True Bantams

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Fri, 08/03/2018 - 16:25


What is a “True” Bantam Chicken?

Bantam chickens have been created from existing breeds that were originally far larger and as such are smaller versions of their larger counterparts. The bantam Barnevelder for instance, looks just like the large fowl, only around a third of the size. 

This is thanks too two genes that cause miniaturisation and painstaking breeding by fanciers which has aloud them to breed smaller but otherwise identical chickens. This is not the case with true bantams as there was not a larger version to start from and alot of the true bantams are older than most modern breeds of chicken.

Another distinguishing feature of the true bantams is the are exclusively for the show bench and although the eggs are edible they do not produce many and they are very small. Below is a Serama.

a serama true bantam

True bantam breeds have no large version of the same breed, unlike how Poodles of the dog world have a closely related larger relative. They’re the few chickens that only come in Extra Small with no large fowl counterpart.

Are your chicks are sick or unwell?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sat, 09/08/2018 - 11:06


How do you know if your chicks are sick or unwell?

So you have bought or hatched a batch of gorgeous fluffy little chicks and now one or two have died and a few others are looking a bit peeky and unwell.

Like all conditions and afflictions that affect chicks at the various stages of their lives they are all better prevented than treated. 

When treating sick chicks it is advisable to skip the home remedies as conditions often progress very fast in young chicks.

Affected baby chickens will appear dull, drowsy and lifeless and may sleep more than usual . Conditions affecting the lungs will cause panting and gasping. They may flop down and show weakness on one side or in the legs.

2 healthy chicks

This is very important : - Do not confuse a warm chick that will pant to cool itself and one that is gasping for breath. The former will pant a little like a dog with an upright stance and the second will have laboured breathing with the head outstretched in front to open the airways. 

With a panting chick you will see a rapid flutter of the chest as it breathes fast and shallow and a chick with problems breathing will struggle to take deeper breaths.

What I learned hatching eggs naturally with a Broody Hen:

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:48


Advice for hatching eggs naturally with a Broody Hen:

Each year I hatch around a thousand chicks a year across 22 breeds and I make use of both broody hens and incubators.

Hatching eggs naturally is simply using a hen in the motherly way to incubate the eggs until they hatch and then look after the chicks. The maternal instinct is strong with chickens, more so in some breeds than others.

It takes the same amount of time to hatch eggs naturally as it does in an artificial incubator. Below is a mother hen with a clutch of naturally reared chicks.

a free range hen with naturally reared chicks

There are a great many advantages to the backyard flock keeper of using broody hens to raise youngstock. These could just as easily be duck or guinea fowl eggs, they do not have to be chicken eggs although that is the norm.

Hen eggs normally hatch naturally after 21 days, though the larger eggs sometimes take a little longer. And don't forget the "counting" starts 12 hours after the eggs are first put under, so really that is 21 and a half anyway! The hatch sometimes is completed with 24 hours, but can take 2 days.

Marans, care and keeping of the brown egg layer.

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:21


Marans, always with the "s" at the end, are a rare French breed originating in Marans, France. It is incorrect to refer to a single bird as a "Maran" but rather a single bird is referred to as a "Marans."

The Marans is a breed of chicken originating in France. It is a medium breed compared to others, popular for poultry shows and is a dual purpose fowl known both for its extremely dark eggs as well as for its very fine meat qualities. The Marans has been bred and selected for generations for it’s hardiness, it’s appealing white flesh and glorious dark brown eggs.

The dark brown Marans eggs were Ian Flemings favourite breakfast eggs which his housekeeper procured from a relative, so in his novels he wrote that James Bond 007 liked his eggs boiled for 3 1/3 minutes.

dep brown marans eggs

The deep brown chocolate eggs of the marans chicken.

Of all the different breeds of chickens I've raised, Marans are the cleanest and most docile. They rarely soil their nest boxes. I have never had an aggressive Marans rooster, and I grow out quite a few each year to select my breeders.

