‘Like having a baby every day’ – Remembering Ken the chicken champion

Country Life turns back the clock ten years to our visit with the late Far North farmer Ken Vincent.

Back in 2013, he’d already been breeding chooks for 70 years.

Ken Vincent and one of his champion roosters.

Ken Vincent’s property looks like a chook hotel, which he says is the best way to breed purebreds.

The retired dairy farmer spent most of his adult life living on a farm near Kaitaia.

When his grandson took over its care, Ken could then spend most of his time with the chickens.

“I had one [chicken] lay 360 eggs and won an award. 360 out of 365 days, that’s not bad, is it? Like having a baby every day.”

Ken said at one time he had 32 different breeds on the farm. He hatched around 3,000 chicks a year from his 200 breeding hens.

He’s adamant that the roosters’ crow is a lovely sound to wake up to.

“There are about 50 roosters on the place and when it all gets going it’s quite the orchestra.”

Ken was first introduced to chickens at five years old when his Nana gave him a Minorca chicken, which remains his favourite breed.

“I love them. I had the most of any one person in this country at one point. 

“Probably about 80 percent of Minorca chickens are [at risk of dying out].”

Not wanting to see the breed disappear, Ken took action.

“[Minorca chickens] will go if we don’t keep at [breeding them]. We just don’t care, the average person doesn’t. 

“The only thing they know is the one they stick in the cage. That’s not having chooks, that’s not the way we treat animals. 

“I am ‘anti’ anything that interferes with nature, I think you’ll end up paying the consequences.”

With ideal care, chickens have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

Ken’s oldest lived to the age of 22, and another one made it to 16 although stopped laying two years before.

About every 12 months, Ken’s chickens go through a malt, losing all their feathers. He says these are added to his garden as they transfer a lot of nitrogen into the soil.

Ken’s focus isn’t just on rare breeds of chicken. He was also a bit of an expert on ducks.

Now you can often find him at poultry shows, either showing off his most prized birds or judging them.

Getting a chook ready for a show can be difficult at times, he says.

“A good wash down in the tub, a blow dry and some Vaseline on the legs to make them shiny will see you right.”

At one stage, Ken took over 200 chickens to shows, and it would take a week to prepare them all.

“That’s me, I just love them. 75 [years of age] I was going to stop, now it’s 80. If the good lord gives me 90 I will do it until then.

“I don’t smoke and I don’t drink but I’ll gamble and I’m going to have my chooks, that’s my motto.”

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