As the 2015 awards for poultry were handed out at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, one of the top prizes went to Canada’s own Chantecler chicken. Developed by monks in Quebec in 1918 to help farmers producing food in a cold climate, the breed fell out of favour after the Second World War. Thanks to the efforts of the Poultry Division at the Royal and loyal breed lovers like Elora’s Greg Oakes, the Chantecler was seen by thousands of visitors to the Fair this week.
“I like them because they are Canadian, they are a rare breed, and they should be a lot more popular,” Oakes said of his favourite chicken. He has about 50 birds on his farm.
“I raise them for conservation, but my family enjoys the meat and the eggs.”
The Chantecler was bred to survive in Canada which, said Oakes, makes them a perfect backyard breed.
“They can handle the cold and they will lay eggs at minus 30,” he explains. The roosters have very little comb and will not be bothered by frostbite. The feathers are dense (for insulation), and they are white, which appeals to anyone wanting the feathers. The breed is good for both meat and eggs.
A few years ago, Oakes introduced the Chantecler to the United States where it has been embraced by poultry fanciers. He now has a hatchery selling day-old chicks and he believes people in Toronto who want a backyard coop couldn’t go wrong if they choose the only Canadian chicken breed.
“In three more years this breed will be 100 years old,” Oakes said. So, a bird bred to be tough and resilient also has staying power and will likely still be winning ribbons at the Royal in 2018.