FALLING FOR FOWL
|Could chickens replace the dog as man's
Inside Out journeys
to Norfolk to find out why fancy fowl are becoming such popular pets. Stand aside Tiddles the cat, chickens are the pets to
be seen with - if you live in Norfolk that is.
Retired security guard Roland Axman and, keeps about 200
chickens on his one-acre plot at Brisely, near Fakenham.
15 years ago, he set up the Norfolk Poultry Club, and
membership has now grown to 150 with a budding junior section.
Chickens may seem an unusual addition to your rockery,
potting shed and stylish decking, but it wasn't always so.
The practice of keeping hens became less common after
the war. Lifestyles changed and houses didn’t have such big gardens.
Roland is pleased that poultry-keeping appears to be making
One of the rarest, and a local breed to boot, is the Norfolk
Grey. This is a stunning looking bird with black body feathers and a grey
neck. It was bred at the turn of the century by a local worthy, Fred Myhill.
|Even Edwina Curry
- not the biggest fan of eggs in the past - is impressed!|
Over the century the breed began to decline, until by
1978 there were very few left.
Roland spent two and a half years tracking down the last
few. Thanks to him, the breed is now safe.
Like all devoted pet owners, Mavis and Roland think their
chickens can knock spots - and feathers off the rest and set out to prove
it in the chicken fanciers' answer to Crufts.
The main shows are in December at Stafford and Stoneleigh.
Preparations start early in Spring, with the setting
up of breeding pens with a cockerel and a few hens in each. The fertile
eggs are taken and hatched in incubators throughout April and May.
One of their first engagements of the year is a farming
education event at the Norfolk Showground on March 27.
They hatch 20 of each breed, but only select two of each.
It doesn't end there however.
Like humans, chickens often need a helping hand in the
looks department so a day ahead of the show, the kitchen transforms into
a poultry pampering parlour!
The chickens are washed in the kitchen sink then blow
dried with a hair drier.
Tricks of the trade
of 20 chicks, only two will make it to a show|
There are all sorts of legal and illegal tricks used in
the showing world.
According to Roland, aftershave works a treat on a red
comb, whilst vaseline is the key to soft, supple legs. For shiny feathers,
Roland recommends dog coat wipes.
Some more unscrupulous owners have been known to use
shoe polish to blot out unwanted white feathers, and lipstick to make
combs red. This is known as ‘faking’.
By far the worst fake to use is a product called ‘Glo
White’. Glo White is traditionally used for making net curtains white,
and when used on birds you can see a blue haze around them.
Judges will not be fooled however - the smell of Glo White
is unmistakable to a trained nose!
You wouldn’t catch Mavis and Roland up to such tricks
….and they still bring home the prizes.