We were very lucky on moving to Youldon Moor as the farm was already registered for free range poultry.
The hens were originally kept in a wooded part of the smallholding which was very overgrown and had been used by the hens for many years. One of the changes we made was for Max to build two new Chicken sheds on skids which we could then use to move around the holding. The hens are kept in by electric fence. The benefit of being able to give the poultry fresh ground and plenty of space reduces the incidence of disiese and we have also found that the inevitable rats that do come snooping don't get a chance to make a nest under the houses as they get moved frequently.
Although I say the poultry are contained by electric fences this is only for a few as many of them do like to fly over and go for a wonder. I don't fence in the geese, they just have a shed in the field. They are such good lawn mowers its a shame to restrict them to just one area. They like to squeeze under the gate and take a wonder to the lawn and help mow that as well. I have hand reared some geese which are very well behaved but back in June I re-homed a pair of Embden geese who are not quite so shy. They want to know everything that goes on and like to nibble your legs and shoes and especially like to have their voices heard and have a "chat". At first this was very freindly but now I think the gander has settled in well and is becoming quite terratorial.
Max has always said to me to keep to one breed, but for me that's impossible. Currently my laying hens are Black rocks, Brown Nick and Redco bought from Ben & Cathy Wetherden www.organicpullets.co.uk my breeding stock are Welsummers, Light Sussex and Buff Sussex.
I absolutely love keeping turkeys, they have such a wonderful nature and I love hearing their chattering noises. They too are allowed to free range in the field and are quite happy to flap around. Only problem is at night they perch on top of the nursery pens wanting to roost out in the open all night instead of being put away, so its quite a palavar picking them all off the fence and putting away safely.
Ducks This year I decided to breed ducks as with so much wet weather they seem to really thrive well. My current stock of ducks are Aylsbury, Silver Appleyard, Runner and Call ducks. The Aylsbury and Silver Appleyards provide delicious eggs and wholesome meat, the Runner and Call ducks are definately for the enjoyment factor.
As hatching ducklings is such a wet and messy business its much nicer and a lot less work when a surrogate mum can do the job. I often put duck eggs under my broody hens. Although this year for the first time ever I had a call duck turn broody, she dilingently hatched out her ducklings with her man supporting her the whole way! The white duck is the mum with the drake on the left. They have been very good at raising their little brood and have taught them everything, even swimming lessons. Every morning when they are let out the drake is the first in to swim while mum gets them to eat their food . They are a great little family and its been a delight observing their natural behaviour.
I hatched out my own geese a few years ago but last year only had a few girls left, then I saw an advert in the paper to re-home a gander and his wife. The pair were a good size and seemed friendly enough so brought them home. They settled in well and soon bonded with my other girls.