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Posted on 28 August 2017 in Waterfowl and tagged under , ,

There are so many different breeds of duck it can be difficult to know which breed would be best for you, especially if you’re new to the world of duck keeping. Ducks come in all different sizes, shapes, and weights and they all have a different purpose.

For example, the Pekin breed is a popular choice for meat production as well as making good pets. On the other hand, Indian Runners are prolific egg layers and make great pets, but don’t expect to get much meat from them!

Ducks are also grouped into different weight categories – Heavy, Medium, Light, and Bantam.

Examples of the weight categories would be:

Heavy – Pekin
Medium – Cayuga
Light – Indian Runner
Bantam – Call

Of course, you can keep any breed of duck as a pet, but some are easier to care for than others. Here’s a look at our choice of top duck breeds to keep as pets:

Call Ducks

This tiny bantam breed is a popular choice if you’d like to have ducks but don’t have a lot of space. The breed originates from the Mallard duck and is thought to have come from The Netherlands.

Call Ducks are lively, friendly, and can be very noisy so if you live in a urban area they might not be right for you.

You can expect to your ducks to lay around 100 small eggs per year. Call Ducks are available in a wide range of colours including: White, Mallard, Yellow belly, Chocolate, Magpie, Bibbed, Apricot, and Khaki.

Pekin Ducks

95% of duck meat consumed in America comes from this breed but they also make fantastic pets and are good layers. Often confused with the Aylesbury breed because of their similar “Jemima Puddle-duck” looks the Pekin is fantastic if you have a larger garden.

They are a Heavy breed of duck and originated in China before spreading around the world. They’ll give you between 80 – 140 large white eggs every year and their calm, friendly nature makes them a great option if you have children.

Pekins like to be active, so they’ll appreciate having a bigger area to explore and their orange bills and legs make them an attractive addition to any outdoor space.

Cayuga Ducks

This striking breed is unmistakable thanks to its iridescent green/black plumage and they are quiet, hardy, and easy to tame. They’ll produce 100 – 150 eggs per year that start with black shells at the beginning of the season and gradually lighten to a light grey/white.

The Cayuga Duck was developed in New York in 1809 after a pair of wild black ducks were caught and bred for their colour. These days they are a rare conservation breed and can be hard to find, but they make worthwhile pets if you’re prepared to search for them.

Indian Runner Ducks

As well as being prolific egg layers, up to 200 per year, the Indian Runner is probably one of the most popular breeds of pet ducks in the world.

Originally from the East Indies (Malaya, Java, and Lombok) rather than India these ducks were first known as “Penguin Ducks” because of their upright stance. As they are taller you’ll need to consider a duck house with a higher roof if you want to include Indian Runners in your flock.

They don’t fly, choosing to run instead, and they love foraging and swimming. They are available in around two dozen colours including: White, Fawn, Apricot, Black, Mallard, and Silver.

Muscovy Ducks

This is a Heavy breed of duck and the Drakes are usually twice the size of females. Muscovy Ducks produce 60-140 eggs per year and are well known for going “broody” so if you’re looking to breed ducks this could be a good option for you.

They are unique in that they are the only breed of duck not to originate from the wild Mallard. In fact, they are closely related to a sub group of perching ducks which is why they have sharp claws that allow them to perch comfortably.

Muscovy Ducks, or ‘Scovies as they are known by their fans, are available in nine different colours all of which have a red crest (called caruncles) around their eyes.

Photo credits: Pets4Homes, Purely Poultry, Pinterest, YouTube

Posted on 21 August 2017 in Other Poultry and tagged under , , ,

Keeping turkey as pets (or for Christmas) is becoming increasingly popular, and if you’ve ever spent any time with these magnificent birds then you won’t struggle to see why.

They can be noisy, especially adult male birds (stags), which is something to consider if you live in close proximity to neighbours who wouldn’t be as enamoured with your new pets as you are.

These impressive birds are very majestic looking, particularly stags in full summer plumage, and hens have surprisingly pretty heads for big birds.

Although turkey eggs are not commonly found in the shops, they make a wonderful alternative to chicken or duck eggs and can easily be swapped in when cooking. Personally, scrambled turkey eggs are our favourite way of eating them!

Original old breeds of turkey, not commercial hybrids, are fairly hardy birds. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t need shelter from the elements, and of course you’ll need to offer them protection from predators overnight.

If you’re considering buying your first turkeys then there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind when thinking about their housing.

The great outdoors

Turkeys, unlike some other breeds of poultry, prefer to spend as much of their time as possible living outside. This means that a secure, good sized poultry pen, is a must have for any turkey keeper.

Turkeys also like to spend a considerable amount of time grazing, grass makes up around 50% of their diet, so the pen is best located on pasture. They’ll need a covered roosting area and it is best to purchase housing designed specifically for turkey keeping, rather than modifying chicken housing.

