Our Favourite Celebrity Chicken Keepers

Katie Price has recently joined the ranks of celebrity chicken keepers after releasing a charming picture of herself and her children with their new feathered friends.

katiePrice_chickens

But chicken keeping in celebrity circles isn’t a new trend as many famous faces realise the benefits of having a few backyard hens, both for themselves and their children.

Her ex-husband Peter Andre has kept chickens for some time and other celebrity hen fans include Billie Piper, Pamela Anderson, and Amanda Holden.

In fact, two celebrities have Jim Vyse build chicken houses in their gardens. Actress Charlie Brooks (Eastender’s Janine Butcher) and one time model turned business woman Jemma Kidd are the lucky owners of poultry arks built by the man himself.

JV_Vogue_Jemma Kidd

Jemma Kidd’s chicken house

 

So, who else is passionate about poultry?

Celebrity Chefs

Chefs know a good thing when they see one and with a recent trend for organic, sustainable, local food it’s obvious that they’d champion keeping the humble chicken.

Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall both keep chickens and campaign for poultry welfare. Jamie Oliver is also the patron of our favourite chicken charity – the British Hen Welfare Trust, along with Kate Humble, Antony Cotton, and Amanda Holden whom we mentioned above.

Royal Connections

Prince Charles is known for his love of the countryside and campaigns for high quality produce. He’s also a keen chicken fancier keeping a variety of breeds including Welsummers.

In 2014 we were saddened to hear that after a fox attack killing 24 of his flock the Prince of Wales was forced to close his organic egg shop in Gloucestershire.

A love for poultry runs in the family with Queen Victoria keeping exhibition quality birds including gentle giants the Cochin.

Queen Victoria's Poultry House at Winsor

Queen Victoria’s Poultry House at Winsor

Hollywood Hens

Over the in the USA chickens are no less popular among celebs with much loved cook Martha Stewart keeping Easter Eggers and Cochins.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been well publicised after passing legislation in 2010 banning caged hens in California. We don’t know whether he keeps hens himself but anyone who campaigns for chicken welfare is a good egg in our book!

Hollywood actresses Reese Witherspoon and Hilary Swank also keep poultry with Ms Witherspoon referring to herself as “the chicken lady”.

We’d love to hear from you if you know of any other celebrity chicken keepers – even better if you’re a celebrity chicken keeper yourself!

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Chicken Breed of the Month: Wyandotte

backychicken_bluelacedred_Wyandotte

 

The Wyandotte is a fairly glamourous looking breed of chicken that comes in a variety of pretty colours. Their docile nature makes them ideal for beginners that want something a bit different from the usual little brown hen.

The breed originated in America in around the 1870’s and was designed to be a dual purpose breed. The Wyandotte came over to Great Britain in the 1890’s and quickly gained a loyal following among chicken fanciers.

In modern times they’re popular for their eggs and have become increasingly popular as exhibition birds.

They’re medium sized with long, non-feathered legs and a wide, flat “rose” comb. There is also a bantam variety if you like the breed but would prefer a smaller chicken.

If you want to keep chickens for eggs then the Wyandotte is a good choice. Hens will lay around 200 light brown/tan eggs per year and also make good mothers if you decide to breed.

There are an amazing 17 recognised colours including Gold Laced, Blue Laced Red, Columbian, Barred, Partridge, and Mille Fleur. The variety of colours is thought to come from the different breeds that were used to develop the modern Wyandotte.

The breed prefers to free range and their fluffy feathering makes them cold hardy. Despite being docile around humans they have a fairly strong personality, so they shouldn’t get bullied if you keep larger or mixed flocks.

Wyandotte keepers report that they’re confident, friendly, and talkative – the perfect back garden chicken!

How to make your new chickens feel right at home

If you’re considering getting chickens in the future you’re going to be thinking about how they’re going to settle in. Luckily chickens are pretty hardy creatures and it won’t take long for them to feel at home.

homesweethomechicken

However, that doesn’t stop you worrying that they won’t like their new living situation.

The “eggcitement” of a new flock can almost be overwhelming if you’re a first time chicken keeper, but your feathered friends will be just fine.

To help you feel at ease, here are our top tips for helping your new chickens feel right at home:

 

Preparation is everything

The first thing to do before you set off to pick up your chickens is to make sure everything is ready to go at home. Get their chicken house, predator proof run, and all their accessories in the right place so you can make sure everything is working properly.

You don’t want to be running around filling feeders when you get back or worse, find out your automatic drinker doesn’t work!

Is it bedtime yet?

The best time to collect chickens is in the late afternoon/early evening so they can go straight to bed when you get home. If they’ve had a long journey, or it’s a warm evening, you can put a drinker in their house.

