What happens at a poultry show?

prize_poultryLast week we talked about how to prepare your ducks for a poultry show. This week we’re going to tell you what happens at a poultry show and what you can expect when you’re there.

There are many different types of show that are all regulated and structured by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. You can find out more information about the types of show on the Poultry Club of Great Britain website.

Transporting your birds

The Poultry Club of Great Britain gives the following information in their welfare guidelines for transporting your birds:

Cardboard boxes:

“Ideally one for each bird and sufficiently large for the bird to stand up and turn around: put newspaper then a layer of shavings in the base.

Use stout boxes, make ventilation holes by making two parallel cuts about 1” (2.5cm) apart across at least two corners and push the centre section inwards. “Weave” the top so that it is secure and tie with strong like a parcel.

Ideally use only once and do not lend.”

Wooden boxes:

“Make ventilated wooden boxes to suit size of bird but varnish them so they can be disinfected.”

Follow the guidelines for cardboard boxes for size and litter. Again, do not lend to others.

Travelling:

“Boxes should be placed on the back seat of a saloon car and not in the boot unless the back seat is folded down.

Estate cars, hatchbacks, saloons and vans should have sufficient ventilation by opening windows or the use of air conditioning.”

Plastic crates:

“A plastic poultry crate can be used of the appropriate size (e.g. taller for turkeys) for transporting birds in numbers as it is easy to clean and disinfect. It is also airy and food and water containers can be easily attached.

If a trailer is used for transport, make sure there is adequate ventilation for the birds both when travelling and when static.”

Food and water:

“Food and water must be provided for journeys over 8 hours. Therefore always carry poultry food and water in case of breakdown or delay.”

Certification:

“Fill in and carry with you an animal transport declaration certificate form (available from Poultry Club of Great Britain) for journeys outside your local authority area.”

So, what happens at a poultry show?

As we said at the beginning, poultry shows in the UK are run to the Poultry Club of Great Britain guidelines. The judges will either be experts in their breed or qualified to judge under Poultry Club standards.

You’ll need to arrive at the show in plenty of time to get your bird settled before judging starts. Around 30 minutes should be enough time, but if this is your first show it might be wise to give it a bit longer.

Make sure you take clip on bowls so you can feed and water your bird at the show. However, it’s best to wait until after judging has finished before feeding and watering so there is no risk of them making a mess.

Once judging starts the judge, and usually his steward, will move along the cages observing the birds. Remember, do not interrupt the judge! However, there is sometimes the opportunity to talk to the judge after prizes have been awarded, so you can get some valuable feedback.

Prizes!

The judge will award the top three birds, sometimes four if the class is large, their prize cards once he has made up his mind. If you’re lucky enough to win a prize card, leave it in place on your crate until the end of the show so others can see who has been placed.

As well as being awarded 1st to 3rd place the best birds from each class will then go forward for special awards, such as the coveted “Best in Show”. All of the breed judges from each class will confer to decide which bird should win the prize card.

Hedgerow Henporium’s brilliant warm mash recipe!

Last year we shared this amazing warming winter mash recipe from our friends at Hedgerow Henporium. Our followers loved it and now that winter is coming around again we thought it was the perfect time to share it so you can keep your hens happy and healthy this winter!

Chicken feed bucket

Warm mash keeps chickens healthy!

This recipe is not only delicious for hens but healthy and nutritious too. They’ll love pecking at the veg and they’ll get all the added vitamins they need from the “hidden” ingredients including calcium and cod liver oil.

You’ll need a large shallow dish to mix and serve the mash in.

Ingredients and method:

Use layers pellets (or your normal chicken feed) as the base which should make up about half the quantity of the other ingredients below.

