Chicken Housing

Chickens like to live a life of freedom and range where they choose, but in the modern day people interefere with this, and put them in cages to lay. People now also put them into there garden for a fresh supply of eggs, but for them to remain healthy and happy they have imporant requirements including good food, a foraging area, nutrient rich greens, space and good housing.

Runs and paddocks

Chickens like to range wherever they choose, but mostly this is not an option because people don’t like to have their flower beds in disarray, so an enclosure in the garden will do. They prefer to have a place with trees because they dont like to stand in a place where they are vulnerable to the hot sun. Our paddocks have apple trees so they shade the birds, and also give us a summer treat!
Fencing should be strong post and rail with chicken mesh, which should be checked regularly for holes.
Runs should contain a sand bath, which the chickens can use at will. It should contain sand, diatomous earth or both.
The term Free range is different to free to range, the latter refers to chickens which are not cooped up while the former is where each hen has a minimum of 4 metres square to roam.
The standard is 4sq ft in the coop and 10sq ft in the run in mainstream production.

Housing requirements
There must be at least 10in perch space for each hen and there must be at least 1 nest box per 5/6 hens. There must be at least 1 drinker per ten hens and, by DEFRAs regulations, 15cm of feeder per bird.
There must be sufficient ventilation, birds must be warm enough, but must also have fresh air available to avoid respiratory problems.
Contrary to what some people think, chickens only lay in their nestboxes, they dont sleep in them. Therefore several birds can share a nestbox, the box must be in a quiet, dark and fairly secluded corner.
Naturally, the place where droppings are at greatest density is in the chicken coop, where they poop in the same place every night. As a result of this, coop cleaning needs to be done at least once a week. A few small bantams in a fairly large coop need to be cleaned out once a week, while larger birds need cleaning out every two or three days.

Chicken genetics

Inside every living cell, there is a nucleus (plural nuclei). This is the cells powerhouse, it controls the actions of the cell. Nestled in the cytoplasm among mitochondria and glycogen granules, the chromosomes are found within the nucleus. These structures, which become clearly visible under a microscope before they split, otherwise rest as chromatin granuals. These control the organisms characteristics by means of genes. Lined up on every chromosomes are genes which control egg colour, eye colour and other traits. Chickens have 78 chromosomes, some being sex chromosomes (so called due to determining gender and sex linked characteristics) micro and some being macro chromosomes.

Cells divide by meiosis and mitosis. Mitosis is where the chromosomes replicate and line vertically up the middle. The chromosome and its replica are called chromatids. They cross over each other in the centre and are held together by centromere. The cell splits vertically and the daughter cells have the same amount of chromosomes as the first. Mitosis is used for growth in plants and animals and asexual reproduction in plants.

In meiosis the chromosomes replicate and line up in two vertical lines in the centre of the cell. One row moves right, the other left and the cell splits down the middle. The chromosomes arrange themselves across the middle of the daughter cell. The chromatids seperate and travel to opposite ends of the cell, and the cell divides again. After the dividing has finished, the result is four cells, each with half the original number of chromosomes. Meiosis is used for sexual reproduction, so that when the egg is fertilized, the chromosomes in the males sperm complete the set of chromosomes. If this didnt happen, then the number of chromosomes each individual posesses would double with every generation.

A cell with the full number of cells is diploid, while one formed by meiosis is always haploid.

The gender of the individual is determined by certain kinds of chromosomes and their genes. In  humans, females are homogametic, meaning that the two letters that represent their gene type are the same but  with chickens the cockerel is homogametic. A ZZ chromosome is male, while a ZW chromosome is female.

Sex linked traits are carried in one copy on non-homogametic genes, while the homogametic gene carries two copies. As the male carries the larger amount of copies, he is mostly responsible for traits such as egg colour in his chicks.

Principles; Basic poultry genetics

These are just some basics that are essential for hobby breeders, covering basic DNA and genes.