What are the downsides of raising backyard chickens?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sun, 08/12/2018 - 18:47


Backyard or urban chickens may be a fast growing movement across the USA and indeed many other countries as well, but people have been keeping and raising chickens in their backyards for hundreds of years despite there being some downsides or cons to keeping chickens.

Keeping chickens is so often messy and yet people keep doing it, are the cons really that bad?

Chickens are messy

Whether for meat or for eggs, backyard chickens can provide food, entertainment, or a convenient and very effective form of pest control (free range chickens eat bugs). However, as with all things, there can be a downside to raising backyard chickens.

There are plenty who are happy to evangelise about the upsides or pro's of chicken keeping but not the downsides, so here they are. If you are unsure try making a list to see how they would impact you and organise to look after someone else for a week or two to see how you get on with them.

The cons of chickens:

This is the list of problems that need solving and the downsides of keeping chickens.

1. Space - First, you will need to have enough space to raise your chickens. While chickens are not large animals, they are extremely social; therefore you will need more than one to make sure your chickens are happy. 

Why are my chickens fighting, bullying and pecking each other?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Tue, 08/07/2018 - 19:16


Have you gotten yourself a small flock of urban chickens, only to notice that some of the hens seem to be pecking and / or bullying each other? Welcome to what is the least endearing characteristic of the chicken!

Chickens will need to establish a pecking order - it is where the saying came from in the first place. The pecking order is complicated and the relationship between chickens in the flock is determined by their age, personality, persistence and assertiveness as well as her ability to put up with being hurt in a fight.

If you have got say six hens that all came from the same flock of young birds this will be a quick re-adjustment with hardly a ruffled feather or squawk. On the other hand if you have six birds from different sources and two of those were high up their own pecking order before you got them it is likely to be a lengthy tussle for power with shed feathers, much noise and injury. Barnevelders like these below are renowned for the placid disposition.

all chickens can be bullies

When you are stuck as the keeper watching what seems to be full blown warfare in your backyard it is very difficult, I have been there on several occasions. In my experience it is the ongoing squabbles that worry the owner of the chickens more than the birds.

Pekin Bantams

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Mon, 07/30/2018 - 19:21


The pekin chicken is a true bantam with no large fowl counterpart renowned for it's fluffy and round shape. It is kept almost purely for ornamental or exhibition purposes. The pekin is a remarkably popular pet chicken, mostly because they are docile and easy to keep.

The hens are regularly broody and are known to be good sitters and attentive mothers. They are not particularly productive egg layers laying between 120 and 160 per year. The Pekin hails originally from China and however you believe it happened it has now spread all over the world.

the Maximum weight for Pekins is Male: 680g and Hen: 570g and they come in a range of colours - Lavender, blue, silver partridge, red partridge, blue mottled, Columbian, cuckoo, mottled, buff, black, white and wheaten.

Characteristics of the breed:

The have short shanks and are small round, fluffy and tilted. The feather makes them look much bigger than they actually are. Notice the beetle sheen on the feathers.

pair of black pekin hens

They are rather round-shaped, and their carriage tilts forward, with the head slightly closer to the ground than their elaborate tail feathers. This 'tilt' is a key characteristic of the Pekin. The bird on the whole, though the tail especially, should be abundantly feathered, and well rounded. 

Do the hens mind when you take their eggs?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sat, 07/28/2018 - 15:16

Will my backyard chickens be upset with me for taking their eggs? 

If you are new to owning chickens, you may have found yourself wondering how your hens feel about having their eggs taken. After all, aren’t these your hens babies-in-the-making? The answer is the same as it so often is when it comes to chicken keeping, Yes and no. 

No, for the most part your hens will not care when you take their eggs. When you have had them a while and they are tame and used to you even slipping a hand underneath them and plucking the egg from under a hen wont bother them. 

Yes if they are broody you may have a fight on your hands. See the video below for a bad tempered broody hen.

