Candling eggs

Egg on a candling lamp

At it's most basic candling eggs is the process of looking inside the shell without having to crack it open. Please do not shine ordinary incandescent light bulbs against the surface of an egg for an extended period of time as they can get quite hot. More modern LED candlers are brighter and better choices. Candling does require considerable care as developing embryo's are easily damaged. There is also some skill involved in trying to interpret the results, especially with dark shelled eggs. Defects that cannot easily bee seen with the naked eye show up brilliantly under a lamp.

Keeping Guinea Fowl for meat and eggs

Guinea fowl eggs
Guinea fowl carcass trussed for cooking

Guinea fowl is the common name of the seven species of gallinaceous birds, indigenous to Africa of the family Numididae. It is well adapted to life in African .In many parts of the world, guinea fowls are raised mainly for their gamey flesh and eggs. Guinea fowl has a taste similar to other game birds and has many nutritional qualities that make it a worthwhile addition to the diet. The meat of a young guinea is tender and of especially fine flavour, resembling that of wild game.


Guinea Fowl

Keet just hatched from egg
all white guinea fowl keet
Splash guinea  fowl
Adult guinea fowl

Guinea fowl are a game bird and kept primarily for three reasons, eggs, meat and their ability to eat vast quantities of insects. I would add a fourth reason, their amusement factor. Pugnacious and belligerent, they are very funny too watch. There are native to Africa but were spread around Europe mostly by the Romans and taken to America with the early settlers. They are a bit unusual in that they are both easier and more difficult to keep than chickens.


Identifying your Barnevelder

Looks like a barnevelder but is not

So how do you know if you have a real barnevelder ?

There are a few types of chickens and hybrids that look a bit or quite a lot like barnevelders. We recently had someone come to us who bought some eggs that were supposedly barnevelders and they turned out like the hen you see in the picture. She looks alot like a barny but is not. She has a rose comb and is more slight in size and weight and of a slightly smaller build the a true barnevelder.


The importance of Grit

Grit for chickens

The importance of Grit in the diet of most poultry can not be under estimated, it is a necessary supplement for chicks as well as your mature chickens.

The need that birds have for grit varies depending on your chicken’s diet and whether or not it is a free range bird. Chicken grit is simply small rocks or crushed shells from various sources which you add to your flock’s diet. These rocks are rough in texture which is much more effective in grinding food than smooth stones would be. They also provide minerals and calcium to help keep the shell strong and regular.


Commercial hybrids

Our commercial hybrid chicken
Close up of our amber star

Commercial hybrids is a term given to cross-bred chickens bred for a specific purpose, Most hybrids available for backyard chicks are egg laying hybrids based on Rhode islands. Hybrids were first developed after the 2nd world war when poultry was first raised intensively. It was a response to the huge increase in demand for meat and eggs and was part of the agricultural revolution that swept through farming after the war. Commercial hybrids are also auto sexing meaning you can weed out the males of egg laying flocks at hatching.


Moulting Chickens

A chicken losing her feathers
A moulting barnevelder hen

As a rule all chickens change all or most of their feathers every year, the moulting ( molting in USA ) usually happens in Autumn around October and November as they change their feathers. In general the laying of eggs stops for most chickens during the moult ( molt ) but this is not always the case. The feathers look dull and the birds look a bit haggard for 4 to 5 weeks as they change their feathers.


Age of Chickens

Young pullets legs
Old hens legs

Working out the age of chickens is a bit hit and miss but there are a few things which will give you an idea of the age of the hen. It can be useful to know the age of the chicken, you don't want to pay good money for an old bird sold as a point of lay pullet.



Two hens having a disagreement
comb pulling

Serious disagreements are very rare amongst chickens. I have had to wait three years to catch these two and it was all over in less than 10 seconds. Most squabbling is over food or perch space and involves posturing, feather (or comb) pulling, sumo style body bumping and jumping on your opponents head with lots of wing flapping and raised hackle feathers on the neck.


Chickens as Gardeners

Chickens raiding the herb garden
These used to be strawberry plants

Chickens do not make good gardeners. The pot plant in the picture used to be flat leaf parsley, With the hens being caught passing on their skill of raiding the herb garden to the chicks. In the pic below they have stripped the strawberries of both fruit and vegetation. Last year we had them eating apples of the trees and blueberries of the shrubs. This can cause more problems if your free range hens can get into allotments or other peoples gardens. They will also happily strip flowers and most tender new growth.



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