The Chantecler chicken is the first ever chicken to be bred in Canada. It’s a dual-purpose breed designed not only to produce high-quality eggs and meat, but also to withstand the cold climatic conditions of Canada. All this made the Chantecler chicken incredibly well-loved.
Sadly, the Chantecler chicken is a species that is so close to being endangered today. Luckily, chicken farmers who have grown to love this breed are working hard to preserve it throughout the years.
Want to do your part in saving this chicken? Well, the first step is knowing all about this breed to see if it can be a good fit in your farm. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the beloved Chantecler chicken, from its personality traits to its Canadian heritage.
History and Origins of the Chantecler Chicken
The Chantecler chicken was first bred by Brother Wilfrid Chatelain. He was one of the monks of the Cistercian Abbey Notre-Dame du Lac in the small village of Oka, Quebec in the early 1900s.
He noticed that there was a gap in the chicken breeds in Canada at the time. Many birds made for excellent egg layers and broiler chickens, but none of them could withstand Canada’s notoriously cold weather.
Although Brother Wilfrid Chatelain bred this chicken in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until 1918 that the public got its first glimpse of the Chantecler chicken. In 1921, it was recognized by the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection. Today, it is considered a heritage breed.
The Chantecler was originally only of a white-colored variety. But in the 1930s, a Dr. Wilkinson from Alberta crossed it with brown-colored chickens like the Partridge Cochin and the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn to create the Partridge Chantecler.
For many decades, the Chantecler served Canada and produced high-quality eggs and meat day in and day out. But in the late 1970s, the Chantecler was declared extinct. Despite this, it was discovered that some small farms were still breeding this chicken, thereby saving it from extinction.
Today, the breed is still alive and kicking. However, it is listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy watch list. It is a rare breed that is hard to find even in its native Canada. But if you want an intensely cold-hardy chicken, the Chantecler chicken is worth the hunt.
What do Chantecler Chickens Look Like?
Today, you can find Chantecler chickens in their two original color varieties—pure white and Partridge brown. They’re blessed with a thick plumage that makes them look fluffy and large.
Both varieties of the Chantecler have yellow beaks and legs, reddish eyes, and even redder combs and wattles. The comb looks like a small round button sitting on the chicken’s head.
Many chickens don’t survive harsh winters because their huge combs and wattles are prone to freezing. The combs and wattles of the Chantecler don’t have this problem. They’re so tiny that they can survive the cold weather Canada is known for without the worry of frostbite.
Over the decades, Chanteclers have developed wattles that grow smaller and smaller with each generation. This is a distinct physical attribute that sets apart older Chanteclers from younger ones that you can find today.
Their combs and wattles are so small and their feathers are so tightly bound to their bodies that grooming and trimming are rarely needed. That makes this chicken breed very low-maintenance and easy to care for physically.
Chantecler Chickens are Famously Cold-Hardy
Hens of other chicken breeds are known to halt egg-laying in the fall and winter. This is because the cold weather signals their body to rest and produce more body heat to protect themselves. While this is a natural part of a chicken’s life, egg production on a farm usually suffers.
However, this is never an issue with Chantecler chickens. This breed was designed specifically to withstand the harsh Canadian winters, so they’re extremely cold-hardy. They continue laying high-quality eggs all winter and are still active when the environment is cold.
Needless to say, this chicken breed is perfect for your farm if you live in cold climates, whether it’s in Canada or other Northern states in America.
If you are looking for chickens that will give you continuous production even during the winter months, the Chantecler is also perfect for you. They won’t let you down and will continue to be amazing farm workers even during the chilly months.
Want to see the Chantecler Chicken in action during the cold? Check out how this breed fares in this Northern Ontario homestead through this video:
Poultry Products You Can Get from This Breed
The Chantecler is a dual-purpose chicken. That means it excels at both laying high-quality farm fresh eggs and being butchered for delicious chicken meat. Let’s take a closer look at each of these poultry products the Chantecler can provide:
Large brown eggs
Chantecler hens have a relatively large frame, making it easier for them to lay many eggs. Because Chantecler chickens lay eggs all year, they can produce over 200 eggs annually. These eggs are large and have a brown egg color.
Because this breed is cold-hardy, a Chantecler hen is always a good winter layer. Even in the harshest, chilliest weather, you can still expect your females to give you an egg each day.
More mature Chantecler hens tend to go broody. They’ll sometimes feel a strong urge to incubate their eggs, so they’ll sit on their eggs and refuse to leave their babies, waiting for them to hatch.
Big, juicy chicken meat
Chantecler chickens are large and have full breasts, making them a dream for meat production. They can be butchered as early as six months old, and you’ll still get lots of yield because of their fleshy bodies.
Don’t forget to allow them to free-range and forage for natural proteins on the farm. This makes their meat more flavorful and juicier!
Personality Traits of the Chantecler Chicken
Of course, while Chantecler chickens are amazing functional chickens on the farm, they have personalities, too. Here are distinct traits that make them the well-loved Canadian chickens they are:
1. Loves attention from humans
While other chickens are flighty and hate being touched, Chantecler chickens love being around their human owners. They like to be held and don’t push back when you try to handle them. If they like you, they might even follow you around as you walk through the farm.
2. Calm and gentle creatures
Chanteclers are also known to be extremely calm and gentle. They’re easygoing and get along with each other and other breeds just fine. That means you don’t have to stress about any fights breaking out in the coops.
Because they have such a docile, easy-to-work-with personality, Chanteclers are a fantastic choice for first-time chicken owners.
3. Don’t like to be confined all the time
Although Chantecler chickens are calm and easygoing most of the time, they do have certain triggers that will make them feel restless. One of these is being confined in a single space for long periods.
Chanteclers love to roam around freely on the open farm. Make sure you carve out enough time each day for them to explore the farm on their own outside their stuffy coops. They have a rustic temperament that makes them love being in the outdoors.
Free-range Chantecler chickens also get the chance to forage for their own meats. Animal meats like insects, worms, bugs, frogs, and mice are great natural sources of protein for them.
4. Will stand up for themselves
Although Chantecler chickens are docile and friendly in nature, they aren’t pushovers. If another chicken will be aggressive towards them, they might fight back. They won’t back down from a challenge and are stubborn about it if another chicken provokes them first.
The Chantecler chicken is something special not just for Canadians, but for chicken lovers in all of the Americas.
But mostly, they make for excellent pets on any farm because of their friendly, gentle personality and low-maintenance grooming requirements.
If you’re looking for a chicken breed to add to your flock, give the Chantecler chicken a go. Not only will you be saving a chicken breed that is currently on the watch list, but you’ll get all the benefits this production-efficient, winter-hardy bird has to offer.