1) There are two strands of DNA, twisted into a double helix. At each ‘point’ in the DNA that we call genes, the gene is equal on both sides. This means that there can be one or two doses of the gene. One dose is known as heterozygous, two are known as homozygous.

2) The ‘ locus’ is a name given to the point where the gene  falls on the DNA. Sometimes, several related genes are found on the same locus, these are known as allelles. If there are two different genes on the same locus,  this is called a heterozygote. A homozygote is where two doses of one gene are found on the same locus (one on each strand).

3) ‘Sex linked’ is a term used to describe a gene found on the z-chromosome. The z chromosome from hens only affects her sons and is known as sex-linkage.

4) If there is one dose of dominant gene it will make an effect on the phenotype ( The way genes act and the effect they produce). One dose of recessive gene makes them a ‘carrier’ for the gene, but its effect is not displayed.

5) A multi-interaction gene is where several genes are needed to produce an effect. A good example is the gene for single lacing. Pg, Co and Ml are needed for the plumage to show that marking.

This is useful information, especially if you plan to breed or study avian genetics. I hope you found this feature interesting and educative.

The Science and Anatomy of an egg

Most people see it as a simple oval form, we eat it for brekfast, poached, boiled, scrambled or fried, to us it seems like an everyday thing, but an egg is more than that. It is a fascinating structure, and also contains the potential of life.
An egg is protected by a porus shell made up of calcite, a christalline form of calcium carbonate. It is semipermeable, meaning water and air can pass through via the thousands of tiny pores. The egg has a very outermost layer called the cuticle which protects ftom bacteria. On the inside of the shell there are two membranes. The inner and the outer membranes are surprisingly tough. They are made up partly of keratin, which is found in hair, skin and nails, and act as a bacteria barrier.
When the egg is freshly laid it is warm, but once it cools the contents shrink, leaving an air space between the two membranes. The air space grows larger as the egg ages, which is why incubated eggs have large air gaps when shone through with a candling lamp.
Inside these two membranes there is the albumen or egg white which is made up of water and many different liquid proteins. The ‘chalazae’ are twisted ‘ropes’ of protein holding the yolk and also acting as shock absorbers. This structure can be seen on a fertilized, unincubated egg. The viteline membrane encases and supports the yolk.
The yolk contains protein, fat, water (to a lesser extent) and vitamins and minerals. This is where the chick obtains nutrition. The yolk ranges from pale yellow to deep golden depending on breed and management. Chickens that roam freely and eat lots of green generally have golden egg colour.
The eggs colour ranges from white to dark brown, with green and blue hues as well. The pigment is the last thing that is added during its formation in the ovary and depends on breeding and genetics.
When the egg is laid it comes out of the vent. Both eggs and droppings share this opening but the set up and placing of various organs inside the hen ensures that the two never come in contact. There is also no urinary opening to complicate matters, a chickens urine is not liquid, it is the white part of the droppings, called urates. The sunshine that a plant absorbs makes it green, while the sunshine that the hen eats when she eats the plant makes her eggs yolk yellow. Battery eggs are have pale yolks, because the only sunshine the hen gets is that that her food contains.
The meat spot is a small deposit of blood sometimes found in the yolk. It gives no indiction that the egg is fertile, it is simply caused by the rupture of a bood vessel during the eggs formation. It is safe to eat but can be removed before cooking with the tip of a kife.
Occasionally a hen may lay an egg that has no yolk or a double yolk, this is the result of an unsynchronyzed production cycle an usually occurs at the begining or end of the laying period. A double yolked egg should not be used for breeding so if the egg is extra large don’t be tempted to use it.

Even when she is young, a hen has more egg cells than she will ever lay. These are rudimentary or germ cells. The egg ripens and a yolk forms around it in layers. It travels down the oviduct, and at this point would recieve sperm from the male. The chalazae are formed and a membrane covers the yolk.  Then, liquid protein called the albumen, or egg white is added in layers, the last one being firm and spongy as a shock absorber. Then, the shell is formed and in the last three hours pigment is added. During incubation the chalazae break, so the hen turns the egg occasionally to keep it centred.

