My life… with a few chickens thrown in for good measure

Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

Chickens As Pets author on ebooks and promotion

Hi, my name is Andrew Hinkinson-Hodnett.  I’m an experienced editor, journalist and published poet. I’m also the author of a new ebook, Chickens As Pets. Scrummycupcake kindly invited me to write a guest blog today. I’m very grateful for her generosity in offering me this promotional space, as independent authors like myself don’t charge a fortune for our work but at the same time often find traditional advertising costs prohibitively expensive.

I thought I’d write about the book, obviously, but also some of the challenges facing authors who go the independent digital self-publishing route.

Book promotion without £££

There are ways to promote a book that don’t cost money. This is why I’ve started reaching out to readers and prospective readers, crowd-sourcing my promotional activity by offering to name-check in my next chicken book anyone willing to stick a poster up for me in their local feed supplier, school, library, workplace… wherever. Get permission first, of course!

All I’m asking people to consider doing is to download the poster from the Chickens As Pets website (you’ll find the specific blog entry here), take a snap of it wherever it goes up and send it to me at andrew at chickensaspets dot uk dot com. I then add the sender to my roll-call of thanks in the opening credits on my next chicken book.

Whether it works as a crowd-sourcing exercise or not, I’ve no idea. Has anyone done it before? I don’t know. It’s worth a shot, though – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Chickens As Pets website carries other promotional tools and ideas too, like the now-obvious social network links to easily post pages and blog entries to your own feeds. There’s a healthy following for the book on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well, where my short updates often get shared elsewhere. I also use those feeds to promote good work by charities, such as the British Hen Welfare Trust or Little Hen Rescue, or highlight great articles found elsewhere on the Web.

Social networks

Maintaining three social networks is time-consuming and hard work but it is very rewarding, especially as I’m keen to help answer questions people might have about their pet chickens. It’s not all about raising the profile of the book. It’s about offering a book plus support and community. When I am able to help, it’s a good feeling. I’ve said that if only one hen got a better life as a consequence of someone buying Chickens As Pets and taking advice from it, that would suit me very well, thank you.


I also publish a Storify collection of chicken-related videos, photos, news, tweets and status updates from all over the world every week. All my social network accounts get the heads-up whenever it goes live and you can subscribe here as well. It includes everything from scientific news – such as advancements in poultry medicine – through to silly videos such as the Muppet Chickens.

Sharing the link love

I’ve just started seeking out what are called ‘reciprocal links’ – otherwise known as ‘you scratch my website, I’ll scratch yours’. I’ve got a few links to chicken-related websites on the Chickens As Pets Welcome page right now but the list is modest. My idea is to move them to a page of their own, building up a resource of blogs and businesses relevant to pet chicken-keepers. They don’t have to be about chickens. They could be about composting , recycling, smallholdings, nature, veterinary care… Products, services, sharing and support that aren’t a million miles away from the concerns and values of pet chicken-keepers.

While I mention brands sometimes – say, in response to a question about worming products, I might talk about Verm-X – I take no money in the form of sponsorship. I’m not paid to talk about this medicine or that magazine. I just think an honestly-written book needs all the promotional activity around it to be honest as well, otherwise it becomes potentially exploitative – and Chickens As Pets is about enabling people to look after pet chickens, not exploitation of the needs of chicken-keepers. If an expensive product does the job, I’ll say so in the book or on the networks. If it can be done with a few basic kitchen ingredients for next to nothing, I’ll say that. Trust is important.

I’ve run some competitions for free products kindly donated and for copies of the book to download. The next will happen when the iBooks for iPad Edition goes on sale in the Apple iBookstore. Follow me on the social networks for the chance to enter any competitions I run.

Why Chickens As Pets?

Traditionally chicken books have had as their main focus the idea of these beautiful birds being livestock – indeed, in the UK they aren’t legally recognised as pets despite the reality that up to half a million homes now keep pet chickens in the garden – but there isn’t even a handful of books solely devoted to chickens as family pets: loved, interacted with as individuals, maybe even pampered a fair bit. I wanted to address this gap in the marketplace.

Kindle, Smashwords

The book is available for download from Amazon for Kindles and Smashwords in other formats, for e-readers like the Nook, Sony and Kobo. Both these online book stores offer a free sample of the book to ‘try before you buy’. They contain an exclusive chapter not found in the upcoming iBooks interactive Edition, to compensate for the fact that the iPad supports many more multimedia features than other hardware e-readers.

iBooks for iPad

The iBooks for iPad Edition is radically different from the others. It was actually ready for publication before the Kindle and Smashwords Editions but Apple has a horrendously long approvals process that desperately needs to change. Many authors and publishers are upset about the delays they’re facing. Chickens As Pets iBooks for iPad Edition has been waiting to go live for over six weeks! Apple just doesn’t seem to have enough staff on the iBookstore for speedy turnarounds. I’ve many people waiting patiently to buy it and you can view a promo video on the book’s website to whet your appetite.

The version for iPad is like a glossy coffee table book. It’s certainly the most glamorous chicken book ever published and most definitely the first-ever in the whole wide world to be produced for a touchscreen tablet interface. It features full-colour photos, interactive diagrams, videos and short ‘just for fun’ quizzes to test your knowledge at the end of many chapters. Some screen grabs follow, just click on them for a larger view:

I’ll update this post (or ask scrummycupcake if she’d be so kind) as and when the iPad version goes on sale. You can also sign up for a one-off email notifying you, via the Chickens As Pets website.

So, have you made any money yet?

Yes, I’m writing this from my luxury yacht… As if. I have made some, yes. Not a lot. Certainly not enough to live on, not yet at any rate. I wrote Chickens As Pets from the perspective of simply wanting to. I love my chickens, I know they make a lot of sense as productive, friendly pets and I wanted to evangelise them with honesty and heaps of enthusiasm. I’ve written for other people since 1995. Now I’ve decided to write without any employer other than myself.

Writing and marketing Chickens As Pets has given me so much that can’t actually be broken down into financial terms – interaction with new people, a sense of satisfaction, a knowledge that I can and have written a book at last. It’s given me the confidence to finish the first draft of a comedy novel for adults, which is so radically different from my chicken guide that I’ll be publishing it under a pen name to avoid confusion.

Responses so far

Feedback from readers has been hugely positive and the book’s already garnered some five-star reviews and press interest (most recently, the May 2012 issue of Home Farmer magazine gives it a lovely write-up). I’m happy but the work doesn’t stop with writing a book, the real work comes with promoting it. That aspect never really ends, really. Books rarely sell themselves unless they’re the latest from internationally known authors like JK Rowling, who have millions in the bank from earlier works.

And finally…

I hope this blog entry has been interesting to chicken fans and anyone curious about self-publishing digital books, marketing them and working as an author. I’m happy to be interviewed, by email is probably best, for any chicken-related blogs and websites. Just get in touch with me via the Chickens As Pets contact page. I can offer free copies of the book to go with published interviews, so that you can use the whole package to generate interest in your own site activities. Check out the press page on the website.

Thank you for reading. And remember, chickens will take over the world. They already outnumber us! Please feel free to share this article and comment on it below. x


Not in my cuppa


I love going for a drive into the countryside with my children, watching the sheep graze and cows happily loafing about in fields. We don’t see many fields of chickens sadly, mainly due to most chickens being commercially kept in barns & battery conditions. To the majority of us, the practice of battery farming chickens is abhorrent but what if this became the case with cows?

The possibility of mega dairies getting the go ahead here is a scary prospect. I don’t want that, I don’t want milk in my tea that has come from ‘battery’ cows.

I want to see cows in fields doing what cows do best, roaming the countryside with the chance to feel the wind rustle against their faces, warm sunshine on their backs and rain against their skins

Imagine fields without cows …. instead there are factories full of cows. Cows with no access to grass, no exercise, no sunlight.

Would you drink factory milk from ‘battery’ cows?
Would you even know the milk in your cuppa is from ‘battery’ cows?

We need to stop mega dairies from becoming a reality. Join Molly the cow to stop mega dairies


Factory milk with that? Not in my cuppa!

If like me, you think cows belong in fields not factories visit

The chicks at 3 weeks

The two sablepoots are getting their feathers in & look a bit bedraggled at the 3 week Mark.
The pekins are looking fab! 7 out of 9 have frizzled and I think they are going to be quite beautiful by the time they are 12 weeks old.

So far I have 2 definite doodlers, a lavender frizzle and a black frizzle. Time will tell if any more decide to show their true colours off. Basically you look for a big comb with wattles, and two have wattles already! Girls tend not to develop their head gear as quick. Boys will also attempt to doodle around the 9 to 12 weeks stage

In an attempt at feather sexing at a day old I figured 5 boys and 6 girls but I’ve found from past experience it’s not been a particularly reliable science as far as pekins are concerned

I shall leave you with pictures of the 11 chicks at 3 weeks old











Hatching day arrived…

So, on day 18 for my 9 eggs & day 17 for the eggs from chickenstreet (Saturday) I stopped the turning mechanism and increased the humidity to 65%. I noticed quite a few of the eggs were rocking, including the ones not due to stop turning til the following day, which was very early for rocking! All candled ok so looked forward to 12 babies to start hatching on the Tuesday/Wednesday.
However on the evening of day 19 (Sunday) I noticed this…

pipped egg

This little chick had pipped 2 days early!
At first I was excited but I then had a mild panic as it was now bedtime and I hadn’t got anything ready. The brooder wasn’t clean in fact it was still full of toys ( yes its a plastic toybox), I hadn’t sterilised the drinker or cleaned and disinfected the electric hens.I had bought the chick crumb so at least they could eat. Luckily the chicks stay in the incubator for approximately 24 hours before needing to go in a brooder so I had the following day to get it all ready. Because the chicks pip was quite big, I expected it would hatch overnight, so I set up the CCTV.

