Every now and then a good news story comes along that I have to share.
This one starts at a resort community somewhere in the Okanagan Valley. Like all resort communities, people come and go; some stay longer than others.
This particular resort works hard at building a real sense of community. So residents have their pets. Even if some of those pets are a little unusual.
So you might see a man taking his pet pig for a walk along the shore. Or a woman cycling to the recreation centre with a hen perched proudly on her handlebars, looking like an old-fashioned automobile emblem.
And if you followed that hen home, during the last month, you would have found her nesting on a clutch of seven eggs. Two eggs looked like what you might buy in a supermarket; the other five were pale brown.
They were fertilized Chantecler eggs.
Chantecler chickens are uniquely Canadian. In the early 1900s, Brother Wilfred Chatelain was a monk at the Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac in Oka, Quebec—the same place that produces a distinctive semi-soft Canadian cheese, and where First Nations people and police forces had an armed standoff for 11 weeks in 1990. Brother Wilfred realized that all hens in Canada came from warmer climates. They didn’t cope well with Canadian winters. So he crossbred hens, until they produced a breed that could stand low temperatures. Down to minus 30 C, I understand.
The breed’s name derives from a Middle Ages fable about a rooster named Chanticleer who outsmarted a fox named Reynard.
Three of the five Chantecler eggs hatched. When those chicks mature enough to look after themselves, they will be flown—as airline cargo, not under their own power—all the way north to Inuvik, on the Mackenzie River delta 200 km north of the Arctic Circle.
In Inuvik, eggs can cost as much as $6 each. Even at that price, like the vegetables also flown in from warmer climes, they’re only sort of fresh.
But this year, if all goes well, Inuvik will have its own fresh-laid eggs. Up to 200 eggs a year, from each hen.
The idea came from Raygan Solotski, manager of what her stepfather brags is the largest greenhouse north of the Arctic Circle. Owned by the 3,400 citizens of Inuvik, the community greenhouse provides a limited supply of fresh vegetables.
The three little Chanticleer hens, and others that may follow them, will live in an insulated hen house connected to the relatively protected environment of the greenhouse, providing the first fresh eggs that Inuvik has ever known.
To add a further twist to this story, some authorities declared the Chantecler extinct in 1979, when what was believed to be the last rooster died, at the University of Saskatchewan. But a few private farms and enthusiasts didn’t accept the over-hasty verdict. They kept the breed going. And soon their descendants will be laying fresh eggs near the edge of the Arctic Ocean.
It shows what can happen when people decide to work together.