If you are worried about the egg collection process there are special inserts you can get for the nests that make the eggs roll away from the hen into a collecting tray as soon as they are laid. They are actually made to stop egg eating behavoir but they work equally well in this situation.

Modern hybrid laying hens have been bred to try to eliminate the urge to brood, which means that a hen won’t usually try to incubate her eggs by sitting on the nest to hatch them. This is something humans have done to ensure that we don’t have to fight our hens to get their eggs and it isn't always successful, I have a few hybrids that have raised chicks over the years without an issue. 

Can you raise ducklings with a mother hen?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:47


Can you raise ducklings under chickens?

You can absolutely raise ducklings under a chicken.  A mother hen will try to look after anything she hatches . I have done it before but it isn't easy and it does require some planning. It can be frustrating for the mother hen as the ducklings don't understand her like her chicks would.

Although you can raise duckling with a chicken mom you probably shouldn't unless you have to. Aside from the obvious biological differences and feed requirements between ducks and chickens there is a problem with communication between the species that makes cross rearing difficult but not impossible. In some cases it can be beneficial.

Guide to raising baby ducklings with a hen:

1. Brooding - Choose a reliable broody hen who will sit the extra 7 to 15 days that might be required for ducks or muscovies. Not all hens will sit for this length of time. Once they have hatched the little ones will learn where the source of heat is and I would keep them confined in a nursery run until things have settled down a bit.

2. Feeding - You can feed both your chicks and ducklings starter crumb with no issues at all. I have read that ducklings should have unmedicated chick crumb but it has never affected mine and I always use medicated crumb.

3. Water - Clean and fresh and changed regularly. Ducks drink differently to chicks and the type of waterer you use should reflect this, shallow for chicks and deeper for ducks.

7 ways to break broody hens.

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Fri, 07/06/2018 - 19:33

And 6 ways to stop them before they start.

So is there a way to stop them becoming broody?

Yes and no is the answer . You can’t always stop a hen becoming broody but there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely. The measure you take are not likely to stop the really determined chickens but you can put some off.

When a hen becomes broody, it means that she wants to become a mum and hatch her eggs and raise some chicks. But what can you do to stop them if you don’t want to be a chicken mom?

A combination of lengthening days and the hormone prolactin are responsible for the changes you see in a broody hen. She may even steal eggs from other hens.

Essentially a hen gets the urge to sit on eggs for 21 days and as any chicken keeper will tell you they can be quite stubborn about it. A good broody can be a real bonus if you want to raise youngsters but they are a pain in the arse if you do not.

a hen with day old chicks

The urge to raise a family is quite natural chicken behaviour. 

Fowl Pox in chickens and turkeys

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Tue, 06/26/2018 - 17:28

What is fowl pox and how much of a problem is it for chicken keepers, I have had experience of this disease and its effects which may help you.

Fowl pox or Avipoxvirus in chickens, turkeys and other poultry is a viral condition that spreads slowly because of it's long incubation period. It has two types that both produce lesions, the cutaneous form which is so often noticed by keepers on the comb and wattles and the diptheric form which produces lesions in the mouth and airways and is seen less often by backyard poultry enthusiasts. The virus is sturdy and can persist for months in the environment in ideal conditions. 

It is generally not a notifiable disease and not as awful as it sounds, but requires careful management and is very important as a consideration if you show your birds. As it is a virus antibiotics are not required unless there is a secondary infection. If you suspect the disease immediately stop sharing, selling or showing birds. Notify anyone who has bought birds from you in the previous 2 months.

Why do some chickens lay brown eggs and some white?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Fri, 06/22/2018 - 16:15

What is the difference between the white, brown or any other coloured egg for that matter? It was one of my customers for eating eggs, as opposed to hatching, that asked me this morning after she had a look in the carton and was surprised by some really dark maran eggs and some green cream crested legbar eggs. As a new convert to farm eggs she had only seen store eggs which for her have been a dark cream colour.

