Poultry gatherings suspended following avian flu case – Press releases – GOV.UK

Further measures announced to reduce the risk of avian flu spreading

Source: Poultry gatherings suspended following avian flu case – Press releases – GOV.UK

It is a huge shame that in precisely two weeks we have gone from preventative measures taken as a precaution, to an outbreak of AI, albeit localised, and then to the inevitable ban on poultry gatherings such as auctions, fairs and exhibitions.dsc_2618

It comes as no surprise, and whilst it is not something I would have wanted to predict at this time of year when we are only part way through the winter show schedule, there was always an air of closing the door after the horse has bolted, given the announcement a fortnight back.

That isn’t a reflection on the authorities, or those who have worked hard to come up with the most viable approach to the problem being witnessed on the continent. It is instead a sad a reflection of the knife edge on which we perch when it comes to disease pervasiveness and industrial scale global food production.

A ban on poultry shows is minor collateral damage from which the hobby will recover, however I suspect the same cannot be said of those producers whose livelihoods depend upon the livestock they grow for the food chain. The truth is, the more uniform and clinical something becomes the higher the risk that transmission will result in a total wipe out. If this were not the case then there would be many more dead wild birds being found with AI across our countryside.

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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.

 

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

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.

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

Campylobacter: tests fail to show organic chicken has higher infection rate | Environment | The Guardian

Food Standards Agency says its focus is on reducing levels of the bug rather than focusing on farming methods

Source: Campylobacter: tests fail to show organic chicken has higher infection rate | Environment | The Guardian

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)

73% of chickens test positive for campylobacter

Cumulative results published today (26 February 2015) from more than 3,000 fresh chickens tested between February and November 2014, found that 73% tested positive for the presence of campylobacter to some degree, up from 70% in the second tranche of survey results published last November.

via 73% of chickens test positive for campylobacter.