Free Range Friday – Pear Frangipane Galette

For the last few weeks Free Range Friday has had a spooky theme in honour of Halloween. This week it’s back to normal with a gorgeous Pear Frangipane Galette which is perfect for afternoon tea or as a delicious pudding after a special dinner.

You can find the full recipe here.



The Jim Vyse Guide to Showing Ducks

Duck_ShowShowing your ducks (or chickens) can give you a great sense of achievement, even if you don’t win. After all, it’s the taking part that counts! However, if you’re new to showing poultry it can be daunting and it’s hard to know where to start.

If you’re looking to show a specific breed of duck, for example Muscovy, then it’s worth contacting the breed society or club for breed standards and dates of shows. You can also look on the Poultry Club of Great Britain website for advice, show dates, and showing guidelines.

Ducks are categorised into Heavy Duck, Light Duck and Bantam Duck at shows. You may also find classes for juvenile ducks, trios, rare breeds, and eggs.

But once you have this information, how do you make sure your duck puts its best foot forward?

Here’s our advice on showing your ducks:

Does your duck make the grade?

First things first, check the breed standard for your duck and see if they make the grade. For example, does your bird have the correct colour legs?

If your bird doesn’t quite meet the breed standard you can still have fun showing but you’re unlikely to come home with the top prize.

Start preparing early

Show preparation should start a few months before you plan to attend the show, it isn’t as simple as giving your duck and bath and sending off your entry fee. It’s a good idea to separate the duck or ducks you intend to show from the rest of the flock and keep them somewhere clean to prevent mud stains taking hold.

Correct feeding ensures good bone and muscle, it can also change their leg colour if you feed maize (too much maize will give white legs and yellowish tinge).

Regular use of louse powder or spray will ensure good feather health and stop you transporting any unwanted “guests” with you when you attend shows.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on your duck’s general health and keep their claws trimmed to a reasonable length.

Get your entries in on time

Entries for shows usually close a few weeks to a week before the show starts so make sure you don’t miss the deadline. Check your entries and keep a note of the classes you’ve entered.

If you do need any information you can usually contact the show secretary and their contact information can be found in the Poultry Club Yearbook.

Bath time!

The week before the show is the time to give your duck a thorough bath, including grubby legs and feet, as this allows time for the natural oils to return to the feathers. It’s important to mention at this point that you shouldn’t use any kind of soap to bath ducks as you’ll wash all of the natural oils out of their feathers.

If you’ve kept them in a clean enclosure with access to plenty of fresh water they should have kept themselves fairly clean.

To give them a final spruce up the day before the show use warm water to give their feet, legs, and bills a gentle scrub with a nail brush.

Once they’ve had their bath you might want to put a light coating of coconut oil or Vaseline on their legs and feet for extra shine.

Next week we’ll look at transporting your ducks and what happens at a poultry show.


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:

How to stop ducks eating their eggs

Egg eating is usually more of a problem with chickens but sometimes you’ll have a duck that gets a taste for eggs. This behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged as it can lead to the whole flock eating their own eggs.

duck-eggsFeeding your ducks egg shell is a good form of calcium and you can also feed them the egg, but make sure you feed it cooked so that they don’t get a taste for raw egg.

Some ducks will only start eating their eggs if the shell is already cracked, but once they get the taste for egg it can cause them to deliberately crack their eggs to get inside.

Here are our steps to stop your ducks eating their eggs:

Make sure your ducks are getting enough calcium

Egg eating can be a sign that your ducks aren’t getting enough calcium in their diets. Feed a good quality layers feed and provide extra sources of calcium such as oyster shell to ensure your ducks are getting everything they need.

Provide multiple nest boxes

Overcrowding in nest boxes can cause eggs to be broken and your ducks may find they like the taste. At least one nest box per four laying ducks is usually recommended but the more nest boxes you provide the better.

Clean up broken eggs quickly

Cleaning up broken eggs as soon as you spot them doesn’t give your ducks a chance to eat them.

It’s also important not to feed any cracked, raw eggs to your ducks when you collect them. If you do want to feed eggs or shells for extra nutrients, make sure you cook them first.

Remove egg eating ducks

As we said, one egg eater can encourage the others to join in, so watch your ducks and see if you can spot the offending fowl.

Break the habit

Try replacing eggs with fake eggs or even golf balls! Once your ducks realise they can’t break the fake egg or golf balls to eat the egg they should get out of the habit and stop trying with real eggs.

Stop ducks getting bored

Some ducks start breaking eggs out of boredom so give them plenty of things to entertain them.

Vegetables, cubed in a bowl or hanging from their run, will keep them occupied and provide a healthy snack. You can check last week’s article on Healthy Treats for Ducks to get ideas.

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.

Free Range Friday – Halloween Ghost Cupcakes!

With Halloween on it’s way we thought it was only right that our Free Range Friday recipes took on a spooky theme for the next two weeks.

This week we’ve got delicious Halloween Ghost Cupcakes from BBC’s Good Food magazine proving that Halloween food doesn’t have to be gory.

You can get the full recipe here.