Saturday, 5 May 2007

Poultry Keeping courses

The first poultry keeping course was run in March and went very well although some of the people booked were unable to get there because of the fog. The itinerary for the day was as follows
Poultry Keeping Course

10.00am Coffee and registration
10.15am Introduction and origin of Fowl
10.30 Housing –Including disinfection and Bio-security

11.15 Coffee

11.30 Choosing your birds- choice of breeds and signs of good health.
12.00 The laying hen – How the system works and what she needs.
12.30 Feeding and feed supplements
1.00 The most common ailments - What to do.

1.30 Lunch

2.15 Practical- catching and handling, routine jobs,
nail clipping, beak clipping. Etc.

3.15 Tea

The next course will be on the 22nd May it will run to the same format except that we will be adding an optional tour of the park at the end of the day for those who want to see more. We are keeping the cost of the course to £50.00 per person so that it is accessible to everybody.
There are still one or two places on the next course if you want to book. The booking forms will be available on the web site shortley but until then just telephone 01386 833083 to book your place.

Since my last blog we are pleased to welcome Peter to the Trust he has volunteered to help renovate some of the poultry houses which are looking the worse for wear after several years of use. We are very grateful for his expertise.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Paris Show

I am back in the UK after our visit to the Paris show. On the first day we went to SIMA which is the Paris machinery and equipment show. It is amazing the size of some of the machinery and the large number of exhibitors there. However there was nothing for the Domestic Fowl Trust . Some of the machinery would have problems turning round in our fields let alone getting through the gate!! They also cost the equivalent of a small house so we will have to make do with our second hand vintage machinery. There was a wide range though, there were several stands selling small milking machines and machinery for small farms. You rarely see small farms catered for at agricultural shows in the UK.

The next day Clive and I went to SIA. This show is on the opposite side of Paris to SIMA at the Porte de Versailles. This event showcases French agriculture. I took some photos of the egg exhibit . There was lots of quizzes for the children to do and cookery demonstrations.

The main chickens on display in the poultry area were Warren type for eggs and the naked neck shown below which are kept for meat. They were also showing chicks hatching which was exciting for the children. As I can't speak French I could not understand what the demonstrators were saying about the hens but it must have been interesting because the place was crowded.

There was also a poultry show for the exhibition breeds but there were not as many birds present as at the British Championship show . The winner was a Charolais Cockerel which resembled our Ixworths but a much lighter bird. It was too dark and crowded to take decent pictures.

There were exhibits of all species of animals including dogs and cats. All the French breeds of cattle were present including a miniature breed of cows called the Bretonne Pie Noire. As you can see Clive had a long conversation with them.

I did take some pictures of the Mules for Jenny as she is our resident Mule expert.

Back at the Domestic Fowl Trust we are getting ready for Easter. I am organising a series of poultry keeping courses.To cover choice of breeds, housing, feeding, welfare etc.

The first is on Tuesday 27th March from 10.00am to 3.30pm .

then each month after that

Tuesday 24th April

Tuesday 22nd May

If you want to book telephone 01386 833083 to reserve a place. The cost is £50.00 per person to include lunch in the cafe. Please book early to avoid disappointment.

The chicks are hatching now and we are selling a large number of hatching eggs . I was on Radio Mercia this morning talking to them about incubating and brooding chicks because they are incubating some for Easter. I hope they have a good hatching rate.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Spring is in the Air

The time has flown past again. I have been busy replacing all the name labels on the pens so that the different breeds can be recognised. The main problem with the signs is that the Muscovy ducks perch on them and tear them. We have overcome the problem with the signs fading but the damage to the signs is difficult to avoid. I have used card for the signs and thicker laminating plastic. Time will tell if it solves the problem.
The sheep have started lambing and we have several young portlands around. Not so much luck with the goats though. We had one kid overnight with triplets but unfortunately she was not a very good mum and the difficult birth meant that they weren't strong enough to survive. Shannon however has just kidded with twins and so far they are doing well. One of the Bagots also kidded with a little girl. One of the Irish Moiled cows has calved . It is a bull calf so we probably wont keep it.
The chickens are also coming into lay and we will be selling hatching eggs shortly once we have bred our own replacements.
We now stock MS incubators and the one we have been using as a demo worked very well and is now full of chicks.

