Terry Bowes of Wetheriggs Animal Sanctuary
Terry Bowes of Wetheriggs Animal Sanctuary

Terry Bowes has run a poultry breeding and feed business alongside Wetheriggs Animal Rescue for many years, with all of profits going back into the charity. Drivers along the A66 near Greta Bridge will have noticed numerous livestock, including ponies, donkeys, alpacas and rare breed sheep, as well as ducks, geese and chickens, which graze the paddocks.

Meanwhile the buildings, also located at Thorpe Farm Centre, house other farm animals, as well as pet species like rabbits and budgerigars. The site also offers wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

Key features of the expanded poultry breeding enterprise are two large-scale egg incubators and a chick hatching cabinet. Each incubator will hold more than 800 average hen eggs, explains Mr Bowes, who will be helped in the venture by son, Nathan.

“I have kept poultry since I was three years old,” he says. “I think most people enjoy having birds around and nothing tastes better than a home-produced egg, but I also enjoy the genetics side of poultry breeding. We keep the oldest breed in the world, the Appenzeller, and also the smallest breed, the Serama, which is ideal for people who don’t have a lot of outside space.

“Two other old-fashioned breeds that we champion are the Red Dorking and the Derbyshire Red Cap; the numbers of both of these breeds have dwindled and we would encourage people to consider keeping them to increase their numbers.

“Our birds are sold to all types of poultry enthusiast, from the hobby keeper, to the commercial egg producer. We even sell our own F1 hybrid hens, which include the Bowes Moor Brown, a bird that will produce about 300 eggs per year, and we also have the Bowes Moor Blue and the Bowes Moor Blacktip.

“Alongside a large number of poultry varieties, we produce waterfowl, as well as ornamental game birds, like the Golden Pheasant and the Lady Amherst.

“There is also a rising demand for quail; particularly the good egg-laying strains.”

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With a degree in zoology, Mr Bowes has worked in some of the country’s most prestigious zoos, including Chester.

He was also employed at Twycross Zoo, where he helped train the Brooke Bond chimps for the TV adverts. This, he stresses, is no longer appropriate, but Twycross does have a long-standing endangered species breeding programme and also takes in rescued apes and monkeys.

Wetheriggs moved to Teesdale four years ago from its site near Penrith and Mr Bowes has continued his association with the film industry, having recently provided ducks and some canaries for filming a Victorian period drama, as well as taking pigs on location to filming the TV series, Gentleman Jack.

The rescue centre has always run an animal education aspect, and this is due to be expanded as part of the new programme.

There will also be a pet shop on the site.

In addition, the plan is for Universal Creatures to act as a brokerage for animals of all types, including zoo animals.

“It is exciting to be starting on our new ventures, and we hope that they will bring in additional support for the rescue,” says Mr Bowes.

“A couple of local rescue centres have closed recently and we need to generate more income to make sure that we can carry on with our work.”