by Christine Heinrichs and Don Schrider — Photographed by Lynn M. Stone
Buckeyes, from the “Buckeye State” of Ohio, are one of the most-endangered American breeds ofchicken. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio, developed the breed while seeking a cold-tolerant and active fowl that could withstand the cold Ohio winters.
|Lustrous red Buckeyes are very cold tolerant.|
She crossed a buff cochin rooster with a few barred Plymouth rock hens to create what she thought of as “a large, lazy fowl.” She introduced liveliness by adding some black-breasted red game roosters, and many of the chicks produced red feathers when they matured. This was significant because red fowl had not previously been seen in Ohio. By 1896, Metcalf was reliably producing chickens with the deep, lustrous red plumage that is the hallmark trait of the breed today.
The buckeye remains stocky like its game chicken ancestors, which makes it a good meat-producing bird. The game chicken background might account for the buckeye’s assertive nature – they are extremely confident around people. The buckeyes have solid, muscular thighs, and a broad, well-rounded breast.
“They are big enough to produce generous portions of meat, but are also pretty good layers,” says Craig Russell, president of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities in Owatonna, Minn. “It is a good dual-purpose breed, more than simply the meat bird that Metcalf tried to create.” Buckeye hens traditionally lay medium-sized, brown eggs.
Buckeyes can willingly adapt to a range of living conditions. Because they are so active, they do best when allowed to free-range and live where they have more room to roam. These chickens prefer to explore and to scratch the ground, so pen them away from your prized flower beds. Buckeyes are an excellent choice for climates with cold winters because their very small combs and wattles are not likely to be damaged by freezing temperatures.
While tending the flocks at the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac, in Quebec, brother Wilfred Chatelain realized that there were no chicken breeds of Canadian origin. Several American and English breeds were being used commercially in Canada, but no breed had been created that would flourish in Canada’s rigorous climate.
|The Chantecler lays more eggs
in the winter than other American
Brother Chatelain began experimenting in 1907, crossing White Leghorn, Dark Cornish, Rhode Island Red and White Wyandotte, later adding White Plymouth Rock. From his flock he chose good egg layers with very small combs and wattles that could produce sufficient meat. He named them White Chantecler. They were such a success that in the 1930s, J.E. Wilkinson of Alberta crossed Brown Leghorn, Dark Cornish, Partridge Cochin and Partridge Wyandotte to produce the Partridge Chantecler.
Chanteclers are one of the five most-endangered American breeds of chickens.
They are a calm, gentle and personable breed recognized for their excellent egg-laying ability. Having very small combs and wattles, they survive heavy winters well, says breeder Erin Traverse of Poultney, Vt. “Here in Vermont, where 30-degrees-below zero is common for days, even weeks at a time, frozen combs are unheard of on Chanteclers. Up along the Canadian border and points north, the winter laying ability of this breed is very much appreciated.”
Chantecler hens notoriously lay lots of brown eggs, even during winter in less sunlight. . Traverse believes his hens average 180 to 200 eggs a year. With 20 years of chef experience, he explains that he also finds the meat as delectable as the finest of Indian Games, Old English Games, Dorkings and Houdans.
Chantecler chickens may be the perfect chicken for you!
|The Delaware breed produces plenty
of meat and large brown eggs.
Just after World War II, the Delaware was originally bred for the production of broilers in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, along the Delmarva Peninsula. In the 1940s, it was common to cross Barred Plymouth Rock roosters with New Hampshire hens to produce commercial broilers. A Delaware poultryman, George Ellis, discovered several white offspring having black barring only on their tails and necks. They fascinated him because white-colored chickens are more appealing, lacking dark bumps where new feathers are about to appear. He experimented to see if these light-colored chickens would duplicate this color on their offspring, and they did. Ellis first called them “Indian Rivers,” and they appealed to commercial poultrymen. They were the dominant commercial poultry along the Delmarva Peninsula for the next 20 years.
Because of its commercial beginnings, the Delaware is quite a productive breed. The birds are famous for a quick growth rate, reaching broiler size in approximately 12 weeks. The pullets lay early in the season and are known for high egg production. Many breeds slow their egg production in response to shorter days in the winter but the Delawares do not. This breed is an excellent example of a dual-purpose chicken — producing lots of meat and large brown eggs under a moderate amount of care.
“Delawares are real personable,” says breeder Jord Wilson of Prairie Grass Poultry in Lexington, Okla. “As chicks, they come right up to you. They are curious and gentle, not flighty as adults.” Because of their even temperament, Delawares will adjust to a variety of living conditions, including confined spaces, and will do well in moderate climate zones. This breed is a good choice for anyone looking for a very productive, hardy and friendly chicken.
|Barred Hollands are good foragers.|
White eggs brought a premium price in the 1930s, and Rutgers Breeding Farm resolved to create a dual-purpose chicken that would lay white eggs. They crossed breeds imported from Holland with White Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Lamona. Through careful selection, the White Holland was created. About the same time, they created the Barred Holland by crossing White Leghorn, Barred Plymouth Rock, Australorp and Brown Leghorn.
The farmers much preferred the Barred Holland, maybe because the Barred Plymouth Rock was quite popular at this time. The Barred Holland produces a good amount of large white eggs while also being well-fleshed. The White Holland was never as popular and is most likely extinct. Hollands have acquired a reputation for being ideally suited to farm life. The Hollands are now one of the most-endangered American breeds of chickens.
“They were developed so the small farmer who didn’t have a market for brown eggs would have white eggs from a meaty bird,” says Duane Urch, a member of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. “They are a good bird for homesteaders and small acreages. Hollands like to run and are good foragers. They are not a timid breed, but they are not aggressive either.” Hollands are an excellent choice if you want a productive breed and you have a preference for white eggs.
Javas are one of the most-endangered American breed of chickens – as well as one of the oldest. Its ancestors are alleged to have come from the Far East, maybe the isle of Java. Sources disagree on the origin of the breed, but Javas are known to have been in America by 1835. The breed was well-known for its meat-producing qualities and was thought of as the best for this purpose when it was introduced.
While little is known about the Java’s ancestry, it has played a substantial role in the development of more modern breeds of poultry. Javas were used in the making of the Jersey Giant — America’s largest breed of chicken and one that ultimately took over the Java’s position of meat producer. Javas also might have been instrumental in the creation of Rhode Island Reds, as both breeds display an especially long body with a full, plump breast. White Javas are thought to be the basis for White Plymouth Rocks, and they were so alike in appearance that breeders eventually had a difficult time telling them apart.
Monte Bowen, a Java breeder from Plevna, Kan., says that “Javas are good foragers, and the hens are excellent brood hens and mothers. They are gentle and patient in disposition.” Bowen has played a significant role in sparking interest in cultivating black and mottled Javas. Java pullets can start laying when they are 5 months old, early for heavy fowl. “Not fantastic, but overall laying quality of the Java is, to me, good for a heavy breed of fowl,” Bowen says.
The Java is an ideal homesteading fowl, because of its ability to forage for a large amount of its feed. There are three colors of Javas: black, white and mottled (black background with white splashes). All three varieties are popular as trouble-free chickens. They are slow growing as compared to today’s industrial chickens, but are more self-sufficient. When allowed to roam, the Java will lay a good number of large brown eggs on very little feed. With their excellent temperaments, hardiness and self-sufficiency, this is a perfect breed for those new to raising chickens.