I hope this article has expanded your knowledge, if you are interested in more science subjects, take a look at our The science behind a chickens eyes page and our chicken genetics page.

The science behind a chicken’s eyes

Recent scientific discoveries have shown that chickens eye sight is better than that of mammals (humans included) in terms of colour. A chickens retina (light sensitive structure) is organized in a complicated structure of interwoven mosaics, and the cones (colour sensitive) can detect colour spectrum that human’s cannot. While humans can detect red, green and blue wavelengths, most birds (chickens included) have receptors for red, blue, green, violet and ultraviolet meaning that they may see an entirely different dimension.. Where a human would see green dots, a chicken would see different coloured dots, depending on the varying amounts of ultraviolet light.
When light enters the eye through the pupil which expands and contracts to allow sufficient light through, it travels through the lens and is reflected at the retina .The chickens retina can detect not only detect some ultraviolet wavelengths but also has special motion sensors which allow them to see motion in a way that we do not truly understand.
If a chickens eye is viewed side on, you will see that they have a transparent ‘bulge’. This is called the cornea. Did you know that chickens have eyelids? Three infact. They have a nictitating membrane, which is between the other eyelids. It slides sideways over the cornea and cleans and protects the cornea with lubricating fluid from a duct that serves the same purpose as our tears. their bottom eyelid moves up to meet the top one when they close their eyes, but they only close these eyelids when they are sleeping.

If you like science subjects, why not look at our Chicken genetics page and our The Science and Anatomy of an egg page, or browse our The Science of Chickens category.

Chickens Day by Day and month by month

Day To Day Chicken Practices

AM: let the chickens out, feed them (with layers pellet or mash), check grit, change their water and check for eggs.  Clean out the chicken houses if necessary. Dust with mite powder (red mite is a potentially deadly pest and can kill a full grown hen) and replace straw.

PM: check eggs ( essential if not done in morning) and feed chickens (with a handfull of grain) or (a top up of mash or pellets).

At dusk (or the earliest when the chickens go to bed) close their houses and count them.

CHICKENS MONTH BY MONTH

AM: let the chickens out,feed them (with layers pellet or mash), check grit, change their water and check for eggs. Depending on what day it is , clean out the chicken houses. Dust with mite powder (red mite is a potentially deadly pest and can kill a full grown hen) and replace straw.

PM: check eggs( essential if not done in morning) and feed chickens (with a handful of grain.
At dusk (or the earliest when the chickens go to bed) close their houses and count them.

February
If you are purchasing more chickens, now is the time to consider the breed you would like. Why do you want them? Eggs? For showing? Just for appearance? rare and traditional breeds often produce all these traits in one.

March
If you are purchasing more birds, you need to select a suitable house, with dark nestboxes, suitable perches, good ventilation and it must be large enough to accommodate all the bird comfortably.

April
Now is the perfect time to acquire your youngsters. Take a look all around the yard /farm /paddock where the birds are kept.
Do they look stressed? Have they got pale faces? Is the environment suitable?
If you think any hens look in poor condition do not go ahead with the purchase. If they all look good, you can make further considerations.

May
Make sure your new birds travel properly, make sure they don’t get stressed. This involves using suitable transport cages. Food and water should also be on offer, and overly long journeys should be avoided.

June
It is important to supply good food to boost summer production. Feed layers pellets, or mash and give grit. Greens are also important, they supply vitamins and minerals and cause egg yolk to be a rich yellow. Corn can be fed as a treat but do not overfeed as it can lead to overweight birds.

July
During the summer it is extra important that your hens have lots of clean fresh water AT ALL TIMES
During a hot summer hens can become overheated. Symptoms include panting, increased drinking, listlessness and lying on the ground panting.
If a chicken becomes overheated splash cold water on his or her comb and under his or her wings.

August
Look out for red mite (should be done at every time of the year) if you notice these grey (red after their first meal) pests then you need to buy red mite powder or spray A.S.A.P as these mites can kill a fully grown hen (luckily I have never experienced this through routine dusting of the hens, and the house.