Add any combination of the following veg – a few handfuls or enough for the veg to be visible will be enough:

  • Frozen sweetcorn
  • Frozen cabbage
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen spinach

To the vegetable and chicken feed mix add:

  • A tablespoon of cod liver oil
  • A tablespoon of poultry spice
  • A splash of poultry multivitamins
  • A teaspoon of cider vinegar
  • A tablespoon of garlic flakes
  • A tablespoon of ground up egg shells (for calcium) or a teaspoon of liquid calcium (optional)
  • A handful of raw flax seed/pumpkin seed
  • A handful of porridge oats (optional)
  • A single drop of oregano or thyme essential oil (very overpowering if used to excess) optional

Mix with enough water (preferably warm water) so that the mixture has a porridge like consistency. It shouldn’t be too runny and the mixture will probably get slightly thicker if you leave it to stand.

You can add more poultry spice to improve the smell – although chickens don’t seem to mind!

Once the mash is ready, just stand back and watch them eat with gusto!

Alternative combinations:

  1. Soak haricot, or other dried beans, overnight and cook for an hour. Stir this into the basic mix. You could also add cooked lentils.
  2. Boil vegetable peelings, including potato, and add the peelings with the cooking water to the basic mix. (Be sure not to use onion or garlic peelings.)

If you liked this recipe you can find more, plus great advice and poultry related discussions, at the brilliant blog – Hedgerow Henporium Chicken Chat.

Image source: South West Pine

Warming winter treats for your chickens

With winter on its way we thought we’d share last year’s post on warming winter treats for chickens. Remember, when the weather gets cold the extra calories in treats will help keep your hens warm and happy.

Chicken treats - mealworms

Chickens love mealworms!

Anyone who has seen chickens knows how much they love scratching around for tasty morsels but when winter comes your chooks might have trouble finding enough food to keep them occupied.

But have no fear, there are plenty of tempting treats you can give your chickens in addition to their usual food that will keep them entertained, not to mention warm, right through until spring.

Here are some of our favourite titbits for chickens in the winter:

A brilliant breakfast!

Breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day just for humans – chickens also feel the benefit of a healthy, filling breakfast. Try mixing a small handful of porridge oats, a large portion of their usual pellets, and some warm water to make a nutritious warm mash.

Winter weight gain!

Just like people chickens tend eat more fatty foods in the winter so keep foods like bacon rind and fatty meat trimmings for your chooks to peck at.

In moderation fatty scraps are a good source of protein and will help your flock keep at a healthy weight when it gets cold. Another good source of protein is mealworms which you can find at the majority of pet shops.

chickens eating corn

Corn keeps your warm!

Corn keeps you warm!

As well as feeding a warm mash at breakfast time you can also feed your chickens a small amount of corn before shutting them up for the night. A handful of corn will fill them up and keep them warm overnight which can be especially useful when the temperature really drops.

Try it “on the cob”, canned, raw, and cooked until you find your flocks’ favourite!

One of your five a day!

With the grass and plants gone for the winter it’s important to make sure your hens still get enough fruit and veg to keep them healthy.

You can also turn feeding time into a form of entertainment by hanging veg such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in their chicken run. Not only will they get important nutrients they’ll also have fun pecking at the veg all day.

A word about water…

Although this post is about winter food for chickens poultry keepers often find that they have a harder job keeping their chickens hydrated, rather than full, during the winter.

Try wrapping the water drinker in bubble wrap, insulating foam, or felt to stop it freezing overnight. You can also add slightly warm water to the drinker in the morning to keep it from freezing during the day.

Some poultry keepers also remove the water at night and replace it when they let their flock out in the morning. Many chicken keepers report that their chickens don’t drink at night so this might be the answer if you can’t find a way of preventing the water from freezing.

Stay tuned this afternoon to see a brilliant warm mash recipe from our friends at Hedgerow Henporium!

Image source: Backyardchickens.com

Preparing your chicken house for winter

Chickens in the snowA safe, dry house is essential if you’re going to have healthy hens, especially during the winter months. Depending on where you live you might need to make more preparations for winter than chicken keepers living in warmer climates.

For example, if you’re in the north of England or Scotland you might need to think about hen house heaters or heated water bowls for this winter.

