We’ve taken the plunge, and committed to buy a breeding four of Ixworth chickens.
The picture was commissioned by the creator of the Ixworth breed, Reginald Appleyard, from the artist Whippell. It shows his ideal Ixworth pair. I’ll be able to post an actual picture of ours when we pick them up in late August.
Of the breeds of chicken available, I’d quite fancied some Ixworths, which somehow match my idea of a traditional English chicken. Reginald Appleyard began the development of the breed in the village of Ixworth in Suffolk and finally finished in 1939. The idea was to create a quickly maturing table breed, which also produced a good number of eggs – a so-called dual purpose chicken. He used the White Old English Game, Jubilee Indian Game, White Sussex, White Orpington and White Minorca to create this new breed and the combination has produced a fine white skinned, broad-breasted bird for the table. The plumage is always white and the birds have a pea comb, orange to red eyes, pinky-white legs and beak. They are only slightly behind the Light Sussex in egg production and egg weight, but the taste of the meat is said to be the best of all the English breeds.
The story of our purchase is this. On Sunday we went to Bury St Edmunds on a family visit. I’d found a reference to a breeder of Ixworth chickens who was based in Welnetham (say well-KNEE-thumb) close by. All I had was his name and phone number, and it seemed a bit of a cheek to ask to see him on a Sunday afternoon, so we thought we’d just go via the village on our way home and see what we could see.
We found the place easily enough, and were admiring the various breeds a respectful distance from the electric fence when the man himself turned up for his afternoon visit. I ran back to move the car which was blocking his gate, and apologised. He couldn’t have been more welcoming, and showed us round the various pens, including Light Sussex, Welsummers, and Wheaten Marans. We ended up buying his “end of this season” Ixworth breeding flock. They’re a year old, but will continue to be productive for two more years. They are handsome birds indeed, and in super condition. We’re very much looking forward to collecting them, which we’ll do after the coop and run are properly assembled in mid-August.
One thing that we were told, and I’m sure is correct. It’s well worth getting good quality stock, even if they’re a few quid more. It’s tempting to pick up bargains from auctions or on eBay, but the results of buying poor or sickly birds more than negates the small saving.