R is for Rare Breeds of Chickens

RRare Breeds, of chickens, or any other animal, are those variations that are no longer popular with the agricultural industry, which by definition are not as ‘productive’ as the specially bred varieties that populate most ‘factory farms’.  I don’t even know what breeds of chicken are used for ‘our chicken dinners’ or the caged egg birds.  I suppose I could look them up?

illustration from an old book "Poultry of the World"

illustration from an old book “Poultry of the World”

Well I just spend quite a lot of time trying to find out, and the best I can come up with is this!

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

Since their domestication, a large number of breeds of chickens have been established, but with the exception of the white Leghorn, most commercial birds are of hybrid origin.[10] In about 1800, chickens began to be kept on a larger scale, and modern high-output poultry farms were present in the United Kingdom from around 1920 and became established in the United States soon after the Second World War. By the mid-20th century, the poultry meat-producing industry was of greater importance than the egg-laying industry.

Battery hens in Brazil

Battery hens in Brazil

Poultry breeding has produced breeds and strains to fulfil different needs; light-framed, egg-laying birds that can produce 300 eggs a year; fast-growing, fleshy birds destined for consumption at a young age, and utility birds which produce both an acceptable number of eggs and a well-fleshed carcase. 

Both of the illustrations show well kept facilities, and yet, how can you compare the welfare of those chickens with these?

chicken in grass pasture

an idyllic photo I found on the web!

Well I intended to give you some information on Rare Breeds today, but I seem to have got distracted!  I will continue on this subject tomorrow – in the meantime, if you want to see a list of Rare Breeds, with photos, you can’t go far wrong if you look at this page on the website of the Poultry Club of Great Britain.

 

P is for Peacocks

PToday I have contributions from both China and Romania!

I have a friend in China, who blogs as Spaceship China  and recently visited Xishuangbanna, a region far south in the southern province of Yunnan, home to the Dai people, and took some stupendous photos.

One of my customers, Florance, lives in Romania, and happens to breed peacocks.  She sent me some pictures of her peacock chicks, after seeing ‘my Easter chicks’.  They have both given me permission to use their photographs.

peacock+feather+image+graphicsfairy3bThese stunning iridescent peacock feathers, which almost everyone, at some time, has admired, come from the male of the species and are used in as glorious mating displays to attract the far duller brown female of the species!

They have inspired countless artists and writers, and have at various times, been fashionable additions to hats and fans, and home decorations.

male in full display

Just to blind you with science – this bit comes from Wikipedia – smile – it explains how the colours in this display are produced by ‘reflection and refraction’.

As with many birds, vibrant iridescent plumage colours are not primarily pigments, but structural coloration. Optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. Brown feathers are a mixture of red and blue: one colour is created by the periodic structure and the other is created by a Fabry–Pérot interference peak from reflections from the outer and inner boundaries. Such structural coloration causes the iridescence of the peacock’s hues since interference effects depend on light angle rather than actual pigments.[2]

But going back to the whimsical – this is a myth about ‘The Peacock Princess’ as recounted in spaceshipchina.com!

peacocks in Xishuangbanna, China

The Dai people have a legend about their ancestors. One day, the Prince of the Dai was visiting a lake, and he saw seven peacocks fly down. At the lakeside, the peacocks turned into young women. Fascinated, the prince waited for them to return. As they took of their mantle – feathers on their head – they turned into the women and went bathing.

The prince stole the youngest swan’s mantle, and when the others turned back into birds, she stayed human. The prince married her, and she became known as Princess Peacock.

img_0114Nearby kingdoms were jealous of the Dai’s riches and wars broke out. The prince was far away fighting. Some people blamed the Princess Peacock and called for her death.

The peacock woman asked the king to perform a dance to ensure the safe return of the prince. Taking her feather mantle, she started dancing and transformed back into a peacock and flew away.

The Dai people worship peacocks as being messengers of peace, kindness, love and beauty.

The story of the seven heavenly peacocks is reminiscent of other myths regarding the constellation Cygnus.

White Peacock, Xishuangbanna

Peacocks have other Royal Connections – During the Medieval period, various types of fowl were consumed as food, the more wealthy gentry were privileged to less usual foods, such as swan, and even peafowl were consumed. On a king’s table, a peacock would be for ostentatious display as much as for culinary consumption.[30] 

And there are many other myths associated with these beautiful birds see Wikipedia again!

