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No matter how you ‘appened upon us, be it via a link, directly or simply stumbled upon, then hello and welcome to ChickenStreet; a place for chickeneers and garden-holics.

Below you’ll find a blog filled with procrastinations about poultry and garble about gardening in an untidy tangle of the two, up above you can find pages for the poultry and plants we incubate and propagate for folks to buy and the events, talks & courses we attend and provide. If it’s books, articles, photography or media you are looking for then Freelance ChickenStreet is the page for you, and finally there’s all you need for Oswestry Poultry Auction – Enjoy your visit, do come back, bookmark us, in fact why not subscribe?

Foxed again…. or was I?

This time of year can be quite busy for foxes around these parts. There’s young mouths that need feeding and if the local rabbit population is a bit low then brazen foxes will head for my poultry flocks.

It is also that time of year that broodiness can start to appear in hens. Most of the time my hens will lay claim to a nest box in a coop but every now and then there will be one that furtively lays a clutch in a hedgerow or some undergrowth. Each day she will lay an egg in her secluded nesting site and each night she will roost in the coop with the rest of the flock.

Unless I’m very lucky I’m usually unaware of her activities until one day I don’t see her out and about, or she doesn’t emerge from the house in the morning with the rest of that flock. A sure sign she’s sitting tight somewhere and a fairly sure sign that if I don’t find her then she won’t make the 21 days incubation before being eaten.

Sadly this morning when doing the rounds I found the feathers of a cream legbar hen in the field. She came out of the coop the previous morning but I suspect last night was her first, and last night incubating the clutch (which I later found under a shrub).

Killed by a fox is my usual conclusion as they are the main predator around here and their modus operandi with single birds tends to be a feathers at the point of capture and feathers at the point where they have accessed and exited the property (as it’s likely to have been a squeeze). This morning though after a Horatio Caine CSI moment I reached a different conclusion which I believe lets the fox off the hook…

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Look at these two pictures…

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They are taken from opposite sides of some relatively small gauge stock fence. There are feathers on both sides with a lot close to the fence line. Something has gone through the fence with the dead bird. The legbar isn’t a heavy breed and a fox would have easily carried it over the fence or gone around as a fox is too large to squeeze through the fence. What we have here is a mustelid kill. This bird was taken by some ferret or polecat derivative I suspect.

So apologies foxes for jumping to the wrong conclusion and hello to a new predator most probably of the mustelid kind!

Poultry Genetics Workshop hits Devon

Back in 2013 I went on Grant Brereton’s Genetics Seminar and it was very well received by those who attended, myself include. Earlier this year he told me he was doing a few ‘gigs’ down Devon way so I figured I’d take the opportunity to put a few questions to him especially as he’s redesigned it as a ‘workshop’…. and given we were in interview mode the other day for one of the titles we both write for (Country Smallholding), what better time to strike!
Grant in America
Why a ‘Workshop’ this time and not a Seminar?
GB: I think ‘Seminar’ sounds a bit too studious and official for what we’re trying to achieve in Devon.
Ok, so what’s that?
GB: Well the Oswestry Seminar was in large hall with a stage, live birds in show pens, and props etc. But this workshop in Okehampton will be on the Farm of Ian and Gillian Dixon, so there will be many birds on site that they breed and rear there. Plus we are breeding specific crosses for the course. People will be able to handle the chicks and growers and see many points demonstrated. There is also an outbuilding for presentations and slideshows etc, so I intend to make full use of that.
Sounds a fun day, so are you planning any more?
GB: Nothing official so far. I have a few venues interested in a UK ‘Breeding and Genetics’ tour, so to speak, but Jim Adkins of the Sustainable Poultry Network wants me back in the US in 2016 and I’ve had many offers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Continent too. But such events take a lot of planning, and what with my journalism and editorial work, hence so few and far between at present.
So how many places are available each day?
GB: We’ve restricted it to 25 per day because we feel that’s a nice amount of people to be working with. We want it to be an enjoyable and rare experience for all who attend. The Saturday 30 May only has 2 places left, but there are a few more places available on the Sunday 31.
Ok, and what level of genetics are you assuming people will have?
GB: I think it’s very hard to find common ground in that respect, so I will be keeping it simple in many ways – and emailing everyone individually beforehand to see what they hope to get out of the day. But in saying that, I will be available to answer any manner of genetics questions – no matter how complex.
You’ve called it a ‘Breeding and Genetics Workshop – presumably that has some significance?
GB: Yes, absolutely. I want to cover how to breed better stock, and look at pure breeds as well, which are more important really. And for this reason, and so it’s not just me preaching all day, I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend, Jed Dwight, who is a respected breeder and exhibitor. He’s my guest speaker on both days!
So what will people get for their £35?
GB: We tried to keep the cost as reasonable as possible. All who attend will get a FREE e-book download of ‘Breeding For Success, ‘ a FREE souvenir workbook which they can refer to time and again, and a FREE lunch as well as refreshments throughout the day. There will also be some prize giveaways as each person will get their own ping pong ball to be drawn out of a hat later in the day. We also intend on a few hidden extras, plus special discounts on my book range and South Yeo East’s poultry range.
And you think you’re the right person for the job?
GB: I hope so. I’ve spent the last 17 years breeding intensively and most of that time studying inheritance. I’ve conducted many experiments and made many observations along the way. I do believe I can deliver the course in my own way, which I know people enjoyed last time and I’m sure those attending Devon will feel the same.
Are you pleased with the ticket sales so far?
GB: Oh, I think you have to be! Okehampton in Devon isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘central’ but I agreed to do it when some Devon folk found the Oswestry one just a tad too far to travel. So yes, it’s wonderful really; a great compliment.  A few people left it too late last year, which is frustrating, understandably (I could have sold 120 places), but you just never know who is planning on coming and leaving it till the last minute – that’s the hardest part: planning for how many people will come.
So what do those lucky enough to have a ticket need to bring with them?
GB: Well knowing the British weather, a coat, a pair of wellies and a notepad is all I ask. I would also ask them to participate if they want to and just to enjoy the day. It’s supposed to be an insight into becoming a better breeder and delving a little bit into that ‘seemingly complex’ world that makes for all the wonderful permeations of colours, features and plumage patterns in poultry. But the most important part is that people have fun!
To book your ticket for either May 30th or May 31st workshops then click here: http://www.gbpoultry.com/Devon_Workshop.html
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Oswestry Poultry Auction 25th April – Market Report

