result of his fathers question Brother Wilfred decided to create a unique Canadian breed.
White Chantecler hen - photo compliments of Ferme Lescault
The Chantecler was indeed a unique bird. From it's inception it was designed to fit into the Canadian climate and at the same time to have good production qualities. To avoid freezing the comb had to be small with proportionately small wattles. White plumage would cover a body abundant in meat and able to lay eggs in abundance during the cold Canadian winters. Characteristics of purely fancy character where to be avoided so that production qualities could be concentrated on.
In 1908 having first fixed the image of the bird he wished to create in his mind, the creation of the Canadian hen was begun with the crossing of a Dark Cornish rooster and a White Leghorn hen in one flock and the crossing of a Rhode Island Red cock and a White Wyandotte hen in another flock. Plymouth Rock blood was added in later breedings.
In 1918 the war in Europe ended and in Canada "The Association of the Canadian Hen Chantecler" was formed. The members of this association were the only people allowed to breed this new chicken and they were controlled by some very stringent rules. 1) Members could not sell, lease, lend, give or exchange any live birds or hatching eggs to anyone not a member of the association. 2) Each member was required, on request, to give the directors of the association a complete list of all their birds with as far as possible a detailed description of each bird. 3) Each breeder was required to bring or send all his birds in their first year to an annual meeting. Here judges appointed by the association directors would examine the birds. Birds deemed unfit for breeding were killed and the money paid to the owner of the bird. 4) The breeder must keep for breeding only the birds approaching standard type and breed only Chantecler.
In 1919 a registration system was started. A sealed leg band bearing the initials of the association was placed on the leg of each bird conforming to the standard. One can see how it was possible to bring the Chantecler from non-existence in 1908 to acceptance in the APA's "Standard of Perfection" in 1921 a mere 13 years.
Although, around 1979, some individuals thought this marvellous breed to be extinct this belief was based on research done at the hatchery level. The small farm and back yard breeders in Quebec and Ontario were not consulted and therefore their birds were overlooked.
It is my opinion that the original Oka strain exists to day, along with a strain that was recreated from Brother Wilfred's writings.
According to Rare Breeds Canada's figures for the year 2003 there are between 1750 and 2250 Chanteclers worldwide. Most of the population outside of Canada is in the United States. The current Canadian population is estimated at between 1000 and 1500 with most of the birds Quebec and Ontario. As the figures show more breeders are needed if this breeds genetic diversity is to be maintained.
Copyright 2001 - Wayne Smith. Reprinted with the Author's permission.
It originally appeared on his website: http://jubileeacres.fateback.com/chanteclerbywayne.html however his website no longer appears to be active.
About the author: Wayne Smith is a hobby farmer in South Western Ontario Canada. He got his start in poultry from his father in law Kenneth LeNeve around 1962. Wayne has authored several articles about poultry and related subjects.
Chantecler Chicken History
by Hans L. Schippers (text used with permission)
The Chantecler is the national poultry breed of Canada. A Trappist monk by the name of M. Wilfred Chatelaine (1876-1963) created the breed. His goal was to compose a dual-purpose breed with good meat and egg production qualities. He also succeeded in breeding them with little combs and wattles to suit the colder Canadian climate.
Brother Wilfrid and his Chanteclers at Oka
Around 1910 an Indian Gamecock was crossed with a white Leghorn hen and a Rhode Island Red cock was crossed with a white Wyandotte hen. The hens from the first crossing were then mated to a cock of the second crossing. From those crossings, hens were selected on egg and meat qualities and they were paired to a white Plymouth Rock cock. From the following generations, only the best white dual-purpose birds were selected and those were hence known as Chanteclers.
The Oka Agricultural Institute in La Trappe, Quebec, Canada, first showed them and in 1921, they were officially recognized as a breed.
Later on the partridge variety was developed in Edmonton, which was recognised as a breed in 1935.
- The type is slightly elongated, bold and deep, sloping downwards to the tail.
- The Comb is small and compact and the wattles are very small and connected by a small dew-lap.
- The head is short and broad; the eyes are round, of medium size and red brown in colour. The face is bright red.
- The small, oval ear lobes are not pure white.
- The short, powerful, slightly curved beak is yellow in the white variety and dark horn-coloured in the partridge variety.
- The neck is of medium size and slightly curved and carries abundant plumage, which rests on the shoulders.
- The back is long and broad with profuse but close plumage.
- The tail is of medium length and is carried at an angle of around 30 degrees above horizontal.
- The broad deep, well-rounded breast is carried well forward.
- The yellow legs are placed well apart and the medium long and the yellow toes are well spread.
- A quiet dual-purpose bird with much breast and thigh meat.
- The chicks grow fast on a low food intake.
- The breed is very suitable for colder climates. They are very good layers, also in winter months, with an average egg production of 200 a year that weigh around 60 grams. The egg colour is pale brown.
- Apart from the utility qualities, it's exterior qualities makes it a beautiful show bird as well, therefore deserving more attention than it has been receiving so far.
- It is a friendly breed that is reliable towards it's fosterer.
- Weight: Depending on sex and age, they weigh around 2500 to 3850 grams [5-9lb].
Copyright 2000 by Hans L. Schippers - Holland.
This article was reprinted with the Author's permission.
A brief History of the Chantecler
(from Dec 2016 Issue of the Chantecler Fanciers newsletter)
The Chantecler breed was developed in the early 1900’s by Brother Wilfred Chatalain, a monk who resided and worked at the Oka Agricultural Institute in Quebec. He was in charge of the poultry yards there, and one day gave his visiting father a tour of the facilities. After viewing the various breeds housed at the Institute, his father remarked that there seemed to be no uniquely Canadian breed. That gave Wilfred the idea to create the first Canadian breed of chicken. He decided it would have all the traits necessary for superior winter laying ability and at the same time be a superior meat bird. He worked on his creation from 1908 until 1918 when the White Chantecler was released to the public. It was snow white in plumage with yellow skin and shanks, sported a small cushion comb and very small wattles, and was rugged enough to withstand harsh Canadian winters. The American Poultry association formally recognized the new breed in 1921. Meanwhile, Dr. J.E. Wilkinson of Alberta had begun work on a similar chicken in the late teens and early 1920's, but in various colored varieties. He petitioned the American Poultry Association for recognition of the Partridge Albertan in 1935, but the A.P.A. Standards Committee decided the Albertan's features were too similar to the White Chantecler's to be considered a different breed. To Dr. Wilkinson's initial disappointment, the APA recognized his creation as the Partridge Chantecler instead of Albertan. Similarly, buff, black, columbian and other varieties were worked on by Dr. Wilkinson and others, but they were never officially recognized. A Buff variety was developed by the late Walter Franklin in the United States in the early 1980s. Franklin used Buff Cornish, Buff Wyandottes and Buff Plymouth Rocks to develop this newest variety. Although this variety is perhaps the most widely distributed by commercial hatcheries, it is not yet recognized in the A.P.A. Standard of Perfection. Breeds that went into development of the original White Chantecler include the Dark Cornish, White Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, White Wyandotte, and White Plymouth Rock. Dr. Wilkinson developed the Partridge variety by crossing the Partridge Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Dark Cornish, and the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn. Today, the Chantecler is found in both large fowl and bantam sizes in the white, partridge, and buff varieties. A number of other varieties are in the process of being developed as well. For more information contact Chantecler Fanciers International. The CFI website may be accessed at http://www.Chantecler.club, or email the secretary at Chantecler7@gmail.com.