The Chantecler originated in the Quebec Province of Canada and is a fine example of a dual-purpose breed. Brother Wilfred Chatelain first thought of the idea for the Chantecler when he was walking through the Oka Agricultural Institute’s poultry flocks, in Quebec, and realized there was no breed of chicken from Canada; all of the breeds being used in Canada originated in Europe or America. He wanted to create a breed of chicken that could stand the harsh climate of Canada, and that could be used for both egg and meat production.
From the French ‘chanter,’ “to sing,” and ‘clair,’ “bright,” the Chantecler is the first Canadian breed of chicken. Under the supervision of Brother Chatelain, the monks of the Cistercian Abbey in Oka, Quebec, sought to create, “a fowl of vigorous and rustic temperament that could resist the climatic conditions of Canada, a general purpose fowl.” Although work began on this breed in 1908, it was not introduced to the public until 1918, and admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1921.
The Chantecler was created by first crossing a Dark Cornish male with a White Leghorn female, and a Rhode Island Red male with a White Wyandotte female. The following season pullets from the first cross were mated to a cockerel from the second cross. Then selected pullets from this last mating were mated to a White Plymouth Rock male, thus producing the fowl as seen today. Although this produced a pure White Chantecler, Dr. J. E. Wilkinson of Alberta, Canada, decided to create a similar chicken with a color pattern more suited to range conditions, one whose color pattern would blend with its background. He crossed the Partridge Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Dark Cornish, and the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn, to create the Partridge Chantecler. The Partridge Chantecler was admitted into Standard in 1935.
The breed is noted for having nearly no wattles and a small cushion comb – the comb appearing much like a small round button sitting low on the head. The small comb and wattles allow this breed to withstand the cold Canadian winters without worry of frostbite. Not surprisingly, the breed is noted for being very hardy, is an excellent layer of brown eggs with a reputation as a good winter layer, and has a well-fleshed breast. It is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a productive fowl that will excel in a wintry climate. The breed is also noted for being calm, gentle, and personable.
The Chantecler can still be found in both of its original colors, White and Partridge; both having yellow flesh and legs. Even though the APA classifies White and Partridge Chanteclers as variations of the same breed, they are seen by the poultry community as two separate breed populations.
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