The Partridge Chantecler Chicken
The Chantecler is the first chicken of Canadian origin. The white variety was admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1921 with the Partridge color admitted in 1935.
Created as a dual-purpose chicken valued for both meat production and egg laying abilities, the naturally small comb on the head and wattles under the chin allow this bird to withstand harsh winter conditions of Canada.
Noted for being a hardy layer of brown eggs, this calm, personable, slow growing bird possesses a long broad back, a well-rounded breast carried forward, yellow skin and legs, and can be harvested at a variety of ages to meet your culinary needs.
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Chantecler Quick Facts
- Conservation Status: “Critical” upgraded to "Watch" in 2016
- Use: Eggs, Meat
- Egg Color: Brown
- Egg Size: Large
- Temperament: Polite, gentle and personable. Prefer free-range environment
- Maternal Instincts: Faithful sitters and mothers
- Growth Rate: Slow growing - 16+ weeks to harvest, 6-8 months to lay
- Live weight: Male 8 ½ lbs +, Female 6 ½ lbs +
- Harvest weight: 3 ½ lbs - 7 ½ lbs
History of the Chantecler Chicken
In the early 1900’s, Dr. John E Wilkinson of Alberta Canada was appalled by economic losses encountered by poultrymen due to the freezing of the combs (on the head) and wattles (under the chins) of chickens in the winter. He decided to create a breed of chicken that could withstand the harsh cold of the Canadian prairie winters, would be a good winter layer of eggs, and still have a good carcass when harvested for the table. He also wanted a bird that had camouflage to hide from predators.
Accepted into American Poultry Association Standard Of Perfection
Dr Wilkinson called his creation “Albertan” (for the Alberta, Canada region they were created in). In 1935, his “Albertans” were accepted into the American Poultry Association (APA) Standard of Perfection as a color variety of "Chantecler" because of their similarity to a white bird created by Brother Wilfred, a Trappist monk on the eastern side of Canada a few years earlier. Many claim Dr Wilkinson was "devastated" by this news but the 1935 Canadian Poultryman article posted at the bottom of this page was written by Dr Wilkinson himself and tells a different story.
Origin of the Chantecler Name
Edmond Rostrand, who wrote the popular Cyrano de Bergerac, wrote a play in the early 1900's where the main character, Chantecler, believes his crowing causes the sun to rise. Earlier origins of the name come from Chanti-cler in medieval English or early French meaning to "sing clear". "Chanticler" has been a name used in fables for a rooster as far back as the middle of the 12th century.
WWII and the Decline of Exhibition Poultry
Dr Wilkinson died shortly after the Partridge Chantecler was accepted into the APA. World War II started and was devastating to the exhibition poultry. About this same time, a new industrial way of quickly and economically producing livestock for food was devised that relied on separate large factory farms to produce poultry, livestock and eggs and the dual purpose farm livestock of old was replaced by poultry genetics selected purely on the ability to create the most meat or eggs in the smallest space, on the least inputs in the least amount of time.
Return to Historical Form
The Partridge Chantecler is a “composite” breed of poultry where Dr Wilkinson used several different “foundation” breeds in its formation and then selective breeding was done to refine the form and function. Our job as breeders today is to return to Chantecler to the historical form and function desired by their creators and outlines in the APA Standard of Perfection.
Today, there is a resurgence of homesteads, small farms and backyard poultry enthusiasts that desire to raise beautiful old fashioned authentic heritage birds that will provide them with a balance of egg production and meat for the table all in one breed. The problem is that the utility value of these old breeds has been neglected and many are in danger of being lost once again.
Keep in mind, the Chantecler is uniquely suited for regions with cold winters because of the small comb and wattles that are less likely to become frostbitten - which would lead to less eggs or loss of weight or condition. They do NOT thrive in heat or hot climates - it is not where they are meant to live.
Canada Poultryman article by Partridge Chantecler Founder Dr John Wilkinson