Saturday, 30 December 2006
For those who had our Chicken houses and hens for Christmas I expect that you are now wondering when the eggs are going to arrive. Hens however are very sensible birds and in the wild would not start laying eggs until the spring so that the chicks when they arrive will have lots of food in the form of insects . In order to have chicks in the spring the hens have an internal clock inside them which is started by daylight . Once the day length starts increasing the clock starts ticking. Now in the UK the days are slowly getting longer and the hen's body is gearing up to lay eggs. We can speed up this process in our pet birds by supplying an extra sun in the form of an extra light . The hen then thinks Spring has come and starts laying. Failing this we have to be patient and let nature take it's course. Keeping birds naturally means understanding the forces of nature and working with them. We can look forward to things in season.
Having said this we are very unseasonal at the Domestic Fowl Trust as we still have eggs in the incubator and are still hatching a few chicks. We are just suckers for babies. The picture shows some of the chicks under a heat lamp in our chick room.Because we have lots of different breeds of chickens we have chicks of all colours and sizes. Not all hens will lay in the winter even with added light so we only have a few varieties of chicks at this time of year. Wait until the Spring when the place is really humming or should I say cheeping !
Having mentioned insects we have just had a delivery of live meal worms from wiggly wigglers . http://www.wiggleywigglers.co.uk/ The post lady was wondering what was arriving in a box with holes in the side. Most people know that Meal worms are a good source of protein for wild birds especially when rearing chicks but they are also a great treat for your hens . Watch your girls come running with excitement when they see a few in their feed dish. We will be stocking them in our shop and if there is a demand we will be putting them in our new catalogue.
Christmas day and Boxing day are the only two days in the year when the shop is shut. This means that on Christmas day I was outside talking to the chickens and on Boxing day Clive and I took the opportunity to rearrange some of the shop fittings. We have moved things around a bit and put in a new table for the children's gifts so that they can reach them easily.
It is also the end of my 9th year of trading so we use the holiday time as a chance to do the stock taking. This means counting everything in the shop and store. It also gives me a good chance to plan what new items we will be stocking but more about that in the next blog.
Emma busy recording the numbers of incubators on display
Thursday, 21 December 2006
This year there were fewer birds entered than normal but there were still plenty to look at and hear. It always amazes me how much noise people and birds in an enclosed hall can generate.
If you have never been to a National poultry show it is well worth going it is one of the few places you can see most of the colours and varieties of chickens. They are all poshed up for the show and as they are in exhibition cages you can get up close to them and have a really good look. The bantams swept the board at the show with the show champion being a Light Sussex bantam hen belonging to M. Clemens and the reserve champion was a Modern Game bantam shown by M. McCullough, The Waterfowl champion was a White Call duck belonging to J. Johnson.
Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me to take photographs but there will be some in the Fancy Fowl Magazine.http://www.fancyfowl.com/
They were also taking photographs throughout the show for the new edition of "The British Poultry Standards". this is coming out in 2008 and we will be stocking it when it is available. The next National Show is the Poultry Club of Great Britain show http://www.poultryclub.org.uk/ which will be held the first weekend in February 2007 . This is held at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.
This is not a show bird but is one of our working Light Sussex Cockerels . It does show you however what the breed looks like. Light Sussex are a popular breed because they are striking looking and are also good layers. It is a dual purpose breed which was developed in Sussex 1n the 1800's. The birds were appearing at poultry shows as early as 1845. They were bred to provide eggs and meat for the London market and were shipped up to London by train from Heathfield. Nowadays they are a very useful bird for the small poultry keeper because they are good foragers and are hardy. Unfortunately they cannot compete in the commercial market as they do not lay as well as the modern hybrid strains and they also have a habit of going broody.
There are several more commercial types around such as the Sussex Star which resembles the Light Sussex in looks but has better egg production. Few people now keep the Light Sussex for meat because of the length of time they take to mature.
We have been busy in the shop with the sale of gifts in the run up to Christmas the new website http://www.chickengifts.co.uk is generating lots of interest. We also have lots of new gifts in the shop which haven't yet made it to the website . Clive is out every day this week delivering chicken houses and starter kits all over the country to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas. Chicken houses are a very popular christmas present. Don't forget to check out our website. http://www.domesticfowltrust.co.uk
Monday, 11 December 2006
These little hens are Lavender Pekins they are really friendly little birds and love being picked up but are a bit camera shy. We have to be especially careful of these breeds in wet weather because as you can see they have 'trousers' on . All these little breeds with feathers on their legs don't cope very well with the mud and have to be checked for mud balls on their feet throughout the winter. It wouldn't be the first time I have had these little pekins sitting in a bowl of warm water to wash their feet.
We avoid this problem in very bad weather by putting beech chips on the floor of their pen to keep their feet clean. The beech chips are much better than bark or wood shavings because they don't go mouldy . They are specially made for animal and bird cages so are free of any nasty bugs or fungi. After the winter you can spread them on your garden paths or around the flower beds where they keep the weeds down. These beech chips are not yet in our catalogue but can be purchased by e-mail or telephone. Of course both the chips and the houses can be purchased from our shop when you come visiting.
Luckily several of our smaller bantams are in our Penthouse range of chicken houses so we can easily move them to dry ground and the chickens are protected by a roof over their heads . The picture shows Clive moving a penthouse to a fresh piece of grass . You can see how easy it is to move on your own. Even I can move it without having to go running for help. You can also use the beech chips on the floor of these houses if you haven't any grass to put the chicken house on . It works well if you are keeping the birds as pets on your patio.
For those who are interested in the birds. Pekins were imported from China . The original ones were Buff or Gold and were kept as pets by the Emperor. They are round shaped with fluffy feathers the tail is as high as the head. The feet are covered with feathers. They now come in a range of colours . We have 10 different colours on show here at the Domestic Fowl Trust at Honeybourne but there are several more colours that we don't have room for.
This is a picture of a mottled Pekin Hen and Cockerel.The older the get the more white they become. A bit like us really . An old hen can be very white.
This one looking over her shoulder at us is a partridge Pekin hen. I haven't got a picture of the cockerel but he is much brighter coloured with a gold head and shoulders.
Friday, 8 December 2006
The Domestic Fowl Trust was set up in 1979 to conserve the rare breeds of chickens , ducks , geese and turkeys.It started out on a farm near Stratford-on -Avon and moved to it's present site at Honeybourne in 1986 . Over the years we have added to the number of birds kept and in 1998 when Clive and I moved from the Dairy farm we brought the Irish moiled Cows and other Rare Breeds with us. For more details of rare breeds go to www.rbst.org.uk