If you’ll be collecting them during the day then it’s best not to let them free range so make sure their run is ready for them. You might need to catch them in the evening to put them to bed until they learn where home is.

Keeping them in their run for the first few days or a week is also a good idea as you might find it hard to put them to bed if you let them free range straight away!

Keep calm and love chickens

The early days of chicken keeping can be tough. You’ll see squabbles, nervousness, and unruly behaviour. Don’t worry about this, they’re just trying to establish a pecking order and this should stop within a few weeks.

Now is a great time to really make friends with your flock and food is definitely the way to a hen’s heart! Start by putting food near your feet to get them used to you being close to them. Before long, you’ll have them eating out of your hand!

Eggcellent!

Coloured_eggsThat’s the last egg joke, we promise!

Moving to a new home can upset your hens enough to make them stop laying for a while, but this shouldn’t last long. Once they’ve adjusted to you and their new home you’ll have plenty of eggs.

Soft shelled eggs are also quite common when you’re settling a new flock in. Making sure they have a healthy, balanced diet should combat this. You can also mix grit or ground up egg shells in with their feed to keep their calcium levels up.

 

Basic chick care – our top tips

Poultry in motion

 

 

 

Last week we looked at the equipment you’ll need to raise chicks so this week we’re looking at some of the basic chick care needs you’ll have to fulfil for a healthy brood.

 

 

Quick checklist for chick breeders

  • Make sure your brooder box is somewhere dry, draught free, and with a steady temperature – a well-insulated shed will do if there’s no room indoors
  • If your brooder box is in the open, make sure it has some kind of lid – cats, dogs, and other predators think chicks are a tasty snack!
  • On day one your brooder temperature should be 37 °C
  • Invest in a non-slip covering for your brooder box floor – this reduces the risk of the condition called spraddle leg
  • Make sure you have a good quality heat lamp – your chicks will need heat for the first 4-6 weeks of their lives
  • Your chicks should be fed chick crumbs for the first 6 weeks, after that you can move them on to grower’s pellets
  • Your chicks might also enjoy a little bit of mixed corn after 2 weeks and some green vegetables
  • Don’t forget small stones or pebbles in your chick’s water bowl to prevent them drowning

What else do you need to know about chick care?

Heat lamps

When shopping for a heat lamp there are a few things to consider. You might find that a lamp with a read bulb has a calming effect on your brood. It’s also a good idea to buy a spare bulb or two – just in case!

Keeping clean

Cleanliness is essential when you’re raising chicks. Tiny, newly hatched chicks are especially prone to infection so it’s important to make sure you keep their brooder box as clean as possible.

Wash the brooder box with pet safe disinfectant before using it, even if it’s brand new, and change the bedding every two or three days. Damp conditions are especially risky as chicks can catch a number of diseases including Coccidiosis, which thrives in damp environments.

Poorly chicks

Sometimes you’ll get a few chicks that just aren’t as strong as the rest of the clutch. Giving them electrolytes or sugar water can help to give them extra energy but sometimes nature will just take its course.

The big wide world

As the chicks get older, around 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, they can go outside for short periods of time.

Some people put their chicks in a greenhouse during the day, this works especially well during the spring or autumn when the weather is temperate, and bring them back in at night.

Remember, your chicks will be particularly vulnerable to predators so they’ll need to be in a covered run or enclosure if they’re out and about.

Raising chicks? Here’s what you’ll need to get started

ChickenEggAnyone who breeds chickens will tell you that having chicks around the place is great fun and it’s wonderful to see them grow into healthy, happy birds. If you’re new to chicken breeding it can be daunting to know where to start and what you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared.

Having all of the right equipment in place before you even think about chicks is a good idea; after all you don’t want to find yourself in an emergency situation without the right tools for the job!

So, here’s a basic checklist of the things you’ll need to raise chicks:

Brooder box

All sorts of things can be used as a brooder box for your chicks, so if you fancy a spot of DIY you don’t need a shop bought option.

Large plastic boxes, cardboard boxes, agricultural sized water troughs, and wooden crates are all commonly used. Just make sure that there is a lid if you have other pets in the house!

Heat lamp

Your chicks are going to need to be under a heat lamp to keep themselves warm until they’re a little bigger.

If you’re new to breeding then a thermometer can also be useful to make sure your chicks are kept at the right temperature. The temperature should be around 37 °C for the first week.

After this you can reduce the temperature by around 5 °C every week. Chicks that are huddled together under the lamp are too cold, and chicks that are spread out away from the lamp or panting are too hot.

