Andy Cawthray looks at the pure breeds developed for egg laying. This month: The Wyandotte
The Wyandotte is a very popular breed, notable now particularly for its wide range of available colours. Its large size and rounded shape, coupled with its full and profuse feathering, make it immediately recognizable. Its name is said to have been taken from a tribe of Native Americans but is also said to have been taken from a boat that belonged to the father of one of the Wyandotte’s first breeders, Fred Houdlette of Boston, Massachusetts.
The precise makeup of the Wyandotte is difficult to ascertain. It is an American breed that was first reported in 1860s, but little is known about the breeds that were involved in its creation. The first variety to be seen was the silver laced, and this sits well with the widely held belief that a breeder had initially set out to create a Sebright-plumaged Cochin. The breed was standardised in 1883 and additional colour varieties emerged over the following decades, further serving to diversify the parentage of the breed.
The most noticeable characteristic of the breed is the balance of the bird’s profile. The body is short and deep but also well rounded, and this is accentuated by the short back, broad saddle, and full breast. The Wyandotte is an alert and active-looking bird that carries a rose comb and mildly abundant, but not overly fluffy, plumage. The colour varieties are wide ranging, with whites, blacks, blues, barred, and various laced versions, from buff to silver, all being seen. Partridge and pencilled variants are also common.
The Wyandotte hen when fully grown should weigh at least 7lb (3.2kg). She has a graceful appearance and complements the alert presence of the male within the flock. This is heightened by the soft-looking plumage and slightly shorter stance. Hens are, however, prone to going broody, so if a high level of egg production is required then appropriate management techniques are needed.
The Wyandotte cock is a proud-looking bird with a full breast lifted high, a neat rose comb upon the head, and mediumlength wattles hanging from a clean, smooth-textured face. When fully grown, he should weigh at least 9lb (4.1kg).
The Wyandotte lays a tinted egg that can err on the side of light brown. Whilst primarily a laying breed it is not as productive as some due to the heavier breeding focus on plumage variety. That said, certain strains are capable of producing more than 200 eggs a year.
Wyandottes are trusting birds that will soon become friendly towards their keeper. This makes them an excellent breed for the beginner or for someone looking to keep chickens as pets.
As a strong and vigorous breed, the Wyandotte copes well in all climates and most husbandry environments. The birds are not known to be keen flyers, and although they capable of taking to the wing, they can be contained by a low fence if kept in a closed run. It is worth noting that the housing provided for these birds needs to be in proportion to their slightly larger frame.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
The Wyandotte is a popular breed amongst the Fancy. The variety of plumage types make it highly desirable as a garden breed too. Consequently there are usually good numbers of young stock available each year however the quality can vary as widely as the plumage types so care must be taken when purchasing depending on the end game. A good standard bird that can be used for breeding can cost £100 however pet quality pullets can usually be purchased for around £20 with prices often reflecting the popularity of the breed or colourings.
A silver laced Wyandotte