Selling hatching eggs to point of lay hens.
I have kept poultry for more years than I care to remember. My father kept about 50 hens when we were children and I can recall being very cross aged about 4 years old when I wasn’t allowed to collect the eggs because it was past my bedtime.
One of the great advantages of laying hens is that they can be looked after by young children. The excitement of collecting newly laid eggs from your own hens and selling the surplus eggs is very often the first transaction that a child makes to earn some pocket money, and seems to make more sense than keeping hamsters,rabbits or guinea pigs, as it provides some really nourishing food at the same time.
We moved to Lower Brockaly in 1986 and for about 15 years I bought point of lay Maran and Maran X Welsummer hens and supplied our local grocery store. The owner was so impressed with the lovely dark brown eggs I supplied that he hid them and only sold them to select customers, mainly members of the local W.I. for baking their cakes. This arrangement continued for several years until 3 things happened. The first was that the shop changed hands: secondly that Edwina Currie decreed that all egg suppliers had to become registered packing stations and have their eggs tested for salmonella and thirdly that the man supplying my pullets died.
It soon became clear that to obtain Cuckoo Maran hens of the quality that I had been buying was going to be difficult, so I decided to start hatching my own replacements.
In 2003 I was lucky to find a pen of 5 really smart medium sized cuckoo Maran hens at a local poultry sale, and in 2004 I started hatching their eggs. I now keep about 30 Cuckoo Maran hens and only the very best eggs are put in the incubator, and all the surplus eggs go to a local farm shop. Between February and August hatching eggs will be available, and will be collected shortly before being despatched.
I have been involved in agriculture nearly all my working life and I have tried to bring the same rules and objectives to poultry breeding that I used when breeding pedigree cattle and sheep.
The first and probably the most important is to use the very best males that you can afford whether they are bulls, rams or cockerels, after all they are responsible for half your stock.
I believe that to keep my poultry healthy and vigorous it is vital to use cockerels that are unrelated. The genetic base of a rare breed such as the Norfolk Grey is so narrow that it is quite challenging sometimes but it is still important.
I have also tried to ensure that the breeds that I keep are as true to type as possible. Far too often at poultry sales there are birds from breeds such as Cuckoo Marans and Cream Legbars that bear no resemblance to those breed standards, and buyers then wonder why they produce poor eggs.
Feeding and Housing
Much has been written about feeding and housing. A quality feed is essential together with access to grit for laying hens. Much of the average household waste is unsuitable but green vegetables are particularly good in winter months when grass is scarce.
Most of the breeding stock live in modified garden sheds, both new and re-conditioned, giving them plenty of air space. I re-roof them with onduline, and by using plastic nestboxes, and stokbord floors reduce the chances of red mite.
I keep all my laying hens “free range” within extensive pens and all young stock is reared with access to grass runs giving them plenty of natural food.
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