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New course! Introduction to Keeping Chickens. Limited places.

On Saturday July 28th, 1pm to 4pm, right here on the Farm, we’ll be running an “Introduction to Keeping Chickens” course for anyone thinking of getting their own chickens. No existing knowledge required. We’ll cover everything you need to think about and plan for, with advice on choosing breeds, on what equipment you’ll need to buy, and how to look after your chickens. The three-hour course will include plenty of hands-on time learning how to handle chickens safely and confidently. It’ll be a hen party, but you’ll be left with a great feeling (and handouts) instead of a hangover. £25 per person, children over 7 welcome. Includes refreshments. To make sure everyone has lots of chicken-time, there’ll be just 8 places. Book early!

The course will be run by Nick Golson, Farm Manager, RAU graduate and chicken-liker. 

What the course will cover:

Thinking it all through: reasons to keep chickens, commonly asked questions

What you need in terms of housing and equipment, how to deal with foxes, what to feed

How to choose and buy the chickens: hybrids, pure breeds, bantams

How to get them home and settle them in

The daily, weekly and monthly routine

Pest control and predators

Seasonal care

Behaviour

Eggs

Basic anatomy, general health and health problems

When to call the vet

 

 

Nick’s Birdland

Yesterday we had our final unveiling of a new sign and plaque for our finished duck area. This marks the completion of the long labour of love with rebuilding our chicken enclosures, aviaries and new duck pond, a project which started in early 2015. 

Our old chicken area was just about clinging on, but with many years of bodges and improvised repairs, it was starting to suffer a bit to say the least, so the plan was to demolish the whole thing, plan a new layout and make much better use of the space. Ultimately we’d end up moving all the aviaries out to the front as well, including Edna the owl and our canaries and finches! 

As with many things, and especially being a small charity, funds is always something we have to be aware of. It was during one such appeal for help that we were contacted by Brian & Sally, who have been of immense help during this project. They got in touch wanting to contribute to create a lasting memorial for his son, Nick, who passed away in 2000. His love of animals and their input has helped shape the latter half of our re-build.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NICK’S BIRDLAND

Our son Nick died in 2000 following a long battle against testicular cancer. He was 23 years old. In the years following his death we have looked at different ways of creating a lasting memorial to him and have waited to find the right opportunity.

Then in August 2015, having seen an appeal by Deen City Farm for funds to create a new duck pond area, we met with the Farm managers and agreed to sponsor the development. We also funded the new aviary, additional chicken enclosures, Edna’s owl house and the chick hatchery which are next to the new duck pond.

This wonderful area represents Nick’s love of animals and the musical notes in the mural on the back wall of the duck pond speak of his great interest in music.
We have called the area NICK’S BIRDLAND and we hope all visitors to the Farm will appreciate and enjoy this special place.

We wish to thank all the staff and volunteers at the Farm for the tireless commitment and effort which has brought this project to fruition.

Brian Dillon

 

 

Incubating with Netmums

Easter’s over, now if only the sun would come back and warm everything up again, brr!

A big thank you to everyone who came down to visit, it was a very busy two weeks. All the animals (and staff I’m sure) will be glad to have a little bit of calm before May half term. During Easter, as well as our popular Hug A Lamb with Edgar and Eleanor (who are now back to living with the rest of the sheep, their work is done!) and Animal Handling in the marquee we had some new chick arrivals!

If you happen to follow NetMums on Facebook, you might have seen a familiar logo on an incubator during one of their live streams a few weeks ago. We had started incubating some of our chicken eggs to test everything before we begin our School Incubator Scheme next term, when NetMums got in touch wanting to broadcast it on their Facebook page. Given that we already had some on the go, it made sense to go with it!

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Out of the 10 eggs, only about half of them were fertile. And of course, after saying how good chickens are at hatching on the dot on day 21 of incubation, most of them decided to hatch a day early, leaving us with one lone egg on live stream day! If you want to watch the hatching process, you can see the video on their Facebook page here. The hatching process takes a long time, so if you want to skip to the interesting parts, have a look from 1:30:00 onward. 

The chicks are now housed in our Incubation Shed – the newest part of the renovations to our bird area at the entrance side of the farm. They’re still a bit too small to go outside, so have to stay with a heat lamp for now, but hopefully in a few weeks and when the weathers warmer they’ll be able to come outside properly.

