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    March Diary.

    Welsh Black Rooster. (2012 bred)

    March and the pens for this season are being put together, that is the birds selected for breeding are put into a breeding pen. The winter or off breeding period is spent in the big shed along with the eating egg flock and these are all let out first thing and locked up at night. Most of the roosters not quite up to the standard I’m aiming for are either in the freezer or in runs waiting for the final selection or a place in the freezer.

    A few of the pure Indians are out on free range and keep a whole lot fitter running after hens or trying to protect the harem they have gathered from other cockerel. There is the odd fight, but Ben and now Dudley, my new collie pup break any serious problems up.

    Dudley at 10 Months old.

    The pens this season will contain birds that were tested last year as first year pullets or birds in their 2cnd/ 3rd year. Once the pullets have gone through the first egg stage and the eggs have started to get size I test hatch a few to see what the conformation and type has fixed in that mating, (still having the birds that bred them) Any poor hatches due to fertility have already been sorted out with a 10 day hatch test, it can be done in 7 but given the extra 3 days leaves you in no doubt when you break the egg. Candling is fine, but running eggs on till full term means chicks everywhere and my other half doing my head in moaning about the amount of chicken I have.

    This is an ongoing problem for me. I try to limit my flock to around 300, but always seem to have birds in every shed and runs at the end of the season. To pick out the best you have to breed in numbers to get a better idea what the gene pool in that strain holds and run them all on to fully mature. This, as you can imagine takes a serious amount of space, time and money, but there is no point in deluding yourself into thinking your birds are quality unless you have squeezed the very best out of what the birds have hidden in their make-up.

    To build up a breeding pen of birds, which I usually keep to around 6 hens and a rooster means that those 6 hens were the best from all the chicks hatched from an original pair ( every line I have started with a selected pair). IF that pair produced as good as or better than themselves. It is totally pointless just breeding for the sake of it. With feed costs higher than I ever remember churning out rubbish is madness.

    Wyandotte Bantam cock.

    I visited a poultry keeper a week or two back and it was truly amazing. There were around 100 birds all living totally free and it was like stepping back in time 150 years. They were small large fowl, small through unselected (except for natural selection where the most virile rooster held as many hens in his flock as he could protect from other roosters) breeding. The roosters were a game based breed and very active. All the birds lot fit and in rude health.


    I wrote that before we were hit by a blizzard and the amount of snow we had, plus the wind chill cause a few problems, as that morning I started lambing. I normally lamb outdoors in the field nearest the house. I’d had already bought the galvanised sheeting to extend the shed I had down in the bottom field, which is sheltered by a high holly hedge. The ewes, once bonded with their lambs go down at about 36-48 hours old and all I have to deal with at night are the ewes still to lamb.

    I called in a friend and we hastily erected an extension after digging all the sheets out of a snowdrift. It took 2 days, but thankfully I only had another set of twins over that period.

    I strawed the sheds down and managed to put the whole flock in under cover at night and as they lambed I penned them up in the sheds. Within a week the shed was full with ewes and lambs and just about enough room to run the ewes still to lamb in at night.

    These sheds are farthest away from the house and are illuminated by car spotlights run off batteries and they made life a lot easier and lighter in the dark.

    The wind chill up here was down to minus 5 every night and giving the ewes water was the biggest problem, as by the time I filled the tank up on my trailer and tractored it down there took about an hour.

    All the water buckets (18 plus a big trough) were frozen overnight and I had to repeat the journey everyday.

    The lambing finished last Thursday and I had 38 lambs from 20 ewes only losing 3, which was, considering the conditions very good going. The 3 I lost were from 3 sets of triplets and I ended up having to help 2 ewes that were having trouble giving birth.

    The new pup Dudley is proving to be a lovely dog and is already earning his keep. He works alongside Ben who he follows on the outrun and now drops and stays at a distance. He stands his ground well against the ewes protecting her lambs and charging him and isn’t in any way aggressive towards the lambs or ewes. All in all a very worthwhile addition to the team. As he gets older I’m sure he will make a very good working dog.

    April is now over and it’s May tomorrow, still cold and hardly spring weather. Had a few health problems over the last few weeks. My joints are aching and my one knee is giving me some trouble. Had a look on ebay for a second hand one, but only cheap plastic ones listed, so I’ll hang on for a while and live with it.

    The post office have put the cost of sending eggs up again, from £9.75 to £11 (next day special delivery) for a parcel weighing up to 2kg, which is about the weight of the boxes I send out packed the way I pack them. I have a feeling my egg selling days are numbered, as I can’t seriously consider charge £11 postage on top of the cost of the eggs and posting them in poly boxes and sending them first class mail is not an option I’d want to take.

    No egg seller can guarantee every egg is fertile and I wouldn’t feel it fair to charge over £30 for eggs with a chance of chick less eggs.


    This month it’s Ebay sellers using photographs that are stolen from the web and used to sell their eggs. Every season I get a number of these nobheads listing eggs from birds and using photographs of birds that belong to me. I usually email them and point out that it’s fraud and abuse of copyright, but you get some like this.

    I emailed ‘cannychick’ of Bardon Mill, Northumberland,   and expressed  my annoyance, but she still re-listed the same photograph and discribed them as bantam Exchequers when they are clearly Large fowl and not bantam. I really get annoyed at sellers doing this, as most buyers look at the photograph of the birds and buy on the assumption that the eggs come from the birds in the photograph. It’s a scam that ebay doesn’t seem to do much about. I’m watching eggs from her at the moment and I intend to buy them and leave feedback which will perhaps tell the other buyers the lady is not to be trusted.

    Now what this lady really needs is one of these, without removing the foliage and without any custard.


    The other news is that Dudley is a very naughty boy and has had a sexual relationship with Mist . Without going into details I thought she was past the point of mating and allowed them the freedom of the farm.

    He seems to have enjoyed the expieriance, even at his age and now practices on anything stupid enough to stay in the same place, including my leg.




    January Ramblings.

    Indian Game Pullet.

    . Well thats January out of the way. Been a rough month what with all the snow and wet weather. Thoughts of the coming season are dulled by the weather and ground conditions. Mud everywhere you walk, made worse by the duck flock and the tractor coming and going through gateways and the hay barn. The land is saturated with water .

    The ewe flock are not looking to bad considering the rain we have had. I start lambing second week in April, when I hope to have some grass back.

    Took another Border Collie pup on to train. He has been here for just over 6 weeks. Dudley is now almost 4 months old and his yard training is coming along very well. He is a big strong pup and both his mum and dad are very good working dogs. Ben my best mate, is starting to go grey around the face. He’s 7 now, still very fit and active, but I need a back-up and Dudley will learn distance commands when working with Ben. He was taught within the first few days to leave the poultry alone. Being a pup he was interested in playing with the chickens and on the second day he chased and caught Psycho Duck.

    Dudley at 4 months old.

    Now this duck was hand reared from day 1, in the house in a cardboard box on the hearth and thought it wasn’t really a duck. By the time she was old enough to go outside in a coop she was allowed to run around freely.At full grown she ignored all the other ducks and attacked anything that came anywhere near her.


    Ben and Psycho Duck.

    Dudley had a peck in the face off Psycho and the not a good idea command from me. I use a loud AHH! AHH! which always does the trick. Peace now reigns in the yard and the pup is totally trustworthy around the birds. I’m hoping this collie will be a good addition to the farm. He will never come up to what Ben is capable of. Ben is one of those special dogs that come along only once in a lifetime. Without him my life would be a great deal more difficult and he’s my mate and I love him to bits.

    The breeding season is coming closer and with the amount of snow we have had over this last week I’m not rushing to start hatching. I’m getting the eggs, but having to withstand the cold before they are collected drastically reduces the chances of a fertile egg. You see them already being sold on ebay and in my opinion your chucking your money away at this time of year buying them.

    It is very satisfying to see more and more poultry keepers getting into a dual purpose breed and by the number of emails I get every week backs up my assumpion that nearly all of the pure breed that at one time were kept for eggs and meat have been lost.

    Dark and Blue laced Indian Game pullets.

    I have often stated in here just how important the rooster is to the breed line/strain. If you have a hen that isn’t producing that near ideal offspring, you just have however many chicks/growers in the flock she managed to hatch from her eggs. Pick the wrong rooster and all the birds will carry problems.

    Australorp Pullet.

    Halfway through the month and I have 2 broodies, not what I need at the moment and I’ll need to break them. There are many ways to do this and most seem to be of a punishment, if you read through some of the poultry forums.

    The way that I have tried and tested over the years consists of a coop about 3ft long and 2 ft deep and 2 ft high.

    The front has 2in X 1in slats that are about 3in apart. The middle 3 are removeable (upwards) which gives you a door to get in.

    The floor is made the same. 2in X 1 in and they run longways, not from back to front. The gap is again about 3 inches and the front slat should be far enough away from the front to allow the bird to reach through to feed and drink. She has to perch and cannot sit and brood due to the gaps. She is fed in full view of the other birds and feed scattered near the front gives her competition from the others which drives her to feed. The coop is raised up on 4 bricks and this will not only break her but having kept her weight up she will return to lay a lot sooner than a bird just cooped on her own. The fast way is to put her in a run with a rooster, but be there to see he isn’t to heavy handed with her.

    I’m down to 6 Welsh Black roosters, 3 birds from last season and 3 from the year before.

    I need to reduce these down to 3 and then pick the very best 1 to head this years Welsh Black pen.

    The next best will go in with a couple of Australorp hens. and the 3rd one as a back up.

    The 3 from last season are all by the father of the other 3 and carry 3/4 of his make-up.

    December Diary.

    Welsh Black cock.

    It’s hardly stopped raining since early summer and at the time of writing this the whole farm is waterlogged and mud everywhere. The fixed outside runs have been strawed down each week with a bale of wheat straw and now I’m having to buy it in very large bales that are 8ft x 4ft and hold around 15 normal bales. I can just litter down all the runs with a very large bale, but it’s expensive this time of year after the farmers have handled it into the sheds. Off field at harvest time a big bale was £10, now they are £20, both collected.

    The birds are looking OK and a number of this years pullets are in lay. The cockerels have been selected for next season and most of the others are now in the freezer. Of this years pens the best came from a group headed by an Australorp Cock running with 4, 2cnd generation Welsh Black hens. The resulting pullets are lovely birds. Tight feathered and full bodied. Single comb, black legs and eyes and white soles and claws to the feet. This is where I wanted to be with this line. As near to my ideal of a perfect Australorp without all the fluff bred in by exhibition breeders. The weight and size is there and everything about the 2 I have selected says vitality.All I need to do now is see what numbers of eggs they lay. Besides these two I have a number of growers from the same pen coming along well, but being hatched later the amount of daylight feeding time they have had is a lot less than earlier hatched birds,so they will mature in the spring and I’m expecting slightly smaller birds.

    Welsh Black.

    Creating a Utility Strain.

    The genetics of poultry is a complicated theory and will take a lot of understanding unless you clear your mind and focus.

    Chickens have about twice the genetic load as other animals such as humans. The genetic load is just a measure of the lethal equivalents in a genome. Humans have one of about 2.5.

    This means you have the equivalent of about 5 recessive lethal genes in your genome.( 2.5 from your father and 2.5 from your mother) This is why brothers and sisters should not have children because they share half their genetic make-up and recessive lethals or detrimental genes can be expressed in the progeny of inbred matings.

    Chickens have a genetic load of around 6. Nearly all inbred lines generated by full sib (Brother/Sister) matings fail after just three full sib matings. Once the inbreeding coefficient goes over 0.375 the lines tend to fail and fresh genes need to be added,but unless your in full knowlage of the genetic make-up of the blood your introducing in the line you will undo all the work put into your strain. You can add genes from the male or female line you started with or a strain run alongside the main strain, such as an uncle/brother of the original male (who was the best bird you founded the strain on).

    So inbreeding (sibling mating) in chickens is not a very good thing to do a lot of if you are un-aware of the downside.

    The reason people like to line breed is that it is the fastest way to select for type that is caused by a complex interaction of genes. If you have a superior animal the fastest way to increase the frequency of the superior genes in your line is to line breed.

    Line breeding is just when you take the superior parent (Cock or Hen) and cross the progeny back to the parent (father to daughter or mother to son). You then take the superior parent and again cross it to its new offspring from the inbred mating. You repeat this until infertility becomes a problem or the parent dies, but only worth doing if you are breeding better or as good as the original bird/birds. If your not start again.

    You can select other progeny that presumably will be better than average for your flock to breed in non inbred matings or to other close relatives to try and set the good traits in your line.

    The reason that this works is that in the first mating the progeny have only half the sires genes. It stands that the inbreeding coefficient (F) is zero because none of the non inbred progeny can have both the alleles from the sire. When the sire is crossed to his daughter F = 0.25 this means that 25% of the genes of the progeny are identical by descent (both alleles of a gene come from the sire) and 75% of the total genome comes from the superior parent.

    These first generation inbred progeny have been fixed for 25% of the sires genes. With the next inbred mating of sire to grand daughter F = 0.375 and 87.5% of the total genome. Mating to his great grand daughter F = 0.438 and 93.8% of the total genome comes from the superior sire. After this inbred mating the gain is much less (the next inbred mating results in F = 4.69 and 96.9% of the total genome) and the birds are getting pretty old, so you can pick the best son and start it over again.

    Line breeding can produce very rapid gains in the quality of your line for certain traits, but nearly always results in a degeneration of the reproductive capacity of your line and you end up outcrossing and starting over.Eggs may become smaller or birds start losing vitality.

    For a few generations it can give you some outstanding birds at a higher frequency than you would get by not inbreeding, but there is a downside. This is why commercial breeding companies try to avoid inbreeding and concentrate on improving the whole population. The gains are not as dramatic, but they don’t fall on their faces as often.

    I use a line bred from a top quality male mated to an equal quality female. You should do a little inbreeding, but not a whole lot and if you inbreed I’d recommend parent to offspring inbreeding because all the genes that become homozygous by descent come from the superior parent. If you brother /sister inbreed you get about the same amount of inbreeding (0.25, 0.375, 0.5, 0.594, 0.672.) for the first few generations, but the genes that become homozygous by descent come from the superior parent and the inferior parent. So if you brother/sister mate you are not only fixing genes from the good parent, but from the not so good parent too.

    Maybe the best advice is that if you inbreed always use a superior animal for the mating. If you do not you are just increasing the bad genes in your line.

    Any mating between related individuals is inbreeding. Line breeding and full sib mating cause the same amount of inbreeding for the first two inbred generations. Theoretically line breeding and full sib matings should have the same detrimental results for the first two inbred generations. Full-sib mating would be more detrimental for the 3rd and subsequent inbred generations.

    The difference is that all the inbreeding comes from the superior parent in line breeding, but half the inbreeding comes from the inferior parent in full-sib matings. This is why I’d recommend inbred matings involving only birds that you think are good enough to warrant it.

    Brothers or at least fathered by the same male.

    If you look closely at the above photo you can see the 3 cockerels have different coloured feathers and different coloured legs. All have the same comb shape and all carry the double muscle gene from Indian Cornish game. The bird with yellow legs was given that by his mother (Indian Game) and it will now carry the gene for yellow legs. The bird with pink legs got the colour from whatever genes came together at random from both male and female (Australorp cock X Indian Game Hen) that was surpressed in the genes of the birds involved, but came to the fore when either a dominant gene conected with a gene that allowed that colour in the leg to show up. The bird at the back with the black legs had that from his Australorp father, so will carry the gene as domminant for black legs IF another gene of the same type comes together in the offsprings.


