CHERRY CREEK CANADIANS
Having helped to do our part with the conservation of the Canadian Horse, it was time to turn our attention to another little known, and rapidly disappearing Canadian developed breed – the Chantecler chicken. This breed remains quite rare, with only about a 1000 birds in existence, all being maintained only by small farms with an interest in the preservation of heritage breeds.
Just as with the Canadian Horse, both types (white and Partridge) of this rare poultry breed were also developed in Canada and thus are uniquely adapted to our climatic conditions.
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.
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 Chantecler chicken is noted as having critical status by the American Livestock Conservancy as well as by the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, and endangered by Rare Breeds Canada.
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 distinct breeds, and accordingly must be maintained separately to ensure they remain as such!
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!
Back to the Cherry Creek Chantecler chicken saga...
Yvonne's idea to keep chickens was NOT met by enthusiasm by Jim who for years always swore “there will never be a chicken on this place as long as I am here”! After some persuasion, he was finally convinced that we would be doing our part to help conserve a rare breed, in addition to producing our own home raised, organic chickens and eggs. He finally relented, so it was time to start finding our chickens. Not an easy task as it turned out!
Finding these chickens anywhere in western Canada proved to be an impossible task. Since the majority of White Chanteclers still remain in QC today, that is ultimately where we decided to obtain our stock from. So, while in QC at the 2005 Canadian Horse Association AGM, I managed to obtain some fertilized Chantecler chicken eggs. I was able to get these from a variety of sources: all of the Partridge eggs and some of the White ones coming from Eric Rivard of Preservation Poultry in Granby QC. The rest of our White eggs came from our Canadian Horse friends in QC who also happened to have Chanteclers as well.
Bringing these eggs back home to BC also proved to be quite the adventure! Since I had flown to QC, I had to bring them back to Kamloops with in a carry on bag on the plane (luckily this was prior to the airline regulations regarding carrying on liquids on the plane). Talking my way through airport security in QC was an adventure to say the least! Picture me (with my almost non-existent French skills) trying to convince the French speaking security staff that they could NOT xray my eggs as it would damage them. I was clutching my bag of eggs and they were tugging on it too. I am sure they thought I was some sort of lunatic! Once they figured out that I was bringing Quebec's heritage chicken breed all the way back to BC, they became very obliging. In the end, they didn’t xray them and agreed to only hand check them. As I was leaving with my bag of eggs safely in my grasp, they flapped their arms up and down while “cheeping” aloud, congratulated me on becoming an “eleveur de poulet Chantecler”, and I was on my way.
After borrowing an incubator from a friend, we managed to hatch a good number of the eggs out, ending up with a small flock of 4 white hens/2 roosters, and 10 partridge hens/2 roosters. Needless to say, this was great fun. We learned how to candle the eggs, and got to follow all the various stages of development. Once those cute little balls of fluff emerged, we were both hooked! Needless to say, Jim the previously “confirmed chicken hater” is now completely enthralled with his flock of “girls”, and can hardly wait to go out each day to see how many eggs they have left for him.
We can definitely attest to the accuracy of the comment found on the ALBC site: “The breed is noted for being calm, gentle, and personable” as this certainly describes all the members of our little flock, to a “T”.
Currently, we still only have small quality flocks of both the white and partridge varieties. We continually strive to improve our flock with respect to color, comb, egg production, and body size. We don't have plans to ever become a large scale breeder, preferring to focus on breeding small numbers of very high quality birds instead.
Rather than my “re-inventing the wheel” and rewriting the history of this unique bird, I have asked the permission of the following authors to reprint their excellent articles on the following Chantecler History page. Hope you enjoy reading and learning more about another one of our uniquely Canadian breeds!
UPDATE As of May 2012, due to the time, expense, rising costs, and many government hassles associated with having and running a small farm, we have gone out of the business of raising and selling heritage poultry. We are now completely sold out of our adult Chantecler hens, chicks and hatching eggs. All we have left now are a couple young white Chantecler roosters for sale (as of Feb 2013). These birds are for farm pick up only. Sorry, we do not ship any of our birds. Thank your for your interest in, and patronage of our heritage poultry over the years!
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Updated February 3, 2013
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