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 www.chickengifts.co.uk 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 dft@domesticfowltrust.co.uk 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 http://www.domesticfowltrust.co.uk/ 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 http://www.defra.gov.uk/

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.