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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?

Race is on to rehome thousands of chickens (to increase profits?)

“CAN you make sure these chickens do not fall foul of the slaughterhouse and give them a new home?”

Source: Race is on to rehome thousands of chickens (From The Argus)

Yep, yet another pile of misinformation with cracking quotes like “Legally hens cannot be kept on farms for longer than 78 weeks because the quality of the eggs fall and the shells become thinner” and yet rehoming the hen is legal and in it’s also legal to sell the eggs they produce “off gate” to any old Tom, Dick or Harry.

Can someone please show me the law that states a commercial laying hen is illegal and must be slaughtered at 78 weeks of age?

So what’s the truth?

One truth is that the consistency and quality of the eggs being produced will be reduced result in an impact on the profit so the industry regards the hens as ‘spent’ (read, not economically viable)

Another truth is that at 78 weeks of age the hens will be heading into their first full moult. During this period they will not lay and consequently they will cost money to feed whilst delivering no product. That’ll be not economically viable again then I guess.

And then there is the one massive elephant in the room… the very industry tugging your heart strings to rescue the hens from slaughter is the very same industry that consigns them to that fate from day one by the structure of its supply chain.

Oh, but let’s not forget the little bit of maths

9,000 ‘spent hens’ will at best attract 50p per bird when sent for slaughter so according to my maths that will bring in £4,500

If however 9,000 get rehomed at £3 a bird then that brings in £27,000. A tidy profit indeed.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about whether the story exhibits compassion and mercy or contradiction and money.

What goes in must come out – the blindness of backyard poultry keepers?

 

Smack your chick up?

Smack your chick up?

I’m quite vocal at times about the contrast between commercial poultry rearing and small scale or backyard keeping. I can be quite damning about some the legislation because I’m a great believer that in a large majority of cases one size doesn’t fit all. In fact the concept of one size fitting all seems to stem from the issue that pragmatism and scalability get side-lined. This is either because they are too expensive or are only relevant to ‘the little people’ who, by definition, are irrelevant in the grand scheme of the poultry world!

It follows on then that given my documented opinions I am sometimes challenged by people as to whether my attitude stems from a belief that small scale poultry keepers know better than the big boys and the authorities, or whether I’m just an outspoken idiot. I guess when I put these commentaries out there then it’s only to be expected that someone is going tackle me about them, I mean I’m hardly the Jeremy Clarkson of the poultry world (and have no intention of punching the Editor of Fancy Fowl) but I do realise that if you voice an opinion you are unlikely to find everyone is in agreement.

So. Do we know best? No, we don’t. I for one though do know that when it comes to livestock whatever you put into it needs to either come out again, or you better be very sure it has no consequences staying within the animal, and this is certainly one area where I think a number of small scale keepers and the Fancy can be found at fault.

It’s not so much the food stuffs used in this instance (although obviously there are issues that need to be addressed on that point) but the regime of chemicals and drugs that get administered and applied willy-nilly. There’s many a poultry keeper I’ve spoken to who decided to keep chickens because they had become concerned over the welfare of the livestock used to produce meat and eggs. Some were uneasy about the cocktail of antibiotics and vaccinations that were being administered to the chickens that supplied the high street, and this led them to rear some of their own birds. By the same measure I’ve spoken to and heard of many more backyard poultry keepers who seem to have forgotten that Betty the Hen is in fact ‘livestock’ and therefore falls under a different category to ‘pet’. Being blunt this means the stuff you squirt all over your cat to prevent biting insects can’t be applied to your chickens unless the label specifically says so. This is because ‘cat’ isn’t something you see on the supermarket shelf. By the same measure injecting your chicken with a ‘cure’ that keeps you dog fit and healthy is also a bad call, on account of the fact your dog doesn’t lay eggs for Sundays full cooked breakfast.

And then there are those I encounter within the Fancy who apply all manner of unlicensed products to their birds whilst spraying industrial insecticides throughout their sheds to minimise the risk of disease and pests burdening their show winning flock. When I challenge them a defence of “ah but these are show birds” is offered but this isn’t a defence unless you have no intention of either consuming or selling on stock or eggs. Ultimately if these people release either eggs or birds from their flock then they are running the risk of putting something into the food chain that shouldn’t be there.

As a Kansas State University pharmacologist recently said, “what you don’t know about your chickens could hurt you and others”. People who use, administer and apply ‘off-piste’, under the counter medications and chemicals need to be aware that there are potential drug residues that could sit within the eggs and meat of the bird for an indeterminate amount of time. These people do exist too because if I for one had a pound for every time I heard “I use XYZ and look, my birds are fine, and none of them have dropped dead” then I’d be able to afford a few rounds at the pub for sure.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I might be outspoken about what I consider to be daft when it comes to the application of legislation surrounding what can and cannot be fed to poultry, but this is because I’m trying to apply common sense, pragmatism and scalability. However, when it comes to the control of medications and chemical treatments then there are sound reasons why they should not be used around livestock. This is because of the risk to the food chain, so unless you can genuinely claim to “know best” then be aware you could well be inadvertently dosing our food chain with fluoroquinolones , phenylpyrazoles and all manner of lethal concoctions.  Eat that.

