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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 chicken 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 chicken 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.

olive egger chicken 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.

black copper maran chicken 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 produce will slow down.

plymouth rock chicken egg

Posted on 15 May 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

If you’re still on the fence about chicken keeping, or you know someone who is, there might be hidden benefits of poultry keeping that you haven’t considered.

Here are our top benefits of keeping chickens:

  1. You’ll have a better diet

Chickens that are allowed to free range and eat a wide variety of plants and bugs produce healthier eggs – fact. Your hen’s eggs will contains higher amounts of Vitamins A, D, and E, they’ll have less saturated fats and cholesterol, and more Omega-3 fats.

  1. You’ll be doing chicken welfare a favour

If you have your own eggs at home you won’t need to buy eggs, therefore you won’t be financially supporting chicken factory farms. Of course, buying free range eggs are a solution but the definition of “free range” isn’t always what it seems.

  1. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment

Chickens love to eat weeds and protein packed bugs so you won’t need to use chemical bug sprays or weed killer. Their waste also makes great fertiliser so your plants will look wonderful without any chemical intervention.

  1. They’ll improve your soil

If you’re a keen gardener having chickens scratching over tired looking flower beds will improve your soil no end. Put a layer of compost on your beds and they’ll be more than happy to mix it in with the soil!

chicken in the garden

  1. You’ll get outside more

Fitting exercise into a busy working week can be hard but keeping chickens means you’ll have to spend a certain amount of time each week in the garden. Moving feed sacks and bales of bedding is also a good cardiovascular workout.

  1. Chickens are a natural antidepressant

When you stroke a pet a stress reducing chemical called Oxytocin in released leaving you feeling calmer, and more contented. The calming effect of chickens on a persons’ mental state can be so strong they have even been used as therapy animals.

  1. You could prevent extinction of heritage breeds

The commercial farming of chickens has meant that many breeds are no longer kept and are now facing extinction. Getting involved in keeping rare, heritage chicken breeds means that their genes are preserved and valuable genetic material isn’t lost.

Buff Orpington

Keeping chickens is a fantastic pastime, one that people have flocked to in recent years, and chickens could make a fantastic addition to your garden and your family.

Here are the most common questions people that are new to chicken keeping ask:

#1 – Do I need permission to keep chickens?

If you live in the UK then you shouldn’t need permission to keep chickens. However, some old houses have bans on keeping chickens so it’s important to check the deeds to your house first.

You might also want to phone your local Environmental Health Officer just to cover all bases. And of course, asking your neighbours if they mind is the polite thing to do!

#2 – What do chickens eat?

Chickens are omnivorous which means that they’ll eat pretty much anything! The majority of your hens’ diet should be made up from a commercial pellet or layers mash which you can buy at your local feed merchants and some pet shops.

You’ll also find your hens look for their own food including grass, worms, and bugs.

#3 – How much do chickens eat?

The exact answer to this question depends entirely on the number of birds you keep and their age, sex, and breed but here’s a rough guide:

  • Laying hens = 4/6 ounces of food per day
  • Bantams = 2/3 ounces of food per day

Larger breeds, such as the Buff Orpington or Jersey Giant, need more feed and all chickens will need an increased food intake during the colder winter months. Chicken keepers usually make sure food is available at all times so that hens can help themselves throughout the day.

#4 – How do I put my chickens to bed?

Chickens usually put themselves to bed at dusk, although this doesn’t always mean they’ll go to bed in their hen house!

For the first few weeks you may need to herd them in at “bedtime” or lay a trail of food to the chicken house door for them to follow. Chickens are creatures of habit and it shouldn’t take them long to get into a routine.

If you keep your chickens in a run then you could also try not letting them free range for a couple of weeks. After this point they should know where “home” is and put themselves to bed without you needing to get involved.

raised chicken house

#5 – How long do chickens live?

This varies from breed to breed and of course depends on whether your chicken is injured or becomes ill. Generally a healthy bird will live for between eight to 15 years, although chickens have been known to live for as long as 20 years.

#6 – How many eggs will my chickens lay?

Again, this depends entirely on the breed and age of your chickens. Commercial hybrids, such as the Warren, could lay 320 in a year. Pure bred or rare breeds tend to lay fewer eggs.

You’ll also find that hens lay fewer eggs as they get older but most breeds are fairly productive layers during their first laying year.

eggs

#7 – Do I need a cockerel to get eggs?

No, and your neighbours would probably appreciate it if you didn’t! You’ll only need a cockerel if you want to start breeding your chickens and need fertilised eggs.

#8 –  What do I do if one of my chickens is ill?

Because chickens are prey animals they don’t usually start to look ill until it is quite serious. This means that if one of your flock does become ill you’ll need to act quite quickly.

Remove the ill bird from the flock, place it in a warm, quiet place with food and water, and watch for any changes. If your hen doesn’t improve then consult a chicken friendly vet – finding one can be a challenge, so it’s worth sourcing a good vet before you purchase your chickens.

#9 – What do I do with my hens if I go on holiday?