OSWESTRY POULTRY AUCTION

SATURDAY 25TH APRIL 2015

MARKET REPORT

 

The weather report for the weekend wasn’t good, with the fine sunny weather reported to be turning cold and wet. It was certainly cooler but the rain stayed away in the main.

The other thing that was cooler was the volume of birds entered. A number of sales up and down the country have had to cancel or postpone auctions due to the lack of entries however this isn’t due to the lack of demand but really down to the lack of available stock around at the moment.

It’s a bold statement to make perhaps but it’s easy enough to back up as the sale and prices were hot! The auction had just over 140 lots of eggs, deadstock and poultry available and even with the upset prices applied to the auction only 3 lots failed to reach either their reserve or the base price.

A couple of vendors didn’t show on the day and if their reasoning was the low numbers of entries then they could well be kicking themselves given the buoyant prices.

Top for the day

Large Fowl White Wyandotte Pair (K Williams)                £80

Other notables

Waterfowl
Buff Orpington Pair                            £42

Bantams
Sebright (Gold, PR)                           £68
Sabelpoots (TR)                                £64
Sumatra (White, PR)                         £40
Serama (PR)                       average £38

Large Fowl
Faverolles (Salmon, 2 pullets)         £60
Wellsummers (TR)                          £50
Oxford (Pyle, PR)                            £44
Legbar (pullets)                 average £20/bird

Hatching eggs
average £15/dozen

 

The next sale will now be Sat 22nd August –  Poultry, Poultry Deadstock, Farm Machinery & Antiques.

On a final note many thanks to the vendors and buyers who come to the auction. We are in our 5th year now and appreciate your continued support

Worst protein source for climate change..Chicken or Cheese?

As a mixed meat eating and vegetarian household we quite frequently debate the ethics of food and food production, not in an attempt to convert each other but because putting aside the ethical motivations surrounding the eating of meat, both forms of ‘diet’ create a demand on the planet, and both have the capacity to unsustainable. Recently one such discussion had us posing the question that assuming the very best current practices regarding environment protection and ethical treatment of animals were being adhered to then as a source of protein, which is more environmentally costly; dairy products such as milk and cheese, or eggs and meat from chickens?

The Dorking. Better for the environment than Dutch Edam?

The Dorking. Better for the environment than Dutch Edam?

There are so many variables at play in the production of diary versus poultry protein that I was glad I stumbled across an interesting piece of research the performed by the Environmental Working Group. They looked at the lifecycle total of greenhouse gas emissions for common protein foods and vegetables and expressed them as kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide equivalents per kg of food product. Unsurprisingly the production of lamb meat and beef sat at the top of the pile producing 39kg and 27kg of carbon respectively per one kg of product. It also came as no surprise that lentils sat at the opposite end producing 0.9kg per one kg of product. What did surprise me though was where diary sat in relation to poultry.

Eggs generate 4.8kg of carbon per kg of food and chicken meat sits around 6.9kg of carbon per kg of food. Milk came in at an impressive 1.9kg and in fact creates less of a carbon footprint than broccoli at 2kg and potatoes at 2.9kg per kg of food. But what of cheese? With a whooping 13.2kg of carbon per one kg of food produced it ranks amongst the highest in terms of carbon footprint when analysing the common protein foods sitting above pork, turkey and fish. Needless to say this threw up all manner of side debates but it does serve to illustrate that things are not always as they might appear.

Chicken & Egg by Andy Cawthray and James Hermes | The Womens Room

The first review of the new book and hopefully the first of many positive ones too :-)

Chicken & Egg by Andy Cawthray and James Hermes | The Womens Room.

Chickens As Pets?

