I always wanted to try Wyandottes, but after my sister got two Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks who grew up scrawny and mean and laid small eggs, I wasn’t so sure.
After my research turned up a real mix of opinions on the breed, I realized that there were both good and bad lines out there. Some people breed for temperament and some don’t care. I just had to find some good ones.
Then last summer, I hatched a single spectacular Blue Laced Red Wyandotte pullet, who grew up all curves, ample and round and gloriously beautiful; docile, quiet and a good layer. Now I really wanted MORE.
So this spring I ordered three batches of eggs from breeders in BC, Alberta and Quebec, and hatched out 21 chicks in all, silver, gold and blue laced red.
My Wyandotte chicks now range in age from ten to 15 weeks, it’s easy to tell the girls from the boys, and their feathering patterns are clear (and diverse!) It’s time to select a cockerel or two, and five or six pullets, and sell off the rest. I must choose well, only the best birds should be kept for breeding.
The more I study, the clearer I can see which birds I should keep. What am I studying? The American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, of course. 1920 version, online thanks to the Cornell University Library. Updated every five years since 1874, the SOP is the authoritative source for “a complete description of all recognized varieties of fowls.” And it doesn’t go out of date, it just gets bigger and more detailed. The SOP for Wyandottes hasn’t significantly altered in more than a hundred years!
How’s the shape? Is she set low, short-backed and short tailed or all elbows and knees with a hollow comb and squirrel tail? Short, arched neck and wide crown? Deep, round, broad breast? How’s the temperament? Is he gentle and kind or pushy and mean? What about vigour? Does she move smoothly, jump easily, keep up with the rest? Is he heavy for his size, solid and athletic? And the plumage. Is it abundant and glossy? Are his hackle and saddle feathers silvery with black lines through each feather? And his breast, are the feathers well laced and even? Tail feathers short, curved, fluffy and black with green iridescence? Two rows of lacing on his wings? Orange eyes? Yellow legs? Slate undercarriage? And what about the underlying genetics? Why are all my silvers male? Sex linked colour genes of course! Now how does that all work? Do I keep a silver and a gold cockerel? Or a GL blue? Do my gold cockerels from breeder 1 have the most recessive genotype, so next year I can hatch all the colours? Decisions, decisions.
Some folks hatch hundreds to choose a few specimens to breed. Some folks study chicken confirmation for years and years. I don’t have the room for hundreds, and I am at the five year mark for chicken expertise; my little chicken hobby is humble in comparison. But it absorbs me, it keeps me thinking and active, and it chases away stress. I am having a ton of fun with my Wyandotte project, and for me that’s the whole point.