When our little flock was first born in November 2009, one of the principal "pets" I wanted to have were some chickens. Now, my mom has been pestering us for years to get some chickens to "run freely around the property", though this did not sit well with Matt, who had visions of chicken poop squished between his toes while frolicking around on the lawn on a hot summer day. (You would understand this ridiculous visual if you knew my husband - never without work boots on, and too hard of a worker to take time to frolic anywhere!)
And then I came across the Chantecler breed of chicken, which is the only Canadian Heritage breed, and also a rare breed. While not miniature, it is rare, so seemed to meet my requirements of not raising any animals that would be readily available or which lots of people would have lots of knowledge about. Do I like marching to my own drum, or am I compelled to take the road less traveled cause that would ensure much more work? I don't know, though in the state of today's farming market, I think it is a requirement to pursue something out of sorts, not the norm.
CHANTECLER HERITAGE CHICKENS
The following is information pulled from the Wikipedia site:
"The Chantecler is a breed of chicken originating in Canada. The only native Canadian breed, the Chantecler was developed in the early 20th century, at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka, Quebec. It is extremely cold-resistant, and is suitable for both egg and meat production.
At the dawn of the 20th century, no breeds of chicken had been established in Canada, and Canadian farmers and poultry fanciers only had fowl of European and American derivation. This fact was noted by Brother Wilfred Chantelain, a Trappist monk and Doctor of Agronomy, as he toured the poultry flocks of the Oka Agricultural Institute, an agricultural school at his abbey which is affiliated with the Université de Montréal.
In 1907, the Brother set out to remedy this void and create a practical chicken that would be suited to Canada's climate and production needs. Working at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka, Chantelain first combined Dark Cornishes, White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, White Plymouth Rocks and White Wyandottes, creating the White variant of the Chantecler. It was admitted in to the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1921. By 1918, the breed was presented to the public. To this day, the Chantecler is the only breed of poultry from Canada, and the only one known to have been created primarily by a member of a monastic order.
So, my big plan is to get some Chantecler chicks in the spring of 2011, to keep some as layers, and raise the others for meat. The mass-produced "meat" of today has become so modified and industrialized that a chicken no longer tastes or looks like a chicken of 20 years ago. From the genetically modified food they are fed, which has had pesticides sprayed on it to make it grow bigger and faster, to the cramped barns with lack of sunlight in which commercial chickens are raised, to the fact that chickens have been genetically modified to contain more breast meat (as that is what "we Canadians want"), to the startling truth that when a chicken is ready to go to market, it can no longer walk because it has grown so much and so fast in such a short amount of time....it is time to step back, and turn the clock back a decade, or 3!
And to please myself (and my mom), we will be having the chickens running free-range out in the fenced yard. From all the reading I have done, it seems possible that miniature sheep, micro mini pigs, and one large Livestock Guard Dog named Bruce should all be able to live peacefully with some chickens. Though I do also know, that one can not believe all of what they read, so I guess this is just another thing I will have to prove to myself.
Type: Large Fowl & Bantam
Size: Heavy (7-8 lbs)
Recognized Varieties: White, Partridge
Egg Laying: Very Good (4/week)
Egg Color: Brown
Egg Size: Large
Comb Type: Pea Comb
Feathered Legs: No
Number of Toes: 4
Suitability to Backyard Life
Hardy In Winter: Yes
Bears Confinement: Bears confinement well
Especially Docile: No
Personality: Friendly, quiet, well-mannered
Other resources to check out to find more information about this breed of chicken are:
* Chanteclers at the Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation
* Chanteclers at mypetchicken.com
* Chantecler Chicken website from Canada at chanteclerchicken.com
* Chantecler Chicken at the American Liestock Breeds Conservatory
In June 2011 we got our little flock of Chanteclers and will be selling eggs and chicks, so be sure to send me an email if you are interested in information or chicks. We do maintain a waiting list for chicks.
A very interesting and informative episode of Marketplace on CBC aired in February 2011 about the antibiotic resistant strains of "bugs" in commercial chicken. Perhaps one more reason to eat chicken fresh off the free-range farm! To watch the episode, follow this link: CBC: SuperBugs
Won't this be nice - going out in the morning to gather eggs, do my chores, tend to the animals, harvest vegetables from the garden, cut some flowers from the flower beds to arrange in a vase I widdled from a fallen branch....okay, now we are getting very "granola". The scene is so far-fetched; I don't widdle!
The following chart is from My Pet Chicken and outlines the characteristics of this rare Canadian breed of bird:
At the outset, it was only intended for the breed to be white in color; white birds are preferred for commercial meat production in the West, as they produce a particularly clean-looking carcass. In the 1930s, the Partridge Chantecler was generated by crossing Partridge Wyandottes, Partridge Cochins, Dark Cornishes, and the rose comb type of Brown Leghorns to produce a chicken more adapted to free range conditions. This variant was admitted to the Standard in 1935. There has also been a Buff variety present since the 1950s, but it has never been admitted to show standards.
In 1979, the extinction of the Chantecler was publicized, with what was thought to be the last rooster of the breed dying at the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Animal and Poultry Science. However, despite the disappearance of the breed in institutional and commercial hatcheries, it was still maintained by a few small farms. In the 21st century, the breed persists, but is listed as Critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy."