I have 10 static pens that are 12ft x 12ft with a 4ft x 2ft coop inside and they are weatherproofed with a clear heavy duty tarpauline from qvsonlineuk on ebay.

A 4mtr x 10mtr sheet costs £34.99 plus £6.99 postage and it’s brilliant. Iv’e covered all the roofs of the runs with it and it took a real pounding last winter and not only did it keep the runs dry, it never ripped or split.

I use these pens in the breeding season and run the different breeds in small groups,usually 4-6 hens to 1 cock, depending if they made the grade into the breeding groups. These birds are given a run out into a much bigger area I dig over to allow the birds some fresh earth to scrat in obviously in thier own groups, never mixed.

In the main ‘shed’ are 2 14ft x 16ft loose boxes made of concrete block and in the one side I have the eating egg flock and in the other side I have 3 8ft x 8ft runs along the one side and 4, 4ft x 4ft cockerel boxes that hold a spare cock in each on the other.

Besides these I have an area fenced to 8ft and divided into 4 large runs and a concrete block shed that houses the Exchequer flock and the Appleyard ducks,seperated of course.

There is a large granary that contains my brooders and grower runs and another 8 moveable coops and another large static run around the other side of the big dutch barn.

Selection starts around Febuary with choosing the best cockerel from last years birds. He is penned in the cockerel boxes and I usually pair him with a 2cnd year bird most often an aunt/aunties.

If the birds of this breed have come up to expectaions I re-pen the birds they were bred from,but It depends on how they measured up last season on egg numbers,hatchability and progress of the chicks from that mating. All very time consuming and reference to the records I keep on them.

Any bird that went down broody and failed to produce a hatch for whatever the reason I leg ring and never use again. They get blue ringed if they are nest foulers or come off before the whole hatch is out. I had one today that I took off to tidy the coop up before the chicks came out and found 1 live chick,1 dead chick and 1 half out of the egg, plus 10 fouled eggs and a dirty nest. I removed the live chick and the half hatched 1, and popped both under another broody untill I cleaned up the nest. She went walkabout for an hour before she returned to her coop, so it will be interesting to see if any more hatch. The 2 chicks I have since put in a brooder with another 9 that an Improved Indian Game hen hatched in the big horse building, (it’s a big building for our horse, not a big horse in a building) and all seem to be fine, even the partly hatched one. The hen is now out with the eating egg flock to recover from her sitting duties. ( This morning the half hatched chick (Indian Game x Improved Indian Game ) is up and around and fighty fit, so the vigour is there.

A set up like this takes a lot of work. Twice daily feeding and keeping the birds fit and healthy, plus daily on-going cleaning and maintainence of runs,coops and brooders eats into your days and the thought of taking a break for more than a few hours a day is not an option, but I’ve got deeply involved with all this and even enjoy most of it, much to the annoyance of my other half who does’nt really like poultry,possibly because the stock here come first and it leaves no free time to do things together. I have offered to take her to poultry shows and auctions and if quality time be her goal even suggested she help me muck out, but nope it’s not happening.

Two days after I removed the 2 chicks from under the hen today she had hatched another 1, so bang goes the theory that if a nest goes cold near hatching all is lost. The bird was off for at least an hour and I was surprized another managed to hatch. The eggs under this hen were taken from a pen where 3 of the birds were sitting in the same box with another 2 birds laying on top of them,so it was getting to be a bit of an egg mountain.

I removed 1 hen and 12 eggs at random, so they could have been just layed or sat on for about 10 days or more, so they will hatch over a long period and if the chicks are taken as they hatch and fluff up into a brooder she will keep sitting. She will be perfectly ok as long as she has fresh water and feed in the coop when ever she needs to get off. She is not using energy just sitting there and will hold body weight if in good condition when she started. I still have 2 in the run sitting and another 2 laying on top of them,so in a couple of days I’ll re-coop another and take another 12 eggs with her and you can bet your life as soon as there is room another bird will join the last one sitting in the run. Within a 3-4 weeks I’ll have a large number of chicks under lamps and the hens will go back to the run and either neck moult or start laying again.

I try to group about 30 chicks at a time in batches going through the brooder and move them on together in these groups out of the granary and into grass runs.