Electric fence around the perimeter of the house, pen and pasture will help to deter predators.

Home sweet home

For a trio of turkeys, usually a stag and two hens, housing of 8ft x 6ft should be plenty big enough.

If you’re thinking of keeping a few more, up to six, then a 12ft x 8ft house will give them ample room overnight.

Of course, the more space the better, and you may prefer a walk-in shed style design for easy cleaning, egg collection, and increased ventilation.

Your turkeys will be able to live outside during the day from around 8-12 weeks of age. If you already keep chickens then a single turkey should happily live with them. However, turkeys are always happiest when they have companions of the same species.

Ideally any turkey housing should be moveable, skids or wheels make moving housing easy, to prevent a build-up of manure and allow for thorough cleaning.

The roosts/perches ought to be built all at the same height to prevent your turkeys fighting over the top spot. Lightweight metal or fibreglass roof panels will provide protection from the elements.

For young birds (under 5-6 months) a bale of straw will provide hours of entertainment and a suitable night-time resting place until a purpose built perch is added into the house.

As we said above, turkeys love to graze, so they’ll need access to pasture outside of their pen. Remember that turkeys can, and will fly, meaning that fencing will need to be at least 4ft high.

You might also want to consider netting over your fence to provide extra protection and prevent your turkeys roosting in neighbouring trees!

Photo credits: Poultry Pages, Amy Martin Pachay, Heritage Turkeys

Posted on 7 August 2017 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

It’s the time of year when you’re starting to think about your summer holiday and where you’d like to go for some much needed R&R.

Whether you’re looking for fun in the sun or you prefer to find some summer snow there are plenty of options for the adventurous traveller.

However, if you have chickens you’ll also need to consider who’s going to care for them whilst you’re away. Luckily there are a variety of options and your hens will probably enjoy their summer holiday as much as you enjoy yours.

Here are some ideas that will make sure your hens are looked after and your holiday can go without a hitch.

Helpful Neighbours, Friends and Family

You’ll usually find that neighbours, friends, and family are willing to help look after hens – particularly with the promise of free eggs!

Remember to leave them with enough food and clear instructions about what’s expected of them. It might also be a good idea to give them a number of a chicken friendly vet or fellow chicken keeper in case they’re worried about one of the flock.

Automated Equipment

This can be a good option if you’re only going away for an evening or weekend and your hens have a secure enclosure. This option might also work for you if you can only arrange for someone to visit once per day.

You can purchase automatic pop holes and feeders that will make sure your chickens are secure and fed. A large water drinker should be adequate for a day until your chicken sitter can visit and top it up.

Other chicken Keepers

It’s always good to get friendly with other chicken keepers as you can share chicken sitting duties between you. if you’re going away for more than a week try organising a rota between your other chicken keeping friends so you’re not leaving one person with the responsibility of keeping your hens happy.

Holidays for Hens

If you’re going away, why shouldn’t your hens? There are companies all across the UK which offer 5* accommodation for your feathered companions so they can live in luxury whilst you’re away.

Here are just some, with a few words about what they can offer your flock:

Animal Aunts Ltd.

“We arrange for Aunts to live in our client’s home when they go away, to look after everything they hold dear. Their home is kept clean and tidy, plants watered and garden kept ticking over. Meanwhile all animals large and small will be looked after to their normal routine.

Chickens will be let out early morning and locked safely away in the evenings (unless they have automatic door closers and electric fences which is how we have ours here at HQ). All animals will be fed and watered, loved and tended as if they were our own, dogs will be walked, horses exercised if necessary, Animal Aunts have looked after any property, any animal, anywhere for 30 years.”

The Hen Hotel

“I am Hilary, a retired teacher with many years experience of poultry as a hobby and I have been potty about chickens for many years. I’ve kept them as pets both in France and in the UK. ​I have a great deal of knowledge about caring for the birds. I know how important it is to keep them disease free and the steps to take at the first sign of problems. I hold regular courses on chicken care.

I constantly protect all our friends from red mite, I keep their feathers glossy by good food and care – I give them treats every day and of course, cuddles for the poultry guests that want them.”

The Chicken Hotel

“A new and exciting hotel in Helston (Cornwall) exclusively for our feathered friends!

Want chickens but don’t know what you’d do if you went away for a weekend or on holiday? Well you can let your chickens have a short holiday break in The Chicken Hotel!

We offer an economical chicken boarding service similar to a cattery or kennels. We now offer accommodation to ducks on an equal opportunities basis.”

N.B – Jim Vyse Arks does not endorse any of these hen sitting companies – although we’re sure they’re all very lovely!

Photo credits: Backyard Chickens, Countryside Network

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