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Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

Second Season

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on January 24, 2016 at 10:20 am

It’s my second season of breeding Muscovy ducks. They truly are endearing creatures. I’ve mentioned before in my posts that I began breeding so ‘my girls’ can do what’s natural—have their clutches of eggs hatch out (instead of brooding all spring and summer), and let them raise their young. Usually they abandon them at around 8 weeks, sometimes later and that’s when I can move all the very-quickly-grown ducks into their own enclosure, where they’ll be safe. Also this means that when they do move to pastures new, I’m not running a marathon trying to catch them in a net. This is the usual practice! I expect it’s quite amusing to watch if you’re the observer (my husband), surveying as I run around in my pyjamas—big net in hand—on collection days. Becomes increasingly harder too when they begin to fly! With exception of the drakes who are too heavy to get off the ground and much easier to capture, but heavier to carry—by the time I sold my last few drakes last season they were bigger than their fathering drake!

They are not ducklings for very long. Therefore, fortunately I have more options this year as Mr C put his constructing skills (yet again) to good use and has extended my enclosures, adding a new one for this precise time of the year.  During the winter it can remain empty where I can either re-seed with grass or something productive to benefit the hens and ducks.

I don’t think I could tire of holding and watching newly hatched ducklings, although sometimes difficult to hold depending on the mother’s mood. I find the best time is when she’s still sitting waiting for others to hatch; once they’re all out you can forget it! And rightly so, it’s her job to protect them, you have to respect this. There are times when they don’t make it out of the shell or they make it out and die, for reasons that can’t be exactly determined. Not hard for them to get squashed under big clumsy mother duck or for the shell to crack and dry out.

I kept the first one to hatch last season and named her Bella. I purposely haven’t let her nest this year; she’s tried a few times. Three ducks nesting is plenty as they can nest up to three times in one season. All my three Muscovy hens nested twice last season, resulting in sixty offspring, which I was fortunate to sell on to new homes as well as the males for meat. By selling them I was then able to put the money towards their food bill for the ducks and chickens, which usually runs into debt throughout the winter, as they eat more and lay less, resulting in less eggs for me to sell to cover their food. Food for my poultry never comes out of our own income; the eggs always manage to pay for the weekly food bill along with selling the ducks, it allows me to sometimes buy new water feeders or laying chickens. I also grow some basics, which is more of a treat with extra nutrients. I’ve just planted some silverbeet (known as chard, Swiss chard and seakale beet, similar to spinach but has a stronger flavour), so they’ll enjoy that when it’s ready.  So far there are twenty ducklings of various ages, thirteen still with their mother duck. Some are ready for new homes. I get some wonderful colours—black, white and green, just white, as well as black and white, blue and white and a lovely smoky grey.  There is one girl that I will be keeping! Last year Mr C told me I wasn’t allowed to keep any. He said, “If you keep one, then another and then before you know you’ve got twenty ducks”. Well it’s true and I’m not naïve to this fact, but I wanted to keep one!

One day Mr C asked “who’s that one over there?”

“That’s Bella”, I replied.

“Bella” he said, thinking to himself how he’d never heard that name before. “Who’s she then?” he asked.

“She was the first one that hatched out, she’s Daphne’s— I’m keeping her”, I answered with a grin.

He rolled his eyes, “You weren’t supposed to be keeping any …hmm”.

When I told Mr C this season I was keeping ‘the black and white female from that wee group of Daphne’s because I don’t have that colour in my flock, he didn’t say anything, well …not aloud anyway!

 

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Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daphne’s Christmas Ducklings

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on January 5, 2015 at 8:25 am

I don’t think I could tire of watching little fluff-bum ducklings discovering water for the very first time; the anticipation as they approach the water-filled tray alongside mother duck, watching as she takes the first drink and then they know what they’re embarking on is safe. That old saying ‘like a duck to water’ couldn’t be more right as they are soon happily immersed in what’s natural.

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20150101_130932-1  This is Daphne’s second time round, although it’s only a few ducklings rather than a clutch of offspring. She only had one spring duckling before, which fortunately turned out to be a girl and I’ve named her Bella—of course I had to keep the first ever duckling to hatch! She’s beautifully bright white with blues eyes, exactly like Daphne and is already displaying her mother’s sweet nature too. Unlike the other two Muscovy ducks, Daphne builds her nest in the chicken’s coop, therefore I only allow her to have a few eggs to keep the reproduction numbers down. Bella was the result of only one egg being fertile in spring that she incubated and now she’s hatched out three little darlings out of the four she sat on. Eventually they will all be rehomed when they’re old enough.

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Daphne with her first ‘Bella’

 

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This is Bella now and no longer following mother duck around!

 

There are not many ducks and drakes left here from spring’s hatch. Jemima had 6 girls and 7 boys and a few have gone now. Twilight had 5 girls and 10 boys. All the girls have nice new homes, but sadly (unless you like duck meat) the boys went on somebody’s dinner table. As I’m a softy and didn’t grow up on a farm, although I wish I had, that part is a bit tough as I round them up and prepare them for collection with the knowledge they are going to be eaten. However, if I am overrun come the beginning of autumn this may be our reality. Mr C likes roast duck! It’s the first season for me so I’m sure it will get easier. I rest assured that whilst they are living on our property they have a good life and not all that I sell get eaten. And that’s the nice part; hearing about the ducks you’ve bred are running, or flying around in a new home. Two of Twilight’s offspring even went to live up in Kaikoura.

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When the heavens open and the rain pours down, the chickens are nowhere to be seen,

but you can always see the ducks!

~

Happy New Year

~

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The three girls, Jemima, Daphne and Twilight

approx 16 weeks old when I got them two years ago.

Jemima’s Ducklings 2014 (and Max)

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on November 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

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The last of my Muscovy hens, Jemima, has hatched her ducklings—a brood of fourteen. She wouldn’t go into the pen (with Twilight and her fast-growing young), so for now she’s living at the front of the property where she nested. As the ducklings get bigger I will have to try and coax them round to the area where all the other poultry live; ducks can be messy making it rather impractical to have them living in the front garden! There are tiny fluffs’ at the moment, but they’ll soon grow just as Twilight’s offspring (appears) to have grown over night. I’m enjoying having them around as one day they’ll all be gone. They’re lovely, amazing creatures and such a pleasure to observe, although can be messy and constantly hungry—gannets!

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It will be a while yet before I can tell the sex of them all. Muscovy hens

and drakes have differences that have to be observed over time, and these

will become more apparent the older they get.

 

7th November 2014

I have successfully moved Jemima and her brood in to the same area as the other ducks and chickens, although they don’t have their own pen, but they can no longer get through to the garden. They now sleep where they are fed (in a shelter I created for them at night using Max’s large plastic kennel he no longer uses. With all day access to an old shower tray filled with water they’re having lots of fun! However, they are still small enough to squeeze themselves through tiny spaces and will often waddle into the paddock and have figured out that once they are in there, they can get into the chicken area through the wire fencing and get to the chicken’s food. The mischievous behaviour will not last of course, because they won’t be able to fit through that fence in a few weeks’ time!

 

I’m very proud of our Labrador Max, and how he has been with all the new ducklings. He’s incredibly placid, but very curious about these new creatures running around his home, yet he behaves so well. I’ve picked up a few of the ducklings and given them a formal introduction, one where he gets to give them a good sniff! I did this only today with a little chick that hatched a couple of days ago. He’s always been good with the chickens and ducks, but now there are all these smaller fluffs waddling around creating interest. He’s a wonderful natured dog and although his breed make good hunting dogs, especially good at retrieving ducks from the water! He’s very observant with the animals, he knows when there’s a new addition he hasn’t seen before and displays this by barking and wanting to smell it. Once he’s seen the animal two or three times, he loses interest. I’ve seen him drop his bone and stand there watching the hens pecking at it and he’ll often sit amongst them all when I’m giving out treats waiting for me to chuck something his way! The thing he likes the best is what he gets from the basket when we come back to the house—a fresh egg to eat!

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Max hasn’t grown up around poultry and when I got my first ten chooks he was introduced to them on his lead for the first week, every day. I guess some breeds will always pose a risk to poultry and I would never allow some one else’s dog to be around them off the lead. It would be fatal. He loves to come with me whilst I do my chook ‘n duck chores and then he will go and lay down in the grass whilst they all waddle or forage around him.

