Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wild and Wet Devon

Oh great trepidation, the first weekend of leaving the "girls" alone. Off to spend a weekend in Devon with our lovely friends David and Sylvia we had to call on the assistance of our neighbours to be chicken minders over the weekend. Needless to say after a crash course in poultry care and management we were more than happy to head off to the West Country full of confidence (but we did leave lots of phone numbers.....).
Of course the weather forecast for the entire weekend was dire with torrential rain, warnings of flood and gales - you guessed it, no Indian Summer.

Still, despite the weather David and Sylvia are more than ready for an adventure so despite the downpours we headed off to the Devonshire Traditional Breeds Centre near Crediton. Having checked out the website before they advertised a good range of poultry breeds, accessories and some farm animals as well. If nothing else it would be a good opportunity to look at lots of different chickens.

Set in the ground of a lovely farm the best thing is that its totally free to wander around so armed with pots of corn at a very well priced 50p we headed (umbrellas at the ready) into the grounds.

Of course, it is completely understandable that we headed into the grounds the heavens did indeed open, and rain it did, and more and more to the point that even the ducks were getting bored with it!

In the brief moments when the rain stopped, meteorology decided to baffle us further and bathed us in brief glimpses of the sun so some of the pictures to not really equate to the drenching we got. Additionally it was only with bribery of lots of corn that we

managed to get the chickens to show themselves as they had the sense to stay indoors anyhow we did tempt a few foolish fowl out into their pens.

We did see quite a few breeds, some would not be tempted, other pens had recently been emptied as the Centre was having an end of season change about. I have to say that the pens were in very good condition after a breeding season and lots of usage and additionally so was the stock. Of course, some of the girls were a bit tatty, they had eggs and chicks to produce and had started to

moult but all the birds we saw were very healthy looking.

Anyway, for the birds that we did see, it did confirms that I don't really like the feather legged breeds generally.

So what did we like. Above and opposite are Japanese bantams. Truly lovely little birds that I didn't think would like but they really had presence.

We were very impressed with these little chickens, I'm fairly sure they are silver quail Barbu d'Anvers (Antwerp Belgian bantams). They were splendid birds but seemed excellent escape artists as they seemed to appear all over the place and had got the idea of following you with menace if you had a corn pot.

As you can see - all the birds were keenly watched during breaks in the rain. Unfortunately we didn't get good shots of the large breeds but the Orpingtons were great (at least three breeds)

Fairly sure that these are quail Barbu d'Anvers, also known as Antwerp Belgian bantams >>

These are a "bearded" breed and one of the oldest bantams as there is no large variant so can be classed as a true bantam as opposed to a dwarf breed. There is a depiction of a Barbu d'Anvers in a seventeenth century painting so they have been around a while.
So a couple of things to note.

  • They are a good laying breed apparently but obviously due to their size the eggs are not exactly large.

  • The males get very feisty during the breeding season and also are championship quality crowers so maybe not the first choice for the city garden.

These guys opposite are more Barbu d'Anvers, this time of the porcelain type.

And finally below, what I thought was my favourite of the day - White Pekin bantams. I know, before you say it, they are a feather legged breed but goodness me what gorgeous little hens. Despite the weather they looked stunning and really brightened up a very grey and cloudy day. Below is a pic of these lovely birds

So - all in all if you are in Devon (and preferably in the spring and summer) the Devonshire Traditional Breeds Centre is a definate to visit. Additionally there is a great shop that sells everything from chicken feeders and feeds, books, magazines, range of poultry related goods as well as having goods from the farm such as beef, lamb and of course free-range chicken (well those cock birds have to go somewhere I guess and they would have had a wonderful life). Also of note was the brilliant cafe and the staff who were amazingly friendly, chatty and informative. Check out the website which is in my links.

A big thank you to Sylvia and David, wonderful hosts who took on the chicken challenge in the rain and also to Rob and Isabella for being such good chicken minders in our absence.

1 comment:

Cheri said...

Oh Johnnie! How Brilliant!!! Spectacular!!! And yes, book be a flight to see your beautiful "Wild and Wet Devon" collection ASAP. Quite lovely, well documented and a pleasure to view. When I'm ready to do a website, I elect you to assemble it.

On another note, I too missed you and Jo in Antwerp. I heard your presentations were great and I was so sorry to hear about your bout with food poisioning. I hope all is well with the GI Tract by now...and may you stay well too.

Love and hugs to you and your hubby and all the brood,