Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #15

Posted: September 25, 2016 in Chickens, Ducks

The chicken keepers’ worst scenario last wednesday morning. Checked the chickens a little later than usual. Found a fox had gotten into the duck house which I thought was impregnable due to its roof. A scene of carnage inside. The little hen sitting on the duck eggs slaughtered together with all the chickens and the one rooster in this pen. Five dead in all. Not even eaten. I noticed a duck looking sore and picked her up. She had a some bad injuries under her wing.I thought she’d need putting down but put her in a pen to recover anyway. I was so angry. I wanted to tear the fox apart, poison it, anything. I considered photographing the bodies to show everyone why people want foxes dead, why they put out baits but thought better of it. Instead, I worked all day on a door for one pen and strengthening the defences of others. They’ll all have to be locked away each night now. Somehow the fox missed my 9 growing babies in the divided pen next to the ducks. They got shifted to the main pen where they have settled in well.

The ducks gave the fox a fight , I think as one of the drakes was skinned down the front and looking sore but ok. I heard nothing, not a thing.

The antidote is of course birth. On the following days we had two turkey babies hatch successfully and one tiny chick. All are still ok so far. I put all the duck eggs the duck and hen had been sitting on straight into the incubator. We shall see if they survive. Their candling looks good so far.

The injured duck is still alive 5 days later. I treated her wounds with salty water  and Iodine spray. She’s not happy being locked up in a cage under the brooder but its too hard to treat her if she goes back to the pen. In a few days, she should be right to return. The poor ducks hate being locked up in their pen but I have let them out and supervised them closely every second day. The chickens and turkeys have had a few goes out to free range as well but also closely supervised.  Things carry on but I miss the hens who used to scratch in gardens near the house and the beautiful red rooster who was so keen to be with them. I wished them a beautiful life next time around.





Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #14

Posted: September 16, 2016 in Chickens

Update on hatchlings: Six chicks hatched last weekend: 5 Arauconas and one Isa Brown cross. None of the silkie eggs hatched! One little Araucona died due to a hip and feet abnormality which meant it couldn’t move to where the heat was. I held him in my hand for quite some time trying to warm him up but he didn’t survive. There’s an Isa Brown cross hatching at the moment and the the two turkey eggs that looked viable are waiting in the hatching section of the incubator.

Last Sunday I went to the Moss Vale Poultry Auction. I always find these exciting. You never know what you’ll end up with. There were over 200 cages of lots of different varieties of birds for sale. From fancy show birds like white silkies  to job lots of 5 week old chickens. For the first time there were dozen lots of fertile eggs for sale. I went around and wrote down the birds I was interested in and got my bidder number. There were about 70 people there to see the birds and bid. I warned a few that you don’t always get what you want especially if others are bidding too.The most consistent sellers were batches of Isa Brown pullets because they are the best layers. Some birds went for up to $90 each if they were attractive breeds and hens. Many of the magnificent roosters didn’t sell, but I bought a lovely big black Langshan rooster for $10, the first buy of the day. The next best buy was 6 black Australorp unsexed chickens approx 6 weeks old.  I got all of them for $2 mainly because people are afraid they’ll get roosters. Then I bought a beautiful Polish cross grey pullet with a divided frilly comb for $16. After her got a job lot of 8 Araucona unsexed birds for $16. They are black, white and grey. When I got them home, I realised some had foot abnormalities common apparently to this breed but most are ok, so again a very good bargain. The buy of the day (possibly) was a dozen ‘Polish cross Frizzle Fertile Eggs’. No one bid on them so I got them for $2. Felt bad actually, as the pen cost $4 to the vendor, however, I couldn’t give them more at the checkout as this would have upset the computer system. If they hatch, they could be magnificent as I have seen their pedigree on a local Facebook site. Wow! Big top knot heads and frizzle feathers- a truly Bowral bird, so we shall see.

I desperately wanted to buy some great Quails but they were at the end of the auction, and I felt I’d bought enough already.  Maybe next time, as I didn’t have a specific pen ready for them anyway. Getting out early was a bonus and the line to pay for the birds can be very long and tedious. All the new birds have successfully transported to their new home and and settled in. I can already see the young ones growing rapidly.

