Poul­try Peo­ple

This month, Jeremy Hob­son talks with Joanne Southall-Campbell, a French-liv­ing ex-pat, keen showjumper, mounted archery en­thu­si­ast and avid chicken keeper

Your Chickens - - Contents -

How did you first be­come in­ter­ested in chicken-keep­ing?

About five years ago, I bought six ex-bat­tery hens to give some com­pany to a horse who needed rest af­ter an in­jury. I thought that at two eu­ros each, these birds must be good value and would help pro­long their lives… and, if it all went wrong, it wouldn’t be too ex­pen­sive a mis­take! My first ‘chicken house’ was cob­bled to­gether in a poly­tun­nel, us­ing what­ever pal­lets and baler-twine there was lay­ing around and yet, amaz­ingly, these ladies laid way beyond ex­pec­ta­tions… and the chicken keep­ing bug had well and truly bit­ten!

So, off to the lo­cal poul­try ex­hi­bi­tion (a very French af­fair where the main busi­ness of the day seemed to cen­tre on lunch!). There were many breeds to look at [and] the French Marans Poul­try Club had some very dark eggs on dis­play. I just had to have some of the birds that could pro­duce these dark beau­ties! How­ever, it took a year (and con­sid­er­able per­sis­tence) to source some stock, some fer­tile eggs and (even­tu­ally) breed some lay­ers. I still have the de­scen­dants of the orig­i­nals and have sourced out­side blood­lines lo­cally.

Do you keep any other breeds?

Af­ter sourc­ing the Marans, I found a lo­cal spe­cial­ist in Sus­sex hens (a breed I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend to be­gin­ners). The ‘Breed List’ has since ex­panded rapidly, with the chick­ens tak­ing more of my time than the horse – which wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen!

I now have Ply­mouth Rocks, Vor­w­erks, Wel­sum­mers (which I have crossed with the Marans to pro­vide a nice brown egg layer) and Cream Leg­bars – whose chicks and eggs are in great de­mand. My hus­band has a pref­er­ence for ban­tams… so we are try­ing with Laven­der Pekin ban­tams [but] the first hatch yielded four cocks and one hen. How­ever, as I’ve de­cided not to have an in­cu­ba­tor (for now, at least) and to in­stead let na­ture take its course, our breed­ing pro­gramme is broody-de­pen­dant, although, ear­lier this year, I gave a friend with an in­cu­ba­tor and the ex­per­tise to use it some fer­tile eggs to hatch for both her and my­self – an ar­range­ment that suited us both very well!

How do your French neigh­bours treat your pas­sion for chicken keep­ing?

Lo­cal friends – both French and English – love the fact that we can sup­ply them with fresh eggs sur­plus to hatch­ing, or for our own kitchen use (we’ve been get­ting 18 a day of late) and keep­ing chick­ens has cer­tainly opened a few doors with the neigh­bours, in just the same way as hav­ing horses has.

Be­ing both a chicken and horse lover like your­self, I’m fas­ci­nated

to know more about your in­ter­est in mounted archery and show jump­ing

Mounted archery is fas­ci­nat­ing and – wait for it – I’ve been prac­tis­ing for that whilst sit­ting on a sad­dle stand mounted on the floor of a small trailer be­ing towed by a quad bike! For now we’ve a young mare bred in North Wales who has Sports Horse GB pa­pers – and breed­ing lines for event­ing. How­ever, event­ing be­ing the one dis­ci­pline I don’t do, we make our choice be­tween showjump­ing, short dis­tance en­durance and, of course, the mounted archery, which is great fun.

Joanne Southall-Campbell

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