 

 

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Springtime life ‘n loss

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on September 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Perhaps I was overexcited about the arrival of spring with regards to saying goodbye to heaters and so on… bedroom heater still needed, electric blanket still on the bed! Nevertheless, the end is in sight and that’s good enough for me. We’ve had some wonderful sunny days lately and I’ve relished them. I love to wonder around outside in the weekend (especially on a morning after a cup of tea) doing the odd job here and there in my pyjamas! And it’s the time of year I can feed and water the poultry in my PJ’s too, rather than wrapping up in a warm water proof coat during winter months. Keeping a reasonably large flock of poultry does take time and work but in the winter it’s more so, especially when the rain appears to be never ending. Putting unwanted wood pallets down on the ground really helped this year, giving the chooks somewhere to stand whilst drinking without standing in sodden mud. Makes no difference to the ducks and Blue the Drake, they love wet weather and don’t feel the cold like chickens do.

What a joy it was last saturday when I spotted Twilight on the lawn with her ducklings! All fifteen of them! I ceased the opportunity to not just get outside to see them (and take photos!), but to get all of them over to a safe pen before she headed back to her nest. They were all quite happy to be guided to their new home, and after some tricky moments getting through the veggie garden we made it! Once inside they could enjoy fresh food, water and shelter. I then moved Daphne with her not-so-tiny-anymore  duckling from one of the chicken’s areas so they could share the pen. We’re just waiting for Jemima to hatch her brood now.

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Twilight and her first ducklings

Twilight’s ducklings are gorgeous yellow and black balls of cute fluff—adorable. It will be interesting to see the colours develop as she’s black, white and green and the drake is what you call a ‘blue’ – bluey grey colouring with white.  Daphne’s duckling is sure to be white like her and when I picked it up the other day it had her blue eyes.

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Daphne’s duckling at three weeks old

I hope to find them all good homes with people who want to keep or breed Muscovies and living in rural Canterbury it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, the downside and reality is that some will also be taken for eating. Mr C will often mention ‘crispy duck’ to me, but obviously I just ignore his jibes! And comment: if he can cull, dress and roast it himself, okay, but not when I’m home!

 

The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America

 

My Little Roo

Even though springtime has brought the new life of ducklings and spring lambs in the paddock there’s sadly been loss too. I was devastated to have to cull my lovely Dorking rooster this week. He developed wry neck and it can occur in chicks but in older chickens it comes on suddenly and it’s a terrible thing to see and to happen to them. They’re neck twists around and usually they can’t walk either. It can be caused by a few factors: vitamin deficiency, stroke or a knock to the head, which can cause a bleed on the brain. When I found Little Roo at night it was dark and he was on the floor in the coop, which I knew immediately was unusual, but the sight of his neck and head completely twisted around the wrong way was not only one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen but also horrid to see him in that state. I picked him up and sat in the garage with him for a while, cradling him and he slept.

Sometimes they can come back from it with treatment, which can take up to six weeks, but most don’t and even when they do it can happen again. If any of my hens were to produce his offspring they would most probably succumb to the same fate as him because of genetics. He spent the night in a box on an old blanket and his suffering ended the next morning. I’d raised him from a chick.

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On a lighter note, it is time to start planning the garden. This year I will be buying all my seeds from King Seeds. I have their new catalogue and I need to consider what we need, what we all eat and how much space I have. Onwards and upwards!

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Spring 2014

In Gardening, Non-Fiction, Poultry on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

20140907_141918It doesn’t seem that long ago since I wrote on my blog page about last spring and here we are again, but thank goodness for that (I say this every time this particular season arrives). It will not be too much longer before we can put winter behinds us, stop thinking about wood for the log burner, firelighters, kindling, cleaning the fireplace; then we can simply be at a comfortable temperature no matter where we are in the house. No more heaters in the bedrooms and reminiscing about gas central heating in England. You’d think after several years I would be used to this, but I’m one of ‘those’ people—them who really feel the cold. During the warm summer months I have been found wrapped up in a blanket on the couch in the evenings whilst Mr C protests about the heat!

