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.

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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.

 

Keeping ducks in an urban area

urban duck pondAs much as we’d all like to live on a farm surrounded by animals it isn’t always possible and sometimes you find yourself living in an urban area. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the joys of duck keeping, you just have to think outside the box!

If you’re living in the UK it’s worth checking with your local council to make sure there aren’t any restrictions on the animals you can keep in your garden. This also applies if you’re living in rented accommodation.

If you live in the USA there are many states that don’t allow poultry and other livestock animals to be kept within the city limits so you’ll also need to check with your local authority before purchasing any animals.

Regulations aside, here’s our guide to keeping ducks in an urban area:

Which type of duck is right for you?

Keeping ducks in an urban area requires a little more thought than if you kept ducks on a far, especially when thinking about the amount of noise they make.

If you’ve only got a small garden you might think that a smaller breed, such as the Call duck, might be better for you. However, as their name suggests Call ducks can be rather noisy and your neighbours might not appreciate their constant ducky noises!

Quieter breeds such as the Pekin, Cherry Valley, or Muscovy might be a better option for those of you with close neighbours.

Housing

Ducks aren’t fussy creatures when it comes to housing. As long as their house is dry, clean, and protects them from the elements they’re happy.

From a human point of view you want something that is attractive, robust, and practical. The more money you spend the longer the working life of the duck should be.

Cheap houses might look like a bargain but you’ll probably find you need to repair or replace them every year or so.

A note about predator protection: You’ll also need to consider adding extra fortifications to your housing to protect your ducks against urban predators such as foxes, cats, and dogs. Burying wire in a 6ft trench around the house should stop predators digging their way in and make sure the enclosure has a roof to stop danger coming from above.

To free range or not to free range?

The size and style of your garden might mean that you’d rather your ducks didn’t free range. Ducks are excellent foragers and will happily graze on your lawn or in your plant pots/flower beds to supplement their diet.

If you’d rather protect your garden from hungry ducks it’s worth investing in a large duck run or enclosure so they still have room to carry out their natural behaviours without trashing your outdoor space.

Water

If you live in an urban area it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a pond in your back garden. Luckily this doesn’t matter as ducks don’t really need a huge amount of water to be happy. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are happy just to have a bucket to dunk their heads in!

As long as ducks have access to water that is deep enough to submerge their entire head in then they’ll stay healthy. Ducks need to do this to clean their eyes (as they don’t have tear ducts) and help them wash their food down.

Of course, the more water you can give them the better, but many people choose to use a child’s hard plastic paddling pool or other large plastic container. Be sure to provide small steps or a low ramp to help them in and out of the pool.

A note about water: it’s worth providing other water sources around your garden/the enclosure that aren’t big enough for the ducks to get in. This should stop the water getting too dirty and give them something else to drink from throughout the day.

Remember, drinking water should be changed daily and their pond every other day depending on how quickly it becomes dirty.

Next week we’ll be looking at how to make a duck friendly garden. Keep an eye out for our duck posts which will be moving to Wednesdays!

Looking after your ducks this winter

snow ducksWith winter looming it’s time to start thinking about any changes to your ducks housing you’ll need to make and any extra care needs they’ll have. Luckily, ducks are hardy creatures and are well adapted to living in colder weather.

If you’re in the UK chances are the weather won’t get cold enough for you to need to make any drastic changes to how you keep your ducks but there are still things you ought to consider before the winter comes.

Up their food intake

As the winter gets closer your ducks are going to need to be a healthy weight so they’ve got plenty of fat to keep them warm when it gets cold. Providing them with plenty of high quality feed at the end of autumn will help them put on weight and stay healthy during the winter.

When the winter really sets in giving them a high calorie treat such as corn before bed will help them keep warm overnight as their body with produce heat during the digestion process.

Inspect their duck house

Now is the time to give your duck house a really good clean and check for any leaks or damage. Treat the wood to keep it in good condition throughout the colder months and replace any damaged areas such as the roof or rusted metal fixtures.

You might want to consider adding extra insulation in the roof and using a deep litter method of bedding to keep your ducks warm at night.

