About Chickenstreet

Breeder of chickens, grower of peat free plants, gardener & writer. Author, blogger, blagger, chickeneer and some say gobby poultry pundit

The UFO & New Blog Sponsors

Last year one of the magazines I write for (Your Chickens) ran a competition for readers Smiths Logo 2to design their perfect chicken house. I was asked to be one of the judges of the entries along with to-be manufacturers of the house, Smiths Sectional Buildings who are based on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border and are known for the range poultry housing, mobile field shelters, horse stables, goat houses and bespoke timber buildings they produce.

Philippa and the crew there made me feel most welcome (the cake was to die for!) as we set about reviewing the designs. In fact it was a bit of an honour for me to be there as I’m the proud owner of a Sherwood 100 bird house  which has served me well (and its previous owner) for the last 20 years, so to see the roots from which it emerged was great.

In fact whilst I’m on the subject of Smiths Sectional Buildings I’d like to say firstly welcome to them as a new sponsor of my blog and secondly that, whilst I can be quite guarded about what I will and won’t recommend I have no issue at all in recommending these guys. They know their poultry housing and ensure the basic needs (which I frequently rant write about) are incorporated. The result is a functional and practical product that in my experience provides two decades and counting of service – not to be sniffed at given the stack ‘em and flog ‘em cheap poultry products that litter the market these days.

Anyway back to the comp. As would be expected there was quite a range of designs submitted but what we were looking for was something that broke the mould a bit, something that would be worth prototyping, something that perhaps we could learn about or pick up new concepts from. The result was certainly conceptual and took quite a bit of construction and design skill to bring together.

Dubbed “the futuristic hen house” or “UFO” (Unusual Feathered Occupancy) I think you’ll agree it’s not like anything seen on the poultry market before.

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Designed as a four pen four house ‘high-rise’ its primary purpose in the brief was to provide a way of keeping four groups of bantam fowl for small scale breeding or exhibition stock rearing.

 

 

 

 

20141006_123832 (863x1024)The designer and winner has had the house for almost a whole season now and when asked for a progress report they replied

“I love my coop, it’s working really well. At the moment I have a hen and her chicks in the bottom layer. Quail in the highest layer, and the other two have had growers in until earlier this week when I released them to free range.

I love having all the pens so close and organised. And it is great for teaching chicks to use a ramp as you can start them on a low one then gradually move them up…..it is a 20141006_123847 (863x1024)brilliant coop that has become invaluable to me this summer. It is quick and easy to clean out and I know the chickens are always safe in it.“

Obviously it was a prototype and head room in the lowest coop is an issue as is the steep nature of the top coop but like any design, it’s a process of reflection and refinement.

Will we see it on mass production? Not yet but who knows, a tweak here and there might just mean we see a few more UFO’s in our countryside.

 

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How to be a right ‘plucker’

The first few hatches of the year are about due for the table now and a question I’m frequently asked is about plucking the birds and the best way to approach it by hand so here goes.

Removing the feathers from a chicken is best done as soon after despatch as possible. This is because the carcass will still be warm, meaning the feathers will come away more freely.

1. Hang the bird upside down against a wall, as this will help stop the bird swinging around as you work on removing the first set of feathers.

2. The extremities (wings and tail) will cool fastest so feathers from these areas should be removed first with a sharp downward tug. It can be hard work on these areas, and gloves may be required to ensure grip is maximised.

3. Once those feathers are removed it is often easier to have the bird hanging from a ceiling hook, so it can be turned freely.

4. Next, remove the thigh and breast feathers being careful not to tear the skin underneath.

5. Finally pluck the back feathers out. The resulting carcass will probably still have a slightly ‘hairy’ look due to the presence of fine feather filaments; these can be removed by singeing with a cold yellow flame.

Now the bird is ready for dressing and roasting… if however you don’t intend to roast the bird whole or in parts then don’t bother plucking it, just skin it instead. And again unless you are planning on portioning it then avoid the need to eviscerate by simply scooping of the breast fillets and removing the legs, thighs (and wings if you want). This can be a little wasteful however it does save a lot of effort.

20 week old Ixworth cock (and just about ready for the pot)

20 week old Ixworth cock (and just about ready for the pot)

A spot of poultry podcasting with Alys Fowler and Jane Perrone for The Guardian

If you follow me on twitter or have read one of my recent blogs then you might have seen I was podcasting about poultry with two lovely folks who I’m chuffed to include amongst my friends, Alys Fowler and Jane Perrone from the The Guardians #sowgrowrepeat  . Have a listen (and hear me do a chicken impression!) and see why the only conclusion is chickens are the star pets of the garden …. although my old knuckle-head collie, Mick, does get a mention

Alys Fowler and Jane Perrone discuss the particulars of pets in gardens | Life and style | The Guardian.

Radio 2, Podcasting and Planning

It’s been an interesting past 7 days or so that involved being invited on to Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Drivetime to explain another listeners three word Wednesday of “washing show chickens” to podcasting about pet poultry with Alys Fowler and Jane Perrone.

Yours truly caught rolling on Ellesmere green

Yours truly caught rolling on Ellesmere green

In between I’ve played a few games of Crown Green Bowls with this being my second season after an almost 30 year break (yup, that game you thought was the the last refuge of old men was a sport I played in my mid teens) plus I’ve also set my last batch of hatching for the year.

This might seem a little early to be switching off the incubators but breeding any livestock is about planning. The eggs I set this last weekend will hatch mid June. Extrapolate that out and you have the pullets reaching 18 weeks by the end of October which means with a bit of luck some if not all might just start laying before the winter sets in. If not then they will obviously kick off in the spring but they will be expensive mouths to feed and maintain over the winter months.

Planning can be key, getting the plan wrong can be costly. Good luck to those who have hatched up this year and may your pullets be productive!

 

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