Jeremy Hobson talks to Paul Hallum, an equine vet, about his work as secretary of The Leghorn Club, his artwork and, of course, his choice of chickens!
Henkeepers of note
In view of your role as secretary to the Leghorn Club you are obviously a lover of Leghorns… but do you have other breeds? I have kept lots of breeds since starting with birds about 30 years ago. I got into exhibiting through Sussex bantams and since then I have had RIRs, Anconas, Spanish, Andalusians, Plymouth Rocks and, of course, Leghorns. I used to keep the latter in all colours in large and bantam but was finding it difficult to juggle the hobby with the daily demands of my job as an equine vet so I have cut down to a more modest number.
What is it about Leghorns that attracts you? I think it’s because of the challenge in breeding a good specimen and the wide variety of colours that have been standardised. Since the birds seem to be at their best for a short time one needs to hatch with specific shows in mind to ensure a supply of good birds. I also like the fact that the Leghorns have retained their utility qualities in spite of being developed as an exhibition breed. Fertility is very good early in the season as are egg numbers in both the large and bantam.
Did the recent bird flu restrictions affect your daily chicken-keeping routine – and, as a vet, have they affected your thinking about bio-security? The bird flu restrictions had a minimal effect on the way my birds are kept. They are all in outdoor pens with very small gauge wire and solid tops so access from wild birds is minimal or non-existent. In some ways the problem has been beneficial in that it has made me think about how many chicks I actually NEED to hatch and I have been strict and kept my breeding stock to a bare minimum. We are all guilty of getting carried away with the incubator at this time of year but we should all think twice about where we plan to house the young stock as they grow.
I know that you are a keen artist and many of your paintings (understandably, in view of your profession) are of horses – but do your birds ever feature in your work? When I have spare time I do like to paint. This happens mainly in the winter months in the long evenings. Most of my work tends to have either horses or dogs as a subject but I have also recently developed a liking for painting poultry. One of the recent ones showing most colours of Leghorns was raffled at the AGM and raised a substantial amount for the club. Finally, do you have a few words of advice for any aspiring chicken-keeper who may be reading this? Always keep in mind that the birds are a hobby and are meant to be enjoyed. Avoid overstocking or the hobby will soon become a chore and if you decide to embark on the fascinating exhibition side, try not to take it too seriously: enjoy your birds and most of all enjoy the interaction with other fanciers.
CREATIVE: One of Paul Hallum’s paintings
TOGTHERNESS: Paul Hallum and friend
HORSE EXPERT: Paul is an equine vet