Collecting chicken-related memorabilia is catching on in a big way. Your Chickens writer Terry Beebe, an avid collector, explains
Over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the interest in keeping chickens – and this has, in turn, created a new breed of collector of chicken-related memorabilia.
The choice seems endless. You can collect books, chicken ornaments, household chicken items, and old poultry equipment including vintage drinkers, carry crates and even incubators. The demand seems insatiable, and this is fuelled by the fact there is such a wide variety of items available.
It has always been common for enthusiasts to build up collections of items that hold some special interest to them personally, so some have impressive collections of specialist items.
As an avid collector myself, I am often asked why am I so interested in collecting. My answer is simple: trying to find unusual items always provides a challenge, especially if they are ones that can be hard to find, rare or unusual. It is also a pleasure to look at the collection you have gathered and know that, over time, it will be something for future generations to enjoy.
One of the favourite collectable items has to be poultry prints. These are quite easy to source, unless you go for the very rare first editions. Some enthusiasts go for everything relating to a particular breed. There are many prints dedicated to the individual breeds and, once you have acquired the first one, you can quickly become addicted to adding more to the collection.
Beginners tend to collect anything chicken, but, as time goes by and the hobby begins to become a little more serious, a specialised collection soon becomes more attractive.
I have to admit that I still collect anything that I find unusual, but I have a particular interest in very old poultry books and magazines.
The most popular of all the collectable items has to be either books or chicken ornaments. This is mainly due to the fact that there are many items still available. They can be fairly easily, they can also be purchased at a reasonable price.
Some of the rarer items will be expensive, of course, but may well be worth buying as they will more than likely increase in value over the years.
I started collecting by accident as a dear friend left me some poultry items. This sparked an interest, and I still have these items many years later.
It is amazing what unusual collectables you can come across. Those I have discovered included a collection of cockerel weather vanes that originally sat on the top of church steeples, a collection of ladies wear made from chicken feathers, and a large collection of poultry-shaped moulds to produce chocolate chickens. The list is endless. One lady had a cabinet holding a huge collection of everything that could be used in the kitchen, with every item having some reference to poultry. One of the most interesting items was a teapot said to be almost 100 years old.
Collecting does not mean you have to invest large sums of money. I have a friend who, over the years, has put together a huge collection of chicken ornaments. He originally set himself a target of never paying more than £5 for any one item, and many items he has cost far less. The collection has been built over 30 years and now numbers well over 550 items. He has items from all over the world, and some are now irreplaceable and far more valuable than when he paid for them.
But collecting to make money is not really what this hobby is all about. Collect to enjoy … with the added bonus that your collection may also increase in value.
Where to look
To find articles of interest means searching antique stalls, eBay, charity shops and going to antique sales. You may also try approaching some of the older generation of collectors who may be interested in letting go of some of their artefacts. Occasionally, there are auctions where the estate of a past poultry fancier is being sold, and it is surprising what comes on the market after these events.