On the topic of incubating though, in the next two weeks we’ll be starting our School Incubator Scheme (which is already fully booked for this academic year!). In another month and a half we’ll be welcoming back all the chicks that various local schools have hatched, so there’ll be plenty to see! If you’re interested in buying chickens to keep, whilst we don’t have any for sale at the moment, we will do in a few months time! 

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Year of the Rooster!

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Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, and this year, it’s the Year of the Rooster. Of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, this is one we can definitely get behind. Whilst we might not have any amazing Lion dances and parades, it does seem like an opportune moment to talk about our most vocal member of the farm!

Whilst the Chinese term is a bit more generic, and refers to any kind of farmyard fowl, male or female, in English, rooster (or cockerel) is used exclusively for male chickens. We have three permanent cockerel residents, one of each of the different kinds of breed we keep, living with their respective hens.

The large, orangey brown chickens are the Buff Orpingtons, the small dainty black and white chickens are Silver Spangled Hamburgs and the brown, faintly barred chickens with the majestic looking cockerel are the Cream Legbars.

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Unlike some of the other animals, when it comes to chickens the males and females are easy to tell apart – the technical term for it is sexual dimorphism. Next time you’re down at the farm, have a look in each enclosure and see if you can tell which one’s which. Cockerels are often identifiable by looking at;

  • Their size – they’re usually bigger and bulkier then the hens.
  • Their comb & wattle – one of the first things you might notice is the bigger red bits on their heads. The combs sit on top and the wattle hangs below their beaks.
  • Tail feathers – though not always the case, the cockerels will often have bigger, longer, fancier looking tail feathers.
  • Spurs – with older, well established cockerels, have a look at their feet. You might notice a big, extra claw on each leg – this is a spur, they’ll use them for fighting!
  • Different colour feathers – as with the tail feathers, sometimes, but not always, the males might have slightly different colours, patterns or even look completely different!
  • Listen – the cockerels will crow, they can be very loud when they want too!

 

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There’s only one cockerel in each pen, the reason being that they can be very territorial and strict with their flock hierarchy or pecking-order! If there’s more than one cockerel they’ll often fight to find out who’s the boss – not particularly enjoyable when you’re in an enclosed space with nowhere to hide, so to keep it simple and safe, we have one cockerel to multiple hens.

If you’re keeping hens yourself and just want to be able to collect eggs, you don’t even need to keep a cockerel. Hens will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a cockerel at all, however they won’t be fertile, meaning that you’ll never be able to incubate them to hatch chicks. If you’re just after laying hens for eggs though, that’s no problem at all! At Deen City Farm we use our own eggs for our Incubator Schemes, so it’s important for us to have fertile eggs (otherwise we’d have a lot of very disappointed school children!).

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Re-homing Chickens

Sadly every year, without fail, we have people asking if we’ll re-home their unwanted hens or cockerels, or even worse, illegally dumped on our site. We are not a re-homing or rescue centre, we’re a working farm with  – first and foremost – our own poultry and animals to care for.

If you are thinking about rearing chicks or hatching your own chickens, please do consider the (very likely) eventuality that you will wind up with cockerels, and that they will fight with each other and will crow from dawn until dusk! If in doubt, it’s much safer to buy point-of-lay hens from a respectable keeper.

Chickens can make a wonderful addition to any garden and can be fun animals to have around; as with any animal you take on, you have a duty of care towards it, so it’s important to think long and hard about it before you make any decisions!

New things at the Farm!

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Our new rare breed poultry enclosures were opened by the Mayor of Merton, Cllr David Chung today!

A massive thank you to the many staff and volunteers who have worked around the clock to get them built, as well as the Grange Farm Centre Trust and the Charlotte Heber-Percy Charitable Trust for helping to fund the project.

More enclosures will be appearing over the summer as we continue to redevelop the area, so why not pay us a visit and see the chickens enjoying their ‘free range’ home!

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More enclosures will be appearing over the summer as we continue to redevelop the area, so why not pay us a visit and see the chickens enjoying their ‘free range’ home!

And, as if that’s not enough, we have also installed a new hand washing point at the Farm.

Funded by Circle Housing Merton Priory, the new sink is located in the picnic area, near the play ground, making it even easier to wash your hands after feeding the animals!

 

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We are open from 10am-4pm please book your visit to guarantee entry.