The easiest option is to make friends with another chicken keeper and take it in turns to look after each other’s flocks when you go away. Another option that is gaining popularity is to send your chickens on a “hen holiday” where they’ll be cared for until you return.

A quick internet search should turn up a company that is local to you.

chickens on suitcases

#10 – How big does my chicken house need to be?

This is another question that entirely depends on the number of birds you have and their breed. As a general rule your run or enclosure should provide 2/3 square feet per bird. If your birds aren’t going to free range then you should look at an enclosure that gives them 10 square feet per bird.

 

Here are Jim’s top 10 things to look for before purchasing your chicken house:

  1. Good ventilation

Poor air flow can lead to hens that are too hot, too cold, or have serious breathing problems. Ventilation holes at the top of the house will let clean air in and draw stale air out without leaving the house draughty.

  1. Make sure your chosen house is easy to clean

Cleaning should be a quick job so you can get back to the important task – enjoying your chickens! Removable roof panels and nest boxes make it easy to give the house a thorough clean without it taking all day.

chicken coop cleaning tools

 

  1. A high standard of welfare

Welfare should be paramount when choosing any poultry housing. Ensure that you have a house which is the right size for the number of chickens you intend to keep. If you think you’ll be adding to your flock then you may want to consider buying a bigger house.

  1. Easy to access nest boxes (both for you and your hens!)

Well-designed nest boxes help keep eggs clean and make collecting them a doddle! Perches located higher than the nest boxes should discourage hens from using them overnight, keeping them clean for egg laying during the day.

chicken house enclosed run rear view

  1. Is your chicken house practical?

Pretty chicken houses are nice to look at but elaborate designs don’t always do the best job. A traditional, rustic looking chicken house that is well designed will always be better than something that looks pretty – and chicken houses are easily painted if you fancy some DIY!

  1. Is your chicken house robust?

Your chicken house should be made of good quality timber that will stand up to the Great British weather year after year. Structural exterior grade pressure treated timber ensures a working life of your chicken house for at least 15 years.

  1. Does the chicken house have enough perches?

Chickens need around 30cm each to comfortably perch so if you have a large number of chickens you may need extra perches. The perches will need to be 4 to 5cm wide, with rounded edges, and a rough surface to allow your birds to grip them securely.

  1. Is the chicken house big enough for your breed of chickens?

If you keep larger breeds, such as the Brahma, a standard chicken house design may not be big enough. You’ll need to look at the height and width of the chicken house, as well as the size of the door. You may want to consider a bespoke design to ensure their comfort.

  1. Can you move the chicken house easily?

Wheels and handles on larger poultry houses make moving them easy without the risk of damaging your back. Larger houses can have skids fitted to make moving them with a car, quad bike or tractor a simple task.

wheels on chicken house

  1. Is your budget big enough?

Cheap isn’t always cheerful and what you think is a bargain may end up costing you your hens’ health. Think of your chicken house as a long term investment. After all, chickens can live for 10+ plus years so you don’t want to be buying them a new house before every winter.

Posted on 12 April 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

Alice had the pleasure of visiting Jim Vyse customer, and poultry breeder, Millie Jarvis at her home in the outskirts of Bristol and meeting her lovely chickens.

Who is Millie?

Millie specialises in breeding Pekin bantams, Silkies, Old English Game, and Modern Game birds. Her future project is to increase the number of Silkies and Porcelain Pekins she breeds.

Millie of Millie's Bantams

Here’s what Millie has to say about her chickens and being a Jim Vyse Arks customer:

Alice: What first attracted you to chicken keeping?

Millie: I started off with a few hybrid chickens. Unfortunately a family crisis meant that I had to give them up but I had the chicken bug and it wasn’t long before I replaced them.

Having a pet that gives something back is just so rewarding!

A: How did chicken keeping turn into chicken breeding?

M: I love cockerels! They’re more flamboyant than hens. I started off with Barry and went from there.

You have to choose your breeds and colours carefully but you start buying trios of birds because you love the colours.

My favourite are my Porcelain Pekins.

Another reason I got into breeding was because of something my Dad said. He told me about my Grandmother breeding Rhode Island Reds during the war. I’m a lot like her, so it’s in the blood!

A: Why did you choose your current breeds?

M: Pekins and Silkies are just so friendly. They’re also easy to handle and come in a variety of pretty colours. They’re brilliant back garden birds because they’re not as destructive as larger breeds of chicken. They make good “broodies” and lay decent sized eggs, so really they’re a great all-rounder.

I started breeding Modern Game and Old English Game because I love the Red colour, especially cockerels. They’re another small, pretty breed of chicken, but they don’t have feathery legs, so they’re a good alternative to Pekins and Silkies.

red pyle game bird

A: I know you’re not meant to have favourites, but if you had to choose, who is the favourite in your flock?

M: If I really had to pick it would be all of the boys. Their colours and personalities are just amazing. Cockerels are great, if you respect them, they’ll respect you.

But I love all of my birds really!

A: What advice would you give to first time chicken keepers?

M: Invest in secure housing and be sure you’re ready for chickens. If you just want eggs and no real commitment, buy eggs from the supermarket.