OFC – Can UK Farming Afford to Leave the EU? – The Poultry Site

This is a debate that I find interesting given a large proportion of our exports to the EU are to Ireland…. I guess though, the question is whether the UK takes more in subsidy from the EU that it does in supply. Answers on a postcard

UK – The UK could grow the rural economy, improve the environment and protect the country from plant and animal diseases if it was outside the European Union, according to the former environment secretary Owen Paterson.

Source: OFC – Can UK Farming Afford to Leave the EU? – The Poultry Site

Review of the Year: Ten of 2015’s Biggest Poultry News Stories

Even if you only keep a few birds as pets or for an egg supply for the kitchen it is worth keeping up to speed on what is happening within the commercial side of our ‘hobby’

c/o The Poultry Site

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL – An editor’s selection box of some of this year’s news stories that have had the biggest impact on poultry production and trade around the world.

Source: Review of the Year: Ten of 2015’s Biggest Poultry News Stories – The Poultry Site

Guest blog from over the pond – Fencing for Chickens

Occasionally I receive content for the blog from folks around the web and this time I’ve been sent some fencing information care of Liz Greene.

If you follow any of the columns I write for various magazines then you’ll be familiar of my encounters with predators here in the UK, namely the fox, badger and a one legged escapee Harris Hawk. On reading Liz’s advice I now consider myself lucky not having to worry about bears, snakes, bobcats and raccoons!

Have a read… it’s all sound advice and thanks Liz for sharing it!

 

 

Fencing Your Chickens: What You Need to Know

Hens

When it comes to chicken fencing, there are two objectives — keep predators out and keep your chickens in.The first objective is easily the most important, as chickens have little-to-no means of protecting themselves. However, trying to herd chickens isn’t always the easiest task, so keeping them contained is just as necessary.

So what options do you have for fencing your flock?

Hardware Cloth (Wire Mesh)

Hardware cloth is excellent fencing material for chicken runs, as it’s the best option to protect against a number of small and medium sized predators such as rats, snakes, minks, and raccoons. Available in different sizes, the half inch size is ideal for creating a protected outdoor pen. Use the quarter inch size to cover smaller areas, such as the coop windows or vents. Hardware cloth is galvanized to protect against rust and while it’s a bit stiff, it can easily be bent it by hand.

Chicken Wire

Although it’s cheap, easy to install, and has chicken in the name, chicken wire should be avoided if you’re looking to keep predators from decimating your flock. This lightweight, octagonal-shaped wire will keep your chickens in, but it won’t keep the predators out. Raccoons and other dexterous animals are infamous for reaching through chicken wire and tearing apart the chickens they can grab. Chicken wire should only be used in daytime runs where you have direct supervision over your flock.

Electric Fencing

There are a few different types of electric fencing that work for chickens — two and three wire systems, electric netting, and combination electric and standard fencing.

Two to three wire systems work well to deter medium to large predators — but snakes, rats, and mice can pass right through. Electric netting keeps the lion’s share of predators out, but tends to be more expensive and trickier to maintain.

Combination fencing is the best bet as it’s an easy way to deter predators and is fairly inexpensive. Simply add a ground wire four to six inches from the bottom of your current fence and another wire along the top to deter climbing predators. Connect wires to a 5,000 volt charger to both contain chickens and stop predators.

The Fence

Whatever material you ultimately decide to build your fence out of, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. Bobcats, coyotes, and foxes are fantastic jumpers and can easily clear four foot fences. Chicken fences should be at least five feet tall, though six feet is better in my opinion. Cover the chicken run with wire mesh fencing or game-bird netting to discourage hawks and owls from dropping in and grabbing one of your chickens.

Badgers, foxes, and raccoons will dig under a fence if the ground is soft enough. Bury wire mesh fencing 8-12 inches down into the ground and then 8-10 inches outward. Place bricks or gravel over the turned out wire before covering it back over with soil.

While solid fencing is a deterrent to predators, it isn’t always foolproof. It’s not enough to simply install a reliable fence, you also have to be vigilant about maintaining it. After all, your chickens are counting on you to keep them safe.

 

 

RSPCA Assured bans thinning of chickens on supplier farms – Farmers Weekly

Broiler growers producing chicken under the RSPCA Assured label (previously branded Freedom Food) are to be banned from thinning their flocks from 1 Januar

Source: RSPCA Assured bans thinning of chickens on supplier farms – Farmers Weekly

Chicken Keeping: 10 tips for winter

With the promise of a harsh winter around the corner it’s worth reminding ourselves of some of these handy hints and tips

ChickenStreet

Winter for any animal can present its challenges and it’s no different for chickens and the keepers of chickens. Providing the optimum conditions for your flock is essential and whilst they may not be laying at this point of the year effort still needs to be invested in their upkeep so they can start the new laying period in prime condition. Here’s 10 tips to help when you are out and about with your flock

1.         Ventilation in the house is essential for your poultry throughout the year so don’t be tempted to block up every hole in the house in the belief it will keep the birds warm when the wild weather comes along.

2.         Bedding and litter should be of an adequate depth to provide a level of insulation but don’t be tempted to stuff the house full of straw thinking it will create a cosy house.

3.        …

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