BREEDER FOCUS: Nikki Heath and the Virtual Poultry Show

Ducks 7/5/20 SM Farm

Where do you live and what is your occupation?

I live in Stoke-on-Trent but I am originally from the North West ( Wigan) so a Lancashire lass. I am a recruitment manager for BAE systems in Preston, which is a large defence aerospace company and I love recruitment as a job.

How long have you been keeping poultry and who got you into it?

I have been keeping poultry since I was a little girl as my father had different breeds of chickens and ducks on a smallholding where we used to live. It was mainly for eggs for the table so only really hybrids and few Wellsummers – the cockerels used to be my favourite and so pretty. I have had show birds for over 15 years. I also used to hatch Chinese painted quails to provide eggs for the local shops and earned myself a bit of pocket money at the time.

Did you start to show straight away?

Yes. Once I was old enough in high school I remember moving house and my parents had a third of an acre and I asked to get some poultry, so I sourced some lovely Faverolles of William and Karen Pimlott in Preston – I had met them at a show and loved the Faverolles as they were colourful but unusual. Will set me up with some large Salmons – cracking birds and the key to my success. I then joined the club and sourced more stock to create my own successful lines and produced many champions to my own astonishment.

How many breeds have you kept over the years?

Faverolles were the main breed but I did keep a few other breeds alongside this before I started, Buff Rocks, Dutch bantams and some Belgians, and now I have focused my efforts into bantam Australorps – I find them wonderful birds.

What is your favourite breed and why?

Australorps, Faverolles and Dutch are the favourites. These are the three breeds my husband Paul and I now have. Paul is a great showman if sometimes a bit serious! Australorps are friendly and easy to tame and I find them to be a popular show bird with great competition and a friendly club. Faverolles are wonderful – so unique but unfortunately you seem to have much competition at the summer shows, which is turning into one of my favourite parts of the show season.

What are the greatest challenges with this breed?

I think it’s a great breed to aim for a win with – but to get a card is a joy as the big shows have large classes. I would say to get the bird correct you need to get good colour and balance – I am fairly new though, so I am learning – I have done very well so far in my journey with them so I am hoping I am on the right lines.

What is your greatest achievement with your birds?

I have to say continuous Best of Breeds with both breeds I have kept and we have had lots of Show Champions in the mix too. We only have a small set up so we have to be quite strict on numbers and the quality that we keep. I remember winning the Large Salmon Faverolles class at the Fed one year and it had 26 pullets in, which was good, and then Show Champion with a home bred Australorp cockerel in Pembrokeshire last year and I cried. The same bird got four Best in Shows – he was a belter and is now a father, so fingers crossed!

If you were starting out in poultry is there any advice that you could give someone?

I am a firm believer in sourcing quality stock and do your research into the breeds you like. Visit shows and take opinions from people but always trust your judgement and gut feeling – its always helped me!

Is there anyone in the Fancy that you admire?

Yes, Nobby Ward, Rodney Wood, Dilwyn Green and Aled always helped me and always had time for me. Lots of others also, but too many to mention here.

You have kept many of us entertained with the Virtual Poultry Show in the absence of our show circuit. What gave you the idea and did you imagine it would be so popular?

Well, I wanted to re-create that excitement of showing birds and getting together with people who share the same interests – it’s a place where we can take our minds off these uncertain times and reach out to new members who also want to learn.

The breeders’ live talks are proving just as popular.

The Champion of Champions proved extremely popular with over 450 entries – do you have any help with the admin?

Yes, I have a wonderful team of admins that have been simply amazing with their support for the shows, the entries and moderating the page so it’s kept true to form and I couldn’t do it without them.

They are Reece Thomas, Fionn Goodwin, Marc Ruymbeke, William Yarrow, Becky Adams and Sean Canning. Thank you to everyone for getting on board with the VPS group and I hope everyone is enjoying it (I think they are!). We welcome feedback and are always looking to improve.

We also have had various sponsorships of prizes, including vouchers, feeds, showcages and rosettes and I can’t thank people enough – very kind! Stay safe and I will see you all soon at both a virtual show and a real one!

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