Sadly, this is our last Poultry Pen page. A change of ownership at FarmWeek means the column will no longer be appearing.
This news came at the worst time for purebred/backyard poultry keepers who have been gripped in a cycle of avian flu restrictions for the past few years, endured periods of no poultry shows or fairs, and faced greatly increased feed and electricity prices, and have had to deal with the “Irish Sea border” which has severely inhibited pure bred poultry being brought into the country.
It was reported that from 2006 until 2016 poultry keeping had become the fastest growing past-time.
In more recent years, however, things have been going the other way, with poultry keepers dropping breeds, reducing the amount of birds they keep or completely abandoning the hobby.
This has put so many of our heritage breeds in jeopardy, particularly those whose survival depends on the hobbyist.
I just hope enough poultry keepers weather the storm and that we don’t lose these precious breeds with their unique genetic make up.
This weekly poultry page would not have been possible without the help of David Neill and Caroline Fullerton.
Between us these past few years we have kept this weekly article going, especially during the Covid years and when avian flu restrictions didn’t permit poultry gatherings.
I would also like to thank Ryan Liggett, Kiera McGarry, Desy Horner and John Irwin for their regular submissions to the page.
To all the poultry club secretaries who kindly forwarded results and exhibitors and poultry keepers who kindly invited us to see their stock and helped with the breeder in focus articles, I would like to say a great big thank you.
The list is enormous of those who contributed to our poultry page, including photographers Bo Davidson, who attended most of the agricultural events, and Joshua Kittle with his amazing poultry photographs, both at local and national shows, following the wonderful success that poultry keepers have had over the years. This little country has produced many top exhibitors – too many to mention.
As I write our farewell I have to mention some of our poultry friends who are no longer with us – the likes of Alan McKee, who had the biggest domestic Waterfowl collection in the country and without his passion for these birds many of our duck breeds wouldn’t have existed here; George Stewart, who was a lovely character and kept and exhibited quality Old English Game Bantams; Jimmy Crawford, who was heavily involved in the Ulster Poultry Federation for years and kept wonderful Minorcas and Leghorns; William Stevenson, who had a passion for Indian Runner ducks and Embden Geese, and who rang me every month for a bit of craic; Drew Herron, who had wonderful Orpingtons, Old English Game and Carlisle Game; Robert Getty, who was the president and life member of the Ballymena Poultry Club and who regularly judged poultry at shows; and Patricia Swandel, who kept wonderful Cochins, Orpingtons, Wyandottes and Sussex fowl along with so many other breeds. Her wonderful advice helped so many in the hobby as did her service as Poultry Chief Steward at the Balmoral Show and President of the Irish Society of Poultry Fanciers. We miss them all.
A final note. Having been involved in preparing the poultry page since the 1990s, this will be a big change for me.
I have many enjoyable recollections from the days prior to digital photography when I had to take rolls of photographs to maybe have five or six photographs for the paper; bringing the typed article and photographs to the then editor Mr Hal Crowe when FarmWeek was based in Portadown and the paper was much larger in size; to writing up articles while on holidays in Spain, Minorca, Majorca and Portugal and getting better wi-fi there than at home; heading off most Saturdays to a poultry show to get the results and photographs for each event and calling with many poultry keepers to photograph their birds.
I will miss it and I hope that together we can keep are yesteryear breeds going until when it becomes easier to keep and show our poultry once again.
Take care all and hope to see you at future events.
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