JUNE 5, 2013: Adam Henson, who writes for CS every month, is a keen hen keeper. Grant Brereton met him recently and talked to him about his interest in poultry.
Adam Henson, who writes for CS every month, is a keen hen keeper. Grant Brereton met him recently and talked to him about his interest in poultry. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met Adam Henson at his Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire. I only hoped he would be as pleasant in person as he was on TV – and this turned out to be the case. While we discussed poultry over a cup of tea at his kitchen table, he told me that the TV stuff is nice, but he’s a farmer first and foremost and doesn’t really regard himself as a ‘celeb’. It was interesting to discover that Adam keeps pure breeds which include Indian Game, Barred Rocks, Legbars, Scots Dumpies and Light Sussex, to name a few. He also has a reasonable understanding of breed requirements and is very keen on preserving our heritage breeds. Adam took me to see the incubators and chicks in his neatly-kitted-out barn that house poultry and other livestock. It is a great visitor attraction, and children and adults alike regularly marvel at chicks hatching in the glass-fronted incubators. This building has Adam’s range of poultry feed and products available for sale and also houses the rearing units for the self-bred (as well as bought-in) chicks and growers. The interview You have kept poultry for a long time. What drew you to the wonderful world of pure breeds? Well, I was born and brought up on this farm. My Dad took over the tenancy in 1962. He is the son of actor Leslie Henson and grew up in London, but was bombed out during the war and took a path into farming. He attended agricultural college and later secured a three-generation farm tenancy which I succeeded in 2002. I now live with my family in the farmhouse where I grew up. Dad had poultry from the word go and these were laying hens on a small scale. He collected rare breeds, being a founder member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, in 1973, with poultry and guinea fowl included, and set up our Farm Park two years earlier. Today we keep a selection of pure and rare breeds as well as Burford Brown hybrids. My daughter has Indian Game Ducks which we bought for her birthday. With your Large Buff Orpingtons and Lavender Pekins having featured on Countryfile, do you think you’ll expand your flock, especially considering the vast choice of colours and patterns available in poultry breeds? I have no plans to expand in terms of more varieties (we don’t have the space), but I would definitely like to swell the numbers in the breeds we keep. Do you plan on breeding your own replacements from your pure breed poultry this season and, if so, roughly how many? Yes I do, and would like to keep a number of these replacements with any surplus being sold on at the farm. We also buy in hybrid hens at the point of lay stage to sell on. We buy chicks from the same breeder as some people prefer to rear younger birds. Would the use of an incubator or broody hen be your preferred method of hatching? We use a Brinsea glass-fronted incubator and hatch every weekend. Children and adults alike love it! It is wonderful to see them engaging by holding and marvelling at day-old chicks and ducklings. However, although artificial incubation has its advantages, there’s nothing like a broody hen with a freshly hatched batch of chicks – they do a wonderful job! Your new poultry range with Dodson & Horrell sounds most interesting – can you expand on that? Yes, we are going to provide them with wheat from our 2012 harvest to go into their range. I have worked with their nutritionist to come up with a high-quality Adam Henson branded layers pellet as well as mixed corn. This is with the smallholder in mind and we are going to offer 12½ kilo bags as not everyone wants 25 kilos. I truly believe nutrition is the key to good health in our lives and our animals. Dodson & Horrell are a great partner to work with. Being a farmer, and a busy one at that, do you think you’ll ever have the time to show your birds, or at least attend one of the ‘Winter classic’ (National & Federation) shows? It isn’t something I can say I’ve done yet, but is definitely on my wish list. My son, Alfie, who is 10, loves the Lavender Pekins so they would probably be the obvious choice. Does the poultry section attract much interest with visitors at the Farm Park? Oh definitely! People love to see the variety of breeds and, as mentioned, love handling the baby chicks. The poultry is an important part of the animals here. Things you may not know about Adam Henson… • He was born on Bemborough Farm, now Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire, where he is a co-director (www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk). He now presents his prime time TV slot from here. At the time, it was the first commercial farm in the UK (if not the world). • He burst on to the television screens in 2001, and has since worked on BBC Radio 4’s On Your Farm and Farming Today. He was also the joint presenter – with Kate Humble – of Lambing Live. • His father, Joe, presented Animal Magic, alongside Angela Rippon and Phil Drabble, while his uncle, Nicky, has appeared in films and TV programmes, including Fawlty Towers, Inspector Morse and Downton Abbey. • Joe also was one of the founder members of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust www.rbst.org.uk • His grandfather, Leslie, was also an actor and a comedian.