Won­der­ful Wyan­dottes

Grant Br­ere­ton is one of the lead­ing ex­perts on Wyan­dottes. Here he ex­tols the virtues of this beau­ti­ful breed

Your Chickens - - Contents -

With Grant Br­ere­ton

There aren’t many poul­try keep­ers who can re­sist the charm of the Wyan­dotte fowl. The sil­ver laced was the orig­i­nal va­ri­ety of the breed, made from a fu­sion of dif­fer­ent pure breeds. Its white body, sur­rounded by black edged feath­ers (known as lac­ing), makes it one of the most strik­ing plumage pat­terns avail­able in poul­try. And that, cou­pled with its cobby and cur­va­ceous shape (known as ‘type’), just broad­ens the Wyan­dotte’s ap­peal. It has yel­low legs and is fin­ished off with a neatly fit­ting rose comb. It is de­scribed as ‘a bird of curves’ and so should fill the eye - as well as the show pen!

The breed was cre­ated for dual-pur­poses in the form of both meat and eggs, and many lines are still fairly good lay­ers to­day, although they would be re­garded [by many] as too pre­cious too eat. How­ever, some breed­ers still use the odd male for the ta­ble.


There is a vast ar­ray of colour op­tions when it comes to choos­ing your par­tic­u­lar favourite. Mine is the par­tridge, but I still had to keep all the avail­able va­ri­eties be­fore nar­row­ing it down to just one. They all have their charm and many of the plumage pat­terns are sim­ply strik­ing.

The Wyan­dotte also comes in minia­ture form, and many peo­ple opt to keep these in­stead of the large fowl due to space con­straints. The breed is rea­son­ably docile by na­ture and re­sponds well to a bit of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion in the grow­ing stages; they soon be­come very tame.

Brood­i­ness is a qual­ity found in most Wyan­dottes, but the white and par­tridge and pen­cilled ban­tams are par­tic­u­larly no­to­ri­ous sit­ters and will sel­dom let you down.

In terms of avail­abil­ity and what to pay, it de­pends on qual­ity, time of year and a num­ber of other fac­tors such as age, for ex­am­ple. Most breed­ers won’t have an abun­dance of fe­males avail­able be­cause the males also sell for breed­ing pur­poses, so it’s best to al­ways view the breed­ing stock and place your order early. Ban­tams can be­gin at £15 per bird right up to £50 and above. And, rather sur­pris­ingly, it’s not that dif­fer­ent with the large fowl.

As men­tioned, there are many dif­fer­ent colour op­tions


The ‘proper’ buff laced don’t breed true (un­like the splash­laced), so come with three dif­fer­ent types of off­spring: buff laced – 50 per cent, gold laced -– 25 per cent, and vir­tu­ally washed out white birds with no ground colour – 25 per cent. Buff laced con­tinue to peak and trough in terms of sup­port, with very few large fowl shown de­spite there be­ing plenty out there. As with the blue laced,

they are clearly very strik­ing and will grace any gar­den - es­pe­cially if you have more than one laced va­ri­ety; just be care­ful which ones you breed to­gether (don’t mix with blue laced).


The sil­ver pen­cilled Wyan­dotte is very sim­i­lar to the par­tridge, with the only ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­ing a dif­fer­ent ground colour. And it is pos­si­ble to breed a par­tridge male to sil­ver pen­cilled fe­males, which gives sex-linked off­spring at birth. How­ever, cross­ing the sil­vers to par­tridge can undo years of se­lec­tion for a nice clean sil­ver-white colour, so should be car­ried out with this knowl­edge in mind.


Large barred Wyan­dottes al­ways seem to come in and out of fash­ion. They are out of fash­ion at present, with the ban­tams en­joy­ing much greater num­bers at the ma­jor shows. Barred Wyan­dotte males are gen­er­ally lighter than their fe­male coun­ter­parts be­cause they have double the bar­ring fac­tor, whereas the fe­males only have a sin­gle fac­tor for bar­ring (sex-linked).


It was in the late ‘90s that breed­ers in Eng­land and Hol­land re­alised they could cross in blue Wyan­dottes and even­tu­ally breed for blue ver­sions of the par­tridge and pen­cilled va­ri­eties. These have both been stan­dard­ised in the UK and are beau­ti­fully pas­tel in ap­pear­ance. The only caveat is that they breed about 50 per cent true to form, be­cause the

blue fac­tor al­ways has to be present in sin­gle rather than double dose to ap­pear as we de­sire. When a fowl has the ge­netic makeup of the lat­ter (double blue), it be­comes ‘splashed.’ So out of a pen of blue par­tridge, you get half blue par­tridge, one quar­ter par­tridge and one quar­ter ‘splash-par­tridge.’ But it’s not all bad be­cause you may like such ‘va­ri­ety’, or you may opt to take ad­van­tage of the blue fac­tor and breed a splash-par­tridge over par­tridge to get 100 per cent blue par­tridge. It’s the same sit­u­a­tion with the sil­vers, so much fun can be had with these va­ri­eties.