Think about protecting against mud

Although ducks love muddy conditions the ground won’t thank you for the damage and ducks shouldn’t be stood around in wet mud all day.

Consider putting straw down in their run or enclosure or use another material such as wood chip or even fallen leaves from your garden.

Increase your predator proofing

You’ll find that your ducks eat more in the winter and unfortunately so will predators so it’s really important to provide as much protection as you can.

Check any existing wire for holes and consider adding an extra layer of wire and burying it at least 6 inches underground or in a trench around the duck house.

Provide protection against the elements

Wind, rain, and snow can make life pretty miserable for humans and ducks a like so think about providing them with as much protection as possible.

Tarpaulin or plastic sheeting can be used to cover one side and a section over the top of their run to act as a wind break and “umbrella”. If the weather forecast indicates snow or extreme rain it’s worth using a sheet of plywood to cover the top of their run nearest the house.

Remember to break the ice

Although ducks don’t need a large expanse of water to be happy they do need access to clean, unfrozen water during the day.

You’ll need to empty each water container every night and refill them during the day. Some duck keepers invest in heated dog water bowls for the hot months or place bottles of hot water in water buckets.

This method is the opposite of the frozen bottle method used in the summer months to keep water cool. The hot bottles stop the water freezing if temperatures are particularly cold during the day.

Learn to “speak chicken” – understanding flock behaviour

free_range_chicken_flockAnyone who has spent any time watching a flock of chickens’ behaviour will know they communicate both in a verbal and non-verbal way. Chickens are very sociable birds who enjoy the company of their feathered friends. This is why it is recommended that you have at least three chickens to start a group.

Just like all social animals this means that they form a hierarchy to maintain structure and order within their group – this known as the “pecking order”. Chickens establish this natural order between themselves, usually after a few scuffles, and any new birds to the group will have to spend time finding their own place in the pecking order.

But there’s slightly more to it than that, and anyway, what do chickens actually talk about?

Developing a flock

As we’ve said, three chickens is usually the number suggested if you’re new to chicken keeping and want to know how many you should have. Increasing the number to five or six will create a strong, established group.

However many birds you keep will develop their own pecking order within a few days of being together. This hierarchy will change whenever a bird is added or removed from the group.

The pecking order will be established through verbal communications such as growling and screeching at other birds. It will also be established through on-verbal communication such as jumping, pecking, and chasing other birds.

This behaviour will continue until one bird gives up and submits to the challenging bird. The challenger will then be of a higher rank and may become the “alpha” member of the flock.

How to tell who’s the boss

The pecking order will affect every aspect of your flock’s lives from feeding and drinking to sleeping and dust bathing. The pecking order will probably be most obvious at meal times when the dominant bird will eat first and only when they are done will the lower ranking birds be allowed to eat.

At bedtime you’ll notice that the higher ranking birds take the top perches in the chicken house and may push lower ranking birds to perches closer to the bottom of the coop.

Friends for life

Chickens form long lasting friendships and will mourn the loss of a friend if they die or are taken away. They may be quieter than usual and search their enclosure, run, or garden daily for some time after their friend’s loss. They may also refuse to leave the spot where they last saw their friend.

If a chicken’s friend is returned to the group they will recognise them and the bond will return immediately. This can be useful in helping the returning bird re-establish their place in the pecking order.

Problems in the flock

Although it is rare you will sometimes come across a hen that is being picked on by the rest of the flock. This may result in lost feathers and wounds. Free range flocks are less likely to exhibit this behaviour as there is enough room for chickens to avoid disputes.

Providing plenty of space, multiple feeding/drinking stations, and a variety of perches can reduce the risk of bullying happening but in the most severe cases either main abuser or the victim will have to be removed from the flock.

Next week we’ll be looking at other types of chicken communication and understanding the benefits of being in a flock.

Splash down! Duck pond designs

Last week saw the end of our Duck first aid tips series so this week we thought we’d have a little fun and look at some great duck pond designs.

This week we thought it was a good idea to discuss the one thing that all ducks love – water!

There aren’t many duck keepers that are lucky enough to have their own lake, or even pond, so they’ve had to get creative to give their ducks access to water.

