Joyce Taylor from Norfolk talks to Terry Beebe about how much she loves keeping Ixworths
I had the pleasure of visiting Joyce Taylor at her home in Foulsham, Norfolk, to talk to her about her favourite breed and her appointment as secretary of the Norfolk Poultry Club. I was very impressed by her obvious commitment to her birds and the club.
Although Joyce has only been keeping poultry for just over five years, she has gathered a lot of knowledge about chicken keeping and conservation. Since taking over as secretary in March last year, she has enjoyed meeting a wide range of poultry experts and other keepers. She says it is a dream come true and the people in the poultry fancy are all very friendly and helpful. This has to be the best way to learn and gain good solid experience and knowledge.
The house has a good sized garden both at the front and rear enabling Joyce to allow the birds space to roam, with the back garden containing a large pond which the runner ducks have taken over as their own.
Joyce also says she enjoys exhibiting her birds. She loves how people and particularly children enjoy the poultry.
Tell us about your favourite breed?
Although I do keep a small number of different breeds, my all time favourite is the Ixworth. This is a rare breed and one that needs to be kept and bred to help conserve the breed for its future survival.
What first attracted you to the breed?
I read an article about Ixworths in a magazine and decided I would love to own and keep them. Apart from the challenge of breeding them, they are a pure dual purpose breed. They are also a perfect bird to show as well as eat and, as I don’t want to buy and eat supermarket chicken, this was my way forward.
Where did you get them and ho much did you pay?
My original birds came from Ian Simpson form Norfolk as he was a top breeder of Ixworths. I paid £15 per bird which was very reasonable as they were very good quality. The second batch came from another breeder. I bought 16 fertile eggs and these cost me £1 each. I hatched these and then as they matured I mixed them with my existing birds to both introduce new blood and work towards improving the standard.
What is it about the breed that most appeals to you?
There are several different points that I love about the breed. They are a big bird, are very tasty to eat. Their attitude is possibly the best of all the breeds I keep. They always seem to be top of the pecking order. They are very friendly and inquisitive.
I also like the fact that they are a ‘no frills’ breed. The hen is plain and sleek and the shape of the birds, with the lovely flat back, appeals to me. I cannot fault them in any way.
The birds have a fine meat texture. They are tender and very tasty, and they can also be recommended for the eggs that are quite different from commercially produced eggs.
Do you have a fond memory of a particular bird?
I have one very special bird and she is the one I show. She is a perfect show bird. I also take her to local schools as she is very friendly and enjoys being picked up by the children. They love her and she is called Orla.
What is the breed like as an egg producer?
When the birds are young they are very good layers and produce good quality shaped eggs, although sometimes they can tend to be quite small.
The pullets can generally produce an egg per day, but as the birds age this does reduce although there is still a reasonable production rate.
Are there any particular challenges to keeping this breed? Do they have any special needs?
The breed is not a delicate breed. In fact they are very robust and hardy. Being white can be a problem when wanting to show the birds as they can be difficult to keep clean.
I use shavings which I try to keep as clean and dry as possible and, when preparing for a show, I use a horse shampoo and whitener to get them into a suitable condition. This sort of preparation is quite common with any show breed when the birds are white.
What is their temperament like?
They are very friendly but feisty among themselves. They do tend to peck at other birds that are passing by but without to much aggression.
The breed is slightly gamey but very friendly with people.
Have you bred from them, and was this a success?
I have bred some but intend to breed a lot more to try and increase the numbers of the breed, as they are not available in large quantities.
The aim is to try and increase the size to produce a larger cockerel as trying to find one that is large enough for me to use is almost impossible. Also a new cockerel would bring in fresh blood and hopefully produce the size I think is required. My aim is to breed some good sized cockerels as the ones I have and see today are to small. This is my opinion, although the standard states ‘large’.
Have you ever shown the birds? If so, was it a success?
I have shown the birds at several shows and won quite a number of awards. These include the National Poultry Show 2014 were I won 1st prize for an Ixworth hen. I also won 1st and 3rd at the Royal Norfolk as well as Best Large Rare breed at the same show. I have also won Best in Show at the Wayland Show, Watton in Norfolk and the Best Egg Content with an Ixworth Egg.
Do you have any tips for others who might try this breed?
I have several suggestions. Always go to a breeder of good repute. Be very careful when buying at sales as the birds being sold may not be to the correct standard, quality or size. In Norfolk, finding stock locally can be difficult but look country wide to try and improve the gene pool. The birds need to be really heavy and as large in size as possible.
Reginald Appleyard from Ixworth in Suffolk created the original birds.
The breed is ideal for beginners as it is good for free range and is low maintenance.
Ixworths can be kept confined but, due to large size, a lot of space is required to keep the birds in top condition.
As a rare UK breed they need protection and there are a number of dedicated fanciers who are keeping the breed and breeding to increase the availability of the stock. It is always good practice to try and keep any rare poultry breeds as conservation is very important for the future.
The Ixworth is a dual-purpose breed and for that reason keeping them and breeding them gives rewards in the sense of protecting the breed as well as providing a good supply of fresh eggs and good quality meat.
As a breed, the birds are a pleasure to deal with – not too aggressive and quite easy to handle bearing in mind the large size of the breed.
There is no bantam equivalent of the Ixworth.
The breed is dual-purpose so ideal for meat and eggs
Good exhibition breed
Hardy and robust
Reasonably easy to handle
Very good free-range breed
There is virtually nothing against this breed.
There may be problems sourcing good quality stock
White can be a problem when showing the birds (keeping them clean)
OK for confinement but need a lot of space due to size
Egg production drops of with age but still reasonable production
Contact Joyce Taylor on 01362 680205
Rare Poultry Society.
The Secretary. 01263 577843.
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