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: http://www.gbpoultry.com/Devon_Workshop.html
Picture 18 Picture 23 Picture 24 Picture 30 Picture 34 Picture 36

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

Off Gate Egg Sales Need Realistic Prices

Egg Sign (1280x961)

Like many backyarders and smallholders who keep chickens my laying flock produces more eggs than are needed by my family. Equally like many backyarders and smallholders I sell the surplus produce ‘off gate’. I suspect that also akin to everyone I don’t sell with profit necessarily in mind but perhaps unlike some others I do sell with the intention of at least covering the cost of production.

I don’t live in the middle of nowhere (although we are little isolated) and the shops and supermarkets of Oswestry can be found within a 10minute drive. I mention this because if you are going to sell eggs ‘off gate’ you do need to know a little about your local competition just as you would if you were selling any product. The road we live on can get quite busy for a rural location however it’s more of a rat run between two villages as opposed to being a popular commuter or tourist route. I mention this point because it’s important to know what passing trade you might attract.

Both of these factors will help you arrive at a suitable price point for your eggs, there’s no point in being more expensive than an equivalent product sold in the local shop or supermarket unless you have some other unique selling point, and by the same measure if you don’t have the passing trade then you might need to keep your prices down in order to attract some custom. This might sound like I’m teaching granny to suck eggs but it’s come about from my recent observations as I’ve driven around the county and over the border into Wales.

We are all aware that more and more people are keeping chickens and as such I’ve seen a proliferation of signs for “Free Range Eggs” appearing at the ends of driveways. This is all good stuff in my opinion and helps keep the cash in the pockets of you and I and out of the coffers of the corporations, but some people really do need to wake up a little when it comes to pricing. They might as well remove the word ‘Range’ and just have a sign saying “Free Eggs”!

In the last set of statistics I saw commercial egg packers were paying producers 99.7p per dozen of free range eggs, that’s just over 8p an egg. By the time these eggs hit the shelves of the shops and were available to the consumers the price per egg had increased to 30p or £1.80 per ½ dozen.

Looking at this from a backyard or smallholder perspective there is obviously a much shorter supply chain to consider but, and this is the bit that some folks seem to be missing, there is a cost associated with your flock producing eggs. Taking an average laying hen who lays 200 eggs in a year, even if you just look at the basic cost of feed, floor litter and health supplements you’ll be surprised. Today a 25kg sack of feed will cost on average £10. Your hen will eat on average 200g of feed a day so that’s about 3 sacks a year. On average it will need one bale of bedding a year so that’s another £8 plus its likely to need lice dusting, some vitamin drops and worming as a bare minimum, so let’s add another fiver on for that. Back of a fag packet maths this might be but there it is; £43 for one hen to produce 200 eggs which works out at 21.5p per egg – and remember, that’s using the absolute bare minimum costs.

So don’t devalue your hens production by practically giving the eggs away, or thoughtlessly undercut the house down the road who have given their pricing some consideration. Leave loss leaders to the big boys and charge a fair price for a fair product, you won’t lose custom, in fact you might even gain some.


Hicks Waterfowl Retirement Sale – the list!

BE AWARE : Due to the volume of attendees & a poor weather forecast this sale will now be taking place at Oswestry Showground

(SY11 4AB will bring you close to but not exactly to the showground so look out for the road signs)

Some of you might have read about the retirement of Graham Hicks, one of the top domestic waterfowl breeders in the UK, and without a doubt the largest gene pool and collection of domestic waterfowl here in the UK and quite possibly Europe. Sad as it is, heres the list of what will be sold,

Breeds available at the Graham Hicks sale

….and for those who may have missed it, heres my article on the subject with a photo that doesn’t do justice to the massive size and quality of that Muscovy drake!

One of the greats to retire from the Fancy

After well over 30 years of breeding waterfowl and 12 years of running one of the largest collections of waterfowl breeds in the UK if not Europe, Graham Hicks of the world renowned Hicks Waterfowl World has decided it’s time to retire.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to reach and I’ve given it some hard thought over the last 12 months but I’ve finally decide it’s time to retire from the Fancy.” said Graham “I’ve enjoyed many years of success on the show circuit and pioneered a number of new colours and varieties of waterfowl but the time has come for me to retire.” he added.

Graham is one of the few fanciers left in waterfowl world who would carry a show team of birds to the major events around the country and his involvement with the fancy and waterfowl breeding world will be sadly missed. He has set standards of waterfowl exhibiting that are recognised throughout the world resulting in him being asked to attend events throughout Europe and recently as far away as Australia. His skill and knowledge have contributed significantly to todays understanding of waterfowl through his creation of a rich vein of high quality livestock, and the significance and size of the waterfowl gene pool he has nurtured over the years is immeasurable.

“I’ll be holding a Retirement Sale in October when all the birds will have passed through the moult. People will be able to come and buy my breeding stock and hopefully continue on the quality bloodlines I’ve built up over the years.” said Graham “It will be a sad day and no doubt there will be a few tears but rest assured I’ll still have a keen interest in following the Fancy and will keep in touch with all the good friends I’ve made over the years.”

Hicks Waterfowl Retirement Sale will take place on Sunday 21st October at Hicks Waterfowl World, Brookhouse Farm, Selattyn, Oswestry OSWESTRY SHOWGROUND, PARK HALL, OSWESTRYwith the first lot expected around 10am. There will be over 500 lots of livestock on auction plus a limited selection of rearing equipment.

Llnclys Hall Farm Shop –annual pumpkin harvest

I’ve driven past Llnclys Hall Farm and its shop many times over the years, it’s on the Oswestry to Welshpool road, which given that’s one of the few main routes out of Oswestry then that should come as no real surprise to anyone local reading this.

I’ve been into the farm shop on a number of occasions over the years too but one thing which always stands out to me is the shop at this time of year. Why? It’s because of the pumpkins. Some years back there would be a few pumpkins placed on the roadside wall which you would see when driving by. As time passed each year would see a slightly bigger display and each year we would pop in to buy a few, in part for Halloween carvings and also for cooking. We do grow our own here sometimes, but given the fact we try to maximise our crop to space ratios pumpkins are one of those vegetables that are a bit of a luxury item given the ground they can occupy. Thankful I am then for the people at Llnclys Hall Farm as they seem to have become quite avid pumpkin growers, and it’s not just trying to grow big ones, it’s all manner of squashes and gourds!

And so today I happened to drive that way as I went to collect this weeks chicken feed and I spotted the pumpkins had appeared on the wall again for the year. Time was on my side so I pulled in for a nose at what this years crop was looking like.

Once again the place was a mass of pumpkins, a large shed just to the side of the shop was already chock full, there were crates filled with orange ‘footballs’ and ‘boulders’ dotted around the yard and up the lane I could see another tractor heading in with even more. But best of all was the shelves outside the shop and I just had to grab a snap of it.

Sure there may be more dramatic or impressive displays of said vegetable elsewhere, but there is something about the quiet appreciation of the varieties of pumpkin and the way they farm them at Llynclys Hall that always bring a smile to my face every year. So if you happen to find yourself driving along that road and have ever wondered what lie behind the wall with the pumpkins on it, pull in, mind the cow pat, and take a closer look.

(By the way, if you do grow pumpkins and fancy making sure everyone knows which is yours then have a look here for a handy hint on how to make sure it carries your mark)