Breed of the Month: Silver Appleyard

This month’s duck breed of the month is the pretty Silver Appleyard, a reasonably rare but brilliant all-purpose duck. Their silver, white, dark green, and claret plumage makes them one of the most attractive and distinctive breeds of duck available.

the_silver_appleyard-12The Silver Appleyard originates from the UK and is named after their first breeder, a Mr Reginald Appleyard who was known as a writer and breeder of domestic waterfowl.

He first developed the breed in the 1930s with the aim of producing the perfect all-round utility duck that would make good eating and also be a prolific layer. They became popular as a pet, exhibition bird, and as “gourmet roasting ducks”.

The breed was made available to the American public in the 1980s but never really gained much support. A 2000 census in the United States found that there were only 128 breeding Silver Appleyards in North America, with only 5 breeders keeping the breed.

The modern Silver Appleyard is a “heavy” variety of duck, weighing between 6-8lbs when fully grown, but is unfortunately not as dual purpose as it once was.

Sadly good utility stock birds are now hard to find, although they are still one of the better large breeds of duck if you want a large number of eggs. The Silver Appleyard produces roughly 250 large white eggs per year.

They are known to be easy to keep, docile, and friendly. Silver Appleyard’s prefer to free range, although they tend to stay close to their duck house so they don’t need acres of land to be happy.

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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

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: Backyardchickens.com