(photo above: calendula)

IMG-20140827-WA0001Spring brings new life around our place and that’s something I always look forward to. The first new life to arrive is a sweet fluffy duckling—the only one to hatch out of the two eggs I allowed my gorgeous white Muscovy duck ‘Daphne’ to sit on. Why only two eggs? Because I have two more ducks that are now brooding; they can lay up to 18 eggs or sometimes more in one latch, and if they are all fertile and successfully hatch that’s a lot of ducklings running around the place and a vast amount to feed. Therefore, Daphne had two but only one hatched. Muscovy duck number two named ‘Twilight’ has now disappeared; she’s built her nest so far inside conifer trees that I can’t reach her to take any away, so there is going to be many eggs incubating underneath her. It was quite sad the other day when I found one of her eggs, broken and discarded on the lawn. It must have been taken by a predator in the night. The duckling was of course dead yet fully formed. It’s sad, but it’s nature.

With more sunshine comes new routine with the poultry, feeding times change and with ducklings and chicks imminent there will be new feathered friends to raise and some male ones to pass on to someone else, which is the part that I don’t like (but I have to be practical and sensible), they will become meat. It’s predestined because roosters aren’t wanted as pets and neither are drakes, unless desired for breeding (if purebred), which the drakes will be. I kept one rooster last year and that’s worked out fine having two in total, but anymore and there will be more arguments over the hens. Not a good idea to have another drake bothering the ducks, they’re keen on him at this time of year when they’re broody, but the rest of the time they’d rather he left them alone! I’m sure it doesn’t affect his self-esteem!

Of course the new arrival of a duckling has presented me with a photo subject. The amount of snaps I’ve taken in the two weeks since its arrival is close to ridiculous. I’ve always been ‘clicker’ happy when it comes to taking photos and when the world went digital that just made me worse as I no longer have to send photo films away to be developed. The problem is just like chicks, ducklings are fast moving and it’s hard to get a good shot.

 

In the garden:

I planted my own garlic seed on the shortest day of the year: 21st of June and they’ve sprouted up lovely. I have been using the garlic in my cooking that I froze from last year’s harvest and there’s not much left, but I’m proud to know that I haven’t had to buy any garlic from the supermarket this year so far. I have some slow-growing bok choy on the go, an abundance of parsley, some leeks still to pull and I know I really need to make time to plan and orders seeds. More compost is a must too. I do have my own compost in process but I think it’s going to be another year before it will be ready to use.

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Leeks and garlic sprouting (right)

Wherever you are in the world embrace the season and what it brings; if you’re feeling the cold of winter arriving you have my sympathy unless you have gas central heating! 🙂

 

 

 

My recent find:

      Organic Fig Leaf TeaimagesCAASJ0K6

 I’m not ‘big’ on herbal teas, it’s only ever really been Jasmine that I like. Whilst ordering lovely soaps from Naturalus I came across fig leaf tea—it has health benefits for the body such as inflammatory conditions, which is ideal for me.

Read more at: http://www.naturalus.co.nz/Products/Tea/Tea.html#132

June to August – The Chill of Winter

In Gardening, Poultry on July 16, 2014 at 10:18 am

WINTER IS UPON US here in New Zealand and reports say it’s been mild and it was the mildest June on record since 1909. It’s the time of year where frosts are imminent and the cold snap freezes the chicken’s and duck’s drinking water on a morning. Wood is being stacked at the front door and kindling chopped by Mr C for the wood burner. I can collect logs if required, but my chopping skills are pathetic to say the least. By the end of winter I am usual fed up with cleaning the constant mess on the fireplace. I am already looking forward to spring when the plants start to thrive and flowers appear once again. I miss seeing flowers in the winter and therefore I decided to sow calendula seeds in one of the raised beds. They are now vibrant, pretty and have a wonderful yellow sunshine colour. They are also a flower that can be infused in oil to make a good salve or used just as oil that’s very beneficial to people with skin problems. I already buy a natural goat soap containing calendula, yet I can’t bring myself to make the oil and sacrifice these lovely flowers, so perhaps I will grow more next time.