A few weeks ago our old dog died and we got a new one from the Dogs Trust. His name is Larry. He has settled in very well .He doesn't chase the chickens but he is very boisterous and loopy so the cats have left home and have taken up residence in the barn just appearing at feed time.

We are also getting ready for Easter with all the new gifts we bought at the gift fair coming in now. They are not yet in the online catalogue but they can be bought through the shop. We have some chicken and duck watering cans that have been handmade in India and also new doorstops and Rocking Roosters . We also have a large number of different designs of luncheon serviettes ready for your Easter tea or Hen Party. Telephone 44(0)1386 833083 for more details
The pictures below show the watering cans. Some of the kitchen ware and the Rocking Roosters.

We have also had a delivery of the New Batch of Bluebells, Sussex Stars and Amber Stars so we have plenty of laying pullets in stock. They are selling fast so come early if you don't want to be disappointed

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Championship Show and Avian Flu

On Friday we set up for the National poultry Club Championship Show with no premonition of what was to come. The trade stand was all ready for the go and most of the birds were in their cages ready to be judged. Then on Saturday morning the Avian Flu outbreak was confirmed in Turkeys in Suffolk and everybody waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. However as all the birds were already in their cages it was decided that there was no point in cancelling so the show carried on. The Picture below shows the trade stand ready for the customers.

Apart from the trade stands there are also stands for each of the breed societies the one below is the Rhode Island Red stand showing all the trophies waiting to be presented.

The Supreme Show champion was a Modern Game Bantam and the reserve show Champion was a Buff Orpington Cockerel.

I will talk more about these breeds in a future blog.

On the Sunday there were less visitors to the show probably due to people believing it was not on . This however did not spoil the spirit of the show although the main topic of conversation was the flu outbreak and the possible source of infection . It is strange that the only cases of avian flu in recent years in the UK have been in in East Anglia in intensive commercial flocks not in outdoor flocks. I am not going to talk about the symptoms of avian flu you can visit the defra website at for further information.

It is however essential that everybody is vigilant . To keep your birds away from wild birds you can keep them in a biosecure run. The Aviary with a solid roof and 1 inch square wire is ideal for this and can be used with the mini chalet for a few birds or can be attached to the side of the Standard 10 or 20 for larger numbers. Check the housing pages of our website for pictures and details of online ordering or telephone 01386 833083 when we can discuss any special requirements you might have.

Disinfection is also important to destroy any viruses. Virkon is very effective in the hen house and can be obtained in both a powder or tablet form for ease of use. To disinfect the ground use Staldren Powder . It can be spread liberally over the chicken run to sterilise the soil.

All our smaller houses and runs are easy to clean out and have covered runs or runs that can be covered if necessary. We also sell beech chips to place on the floor of the runs if if you are in a restricted area and are no longer allowed to move the runs.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Battery Hens

First of all Apologies for leaving it so long between blogs. I don't know where the time went to. I must apologise to Heather for taking so long to reply to her question.

Rescuing Battery hens the pros and cons?
  1. Pros
    The main Pro is of course that you are taking a hen that has lived all her life inside and giving her a new home instead of letting her go for slaughter, which would be her fate at the end of her laying season. Because we expect our food to be perfect and each egg to be uniform with no shell defects, the packing stations can not take eggs from older hens. However if we are producing our own eggs this is not a problem.
  2. The other Pro is of course that they are a lot cheaper to buy because an ex- farm hen has a very low intrinsic value. The first hens I bought myself 30years ago came from a neighbouring commercial farm at the end of their years lay.

    The Cons .

