Simply the Best
Juvenile exhibitor Emma Hancock, 15, translated her passion for Welsummers into the top juvenile prize at last year’s Federation Championship Show. She talks to Grant Brereton
Juvenile exhibitor Emma Hancock
How did your interest in poultry begin? I’ve lived all my life on a farm in the Peak District and until I was five we barely had any pure-breed hens. For my fifth birthday, I asked for a few pure chickens as a present and was thrilled to receive a quartet of Light Sussex bantams from my grandparents. Since then I’ve been bitten by the showing bug and, alongside other animals, I started breeding different colours and breeds. I’ve been showing for eight years and in the future I hope to continue showing hens, as well as my sheep and cattle.
How did it feel to win Champion Juvenile at last year’s Federation Championship Show? I’ve been breeding Welsummers for about two years from three different pens and to win with them at any show is a bonus, but to win at the Federation is something I’ve always tried to achieve.
Your bird, David, was very tame. Did you pen-train him in the lead up? I had the bird in a pen for about three weeks before the show. I handled him about twice a week and then every day in the final run up to the show. In all, I took 11 birds of various breeds to the Federation Show.
How many days prior to the show did you wash your male? I washed him a week before the show so that his natural oils had a chance of returning to his feathers in time for show day. Washing birds can be a dirty, wet job, but he was well behaved.
How many shows have you been to this year? I haven’t been to as many summer shows as usual due to having exams, so in all I’ve exhibited at around six, taking seven or eight birds to each one.
How did this year’s unusual weather affect your breeding operation? The early snowstorm meant that it became difficult to keep new hatches warm, but the weather had no impact on fertility or hatch rates, which surprised me. The dry summer has been great for this year’s offspring and I’ve hatched
around 50 birds of each breed I keep. In all, I’ve bred around 300 birds and I’ve had plenty of pullets, which is always a bonus. However, I plan to breed many more next year.
Which were the most difficult parts of the season? It was probably mid-spring when all the birds were in separate breeding pens, and I had young chicks, older growers and spare stock cockerels to look after. Feeding all birds at that time of year takes hours. Also, this time of year brings its own challenges as it’s important to keep potential show birds in top condition through the moult and the colder weather.
Are there times when you have felt like giving up or reducing stock? I’ve reduced stock levels this season quite significantly, but the thought of giving up has never crossed my mind. It’s important to me that I only keep the amount of chickens that I can manage successfully.
Do you keep any breeds other than Welsummers? Yes, I have Appenzellers, Araucanas, Derbyshire Redcaps, Faverolles, Wyandottes and Modern Game. Does your family have an interest in poultry? My grandparents have been farming for decades and have always had Derbyshire Redcaps and Carlisle Old English Game.
Which poultry people do you look up to and who has helped you? I’ve looked up to Mike Hatcher [renowned judge and past president of the Poultry Club of Great Britain] since my first show at Bakewell in 2011 when I showed in the junior handler section. He gave me lots of tips which were really useful.
Members of the High Peak Poultry Club have been helpful, too.
Are your birds fed on layers’ or breeders’ pellets — and, if so, which brand? My birds are fed on Fancy Feed Breeder & Show Pellets.
Incubators or broodies? I would choose broody hens every time. I find that they have a higher hatch rate, a higher survival rate and the offspring grow stronger.
What would you say to aspiring juveniles? You get out of your birds what you put into them. Keep entering shows, experiment with different breeding and you will find that all the hard work will pay off in the end.
Will you be entering your birds at the big shows this year? I will be entering both the National Poultry Show and Federation Championship Show this December, taking six birds to the National and eight to the Federation. I’m looking forward to both shows, especially this year as I believe I’ve bred my best birds yet. I’m also judging the Appenzellers at the National.
Emma wins overall Best Juvenile with her large Welsummer David at the 2017 Federation Championship Show
Emma’s winning Welsummer male David