We have various poultry at Wild Farm including chickens, guinea fowl, peahens, bantams and geese. They are all free range and spend a lot of time finding their own food although we supplement their diet with wheat. Because of their free ranging nature we are always searching for the latest nest of eggs!
Below is a short description of all the different types of poultry we keep:
Sebright bantams are among the most eye-catching birds in the world of poultry in both their varieties. The Silver Sebright is a white bird with black lacing on all its feathers. The Gold has the black lacing on a base color of golden brown. The cock birds are slightly bigger than the hens. The cock birds have a rose comb.
The Sebright is one of the true bantams. That means there is no standard (large) version of the breed. The breed was developed by Sir John Sebright early in the 1800s and has the distinction of being the only breed of chicken named after an individual.
We have both golden and silver Sebrights. They are quite susceptible to the cold so their hen house is within one of our large barns for extra insulation. During the day we let them out and they spend day either outside in nice sunny weather or scratching around inside the barn on cold wet days.
The hens are fairly good sitters but once the chicks are hatched they are susceptible to being pecked by others. A hen with chicks is best kept away from the main group. We sometimes collect eggs in the spring and set them under a normal bantam to hatch out. This can be very successful.
They are purely ornamental, pretty to look at and watch and fun to raise from chicks. We always have Golden and Silver Sebrights for sale, breeding pairs from £50.
The Maran was one of the last breeds of chicken to be introduced to the UK. It was developed in France in the town of Marans in the mid 1800s. It was developed for both its meat and eggs. The eggs started to be imported to the UK by a London wholesaler. The dark brown eggs soon caught on and became very popular which led to British farmers breeding the Maran.
We like our Marans because of their beautiful dark brown eggs and being free ranging the egg itself is delicious to eat too. The hens are not very broody so last spring we set maran eggs in an incubator and hatched out chicks. So now we will have plenty of hens this spring for a daily supply of dark brown eggs, if we can find where they are laying.
The light Sussex has a white body with a black tail and black wing tips, its neck is white striped with black and has a very striking appearance.
The Sussex chicken is an alert, docile breed that can adapt to any surrounding, they are comfortable in both free range or confined spaces. The Sussex was bred to be a dual purpose bird and is one of the most productive breeds of poultry. They lay large eggs that are cream to light brown in colour.
The Sussex chicken was created around 1900 in the county of Sussex, England. The original colours were the Brown, Red and Speckled.. The Sussex breed has made a great contribution to the poultry industry and is even an ancestor to the modern broiler. Sussex is one of the oldest breeds of chicken that still exists today.
At present we only have a small group of light Sussex. They are very endearing and the cockerel is a real Ďgentlemaní, never aggressive and always calling the other hens in to feed before he does.
Bantam crosses/Heinz 57 variety.
These are the cleverest birds we have at Wild Farm. They are a mixture of breeding and colouring and the best at raising chicks. As soon as spring arrives they are off looking for somewhere to lay eggs, sit and hatch out a brood. If we can find their nest then we use them as broody hens to raise eggs from other poultry including our Sebrights, Marans, Light Sussex and Guinea fowl. The bantam hens seem to be completely unfazed by the strange chicks that they manage to hatch out. They are very attentive of their chicks, deeply defensive and will stay with them till they are fully feathered and roosting at night.
Guinea Fowl originally come from Africa, but have been bred for food in many countries for hundreds of years. The many different varieties have been caused by cross-breeding over the years. In some countries Guinea Fowl are still seen in the wild, hunted in the same way as pheasant or partridge are in the UK.The domesticated Guinea Fowl which are popular in this country are called helmeted Guinea Fowl.
There is quite a lot of colour variation in our flock of Guinea fowl at Wild Farm, including lavender, dark grey and light grey. They live alongside the hens quite happily, roosting in the hen house at night. They are socially exclusive however going about the farm in pairs or as a group, making a lot of chattering noise if there is a stranger about! Itís their incessant noise that puts lots of people off from having them!
They are absolutely useless when it comes to breeding. All the hens seem to lay eggs in one nest, which is well hidden in vegetation. Then one hen tries to sit on anything up to 100 eggs! Strangely enough she invariably fails to hatch anything. The only way to successfully raise guinea fowl is to set their eggs under a broody bantam and make sure when they hatch the bantam is in a secure place away from interference. Guinea fowl chicks are quite frail, have a pathetic cheep and the mother bantam sometimes gives up on them if they canít Ďkeep upí.
We have had geese at Wild Farm for years. I canít recall where they originally came from but each year they lay lovely big eggs which we generally collect and eat, although we have allowed them to raise goslings in the past too.
From their colours and forms we have I suspect we have Embdens and Grey backs. The Embden originated in Germany, but is a popular breed in the UK. There are many varieties of commercial geese which are white, but these are generally smaller and easier to breed because they have been developed as commercial crosses for a high output. The true UK Embden has a proud stature and reaches a metre in height. Ganders weigh 28-34lbs and females can reach 28lbs.
Buff Backs are pied geese. 'Pied' is a typical European colour pattern produced by the 'spot' gene, and is popular in many countries surrounding the North Sea and Baltic. In the UK 'spot' geese are called the Grey Back and Buff Back. There are differences in size and shape between the regions, but the 'spot' colour-pattern is the same throughout
They pair for life geese and I suspect some of ours went into Ďretirementí some years ago. It would probably be a good idea to get some new young stock in sometime. Although geese are often aggressive thankfully ours are not, probably because they have such a large area to roam around.