Ducks don’t actually need as much water as most people think – in fact, Indian Runner duck keepers report that they’re perfectly happy with a bucket to dunk their heads in.

This is good news for duck keepers as it means that you don’t need to install a pond to keep your ducks healthy and happy.

Here’s a look at some options for your ducks, including a “duck shower”!

Many duck keepers choose a children’s plastic paddling pool if they only have a small number of ducks.

Photo credit: Woodhouse Farms

Photo credit: Woodhouse Farms

 

This option is good as the “pond” is easy to clean out and can be moved to another location if the ground becomes waterlogged.

Photo credit: qps-pets.co.uk

Photo credit: qps-pets.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Another option is a large plastic trough or stock tank like this one shown here. Just make sure you remember to give your ducks steps or a ramp to get in and out!

 

 

If you’re looking for a more permanent option this great video from rlcowley on Youtube shows you how to build your ducks a pond they’ll be eternally grateful for.

And finally, we never thought we’d see one but we promise it does exist, a duck shower! This “shower” incorporates a filter and pump to keep the water clean and flowing around the system. You can find the full instructions and more pictures here.

Photo credit: backyardchickens.com

Photo credit: backyardchickens.com

 

 

 

 

 

Duck first aid tips – Part two

Last week, in the first part of our duck first aid tips series, we looked at duck illnesses and injuries and told you how to examine your duck. This week we’re looking at common injuries and what you should have in your duck first aid kit.

Duck shoes! Photo credit: Party Fowl Pet Supplies

Duck shoes!
Photo credit: Party Fowl Pet Supplies

As we said in the first part of our duck first aid series ducks are usually fairly hardy creatures and don’t often require medical attention. Unfortunately this can mean that when they become ill or are injured it’s quite serious.

Our biggest tip for a healthy duck is to find a “duck friendly” vet before purchasing your feathered friends. This gives you somewhere to go if something serious should happen.

We’re going to start this post by looking at common duck injuries and ways of treating them:

Missing neck and back feathers

If you keep ducks and drakes then the most likely cause of missing feathers is over-mating. Enthusiastic drakes tend to pull out the neck and back feathers of their ladies, which is not only painful but can cause sores and broken sick.

You’ll need to separate your ducks and drakes until the wounds have healed and monitor them when they are re-introduced. For this reason it’s unwise to have multiple drakes with a small number of female ducks.

Bleeding and/or small wounds

Not all wounds require veterinary attention and can be successfully treated at home. You’ll need to clean the wound with water and a diluted antiseptic solution such as Hibi-scrub.

You can use vet wrap to bandage the wounds, although take care not to wrap the bandage too tightly and cut off the circulation.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop with light compression then you’ll need to contact your vet for advice.

Sore/damaged eyes

You can flush out sore or damaged eyes will clean water or sterile saline solution. Never use chemicals when dealing with an eye injury. If there is puss or severe damage to the eye then you’ll need to seek veterinary advice.

Allowing your ducks constant access to water deep enough to submerge their heads in should prevent most eye issues as they’ll keep their eyes clean and hydrated.

Mites and lice

Ducks are less likely to be infected with mites and lice because the oils in their feathers don’t provide a comfortable environment for parasites. However, they can still get them, especially when kept with chickens, and you’ll need to treat both the ducks and the duck house to remove them.

You can treat ducks with a pesticide such as Ivermectin, which is available from your Vet, and there are various products available to treat your house.

What do I need in my duck first aid kit?

It’s always useful to have a small first aid kit ready in case of any problems. You’ll be able to get most of the products you need from the pet shop or your vet.

Here’s a selection of items we suggest you have in yours:

  • Vet wrap
  • Hibi-scrub
  • Saline solution
  • Antiseptic spray
  • Gauze
  • Waterproof medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Electrolytes
  • Clean syringes
  • Iodine

You’ll also need to have something such as a cat box or large dog crate handy in case an injured or ill duck needs to be separated from the rest of the flock.

We also like these “duck shoes” designed to keep wounds clean or for use after treating Bumblefoot and other foot conditions.

Come back next week when we’ll be looking at different designs and solutions for duck ponds.