Non-slip surface

The slippery surface of a plastic or cardboard brooding box can cause a condition known as “spraddle leg” in very young chicks so it’s important to find a way of making the floor non-slip.

A top tip from chicken breeders is to use shelf-liners as these can be easily replaced when you clean the brooder box.

Shavings/other poultry bedding

After a few days to a week the risk of spraddle leg is greatly reduced and you can put a thin layer of shavings or other poultry bedding such as Easichick in the brooder to absorb the mess chicks like to make.

Chick crumb

Chicks will start to eat within 24 hours so if you’re expecting your eggs to hatch any time soon it’s best to have a bag of chick food ready. You don’t need to use a dedicated chick feeder – a shallow bowl or even small plastic plate will do.

Water dish

Unfortunately chicks are quite top heavy and quite wobbly for the first week or so, making the risk of drowning in their water quite high.

You can buy chick drinkers to reduce the risk or use a shallow dish filled with small stones or marbles for their water.

dancing chicks

Raising chickens: thinking ahead to the breeding season

Spring is just around the corner so we thought we’d do a few posts to help you get to grips with breeding your birds!

Whether you’re a first time chicken breeder or a more experienced “parent” to your flock you’ll no doubt be thinking ahead to the pitter patter of tiny feet this spring.

Breeding your own birds is a fantastic way to expand your flock and if you’re interested in rare breed poultry you could be helping to save almost extinct bloodlines.

But what do you need to think about before you start your breeding programme?

Are you ready for cockerels?

cockerel_genericBreeding chickens may result in around 50% of those eggs hatching cockerels so you need to decide how you’re going to deal with this.

Keeping multiple cock birds isn’t always a problem if you have enough room and enough hens to go around but as poultry breeders will tell you – unfortunately you can’t keep them all.

If you intend to breed pure bred birds, particularly rare breeds, you might find it easier to pass on surplus cockerels to others looking to expand their flock.

However, be prepared that you might need to find another “solution” to your cockerel problem if you can’t find them all loving homes.

Choose the right time of year

The spring is generally considered the best time to breed chickens as the weather gets better, fresh food is of a higher quality, and your chicks will be almost a year old by the time the winter comes around.

However, we all know the great British weather can sometimes play tricks on us so you’ll need to ensure your hens and chicks can shelter from the elements.

Speaking of housing…

Housing

You’ll need to consider the housing that you already have and whether this is suitable both for mating and for raising chicks once they hatch.

If you’re letting your cockerel mate with all of your flock then simply let him go about his business. However, if you want to mate specific birds, usually in a pair or trio, you might want to consider a purpose built breeding house and run like the one shown below.

BreedingHouse_Run4

You’ll need to ensure that the wire used on the run is small enough to contain the chicks – you don’t want them escaping and becoming lost! Many chicken breeders also like to use a run with draught boards to offer chicks extra protection from the wind.

IMG_1325

Feeding time

If you’re looking to start breeding within the next few months start feeding your hens and cockerel a high quality feed. They’ll need to be in peak condition to breed strong, healthy chicks

You’ll also need to source a supplier of good quality chick crumb and grower’s feed for after the chicks have hatched. They’ll start eating within 24 hours so it’s best to be prepared.

Chicken feed bucket

Stay tuned next week when we’ll be giving you a step by step guide to breeding your first chicks!

Best of breed: which breeds of chicken are best for shows?

There are many reasons why people keep chickens and as the hobby is fairly addictive once you have a trio of birds you’ll soon be finding reasons to expand your flock!

Many people start with keeping a well-known breed purely for eggs or companionship but keeping chickens for shows or exhibitions is becoming increasingly popular.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain is the governing body for poultry shows in this country and you can find a wealth of information about shows on their website.

How to choose a chicken breed

You can show any breed of chicken that has a recognised breed standard but there are some breeds that are more popular than others.

The best way to decide which breed is right for you is to visit a few poultry shows and see which breed most appeals to you. Choosing a breed that is known for its docile temperament is also good advice until you become more experienced.

You should also consider where you are going to keep your show birds. Birds are usually kept indoors or on wood shavings for a short time in preparation for a show but their day-to-day needs to be thought of.

For example, breeds with feathery feet such as the Silkie and the Pekin do poorly in muddy conditions, so you may want to invest in a purpose built chicken house and run for your show birds that is easy to move around your garden.

Top five picks for poultry fanciers:

 

  1. Brahma

Often known as the “King of poultry” the Brahma is a large, striking looking bird with docile temperaments making them ideal for the first time chicken exhibitor.

