Breed of the Month – Maran

This month we’re looking at the Maran, an attractive, popular breed of chicken that are prized for their beautiful dark brown eggs. They have orange eyes and white skin. In the UK you’ll usually find Marans with non-feathered legs, but they can also have feathers.

MaranOriginating from the town of Marans in the west of France the breed was created in the 1920s by mixing the local feral fowl with fighting birds imported from Indonesia and India. You don’t need to worry about them being aggressive though – the Maran breed is known for its docile nature.

Further breeding and the introduction of other breeds “improved” the Maran to make it a good dual purpose bird who produces roughly 150 dark brown eggs per year and is also suitable for the table.

The breed’s popularity spread and it was first introduced to the UK in 1929 by Lord Greenway. He was originally interested in the gourmet flavour Maran meat has but was soon fascinated by the colour of the eggs and showed them at Crystal Palace in 1934.

The Maran was accepted into the British Standard in 1935 and The Marans Club was formed in 1950 in the Grosvenor Hotel, London. The club is still going strong today and you can find out more information about the breed on The Marans Club website.

marans_eggsIn modern times the Maran is a popular breed both as pets and show birds, becoming a favourite at poultry shows. They are docile, hardy, tough and disease resistant.

They are an active breed and prefer a free range lifestyle over being kept in a chicken run or enclosure. All of the above qualities make them an ideal bird if you’re new to chicken keeping.

The club recognises the following varieties of the Maran: Brown-red, Silver Cuckoo, Golden Cuckoo, White, Wheaten, Columbian, Black, Black-tailed Buff, and Silver Black.

The following colours are also under assessment to be included in the Standard: Golden-blue, Silver-blue, Splash, Golden-salmon, and Silver-salmon.

Breed of the Week: Appenzeller Spitzhauben

Source: Purely Poultry

Source: Purely Poultry

These striking looking birds originate from Switzerland and are popular both as pets and exhibition birds. The Appenzeller chicken actually comes in two varieties, the Spitzhauben that we’ll be looking at today and the Barthuhner that we’ll be looking at next month.

“Spitzhauben” means “pointed hood” which refers to the frilly hats worn by the local women in the Appenzeller region of Switzerland.

After the Second World War the breed faced extinction and it was largely due to German breeder, Kurt Fischer that the breed is still around today. The breed was first brought to the UK in the 1970s with a Mrs Pamela Jackson buying the first major importation of hatching eggs from Switzerland.

Since then the breed has gained popularity and importations of birds and eggs are still made from Switzerland in an attempt to broaden the gene pool. The Spitzhauben is incredibly popular with hobby chicken keepers, although it isn’t as popular with exhibitors as other ornamental breeds.

As well as being a beautiful breed the Spitzhauben also lays a useful number of eggs and is a superb forager who enjoys being kept in a free range environment.

You can find out more information about the Appenzeller Spitzhauben on The Appenzeller Spitzhauben Society of Great Britain website.

Here’s our Appenzeller Spitzhauben factsheet:

Appenzeller Spitzhauben Factsheet      

Name: Appenzeller Spitzhauben

Type: Large fowl and bantam

Weight: Large fowl – Cock: 3.5 – 4.5lbs Hen: 3 – 3.5lbs

Bantam – Cock: 600 – 800g Hen: 500 – 700g

Popularity: Common as pets and gaining popularity as a show bird

Purpose: Ornamental but a good layer

Eggs: Medium sized white eggs. Hens lay 230 – 280 eggs per year

Physical features: V shaped comb, feathered crest in both sexes, impressive plumage

Colours: There are five recognised colours available in the UK, as well as a Cuckoo variety that has not yet been bred or imported. Recognised colours are: Gold Spangled, Silver Spangled, Black, Blue, and Chamois Spangled

Other characteristics: Appenzeller Spitzhaubens are active birds that prefer to kept in a free range environment or large poultry enclosure. They will roost in trees if allowed so providing plenty of perches will keep them entertained.

They are rumoured to be flighty but Spitzhauben fans report that will gentle handling this can be overcome. The Appenzeller Spitzhauben could be the perfect breed if you want to add a more exotic looking bird to your flock without sacrificing egg production.

