In the early 1900’s, Dr. John E Wilkinson of Alberta Canada was appalled by economic losses encountered by poultrymen due to the freezing of the combs (on the head) and wattles (under the chins) of chickens in the winter. He decided to create a breed of chicken that could withstand the harsh cold of the Canadian prairie winters, would be a good winter layer of eggs, and still have a good carcass for the table. He also wanted a bird that had camouflage to hide from predators.
Dr Wilkinson developed a bird called the “Albertan” (for the Alberta, Canada region they were created in). In 1935, his “Albertans” were accepted into the American Poultry Association (APA) Standard of Perfection as a color variety of "Chantecler" because of their similarity to a white bird created by Brother Wilfred, a Trappist monk on the eastern side of Canada a few years earlier. Many claim Dr Wilkinson was "devastated" by this news but a 1935 Canadian Poultryman article by Dr Wilkinson himself tells a different story.
Dr Wilkinson died shortly after the Partridge Chantecler was accepted into the APA. World War II started and was devastating to the exhibition poultry. About this same time, a new industrial way of quickly and economically producing livestock for food was devised that relied on separate large factory farms to produce poultry, livestock and eggs and the dual purpose farm livestock of old was replaced by poultry genetics selected purely on the ability to create the most meat or eggs in the smallest space, on the least inputs in the least amount of time.
The Partridge Chantecler is a “composite” breed of poultry where Dr Wilkinson used several different “foundation” breeds in its formation and then selective breeding was done to refine the form and function. Our job as breeders today is to return to Chantecler to the historical form and function desired by their creators and outlines in the APA Standard of Perfection.
Today, there is a resurgence of homesteads, small farms and backyard poultry enthusiasts that desire to raise beautiful old fashioned authentic heritage birds that will provide them with a balance of egg production and meat for the table all in one breed. The problem is that the utility value of these old breeds has been neglected and many are in danger of being lost once again.
Keep in mind, the Chantecler is uniquely suited for regions with cold winters because of the small comb and wattles that are less likely to become frostbitten - which would lead to less eggs or loss of weight or condition. They do NOT thrive in heat or hot climates - it is not where they are meant to live.
“Critical” conservation status by The Livestock Conservancy upgraded to "Watch" in 2016 due to the efforts of dedicated breeders.
- Created in Canada in the early 1900’s to combat frostbite losses
- Dual purpose –both meat and egg production
- Cold hardy - small comb/wattles along with abundant feathering for warmth
- Alert, energetic and active - good forager
- Well fleshed breast and plump thighs on the table
- Slow growing - 16+ weeks to processing
- Rooster weight 8 ½ lbs +, Hen weight 6 ½ lbs +
- Laying maturity 6-8 months of age
- Light to medium brown eggs – medium to extra large size
- Good winter layer - year-round average of 3-4 eggs per week
- Faithful sitters and mothers – are good “broody” hens