They first came to the UK in 1852 when nine birds were sent to Queen Victoria as a gift.

brahma

  1. Dutch bantam

These tiny birds are considered to be one of the most attractive breeds of chicken available – they really are small but perfectly formed!

The breed was first introduced to Great Britain in the 1960s and has since increased in popularly enormously with over 13 colours now recognised in the breed standard.

dutch_bantam

  1. Pekin bantam

Another small chicken, this breed is a genuine bantam meaning that there is no large fowl variety.

Their pretty features, docile nature, and small size mean they are often the first choice of new poultry fanciers and are a fantastic breed if you want to introduce children into the world of poultry showing.

pekin_bantam

  1. Buff Orpington

This breed was famously kept by the Queen Mother, and are one of the most popular heavy breeds of chicken in the UK.

There are several colours other than the sandy “buff” and again, they are known for their docile temperament and low maintenance care needs.

buff_orpington

  1. Orloff

The Orloff is a very upright breed that originated in Iran and made its way to the UK in the 1800s.

There are a variety of colours available but the breed is usually judged on its type and character, particularly its head, rather than plumage colour.

orloff

Top chicken breeds for coloured eggs

When people first start keeping chickens they usually choose breeds that they can easily source and are fairly cheap to buy. Hybrid breeds are a popular choice and often people will pick the same breed as the person who inspired them to keep chickens in the first place has.

However, as any poultry keeper will tell you, chicken keeping is an addictive hobby and it probably won’t be long before you’re looking to add to your flock!

Your average breed of chicken will lay brown eggs, ranging from a pale tan right through to a dark brown. But there are many other colours, in fact depending on the breeds you keep you could have a whole rainbow of eggs.

So, here are the best breeds of chicken if you want coloured eggs:

Ameraucana – blue eggs

You can now get the brilliant blue eggs that this bird lays in your local Tesco, but where’s the fun in that?

The Ameraucana is one of only three breeds that lay blue eggs (Cream Legbar and Araucana are the others) but blue egg laying chickens are reasonably popular so you shouldn’t have trouble finding them.

The breed was first developed in the 1970s in America and is an attractive breed with a “beard”. They’ll lay around 250 eggs per year so you’ll never run out of blue eggs!

ameraucana_eggs

 

Andalusian – white eggs

If you’re looking for pearly white eggs then the striking looking Andalusian is the breed for you.

Originating from Spain this breed is calm and active, so they prefer to free range and are good foragers.

They’ll lay around 160 eggs per year and usually continue to lay through the winter and blue-bred White hens are said to lay the biggest eggs.

Andalusian_eggs

Olive Egger – green eggs

This is more of a variety of chicken than a breed that were developed when birds containing the “blue egg gene” were crossed with a “brown egg gene” bird.

Olive Eggers produce green eggs that can range from having more of a blue tinge to more of a brown tinge as a result of the crossed colours. The birds themselves are bearded and don’t look dissimilar to the Araucana, Ameraucana, and Easter Egger which has led to some confusion among even the most expert chicken keepers.

oliveegger_eggs

Black Copper Maran – chocolate brown eggs

For a truly dark brown egg the Black Copper Maran is an ideal choice.

The breed is active, likes to forage, and prefers to free range or have a larger enclosure. They are also good in colder climates and a hardy breed so they’re perfect if you’re new to keeping chickens.

Their chocolate brown eggs are so popular that some unscrupulous breeders will sell birds called “Black Copper Marans” but if they don’t produce dark brown eggs they aren’t from a pure strain of the breed.

BlackCM_eggs

Plymouth Rock – pink eggs

If you want a hen that will lay you eggs with a pinky tinge then the Plymouth Rock is a great bird.

They’re one of the oldest and most popular breeds of chicken so you shouldn’t find it hard to purchase a few. They come in a variety of colours and should continue to lay throughout the winter, although production will slow down.

PlymouthRock_egg

Love is in the air… (or at least in the chicken coop!)

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re struggling to come up with a suitable gift for that special someone, we’re here to help.

If you want to earn real brownie points on the most romantic day of the year then getting them a gift that is personal and unique is the best option. Unfortunately supermarket flowers probably won’t cut it!

It’s also best to think about what their interests are and if you’re on this blog we’re guessing they’re passionate about poultry.

Here are some great gifts that we think the poultry keeper in your life will love:

The Egg Skelter

Egg SkelterFirst up, if you think your loved one would prefer something practical, but still very pretty, you could do worse than purchase an Egg Skelter.

They come in 11 different colours and you can choose standard or bantam size depending on the type of chickens you keep. The standard size will hold up to 24 hen’s eggs!

