WorldPoultry – German parliament rejects male chick cull ban

….but is killing them before they hatch really the answer or just the cheaper option?



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:
Picture 18 Picture 23 Picture 24 Picture 30 Picture 34 Picture 36

A brief interlude….


I write, in fact looking back over the decade of magazine, newspaper and book contributions I seem to write quite a bit. I’m not sure quite how many words I’ve written but each piece always seems to be a relatively short or succinct journey. Even the book I was involved with last year was broken down into sections that at times it felt like I was penning a series for a magazine as opposed to writing a substantial chapter of a book.

Then there was the mini guide I did for Your Chickens, again it was a segmented delivery that could well have been run in a periodical publication. That’s the beauty I guess of feature writer or columnist versus that of being an author. In fact it’s not until you sit down with an idea, the idea you just pitched successfully to a publisher, that you realise the difference.

Why this little blogette? Well today I have sat in front of me the 40,000 word final draft manuscript of a book, this time though I’m the sole author and despite the invention of computers and word processing, I still feel a little like Samuel Johnson with the first ever Dictionary, wondering if I’ve covered all that I wanted to cover….


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?


“If you like chickens….”


“If you like chickens, are interested in chickens, have chickens, want chickens,
live near chickens, or are a chicken – you should get this book.”

….and so the review concluded on Amazon. I felt rather proud to have been involved in the writing of that book even if the comment brought a chuckle to my face.

I have a lot of poultry books and obviously as a co-author of the above you’d expect me to say it’s a good book…. but it is! And whilst you might think this is just some PR to boost sales…. it isn’t, I’ve had my pay cheque already. Instead I’ll leave to another poultry keeper to share his review…

I have a large collection of poultry books from the 1930’s through to the present day and I am always eager to open the cover of a new release to see what else I can learn about chickens which have become part of my working life as well as my passion.
There are so many very basic ‘how to keep chickens’ books out there and once you’ve seen one… it gets a little, well, boring reading another and lets face it there are some good websites out there these days with a lot of this kind of information available.
“The Chicken. A Natural History” is different. It is not a ‘how to’ book but is aimed at pretty much anyone interested in chickens, beginner or not. The first 4 chapters covers what science can tell us about chickens. From evolution and domestication to anatomy, biology, behaviour, intelligence and learning, all fascinating chapters that are well presented with no shortage of amazing photos.
From wattles and combs to hatching, flock formation to chicks imprinting on their mother, it really is all covered in this book!
The fifth and final chapter covers an introduction to the breeds which covers many of the different breeds you will come across. From layers to table birds, Game to ornamental breeds, each with their own photograph and breed profile covering their origins, some history and information about their behaviour and upkeep. This chapter is very well written and could make a small book of its own!
Overall, an excellent book. I think this could well be in my top 3 best books on chickens. If you want to learn about chickens and their breeds, don’t look any further, this is definitely the book for you.”

….and on that note, best I press on with writing the next book….. well maybe later, I feel the urge to go sit in the sunshine in the middle of the field surrounded by Brahma’s and read a book  🙂