20140621_143903-1-1  Calendula just flowered

IN THE GARDEN

There’s not much going on in the garden at this time of year… well at least not in mine; still enough leeks to get through and the last of the celery has been pulled, but it’s really been in the ground too long, therefore what I don’t use the guinea pigs will eat. I have an abundance of parsley—which also, and surprisingly— the guinea pigs also like. I’m not a lover of eating celery; I tend to use it more as a cooking ingredient in my soups, stews and pasta dishes. I remember when I was a child how my granddad loved it with lashings of salt at tea time. Tea in my Grandparents’ house was more like a spread of ‘teatime’ foods such as: apple pie, cornbeef and potato pie, sandwiches—whatever was in the pantry. They ate their hot dinner at lunch time. I loved teatime with Nan and Granddad, eating a mixture of sweet and savoury delights, but the not the celery sticks!  IMG-20140601-WA0002

I’m currently growing the Chinese vegetable bok choy. We eat quite a lot of this, so I might as well grow it and what’s great is that you can grow it all year round. Also, it’s the time of year for planting garlic. My garlic seed is now in a well prepared bed and I hope to see some shoots in a few weeks’ time. This year’s seed is my own garlic from last year.

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Pumpkin and chilli soup on the stove before blending: can’t beat home made soup in winter! Ingredients: potato, swede, carrot, pumpkin, red chilli, salt and pepper, chicken or vegetable stock (meat stock: preferably not shop bought) and of course celery! Sadly I’m the only one in the house who likes pumpkin soup. My daughter likes other soups as long as they’re vegetarian! Therefore vegetable stock only!

THE POULTRY FLOCK
I lost a couple of old hens during autumn and sadly lost another wee chook who was only a year old to what appeared to be something neurological. Luckily I was able to save another hen who was suffering with bumblefoot—a condition caused by the pad on the foot being damaged and over time causes a bacterial infection and inflammation. Surprisingly my chook books were not much help with this, but Facebook pages, the Internet and my poultry friend were. With all that advice, I made a poultice for the hen’s foot and after bathing her foot to clean it and soften it I applied the poultice twice in a twenty-four hour period, wrapping up the foot with a bandage for the poultice to do its job of drawing the infection out.  Obviously she was separated from the rest of the flock and not limping around with a bandage on her foot! I managed to remove the scab that had healed over the wound and gentle squeezed out the infection. She spent a week on her own and I changed her dressing everyday keeping the wound clean as well as applying antiseptic cream. She’s much happier now!

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A Muscovy drake (named Blue) has joined the little duck family, so he’s been busy acquainting himself with the girls. I’m sure come spring and summer there will be ducklings in the flock! The Dorking chicks are now grown and laying. There were five girls that hatched, but sadly one was killed by a predator and another died a couple of months ago. The three left are thriving and laying love052ly little white eggs. Out of the four Dorking boys I kept one and he’s all grown up—crowing and trying to keep out of Ozzy’s way whom was the only rooster up until now. Ozzy gets first pick with the hens and the young roo is learning this. Ozzy is the boss of everyone… so he thinks! However, he’s not when it comes to the ducks and stays out of the drakes way.

I named the Dorking boy ‘Little Roo’ – so original and creative with names I am! It just seemed to fit! If you can catch him he doesn’t mind a cuddle. Ozzy’s offspring are also doing well and luckily were both girls!

Photo below: Little Roo (Dorking boy) in front, Ozzy in the background. Photo above: Blue the Muscovy drake.

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Photos above: Dorking boy (left), Dorking girls (middle), One of Ozzy’s offspring (right)

 

 

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.

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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!

 

 

 

Spring’s Life Cycle

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on October 26, 2013 at 7:44 am

The arrival of spring starts a new cycle of life with many lambs being born in the paddock and the first chick being hatched by one of my lovely Light Sussex hens. 2013-09-19 08.55.45-1

Now I have a motherly Orpington hen sitting on her eggs so I’m eagerly waiting to see if she will hatch one out too. A poultry-keeper-friend of mine told me that it’s quite usually for a hen to only hatch out one or two chicks on her first time, due to her inexperience of turning (candling) the eggs. I am yet to find out whether the new chick is a hen or a rooster. Hopefully a hen but I’m doubtful as there are always more roosters than hens. The new feathery chickadee has been named ‘Georgie’ by my daughter who has been desperate for one of the hens to have a chick, and she’s held on to that name especially for when the time comes. I told her it would only happen if one of the hens’ turns broody as I’m not going to start breeding until next year. When the first one did turn broody we let her get on with by moving her and her nest out of what I call the ‘big coop’ and into a smaller one by herself, with a run attached to it. To my surprise about five weeks ago a chick appeared!