    Welsh Black X French Copper Marans (with a Jubilee IG Pullet)

    In this picture the two males have the same comb type, the same leg colour and the same muscle mass on the breast (from IG). The French Copper Marans gave them the feathered legs and as I had used blue feather Marans some had the gene for blue feathers.

    Why I used this mating was to get the gene for a darker brown eggs in the make-up and it worked The resulting pullets not only carry more breast meat, but lay a darker brown egg. Not as dark as the hens they were bred from, but a lot darker than the Welsh Black.

    The amount of meat the cockerels carried wasn’t as much as the Welsh Black father had,but still as much as most half decent pure bred Light Sussex or Rhode Island Red have nowadays. The pullets laid well enough, but having to produce a darker egg resulting in the egg being held in the bird for longer to give it the shell colour than say a buff or white egg. The next generation would need either putting back to a pure Indian Game (grand parent line) or to a French Copper Marans to get a better egg colour (mother line, which would be the strongest, as it is nearer the genetic make-up of the pullets). If I followed this strain I’d start losing egg numbers, as both the Pure Indian Game and the French Copper Marans are less likely to produce lots of eggs. Mating the pullets back to an Australorp (grand parent line) would help or should help with egg numbers, but where do you stop?.

    I’m happy with the Welsh Blacks. Lovely birds, calm and easy going. Good egg numbers and I’m eating plenty of chicken from the males. I can afford to be selective with the take outs from the selection process I use. I never take the females as table birds, but could if I was that pushed for meat.

    French Copper Marans.

    There seems to be a growing interest in utility bred poultry and I’m glad this old tradition is returning. I have a book by Cook the guy who first developed the Orpington and he gives a number of breed he bred with a view to producing eggs and meat from the same lines. This publication preceded the development of Cornish Game and he used English Game cocks mated with a number of other breeds with varying degrees of success.

    Back in those days (around 1890) Cochin and Brahma were very different to the birds we see now. The farmers of that period used Brahma X Cochin first crosses and they were a very popular cross. One wonders what that cross would produce today.

    Improved Indian Game. (Australorp X Indian Game X Indian Game)

    Without the input of Indian Cornish Game into a dual purpose breed I think your going to be disappointed by the resulting birds. No pure breed I have seen in the last 20 years gets close to what a first cross using an Indian Game male can produce.(if you can find some that are viable and most of the exhibition bulldog types are’nt)

    The first cross is usually by far the best, but by careful selection and a well thought out breeding plan you can create a strain of birds worth spending valuable time working on.

    I chose Australorps, as they were good layers and a large frame to put meat on. Dorking were my other choice, but alas they are shadows of their once top utility breed. Finding a good Dorking is like trying to spot a politician that’s doing it for the people and not themselves. Egg numbers are low. Vitality has being lost by stupid breeding practices and within the next 10-20 years they will (if not already) be lost forever.

    Never be worried about the outcome of a X mating. If your birds are fit and healthy and you have an understanding that not all will be first class examples of what you expected to come from the pen.

    Just remember if both male and female carry the gene for brooding you will double the chance of a heavy sitter. If you mated say Wyandotte to Cochin. If you mated a light breed like a Leghorn to a Wyandotte you may still get birds that sit but not as often, as Leghorns/Anconas hardly ever go broody.  If you mate both birds from poor layers MOST of the off springs will lay poorly. Double the genetic possibilities for slow feathering and you will get the majority of the chicks feathering later than normal. If one bird in the mating carries a fault it will remain in the bloodline.

    Go back and look at the picture at the start of this and look closely at the birds eye. It doesn’t quite fill the socket. That fault was put there by a gene in the female line that showed up 3 generation after the original mating. (I traced it back to a sister of the hen I had used. I scrapped that whole line and started again)

    If it is your intention to breed a worthwhile bird with quality utility features please do your utmost to pursue your goal this coming season. I shall be downsizing my breeding plans over the next month or two as ill health and the amount of work keeping around 300 birds fit and well generates is a full days work 7 days a week.

    If you want to comment on anything in this blog please post it on

    June Diary.

    Wyandotte Bantams.

    It’s the end of June and seems like we have had no summer so far, A few nice days and the rest was what we have had for months, seriously glumly. It does get you down a bit, as there is so many jobs need doing and the weather is holding them up.

    My beloved is away this week looking after our new granddaughter Beth. Her mum is a bit overwhelmed by the birth and didn’t have a very easy time.  Which brings me back to hatching eggs under broodies, nice link don’t you think.

    I have 12 birds sitting at the moment and another 6 running around with broods. Over the last few years I have gone back to using natural incubation instead of using an incubator. I have 3 all Brinsea and have not bothered to unpack them for the 3rd year running. It was the cost and amount of time it took to deal with the chicks. Constantly cleaning out and dealing with the usual rearing problems you get when running chicks under lamps and in indoor runs. Using natural brooding is easy, a hen starts to sit, I leave her till she is tight, which usually takes 2-3 days. If you take her off and she goes mental around the place and heads back to the nest, that night I move her into a broody coop.

