From a very early age I was introduced to poultry, rabbits, pheasants, canaries, racing pigeons. The list is endless.
My father kept Yorkshire canary’s (large ones) German Rollers, Fife’s, Borders, bullfinches, linnets and mules (Goldfinch x Canary) I can always remember as a young boy helping my dad clean, feed and condition them. Colour feeding his red factors, which back then was my favourite, seeing those feathers eventually change to light or dark orange. In the summer he would bath them by gently spraying each bird with water. The birds loved it. I remember seeing them lift their wings and start to preen themselves, hopping on the perch and whistling. The songs that each particular canary would sing would fill the room with pure bliss. My favourite canary for its song is the Roller Canary. It sings with an almost closed beak and swollen looking throat, it rolls a beautiful quiet song, in fact their song is in surround sound as it looses itself in the background. Very melodic. My favourite mule, Goldfinch x Canary. Mules are not everyone’s cup of tea and those people tend to stay close to pure finches.
At times I could hear my dad communicating with them in the sheds by whistling to them. He would respond to their song and vice versa! Canary talk haha. In the shed where he kept the roller canary’s, he would have a tape playing all day of recorded songs by other roller canary’s, it’s to train young birds into song. It’s quite fascinating stuff. Going to bird shows was exciting as I got to see lots of other breeders canaries. The sound was just as bad (but in a good way) as poultry shows with lots of different songs from the male birds competing with each other. Back then it was really about getting the right shape/colour and song, but nowadays it’s a much different story and people who attend/compete are interested in money. A bit like crufts…
And so my love of birds began. My dad also kept lots of poultry from silkies to heavy Sussex crosses x Indian game for eating. My strain of English Oxfords both large and bantam remain in our family today. I remember collecting eggs from the individual pens and placing them in trays to be later placed under broody hens. I learnt a lot from my father and it was poultry that interested me more than any other bird. At the same time my brother was racing and breeding pigeons. It’s fun and a lot of work is involved regarding conditioning, but I never took to it. He’s remained a pigeon fancier to this day.
Back in the 80’s lots of families bred rabbits and poultry for the table. Today it still goes on, but in a smaller scale. My brothers and I helped skin and gut many a rabbit, pluck wood pigeons and pheasants, and gralloch deer from the age of 9 and then helped to prep them for our dinner. Our family diet mainly consisted of game and lots of fresh veg that was grown from the garden. Food was either shot by father or bred by him to be killed or fished. We ate it all, pheasant, rabbit, hare, wood pigeon, venison, partridge, duck, goose, teal, trout, salmon, pike, zander and eels. I always remember seeing the freezer always stocked with food or something hanging in the garden like a brace of pheasants, hares and rabbits. I never ate the fish as I was put off it when I was at lower school which was schooled by nuns. They forced it down my throat (literally) and since that day I will not eat fish. Weird I know, because I absolutely love fishing and I put every fish back to live another day.
Golden Pheasants Ginger Oxford BantamsEnglish Oxford Large Fowl
Cock bird I bred that was gifted to a friend.