The Light Sussex is a heritage breed and quite striking with gorgeous white plumage, an attractive black lace looking collar and black tips to her tail and wing feathers. The roosters make good table birds and the hens are good layers. As well as being good mothers if IMG_4085allowed to sit on her eggs. I’m really pleased with the two I have, which I got from my poultry-friend who breeds them and they are pure bred too. (Photo: right)

The Orpington is gorgeous and I would describe her as being voluptuous with her copious amount of feathering; almost touching the ground like a cape she carries round with her. Her light colouring is nice-looking and the shape of her eyes is different to the others, more oval and pretty. They also make good mothers to their chicks, so let’s hope she hatches one out. Unlike the Light Sussex, I can’t be certain the Orpington is a pure bred chicken as the breeder I got her from is suspicious another rooster may have intervened when he shouldn’t have! I did have two of these lovely birds originally, but sadly one died. (Photo: below)

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A couple of months ago I acquired two lovely cross breeds, they are both black in colour and pretty small in comparison to the others and they lay white eggs. One is a Houdan crossed with a Leghorn Frizzle and the other is a Houdan crossed with a Leghorn. They have the well-known Leghorn genes: a double comb and five toes! There is something about this pair I find amusing as they dart about so fast and hide under the tree or in the long grass. When the smallest one of the two first arrived (the frizzle) she took a liking to the fluffy Orpington and would snuggle right up to her in the coop every night (she’ll be missing her now she’s off on her nest elsewhere). Yet the two of them, named Mickey and Mini by my daughter are always together during the day. I try not to name our chooks as I’ve had a few of them with names die, but I find myself creating my own names sometimes from nowhere whilst walking amongst them and I call these two Houdan and Little Frizz!

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The Muscovy ducks are also doing well. They’ve all been through the maternal stage and sat on their eggs, but unfortunately none of them were fertile because it turned out that ‘Daffy’ is not a drake! We’d let them sit for a while and then take their eggs away. May be we’ll get a drake next year! They’re laying eggs again now they’ve finished brooding and the one’s we don’t eat are selling well at the gate with the chicken’s eggs.

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Duck eggs are great for baking and have big yellow creamy yolks, very tasty fried or in an omelette. Duck eggs are actually twice as nutritional as a chicken egg, although the yolk is higher in cholesterol, but it’s the good kind! And they last longer in the fridge. The longevity is due to their hard shells—they need a good crack.

IMG-20130722-WA0002(photo of my delicious Victoria sponge)

The newest arrivals are six brown shaver pullets, eleven weeks old. They’re lovely with their soft young feathers and settling in well to free range life. I’m looking forward to when they begin to lay and hope they’ll be good layers. I still have ten other hyline chickens, the first hens I purchased when I began my little poultry farm. I call them my ‘old girls’ as they’re getting on a bit now, but still lay eggs every other day. Sadly I’ve had to separate them from the others, although they still free range, because they are not very nice to all the other chooks and ducks!

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Ten Chooks (plus four more) and a Rooster named ‘Buffy’

In Poultry on March 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I wrote this post some time ago, but had not published it because sadly the rooster died, but I’ve decided to put it on my blog because firstly: he was our first rooster, secondly: it was an event in our chosen lifestyle (and poultry) journey and thirdly—he was lovely and I was very sad to lose him. We don’t know why he died; there was nothing noticeably wrong with him. I guess sometimes they just kick the bucket for whatever reason; whether it was of organ failure or he may have had a fright of some kind… I have no idea. Roosters can live free range for many years.

R.I.P. Buffy – the rooster.

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With the good amount of space we have for the chickens we decided to add to the brood and get another four from our ‘chook guy’ here in Christchurch. Though these new arrivals were not quite the same in appearance as the first ones: same breed but with fewer feathers! These scraggy-looking hens had been picked on and were missing their feathers on their heads and chests in particular. Then again, there’s not a chicken in our flock now that doesn’t have either a balding looking head, neck or the odd feather hanging out. They all have a peck at each other, especially at feeding times! You can spot the submissive ones!

I was told that when chooks are amongst a flock of over twenty birds their memory span is that small that they don’t recognise each other, and therefore the unfortunate few get bullied. I’m wondering if the figure could be more than ‘ten’ in our case as there had been no bullying in our flock of ten before ten became fourteen. At least they have a better life than the poor chickens stuck in cages all day. These unfortunate cage hens are lucky if they have any feathers! Factory farmed chickens that never see the light of day nor do they ever scratch the ground with their feet. There’s no room for them to flap their wings and no where to bathe in the sun.

