Three Chantecler chickens are the latest addition to the unusual farm Cathy Teeple operates with her father near the charming Rideau River community of Chaffey's Locks.
Teeple, known for both her sheep and rare poultry, had been interested in the birds for a while and recently came across a private breeder in Ashton. She says the white chickens are the only true Canadian breed, a piece of trivia garnered from Linda Gryner's book, The Chantecler and Other Rare Breeds.
Gryner, who also publishes a newspaper called The Feather Fancier out of Forest, in Southwestern Ontario, says it was a monk who established the breed in Quebec more than 80 years ago. "He wanted a breed that was multi-purpose - good for meat and eggs - that could also stand the cold Canadian climate," says Gryner.
Gryner explains that the comb of chickens will often freeze in a cold environment. "This breed," she says, "has a very small comb and it's very hardy." She says some of the original strain of Chanteclers still exists in the region of Quebec where they were developed. Gryner says that out of more than 100 different purebred types of poultry worldwide, the Chantecler is the only true Canadian breed. She adds that when farmers like Teeple decide to raise such birds it helps in the preservation of animals which otherwise might become extinct.
Teeple says that's part of the attraction for her in seeking out less mainstream breeds of poultry. As well, she says, "if you're going to have animals, why not have something different?"
Teeple's approach to farming is evident on every corner of the property, starting in the downstairs living area of her home. Two large cardboard boxes have been fitted with heat lamps and are acting as incubators for Bourbon Red turkey eggs. Teeple explains that one box contains one-week and two-week old poults while the second is home to a day-old chick. Another rare breed of poultry, Teeple says she picked up a tom and two hens from a farm in Perth.
Strictly on the business end of the farm, most of Teeple's income is generated by a commercial flock of 59 "mainly Dorset" sheep. Lambs, she says, are sold in the sales barn and also through a well established "freezer trade" at the farmgate. Guarding the sheep is a llama, another fairly recent acquisition, and, according to Teeple, a wise one. "He'll chase anything, he's really good," she says, crediting the llama with recently jumping the fence to chase off a wolf.
A purebred Arabian stallion, two brood mares and a stallion graze in a field near her house, and just beyond that, are the "real conversation pieces" of the farm, her two emus. In the barnyard she points out a white Jersey Giant chicken, adding that it also falls into the category of a rare breed and dual purpose. "If I'm going to have chickens, raise them ,feed them, I mean, why not get the most choices on value or resale?" says Teeple. "I have three avenues for sale: eggs, meat and breeding stock, because there's not too many of them around."
Teeple identifies a male duck similar in looks to a wild mallard as a Rouen. He's accompanied by three females. There are also several Muscovy ducks and "three of I don't know what breed."
Teeple says even though she hasn't advertised the chickens, word of mouth has resulted in a steady clientele. She says a lot of customers aren't looking for the "original meat birds of 40 pounds" but are satisfied with the size she's raising which is closer to "15 or 20 pounds.
"We get lots of orders for meat chickens, free-range, farm-raised chickens. It's unbelievable the trade you can get."