Before Florance sent me the pictures below, I had never seen peacock chicks, they look like any other chicks until they are about 2 months old, when you can start to see the differentiations.  This is a selection of the pictures she sent me from Romania.

She doesn’t currently have a website or blog, but if you want to ask her any questions about rearing peacocks, I will be happy to pass them on to her, or if you leave a comment below, perhaps she will answer them herself!  Her English is very good.

To see the titles, hover over the pictures, or click on them and you will get them enlarged in a slide show format.

 

O is for there are Other chickens!

OI moved the chicks yesterday, as they had outgrown their cardboard box, and were agile enough to keep jumping out of it.

They are now about 4 weeks old and don’t need the brooder any more, so I put them in   the pen in the cellar – which opens into the garden.

You can see them at one day old HERE, and at 10 days old HERE.

As you can see, they discovered that there were OTHER CHICKENS around, and my chickens had a good look at them!

 

N is for Never feed your chickens these ….

NThis is a list of foods NEVER to feed your chickens, that I found on ready nutrition.

I would have reblogged it, but I can’t find a way to do it as its not a WordPress site, so I am just copying it.

I agree with everything in this list, I once tried feeding my chickens on potatoes that had started growing, rather than throw them away – and couldn’t understand why they didn’t touch them!

about 10 years ago, I also had a pet rabbit, that was great friends with my chickens - they were all free range - so free range that this picture was taken by a neighbour in HER garden!

About 10 years ago, I also had a pet rabbit, who was great friends with my chickens – they were all free range – so free range that this picture was taken by a neighbour in HER garden! Not all neighbours are so accommodating!

 

Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition wrote:

I often describe chickens as miniature trash compactors – they will eat almost anything you put in front of them. An emphasis should be placed on “almost anything”.

For the most part, we feed our chickens food items they would normally find around the ranch – veggies, fruits, seeds and grains. As a treat or to supplement their diet, we give them meal worms. They are all-natural and give the girls extra nutrients. We may also put a little diatomaceous earth (DE) in their food, as well. This aids in digestion and is a natural de-wormer. Chickens also need some calcium and a little grit in their diets as well. The calcium helps them form a strong outer eggshell and the grit aids in digestion. I usually purchase this supplement kit with oyster shells, DE and grit, and add a little each day to their feed.

That said, as open as these birds are to eating a varied diet, there are a few food types to steer clear of.

10 Foods Your Chickens Should Avoid

  1. Plants from the nightshade family – Nightshade plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants have a toxic substance in their unripened fruit and leaves called solanine that could be harmful to your flock. Even the peels of potatoes are potentially harmful and should be avoided. If you have a large amount of leftover nightshade vegetables (potatoes or peels), cook them first and your chickens will enjoy the treat even more.
  2. Salty foods –  Foods containing large amounts of salt can lead to a condition known as salt poisoning, salt toxicity, hypernatremia, or water deprivation-sodium ion intoxication. The small bodies of chickens are not meant to ingest large amounts of salt. Chickens can tolerate up to 0.25% salt in drinking water but are susceptible to salt poisoning when water intake is restricted.
  3. Citrus  Some varieties of chickens can be very sensitive to citrus. Many believe it is a build up of citric acid and vitamin C that can cause excessive feather plucking. That said, I have fed citrus to my chickens and they don’t care for it.
  4. Onions – Onions contain a toxin substance called thiosulphate that destroys red blood cells. When excessive amounts are fed to chickens, it can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens or even death.
  5. Dried or undercooked beans  – Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds. Cooking or sprouting the beans before serving them to chickens will kill this toxin.
  6. Dry rice – If we feed them rice, we cook it beforehand. Chickens that are fed dry rice are put in danger of the rice blowing up when it is introduced to moisture and will cause a gut problem in chickens.
  7. Avocado skin and pit – Chickens do not care much for avocados. They probably sense or smell the low levels of toxicity in the skin and pit.
  8. Raw eggs – Introducing raw eggs to your chickens could result in your flock turning cannibal. If they are doing this, it could be a result of a deficiency in their diet or because they are stressed. Adding crushed oyster shells to their diet usually helps as well as adjusting their environment (more nesting boxes, lessen the light in the coop, etc.)
  9. Candy, chocolate, sugar – Chickens do not have much of  sweet tooth. In fact, they only have around 25-30 taste buds, so more than likely, they wouldn’t realize they are eating anything sweet. Further, it’s bad on their digestive tract and chocolate especially contains a toxin called methylxanthines theobromine and is poisonous to chickens. Therefore, adding sugar to their diet wouldn’t be advisable.
  10. Apple seeds – Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide that could kill your chicken. As much as chickens love apples, do them a favor and remove the seeds.