  1. There are several things to be taken into account when you decide to have ex- battery hens. The first is that they have just finished their years lay and are quite often going into a moult. You will therefore not get many eggs until the moult is finished and they come back into lay again. Battery type hens have poor feathering because they have been raised and kept in a controlled environment and it may take a little while for the feathers to re grow properly.
  2. Which brings me to the second main consideration as I mentioned these hens have lived all their lives in a controlled environment they are not used to being outside in the cold so don't think you can just take the hens and put them outside especially in the winter. They will love going outdoors once they are acclimatised but they will need good housing. They will also have been barn reared and will not have learnt to perch so you may have to train them to perch at night or be prepared to accept that they are going to sleep on the floor or in the nestboxes.
  3. The other thing they are not used to is a range of different foods. They are usually fed on mash so if you are introducing them to pellets or corn you will have to do it gradually. Mix the mash with the pellets for a while until they are happy with the new food. They are creatures of habit. We had problems with our hens when the feed merchants pelleter broke down and the pellets were suddenly much bigger, the hens were very suspicious at first!

4. The other problem about battery hens is that they are relatively short lived. They lay masses of eggs so that they do a lifetimes lay in about 2-3years and after that they stop . Although I know some people have had battery hens live to 7 or 8 years it is not that common and they won't be laying throughout their life.

As long as you are aware of the potential drawbacks there is nothing to stop you enjoying your battery hens . Like all hens they are great characters and you will find them fascinating. I enjoyed mine until unfortunately they got taken by a mink . I then went over to rare breeds and kept Light Sussex.

Now back to the Domestic Fowl Trust time has flown because we have been busy. The continuing storms completely demolished Princess's pen and we removed all the pieces before they blew all over the farm park. The high winds also took some of the old hen house roofs off and blew over some of our grower houses damaging some of the fences at the same time so Teigh and Paddy have spent the last 2 weeks trying to repair them. We have a number of antique hen houses but I think they are getting past renovation nowadays. ( Sorry still no pictures my camera is still at the repairers)

Clive and I went up to London last week to the DIY and Garden Trade show at Earls Court. We are looking for a wholesaler of woodcare products to stock in the shop. This means that as well as selling the hen houses we can also supply treatment for them to keep the wood looking good over the years. We also ordered some new weathervanes in copper to complement the range we already sell . The weathervanes look really good on our Garden Houses.

This house was actually featured on the TV program "Big Brother" in the second series when they were still keeping hens in the garden.

We also ordered some very smart brass rooster door knockers and some cast iron rooster garden lanterns. All these will be featured on our website when they are delivered.

After finishing at the DIY show we discovered that there was a designer gift trade show in the other hall at Earls Court so we looked around that show as well. There were lots of really nice furnishings and cards but nothing relating to hens or ducks so I managed to avoid ordering anything. Next week is the big gift fair at the NEC in Birmingham and I know there are lots of chicken related items there so the web site should be full of lots of new fancy stuff ready for Easter.

We have filled up our trailer again ready for the coming weekend when we have a trade stand at the Poultry Club of Great Britain Championship show on Saturday and Sunday at the NAC Stoneleigh. I am looking forward to seeing all the best poultry in the country. The show did not run in 2005 and 2006 so this year the competition will be fierce. Each time we go to a show we seem to take more stuff so we will have lots to sell. Unfortunately we are always busy so don't have time to show our own birds.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Black Rocks

At last the new batch of Black Rock hybrids has arrived and the birds are now available for sale. For those who don't know, the Black Rock is a variety of hen which has been bred for hardiness to live outdoors on a free range system and still produce a large number of eggs.

It is a Sex-linked hybrid bred by crossing good egg-laying strains of the Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock. This means the male and female chicks are different colours at birth so can be identified.

The Black Rock is very resistant to disease and has thick feathers to keep it well insulated in cold weather. They lay brown eggs . They are also very docile so make good pets for children. As I said we now have the birds in stock if you are looking to buy and we should have them available each month from now on. Unfortunately we are unable to ship birds so you will need to come and visit us at Honeybourne to choose your own and take them home with you.

The not so good news is the weather we have had a lot of rain and wind recently and in the latest storms the field shelter in Princess's paddock blew away leaving her Homeless. Luckily I had just finished re fencing Gertie's ( the Pig ) old pen so Princess moved in there. Princess is our little white Rhea. We call her Princess but that is a bit wishful thinking she may be a Prince. We won't know until she/he starts breeding. That should be this year so I will keep you posted.

