Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wyandottes

Wyandottes are mentioned as early as 1873, but were not admitted to the APA Standard of Perfection until 1883, when the Silver Laced variety, represented by this rooster, whose photo graces the Wyandotte Breeders of America site, http://wyandottebreedersofamerica.com/wbaindex.html, was admitted. Their origins are variously reported as New York State and England, both of which are reflected in early references to them as American Sebrights and Sebright Cochins. The Silver Laced large fowl has the color and pattern of Sebright bantams.

They reflect their Asiatic ancestry in their yellow skin. Their eggs range in color from light to rich brown. Their rose combs with a downward curved spike are distinctive, probably inherited from their Spangled Hamburg forebears. Note the comb in this drawing, done by J.W. Ludlow for Lewis Wright's original Illustrated Book of Poultry. It was reproduced by Dr. J. Batty in Lewis Wright's Poultry, 1983.

The comb remains a significant point for breeders. Its small size close to the head makes it resistant to freezing, an advantage in cold climates. Dark and Light Brahmas gave them size and color pattern, although the Dark Brahma color markings are unacceptable in the breed now. All Wyandottes have rose combs regardless of feather color. They feather quickly as they grow. They are substantial birds, with mature males weighing 8 ½ lbs. and hens 6 ½ lbs.

In 1890, Lewis Wright wrote in the Illustrated Book of Poultry: “A breed like this has supplied a distinct gap in existing poultry classes, giving a large fowl with admirably useful qualities, combines with the beautiful laced marking, and a handsome shape.”

Wisconsin breeders developed Golden Laced Wyandottes from a Partridge Cochin/Brown Leghorn cross rooster and a Silver Laced Wyandotte hen. They were admitted to the Standard in 1888, along with the Whites. The White variety was selectively bred from sports that appeared spontaneously in Silver laced flocks. At first, the white sports were considered an embarrassment, an indication of lack of purity in the flock.

“Efforts were made to shield the fact until it became known that they would be advanced as a true variety of the Wyandotte family;” Mr. T.E. Orr writes in the 1912 edition of Harrison Weir’s Poultry Book. “Then many willingly acknowledged the presence of the White in their yards.” Orr is credited with starting his Wyandotte breeding operation in Pennsylvania two years before Wyandottes achieved APA recognition.

Orr was the breeder editors Willis Johnson and George Brown turned to when they were updating The Poultry Book to increase the information about the breed. They called Wyandottes “ …one of the most important breeds of fowls of American production. Indeed, they might be properly called our most popular breed, when all varieties are considered.” They noted that Weir originally dismissed Wyandottes in a brief, vague account, which they corrected by soliciting a more detailed account from Orr.

As Wyandottes gained popularity, their advocates developed Buff, Black, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Columbian and Blue varieties, which are now recognized. Fanciers raise Cuckoo, Barred, Buff Laced, Violet Laced, Red, Blue Laced Red, Buff Columbian and other unrecognized varieties.

The Columbian color pattern which now graces varieties of many breeds got its name from the Wyandottes exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the World’s Fair, in Chicago.

The poultry magazines dating to the early 20th century recently donated by Mrs. Louise Burr shows many highly competitive advertisements for Wyandottes. The back cover of the August 1910 copy of Commercial Poultry has four competing breeders offering White, Buff and Partridge Wyandottes, in Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

An excellent dual purpose breed for the small flock owner and exhibition poultry keeper. Beautiful and productive, with a whisper of mystery in its past. Consider Wyandottes for your flock.

1 comment:

Brooke Anderson said...

Hi Christine!

I just wanted to drop in a quick hello. I hope you and Gordon are doing well in beautiful Cambria. I was just looking at pictures that Logan and I took when we were there. So pretty!

Well take care of yourselves and hopefully we can see you at the end of the month.

Brooke