UK – The Animal and Plant Health Agency is warning farmers and smallholders not to feed catering or kitchen waste to livestock such as pigs and poultry, even if they are being kept as pets.
OSWESTRY POULTRY AUCTION
SATURDAY 25TH APRIL 2015
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
Buff Orpington Pair £42
Sebright (Gold, PR) £68
Sabelpoots (TR) £64
Sumatra (White, PR) £40
Serama (PR) average £38
Faverolles (Salmon, 2 pullets) £60
Wellsummers (TR) £50
Oxford (Pyle, PR) £44
Legbar (pullets) average £20/bird
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
Now this is one I need to try… looks wonderful!
Is that you? It could well be as I know quite a few folks who read or follow this blog fall into that urban farming category.
To cut a long story short I’ve been contacted by Will Steel of STV via Jane Perrone of The Guardian (ok, ok, name dropping… did I mention I was on Countryfile the other month? I did? Oh well my apologies) and he is developing a programme about people who have chickens and pigs in their city gardens.
As such he’s looking for anyone who has chickens in their city home who he could potentially contact about the programme? At the moment he’s just looking for some stories but you never know, this could be a fine opportunity to show your flat pack farm or backyard Bonanza !
If you are interested then contact Will directly email@example.com
In wild forms of the chicken such as the Red Jungle Fowl a moult can occur in two stages effectively giving the impression of two moults. It is particularly evident in the males. Firstly they will moult their brightly coloured body and head feathers replacing them with more subdued tones more akin to the females. This affords them a level of discretion and camouflage whilst they go through the vulnerable stage of moulting their wing feathers and primary flight feathers.
When these are moulted and not yet fully grown the birds ability to evade predation by short flight is compromised hence the ‘eclipse’ of their coloured plumage. Once the wing feathers have re-grown the second stage of the moult occurs where the temporary dull coloured feathers are replaced by the bright breeding plumage.
Moulting in this manner is more frequently seen in ducks where the drakes on a lake seem to disappear. They are in fact still present but hiding in more subdued female looking feathering.
More space doesn’t always mean better welfare
A stimulating debate was aired recently on BBC Countryfile which then spilt over on to various websites, agriculture press and social media. It wasn’t a humdinger but because there was a chicken element involved that I found myself following it quite closely, and became interested in the questions it was throwing up. The debate was whether Red Tractor was better than Freedom Foods.
If you are not familiar with the two concepts they are effectively assurance schemes that cover food production and within them there are welfare standards that livestock must be kept to. The purpose behind them means the producer is able to use product labelling such as “Red Tractor” or “Freedom Foods” which in turn provides the buyer with confidence that the animal product they are buying comes from a strictly controlled and monitored level of operation.
So why the debate if both are aiming to provide assurance and buyer confidence? The crux it would appear for many involved in the discussions was in the term “welfare”, and which scheme provided the better or higher, levels of welfare. This is probably in part due to the media creating a situation where low to high welfare sits on the same sliding scale as cage to free range organic does, if we use chickens as an example. It doesn’t, welfare is a measure of well-being, happiness and health. High welfare is happy, healthy and well cared for animals; by the same measure low welfare is distressed, sick and unkempt animals.
At this stage in my life I live in quite a rural environment. The nearest bus stop is 2 miles away alongside the nearest shop and the nearest Post Office is a further mile away. My environment is clean and unpolluted and such I consider my welfare (eg my happiness, health and well-being) to be quite high. In 30 years time though I might struggle being so remote and moving to a village or town with amenities on my doorstep would improve my welfare along with downsizing. Being human I will always endeavour to monitor and manage my environment to maximise my welfare.
The issue as I see it is not which scheme provides a perceived ‘better’ environment for the livestock, it is the one which has the most effective management practices and most importantly of all, the quality and standard of the monitoring procedures which feedback into the process to ensure welfare is maximised. Without close checking and scrutiny of livestock operations then it doesn’t matter what the standard or policies are, they are open to abuse, and abused they will be unintentionally or otherwise.
Returning to chickens, but moving away from the commercial side of things, I’ve seen a vast range of poultry keeping setups. There have been the small fixed pens containing trios of birds that are kept indoors and under artificial light through to the free ranging flock who ‘roam for miles and love to roost outdoors’.
At face value the later would seem to be the better welfare set up but closer inspection shows the penned birds to be exhibiting all the correct behaviours expected from a content and healthy animal whereas the free rangers are an underfed and lice infested flock whose love of roosting outdoors is down to the fact their house is crawling with red mite.
Sure, providing an environment that’s is as natural as possible will contribute towards attaining the requirements of better welfare but it’s down to the keepers management and monitoring to ensure those levels of health, happiness and well-being are in fact achieved. A stockperson lacking in those skills is a liability to livestock welfare regardless of the setup they have for their animals.
