How long have you been keeping poultry?
I started keeping poultry at the age of eight, so about 15 years. I have been experimenting and expanding with a few different breeds over those years.
What got you into poultry?
My dad initially got me started. He got me some brown hybrid layers to start with – I used to collect and sell the eggs to my neighbours. Then I got interested in pure breeds and started keeping a variety of them. This was the start of me establishing my own breeding lines. Then along came the incubator, so I started hatching my own stock then too. This all started around the age of 10. Since then, I have been trying to improve my stock year after year, overall trying to perfect them. I find it very rewarding producing good stock, seeing them do well in the show pen throughout the UK and bringing home the trophies! I also like to see my stock doing well when sold to other breeders.
Did you start to show right away?
No, I didn’t start to show straight away. However, I was interested in showing so I visited the East Antrim Show a couple of times, held in Ballynure at the time, to see what it was all like and if I had a chance. Then I entered my first show when I was 10, in around 2006. I entered two silver Sebrights and two Chamois Polands, I came home with a second and third prize, which I remember at the time I was very excited about. I thought the classes were very big and the competition was strong.
Who got you into showing?
Wilbert Hollinger invited me down to have a go at the shows, then one show led to another and now I attend half-a-dozen shows every winter. I also go with a group of friends to one of the national English shows most years, which are always good craic. I have made many friends through the hobby ever since I’ve started.
How many breeds have you kept over the years?
I’ve kept more than 20 different breeds over the years. Including Belgian Danvers and some rarer breeds such as Fresian fowl and Lakenvelders, some have came and went, however there’s a few breeds that I’ve always stuck with. Currently I am mostly concentrated on my Polands, white Silkies, Sebrights, Rocks and Minorca bantams.
How many birds do you breed each year, and what way do you hatch them?
I usually aim to breed around 100 chicks each year, this includes a few different breeds, however it is mostly Polands. I hatch my eggs using an incubator, also some with clocking hens as some breeds hatch better this way, such as the Sebrights and Silky bantams.
What is your favourite breed and why?
I’d have to say Polands have always been my favourite. They were one of the first pure breeds I had kept and I always have had a soft spot for them. They are one of the quieter breeds, with a nice nature and are easy worked with. I now have several different colours in bantam and even a few in the rarer seen large fowl.
What are the greatest challenges with this breed?
Their crest is a very important feature on them, you must keep it dry, out of the wind and rain at all times so it doesn’t get damaged or ruined is vital. So, making sure that happens can be a difficult task. They are definitely a tricky but rewarding breed if you look after them properly.
What is your greatest achievement?
I’d say my greatest achievement would have been in 2018 winning Reserve Supreme Champion at the Ballymena Championship Show with a Silver Sebright pullet, and on the same day winning Champion Soft Feather Light with a white crested black Poland bantam pullet. I was very happy because they were both home- bred birds and this was one of Northern Ireland’s biggest shows with the entries being over 1,000.I’ve also had some other championship wins over the years which have made me very proud as well.
Another highlight would be getting first, second and third, plus winning champion laced and frizzled with my Chamois Polands at the English Federation Show in 2018. I also have had one of my birds chosen to represent the breed standards in the United Kingdom Poultry Book of Standards.
If you were starting out in poultry, is there any advice you would give someone?
Personally, I think you should visit a few poultry shows beforehand, just to get a feel for it and understand the process, as well as seeing the competition. I’d also suggest speaking to some experienced breeders to ensure purchasing good birds and getting the breed that’s right for you. I would also say to concentrate on a select few breeds at first, ensuring you get them right, which is easier said than done.
Finally, is there anyone in the poultry world that you admire?
I admire quite a lot of people in the fancy. However, to name a few, Jerry Logue deserves a special mention as he has always kept me right from a very young age, he always gives me loads of tips to keep my birds right, especially with my Polands. I also admire Wilbert as I mentioned above for inviting me to my first show and helping me with Minorca foundation stock, and Andy Pollock who helped me out with stock at a young age.