If you thought chickens came in any colour as long as it was plain-old brown, think again, says Grant Brereton
To those blissfully unaware (as was I a few years ago), there exists a world of colourful and attractive chickens that one couldn’t even begin to imagine. Many of us think of chickens as plain-old brown creatures that lay a few eggs for the family and, although this is true to a point, there lies a world of beautiful and varied plumage in the world of chickens, just waiting to be discovered.
One of my favourite breeds, that has many different varieties from a patterned perspective, is the Wyandotte. The original colour was the ‘Silver Laced’ which is perhaps not the most appropriate name as it doesn’t accurately describe the pattern of the bird. The term ‘Black Laced White’ would be more explanatory, and I feel suitable, as this describes the white body colour where each feather is surrounded by a black edging – known as ‘lacing’ in the poultry world. It is a truly stunning variety of fowl.
I recall being captivated by the Partridge variety of Wyandotte, which I first saw as large fowl at the Wernlas Rare Breed Centre many years ago. The females are a golden ‘sandy’ colour with three concentric rings of black ‘pencilling’ on each feather. They are very beautiful, but I think the contrast of the male and female plumage really had me sold. The males are totally different from the females – they look like what most of us would call a ‘traditionally-coloured cockerel’.
With the Partridge variety, as well as the aforementioned Silver Laced, there are alternatives, where the pattern remains the same, but either the ground colour or the pattern shade is altered, forming additional varieties of the same breed. For example, the Silver Laced has an alternative variety, called ‘Gold Laced.’ Instead of a white body colour with black lacing, the Gold Laced has a gold body colour with black lacing. There are two other standard alternatives for laced Wyandottes - the Buff Laced, which has a gold body colour with white lacing, and the Blue Laced, which has a red ground colour with blue lacing.
The Partridge too have alternatives, with ‘Blue-Partridge’ being a recently recognised creation. This is where all the usual black parts in both male and female of the Partridge are replaced with blue, but the red or gold colouring remains unaltered. Another alternative to Partridge is ‘Silver Pencilled’. This is very similar, but any red or gold areas on the feathers of the fowl appear instead as white.
Barred Wyandottes are very attractive too, and perhaps their title is more descriptive than other varieties. They are basically ‘barred’ all over – “like a zebra” some people have described them as. Each feather has transverse bars of black and white pigment and it makes for a stunning effect when it’s all over the body. There are also many ‘self-coloured’ varieties of Wyandotte on offer, which I will cover in future issues.
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One point to remember – no-one really breeds these varieties to sell only. The Wyandotte is a showman’s breed predominantly and, although produces well, is also very popular, so be sure to get your orders in early.