I’m really enjoying going out to meet the Members of Dorset Food & Drink; they are usually small family businesses that have matured slowly over the years, most with a dash of serendipity along the way. The Piddle Valley Chicken is one of these; it is owned and run by Kevin (Kev) and Jenna Froud (who also works for her family business as a manager). Currently Piddle Valley Chicken is spread across different sites, one to bring on the chicks and another to process the chickens for market. The other two sites are where the birds roam free feeding on corn, grass, clover and anything else they can catch.
Kev grew up in a small village of Woodlands near Wimborne, he has always had a fascination with keeping chickens, even selling eggs to friends and neighbours.
He then attended Sparsholt College where he studied Game Keeping and Deer Ecology, before finally securing a job in Sandringham Estate. This unfortunately was cut short when he had to return home for family commitments.
This is when his bird keeping skills came back in use; he started to produce small numbers of birds for the table, selling the excess to friends. Slowly but surely with the help from parents and his wife Jenna, Piddle Valley Chicken was formed.
I visited Kev, Jenna and baby Alice on one of their sites close to Blandford. Here they had four moveable chicken houses, each one with chickens at different ages.
The chickens are free to roam across a 14-acre field. It is a little smaller this time of the year because it has to be surrounded by a powerful electric fence due to the number of young foxes about. Also during this current heat wave, Kev has erected some makeshift shade for the birds in the form of old pallets, where they spend most of the day until it cools down in the evenings, they really don’t like this heat.
The breed of chicken they use is the Hubbard, which has been used since 1921 to produce quality chicken meat. The eggs originate from France, hatched in Devon and Kev takes delivery of day old chicks, Father Malcolm looks after these chicks until ready for the field. Then they are transferred to a vacant chicken house, which has been cleaned and moved to a fresh piece of grass.
Here they spend a carefree life of chasing insects and eating corn. At around 10-12 weeks old, Kev collects and transports before dawn, this is to ensure that the birds are totally relaxed. Kev, who is licensed to dispatch chickens quickly, then processes these ready for market.
Kev personally delivers his chickens oven ready to his various outlets of butchers, farm shops, village shops, restaurants and pubs across Dorset. He likes to deliver himself so he can chat to all his customers, to get any feed back and to keep good relations. If you want to stock his chickens please call him today, if you would like to buy one of his chickens then check their website for a stockists near you.
This one was spatchcocked and cooked slowly on the BBQ – There was something familiar about the flavour of these slow grown free-range chickens, they tasted like, well …chicken, proper chicken!
Blog and photos kindly written and taken by our volunteer John Grindle.