If you live in the south of England you probably won’t need to resort to extra heat for your hens, but having a heated water bowl could save you having to break the ice every day.

Here are some other things that all chicken keepers, regardless of their location, need to do before the cold sets in.

Give your chicken house a good clean

Whether you’re planning on using a deep litter method during the winter or not it’s best to start the winter with a clean chicken house.

Clear all of the bedding out and give the house a good scrub with a pet safe disinfectant. Make sure you get in all the nooks and crannies!

It’s also a good idea to treat your house with a mite and lice product, even if your birds haven’t shown any sign of having an infestation.

Don’t forget your accessories

Now is the time to give all of your chicken house extras, such as perches, next boxes, grit tubs, and feeders, a really good clean. If anything is broken, or doesn’t come clean with a good scrub, it might be time to replace it.

When you’re done, give everything a good rinse and leave to dry in the sun whilst you clean the rest of the chicken house.

Check for wear and tear

If you’ve bought a good quality chicken house it should have a long working life with minimum maintenance, but it’s still a good idea to check your chicken house is up to the winter weather conditions.

Check your chickens, or pests, haven’t damaged the house and that all of the fixtures are in good working order. Do the doors close properly? Are any of the metal fittings rusty? If you can answer yes, then now is the time to fix it.

Make sure your run is up to scratch

Many chicken keepers prefer to restrict their hens to a run during the winter months to limit the damage done to the garden or field. If you only use a run during the winter then it’s important to check it’s still safe and secure after being stored for the summer.

Just as with your chicken house, give it a good clean and check the wire, wood, and any metal fittings. You might also want to add extra layers of wire to make it harder for hungry predators to get to your flock.

Stock up on bedding and feed

Long nights and difficult weather conditions can make it harder to get your poultry essentials. If you’ve got a dry, vermin free space it’s a good idea to stock up on bedding and feed so you don’t find yourself in a fix if weather conditions stop you getting to the pet shop.

How to look after your ex-commercial hens – Part Two

free_range_chicken_flockGiving ex-commercial hens a second chance at a happy life is a very fulfilling and rewarding way to own chickens. With a bit of tender loving care your “ex-bats” will be just as happy and productive as hens you’ve purchased from any other source.

Ex-commercial hens aren’t usually unhealthy, after all they’ll have had every vaccination available as chicks, and they should be laying well. However, they may be shy, not understand natural chicken behaviour, and they could be bruised as a result of handling and travelling for adoption.

One of the biggest charities that campaigns for chicken welfare and helps to rehome thousands of birds every year is The British Hen Welfare Trust who have rehomed 434,442 hens to date.

You can find out how to rehome hens rescued by the BHWT here.

But how do you make sure your hens are happy and healthy in their new home?

Last week we looked at the basics of ex-commercial hen keeping: housing, feeding, and making new friends. This week we’re going to look at what you can expect on their first day of freedom and how to keep them healthy for years to come.

First days of freedom

Allowing your hens to free range on their first day of freedom isn’t usually advised as they won’t know where “home” is and it won’t be an easy task putting them to bed.

The best course of action is to put your hens in their new house and leave the door open so they can venture into their run or enclosure. Keeping your hens in a more restricted area will help them learn where home is.

Bedtime

You may have to gently place your hens in their house at bedtime because they’ll have been used to artificial light 18 hours per day so the concept of going to bed at dusk will be new to them.

You might notice that your hens prefer to sleep on the floor rather than their perches. This because perches won’t have been available to them previously and their legs may not be strong enough to perch for a few weeks.

Don’t be tempted to put them on the perches as this could cause bruising and other injuries if they fall off. Don’t worry, they’ll soon get the hang of it themselves!

Long term care

As long as your hens have food, fresh water, and a safe, secure house they should be happy for many years to come. However, there are a few other things you should do to keep them in tip top condition:

Worming: worming your hens a few times per year, with a veterinary approved product such as Flubenvet, should keep internal parasites at bay.