We’ll be taking a break from Breed of the Week for a few weeks but we’ll be back in October when we’ll be introducing our Breed of the Month feature starting with the Appenzeller Barthuhner!

Breed of the Week – Sussex

Last week we looked at the Sebright Bantam that’s pretty but not very practical. This week we’re looking at a breed that’s both beautiful and bountiful!

A Light Sussex hen

A Light Sussex hen

The Sussex breed of chicken was first developed during Roman times as a table bird and has since spread across the world both as a utility breed and as pets and exhibition birds.

The breed appeared around 43 AD, making them one of the oldest known breeds of chicken, and quickly became a dual-purpose breed because of their good egg production.

The Sussex chicken was influential in the poultry industry and a Sussex breed club was formed in 1903. Those who keep the Sussex as a meat bird have found that the chicken is more like the Heritage meats produced in the past than the modern broiler chicken.

Although eggs are usually cream to light brown in colour some Light Sussex hens have been producing olive green eggs, however green egg laying Sussex hens are extremely rare.

The Coronation variety of Sussex was created for the coronation of King George VIII in 1936 but is now the rarest variety of the Sussex breed. The variety is making a comeback in Australia.

Here’s more about the Sussex breed:

Sussex Factsheet                                      

Name: Sussex

Type: Large fowl and bantam

Weight: Large fowl – cock: 4.1kg hen: 3.2kg

Bantam – cock: 1.5kg hen: 1.1kg

Popularity: Popular both as pets and as dual-purpose birds

Purpose: Dual-purpose – eggs and meat

Eggs: Large cream to light brown eggs. Hens produce roughly 240 to 260 eggs per year.

Physical features: Medium sized single comb, red earlobes, white skin and legs.

Colours: There are eight recognised colours found in both the large fowl and bantam varieties: Light, Buff, Silver, Red, White, Speckled, Buff Columbian, Coronation.

Other characteristics: Sussex chickens are an alert, hardy and docile breed, making good pets and are easily tamed. They are happy to free range or be kept in a run or enclosure. They do go broody in the warmer months and make good mothers.

Sussex chickens are good foragers, so your garden may be at risk if your hens get peckish! They don’t usually require any special care and will be happy as long as they have a robust, practical chicken house.

Next week we’re looking at the Rhode Island Red, another hardy, docile breed.

 

How to predator proof your chickens

Unfortunately your chickens are never going to be 100% safe from predators but we’ve got some tips to make an attack less likely.

Mmm chicken nugget!

Mmm chicken nugget!

Predators can be one of the biggest worries for chicken keepers, especially if you live in an area with a large fox population or the neighbourhood cats have been a little too interested in your flock.

Unfortunately there isn’t a way to make sure that your chickens are 100% safe from other creatures, but there are some things you can do to make their environment safer.

We’ve got some top tips to keep predators as far away as possible:

Don’t use chicken wire

Avoid purchasing a run or chicken coop that uses chicken wire as predators can easily break through. Chicken wire was originally designed to keep chickens in rather than keep predators out so it isn’t a suitable material for runs, closures, or houses.

Welded, galvanised ¼ inch mesh is a far safer option and is as fox proof as you’ll get. Members of the weasel family will also find it extremely difficult to access your hens.

Get digging

If you’re building a permanent enclosure for your flock then dig a 12 inch trench around the enclosure to bury the mesh. A 12 inch apron of mesh around the enclosure is an alternative if you don’t want to dig a trench but chicken keepers report that this isn’t as effective.

Remember, a hungry predator will happily dig to get a meal, so start digging before he does!

Teach your hens to “go to bed”

Chickens roosting outside overnight are extremely vulnerable and you could lose your entire flock in one night if they’re not properly shut away. Dawn and dusk can be dangerous times for chickens so you might find that an automatic door is a good option to keep your hens safely shut inside.

Raise your coop

A raised chicken house will stop pests such as rats and mice being able to hide or burrow underneath your house. Not only can rats cause damage to your hen house but they will also steal eggs, kill young chicks, and will sometimes take on hens, especially bantam breeds.

Clean up leftover food daily

Rats will also be attracted by the leftover food that your hens scatter about the place. Remove food overnight and clean up anything left in the coop at the end of the day by hand or with a rake..

