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Chanteclers of One Earth Farm

 

It’s just hard to top the chantecler for a dual purpose breed here in Wisconsin. This is a bird that peers at the top of a snow bank and wonders what’s on the other side. They relish pecking the snow from your boots when you enter the coop. In the midst of a blizzard on a subzero nights, they abhor the flashlight and all my worry. They range far and wide whether across snow pack or lush green pastures, yet they have such an affinity for humankind that they are just as likely to be found underfoot. They are beautiful and gentle while being incredibly low maintenance, they keep themselves fit, and man oh man do they put out – if only wearing the gold band of ‘animal husbandry’ was always this easy. This breed is listed on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s ‘critical list’ as a breed in severe danger of extinction, and I suspect that the only reason it is there is because it is so innocuous, so trouble-free, so easy on the eye that it asks nothing of us. And like the bride that asks for nothing and receives exactly that, the chantecler has lost out to the more voluptuous broilers and the high-maintenance show girls in the neighboring coops.

While the flock here at One Earth Farm has always had a chantecler or two in the mix, it was not until very recently that I decided to take on this breed as a bonafide project – both as a preservation project and a development project. In my quest to assemble a flock of chanteclers, I found very few flocks remaining and I discovered that truly good specimens of this breed are very difficult to locate. The chantecler hails from Quebec Canada, where they were developed by the monks of the Cistercian Abbey in the early 1900’s. With the intent of creating a dual purpose, rugged fowl that could withstand Canadian winters, the brothers interbred rhode island reds, cornish, wyandotte’s, leghorns, and plymouth rock. The result was a wonderfully calm and personable fowl that is hardy, productive, and beautiful. I blame my ego for me not bowing to the work of the Cistercian brother’s sooner. The chantecler is perfection.

Now, I have never been moved by white chickens, but if ever a breed could wear white it is this one. A flock of white chanteclers on a brisk winter’s day here in Wisconsin is no less lovely than a bed of green gladiolus holding their lusty green candles against the Wisconsin summer heat. If white chanteclers were ptarmigans - seasonally trading their stark winter plumage for the warm colors of summer – they’d be as green as the heart of any forest nymph come the first of June. Yup, I love them that much. The buff chanteclers are like golden rays of sunlight in any season. They dance the line between an intoxicating pilsner and a precious metal. In winter or in summer either variety is a welcome sight whether in the yard or the kitchen.

As with all of our poultry our selection is for birds that thrive in a free range environment. We use a ‘hands-on’ approach to body scoring to select for dual purpose attributes like egg laying and carcass quality. We select for disease resistance and longevity and in keeping with the original vision of the Cistercian monks, hardiness ranks as highly as productivity and type. If ever a breed epitomized the old adage ‘form follows function’ it is this one. Indeed, a good breeder of chanteclers will point to his hatchet when asked which poultry veterinarian he uses. It is in keeping with this breed’s rugged nature and mellow disposition that we select our breeding flock each year. And it is this selection - coupled with our ongoing melding of various lines - that we hope will help to reinstate this breed as a mainstay on American farms.

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“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” - Oscar Wilde

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