Dealing with surplus Cockerels

I am no nonsense and I am going to say something that is a bit of tough love and will probably offend a few people: - If you can’t deal with surplus males then don’t get into the situation where you have to. If you raise chicks from hatching eggs the law of averages says you get 50% males. There is no way you need that many unless you show birds and need to select from full grow chickens.

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Looking after the Brooding Hen and her Chicks

Most  hens make excellent mothers but not all and for those that are it is an instinctive behaviour.

A good broody hen will  teach her chicks how to eat, drink and scratch for food, call them under her wings when danger approaches, and provide warmth ( brood them) at regular intervals during the day and all night and generally give her chicks the best start in life

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Feeding Chickens

The components of the poultry diet.

Poultry diets are primarily composed of a mixture of feedstuff such as cereal grains, soybean meal, fats, vitamins and minerals from a variety of sources as well as alfalfa meal or algae extracts. Some feeds may contain medications, growth factors and other microbials. If you want to see what I feed my hens just skip to the end of this article.

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The moulting chicken

One of the more worrying things to see as a new poultry keeper is chickens going through a moult, it can look like a fox has been at your hens and there can be feathers everywhere in the coop or run. Most chickens shed their feathers in late Summer or early Autumn and the process is normally all over by November. Moulting is a completely natural process which nearly all birds go through on a yearly cycle. The only treatment you need to provide is supportive care and monitoring.

This young barnevelder chick has lost a few feathers as part of it's natural growth cycle and looks a little tatty.

moulting-barnevelder-chick

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Dealing with egg eaters

Egg eating is a distressing habit found mostly in younger pullets but can occur in older hens and very rarely with Roosters. It is a relatively rare problem is free range birds and is a little more common in confined ones. The big problem is the underlying issues are often not addressed until the problem manifests itself and with many of these things prevention is always better than cure.

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The dust bath

barnevelders having a communal dust bath

Chickens love to take a dust bath, it is one of the signs of a healthy bird and watching chickensdust bathing is quite ausing not to mention it's also very important for their health and well being. Chickens (and turkeys) dust bathe regularly and will suffer if they don’t get the opportunity at least every 2-3 days. It will be less if it rains or is especially cold. During the winter when the temperature drops and it is wet and/or snowing It is often hard for them to find a place to dust as most of your birds will be hiding out in the coop.

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Buying birds from a breeder

The top tips for purchasing birds from a breeder - As a breeder I get to see that quite a few prospective chicken owners are unprepared and might be easily manipulated by an unscrupulous dealer just after a sale.

I would argue that purchasing birds form a good breeder is far better than getting chicks from a large commercial hatchery, although there are plenty of good reasons to choose hatchery birds, which are more motivated by profit whereas breeders tend to have more reason to produce better stock.  There are a lot of very good breeders with very high quality birds, there are some that ether are not knowledgeable about the birds they raise, or just plain deceptive about the birds they are producing, selling poorly bred stock or unfinished breeding stock.

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The Silver Laced Barnevelder Bantam

The Silver Laced Barnevelder Bantam was developed in the first years of the new millennium by Dutch breeder Bert Beugelsdijk from crosses of double-laced Barnevelder bantams and Silver-pencilled Wyandotte bantams, it was reproduced in the uk and accepted as in 2009. 

Below is a pair of day old silver laced barnevelder bantam chicks .

Silver-laced-bantam-barnevelder-day-old-chicks

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Bresse Gauloise

The Bresse, or more correctly Le ( or La) Gauloise (or the French chicken) from the bresse region has become a coveted breed in the United Kingdom. As a breeder I see a lot of requests for birds and eggs as people think they are the perfect dual purpose bird. Somehow the mistaken belief that a meat bird can easily be kept in a backyard flock has come about. It is quick growing - the Point Of Lay for this bird is around 16 weeks and it has a reputation as a good, if decidedly seasonal, layer.

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Re-creating the Silver Laced Barnevelder

I set about trying to reproduce the Silver Laced Barnevelder for several reasons:

1. Fertility of the males was terrible, we had had several that were completely sterile and most couldn't cope with more than a single hen.

2. There was a lot of red leakage into the silver on the feathers due to poor breeding and crossing back to the standard double laced. We have had some silver barnevelders in the past that were almost muddy.

3. There needed to be new genes as the silver is so rare it is becoming very inbred.

4. They are absolutely stunning. 

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Poultry keeping articles

You don’t need a large flock or an expensive setup to get eggs for your table as there are many breeds lay 5 or 6 eggs a week. It is however best to have a minimum of three hens, as they are sociable creatures who like the companionship of others of their kind.

In the winter they roost up next to their friends, and in the summer they’ll dust bathe in groups and flop around in the sun.

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Breed Profiles

Chicken Breed profiles - 

In this section you will find the breed profiles for the breeds I have kept in the past or currently am keeping.

Once you've decided that you want to keep chickens, you need to choose the chicken breed or breeds you are going to raise on your plot. Chickens come in many different colors, sizes, and personalities and with over 200 breeds in almost endless plumage variations, it can be hard to choose.  This list of breeds that I have kept will hopefully help you figure out what you would like to keep.

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Keeping Guinea Fowl for meat and eggs

Guinea fowl eggs

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.

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Guinea Fowl

Guinea keet in the incubator

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.

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