External parasites: as well as worming you should also treat your hens for external parasites, particularly red mite, on a regular basis. Spring and summer are good times to treat your hens and you should also use the parasite product on your hen’s house and run.

What if something does go wrong?

If you’re at all worried about your hens health or they become injured you should seek veterinary advice. The British Hen Welfare Trust has a list of experienced poultry vets that practice in the UK on their website.

How to look after your ex-commercial hens

knittedchickenWhere to get chickens is a question that all first time chicken keepers have to ask and there are many options out there. One of the options is to offer ex-commercial hens a loving home, saving them from a hard life of commercial laying, and showing them some tender loving care.

If you’re interested in rehoming “ex-bats” there are a number of charities and organisations that can help you do this. Our favourite chicken charity is The British Hen Welfare Trust which has rehomed 434,442 hens to date.

As well as rehoming hens the BHWT campaigns for better welfare standards, raises funds, educates consumers, and encourages people to support the British egg industry.

If you’re interested in giving ex-commercial hens a second chance at life, rather than going from cage to slaughter, you can find out about rehoming here.

Once you’ve got your hens home you’ll probably find they need a little more care than chickens that haven’t been used commercially. Here’s our guide to caring for your ex-commercial hens:

Housing

Just like any other chickens your ex-commercial hens will need suitable housing to keep them happy, healthy, and safe from predators.

There are many designs of chicken house available and it’s up to you whether you let them free range or provide a large run or enclosure instead. One thing you may notice is that your hens are missing feathers, in some cases quite a few, and so you’ll need to provide enough protection from the elements.

Tarpaulin, beach wind breaks, potted bushes, and other garden foliage can all give your hens somewhere to hide and get out of the wind, rain, and other quirks of the Great British weather!

Feeding

Smallholder Natural Free Range feedThe British Hen Welfare Trust highly recommends the Smallholder Range Natural Free Range Layers Crumble and Natural Free Range Layers Pellets that are both available nationwide.

This feed is GM free and specially formulated to provide your ex-commercial hens with all the goodness and nutrients they need to get back to full health. Your hens will have been fed a dry mash all their lives, so the Crumble is an ideal feed.

By feeding your hens this feed you’ll also be doing something good for other ex-commercial hens as a donation is made to the BHWT every time a bag of feed is bought.

Making new friends

If you already have chickens or cockerels you’ll need to be careful introducing your new arrivals. Your ex-commercial hens will be unfit and won’t know how to interact with “normal” chickens. Your hens may also have come from different commercial facilities so they won’t know each other.

Keep the two groups separate for around two weeks, but within sight of each other if this is possible. You’ll need to expect some squabbling when you do eventually introduce them, but once a new pecking order is established they should live together in perfect harmony.

You can reduce the chances of fighting but taking the following steps:

  • Provide multiple sources of food and water
  • Hang up distractions such as cabbages and mirrors to entertain your hens
  • If hens are being bullied, smear Vaseline on their combs so other hens can’t get a grip

Next week, we’ll be looking at what you can expect on your ex-commercial hens’ first day of freedom and how to keep them healthy long term.

Chicken Chat is changing!

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Here at Jim Vyse Arks we love hearing what our fans and customers have to say, especially if they think we could be doing something better.

Recently we’ve been talking to people about our Chicken Chat blog and finding out what people really enjoy reading about and the things they’re not so keen on. Taking on board their comments we’re going to be changing the way we do things around here.

From now on we’ll be posting three times per week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday discussing the poultry topics you’ve said you want to read the most.

Monday’s posts will be dedicated to chickens, Wednesdays will be all about ducks, and Friday…? Well, Fridays wouldn’t be the same without the fantastic British Hen Welfare Trust Free Range Friday post!

So, we’ll see you again on Wednesday when we’ll be telling you how to create a duck friendly garden.

Until then, please feel free to visit our website and take advantage of our latest special offers.