    If she has sat on eggs laid by her pen mates you run the risk of a staggered hatch, as eggs will have been started and newer eggs will have been laid on top. So start her off with a fresh batch that are hopefully viable.

    Welsh Black and 12 chicks.

    Using eggs that were under her poses a number of problems.

    When the first chick hatches it may be 36 hours before the next one gets out (depending on how many are in the run) and when it start getting hungry and needs a drink it will come out of the nest box and when it gets chilled the hen will be forced off the eggs by it’s cheeping to brood it, the eggs chill at a critical stage and you lose them. You may end up with a single chick, which is really frustrating and guess who’s fault it is.

    Raised under a hen gives the chicks a very good grounding in the early stages of it’s life. She will teach them what’s good and what’s not. A good mother is worth her weight in gold and well worth marking with a leg ring. I use a leg ring colour system. Red for a dirty nester, any broody that fouls the nest doesn’t get to do it again. If she goes broody I encourage her not to sit by giving her something to take her mind off , This can take the form of free- range, out and about with the eating egg flock. Failing that a coop on her own without any eggs. I put her on plain wheat and water and access to greens/grass. If she still persists she goes in with a cockerel. A blue ring for a hen that comes off early and having checked for lice and red mite disturbance, if she doesn’t stay the distance she doesn’t get another chance. A yellow ring for a good sitter and a good mother. Hens like these are worth looking after.


    The times I see that the hen needs cooling down written in forum posts and it’s suggested that she be punished by putting in a wire bottom coop or even worse dunked in a bucket of cold water always makes me annoyed at the poster. Some people need evening classes to apply for the village idiots job.

    A normal healthy hen that is active runs a temperature of about 107f a broody is about 2 degrees lower at about 105f. I didn’t come up with this little gem it is written in the rule book of poultry keeping. This book isn’t one of the newer ones with nice photos that have popped up over the last few years and bugger all relevant information about chicken between the covers, but written by authors such as Morley A Jull.Lippencote and Card

    There are hundreds of books on the web readable (just) in pdf format such as this one. (You need to copy and paste I’m afraid)

    May Diary.

    Indian Game chicks enjoying the manure pile.

    Well thats May out of the way and the weather as usual was variable, from wet ,cold and windy to warmish with a bit of sun and some nights it got pitch dark.


    The birds are laying well and the fertility tests I have taken have been very good. I usually set a hen and put a selection of eggs from different pens under her all marked up with the pen number on. About a week later I do a crack test to see if any have started and the only pen that has given me problems are my Black Sumatra bantams, no wonder they are rare. Set 6 and all clears. Set another 6 and 2 fertile, set 7 and 3 chicks,  the rest were full, but she came off to attend to the chicks. I’m going to leave them for a month and see if they improve with the longer day light hours.

    I have a couple of bunches of chicks running around the place, both now without any supervision from a hen as they have rejoined the flock and started laying again.

    Both these groups are let out first thing in the morning and they return to their coops and are locked up at night. They do well looking out for themselves and hold their own against all the adults out free ranging.

    French Copper Blue Marans.


    The grass has started to grow again and I have taken a first cut with the lawn mower. The birds get a big fist full of this in each pen and it’s free protein and readily taken by the birds. Within a week or two the clover should be back in growth and that’s the time I look forwards to most in spring. The chicks are put onto it in grass runs or handfuls are picked and put into the growers runs.

    I don’t intend to hatch many this year, as every winter my work load seems to get heavier and looking after hundreds of birds is very difficult in bad weather.

    I have to reduce my stock levels on the poultry and sheep. I will sell on 50 or so sheep this autumn and reduce my lambing ewes to a more manageable number.

    The poultry side is more difficult to down size, as I have to keep a number of groups to hold the lines.

    This season I have a pen of Improved Indian Game running with an Australorp Rooster to produce hopefully a better Welsh Black.

    Welsh Black pullet.

    But they will have to be good to beat last years birds. The breed evolves a little each year and this year I’m hoping for some nice birds.

    I have lashed out and bought 6 eggs from Cobra Asils, which if they hatch will be run on and eventually bred into one of my Indian Game lines. Every pure bred breed needs a bit of a gene boost now and then and by putting back a breed that were used in the original making is usually a good idea. The purists will feel that dilutes the breed by adding another to it, but I don’t show my birds and need to keep the fertility and vitality up by adding hybrid vigour.

    There are many ways of improving a breed, but you need to know what the best examples of that breed look like.

    I attended a very large poultry sale at the Smallholder weekend at Builth Wells last month and there were hundreds of birds for sale through a dealer who buy from all over the country just for that sale to smaller sellers that in honesty should be banned from attending shows like this with the condition of the birds they brought in to sell. I cannot understand the organisers of such a prestigious event allowing people like these in selling sick birds to the general public and even more surprisingly people stupid enough to buy them.

    More to follow if it ever stops raining.

    April Diary.


    It’s very wet and windy today,hardly the weather to be outside, but if you have livestock their needs come first.

    Bit on the breezy side today.

