Chapons or Capon

In an age when a Capon means to most no more than a large chicken – a hybrid allowed to feed on for 10-12 weeks to become a heavyweight – we travel to Burgundy to discover the genuine Chapon and his female counterpart, the Poularde. These birds live to 150 and 120 days respectively and are reared almost exclusively for the Christmas Feast.

The best young chickens are selected by the farmers in late Spring and early Summer for a quick, painless procedure which dates back to the Ancient Greeks and known as caponisation. By castrating and spaying immature males and females, the birds grow on with care for little else but their outdoor life and good eating.

Their dairy rich rations, mixed with maïs blanc (a special variety of white corn) are supplemented by their foraging for snails, insects and more in the rich pastures of Bresse-Bourgogne. Farmers there have learned to keep their birds ever so slightly hungry so as to encourage the birds to find protein and in turn exercise and tone their muscles.

The Christmas Feast would not be complete without a Chapon and Poularde for most in France – the Bresse birds are the aristocracy and others of fine quality fall in behind. We look into caponised Guinea fowl and ducks, a new trait with an ancient methodology.

Preparing and cooking such treats at one of the year’s most special feasts will be shared, from people who cook professionally and the farmers’ wives we’ve met.

Simple chic for very special chickens.