The Columbian Wyandotte is a great choice for both beginning and seasoned chicken fanciers. With its calm, docile temperament, fantastic foraging skills, and a body built for cold-hardiness, it is one of the most popular breeds of chicken. A beautiful dual-purpose bird with a good attitude and friendly personality, the Columbian Wyandotte is the first choice for many people who love raising chickens.
Background and History
Wyandottes are an American breed of chicken developed around upstate New York in the 1870s. The name comes from a Native American tribe living in the area called the Wendat. The Wyandotte chicken has no direct association with the tribe, however. Wyandottes were originally called American Sebrights or Sebright Cochins before being accepted into the Standard of Perfection.
The Silver Laced Wyandotte, the original Wyandotte chicken, was first recognized by the American Poultry Association, or APA, back in 1883. The Silver Spangled Hamburg and the Dark Brahma were used to create this breed. White Wyandottes and Black Wyandottes were produced from Silver Laced Wyandottes by B.M. Briggs in Rhode Island, an early-American chicken fancier, and the Columbian Wyandotte resulted from a chance crossing of a White Wyandotte and a Barred Plymouth Rock.
Columbian was added to the name because the breed was first displayed at The World’s Columbian Exposition, the official name of the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893. That year the fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492. From 1889 to 1893, Briggs was solely responsible for breeding Columbian Wyandottes.
He sold eggs for hatching in 1893 but did not sell the stock until 1894. At the annual meeting of the APA held in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1906, the Columbian Wyandotte chicken was admitted to the Standard.
The Wyandotte Standard and Breed book published by the American Poultry Association in 1919 relates that the first Columbian Wyandottes on exhibit were shown by Briggs at the Providence, Rhode Island Show in December of 1894. Two years later, Briggs exhibited five Columbians at the Boston Show and in September of 1896, he got rid of his entire stock. However, five years later he took up the Columbian Wyandotte again and was able to secure birds from his own original line.
Breed Standard and Appearance
The Columbian Wyandotte has thick plumage and is mostly white with black feathers adorning its neck in a beautiful and intricate lacing pattern. The wings are solid white with black lacing on the wingtips, and the tail is usually solid black although sometimes it may have some white lacing. The contrast of black and white on this lovely chicken creates its striking signature appearance.
The Columbian has a relatively short wide back and neck continuing with a deeply curving lower body with loose-lying feathers. The wattle is rather long and the earlobes are oval-shaped and bright red. The beak is yellow and the eyes are reddish orange. Both Columbian Wyandotte hens and roosters sport a rose comb, bright red and laying flat close to the head. This allows the chicken to avoid frostbite on the comb in colder regions.
Along with the small comb, the loose fluffy plumage allows the Columbian Wyandotte to do exceedingly well in cold weather. This chicken is considered medium to large with a plump body, clean legs (no feathers), and yellow skin. Day-old Columbian Wyandotte chicks are yellow with gray or black backs and a patch of black on their heads. This graceful, well-balanced chicken is a favorite among the many Wyandotte variations.
Personality and Temperament
The Columbian Wyandotte chicken thrives in free range situations where it can move about to forage, but it can tolerate a more confined space if necessary. This breed has a docile, even-tempered personality that makes it perfect for new backyard chicken owners. It is a noisy breed of chicken with the hens cackling throughout the day, and the rooster’s crow can be quite loud.
In general, the Wyandotte is a calm and tolerant breed of chicken, easily handled and compliant. The Columbian Wyandotte chicken is a remarkably calm and friendly bird but maybe a bit aloof among other breeds preferring to stick to its own kind.
In a mixed flock, the Columbian may tend to be one of the more dominant breeds, naturally falling at the top of the pecking order. The Columbian does not seem to bully other birds, but because of its assertive nature among other breeds, it is seldom bullied. It is generally a self sufficient breed of chicken.
A prolific and dependable layer, the energetic Columbian Wyandotte hen produces an average of 200 large brown eggs per year. Because it is a cold hardy chicken, it will often continue to lay during the winter months, unlike many other breeds. The hen will generally begin to lay around the age of 6-7 months.
A healthy Wyandotte will likely lay consistently up until the age of 3 years old. Afterward she may possibly continue to produce eggs, but probably less frequently. However, some layers can consistently lay eggs their whole life.
The eggs can range from a soft light brown, occasionally having a pink tone, to a richer dark brown. This breed of chicken is sometimes used to hatch eggs from breeds that aren’t good mothers or who aren’t typically broody. A Columbian Wyandotte hen takes motherhood seriously and can be relied on to sit on fertile eggs and tend to her chicks well, fiercely protecting them from danger.
Health Issues and Care
Wyandottes do not have specific health issues particular to the breed, but because the plumage of these chickens is particularly thick and fluffy, the vent area can accumulate droppings which may occasionally cause problems. If this becomes an issue, keeping the feathers trimmed in the vent area may be necessary.
The Columbian’s health should be treated the same as any average chicken. Regular worming will keep parasites in check, as will vaccinations if necessary. As with any breed of chicken, freshwater and plenty of nutritious food should be available all the time, and a safe and secure coop for shelter, roosting, and laying eggs is a must. As mentioned previously, the Wyandotte is exceptionally hardy in cold weather conditions due to its heavier weight and plumage, but it will still require a well-ventilated coop for shelter.
For more information on how to keep your flock healthy, the USDA provides a Defend the Flock education program that provides you with tools and resources to help ensure you are doing everything possible to keep your chickens in good health and to reduce the risk of your flock getting and spreading infectious disease. This program offers checklists and other tools, videos, webinars, and additional educational resources developed by professionals.
5 Tips for Raising Columbian Wyandottes
- You will need outdoor space for raising these chickens since they like to forage, but because they are good foragers, you may be able to provide slightly less food. You will need some land to allow them to free range for at least part of the day.
- Columbian Wyandottes thrive in cold regions. They may not be comfortable in areas of the country where the temperature stays hot for long periods. Be sure to provide plenty of shade and cool water during hot weather.
- Wyandottes were specifically bred to be dual purpose: useful for providing both eggs and meat. This breed of chicken grows relatively quickly, and their heavy-bodied stature makes them good meat birds. Hens generally grow to 6-7 pounds and males 8-9 pounds. Their size also makes them easy to process, so they may be a good choice for you if you will butcher your own birds.
- The Wyandotte is a great choice for homesteading or the backyard, but in urban or suburban areas, keep in mind that they can be noisy. Check city ordinances to make sure there are no restrictions before bringing any birds home. Some areas do not allow roosters due to their early-morning crowing.
- Not only do they make great pets, but they also make wonderful specimens for projects such as those required for 4-H because of their docile nature. This also makes them a favorite show breed. They must put up with being in a cage all day with strange birds nearby. They must be able to deal with stress such as being handled by strangers and being picked up, examined, and judged. Wyandottes take it in stride. Keep in mind that the typical lifespan of the Columbian Wyandotte chicken is anywhere between 6-12 years.
Columbian Wyandotte chicken is for you if you enjoy tending beautiful birds with calm personalities and low-maintenance requirements that will provide you with eggs for most of the year. Admired by many, the Wyandotte can be a great backyard chicken to keep for its utility, showstopping beauty, and personal enjoyment.