September
Now the chickens are moulting, and replacing the old feathers with new winter ones. It is worth adding Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to their feed or water to give them a vitamin and mineral boost. This will help them stay healthy during moulting, which puts lots of strain on the bird.

October
If point of lay hens are still not laying they will begin in spring, or late autumn.
Reddening combs and wattles are signs to look out for when a hen is due to start laying.

November
Now is the time to prepare for winter using a suitable bedding as litter for the paddock, because otherwise you and your chickens will be squelching in the mud! Shavings are absorbent but messy, straw is even easier and does not absorb well, hemp is expensive and hard to find, but absorbent and it deodorises .

December and January
You may need extra warmth in the house, and ice needs cracking twice a day.
Keep feeding grit.
Throughout the year remember to close in the hens every night and count them. Check all ends of the hen house.

When I was a young girl, aged about six my job was to put the hens in and let them out, but eventually my dad started double checking because I once closed the front of the house, while leaving the back open and in the morning one hen was dead in the garden, one had been deposited in front of the door and the last had lost its head but was still half alive, and walked around with only a bloody, bent neck.

That taught me a valuable lesson.

Egg Laying in Chickens


Even as a chick a hen has all the eggs she will ever lay in her ovaries, in an immature form called  rudimentary egg cells (yolks- to- be ).
How quickly this supply is used up depends on breed, feeding, housing and hygiene.
If you use an artificial light to keep your hens laying through the winter their store of rudimentary cells will be used up faster. In her first year, a hen lays the largest amount of eggs that she will ever lay in one year, although the total weight of the eggs she lays stays roughly in her first and second year because in her second year, although the individual number decreases, the size of the eggs increases.

The size of the hen barely affects that of her egg. Take Wyandottes and Dutch
bantams for an example. In the picture the egg above is that of a Wyandotte
while the one below is from a Dutch bantam and Wyandottes are many times
the size of a Dutch bantam.

Colour also varies greatly from white to dark brown with beige, cream, blueish,
Greenish and pinkish at various ends of the spectrum!
In the formation of the egg the pigment is added last.
A yolk is released from the ovary and the albumen (egg white) forms around it, covered with a membrane.
The egg rotates through the body, giving it its form and then the shell is formed.
Last but not least the pigment is added.

There is a time in the year when hens will take a break from laying. Some people switch to cheeper  food because  the hens arent laying, but that is the wrong thing to do. By taking a break, the hens are recharging their batteries, so if anything, they should be fed better food!

You must have an adequate nestbox, or the hens will go and find their own place to lay, sometimes in a bush, or in a hedge or, more frustratingly, under the shed! Nestboxes should have a ‘lip’ at the front to stop the litter spilling out. They should be about 30cm wide and 40cm long. they should have 40cm walls to give the hen privacy, because, hens like quiet, peaceful, dark places to lay.

If you collect eggs daily, your hens shouldn’t get a chance to taste an egg but if they do they will probably start pecking open freshly laid eggs. A dark nestbox helps to prevent this behavior. Once they acquire this habit they are unlikely to stop unless you interfere, you can (most of the time) stop this behaviour by making a hole in an egg, spilling its contents on the nest box floor and adding non-toxic foul tasting liquid like mustard and chilli pepper.

Reduce stress, dont have bright lights around the nestbox. Chickens may also eat eggs because they are not getting enough calcium, so it is worth providing a calcium supplement, in liquid form to add to water, or as oyster shell grit. If this doesn’t work you can make a double bottomed nest box with sloping floor where the egg rolls down a crack to the bottom floor where soft material breaks its fall, so that it is out of the chickens reach.

To find out more about eggs and their anatomy and science click here.

