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My Rent The Chicken, named Maria, is a rare Partridge Chantecler.

This year’s Christmas present is a pair of laying hens from Marie and Ron McGivern’s farm  in Kamloops, a coop, feed and some help getting up and running. My RentTheChicken.com pals will be delivered in May and picked up again in October, unless I get so attached I will need to give them a forever home…

Marie has indulgently agreed to let me choose my hens now and says she will band them and help them get used to their new names… Maria and The Baroness. They are such smart feather-brains that they will come when called or when called and a bowl of feed shaken…same, same.

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The Baroness is Black Sex-Link, so called because the hens and roosters are different colours as chicks so easy to tell apart.

 I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am. And what’s worse, I can’t seem to stop saying things — anything and everything I think and feel.

It will be interesting to see how the two ladies will get along. They will get a trial run paired up together before being delivered Marie says as, “hen pecked and pecking order” are real things. I may be dooming them from the start with their names but without Rooster Georg in the mix they may be OK with some brown paper packages tied up with string, whiskers on kittens, snowflakes that stay on my nose and my lashes…

Marie kindly sent me a photo of Maria who is a pretty special Canadian.

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun. Auf Wiedersehen, darling.

Maria may never be a nun but a monk is responsible for her breeding. The Chantecler breed was developed in the early 1900’s by Brother Wilfred Chatalain, a monk who resided and worked at the Oka Agricultural Institute in Quebec, my home province. He was in charge of the poultry yards there, and one day gave his visiting father a tour of the facilities. After viewing the various breeds housed at the Institute, his father remarked that there seemed to be no uniquely Canadian breed. That gave Wilfred the idea to create the first Canadian breed of chicken. He decided it would have all the traits necessary for superior winter laying ability and at the same time be a superior meat bird. He worked on his creation from 1908 until 1918 when the first Chantecler was released to the public.The breed is very suitable for colder climates. They have a super small comb so their head literally doesn’t freeze off in winter. They are very good layers, also in winter months, with an average egg production of 200 a year that weigh around 60 grams. The egg colour is pale brown.

The Partridge Chantecler was developed approximately 30 years after the White Chantecler, by Dr J E Wilkinson of Edmonton Alberta, my other home province. 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.

Chantecler, Partridge Albertan… both developed in Canada these breeds almost went the way of the dodo but thanks to farmers like Marie and Ron this Canuck breeds are making a come back. It is a friendly breed that is reliable towards it’s fosterer. I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence in confidence alone that I can raise chickens… Helps to have a friendly one I imagine.

Marie’s photo of The Baroness.

Oh Georg, if I had known we were going to have a sing along I would have brought my harmonica.

Black Sex-links are cross-bred chickens whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex,  making chick sexing easier.  Sex-links can be extremely good egg-layers which often produce 300 eggs a year or more depending on the quality of care and feed. The Baroness is going to be an omelette queen. The color of their eggs vary according to the mix of breeds and blue-green eggs are possible. (How cool would that be?)

Blacks are a cross between a  Rhode Island Reg or New Hampshire or rooster and a Barred Rock hen.

You know how Sister Berthe always makes me kiss the floor after we’ve had a disagreement? Well, lately I’ve taken to kissing the floor whenever I see her coming, just to save time.

I may be counting my chickens before the hatch anticipating my May Christmas gift but it feels good to put faces to the names. Next…chicken raising research…so I can solve a problem like Maria…