There is so much involved in chicken keeping you shouldn’t get them on a whim, there’s more to chickens than their eggs! Keeping chickens shouldn’t be a chore, if it becomes that then you know you need to give it up.

Also, make sure you research everything before you buy your birds.

Finally, keep an eye out for parasites and predators. Prevention is better than a cure!

Millie chicken house

A: You’ve mentioned investing in secure poultry housing – what made you choose a Jim Vyse ark?

M: I was unimpressed with other products that I had previously purchased so I started looking for replacement housing. Jim had a decent website and his products were great.

His bespoke order service is great as well. I just emailed him a picture and a few measurements and he produced exactly what I wanted. It’s brilliant!

A: What words do you associate with “Jim Vyse Arks”?

M: Quality, friendly, great service. You get the personal touch and you can put a face to a name. You definitely get what you pay for.

A: Does that mean you’d recommend Jim Vyse to other poultry keepers?

M: If you’re getting chickens, get a Jim Vyse Ark. He’ll even deliver it for you.
Don’t go anywhere else!

A: Finally, how do you like your eggs?

M: Poached on toast with loads of black pepper and butter.

porcelain pekin bantams

 

We want to feature more of our loyal customers on our blog, so whether you’re a breeder or just a hobby poultry keeper, we’d love to hear from you.

Posted on 31 January 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , ,

There are chickens on almost every continent and each country seems to have at least one breed of chicken to be proud of, some have many more.

There are small chickens, big chickens, chickens which are excellent egg layers and other chickens which lay only a few eggs, but have many other qualities that make them well worth keeping.

So, let’s go around the world in eight chickens!

#1 UK – Sussex

We’ll start in our home country with a chicken that has many fans across the country – the Sussex.

This large, heavy breed of chicken is a dual purpose bird (meaning it’s good to eat and lays plenty of eggs) and also makes a lovely pet. The breed was developed around the time of the Romans and is now available in eight colours and as a bantam variety.

They’re known for their excellent temperaments and lay around 4-6 large brown eggs per week.

#2 USA – Jersey Giant

Now we’re off across the pond to the United States of America and looking at the Jersey Giant – the largest breed of chicken in the world (so you’ll need a big chicken house) and named after the state of New Jersey where the breed was developed.

They are calm, docile, and make good back garden pets. They’re also good egg layers – roughly 3-5 very large brown eggs per week – and are known to continue throughout the winter.

They’re not a particularly common breed but their fans will tell you how fantastic they are to keep.

#3 Switzerland – Appenzeller Spitzhauben

It’s over to Europe and snowy Switzerland to look at the Appenzeller Spitzhauben – a striking breed with a feathered crest in both hens and cockerels.

They’re largely an ornamental breed, although they were originally bred as a farm bird, so they lay a decent number of eggs (3-5 per week).

The Appenzeller is a recognised breed in the UK and there is now a movement to get the breed recognised by the American Poultry Association and improve the breed’s popularity in the USA.

#4 Poland – Poland/Polish

This is another breed with a distinctive look, and one of our personal favourites. The dome shaped crest of the Polish chicken makes them instantly recognisable and increasingly popular both as a pet and as an exhibition bird.

They’re a bright, friendly breed that suits being kept both in enclosures and free range. Their small size also makes them a brilliant family pet, although their feathered crest can require some additional care.

They lay small, cream coloured eggs – around 2-4 per week and rarely go broody.

#5 Belgium – Antwerp Belgian Bantam

Another breed that is named after its country of origin – the small, very pretty Belgian bantam is an incredibly popular show bird and is also known as the Quail bantam.

It is a true bantam, meaning that there is no large counterpart, and one of the oldest bantam breeds in the world.

In Belgium there are an amazing 29 colour variations recognised and a beard of feathers that covers the earlobes. They’re not brilliant egg layers, producing 2-4 per week, but are friendly and don’t mind not being able to free range as long as they have a big enough enclosure.

#6 China – Cochin

It’s time to go over to Asia and look at another large breed of chicken – the Cochin.

The chicken was exported to the UK and the USA in the mid-19th Century and created a craze amongst chicken keepers because of the Cochins’ size and beautiful plumage.

They’re calm, friendly, and quiet making them ideal for the back garden, especially if you have children.

#7 Japan – Japanese bantam

From large to small it’s time for the pint sized, but perfect, Japanese bantam. This breed is available in many colours, as well as frizzle and silkie varieties.

These birds have extremely short legs and have been known to live for up to 13 years with proper care and attention.

Their good looks make them the ideal ornamental breed and they only lay around 1-3 eggs per week, so if you just want an attractive chicken, this might be the breed for you.

#8 Turkey – Sultan

Finally, to Turkey to look at the Sultan, another small, ornamental breed known in the original Turkish language as “Serai-Tavuk” – or “fowls of the Sultan”.

They are an incredibly decorative breed with long tails, large crests, beards, and foot feathering. There are three colour varieties – Blue, Black, and White – although White is the most well-known colour.

The Sultan lay around 1-3 eggs per week and can be better suited to being kept in covered enclosures to protect their plumage from the elements.

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