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


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.

Oswestry Poultry Auction 25th April – 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

Buff Orpington Pair                            £42

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

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.

Why a chicken might be the perfect pet for you – Telegraph

“If you are looking specifically for pets, then focusing on the breeds with docile temperaments is perhaps the best route. If space is limited or young children are involved, then a bantam breed like the pekin can make a good starter. If you have more room and older children, then it’s hard to beat the Brahma for appeal, entertainment and temperament. However, the more docile breeds are often not usually high egg producers.’’ said I in this weekends Telegraph. I said a lot of other things too but hey at least this time I wasn’t misquoted 🙂

Why a chicken might be the perfect pet for you – Telegraph.

Filming with Countryfile


I’ve been watching Countryfile pretty much since it started on a Sunday lunchtime back on the 24th July 1988. Why? Well I’ve always had an interest in the countryside and farming. In fact was grafting as a farm labourer back then so it’s always been one to watch for me.
The programme brief has changed significantly over the years and whilst those changes might not be to everyone’s taste it does cater for quite a wide ranging audience reflected in the fact that it got moved to a prime time Sunday evening slot back in 2009.
So why the blog? Early this week I actually got to spend two days filming for an episode due to be aired in July of this year and the conclusion I reached is that my impressions of what it must be like to appear on such a programme were way, way wide of the mark.



I’m not daft, I realise it wasn’t going to be all caravans, make-up and directors chairs but what I didn’t appreciate is just how hard the presenters and crew work in order to put an item together and that the polished product we get to watch on the box hides the amount of effort and time needed to put it there.

Hats off to those both in front of and behind the camera and if anyone says you have it easy I for one will set them straight.

Worn out of Oswestry


***STOP PRESS: Now due to be aired 7th September***

(images c/o GBPoultry)

10 things you wanted to know about chickens but were afraid to ask – 10#. Flock Dynamics: Alliances & Aggression

La Fleche pullets on the prowl

La Fleche pullets on the prowl

To me chickens are more than simply a provider of meat and eggs, they are also an opportunity to study closely one of the longest standing domesticated species on the planet. Not only does this cover their biology but their behavioural ecology and not just in terms of how they interact with the environment, but how they work as a community and social group, and how they respond to the presence and attentions of their keepers.

They are an intelligent creature and few people realise that they have cognitive abilities that compare in some instances with those exhibited by our genetically close counterparts, the primates. Spend any reasonable length of time around a flock of chickens and even to the inexperienced eye indications of individuality, character and social structure become evident. In fact it’s fair to say there is a veritable soap opera taking place albeit it more often at the pace of The Archers rather than Eastenders.

One of the most important elements at play within a group of chickens is the flock dynamics. This is the glue that holds the group together, the interactions between different birds that establish hierarchy and define the dominants from the subordinates. It’s a structure that’s repeated throughout any community of socially linked species and within it there are rules. Rules which are defined at a species and group level and rules that are often a reflection of the social groups of other species. Am I comparing a flock of chickens to a group humans such as a club, village or perhaps even a parliament? Yes, in many respects I am.

Most animals are capable of discerning the familiar from the unfamiliar within their species and their behaviour in both instances is likely to be different whether they be part of a group or not.  In terms of the flocking mentality of species such as chickens however these social recognition abilities go beyond a fight or flight response.

This additional level of complexity in the interactions between chickens, and the fact it is open to change even without any external factors influencing it, means that alliances can be built and broken and aggression can occur beyond the simple defence against  threat. The drama is all there in a manner more akin to our everyday life than might seem the case.

It is in understanding this ‘society’ of chickens you keep that will help you interpret their individual responses towards each other and ultimately towards you, their keeper.

Aggressive behaviour between chickens (and towards their owners) is in effect a form of negotiation. We as a society have developed negotiation to the point that in most instances it avoids conflict but will still carry a level of posturing. Within chicken society negotiation tends to start with posturing and if that doesn’t resolve the problem then conflict, be it a sharp peck, a kick out with claws and spurs or full on fight, will be resorted to. By the same measure alliances are built within our society based around collaboration and mutual benefit and much the same occurs within a flock of chickens where its survival, success and genetic future rely primarily upon group cohesion.

Such cohesion can be strong. Introducing a new group of chickens to an existing flock is a case in point. The new comers are viewed with suspicion particularly if the existing flock consists of only hens. They are potentially a drain on the resources available to the flock and represent a threat to its future. The pecking order will be fairly solid and the new comers will need to find their place, most will reside at the bottom, subordinates kept in their place by the more dominant hens. Eventually though competition will arise, not necessarily because the new comers want a bigger slice of the pie but quite probably because of changes in the hierarchy above them. Existing alliances can be strong but can collapse and when weakness and opportunity cross path,s and with competition usually comes posturing and quite probably aggression.

If that flock however contains a dominant cockerel then the new comers may find themselves in a different situation. To the established hens these new comers not only represent a fresh draw on the limited resources but also a threat to the attentions of the cockerel and protective behaviour he may express towards his favourites within the flock. As such they may get unwelcome attention from the hens whilst the cockerel observes. He may then intervene putting himself between his existing hens and the new ones. This might seem altruistic for the structure of the flock but he will see the new comers as potential mates and something that could successfully carry his genes on to the next generation. In effect he’s is making an investment and he will protect it through posture and aggression to anything that threatens it, including the flocks members he has charge of.