This picture is actually of Princess when we first got her. She is a bit bigger than this now. I can't show you a picture of her demolished shed because my camera is sick and has gone to be mended. Until it comes back I will have to use some of my old photos.

Let me know if you have any news you want to share or send me some photos of your hens. We sell lots of hatching eggs and chicks but I don't see them grown up.

Hopefully those of you who are supporters of the Domestic Fowl Trust will have received their newsletters this week. Apologies for the fact that some of it is repeated in the Blog but I know not everyone is on line. It costs £12.50 to be an adult supporter of the Domestic Fowl Trust which gives you three newsletters a year plus two free visits to the Trust or £20.00 for an adult season ticket for which you get the newsletters and unlimited visits to the farm park. All the money raised goes towards the upkeep of the birds and in this case to help rebuild a new field shelter. Volunteers with carpentry skills would also be welcome . telephone 44 (0) 1386 833083 or e-mail to if you are interested in helping us.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Transport of Poultry

First I wish everybody a Happy New Year . I meant to do this in the last blog but got busy but better late than never.
On the 5th January 2007 the EU directive regarding the welfare of animals in Transit has been extended and now covers Poultry. Poultry is not defined in the act but is taken to include domestic fowl, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea-fowl, quails, pheasants and partridges . For those who haven't heard I thought I would just say how it affects those who live in the UK .
Anybody who transports poultry for business or trade must fill out an Animal Movement Certificate which must accompany the birds on their journey. However if the birds are just pets and are accompanied by their owner at all times this is not necessary unless they are going to a sale or a show in which case this is regarded as commercial and the regulation applies.
If you are transporting the birds over 65Km ( approximately 40 miles) you will also need to apply for Transportation authorisation from Defra.
Even where the animal movement certificate is not required you must ensure that the birds are fit to travel and are healthy. Also that they are transported in a suitable container which can be disinfected or destroyed at the end of the journey. We sell both cardboard and wooden carrying boxes at the Domestic Fowl Trust as you can see in the picture(see our website for details.

If you have large numbers of poultry we also sell poultry crates. These hold 10 to 15 birds and can be disinfected with Virkon at the end of the journey

If the journey is less that twelve hours long you do not need to provide food and water during the journey. The birds will store food and water in their crop but it is essential they have had access to food and water before the journey and on arrival at their destination.

For full details on the Welfare of animals in transport regulations you should visit the Defra site

The instructions are a bit confusing as at one point it says that pets accompanying their owners to shows or people breeding animals as a hobby are exempt even if they make money at it and then later that it does not apply to hobby farmers who are keeping farm animals and poultry. So where does that leave people breeding poultry for showing as the poultry are classed as farm animals. At the Federation show before Christmas the trading standards insisted all the birds had to have animal transport certificates even when transported by their owners as a hobby so we have to err on the safe side and fill in a form when going to shows. If travelling further than 40miles check with your defra before you plan your journey as to whether you need a transport authorisation . I expect this is one law that will vary from county to county and will probably be finalised in a court of law. If transporting birds to or from other states in the EU don't forget that other member states will interpret the directive differently.

Meanwhile back at the Domestic Fowl Trust all the birds had a good New Year although I am not sure what they thought of the fireworks at the local pub It was very noisy but they seemed to take it in their stride with a bright full moon at the moment the cockerels think it is morning and crow at all hours of the night anyway. There are definite signs of spring in that the hens are starting to lay and the cockerels are becoming more active . We start selling hatching eggs on the 1st March so hopefully before that we will have had time to hatch a few ourselves.

Apologies to those who have had problems getting answers on the phone we have had a couple of members of staff off with winter colds which means the rest of us have been running round trying to get everything done.

This is a picture of Transylvannian naked necks. I just added it because it always looks in this weather as though they could do with scarves to keep them warm. They however seem quite happy and don't notice the cold.