Its a wired system but so easy to use, in the morning when I switched the tv on I was greeted by not one, but two little chicks!


Two early chicks! both my pekins one lavender and one black. the rest followed in fairly quick succession over that and the following day.

little black pekin chick on its way out below

chick working its way around, breaking the egg
almost out
a tired chick hatches

while all this was going on I got the brooder all set up and once the chicks were fluffy and dry they moved into the brooder, which meant the just hatched ones could rest.

Unfortunately the last egg containing a lemon cuckoo chick from chickenstreet was bashed about by the others. The shell was broken, breaking blood vessels in the membrane and the chick inside died.

These are the 11 that did hatch, pictures taken on their way to the brooder, approx 24 hrs old.

They are the loveliest little things, the sablepoots ( one is pictured with a penny) are tiny!
Their feathers started coming through really quickly! I think 7 or 8 of my 9 pekins are frizzled
frizzled feathers

They are growing up beautifully and are a week old now

Hatching update

So I candled on the 14th and only 12 were fertile eggs. I removed the dud ones and will now leave the eggs to do their ‘thing’! Only 11 days to go!!

Incubator is up and running….

Rcom 20 incubator

I started running my incubator yesterday to make sure all was well with it, it’s currently situated in the attic as that has a stable temperature and I can brood them up there too.
This will be my second hatch with the Rcom. I used the universal tray that came with it last time (sort of adjustable columns to pop eggs in )and I’m not convinced it turned all of the 12 eggs particularly well. With that in mind I invested in the 20 egg tray which has a cut out for each egg evenly spaced and I’m hoping this will do the job a lot better.
I like the fact that this incubator is fairly simple to use it needs minimal fiddling with. Aside from candling eggs at day 6 and 14 all you really need to do is you fill the reservoir and check it’s topped up every 3 days, set the humidity (45) and temp (37.5), set the ‘turning’ to ‘on’ and you are good to go!
18 days later up the humidity to 65 and set ‘turning’ to ‘off’ then wait for the baby chicks to hatch 🙂
The eggs above are from my pekins 5 from flower x Alice and 2 are frizz x Alice. Tomorrow I shall pop some more eggs in from the lovely Andy at Chickenstreet
I shall post candling results hopefully with pictures if embryo’s are clear enough to see.
Fingers crossed for a happy hatch 🙂

The chicken thing…

Some people don’t ‘get’ it…Most people like the chickens, chooks have their own little quirks and are amusing to watch. Some people like to ‘joke’ about killing and eating them. Can’t say I find it funny or ever will. But thankfully those are in the minority or at least know when to stop.
My chickens regularly wander into the house. Flower mooches in and makes her way upstairs to thomas’s room where she will perch and watch tv with him.

I’ve always wanted chickens, ever since we bought this house & hubs always said no. I think he only gave in after the devastating time we had with Dad being taken gravely Ill.
(To cut a long story short Dad was brought back from the brink by amazing itu staff moved to general ward then suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage because of incompetent nursing staff. I nursed him round the clock supported by my sisters the following few days til he died. We then had to wade through a year of pre inquests & endure his inquest by jury)
So I’d had a pretty pants year and because of that I was allowed some chickens. I got two ex batts. Posh & pecks. Love the way they are so inquisitive and do things like jump up and run off with my sandwich.
They also very quickly told the greyhound who’s boss 🙂

yep, that would be the dogs food

next the hub bought me 2 pekins, flower & Dave.

Then I got 3 bantam Plymouth rocks.

I hatched tikka and nugget from my own stock. Then hatched frizz a mottled pekin.

I bought a box of pekin cockerels (they were supposed to be girls) from ardingly, frizzles noodles, Alice and two smooth reds.

Next hatch was pekins spot and Sally.

A few weeks after them I upgraded the incubator and I hatched Dobby a bantam orp & pekins Hattie,jelly,tallulah & moony.

I was also given two pretty little lemon pyle brahma girls

There have been downsides, Dave & 2 of the rocks died 😦
And some of the others went to fab homes.

I currently I have 10 hens and 3 doodlers can never get them all in 1 pic together…

Thats todays gratuitous chicken blog mainly just to say there is more to chickens than eggs, KFC, yorkshire puddings and gravy! they make fab pets and are great little characters to have bimbling around the garden (or the living room)

DISCLAIMER: having got them a new massive shed I can AND will do one more hatch 🙂