White Wyan­dottes are of­ten ac­cused of hav­ing too much feather com­pared to the other colours, but a good white Wyan­dotte is hard to beat for im­pres­sive­ness and of­ten wins favour with the judges at both lo­cal and na­tional shows. They are re­garded as a real show­per­son’s breed and with no plumage pat­tern to cor­rect for, all the fo­cus can go on bone, shape, leg colour and head points. But they are still hardy birds, most of which have a re­ally placid na­ture and are good brood­ies.


The blacks of­ten strug­gle to get sup­port, most of which comes from new­com­ers want­ing to try ev­ery avail­able colour of Wyan­dotte. This is par­tic­u­larly true of the large fowl. And I have to ad­mit, there is some­thing re­ally strik­ing about a yel­low-legged, cur­va­ceous black fowl with an iri­des­cent bee­tle-green sheen to its feath­ers. How­ever, de­spite now hav­ing a ded­i­cated Face­book page, the blacks still seem to strug­gle com­pared to the other colours when it comes to sup­port­ers. As you might imag­ine, the ban­tams are more pop­u­lar at shows, and when it comes to space con­straints in peo­ple’s gar­dens.


Blue laced Wyan­dottes con­tinue to fas­ci­nate breed­ers and new­com­ers alike. They are rather chal­leng­ing to get right, and like the blue par­tridge only breed 50 per cent true to form. This means you get three types of off­spring, the idea of which some peo­ple love, but the gold laced that come out as one quar­ter of the off­spring tend to be too dark in ground colour for the show pen, and the splash-laced which emerge as the re­main­ing quar­ter are too dark in ground colour and of­ten have white necks, but some peo­ple still con­fuse these with the proper buff laced ex­hi­bi­tion birds.


Gold laced Wyan­dottes are very at­trac­tive in their own right, but for a long time the Laced Wyan­dotte Club couldn’t agree on the re­quired shade of ground colour. At a re­cent AGM it was pro­posed by the pres­i­dent that the word ‘ch­est­nut’ be as­signed, so most breed­ers are now aim­ing to­wards that ideal. Pic­tured is a bird hav­ing its wing feath­ers ex­am­ined and dis­play­ing the cor­rect amount of black and ch­est­nut in re­spec­tive ar­eas of the wing feath­ers. This can vary greatly be­tween spec­i­mens and is just one fac­tor that all laced va­ri­eties have to get right.


Blue Wyan­dottes have never

re­ally caught on like they should have. In terms of their pop­u­lar­ity there are more ban­tam keep­ers, but like the blacks they are beau­ti­ful and it’s per­plex­ing as to why so few peo­ple try to keep and breed them. They are good lay­ers and rea­son­ably hardy. Maybe one fac­tor is that they don’t breed true, but as men­tioned in an ear­lier ex­am­ple, you can al­ways breed the splashes to the blacks to get 100 per cent blues, so that’s al­ways worth con­sid­er­ing.


The first sil­ver laced Wyan­dottes were im­ported to Bri­tain from Amer­ica in 1893. They can be quite tricky to get right for the pre­cise show stan­dards but, un­like other colours, do breed true and most strains in both large fowl and ban­tam are re­garded as hardy. Although a strik­ing va­ri­ety, the sil­ver laced are still avail­able to buy out there and you may get a dis­count if ask­ing for ‘gar­den’ rather than ‘show’ qual­ity.


My per­sonal favourite is rarer in the large fowl than in the ban­tam, who of­ten win at the big shows where they are ex­hib­ited in larger num­bers. The males that com­ple­ment the golden fe­males with their con­cen­tric pen­cilling are very much the colour one ex­pects from a tra­di­tion­ally coloured cock­erel, so this makes for a won­der­ful di­mor­phic colour con­trast when a male is in with some breed­ing fe­males. The top ex­hi­bi­tion spec­i­mens in both male and fe­male have op­po­site sex breed­ing part­ners that aren’t re­ally any use for the show bench, and this is known as double-mat­ing; most breed­ers ei­ther try for ex­hi­bi­tion males or fe­males.

ABOVE: The wing feath­ers of a gold laced bird

avail­able, both stan­dard and non-stan­dard. Here are some of the stan­dard ones...

ABOVE RIGHT: Buff laced fe­males owned by Steve Dace BE­LOW: A barred breed­ing pen owned by Steve Dace. Note the lighter male.

* Grant’s new book ‘Wyan­dotte Colour Breed­ing’ will be re­leased at the end of Septem­ber and can be pre-or­dered at www.gbpoul­try.com

ABOVE: A blue fe­male owned by Steve Dace TOP RIGHT: A sil­ver laced Wyan­dotte owned by Steve Dace ABOVE RIGHT: A su­perb par­tridge ban­tam and a mul­ti­ple win­ner for Ge­off Parker

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