Feeding Chickens – What to Provide and Why

As with all other animals it is important to feed chickens balanced diet.
Many people think of chickens as vegetarian, but i have seen chickens eating insects, worms, slugs, frogs and even pecking at a dead dove. Despite this,chickens should not be fed scraps containing meat.
Scraps and leftovers will not suffice, as although chickens are low maintenance animals they need good food. I disapprove of scraps because they can unbalance the nutrient content of the birds feed. It is often advised not to feed scraps.
When a chicken eats food it fills the crop and in here the food is moistened and then passed into the stomach where the process of digestion is started by digestive juices.
A part called the gizzard then grinds up the food, and does the work teeth would usually do, with the help of grit (this is why grit is such an important part of the diet).
Chickens eat their food to fill their crops, and then graze all day to keep the crop topped up and digestion in motion.
A hen has a maximum capacity of what she can eat so if she fills up on corn and treats all day se will not get her necessary daily nutrition.
Layers pellet
has its advantages and disadvantages for although it promotes good laying with strong egg shells, it is not good for breeding chickens as it does not allow good fertility.
Maize
improves yolk colour, making it a rich golden color but overfeeding it can also cause problems,
Mixed corn
can be fed as part of a healthy diet but should not be fed alone.
Breeders diet
this diet is essential for breeding chickens as it contains all they need for fertility, health and good strong,well formed eggs, as well as the nutrients the chick needs in the egg.
Greens
these are absolutely essential. They add nutrients and make the egg yolk yellower, the hens stronger and healthier.
If your hens have no access to fresh grass you can feed cabbage, lettuce, apple peal etc.
Chicks should be fed Chick crumb which contain the nutrients they need to grow and strengthen.
Growers should be fed Growers pellets for a similar purpose.

If you abide the rules of feeding, avoid letting your birds get stressed, give them shelter and space to roam and ALWAYS let them have access to FRESH, CLEAN water you should have healthy, happy birds.

Chicken Breeding- An Introductory Guide to Breeding Chickens

 

Artificial Hatching

Breeding Flocks

Broodiness

Fertilization

Hatching Without a cockerel

Natural Hatching

Recognizing broodiness

Summary

 

 

Breeding flocks

Whether for home breeding or commercial purposes, if you want your chickens to have chicks you need to choose a good, healthy breeding flock. This involves selecting quality birds, which must be healthy, and must also conform to their breed standard.
You should choose birds that are 100% healthy. Their feathers should be shiny and smooth and they should have clear eyes and nostrils.
The maximum number of hens you can have with one cock depends on the breed. With big placid breeds like Brahmas you can normally keep two to five hens with one cock, while with a light, slender, very active cock you can keep up to ten or even twelve hens!

Chickens must be healthy, and conform to their breed standard before you can even THINK about adding them to your Breeding Flocks.

Fertilization
All hens that are to be used for breeding should be at least one year old as when they are one year of age they reach full maturity and have generally got better hatching and laying rates. Even if they are laying before this age, making them go through the stressfull process of raising chicks may have detrimental effects on their development if they are not yet fully developed.
If your cock becomes infertile, don’t worry, as infertility whether in old or young is normally temporary. It could be that he is too fat and therefore not in good breeding condition. Also, it could have something to do with the time of year. Some cocks are active all year round and others only in the breeding season. If, however, he is infertile for more than a couple of months, especially if he is old, it may be time to consider a new cock.
Mating in chickens is called treading. An active cock is one who mates his hens a lot; a non-active cock is one who doesn’t mate them at all. To tread a hen the cock mounts her and grips her neck feathers. To pass sperm from cock to hen they join sex openings and the hen can then receives the sperm. Many eggs can be fertilized by just one treading, as it is possible for the sperm to stay alive for more than ten days.

Frequently trodden hens often have bare patches on their neck and back where he has ripped her feathers out due to his vigorous activities. This can be remedied by moving the cock to a seperate run for a while, or adding more hens to his flock.
Hatching Eggs
Egg hatching can be done with a broody hen or with an incubator. The latter is an option for mass production, or for people who dont have a broody, while the former is natural and is done by people who keep hens as a hobby.

