Poultry People

Putting the finshing touches to a painting

Putting the finshing touches to a painting - Credit: Archant

Chris Jones is a poultry and wildlife artist as well as being a chicken-keeping enthusiast

Chris with some of his chickens

Chris with some of his chickens - Credit: Archant

How long have you been keeping chickens and what first got you interested?

I’ve been keeping them for about five years now, though I was already painting them long before that. It was my first visit to the National Poultry Show that revealed to me the wonderful diversity of chicken breeds and I was instantly hooked.

What breeds do you keep – and would you recommend the breed(s) to a novice?

I only have the space for a small flock of bantams at the moment. Currently I have Yokohama, Wyandotte and a Silkie/Pekin hybrid. I would certainly recommend the Wyandotte and Pekin, also Welsummers, which were my first birds – they are very friendly, with lovely brown eggs. Yokohamas are not the easiest to keep in good condition, due to the cock bird’s long trailing tail feathers.

It is obvious that you have a love of your subject – what is it about painting chickens and poultry that appeals to you so much?

I find them endlessly fascinating. There are so many varied forms, colours, patterns and textures. When you paint a section of iridescent green feathers, next to some cryptically fine pencilled ones, then the flowing hackles and tails, it never gets boring.

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To paint poultry accurately, how important is it to understand them?

Personally, to work in a highly realistic style it is essential for me to understand as much as possible. This is why keeping chickens has become so invaluable. I now know the subtleties of behaviour they exhibit at various times, the distinctive poses they strike, and can of course study them daily. Keeping the few breeds I have (plus referring to the poultry standards books) has educated me to the look of a good, healthy bird and the correct form and carriage they should display.

Have you ever got it wrong!?

Several times! In the past I often studied birds that I had seen in farm parks. They usually turned out to be rather poor examples of their breed. Now I try to see as good quality birds as possible and, when necessary, ‘improve’ them slightly should they have a defect.

Is there a particular medium you prefer when painting chickens - if so, why...

I always paint in either acrylics or oils. Both are opaque paints in their thicker form, which makes them ideal for creating the illusion of solid objects. I find acrylics easier to handle,

because they dry so quickly, but oils have a richness of colour and subtlety of blending that make feathers really come alive.

What do you hope chicken keepers will ‘get’ from looking at, or owning, one of your paintings?

Most of all I hope they get lasting enjoyment from them. And the recognition that I have represented the birds they love accurately and in the correct spirit. I hope my style of realism

reminds people of some of the classical painters that inspire me, whilst still looking like a modern work.

As a chicken keeper, if someone considering keeping chickens for the first time asked your advice, what would you consider most important?

It’s paramount to start with good healthy birds from a reputable source and, even if you want them only for the eggs, you can still choose from many beautiful pure breeds. I would recommend a

good sized run (daily free-range in the garden comes at the cost of all your favourite plants!) and to stick primarily to the recommended diet of layers pellets and corn. (You can tell immediately by their droppings how their food agrees with them – bread is a big messy ‘no-no’!) Otherwise, I would just say give it a go, the hobby is greatly rewarding and you learn

as you go along.