About Chickenstreet

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

Farmers left with fowl problem as consumers flock to free range eggs

3eggs

 

I was interested to read the below article in the i paper particularly as it resonates with many of the articles I have written on the subject over the years in titles like Country Smallholding, Fancy Fowl and even the Guardian back in 2012

 

“Free range egg sales have reached the same level as eggs from cage-kept birds for the first time as Britons’ appetite for one of nature’s ultimate pre-packaged food reaches record levels.   Data released by the UK’s £910m egg industry and the Government shows that 614m free range eggs were sold in the third quarter […] “

Source: Farmers left with fowl problem as consumers flock to free range eggs – The i newspaper online iNews

It puts a different perspective on the “free range” dilemma when it comes to consumers and the supply industry.

I recall some years back a reader contacting me with what is quite possibly one of the most difficult poultry posers I’ve had in a while.

The reader had been looking at the food they ate and in particular eggs as they were concerned about the production method. They had only recently learnt about the standard practice of culling millions of day old male chicks as part of the rearing of laying pullets for egg production and wanted to know of any way in which they could purchase more ethically sound eggs. As the correspondent said “if the egg production method hurts my conscience the only way is to not eat eggs but I need to know first before I make that decision”

In a nutshell if you buy eggs from a commercial supplier then you are buying into the culling of the male chicks at day one.  Also just so I’m balancing it out, if you buy off gate then you could potentially be also buying into the same destruction of the males at day one if that seller is using hybrids (these are sex-linked meaning the males are removed at day one).

The only answer is to source a poultry breeder who uses a dual purpose breed and therefore making use of the male birds that he/she breeds by fattening them for the table. These people are fully utilising the livestock they are producing.

 

Biosecurity – some best practice

pile-on

Biosecurity byword

Biosecurity is a buzzword in livestock farming but it is one that backyard poultry-keepers need to be aware of. No matter how small your flock of birds may be, good biosecurity practices should be followed, not only to minimize the risk of disease transfer within your own poultry, but also transfer to other people’s birds. Below are a few common-sense biosecurity measures to build into your daily routine:

  • Keep poultry feed under cover to deter the attentions of wild birds.
  • Ensure water is always fresh, and clean drinkers out at least twice a week, if not more.
  • Replace any water that becomes soiled with droppings.
  • Quarantine any stock that has been off site (such as to a poultry show) for at least seven days.
  • Quarantine new stock for at least two weeks before bringing the birds into contact with existing stock.
  • Clean your clothes and boots after visiting another poultry establishment, show, or sale.
  • If you have more than one pen of birds, consider using a disinfectant boot wash.
  • Don’t share transportation crates or feeding equipment with other keepers.
  • Always disinfect transportation crates before and after use.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling poultry.
  • Keep vermin such as rats and mice under control.

 

Biosecurity is all about disease prevention. By following these simple precautions, you will go a long way to protecting your flock from infectious diseases.

Northern fowl mite: don’t let it catch you out this winter

 

A couple of Christmas’s ago I took a call from a poultry keeper who was going through their first winter with chickens. They were looking for advice on how to deal with the constant downpours of rain we’ve been having. We discussed different ways to keep the run as dry as possible and keep the chickens out of standing water and reduce the amount of muck they traipse into the coop, but one thing they said caught my attention: “The birds seem to get soaked every day, they didn’t even look dry when I let them out this morning.”

I asked if the birds emerged from the coop eager for a drink or to get some feed and I was told they just seemed to stand there looking miserable, particularly the cockerel. This suggested something more than just the cold wet weather to me, and as the keeper only lived a few miles away, I offered to pop around to take a look. DB 120306-2

A casual glance at the cockerel would have suggested it was simply wet on its back, but its sunken stance along with a more greasy appearance to the feathers suggested a possible northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) infestation. I picked the cockerel up and parted the feathers at the base of the tail and the mite was very much in evidence crawling over the skin (and heading across my fingers).

These mites become far more active during our winter, as they prefer cooler climates. Once they find a suitable host bird they will multiple at an alarming rate. Like the summer pest red mite, these are blood suckers but unlike red mite these little nasties complete their entire lifecycle on the birds and are far more aggressive, feeding around the clock. The greasy look of the feathers is caused by their faecal deposits: they are capable of killing a bird within a matter of days if the infestation isn’t dealt with.

In this instance referral to the local poultry vet was required as the off-the-shelf products may not have acted quickly enough. Regular dusting of your chickens (for example with a pyrethrum-based poultry powder) will help keep northern fowl mite and other external parasites at bay, but dusting wet birds can be difficult, and given the soggy ground conditions the chickens’ normal dust bath may not be available. It is easy to understand how this new keeper was caught out.

The key is to inspect and handle your flock regularly. A lot of the skill in poultry keeping is husbandry by eye, as chickens can have a canny way of disguising ailments until it’s too late. So if you sense something isn’t quite right then check, double check and seek advice. Prompt action could save time, money and above all, the chicken’s life.

 

Quick Tip – Checking for Red Mite

Just in case you are wondering how to check for red mite

ChickenStreet

Ok, the web is littered with commentary on red mite and how to deal with it. The crux though in my experience is catching it early. Spot it early on and you have half a chance of defeating it…. let it go unseen and you will rue the day, and so will your chickens.