The shells of chicken eggs can be white, cream, pink, reddish brown, speckled, green, light blue, olive and even purple or simply a blend of any of the above colours. It is always determined by the breed or genetics of the chicken that laid the egg. The colour of the egg can fade during the season, My Barnevelders eggs get lighter towards the end of summer and different birds of the same breed can lay slightly different eggs.

Like every other egg laying animal the shell colour of a chickens egg is the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Although they had a common ancestor the green and blue egg layers are very different from the chickens we know of that descended from the jungle fowl of Asia. It was the need to keep eggs hidden from predators that gave rise to the colour of the egg and our selection and breeding of birds since that has given us the variety we know today. The patch of skin around the ear or lobe can be used to predict egg colour.

Why keep chickens in urban backyards?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:00

Why do people want to keep backyard chickens in small town houses in urban areas?

Urban chicken keeping has as many vocal advocates as it does determined opposition. For every individual who wants to keep his own hens there will be an unrelenting character somewhere that does not want them to.

People want to keep their own chickens because it provides them with fresh and tasty eggs on tap from birds they know have been well treated. There is also the amusement factor of having new pets about the place.

When you go to the supermarket, you will see walls of eggs available to purchase. The process is simple and affordable, which leaves a lot of people wondering why people would opt instead to raise their own chickens in urban areas.

supermarkets and shops are full of eggs

Supermarkets are full of eggs so why produce your own?


What’s wrong with supermarket eggs?

1. They have often been laid by a badly cared for hybrid chicken with little or no access to the outdoors and often kept in cramped cages in smelly barns.

2. The eggs may have been in storage for as much as 42 days before the store takes delivery of them. Then they may be in the shop a few days before spending a week or so in your fridge.

New chick care.

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Wed, 06/13/2018 - 17:48

So how do you care for young or newly hatched baby chicks?

Chicks are delightful, fluffy, adorable and hard to resist but baby chickens are very sensitive to their environments and require proper care in order to grow into chickens. They will need a dry, draught free safe and sturdy brooder and more space as they grow. Quality chick crumb in troughs and fresh water in shallow dishes is needed at all times as well as a few inches of suitable bedding and some amusement to prevent boredom.

They will die quickly without food, water, care and a heat source. 

The caring for chicks time line:

1. Set up the brooder. It could be a tote, a sturdy card box, a glass aquarium or a shop bought rodent cage. It should be the right size for what you need and strong with a ventilated lid. You can always sub divide one that is too large to begin with and let them have more space as they grow.

2. Site the chick house in a secure and sheltered spot like a spare room, garage or garden shed. Small chicks are vulnerable to Predation by just about everything.

3. Fill the habitat with a feeder, water and whatever bedding you choose - see below for ideas.

4. Turn on the heat sources and bring the chick house to the correct temperature. Make sure it is stable and there is no chance of a fire.

The Coop

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Fri, 06/08/2018 - 08:11

What the importance of the chicken coop?

A chicken coop, whether new, used or self-build, is an important investment which will help you maintain your birds in good condition, providing an environment which stimulates healthy laying conditions. It will likely be much more expensive than the birds it holds and with a little care and forethought it will serve you well. In practical terms it should provide shelter from the wet but be well ventilated and be capable of keeping predators at bay.

When purchasing a chicken coop, you need to consider many things, from the number of chicken you are going to have to the amount of space available in your garden or backyard. You will need to learn more about the different types of chicken coops and their features to find the one that best fits your chickens needs as it will be where they spend approximately one third of their time.

cheeky young hen

This cheeky young hen has strayed into the human coop.

I cannot keep the chickens after incubating the eggs.

Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 06/06/2018 - 16:23

Incubating chicks and watching the hatch is a fascinating and beautiful thing to witness, however, things get a bit trickier if you discover you cannot keep the chickens after incubating them.

