Charlotte Popescu goes in search of some pure breeds
A breeder’s choice
There is a worrying trend for poultry breeders to give up on pure breeds and just specialise in hybrids. I was recently making a trip to Somerset and wanted to meet up with someone who concentrated on pure breeds. After contacting a number of breeders who had ceased trading or only sold hybrids, I found Tracey who runs Blackdown Poultry. Tracey’s poultry business is situated deep in the Somerset countryside, tucked away on a farm reached by some very small roads but luckily the Satnav took me straight to her!
Tracey Rigby lives on the farm with her husband, Ian along with her sister, Carey, her sister’s husband and her sister’s mother-in-law. Her sister runs the livery yard, but was all for it when Tracey decided to start selling pure breeds only four years ago. Tracey already had plenty of experience with chickens having grown up with them. ‘My sister and I built most of the hutches ourselves, using old pallets,” she said.
I am impressed! There is also a shed which contains the incubators and brooders and all is in full flow. First she took me to see her breeding stock, all on grass with the runs surrounded by electric fencing. “There are three acres of copse nearby which house foxes and badgers galore,” said Tracy “but amazingly we have never lost a chicken to either of these predators. The electric fencing works a treat.” Tracey specialises in large Brahmas which are her favourites, Orpingtons which come a close second and Speckled Sussexes come third.
“But don’t they lay rather small eggs despite their size?” I ask. “Absolutely not – the Brahmas lay the biggest eggs!” said Tracey. I asked about her Brahma and Orpington cockerels and aggressiveness. “They are very placid and tame; there are never any problems with them. However, I do have a very aggressive Pekin cockerel in another pen who chases and attacks me. Only yesterday I got pecked on my behind!”
They have a sort of majestic massiveness
Tracey seems to love all her hens and cockerels and makes sure they are well handled before going to new homes. Her cockerels are all unrelated to their girls, ensuring no in-breeding. The cockerels are couriered to her and cost £25 each. “My breeding hens only get used for two years and then go to a very nice retirement home to live out their days,” she says.
Although Tracey has no problems with large predators, crows come and kill her chicks, and magpies are a real problem because they come and steal the eggs. Red mite have never taken hold because Tracey uses Diatomaceous Earth religiously every week and also smears Vaseline at the ends of all the perches.
I loved her Lemon Cuckoo Brahma cockerel who is running with her Buff Orpington hens. This crossing will give her 50/50.
Tracey Rigby of Blackdown Poultry in Somerset with a buff Columbian Brahma cockerel
Lemon Pyle Brahmas
TOP: A group of Speckled Sussexes
ABOVE RIGHT: A silver laced Poland in among the Brahmas .... a sight to behold
ABOVE LEFT: A trio of Gold Brahmas
BELOW RIGHT: A Buff Columbian hen