Free Range Friday – Baked Dippy Eggs

If you’re thinking ahead to Christmas day breakfast and you want something more exciting than toast, why not try Baked Dippy Eggs?

This recipe has been especially designed with children in mind, so if you can tear them away from their presents for 20 minutes they can help create a delicious breakfast.

You can get the full recipe here.

 

Photo credit: BBC Good Food magazine

Photo credit: BBC Good Food magazine

Free Range Friday – Bacon and Egg canapes

If you’re going to be entertaining over the festive period you’re going to want some delicious canapés to wow your guests.

We’ve chosen these cute and tasty looking Bacon and Egg tartlets that are packed full of flavour for this week’s Free Range Friday recipe.

You can get the full recipe here.

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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.

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

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.