Aggression towards you as the keeper might be quite simple. Do you have a cockerel; are you persistently picking his hens? Or perhaps it’s a female only flock and you favour the underdog giving them attention and treats to the neglect of the others? This isn’t jealousy on behalf of the others but competition; you are taking a mate, or giving something to a subordinate that is not respecting the social structure of the flock. Your apparently insignificant intervention into the established structure and alliances is impacting the social structure of the flock and could be the cause of aggression. By the same measure though you can complement the structure where your actions bring benefit to each member of the flock.

Understanding, and therefore establishing the motives behind the social behaviours of your flock, is very much dependent upon the context in which it happens. Granted there are those birds that can be predominantly aggressive or friendly, and different breeds can have different dominant behavioural traits, but your chickens are not ‘bird brained’; it is not in their interests to be blindly aggressive nor is it sensible to befriend something that places their future and the future of their offspring at threat. They do respond to base level stimulus but they are also capable of learning the right reaction to maintain stability of within the flock and how best to interact with you. Understand this and you will understand that you can be a welcome and beneficial resource in their world but by the same measure one that can significantly influence the script of the soap opera in front of you.

The Chicken Catwalk

I’m frequently sent things to try out, sometimes its gardening related, sometimes poultry paraphernalia, often books, but occasionally a bit of gadgetry or kit arrives.

In the main it’s that mutual benefit thing going on between magazine columnists like myself and the product manufacturer or author. Hopefully I get something to write about or review and the supplier gets a bit of publicity.

I’ll be honest… sometimes the book just isn’t my cup of tea and rather than publish a bad review I’ll simply not write anything about it. The same can be said of kit, I mean how can you provide feedback on a hessian sack with the word “Spuds” printed on the side that’s being retailed at £7.99 and is ‘perfect for keeping your harvested home grown potatoes in’?  It’s a sack, it has ‘spuds’ written on the side of it, but at £7.99 it’s just what I needed to ensure I didn’t get confused with the bag I have that I keep carrots in, which incidentally has ‘carrots’ printed on the side and is made from recycled allotment owners RRP £14.99.

But then am I simply being snobby? Just because it’s not something I would particularly value or use then am I being sniffy to not even give it air time? ……….and this was the thought process that ran through my head when I received an email from a marketing company asking if I would be interested to learn more about a hi-vis jacket for chickens. It was raining, perhaps I had started to suffer the early onset of winter blues? So rather than file the enquiry in the “not for me” pile I responded with a ‘yes’.

The speed and efficiency with which my reply was handled was a credit to people involved, and within a couple of days I found myself looking at this ground-breaking, or plainly bonkers piece of equipment.


Described as a “health and safety gilet” it’s designed for winter to “make chickens visible, whilst protecting them from rain and sleet” but I couldn’t help but feel there was an element of tongue in cheek about it.

The concept though isn’t completely off the wall with even some of the toughest breeders out there fitting similarly looking poultry saddles on their breeding hens during the season to provide protection (albeit from the spurs of the male). So perhaps this was just an extension of that idea. Perhaps this is in fact a reflection of the increasing numbers of pet chickens out there and all that the ‘pet’ concept brings with it?

Either way, who am I to stand in judgement, I have chickens within the flocks I keep that could be described as ‘pets’ in so much that visitors pamper them, insist on them having names and converse with them in English or Chickeneze.

Polly’s first trip out sporting her jacket though would suggest that despite the fact she roosts on a boot rack in the porch of our house, lays her eggs in a wardrobe in the garage, and considers other chickens beneath her…..she’s not yet quite ready for chickens as pets catwalk.

10 things you wanted to know about chickens but were afraid to ask – 8#

Can chickens change sex?


It might seem like a bit of a daft question to ask but if you bought your chickens with the intention of the them laying eggs and avoided having a cockerel in the flock because of the noise they make then beware…. it is perfectly possible for Hetty to become Henry in what seems like overnight transgender transition.

It is a phenomenon that occurs (with increasing frequency if the last decade is anything to go by) where there is a part change of gender within a hen. This is not a regular occurrence given the millions of hens that inhabit our island but by the same measure it is not infrequent, and from my observations it seems more prevalent in the light laying breeds such as Leghorn, Ancona, Welsummer etc.

A hen who has been laying eggs will appear to suddenly become a cock bird. She will no longer lay eggs. Her comb and wattles will develop, her feathering will become more male in appearance and feather structure and she will even begin to crow. She is however still a she. She has only phenotypically transitioned into a male, genetically she remains female.

The reason this occurs is usually due an environmental stress or illness such as a tumour, problems with the adrenal gland or an ovarian cyst. It only occurs though in hens that have one ovary.

Not all hens develop both ovaries during their embryonic stages and instead have one developed and the other remains as a regressed male gonad. In the event of the developed ovary becoming damaged and ceasing to function, the gonad can take over and the increase in male hormone causes the hen to develop male characteristics. She will however remain female and will not be fertile. The opposite effect of male becoming female has not been observed.

Breaking news? Not really as it’s been observed for centuries but I suspect with the numbers of chickens kept in backyards these days it will become a regular topic of conversation amongst keepers and make the odd appearance in the newspapers. 🙂

Lad or Lad-ette?

Lad or Lad-ette?