creative 1975

Summer Chick-a-Dees

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on January 19, 2014 at 7:50 am

When the warmer months came, one-by-one some of my hens began acting a little out of character. They no longer foraged and laid eggs for me to collect. Instead they’d sit on their eggs— brooding!

They weren’t the only ones… the ducks were at it too, but sadly the ducks don’t have a drake yet and so their eggs definitely weren’t fertile. When we found the whereabouts of a nest where one of the ducks were, we had to take them away and destroy the nest much to the disappointment of the Muscovy duck who sulked for the next week—wondering around aimlessly, not knowing what to do with herself.

One of the light Sussex hens had successfully hatched out one of her own eggs – the only one that was fertile, which produced Georgie who appeared in another blog post and I’m pleased to report it is a girl – phew! Another egg layer to add to the flock… she is now a 17 week old pullet, but it won’t be long before she’s a hen! As she grew, her markings became very interesting as she’s a cross breed, and her appearance is much the same as a Plymouth barred rock, therefore we suspect the daddy rooster ‘Ozzy’ who is also a cross, has the barred rock gene.

20140117_114738 Georgie

Next… the Orpington became broody, known as ‘Miss’ Orpington, but sadly she had no fertile eggs and her efforts of sitting for 21 days on a nest failed. I did feel sorry for her. Meanwhile the other light Sussex hen was brooding, so I decided to buy some fertile eggs on the Internet from a local breeder. I wanted a heavy breed and I came across the Dorking.

IMG_4503

The Dorking is one of the most ancient of all domesticated races of poultry. It was brought to Great Britain by the Romans with Julius Caesar, but was known and described by the Roman writer Columella long before it became a popular breed in England. He spoke of the hens as being ‘square framed, large and broad breasted, with big heads and small upright combs,’ adding ‘the purest breeds are five clawed’-

Source: http://dorkingbreedersclub.webs.com/generalcharacteristics.htm

Miss Orpington was not happy and continued to brood even though I’d removed her from the nest and her eggs were gone. 20140117_114655

I collected the Dorking eggs and popped some under both the brooding hens and twenty-one days later, nine magnificently hatched out. They were very cute. One more did hatch but didn’t make it and the remaining weren’t fertile. The journey of raising chicks began, and Mr C. made a run— keeping them safe alongside their mums and I could keep a close eye on their development and their mother’s behaviour.

IMG_4498 A few days old

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Unfortunately, the light Sussex mother hen appeared to have lost patience after a couple of weeks and attacked one of her chicks. I think we found it just in time, another half an hour and I may have found a dead chick. She could very well have turned on another one, because there was another chick with some blood marks on its face. When I found the little chick, it looked like it had been pinned to the ground and its head had been pecked that much it was covered in blood and there was no feathers left. Its tail end was the same and mother hen had blood all over her beak. No predators could get in to the enclosure; it had to be her… she was taken away from them. Horrible mum!

Over the following weeks the three Muscovy ducks all went broody for the second time, the white one being the hardest to knock off the brood. I lifted her off her nest (wearing gloves as she’d bite incessantly) for at least fourteen days consecutively and she wasn’t even sitting on her own eggs, she was stealing hen’s eggs! The other female was nesting underneath our daughter’s sleep-out. It had taken a couple of weeks to find out where she was. This had given her time to lay a good sized latch of eggs that I then had to rake out from under the sleep-out because the space was so tight I couldn’t even look underneath it. However, she’d managed to squeeze herself under there. One day when she was bustling around the chook area, quickly feeding and bathing herself as broody ducks do – ‘in a hurry’— I did the deed of taking her eggs. Poor Jemima! Next season they will be able to have ducklings when they get their new man.

The Dorking chicks could be sexed pretty early and there are four boys and five girls. A really good result as it’s the females for eggs I really need. I will sell three of the boys if I can, but if they don’t sell we may keep them as meat birds. This area is a bit shady for me though, as we’ve culled and dressed one rooster and it was done quickly and humanely. But I’m not sure if I could do it again let alone with chicks I’ve raised. I had bought the rooster we culled with three hens from another poultry keeper, but he turned out to be very aggressive and I just couldn’t keep him or give him to anyone else. He’d attacked me twice and two times was enough. He was a big bird. I’m not tall but he came up past my knees! Anyhow he’s in the freezer now, but not very meaty so it will be a curry!

The chicks are now seven weeks old and I’ve moved them to their own enclosure with more room to rummage. They are completely different visually compared to when they were born and I’m so pleased they’re all doing so well and are healthy. Even the attacked boy is doing well, aka ‘baldy’ – his feathers are growing back and before long I won’t even know which one he is. Picture (below) of the poor wee fella and his injuries.

1387574541719IMG_4583 Baldy after a few days recovery back with his flock

I’ve considered putting a ring on his leg so I know who’baldy is; because I nursed him through his recovery – comforting him and smearing his head with Vaseline twice a day, every day for a week, but I decided it’s best that I don’t know who he is if there’s a possibility I won’t be keeping them.

IMG_4582 Boy (Cockeral) 7 wks old

20140117_114857 Girl (Pullet) 7 wks old

 

The small poultry farm has grown and it’s thriving!

 

 

 

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