The end of November normally marks a visit to the NEC for the Motorcycle Show, but this year we went to the National Poultry Show instead, because of our new interest in chickens.
What a super day out. We arrived in time for the opening at 10am, and didn’t leave until chucking out time at 5pm. This could easily become a diary fixture.
The show occupied two large halls at Stoneleigh, which used to host the Royal Show. The centres of both halls were filled with row upon row of cages containing not only chickens and bantams, but ducks, geese, and even turkeys. We made our way to the Rare Breeds section to find the Ixworths. Sure enough, one male and two females. When we returned later, they hadn’t won a prize, but it was nice to see “our” breed represented. Plus, I had a sneaking (but almost certainly incorrect) feeling that our cock and senior hen were rather better specimens than those on display!
The highlight of the show for us was the programme of lectures. There were four lectures during the day, on chicken husbandry, diseases, waterfowl, and incubation. We actually attended 3 out of the 4 (not the waterfowl). Because we’re beginners, we got a lot from the talks. The husbandry and incubation talks were given by Andy Marshall, who writes the Poultryman’s Diary in Practical Poultry. He’s very experienced and knowledgable, with a most relaxed presentation style. We were particularly amused when he took a mobile phone call from his daughter half way through the first talk. The diseases talk was delivered by Martin Smith, from Westpoint Veterinary Group. The post-mortem pictures of worms were enough to terrify anyone into remembering to medicate their chickens properly.
The Poultry Club obviously hadn’t reckoned on the lectures being as popular as they were. The lecture theatre was quite a small room, with only a couple of dozen seats. I guess that each talk had an audience of at least 50, with many more turned away because even the standing room at the back was overcrowded.
In between the lectures we looked at more chickens. Some are quite handsome like this Norfolk Grey
Norfolk Greys are another general purpose rare breed like the Ixworth. I mustn’t be tempted into branching out before we’re even established with one breed.
This is a Dominique. Given the mating habits of chickens, maybe his name is Strauss-Kahn.
Some birds only their mothers could love. This is a Transylvanian Naked Neck. It does look a bit vampire-like, I must say.
And some are rare breeds indeed in the UK. This is a Swedish Black Fowl or Svart Höna.
I was a bit thrown by the reference to Sweden’s northwest coast, since northwest Sweden is a land border with Norway. But as this site Svart Höna makes clear, they mean just north of Gothenburg. So it’s not from the really frozen north.
Early on we noticed a queue forming, but for what we couldn’t quite make out. Later on the queue had vanished, and we realised that there’s a sales section. It’s clearly the place to buy really good quality birds. Breeding trios of Light Sussex for £65 and upwards, for example, so by no means extortionate.
So all in all a great day, with a nice atmosphere. Chicken people are very friendly. We chatted to other couples over a cup of tea in the cafeteria, and they told us about their chicken keeping experiences. And we encountered Alison Wilson, who’d given our meat chickens course, and who was on one of the trade stands.
Ah yes, the trade stands. Poultry housing and accessories, veterinary services, poultry feeds, websites, pictures, second-hand books (I was particularly taken by the title of one, “Netherland Dwarfs”. Turns out to be a kind of pet rabbit.)
I managed to resist buying anything until the last hour. And there, in one corner, was a stand for Grandpa’s Feeders. Now our chickens hadn’t taken to the treadle feeder that I bought, but those in the know on the forums absolutely swear by these Grandpa’s Feeders. They’re a pretty steep price, but the show discount was a good one, so …
I have to say that it’s rather beautifully made, and holds a decent amount of pellets. All that remains is for our chickens to get used to it. When I let them out this morning I left a little food in the hanging feeder so that they didn’t go hungry, but when that’s gone there’s only one source of grub. I’ll be going down later to check.