Even if pests are only trying to get the food waste they’ll upset and stress your hens in their efforts to get in the enclosure and may also turn on your hens.

Invest in “guard chickens”

This method might not be for everyone but many chicken keepers report that keeping bigger breeds of chicken such as Brahmas, Jersey Giants, and Orpingtons act as a deterrent to predators.

There’s no exact science to this and it might not work for you but if you are thinking about expanding your flock consider purchasing a larger breed to keep the smaller members of the group safe.

Next week we’ll be looking at how to give your chickens a bath whether it’s for a show or just to freshen them up!

Breed of the Week – Sebright Bantam

Last week we looked at the big and beautiful Orpington. This week we’re learning about the Sebright Bantam, one of the oldest recorded “true” bantams in Britain.

Photo credit: Sebright Bantam Club UK

Photo credit: Sebright Bantam Club UK

The Sebright Bantam is one of Britain’s oldest recorded “true” bantams and was the first chicken breed to get its own specialist breed club.

The breed was named after its developer – Sir John Saunders Sebright – who created the breed in the 19th Century by selectively breeding birds in order to produce an ornamental chicken.

The exact combination of breeds used to produce the Sebright is unknown but it’s thought that the Hamburg, Rosecomb, and Polish breeds were all used to achieve the small size and laced feathering.

The Sebright is a “true” bantam meaning that there is no larger counterpart and the breed has since been used to produce other laced breeds such as the Wyandotte.

As they were deliberately bred to be an ornamental bird Sebright Bantams have never been used as table birds and aren’t prolific layers. Hens will lay roughly one egg per week in fact.

They are a friendly, active breed, and their relatively large wings and lightweight body means that they fly well in comparison to other chicken breeds. They will roost in trees and many Sebright keepers find it easier to have them in enclosures because of this.

If you do decide to let your flock free range then you’ll be pleased to hear that they are not destructive birds, so your plants will be safe!

Here’s more about the small, but perfectly formed, Sebright Bantam:

Sebright Bantam Factsheet                     

Name: Sebright Bantam

Type: Bantam

Weight: Cock: 620g Hen: 510g

Popularity: Common as show birds and pets

Purpose: Ornamental

Eggs: Bantam (tiny) white eggs. Hens are not good layers, producing around one egg per week

Physical features: Unique in that males and females have the same feathering. They have bare legs, clean feet, and cockerels have a rose comb.

Colours: There are two recognised colours: Gold and Silver. Both varieties are known for their black “lacing” which is what makes the breed look so striking.

Other characteristics: Sebrights aren’t good layers and intensive breeding has meant that some cockerels are born infertile. This makes them especially hard to breed and raise, particularly if you’re a beginner.

They are friendly and active birds, although they can be nervous and skittish, and have retained the ability to fly. For this reason they are not considered an ideal bird for beginners and many keepers prefer them to be enclosed rather than free range.

They tolerate being confined well and may even appreciate being kept indoors or in a barn during the colder winter months. They will also roost in trees given the chance so this can make shutting them in at night difficult.

If you’re considering keeping Sebright Bantams then a purpose built chicken enclosure might be the best option.

Interesting egg baskets

We know we promised you a brand new product, but it isn’t quite ready to be revealed. So this week we’re looking at interesting egg baskets and cool things to collect your eggs in.

This week we’d thought we’d take a break from dishing out chicken keeping advice and just share some pictures of egg collecting baskets that we like.

Of course, you could just use a bucket, but where would be the fun in that!

farmhouse-basketswire basketsFirst up, here are some traditional wire egg baskets. We like them because they’re simple, classic, and easy to clean! Modern designs also come in a range of colours so you can make it more personal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eggs-in-Vintage-Offering-BasketIf you like the traditional look but you’re not sure about wire how about a wicker basket? We love how pretty this one looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

felteggbasketFor those of you with occasional visiting grandchildren or other small people who enjoy collecting eggs why not treat them to this fancy felt basket?

 

 

 

 

 

 

wooden_garden_trugFinally, our friends at Loldean Timber have got making attractive egg baskets down to a T.