Artificial Hatching

Some incubators only need water added to keep the embryos moist as they automatically turn the eggs, regulate the temperature and do everything else for you, whereas the more basic incubators require you  to turn the eggs and set temperature yourself. It is helpful to mark the eggs with a cross on one side and a circle on the other so that you know which side to tun them onto.
Eggs should be turned over the pointed end three times a day so that the embryos don’t stick to the shell. This should be done to all eggs that are intended for hatching, even if they are just being stored in boxes. It is best to place the eggs with the tip pointing inwards. Once the eggs have been put in leave the incubator lid on all the time unless you are turning the eggs. In many incubators, there will be two water compartments in the middle. Fill one of them up but leave the other. In others, there may be only one. Fill this up part of the way, as instructed (in instruction manual).

Eight days into the incubation period it is useful to find out if the eggs are fertilized.You can find out using a candling lamp, a specialist lamp that you can buy either from incubator specialists or an animal feeds merchant. Candling lamps should be used in a very dark spot, otherwise you cant see anything! Hold the lamp against the egg. If you see a dark spot that moves away from the light, you’ve got a live embryo. Sometimes all you see is a dark spot but other times you see a maze of blood vessels. If you see a spot of blood it could either be a dead embryo or an infertile egg (in which case the spot of blood is probably the ‘meat spot’ which is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel during the eggs formation in the hen.) All infertile (clear) or dead (blood ring, blood spot, dark ‘thing’ sticking to the shell*,) eggs should be disposed of (best on the compost where they will be broken down).

*There is an exception to this. sometimes these can be live embryos, the dark thing being the vitelline membrane ( full of veins and arteries), which resembles the placenta in humans. If this is the case you will see a dark spot move away from the light within the dark ”thing”.

Two days before the chicks are due, stop moving the eggs and fill the second compartment with water to aid hatching. This will cause more humidity to build up in the incubator. This is essential for the chicks to pip.
Be patient, as hatching can take as long as two days, so if they are a day too early or too late don’t worry!
There are two membranes in an egg, one inside the shell and the other around the chick.
When hatching, the chick rolls around and takes the yolk sacks and blood vessels inside it. If a chick is having difficulties, some people help them while others are strongly against it, for they say if the chick is weak it should be left to destiny. If you think any of your chicks are weak do not try to help them out by cracking the shell in any place because if they have not done their rolling antics, it makes it all even harder, if not impossible!

For twenty-four hours after hatching chicks can live without food. This does not mean that you should not give them food, once they are dry and in a box they should have access to food!!! It is best to leave the chicks in the incubator until they are totally dry.
Your chicks may start lying around in strange positions because they need to rest and they don’t know immediately how to lie properly. Once they are totally dry, carefully put them into a box with shallow sawdust, a very shallow bowl of water and a shallow rimmed food tray. They should have an infra red lamp and a shelter under the lamp where they can get warmth and shade.
Eventually, with time the chicks will get the hang of standing, grooming and lying down!
Broodiness
Having a broody hen has many advantages over artificial hatching. Whereas, among other things, a hen can teach her chicks how to survive an incubator is just a humming machine. The temperature in an incubator can fluctuate or there could be a powercut, ending the embryos life. Despite this incubators have their own advantages, chicks can be hatched without a broody hen and through lots of handling, the chicks also become much tamer.

Breeding Without a cockerel:

Believe it or not, this can be done. You need a broody hen, suitable housing, time and patience, but not a cockerel! How does this work? You buy hatching eggs! These should be bought from a reputable breeder. They shoukd also NOT be purchased online, and certainly NOT from eBay. You should ensure the eggs are not older than 7 days, and dont get them ent through the post! Even if they all come through in one piece, they will have taken a battering during transport, from which they will never recover, regardless of the amount of ”Fragile. Handle with care” notices the box is adorned with!!!
How to recognise Broodiness

  • A broody hen sits on the nest for long periods of time sometimes refusing to leave it.
  • Being aggressive to other hens or her handler.
  • Certain parts of the abdomen and breast become featherless (‘brood patches’).
  • She makes ‘clucking’ noises.
  • She puffs herself up when anyone or anything approaches

Natural Hatching
Using a broody hen to hatch eggs is an easy option, for all you have to do is wait (and of course, tend to the hen).
It is best to separate a broody hen from the rest as otherwise other hens will come and lay more and more eggs and they will get mixed up and your hen will sit on far too many eggs, which will all be due for different dates, so when her first chicks hatch, there will be lots more half brooded eggs!
Keeping two or more broodies in the same cage is no good either as they may start steal each other’s eggs and chicks!!!

