Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chanteclers and Albertans

In an interesting turn of poultry history, two breeds developed separately for similar purposes were deemed so much alike that the American Poultry Association combined them into two color varieties of one breed. Here's the story:
Gina Bisco's Chantecler hens enjoy the snow in New York State.
The original Chanteclers developed by Br. Wilfrid were white. Dr. J.E. Wilkinson of Edmonton, Alberta developed his own partridge breed, which he called Albertans. He preferred the partridge color, for its camouflage on pasture, attractive appearance for exhibition and desirability when dressed out for the table. His inspiration came after viewing the damaged combs and wattles on birds at the 1914 Edmonton Poultry Show. He was determined to create a breed that wouldn’t be subject to freezing. “He figured if he could replace just ten percent of the less hardy breeds that had large single combs and wattles, it would represent a big value to the industry,” writes Greg Oakes of Oakesmuir Farm in Guelph, Ontario. Oakes has raised Chanteclers for 29 years, is a past chair for Rare Breeds Canada and is a director of Chantecler Fanciers International.

Mike Gilbert's bantam Partridge Cockerel took Best of Class at the 2013 National Meet
In 1919, Dr. Wilkinson began crossing Partridge Cochins, for their size and plumage, with Partridge Wyandottes, for egg laying and color. He bred their offspring to Dark Cornish, for size, constitution and table desirability. Rosecomb Brown Leghorns were later included. Reports in 1919 state that Orloffs, a popular breed at the time among Canadian farmers, were used. When Wilkerson applied for recognition in 1935, however, he cited the other breeds but omitted Orloffs.  

By 1921 he had birds he was ready to show. Albertans were shown across Canada, in the U.S. and in London, winning awards and praise. Chanteclers were shown in their own class. Albertans were shown in the Any Other Variety class as a distinct breed. However, when the American Poultry Association met in 1935 to consider accepting Albertans into the Standard, they recognized them as a partridge variety of Chanteclers rather than a separate breed. In an article Dr. Wilkinson wrote for the October 1935 issue of Canada Poultryman, “Canada’s Latest Addition to The Standard of Perfection,” he said he wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble to develop the breed if he had known what the APA would do.

“Wilkinson was not pleased with the APA,” said Oakes. “That was the end of the Albertan name.”

Jim Fegan's hen shows her attractive colors.
Wilkinson continued to show his birds, as Partridge Chanteclers. In 1983, a Canadian group formed to promote Albertans and persuade the APA to change Partridge Chanteclers’ name back to Albertans. It didn’t succeed.

Partridge was only one of the colors that resulted from Wilkinson’s efforts to create the Albertan. Crossing with other breeds soon created black, white, red, buff and Columbian color varieties. Buff was the second most popular color. Buff Albertans were first exhibited at Ottawa’s World Poultry Congress in 1927. William Clutterbuck of Hamilton, Ontario pursued a different route to a buff Canadian breed, crossing white Chanteclers with his Buff Plymouth Rocks. He promoted the result as Canadian Creams, a triple-purpose breed laying brown eggs, fast growing and maturing, starting to lay at 5 ½ months, and with the popular golden show color.

“He advertised them as a combination that is hard to beat for laying, weighing and paying,” said Oakes. “The advertisement implied that breeders could earn some gold with them”

In the U.S., Walter Franklin is credited with developing a large fowl Buff variety of Chantecler in the early 1980s from crosses of modern strains of Buff Cornish, Buff Wyandottes and Buff Plymouth Rocks. However, there are also reports of Buff Albertans being bred in Canada and brought to the U.S. as Buff Chanteclers. The buff variety is not yet recognized by the APA.  

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