Let me introduce our rooster, Buffy or Buff as we sometimes call him—named by our daughter—he has added character and colour to the flock. He’s a young, White Sussex cross breed and he’s gorgeous. He has handsome white feathers, which are tipped with black and his tail feathers spray gallantly adding to his distinguished characteristics. His large bright red comb flops about and his wattle jiggles in unison.  Little does he know that we actually saved him from the ‘pot’ as he was going to become rooster broth until he was offered to us to watch over the hens. Now he spends his days foraging amongst the girls and getting up to plenty of activities with them!

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Ten Chooks …part two

In Poultry on October 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Our chooks have settled in to their new home very well. They’re intriguing creatures and very sociable. Whether you’re cleaning out their coop or sorting out the ‘feed and straw’ shed; they are around your feet, pecking your boots and generally waiting for you to give them something to feast on. I guess they are pets, but not the same companionship we have with our four-legged friends …they are here to provide us with eggs and in return we take good care of them.

They have good shelter, the right food, treats and plenty of space to forage.

My husband built the coop, a sheltered hut and a shed to store everything we need to care for them, which he enjoyed building as it was a refreshing break from work and house renovation (and he likes the challenge). And I think he’s done an excellent job!

On an average day, I tend to the chickens at least four times:

  • Morning: let them out of the coop and give them fresh food and water.
  • Mid-morning: collect eggs.
  • Afternoon: Give them scraps and check for more eggs and then at night they will take themselves off into the coop, find an area to sleep, either a perch or shelf and then one of us will shut them in for the night.
  • Lastly, take away the food to keep predators away!

Collecting eggs first thing on a morning is not the case as the majority tend to lay between 9am and 11am, and the rest thereafter. We keep sufficient eggs for ourselves to eat and to use in baking. And what we won’t use are then sold at the gate—boxed per dozen, left in a cooler box with a ‘honesty’ money box and a sign to let everyone know that they’re there. Our lovely fresh eggs have become quite popular and always sell. We definitely have a regular neighbour who buys them and I suspect we have more. It’s nice knowing that they are eating our hens’ eggs. In turn the hens’ pay for their own keep to a certain degree as the revenue collected pays for their food and straw etc.

Giving the chickens left-over food from our kitchen is ideal and apart from onion they’ll eat just about anything. There’s not much food that goes into our bin these days. However, they do prefer vegetables cooked and they adore potatoes mashed, roasted, baked— they love them! Scraps should ONLY be given in the afternoon as they need to have their own food for nutrients and good egg shell production. Their crop (where the food is stored when they eat) fills up quite quickly, therefore mornings should be kept with filling up on chicken feed and grubs they scrape-up themselves. The food we buy for them includes the grit needed to make the shell so there’s no messing about buying grit separately, although I do keep our egg shells to supplement it now and again. As long as they are cleaned and ground very finely they are suitable. You can roast them in the oven, but trust me, this option is surprisingly smelly!

Keeping planks of old wood or logs lying around on the ground in the hens’ area; is a good idea as the ground becomes damp and brings about an abundance of slugs and worms. Turn them over every couple of days and the chickens have a delicious appetiser to dine upon, in addition they also have new ground to scrape at, keeping them ENTERTAINED. If they are entertained they are less likely to become bored and start picking on each other!

Keeping check of their health is a must and with a small flock the time needs to be taken to individually glance over the vitals: a nice red comb, wattle and ears, legs that aren’t scaly and dry looking, any injuries and basically that they all appear healthy and happy. Egg production usually teeters off around moulting time and extra protein in the form of dog food (meat) can be given as an afternoon treat to get them laying again sooner. I give them this once a week anyway for extra protein. They relish it.

Mites and lice can be prevented with the appropriate treatment. I have a powder that I dust the chickens with once a fortnight and also the coop gets a dusting too, especially in the corners of the coop. As long as prevention is practiced, mites and lice won’t be a problem. Giving the coop a good scrub with water and disinfectant in the hot summer months is also a good idea for this reason.

Every egg starts as a yolk and by the time the egg is laid the whole process takes on average about eighteen hours!