Nothing beats a hardy, low-maintenance breed when it comes to raising chickens. It is even better when harsh conditions do not compromise the chickens’ egg and meat production.
Thankfully, the Chantecler chicken breed checks all these boxes and has an alluring, pearly-white look to match. Read on to find out more about this remarkable chicken breed.
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Up until the 20th century, Canadian farmers only raised American and European-derived birds because there had been no chicken breeds native to Canada.
Brother Wilfrid Châtelain took note of this gap and took it upon himself to develop a hardy chicken breed that was adapted to Canada’s production needs and climate in 1907.
Initially, Chatelain crossed a variety of chicken breeds to create Chantecler’s white variant. These included:
- White Leghorns with dark Cornish chickens.
- White Wyandottes with Rhode Island Reds.
- White Plymouth Rocks with select pullets from the first two crosses.
The chicken breed was then introduced to the public by 1918 and was recognized by the American Poultry Association where it was accepted into the association’s Standard of Perfection by 1921.
At first, the intention was to develop a white color breed — white birds have clean carcasses, making them more sought after for commercial or large-scale meat production.
However, breeders developed a Partridge Chantecler variety in the 1930s by crossing
- Dark Cornish chickens
- Partridge Cochins
- Partridge Wyandottes
With Brown Leghorns with rose combs.
This produced a chicken variety better adapted for free-range conditions. The Partridge variety entered APA’s Standard of Perfection in 1935.
The Chantecler chicken breed also has a Buff variety developed in the 1950s but has not been recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Unfortunately, the breed’s extinction was publicized when the rooster thought to be the last of the breed died in 1979. Luckily, a few small-scale farmers still kept the chickens, which saved the breed from extinction.
The Chantecler chicken breed is known for its fluffy and tightly packed plumage that forms a tight shield against the chickens’ bodies, making them remarkably cold hardy.
These further enable the chickens to withstand the winter cold without the stress of dealing with frostbite.
Regardless of the variety you have, the chickens have reddish bay eyes, yellow flesh as well as yellow and clean shanks and toes.
The bills will, however, vary with White Chanteclers having yellow beaks and Partridge variety chickens having dark horn to yellow beaks.
The American Poultry Association classifies White and Partridge Chanteclers as large fowls where roosters weigh between 8 and 9 pounds and hens between 6 ½ and 7 ½ pounds.
Bantam varieties, on the other hand, weigh in at 34 ounces for the roosters and 30 ounces for the hens.
Dual-purpose chicken breeds don’t get better than Chanteclers. They are great egg producers but are even better meat producers, with roosters weighing up to 9 pounds and hens 8 pounds.
Keep in mind that the birds were developed to specifically have white plumage so they can have the clean carcasses required of meat-producing chickens.
Though primarily bred for meat production, Chantecler hens are commendable egg layers that average 220 eggs per year.
This means an average of four fairly large brown eggs each week.
If anything, they lay better during winter due to their high adaptability to cold weather.
Keep in mind, however, that the hens cannot lay eggs daily as it takes at least 22 to 24 hours to produce a single egg.
As we have already mentioned, White Chantecler chickens were specifically developed to be white for meat production purposes — to have yellow skin or clean carcasses that renders them ideal for table roasting.
Partridge Chanteclers are also not so different. This variant of the Chantecler chickens was developed to be more adapted to free-ranging conditions, which essentially improves the overall quality of the meat.
What’s more, both varieties are larger fowls with fleshy breasts that yield commendable amounts of meat.
Besides the originally developed White Chantecler, only the Partridge variant is recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Though both varieties were primarily bred for meat production, each is adapted for different conditions, hence the color difference.
As earlier mentioned, the breed also has a buff variety that is not yet accepted by the American Poultry Association.
Chantecler chickens are generally gentle and personable. This not only makes them a great addition to any backyard flock but also ideal pets for adults and children alike.
In addition to their easy-going nature, Chanteclers are quite intelligent and curious. As such, they are fascinated by their owners and humans in general and love their attention.
As a result, it is normal to see these birds following their owners and other friendly people around to be held and petted from time to time.
While Chanteclers avoid trouble, they are assertive enough to protect themselves without bullying other chickens in the flock.
Having been bred to withstand extreme cold and adapted for free-ranging conditions, Chanteclers are quite hardy birds.
Originally, White Chanteclers were bred to survive the harsh Canadian climate. As a result, they have tightly packed plumage to keep them warm during winter as well as small wattles and cushion combs to reduce the risk of frostbite.
These features render the breed extremely cold hardy. So much so that the hens’ egg production is not affected by cold weather.
Like many other chicken breeds, Chantecler hens get broody and are quite nurturing mothers.
Thankfully, the hens maintain a steady egg-laying track record annually as well as throughout their lives.
Diet and Nutrition
Needless to say, Chantecler chickens are great foragers, especially the Partridge variety.
That being said, all poultry breeds need high-quality chicken feed to supplement whatever they forage when roaming.
This means protein-packed pellets for Chantecler chicks to support growth as well as proteinaceous or carbonaceous feed concentrate for mature chickens.
Similarly, mature hens benefit from a calcium-rich diet to help with egg production and laying.
This supplemental feed can be offered in specific schedules or can be offered throughout the day in unlimited supplies.
Though hardy and well adapted to outdoor elements, Chantecler chickens require a spacious coop with raised perches to roost during the night.
Similarly, Chantecler hens also need nesting boxes where they can lay and sit on eggs should they go broody.
Since the hens are prolific egg layers, try to have at least one nesting box per hen in your Chantecler flock.
Since they do not tolerate confinement too well, a run is the most important part of Chantecler chickens’ housing.
As such, ensure that you have at least 10 square feet for each bird to roam freely in a run or enclosure to forage.
Remember that the more space to roam you can offer them, the happier your chickens will be.
Lastly, the birds like to stay away from trouble, and the Partridge variety is perfectly camouflaged. Chanteclers can be flighty when startled, hence the need to have enclosed runs.
This also helps keep predators away.
Common Health Issues
Robust and hardy birds don’t get better than the Chantecler chicken breed and for good reason.
Due to the harsh weather conditions in the breed’s native country, special care was taken to ensure they would remain vigorous and healthy.
As such, Chantecler chickens do not suffer from major genetic diseases and are quite low maintenance as far as disease goes.
That being said, you will have to keep an eye on the regular poultry mites, lice, and other parasites.
Chantecler Chicken Breed Fun Facts
- ‘Chanter’ is a French word meaning “to sing” while ‘Clair’ translates to “bright” in English. Combined, the breed’s name translates to ‘To sing brightly.’
- The Chantecler remains the only chicken breed developed by a Monastic order member.
- Though the Buff Chantecler has existed since the 1950s, it has not been recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Hardy birds don’t get better than the Chantecler chicken breed. And while it is quite rare, finding it means you have hit a jackpot, especially if you are looking for a breed that can thrive in a northern climate.
The best part is that the breed’s prolific egg and meat production and low-maintenance nature make the chicken worth your while.