    I hate seeing the birds all wet and glumly and not being able to roam out across the fields. Most of the non breeding birds are in the shed and out of the weather.The breeders are in their pens, some in the big shed and some out in the runs. Obviously the outside runs are getting very wet and muddy, but I have strawed down with wheat straw that helps a bit to keep them off the mud. It’s dry under the coops and they have enough room to get in under cover and scrat about in the bedding. They are low enough to stop the wind blowing them over. Big enough so the birds get a dry area to get into when wet and light enough to turn up on their sides to collect the eggs and clean them out. I rake all the bedding out and replace it with oat straw, as oats is softer than wheat. On a dry sunny day I muck fork all the straw on the ground into a pile to dry the ground out and the straw. The birds redistribute the bedding within a day or two. As I feed on the ground any lost grain that has started to sprout is a feed bonus for the birds. If I used a pelleted feed this would all be wasted and not healthy for the birds to eat after being wet. With grain it doesn’t matter.

    Some of my outside breeding pens.

    Ben (collie) has decided that his bed is best and retired to it. He has a room in the outhouses with a very big comfy armchair and carpet on the floor. A pile of dog blankets that will absorb a good deal of wet from his coat before he gets up on his chair. So what few birds that are out and about are un-protected.

    Any eggs laid in weather like this in outside pens are odds on to get covered in mud, so I collect about 3 times a day, especially if I have orders for the breed that needs sending off.

    Changing the oat straw regularly helps, as the birds always lay on the ground in nests they construct out of the bedding. They always seem to use the farthest corner from the door, so have to track through the straw to get to the nest site and I find oat straw takes alot of the dirt off their feet before they get to the nest. Sending out dirty eggs to buyers is a shameful thing to do. Your sending all sorts of problems along with the eggs if you do and I will bet my pension you won’t be getting any repeat orders from them.

    It would be better to email the buyer and say the eggs are not available than send them in a dirty condition and mail them again when you have some dry and clean eggs.

    Iv’e had a few test hatches out and with good results. 8 out of 11 from my Jubilee Indians. 6 out of 8 on the Welsh Blacks and the same on the Improved Indians.

    From now on in I crack test at about 6 days to check fertility, as hatching every egg would see me with far to many birds to look after and adding to my work load. You can see by day 6 if everything is going well and the fertility is up to the required standard.

    By the time these birds have got into the breeding pens they have been selected as the best of the pullets I bred 2 seasons ago, as these are all 2 year old birds. The male in the pen was probably the pick of about 20 males from the breed in question and all his brothers are now either in the freezer or have been introduced to a temperature of 180 degrees plus some olive oil and herbs. I do keep a few ‘back up’ males just in case, but they have to be good to miss the invite to lunch club.

    Improved Indian game 15/16th.

    I finally got around to picking the best of the male Welsh Black X Copper Marans, even though the bird was not the biggest I choose him as he had a good eye colour and the eye fitted into the socket perfectly. The choice, in the end was down to 3 males from 27. One had a light eye and the other birds eye didn’t fill the eye socket correctly. Other than that they were very nice birds. Totally black, with no sign of any other colour on the back or neck. The comb was how I wanted it and he had good conformation.

    Welsh Black X French Marans

    He is the bird nearest in the picture.

    He was penned with 3 very nice Black C Marans hens, but it will take him a week or two before he will have got the idea he is top cockerel, as he was down the pecking order while penned with the other two males. A male that has been sexually suppressed by a stronger male will not have fully functioning sexual parts until the dominant bird is removed.

    I shall watch the pen over the next week or two to make sure he is working properly.

    The hens he is penned with are a line of Marans bred from this male.

    French Copper Blue Marans.

    The size is well up on a normal Copper Marans and by adding more Marans to the gene mix I hope to hold the egg color.

    The Marans Rooster above is re-penned with 2 Copper Blue hens and after another week he will be put through to another pen with 3 Welsh Black X Copper Marans pullets that have just got into a full size dark egg after a very good effort on numbers in the pullet egg stage.

    Some eggs from both these pens of Welsh/Marans will be hatched and next year after grading the resulting birds the best from these two pens will be mated.

    And so it goes on, I must be crazy, but it’s a bit compulsive, just thinking about the next stage of this line makes me wonder just how many more birds I can keep.

    This year I fully intend to cut down, even if it means losing some of the strain/lines or breeds I have here. My two youngest boys are always going on about the work and costs involved in this project. My youngest is a tax consultant for a very well known company of accountants and it doesn’t take his expertise to know it’s losing money hand over fist.

    But I get so much pleasure from breeding birds and when any feedback is positive I feel a sense of pride in a worthwhile job well done.

    This season hatching eggs are being sent out to the people that have pre-ordered them and to any that have, as soon as I have eggs available from the breed you ordered I shall be in touch to confirm you still want them.

    March Diary.

    Welsh Black X French Copper Marans.

    Well, I put the eggs under a broody, as chucking away £24 worth of eggs is adding insult to injury.

    Eggs with all that crap all over them creates all sorts of problems. You would be rash to put them in an incubator, as when the temperature and humidity rises all the germs will have a perfect place to make more germs. Washing them will clog the pores in the shell and you would never get all the bacteria off anyway, and it would breed more and not only infect the chick, but contaminate your incubator.The more shell surface is clogged the less pores for the egg to breathe.

    The germs that came free with the eggs will have a different ‘genetic make-up’ to my germs. My poultry has built up an immunity to the diseases found here, but it’s more than possible that the chicks will trigger a reaction when allowed out after they feather up.