If you are new to chicken keeping then you may not yet have encountered the poultry keepers Nemesis, the Red Mite. You may however have read all about it and have a good grasp of the pain in the proverbial it can be but unless you have actually witness the cigarette ash like droppings they leave, or that microscopic tickle as they crawl over your arm or through your hair, then you might well not know whether mite is there or not.

So grab a handful of drinking straws, tie them into a bunch and then…

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Let sense prevail… incubators off.

As another breeding season draws to a close I find myself looking back over my hatching records, and the cross section of growers I have on the go. In front of me on the wall is a ‘post-it’ note that states “No Eggs To Be Set After End Of May”. It is in my son’s handwriting, and to be fair it’s there for a good reason and acts as growerssmy annual reminder.

For too many years I’d still have my incubators whirring away in August, September and even early October only to find myself ruing the day I set the eggs. Why? By November and December the resulting hatchlings have outgrown their indoor facilities and need to go outside, but outside its cold, wet and muddy. Hands up if you too have learnt that lesson only to forget it the following year?

 

As a poultry breeder there is a constant temptation to set eggs.

 

 

 

In some yearOwlbeard-White-Day old 1s I’ve had hatchlings popping out everywhere, and it’s been a bumper season for sales, and so I’ve kept hatching well beyond my common sense threshold. The risk is though, you see it as the poultry equivalent of making hay whilst the sun shines, the trouble is ‘making hay’ is a harvesting event, setting eggs is more like sowing seeds. As a gardener you read the label, it tells you when to sow and when to harvest. You don’t get that warning when breeding poultry, so in many respects the note acts my label.

Leghorn-Brown-Day old 1 (640x451)

He wrote the note I think primarily because he too ends up having to help out and when the weather is poor, pushing a wheelbarrow along a path with 6 inch of mud on it, whilst the wind successful empties the contents of said barrow across the paddock, is a spirit sapping task even for the most happy-go-lucky individual.  I’ve written about it before but the winters at the moment seem to be more mild and more wet, with occasional unpredictable extremes such as having a BBQ in March one year only to be under 3 feet of snow the same month the following year, and as such I’ve shifted my breeding plans at least for the time being. I’ve shorten the window of time for setting eggs, and lengthened the period of time the males are apart from the females…… and I have to say I’ve found it altogether more manageable.

As such sense is prevailing and this rather faded post-it note has served me well. It has also meant I’ve had more time in the summer to just enjoy watching the youngsters growing outdoors on the grass, rather than spending hours indoors covered in dander and dust dealing with day olds. You never know, I might even venture towards a summer holiday one year!

 

Chicken Nugget – The Dorking

Breed Name: Dorking

Region of origin: United Kingdom Dorking Table Breed

Profile: The Dorking is a very ancient British breed believed to have its ancestry rooted back in Roman Britain where five-toed Dorking like breeds were described in texts from AD 47. It is a very heavy breed but there is no evidence as yet to suggest that, as in the case of other giant chickens, it is in any way related to the huge breeds originating from Asia. Well established in the early nineteenth century it made a significant contribution to the development of other table breeds.

 

Behaviour and upkeep:  Because of its huge size and its loose feathering, spacious housing is required if the birds are to maintain a good look. They do not need much in terms of outdoor space and are quite content within a fixed run however care must be taken to avoid them becoming fat through lack of exercise. They can become tame if handled calmly but their size should be considered carefully if thinking of having them as pets. The hens tend only to lay during the spring and summer and fertility can present a challenge for anyone wishing to breed from a flock.

Plumage/Colours: Silver grey, Red, White, Dark, Cuckoo

Particulars:

Eyes: Bright red

Comb: Single, large or Rose

Feet & legs: Featherless, five toes

Weights:

Cock weight

Large Fowl 10-14lb (4.55-6.35kg)

Bantam 40-48oz (1130-1360g)

Hen weight

Large Fowl 8-10lb (3.60-4.55kg)

Bantam 32-40oz (910-1130g)

Egg production – Low to medium

Egg Colour – Tinted

Classification – Heavy; Soft Feather

Chicken Nugget – La Flèche

Region of origin: France

Profile: The combination of the deep red horned comb, strong beak, cavernous nostrils and beetle black plumage coupled with the solid stature of this breed means it well suited to it nick name of “Satan’s Fowl”. It is quite a large chicken which makes a good layer but grows quickly making an excellent table bird well-known in its country of origin.evil2ss

Behaviour and upkeep: These birds benefit from being able to free range as they are excellent foragers and will cover large distances in search of food. This makes them a very economical breed ideally suited to their dual purpose function.  They are also capable of flying quite high despite their size so do need high fences or roofed areas if they are not to be found roosting in trees. Wary by nature they do not tame easily though they are not an aggressive breed.

Plumage/Colours: Black

Particulars:

Eyes: Black/Red, Comb: Double spike, Feet & legs: Clean, dark slate or black

Weights:

Cock: Large Fowl 8-9lb (3.6 –4.1 kg) Bantam 36oz (1020g)

Hen: Large Fowl 6-7lb (2.7-3.2 kg) Bantam 28oz (800g)

Egg production: Medium to high

Egg Colour: White

Classification: Heavy; Rare

la fleche flocks