One of the most important aspects of caring for your flock is ensuring their diets are the healthiest possible. Your flock of chickens will be much happier and healthier if you can find a way to avoid these foods from becoming the chicken’s food source.

I hope you found this list useful!

H is for Hiatus – but you do get two pictures….

HI need a break – but rather than not put up a post, I thought I’d do this instead ….

Something has come up that needs my attention – I was going to write about the History of the Domestication of Poultry – but that’s a tall order, and I can’t do it justice today – so instead, I’m giving you two pictures I took this week that you may enjoy!

Its been incredibly warm and sunny this week – just in time for the Easter Break – so I thought I’d tidy up the garden …….

This is one of my young Marans - I was sitting in the garden recovering from pruning my bay tree - see below, and she decided to come and peck at my slippers, which I forgot to change before I started working in the garden!

This is one of my young Marans – I was sitting in the garden recovering from pruning my bay tree – and she decided to come and peck at my slippers, which I forgot to change before I started working in the garden!

 

This is the view from my back garden - stunning isn't it!  I actually took the picture to record the pruning of the overgrown bay tree - I hung the heavy clippers on the tree when I took a break!  The reason I did this was partly to give me space to put the cage I use when I introduce young chicks to the outside world - and my chicks are going to need it soon. Don't worry about the bay tree - it will soon be covered with new growth - they recover from massacres like this quite quickly!

This is the view from my back garden – stunning isn’t it! I actually took the picture to record the pruning of the overgrown bay tree – I hung the heavy clippers on the tree when I took a break! The reason I did this was partly to give me space to put the cage I use when I introduce young chicks to the outside world – and my chicks are going to need it soon.
Don’t worry about the bay tree – it will soon be covered with new growth – they recover from massacres like this quite quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACK SOON!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOES ANYONE WANT SOME BAY LEAVES – I’VE GOT THOUSANDS OF THEM! 

G is for Geese

GI have never kept geese, but since this little series is following the A-Z challenge, and here we are at G, so geese seem to be the obvious subject.

There are various poultry auctions in South Wales (UK) where I live and whilst there are always loads of chickens of all breeds, Geese are very rarely sold this way, but Goose Eggs can sometimes be found.

goose eggs are much larger than chicken eggs and can be cooked and eaten in the same way as other eggs.

goose eggs are much larger than chicken eggs and can be cooked and eaten in the same way as other eggs.

As ever, eggs sold as fertile may or may not hatch, for all sorts of reasons, and the breed may not be the ones you thought you’d bought!

Domestic Geese are kept for two reasons.  As ‘guard dogs’ – geese are the best ‘policemen’ you can get on a farm, they make a lot of noise when visitors arrive, and can even scare off foxes – altho’ sometimes they fall prey to them instead!  Or to grow on for that special occasion, like Christmas Dinner!  If you remember your Dickens, Scrooge doesn’t buy a Turkey when he gets his compassion back, its a Goose, as that was the bird of choice in Victorian times.

This is a little playground ditty that probably goes back over a hundred years:

Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny, then a ha’ penny will do. If you haven’t got a ha’ penny, then God bless you!

EmdenPrEmbden Geese are the most commonly kept of the breeds available.  This photo is from FeatherSite.com, which is a great source for looking up breeds of all poultry.  Geese need a fair bit of land to roam around on, and eat mostly grass, plus grain, the same as chickens and ducks, and they do need water in the form of a pond or a stream to clean their feathers and just because water is where they usually live!

thumb-8I was at the Brecon Beacons National Park on the day  of the eclipse and it was a real thrill to see a pair of wild geese fly in “out of nowhere” to use their pond!thumb-1

These two images come from http://www.goosehuntinginfo.com, as do the following snippets :  The birds are considered to be one of the most talkative animals after us, the humans. The baby geese begins “talking” to its parents while still in the egg.

During mating, the birds stay monogamous for their entire life by producing families together each year. They are known to have a strong instinct to return to their “homes” and can even travel up to 3,000 miles for this reason. Wild Geese migrate south and they are capable of travelling up to 1,000 km in a single day.

They are hunted in Canada, but I think its illegal in the UK – some of our wild visitors are Canadian Geese – smile!