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

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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

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