    The hen that laid the egg will have given the chick inside the egg antibodies to at least help with any disease germs it may encounter in the first 8 weeks of life. by then it has started producing it’s own immunity, but only to the set of germs here.

    The shell of an egg is amazing under a microscope and I spent a few minutes looking at the surface. It will allow oxygen in and carbon dioxide and moister out.

    Improved Indian Game.

    I seem to have steered a course away from pure breeds, except for the Australorps, Indian Game, Jubilee Indian Game, Exchequer Leghorns and Wyandotte bantams and have put most of my efforts into getting these cross breeds up to what I consider to be a worthwhile breed. There are enough people breeding pure breeds to keep most pure breeds going.

    I had a few annoyed Indian Game breeders objecting to me calling the above birds Improved Indian Game, but the majority of people looking for Indians are doing so to use them in a table bird cross and if you have the exhibition type Indians your going to get breeding problems, as they are now so short in the leg and so wide and squat that they find mating a problem. This type of breeding where you are taking the breed into a situation similar to Bulldogs and it’s all down to judges and the breed clubs. I think anyone breeding to any standard that puts animals or birds into a position that the welfare of that creature is put at risk should be ashamed of themselves, all for a bit of red card and a cheap rosette and not forgetting the ego trip of winning.

    The strain I have worked on have evolved into what you see here. They are bred for a purpose and thats meat and eggs.

    Improved Indian Game pullet.

    I could call them Utility Indian Game, but that would still upset somebody.

    These are now 15-16th Indian Game and in their 6th year, having back sibling mated in year 3.

    This season I will sibling mate again with a few nice birds to see what that throws up.


    March Ramblings and a rant.

    The hatching season is underway and within the next month I start sending eggs out to poultry keepers all over the UK. It takes me about half an hour to pack a dozen eggs the way I do it.

    Each egg is wrapped in a sheet of kitchen roll that is folded over, so the egg fits snugly into a normal egg box.After the box is full I tape it shut, thus trapping the eggs with the paper around them to stop them moving about in the egg box. The box is then wrapped in about a meter (folded double) of bubble wrap the overlap at each end is taped around the box.

    Both the wrapped boxes are then re-wrapped in more bubble wrap and put into a strong cardboard box (usually a wine box), taped up and taken 6 mile one way to the post office.

    So why am I telling you this? Today I had some eggs arrive that I bought through ebay from an Australorp breeder who had won the National with his birds. I paid almost £24 for 6 with postage and when they arrived in one of those ********* poly boxes you could feel the eggs rolling around in the box. No extra packing, just a bit of selotape to keep the lid and the base closed. I do not expect any of them to hatch.

    Where have all the standards gone in the world?

    Is everyone happy to be ripped off by other people?

    Am I getting old and cranky?

    Why for **** sake would you want another breeder thinking your a toss-pot.

    I’m going to research on the net who it was that thought using a polystyrene box to send eggs through the post was a good idea.

    When I do I’m going to track them down, tie him/her to a chair and force feed them the lid (broken in to bite-size pieces) and after doing that I’m going to insert the base (broken in to slightly larger pieces) up their arse with a pointed stick, followed shortly afterwards with the rough end of a pineapple.

    The feedback system on ebay is a bloody joke. Leaving positive feedback for managing to get 6 eggs packed and posted isn’t f**king rocket science is it?

    If everybody left feedback on the hatch rate it might give other buyers a better picture of what the seller is really like.

    It’s a bloody disgrace how people get away with it. What else would you buy, sight unseen and not bother to complain if what you bought wasn’t fit for purpose?

    I’m tired, Iv’e had a hard day. I got rheumatics in my elbow and 6 eggs in the utility room I might have with some toast.


    Well another day and I managed to make it through the night. After doing my morning chores I sat down and opened the box.

    As you can see not a lot of packing went on here.

    It just got more depressing.

    You can plainly see by the amount of space around the eggs why they rattled in the box.

    The amount of crap on the eggs just goes to show what sort of breeder this guy is. Show stock my arse,

    Selling hatching eggs starts with the breeding stock and their management. I have heard the one about ‘I don’t wash my eggs because it forces the dirt into the egg’…try cleaning your nest boxes out now and then. ‘But the birds carry mud onto the eggs when the ground is wet..Yes we live in the UK and it rains..Collect your eggs more than once a day, especially if your selling them as hatching eggs.

    There is no excuse for this your just a lazy bastard that just wants to take peoples money.

    These 6 eggs cost £24 with postage.

    If anyone wants the name of this seller just email me and save yourself some stress and anger. I shall be leaving a very negative feedback on ebay as you can imagine.

    January Ramblings.

    Wyandotte Bantams. (Bred for Broodies).


    Some people have already started hatching, but there is plenty of time yet, unless your looking to get an odd one or two for an autumn show and want them to be full grown and of a larger size. Things are going to get much tougher in this country as the recession starts to bite deeper and prices of everything will rise, including poultry feed.

    The pig keeping in the country has already felt the effects and when the Euro crashes, as it surely will, god knows where that will leave our farmers. Last week in Hereford market pigs were selling for ridiculous prices, well below what it costs to rear them. A very large boar, that would expect to sell for in excess of £400 made just over £100. Porkers were making £40 each.

