Judith Lyons: A poultry keeper’s experience during the pandemic

Ducks 21-5-20 SM Farm
ABOVE: Isolation partner Judith Lyons with her granny Patricia Swandel.

In spring 2020 I find myself in a polar opposite position to any other year. I have gone from being a full-time chef in the Millbrook Lodge Hotel in Ballynahinch and a part-time poultry keeper to being a full-time poultry keeper with no work to go to. I am currently out on the furlough scheme while my bosses work hard behind the scenes making sure everything is ready to return to the ever busy hotel when it is safe to do so.

Personally I cannot wait as I am missing the entire Millbrook family.

With no work to go to during lockdown, I packed a few bags and moved into with my Granny, who I am sure you all know is Patricia Swandel.

It made sense for me to make the move not only for the company for Granny, but I am able to go out and get shopping and supplies when necessary as well as it being where my birds are kept. I knew she would have plenty of jobs lined up to prevent me from being bored.

Thankfully, we have been blessed with good weather and have been able to put in the time by painting everything in sight and getting jobs done around in the house and garden.

Another perk for me is that I was able to enjoy a successful breeding season and spend time with the chicks while watching them grow. I was even able to sneak in a few extra eggs to set while Granny wasn’t looking!

It was my first year attempting to breed geese as I bought a pair of Franconias at the Federation in Stafford in December, so it was good to be able to watch and learn how their breeding process differs from the chickens. I had lost all hope when a little lonely gosling hatched, so I now have it to continue learning what it takes to rear geese.

A big low to come out of the lockdown is that the summer show season has been cancelled. I had a couple of judging appointments to look forward to as well as the ever popular Balmoral Show.

Balmoral Show is something my family look forward too from one year to the next and between us exhibit mares and foals and

young horses, Irish Moiled cattle and Zwartble sheep as well as poultry.

It’s an enjoyable week for me as we move down to the site on the Tuesday and usually don’t come home until the Saturday, camping out in our horse lorry, catching up from friends from all over the country and putting our animals up against the best in the country to be assessed by experienced judges from all over the UK to see how they fair.

Looking forward we can only continue to look after the chickens and hope that everyone keeps well and that we can have some form of winter show season when it is declared safe to do so.

right: A Faverolles bantam chick.

n Before I go I would like to thank Caroline, David and Guy for working hard to keep the poultry page going in FarmWeek despite having no show results to report back to us all every week.

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