Friday, 28 August 2015

More about Ixworths

The Ixworth chicken breed was unsurprisingly developed in the Suffolk village of Ixworth. Perhaps, more interestingly, it was developed by the same person, Reginald Appleyard, who developed the Silver Appleyard duck. He was clearly quite a talented poultry breeder, if a little unoriginal in thinking up names for his breeds.
The aim of developing the Ixworth was to produce a bird which not only laid a good amount of eggs but one where the cockerels grew quickly a made good meat birds. Today we call this an all-rounder.
The breed was finally developed in 1939 and became popular in war time and post-war Britain.


But then came the arrival from America of mass-produced food which unfortunately included chickens. Meat breeds were developed which reached kill weight in half the time. Eggs were produced by different breeds.
By the 1970s the Ixworth breed was almost gone. The public had got used to cheap, tasteless white meat from mass produced birds and insipid eggs from battery farms. Convenience and cheapness had taken over from quality and any concerns for animal welfare. This applied to pretty much all food. You can understand it after times of austerity and with lifestyles changing so quickly, but the trend has unfortunately carried on. There is slightly more awareness about the issues now, but overall people have become totally distanced from the origins of their food. I know somebody in their mid-twenties who didn't even know you had to dig to get potatoes out of the ground!

One good product of the 70's was The Good Life. Good old Tom and Barbara showed us another way. (Was that too may goods?) I don't know how much this influenced me in my youth, but there is now a significant minority of us who prefer to balance the conveniences of the present with some of the values and qualities of the past. Of course some of us are more stuck in the past than others.

And so re-enter the Ixworth. This once seemingly perfect all-round breed was thankfully not forgotten by everybody and is now making a comeback. It is still a rare breed, but is gaining popularity among smallholders.

I managed to get a cockerel from a different source to my two young hens to avoid weak, interbred stock. This trio of birds have now been introduced and are getting along very well. Once the hens reach point of lay, I will start collecting their eggs, as normal. But come next spring I will be placing their eggs under any willing hens in the main chicken pen, with the aim of hatching them out and raising them for meat.

3 comments:

  1. How are your Ixworths doing John? They're one of my favourite Chicken breeds and one I hope to have on a smallholding one day (...dreaming!)

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  2. The Ixworth hens are now laying well. We get one or two eggs every day. We have put a dozen of their eggs under a broody hen and are hoping for our first chicks to raise as meat in about a week. It has to be said the Ixworths are not friendly. They act like wild birds and go into a panic whenever I enter their enclosure. I guess they know they are meat birds!

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    Replies
    1. Hi John, wishing you success with the eggs, hopefully they hatch and look forward to seeing their progress! I should think they'll be a tasty addition to the table one day soon!

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