    Horses and ponies are in the same state, again with prices below what it cost to get them to the market. The meat buyers are paying 35p per kl for ponies and 45p per kl for horses and hundreds and hundreds are slaughtered every week.

    Come March when the poultry auctions start I can see people trying to off load as many birds as they can,so be carefull if your buying at auction.

    Welsh Black Pullet. Just started laying.

    Welsh Black Pullet.

    What to look for when buying.

    You should have a clear idea what the standard is for a bird of that breed.

    If it says it should have yellow legs, any other colour is wrong. Have a close look at it’s feet and make sure none of the toes are twisted or bent. It’s legs should look clean and all the scales on them should be tight and close fitting on the legs. If you can see it’s nails check to see how long they are, as old birds have rough scaly legs and may have long nails.

    The vent (bum) should be clean and without any staining of the feathers,If they are stained don’t buy them.

    But its the eyes that hold the key to a fit bird. They should fill the socket and be bold and bright. Beware of sunken eyes that are over shadowed by the brows. If the eyes are dull leave them there.

    Look for an active and alert bird. Anything that sits there and looks unhappy probably is and your not getting a bargain what your buying is trouble and it will cost you more than the price of the bird if you take it home and infect all your other birds.

    Welsh Black X Copper French Marans. (brown egg laying table bird) Stage 2.

    Buying Hatching eggs.

    I expect a few of you buy eggs off ebay. I bought 3 lots last year, from breeders I thought were a good risk and again were very disappointed by the results.

    Out of 18 eggs I managed 1 chick (a cockerel) and every batch of eggs were sent by normal post in those stupid poly-boxes.

    I always post feedback AFTER I have tried to hatch them and I give it on hatch rate.

    This idea of leaving it on whether or not they managed to pack 6 eggs into a poly-box and make it down to the post office takes the  pi**. Your left with 6 eggs that cost god knows how much with postage and sweet sod all after wasting 21 days of electricity. The last lot I candled at 10 days and all were clear..I was slightly miffed about that as you can imagine.

    I wouldn’t mind a 50% hatch rate, but empty eggs are just a waste of time and effort.

    Utility Poultry. How it was then.

    Improved Indian Game.


    The term ‘utility’used in poultry goes back to the end of the last war 1939-45.
    There was a serious shortage of food, being as we were hardly getting any imports due to the UBoats stopping ships getting in from abroad…mainly the USA.

    Everybody was expected to produce as much food as possible and with the boys coming home from abroad and getting de-mobbed there was huge amounts of rebuilding to do, not only the fabric of the towns and cities that got hit, but social structure of where they had lived.

    Food was still in very short supply and hundreds and hundreds of small scale poultry farms producing eggs..not so many poultry meat farms..were set up,(some grant funded to help men to earn a living and support a family).

    The wheat and other grain that was grown was suppose to all go through WARAG (fish and food dept ) and be weighed and payed.

    You needed a ration card and if you didn’t have one you couldn’t get your grain qota..except on the black market..

    To get wheat or any poultry feed was difficult to say the least and poultry farmers needed to get the most eggs out for the least amount of corn put in…(no pellets in those days) so they would usually buy chicks or growers in and grow them on or buy in at POL.

    As is life some poultry suppliers sold birds that were not utilizing the feed to give the best results and a lot of new keeper hit the wall,mainly down to bad husbandry as most dived in at the deep end and failed.

    It was chaos, so trial stations were set up to test groups of birds from different suppliers and the laying results over a set period of time were published in the poultry press and with the results came the orders.If you had a strain of birds that gave the best laying results on a set amount of feed over a certain time you had orders coming out of your ears.
    Anyone that didn’t lost out to the breeders that had entered and proved thier birds.

    They could put on the advert UTILITY.
    Bit like a michelin star system.

    As for the meat trade.
    When I got to 13 years old I could work in the ‘Packing station’ where the eggs from miles around were collected by lorry..a scania in those days..and brought in for gradeing.The other side to this station was poultry meat…spent hens and stags.

    Late 50′s very early 60′s the incoming birds were nearly all leghorns,mainly White with Brown next and black next.A few kept Sussex and Rhode Island.
    I was on the Killing line….It was different in thoses days you had to earn and a school holiday job at least got me some money.

    Feed was seen to be wasted rearing cockerels, as the cost of the feed was more often than not more than the dressed weight of the bird..
    Payment was made on the total weight of the birds after dressing..

    The Stags were cockerels, always a cross bred,usually RIR X LS and the were big and took a lot of handleing.Some of these birds would dress out at 8lbs thats oven ready so around 11 lbs live weight.

    So I think the word utility is mainly used for laying birds that utilised the feed.

    There are very few utility breeders of tradional poultry left I’m afraid.
    In the mid 60′ the new Hybrids started showing up..birds designed to produce eggs..the ultimate Utilty breeds and the vast majority of farmers turned over to them and a major loss to the British poultry industry started, as the strains of top layers were lost to factory type producers of the new hybrids filled the market place.

    A few hung on..mainly older keepers who had put so much work into keeping their lines going, but as they grew old and died the breeds went with them.

    I am proud to say I have kept at least 1 of those lines going for all these years and have bred other breeds towards the standards that they had in those days.


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