There may be a few reasons they can't stay with you:

1. There are cockerels in the hatch and your ordinances don’t allow you to keep boys.

2. You had a really good hatch and have too many.

3. You’re in education and have to dispose of them after a classroom hatch.

4. You may want to start a hatchery business and would like to try it out first.

5. Personal circumstances mean you have to get them new homes.

Chicken Breeds

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sat, 03/10/2018 - 15:03

Chicken breeds, the ultimate guide

Chicken Breeds Classification:

A breed is a specific group of animals, in this case chickens, having homogeneous appearance or phenotype. Having characteristics or behaviours that distinguish it from other organisms of the same species. 

Breeds are formed through genetic isolation and either natural adaptation to the environment or selective breeding, or a combination of the three.

There are only two sizes of fowl. Large Fowl (L.F) and Bantam. 

Not all types of full size chickens have a small fowl or bantam counterpart. Bantams are bred afterward by selecting the smaller chickens and selecting for generations till the desired size is reached. On occasion an outcrossing is used to transfer the miniture genes from one type to another breed to reduce their size.


Large chicken breeds sometimes have a bantam or small fowl counterpart. These small chickens are around one-quarter the size of the standard size but it can and does vary. They are expected to exhibit all of the standard breed's characteristics. 

silver laced wyandotte bantam hen


Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sat, 03/10/2018 - 15:01


My name is Neil Armitage and I keep about 300 chickens of 22 types in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Pennines of Yorkshire, England. 

I have kept poultry for several decades and this site came about because when I started keeping chickens I asked exactly the same questions. I also get asked alot of things about keeping poultry and what you see here is the result. 

one of my flocks of chickens

All the pictures you see on this site are taken by  me of my own hens or my friends flocks and used with their permission.

some of my young birds

I inherited my love of poultry keeping , and quite a lot of equipment, from a grandfather many years ago.

one of my broody hens with her chicks

My birds are kept free range for the most part unless the weather is really bad which does happen a lot, or we are breeding and the birds are penned up.

I have found an escaped or abandoned chicken, now what?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Sat, 03/10/2018 - 14:54

So you have found a dumped chicken or a bird has appeared in your garden, now what.

So you have found an abandoned chicken and you haven't got an idea of how to look after it. This will tell you what you need to know on how to look after it for the time it is in your care and some ideas of home to re-home it quickly and safely.

these two chickens have been dumped in my fields recently

Although I write this with a chicken in mind the same basic principles apply to all farmyard or backyard poultry like ducks and turkeys. 

I never fail to be amazed by how some of my birds have gone when they have lost their way.

This is the story, received via email, that inspired this article:

Today one of my bantams flew over the run fence when she got startled by my spreading fresh bedding. I had no idea she could fly that well.

Next doors Labrador chased her across the garden and she disappeared thought the back fence. I ran to try and catch her but she squeezed between a garage and a shed and disappeared around a corner.

I looked until it got dark going to my various neighbours and in their yards to try to find her. 

Is there anything I can do to help my bantam home?

Can Chickens Fly?

Submitted by Neil Armitage on Tue, 03/06/2018 - 12:18

Can chickens fly?

Yes. Most chickens can fly but not far. I have around 300 chickens across 22 different breeds at the moment and some will whilst some won't. They fly to escape predators, roost at night and to make their foraging easier. All chickens except the naked necks have a full complement of feathers and most will use them at some point. Silkies are the only chicken that can not fly, they are missing the stiff quills in the middle of their feathers.

A chicken will generally only fly to a point it can see clearly like a branch or the top of a fence post. They also tend to fly up to a perch and then fly down rather than doing the whole thing in one go.

Some Chicken Flying Facts: The longest recorded flight of a chicken was 13 seconds and the furthest recorded distance was 301.5 feet. Chickens are agile can run at 9 to 10 mph.

chicken flown on a coop roof

This chicken flew happily on to her coop roof.

As you know chicks grow in their primary flight feathers somewhere after 3 weeks depending on the breed. Some chicken breeds feather up faster than others.

I have had many a laugh watching my chicks first flights as they try out their little wings, most of which end in a heap of feathers or a tumble along the ground. It is all part of their learning process for later in life.

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