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How a P.E.I. man’s champion chickens are preserving heritage breeds





Trevor MacDonald from Murray River, about 55 kilometres southeast of Charlottetown, proudly holds up one of his newest chickens — a silver spangled Hamburg that he hopes will be a contender in next year’s poultry shows.

This particular breed originated in northern Europe hundreds of years ago. “It was the first breed I had when I started as a kid and you kind of get attached,” MacDonald said. 

“There’s six colours of the breed,” he said. “I’ve raised all six colours of them one time or another and just the shape and the symmetry and the colour, all those things together have made it one of my choice breeds over all these years.”

‘I’ll buy mature breeding stock and then raise the chickens from them and then at the end of the year, go through them, and pick out the good ones,’ says MacDonald. (Pat Martel/CBC)

MacDonald, who’s a substitute teacher, has about 150 fancy chickens and 50 show pigeons in his coop. But it’s the chickens that stole his heart long ago. 

He started showing them at local fairs 40 years ago. “I got into it as a kid. My dad had a few, a couple of great uncles that were into it at that time and some cousins.” 

‘These were the only breeds’

Although silver spangled Hamburgs may look good, they don’t lay a lot of eggs like their commercial cousins. But MacDonald is unapologetic. “These were the only breeds that were … on the family farm a hundred years ago.

“They don’t have a place in modern day commercial agriculture because they don’t grow fast enough,” MacDonald said. “They don’t lay enough eggs in the run of a year like the commercial strains do.” 

This dark brahma bantam has fluffy feathers growing around its legs. (Pat Martel/ CBC)

MacDonald is doing his part to keep the heritage breeds alive. “If it weren’t for the purebred breeders, these breeds would be a thing of the past.” 

MacDonald knows what judges look for in a show breed. After all, he’s been showing his birds at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto for 36 years — a reminder of a time when chickens were valued not just for the number of eggs they laid, but for their inherent beauty.

‘There’s no money made in this game,’ says MacDonald. ‘When you look at the bills at the end of the year, it’s a hobby. It’s been a fun one for a long time.’ (Pat Martel/CBC)

‘Nice comb on him, nice head’

Over the years, MacDonald’s chickens have strutted home with dozens of ribbons from competitions in Canada and the U.S. 

He gently strokes the feathers of his contender, pointing out some its outstanding features. “Judges are going to be looking for size, the shape of the breed. Nice comb on him, nice head.

“The comb should be pointed at the back like he is, and nice and wide at the front with the little bumps on top.” 

‘Thirty-six years in a row at the Royal and very few Islanders have shown any exhibits at the Royal for that many years, so it’s something to be proud of,’ says MacDonald. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The show judges follow written standards, even giving points for the proper leg colour. “Slate blue and that’s the required colour,” MacDonald said. “Some have black legs, some have yellow legs. This breed calls for blue so they have to be the blue legs.”

And there’s more.”The tail and the feathering should all have these nice rich spangles on them, these black tips on the feathers all the way through, so all those things combined, the judge is going to compare him to the next one in the pen.”

While silver spangled Hamburgs are MacDonald’s favourite breed, he likes to try new ones. He’ll buy mature breeding stock and then raise the chickens from them.

‘These were the only breeds that were the on the family farm a hundred years ago,’ says MacDonald. (Pat Martel/CBC)

“This one I picked up at the Royal, so I’ll use it as a breeder for next year.”  The chicken has fluffy feathers growing around its legs, “Somebody got the idea of breeding for certain characteristics and that became a characteristic of the breed.”

MacDonald never tires of going to the fairs. It’s his 36th year in a row at the Royal. “Very few Islanders have shown any exhibits of any kind at the Royal for that many years, so it’s certainly something to be pretty proud of — to be part of it for so long.”

‘They taste a little bit better’

One of the questions MacDonald gets most from a curious public stopping by his booth during fairs is whether his fancy chickens taste as good as their commercial counterparts.

“Some would argue they taste a little bit better, because they’re home-raised, they’re not pushed through the system.”

‘It’s 40 years ago since I started showing chickens,’ says MacDonald. ‘My dad had a few, a couple of great uncles that were in it and some cousins and we all kind of got at it.’ (Pat Martel/CBC)

MacDonald added that the chicken you buy at the store was probably only eight weeks old when it was killed while his chickens that don’t go on tour are about eight months old when they’re eaten.

But the show birds that join the travelling team usually don’t end up on the table. “Once they get old, they’re going to get tough.”

‘I had about a dozen pigeons at the Royal and they placed very, very well — as well as the chickens did,’ says MacDonald. ‘I’ve shown pigeons for probably 35 years.’ (Pat Martel/CBC)

So is this a hobby or a business for MacDonald? 

“Business? Are you kidding? No, there’s no money made in this game. It’s a hobby, that’s all it ever is,” he said.

‘Not a money-making proposition’

“If you’re going to have healthy livestock, you gotta feed them well,” he said. “Certainly, it’s not a money-making proposition when you look at the bills at the end of the year.

“It’s a hobby. It’s been a fun one for a long time.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa





With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV





A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence





Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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