Believing in and Preserving the WHITE Chantecler – The original Canadian Heritage Breed bred for Cold Weather Production

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When I started researching endangered heritage chicken breeds prior to retirement, I settled on the Canadian White Chantecler.  A Breed developed by Brother Wilfred Chantelain, a Trappist monk and Doctor of Agronomy at the Oka Agricultural Institution, an agricultural school at his abbey which is affiliated with the University of Montreal.

In 1907, the Brother set out to  create a practical chicken that would be suited to Canada’s climate and production needs -working at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka.

This marvelous breed nearly disappeared in the late 70s. Fortunately there were small numbers (less than 2000) still being maintained by a few small farms. In the 21st century, the breed persists, but is listed as Critical by The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Once I had made my decision to work in retirement, preserving, breeding and promoting the WHITE Chantecler, the search began.


Photo courtesy of Gina Bisco.

Finally, one day, after searching and sending e-mail inquires hither and yon, I was referred to Gina Bisco in Central New York State. After three years of extremely educational communication with Gina, I acquired six hens and a rooster.

young bisco pullets

Young Bisco Pullets

Then the search for some Canadian birds. This was a more difficult endeavor and then I saw a posting from Greg Oakes stating that he would bring prepaid trios across the border to the Poultry Show in Michigan. Greg had three lines and I bought a trio from each line and then added two extra cocks while at the Poultry Show to pick up my trios.

Canadian birds

Canadian Chanteclers arrive at Fayrehale

My original intention to maintain separate pens and combine various lines was altered w/ a predator attack that took some but not all birds from each line.

Thus the combined flock that gives me the BEST Genetics in the Country!

The alarming discovery today that crossbred birds have come into Vermont resulted in a warning on my Fayrehale Chantecler page.

I also decided to write about my breeding philosophy. The Chantecler is a dual purpose heritage bird. I am interested in breeding and working on restoring the Chantecler to its original status as a good eating carcass and a good laying chicken (200 plus eggs a year).

I believe this can be accomplished by selective breeding within the breed WITHOUT crossbreeding to other breeds including the Partridge and Buff Albertans — Canadian breeds the the American Poultry Association arbitrarily classified as “Chantecler” as if any Canadian chicken was a “Chantecler”!  This abomination has caused some people, inattentive to history, to think it is all one breed.  It is not. The so called Partridge and Buff Chanteclers are in fact very separate breeds (Albertan) from the Chantecler.  The APA’s arbitrary classification does not in any way change that historical fact!  The other breeds should never be crossed with the White and original/real Chantecler!  NEVER!

The Partridge Chantecler was developed approximately 30 years after the White Chantecler, by Dr J E Wilkinson of Edmonton AB.  Just as Brother Wilfrid made a series of crosses to come up with his “ideal”, so did Dr Wilkinson.  Ultimately he came up with a bird that he called the “Albertan”.  It is important to note that they actually had nothing at all to do with Brother Wilfrid’s White Chanteclers and that they were essentially completely different breeds.  However when Dr Wilkinson submitted his “Partridge Albertan” birds for recognition by the American Poultry Association, they did accept them but then rather arbitrarily renamed them as a Partridge Chantecler, much to his huge disappointment!

My first step, because I have such a good gene pool, has been to sell chicks and fertile eggs all over the country. From one coast to the other and up in to Alaska.  These small flocks (12-60 birds) help disseminate this great heritage breed that nearly disappeared. The new flock owners get excellent birds. Good if they just want a heritage flock for the family and excellent if they want a gene pool to use for selective breeding as they work for body size and egg laying rate.  It should be noted that my Bisco line hens have better bodies than my original Canadian hens. These genes are in the pool.

Second step, will be (and has started) breeding to increase carcass size.

Third step, will be to invest in a trap nest and record egg laying rates per hen and hatch from the heaviest laying birds.

Currently I am communicating with a couple breeders in Quebec and working to bring some of this old Canadian blood, that has not strayed far from the original flock, over the border to add to my program.

This takes time and it should!  The answer is not to cross breed.  I can not stress this enough. The Chantecler deserves to be preserved without bastardizing!

So as I continue being dedicated to preserving, breeding and promoting the WHITE Chantecler, I ask you all to be very sure that your Chantecler stock is coming from someone who understands the history of this great Canadian breed and is seriously committed to preserving the Original Chantecler without corruption!

Chantecler Cock_n

Mature pair in the “grow pen”

I invite you all to join with me in this significant endeavor.  Where ever you acquire your breeding stock,  please be sure it is not corrupted.

New site on Facebook! The Original White Chantecler / Le Chantecler blanc original

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5 Responses to Believing in and Preserving the WHITE Chantecler – The original Canadian Heritage Breed bred for Cold Weather Production

  1. Mary Carmen May 25, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    I would like to add to my flock next spring, would love to add these beautiful birds, just not a rooster:)

    • James Trundy Verrill May 25, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      We can work that out Mary.

  2. Jeff Marchand May 25, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Thank you for working to preserve this unique Canadian breed. I grew up in Como, Quebec, just across the Lake of Two Mountains (really just a widening of the Ottawa River) from the Oka Monastery where the Chanteclaires were developed. One of my fondest memories of my teenage years was when I’d go fishing early in the morning and you could hear the monks chanting their morning prayers. Very beautiful and peaceful.

    I still live withing a 35 minute drive of Oka and I am building a 8×8 portable chicken coop and I would like to start a small flock of Chanteclaires next spring. Can you share with me your Canadian breeder’s contact info. It would be so much easier buying on this side of the border!

    Thank you and good luck.


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