A couple of blogs ago I mentioned I’d been out a few of the Royal agriculture shows working with The Rare Breeds Survival Trust promoting the UKs rare breed poultry as a part of their 40th Aniversary celebrations. Even with all the recent food scares and the general greater awareness of the public with regard to food production I hadn’t anticipated the level of interest there would be with huge numbers of people wanting to learn more in order for them to be able to ‘do their bit’ for poultry too.
Most folks don’t have the space to keep a few sheep, goats or other larger livestock so feel they are a little inhibited when it comes to hands on breed conservation, but when they started to learn about the UKs endangered poultry and in particular chickens, people started to realise that they are far more accessible and with the right knowledge it would enable many more people to play a direct role in conservation.
It was a brief appearance on BBC Countryfile and has already led to a number of questions on where to source stock and how to help the work of the RBST, but lets hope it, and the wider the campaign, raises awareness of the dozens of poultry breeds in need of help as their preservation for the future is as vital as any of the traditional farm livestock.
For a full list of the poultry breeds at risk then click here.
ASSISTING IN A HATCH
Hatching season is now upon us and if you decide to try your hand at hatching this year for the first time then the first rule of thumb is ‘sit on your hands’ during the process. Many folks find their first venture into incubator hatching doesn’t quite turn out as it should. Even if the eggs are fertile and candle well, the hatch rate is not quite the bundle of fluff that was expected. More often than not it’s the fault of the operator and not that of the eggs or the chicks.
Artificial incubation isn’t a dark art but it equally it isn’t an exact science. The bottom line is you are trying to get the incubator to the right conditions to enable the embryo to develop fully and the egg to lose 15% of its mass over the designated incubation period (21 days in chickens). Slight fluctuations in those conditions can result in earlier or later hatches and this is where as a first timer you can start to get anxious. It starts with checking the incubator, initially this is looking through the window, next its opening the machine itself (bang goes the optimum conditions when you do this and it will take time for those conditions to return). Next might be to add more water because you don’t think it’s humid enough and then finally it will picking at the shells of the eggs that look like they might have started to pip and its day 21 and thats what the instruction book says is the day the chicks hatch.
Don’t. Sit on your hands or better still go away and do something less destructive because destructive is what you are likely to be if you start to assist in a hatch. You might well break out a chick which goes on to live healthily but by the same measure you can cause leg problems (the chick needs to push itself from the egg to stretch its leg tendons) or worse still kill it by either causing excessive membrane bleed or extracting the youngster from its shell before it’s absorbed all the yolk.
Let nature take its course, some chicks hatch quickly, others slowly, and ducks are down right lazy, rarely though does your intervention in the process result in useful assistance.
Husbandry of poultry is very much ‘by eye’ and only by spending time around your flock will you pick up on potential problems. Chickens, like many of the avian species are very good at disguising illness, which is quite possibly a survival mechanism to mitigate the risk of predation.
Sick birds may emerge from the coop in a flurry with the other hens but then spend the day skulking or hiding out of sight, so be sure to do a head count periodically during the daylight, and investigate any bird that seems out of sorts.
The nature of many poultry diseases is such that many of the outward symptoms can appear the same which can leave you, the keeper, at a loss as to what might be the issue. However careful observation of your flock can identify certain diagnostics that may help isolate the problem.
This BVA Animal Welfare Foundation pdf file was put together in conjunction with the Poultry Club of Great Britain and provides an excellent early diagnostic crib sheet. It’s well worth downloading and printing off; stick it on the wall of your chicken shed or feed store and familiarise yourself with the basic symptoms, likely causes and possible treatments.
As mentioned earlier, birds can and do disguise illness, consequently when it becomes obvious that there’s a problem it can often be too late to treat them. Early identification of diseases or disorders therefore can be the difference between life and death.
It goes without saying that the crib sheet provides only a guide but it can be essential in collecting the right information about the problem. This will help immensely should you need to refer to a poultry vet.
The Muscovy is one of those birds you cannot fail to notice and often it can bring out mixed responses in terms of admiration because of its distinctive looks. Originally fromSouth America this duck is unlike the others we see today as it originated from the wild Musk Duck and not the wild Mallard, consequently it does not appear to interbreed with other species of duck, and in some peoples belief, it straddles the line between duck and goose
Muscovys are reasonable layers of good sized eggs with the ducks reaching 7lb in weight and the drakes, if left for up to 6 months, reaching 12lb providing a very good dual purpose option. They are a very hardy breed and need no special attention. They can go broody and hatch their own young and the mothers are very attentive.
They are broad and powerful bird, slow moving when on the ground but will periodically take to the wing often perching on top of a shed or outbuilding to survey their territory.
They also come in a variety of colours and combinations from blacks, whites, lavender, blues and more recently chocolate.