Broody hens should have access to food and water at all times. It is ideal to keep them in an ”ark” house, that is low to the ground, so that they can have access to a bit of leg stretching space, and room for the chicks to explore without getting mixed up with the other chickens.

SUMMARY!

  • Only breed from healthy birds
  • If you have not got a cockerel, but do have a broody hen, you can buy hatching eggs.
  • Always read your incubator manual if you choose to use one
  • Broody hen are the most natural way to raise chicks
  • A broody must have food and water at all times!
  • Goodluck, and have fun!

And lastly, have fun with your chickens, whether it is to breed, for eggs or for exhibition!!!

Why not take a look at our other chicken care pages, they are loaded with information that you will need and treasure when you keep your own birds!

Chicken fancier Mecca – National Poultry Show Stoneleigh

One of the most important dates on the calendar of Chicken fanciers and other poultry keeper is the national poultry show organised by the poultry club of Great Britain. This years poultry show takes place on Saturday 28th of November at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

Apart from the fact that you will have the opportunity to see over 5,000 birds, there will be stalls selling chickens of various shapes, sizes and breeds and poultry equipment and accessories will be on display as well. If you have birds you think are up to show standards, this is also the opportunity to enter your chicken into competition. It is usually an all day even so you need to come well prepared. You can find out more information about the poultry show at The Poultry club website.

Wyandotte Chickens

Wyandotte chickens originate from the United States of America, in Wyandotte. The first variation of this breed was seen in the 1870s. The breed was developed by four breeders and was named American Sebright, but was later re-christened as the wyandotte that we know today, after its place of origin.

Today they are popular for their egg laying capabilities and their table qualities.

A fully grown Wyandotte cockerel weighs around 3.2kg  and a hen weighs about 2.95kg. The bantam variety of the Wyandotte breed is smaller and cockerels weigh about 1.7kg while hens weigh around 1.3kg.

This breed comes in varied colours, some of which are partridge, blue, barred, birchen, blue red, lemon blue, black, buff , white, gold lace , pyle, lavender, columbian silver, silver pencilled, blue lace, gold pencilled, and silver lace. Wyandottes look attractive with wide saddles, medium length back, full breasts, prominent eyes, broad heads and medium necks with full feathers. They have reddish bay eyes, a rose comb sitting low on the head. Red comb whattles and earlobes The tail is carried somewhere between the horizontal and the vertical. They have yellow legs and are made up of smooth curves. They have even, well placed proportions and have good depth of bone.

The features of Wyandotte chickens are that they are great layers but are also fairly large with good table qualities. They are calm, docile and friendly and make good pets. They become tame easily and are suitable for children. They are as atractive and at home in the showring as in the garden . They have excellent egg producing capabilities, during the first year, these hens will to lay about 200 eggs, but an exceptional hen can lay up to 240 eggs.

These hens are also excellent broodies and make good mothers. They are very determined and will sit if they decide to sit.
These chickens are best allowed to roam freely in the garden or in a big pen, as they are quite large, but gardeners beware, if they are overcrowded, they can just as easily trample a lawn as they can rampage flower beds. They survive even in cold climates because they are pretty hardy but white feathering can quickly become yellow, then brown.

The bantam variation is lighter, does no damage to lawns unless overcrowded and does less rampaging through your flower borders. They are simply minature versions of the large variation but their eggs are larger than their larger counterpart. Not in the way of size, but in the way of proportion to the hens body.

If you are after your first chickens, I recommend you go for wyandottes, if you are a first time exhibitor, then these birds are also recommended.