Wyandotte chickens: the Sophia Loren of the poultry world.
Glamorous, showy, stately, a bit of a diva - but will Wyandottes fit into your family and your backyard?
I've had Wyandottes in my flock more or less from the day I started keeping chickens. I love them - they are one of the prettiest, showiest looking breeds of the poultry world. If they were a person they'd be a film star diva.
So if you're thinking
of starting out with them, or adding them to your existing backyard
flock, my at-a-glance guide, based on my own experience and that of experienced Wyandotte breeders and keepers I am privileged to know, will help you make the decision.
The history of the Wyandotte chicken.
- The Wyandotte is a truly American breed, originally named after a native American tribe called the "Wendat". The name was changed by settlers in the 19th Century.
- The breed standard and diverse colourings and markings were created by crossing a number of breeds together over a number of years.
- Those breeds included the Silver Sebright, Silver Spangled Hamburg, Cochins and Pekins.
- The very first Wyandotte was a Silver laced, bred in Wisconsin, USA. It remains one of the most popular and most attractive types.
- The Wyandotte was accepted as a breed in the USA in 1883; it was not introduced into the UK until the 1890s.
- It's now one of the most popular chicken breeds all over the world.
This is a long, detailed article.
To help you find what you're looking for, below are all the sections I cover. Click on any of the links to go straight to that section.
Physical appearance: if you want a stunning chicken, this is it.
Stunning Golden Laced Wyandotte feathers.
- They have a classic rounded shape, sometimes described as "rotund". (I prefer to think of it as 'statuesque'!).
- Their feathering - just look at it. Often laced, always glamorous.
- There are a total of seventeen known colours, including the most famous golden laced (my personal favourite), the original silver laced, buff and buff laced, silver pencilled, blue laced, lavender, partridge, black and pure white.
- They walk exactly as though they own the world with a confident, showy air, and a 'stately' gait.
- They have quite long, shapely legs with no feathering.
- Their legs and feet are a classic yellow, comb and wattles are deep, glorious red.
- As befits a diva the comb is not a 'normal' chicken comb. It should be a 'rose' shape - wide and flat, covered in little bumps. This makes the breed very good in cold climates - their comb being small is less susceptible to frostbite.
- Ideally, the comb should fit snugly to the head, following its contours to the back.
My Golden Laced Wyandotte rooster, Spartacus, showing off his healthy rose comb and wattles.
How big do Wyandotte chickens grow?
- Wyandottes are classed as a 'large' chicken breed. The average male will weigh around 8½ lbs and the female, 6lbs.
- There's also a bantam variety which will weigh an average of 3lbs to 3¾ lbs.
What does a Wyandotte chick look like?
On the left, Spartacus as a one-day old chick (still with his egg tooth!). One the right, Spartacus as two year old rooster.
The personality of the Wyandotte chicken.
- Like any self-respecting diva and in line with their showy physical appearance, Wyandottes can have strong personalities.
- Generally calm and friendly, their strength of character can sometimes make them seem a bit aloof. Think Sophia Loren.
- They love to talk - which film star doesn't - and once they start, find it hard to stop! Some people find them a bit noisy for that reason.
Spartacus, my Golden Laced Wyandotte roo, with one of his Buff Laced ladies.
- I've never had a Wyandotte hen sit on eggs for longer than two days before abandoning them, so in my experience they're not good as a broody. But this will vary from one hen to another.
- Roosters are beautifully showy, and tend to be gentle and kind to their ladies.
Are they good egg-layers?
- Wyandottes are reasonable egg layers, providing around 200 eggs per year.
- Their eggs are a light, creamy brown colour.
- If you want a hen who lays more eggs than the Wyandotte, and more reliably, take a look at the Red Star.
Sophia Lor-hen telling me she wanted to sit on her egg - she did, but only for two days.
Wyandotte chickens: good points.
- Although they prefer to be able to range and are really good foragers, they can deal with having less land than most other large chicken breeds.
- Foraging means they may eat a little less food than other breeds (although to be honest, I've never noticed this!).
- Their feathers are loosely packed which, together with the rose comb, makes them able to deal well with cold climates.
- Although they're strong personalities, they're generally a very friendly breed which makes them a good choice if you're just starting out with chickens.
- They look so stunning that they attract a lot of admirers!
Silver Laced Wyandottes - stunning.
So Wyandottes are for you if :
- You're just starting out with chickens and you'd like a chicken with a strong personality.
- You have some land, no matter if it's not huge, where you can allow the poultry to free range for at least part of the time.
- Your winters tend to be very cold.
- You want a breed which is good for meat as well as eggs.
Things which may be problematic.
- The noise! Not everyone (sadly) likes the sound of chickens. If you live in an urban area and want to keep chickens in your back yard, you need to make sure your neighbours will be happy with the clucking!
So you shouldn't buy Wyandottes if:
- You want a chicken as a cuddly pet to keep in an enclosed space. Try a Silkie instead.
- You want a hen who will be reliably broody.
- You live in an urban area and aren't allowed to have loud, crowing males!
Spartacus making his presence known in front of his ladies!
Wyandotte chickens: where to buy them.
- If you're in the UK, I highly recommend Steve Dace, of Cheshire Poultry, as an excellent source of both highest quality Wyandotte chickens and hatching eggs. I hatched all my Wyandottes from Steve's eggs and he was exceptionally knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with.
- In other places, as with any poultry, you need to make sure you buy from a reputable breeder. There are a lot of chickens out there described as a specific breed when they're actually a hybrid.
- If you want chickens true to the breed, look out for the characteristics described above in the flock of the person you're buying from.
- Make a judgement about the breeder. Someone who is producing good, healthy birds will talk enthusiastically - even passionately - about them.
Left to right: my Golden Laced hen, Black Copper Marans, Golden Laced rooster, white and buff Wyandotte hens.
- Never buy from websites such as e-bay or Craigslist. There are some genuine sellers there, but more who will sell you infertile eggs or birds which are not the breed they're supposed to be.
- The links below are a good start to contact breeders in America.
- Outside America, look in poultry magazines for breeders local to you, or go to poultry shows and hunt out the breed stand.
Please note : Although the characteristics above are common across the breed, not every chicken will conform to them. Chickens, like people, are individuals. Check with whoever you buy from about the kinds of physical and personality traits their flock has.
Links to useful Wyandotte resources :
Wyandotte Breeders of America is a thorough source of information about the Wyandotte breed. Other countries do also have specialist sites but they tend to be either not terribly informative, or out of date.
The Netherlands Wyandotte Club on Facebook is an extremely helpful and fun page, with gorgeous picture examples of the breed as well as advice about breeding and keeping generally. The posts are usually made in English as well as Dutch.
Want to see more?
This is a videoclip from Steve Dace, the UK breeder from whom I bought my Wyandotte hatching eggs. If you're in the UK, I highly recommend Steve's birds.
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