Rosewood Egg Cup

rosewood_single_eggcup_6be3c1e0Looking for something really special? This gorgeous, hand-crafted Rosewood Single Egg Cup is not only beautiful but it’s the perfect way to serve a romantic breakfast in bed.

The smooth wooden egg cup is designed to fit a single boiled egg and there’s even a curved hollow for a few pinches of salt and pepper.

One egg not enough? You can also get a Rosewood Double Egg Cup!

Duck shaped Bottle Opener

duck-shaped-bottle-opener-p2196-7664_imageWhat do you buy the man who has everything? A duck shaped bottled opener of course!

The detailed design and vintage patina makes it the perfect gift for someone who likes their beer as much as they like their ducks.

 

 

 

Jim Vyse Chicken House

Blue and white Jim Vyse Goose HouseWe couldn’t resist including our own products in this list because they really do make a wonderful gift.

As well as our standard designs we also offer a bespoke order service so you can get a poultry house that entirely suits your needs.

Not sure which design to choose? You can email communications@jimvysearks.co.uk and order a gift voucher.

 

“Chicken in Egg” necklace

Egg_Necklace_A1__11534_zoomAnd finally, if you really want to push the boat out (and you’ve got the funds to do it) how about commissioning jewellery designer Wendy Brandes to make one of her “Chicken in Egg” necklaces?

It really is a gift within a gift. The tiny gold egg locket opens up to reveal a real silver hen with diamond eyes. The hen then lifts up to reveal miniature golden eggs in her nest. Magical!

 

Which chicken breed is right for you?

If you’re new to chicken keeping the number of breeds available can either be overwhelming or you’ll feel like a child in a sweet shop.

There are literally hundreds of breeds available and it can be hard to find the right breed for you. In fact, it can seem a bit like trying to find a partner!

You need to think carefully about what you can offer your new feathered friends and what you want them to give you in return for delicious food and a warm chicken house.

Some questions to consider when choosing a breed of chicken include:

  • Do you live in a rural or urban environment?
  • Do you live in an area with a temperate climate or do you get extreme weather?
  • Are you interested in keeping chickens for meat or for eggs?
  • If you’re interested in chickens for their eggs, do you might how attractive the breed is?
  • Do you have children and do you want them to be involved in chicken keeping?
  • Do you want to show your birds?

So, now you’ve answered those questions, which breeds might be suitable?

Best for families

In our opinion, if you want a breed of chicken that will be suitable for the entire family then you can’t go wrong with the Pekin Bantam.

The pint sized Pekin is active, friendly, and docile so they’re perfect for children to handle. They don’t mind being kept in an enclosure and their tiny, feathered feet won’t do as much damage to your garden as a larger breed would.

Find out more about the Pekin Bantam here.

Lavender Pekins. Photo credit: Poultry Mad

Lavender Pekins. Photo credit: Poultry Mad

Best for eggs

Let’s face it, most people start keeping chickens because they want eggs and the Rhode Island Red is a brilliant layer of large brown and cream eggs.

They’re an attractive, intelligent breed and produce around 200 eggs each per year. That’s 600 eggs per year if you have a trio of hens!

You can contact the Rhode Island Red Club by calling Mr Richard Everett on 07809 112920.

rhodeislandred

Best for shows

If you’re looking to take part in shows and exhibitions then you can really have some fun with chicken breeds.

Our favourite show bird is the Polish Bantam, a striking looking bird known for its impressive head feathering. They are available in a range of colours and also lay a reasonable number of eggs, although this isn’t what they were bred for.

Because of their unusual feathering they can need a higher level of care and you can find out more information about this wonderful breed from the Poland Club of Great Britain.

Golden Laced Polish Hen

Golden Laced Polish Hen

Best for meat

With an increased interest in “growing your own” and the provenance of your meat it’s no wonder that many people are starting to raise their own chickens for meat.

If you want a bird that’s good for the table but will also produce a reasonable number of eggs then a Sussex breed would be a good option. If you’re only interested in keeping birds for meat then the Indian Game, also known as the Cornish Game, would be suitable.

Source: PoultryHub.org

Source: PoultryHub.org

Best for free ranging

If you’re lucky enough to have the space for your birds to free range then you can’t go wrong with a Plymouth Rock. As the chicken keeping saying goes, “You need a Rock in your flock!”

Varieties include the Barred Rock, Columbian Rock, and Partridge Rock. They are active, good foragers, lay large brown eggs, and make great pets. What’s not to love?

They’re also cold hardy, requiring little extra care in the winter, and are one of the most popular breeds in the world. Find out more at the Plymouth Rock Club of Great Britain.

PlymouthBarredRock

If you’re wondering which chicken breed is right for you we’d love to hear from you and see if we can help!