Forgive me but I must have a little rant. Ok I know, I do rant quite frequently in the columns I write for but the clocks spring forward this weekend and the safety valve of sodding off outside and cutting logs when something gets up my nose will beat ‘blogging off’ on here

Are chickens pets? Yes they can be but if you eat the eggs they produce then you must NEVER forget they are livestock and a farmed animal. So why the rant? It’s spurred on by a blissful ignorance I keep seeing exhibited and in fact almost lauded by some chicken owners.  It is that which seems to ignore the very basic premise if a hen produces an egg which you then introduce into the food chain it means you have to be careful what you put into the hen as feed. It is that which declares because they are ‘my pets’ such rules surrounding their feed doesn’t matter and to hell with the stupidity of those who make up the rules. Granted blanket unconditional bans tend to be introduced in order to eliminate risk and somebody with a modicum of intelligence can usually apply a bit of logic and work out a way around it, however it would such intellect gets lost in the case of the great dried mealworm debate….

Whether your flock is free ranging, living in a fixed run or even restricted to some level of indoor penning, you wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall, or one buzzing by for that matter. Chickens by their very nature are excellent foragers and intelligent enough to work out there is frequently food value to be had from any small passer-by. Sit and watch your flock on summers evening when the midges are low and you see the hens actively pecking and plucking at the air around them. Insects are a natural part of the omnivorous chickens diet and in fact a part of many a wild birds diet too (hence the reason you can buy insect products to put on the bird table).

Products such as dried mealworms however are deemed unsuitable for feeding to chickens. Yes, you read that correctly, you would be breaching current legislation if you were to feed dried mealworms to your flock.

I looked into the reasoning and primarily it is down to the fact that dried crustaceans and dried terrestrial invertebrates (eg mealworms) when imported to the UK fall under with regulations of EU 142/2011. Within this document  it states the “the competent authority may authorise the importation of certain materials for purposes other than feeding to farmed land animals (except for feeding to fur animals) provided there is no unacceptable risk for the transmission of disease communicable to humans or animals”.

Given my previously published opinions on the feeding of kitchen scraps then it would be fair to assume that my view would be “obviously another example of EU madness” and that “I would be compelled to agree with the e-petition and campaign to have the ban be lifted” as one email to me stated. Well I don’t.

Why? Two reasons immediately spring to mind. Firstly the basis of the argument to have the ban lifted seemed to be that poultry kept in the back garden are not farm animals but domestic animals, in other words not livestock but pets. Wrong. If you keep chickens and those chickens lay eggs and you eat those eggs then they are farm animals. This doesn’t mean you can’t care for them as pets but it does mean you need to very aware that the eggs you eat will be influenced by what you feed your ‘pets’. Which leads me into my second reason, I keep chickens because I get a level of confidence in knowing where at least some of the food my family eats comes from. So why would I feed imported dried mealworms that are produced using an unregulated process where I have no confidence (or come-back) that they are dried using a treatment sufficient to destroy pathogenic organisms such as salmonella? I wouldn’t.

In fact when you consider the lack of control around the manufacture of such “feeds” it does beg the question as why it’s ok to feed them to wild birds when quite frequently ‘said wild birds’ will come into contact with domestic poultry (but there lies another tale!).

Just in case you are sitting there thinking “he’s off on one making much ado about nothing” then consider this; in the next 12 months it is distinctly probable the EU will authorise the use of insect protein for use as feed for pigs and chickens. Research and Development funds have already been diverted towards this as a possible viable alternative to importing soya.

Should the result of this research mean that a clean pathogen free protein source becomes available as a poultry feed then I’ll look into it further. Until then though you won’t find me buying and feeding unregulated and risk laden products to my chickens, but to those who do heed this.  If  your poor feeding techniques and arrogance towards the basic concepts of growing food results in the poultry equivalent of a ‘mad cow disease’ then you are no better than those who created that problem. This time though there would be far more flocks than herds at risk, and a significantly higher number of stock owners baying for blood, and my voice would be one of them.

 

Chicken & Egg – My new book has arrived

Yesterday’s post delivery saw the arrival (pre-release) of my new book. This time I teamed up with American poultry specialist and associate professor James Hermes to create a book that looked specifically at eggs and egg laying breeds.Cover

Just as with “The chicken; a natural history” Ivy Press have created another striking book which is enhanced significantly by the fantastic free flowing artwork of illustrator Kate Osborne. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with both James and Kate, albeit it a completely ‘virtual’ collaboration, and I hope they are both as pleased with the result as I am.

If you have been involved in writing a reference book then, unless you are self-publishing, it can be not unlike writing for a magazine. You put the words together, you suggest images and captions, you edit and amend gallies and mock ups, but in the end you don’t really know what the final product looks like until you have it in your hand. Ivy Press described themselves as ‘makers of beautiful books’ which, inspite my being an author of two of their books, I can honestly say they do.

I wonder what my third title might be about…. Chickens perhaps? Oh go on then… :-)

 

Insects could replace soya in poultry feed – Farmers Weekly

There is a certain potential in this idea… but is it one of those things that leaves itself open to exploitation by those more interested in profit than problem-fixing? Time will tell

Insects could replace soya in poultry feed – Farmers Weekly.