Chickens! at the Royal Winter Fair

Last Wednesday I spent the afternoon with a roomful of poultry at the Royal Winter Fair where I was treated to an exhibition of fascinating chicken, turkey, and duck breeds.

There were so many beautiful breeds on display. It was truly eye-opening and great research for the day I am finally able to keep my first small flock (Backyard chickens are still illegal in Toronto.) I was jumpy clapping on the inside all day long.

Rhode Island Red is a classic that most people have heard of.

Plymouth Rock Barred is known as a good layer and is particularly suited to cold weather.

Buff Brahma Bantam is another good layer that is recommended for cold climates.

Antwerp Belgian Bantam

My friends and I all agreed that the most stunning and surprising breed of the event were the Silver Sebright bantams. Unfortunately, some quick research reveals that they lay very small eggs and are primarily kept for their beauty rather than egg productivity.

Both the males and females display gorgeously black-edged feathers.

While my friends fell head over heals in love with the silver type, I considered making a run for it with a Golden Sebright pullet underneath my arm.

My second favourite breed of the day were the Booted, Non-Bearded Mille Fleur. Isn’t their plumage unbelievable? Practically kaleidoscopic!

Speaking of feathers, there really were so many gorgeous and inspiring patterns on display.

Ancona This is one of the breeds that sometimes produces tinted eggs.

Old English (Pullet)

I also found myself zooming in on some out-of-this-world rooster ears and combs.

White Leghorn (Rooster)

White Wyandotte

And of course, no agricultural show is complete without BABIES!

Check out the books Extraordinary Chickens, Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds, and The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens for more on fascinating chicken breeds.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “Chickens! at the Royal Winter Fair

  1. When I was married we lived on a acre lot…..We had 30 chickens of all sorts!!! I think my girls thought the Americana chickens were the best….they gave beautiful colored eggs. This is were the colored dyed eggs came from…..We also had two pot belly pigs that lived until they were 13years old. I can look back and say ” The good old days”

  2. Ah. Chickens. They only thing I like better than chickens is a cat!
    My father was a judge at events like this so we grew up surrounded by all sorts of beautiful poultry. But Karen Hall is right: if you want beautiful eggs, forego the Seabrights for Araucana or Ameraucana.

  3. Ciao Gayla-

    Gorgeous photos! Did they take the tops of the cages off for you? I can’t see any bars in those close-ups.

    We didn’t go that day, but we did see a lot of the dairy cattle shows. The Brown Swiss had cowbells and their handlers had cute red vests and berets.

    Did you see my corn display? Even Tristan got to enter his beets. We had a good time as always.

  4. Any idea which of these are the kindest? I am scared of chickens (don’t ask) and as a future smallholder this is kind of a problem. I need nice chickens…

  5. Laila: I don’t have enough experience to say. There are several breeds that are often described as friendly… but I as with all animals I think it’s a bit of a gamble in that an individual might not live up to the reputation of the breed. I’m not sure if that is why I often see breed descriptions that are contradictory. How they are raised is also important as some breeds are intolerant to small spaces, which is important to know if you’re keeping backyard hens.

    Here’s one breed chart that includes temperament.

  6. Our Rhode Island Red is the sweetest of our flock, and many other backyard chickeners agree. Another thing to consider is the most natural, least cultured option, which is the Chantecler chicken, endemic to Canada. The amazing and totally worth visiting Our Gate to Your Plate ( in Grimsby has them, and will sell chicks in the spring.

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