On a sadder note, the Tuckling was taken by a fox this week together with two other hens. The poor poultry are now all kept shut up in their pens because the fox comes whenever he knows they are out, as the neighbours have also warned me. Settling a cage fox trap- humane- with various inducements  has , as yet, been unsuccessful. I remain hopeful.

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #13

Posted: September 9, 2016 in Chickens

Being in Canberra and driving on its crazy roads with their curved intersections where you have to almost put your neck out to see what’s coming to the right, made me very happy to get home. So loaded with IKEA furniture- there are some …few …advantages in a trip to Canberra, we arrived home. The cut daffodils displayed out the front had all sold out busily making money for us while we were away and my son had kept all the animals safe and fed. There was also a lot of eggs to collect in nests.

However, the stand out activity at the moment on the farm is reproduction. The turkey has laid 7 eggs so far and hopefully will start sitting on them soon. Three of the earlier ones are in the incubator for good measure along with a bigger than average clutch of chicken eggs. I got a bit carried away as the incubator is a 21 capacity. There’s 25 eggs in the incubator which started out with a batch of silkie eggs I bought from a breeder for the princely sum of $50. She also gave me 6 Araucana eggs for free as she wasn’t sure of the rooster and couldn’t say they were pure bred. These ones are blue and look really pretty. Well after a week in, I candled the Silkie eggs and only three seemed fertile which was a big disappointment. Normally , I’d leave them in but with space needed for the turkey eggs , I tossed them out. In their place, I put a few of my own eggs including a Isa brown/ red ruff cross and some eggs from the Langshans, minature black birds I had in with some small roosters and our white Frizzle called Sizzle.

So you can see I was keen to get home from and check the incubator. Today, Day 20,  a small black chick hatched out first, one of the Arauconas and he has dried to a very pretty fluffy grey. Two more so far have followed – one Araucona and another of indeterminate breed and they’re all happily sleeping now in the brooder in the garage. The miracle of birth never ceases to delight me- I look forward to what has hatched tomorrow.

In the duck house, a duck and a chicken are sharing sitting on a whacking great cluck of duck eggs and possibly some chicken eggs too. This also is my fault. I looked at the dozen fertile duck eggs I was going to sell and thought, why not put them all back in the nest and see if a duck goes broody? And sure enough, one of the chickens got happy at the sight of so many eggs and started sitting on them. Then a duck thought she needed to get in on the act too and the two of them are sharing the sitting, ie both are sitting at the same time in the same nest. My dilemma is this: Do I want ducklings imprinting a chicken as their mother? I’ve already seen the consequences of a turkey raising a duck- see earlier blogs on the ‘Tuckling’. I should set up the hen in the garage on a few eggs and then sneak the hatched chicks from the incubator under her in the disguise of night. Well , it’s a thought but I’m too tired to do it tonight, it’s gonna have to wait until tomorrow and that might bring a lot more chicks out, let’s see.

Auf Wiedersehen




Some of our chickens are quite wild. I blame their black leghorn mother for their free-spirited nature. Despite my best efforts, a little group of hens- a white-Silkie cross, a black speckled Silkie-cross and a something crossed with something else- actually a quite beautiful half golden, half speckled hen- remain obstinately unconfined. They can pretend to be tamed by going into the old duck house at night to get a feed of wheat, then they get through the netting roof and perch in the luxuriantly rampant kiwifruit vine that’s atop the pen. Only if its raining do they deign to perch in the small lean-top chicken house in the duck pen.

By day, they  youthfully indulge in massive attacks on the worm and slug population of the property. Busy all day, they roam and scratch in leaf litter to their heart’s content. I grumble at them wondering where they’ve hidden their eggs now. One particular hen, the white one, I particularly watched one weekend morning to see where she went. I was surprised to say the least, when I tracked her back to the house. She was sitting on eggs in a nest not 3 metres from the front door  under a  group of aspidistras. We allowed her to settle for the night and then we struck. I grabbed her while my husband collected the eggs- 15 in all and we marched triumphantly with her and them to the garage where I’ve set up a nesting area in a hutch cage. We carefully arranged the eggs and left them with her, covering the hutch so it was nice and dark. We left them happy they were absolutely safe from foxes.Of course this hen complained and clucked defiantly  seeing her unrestrained nature- but I was confident that she was broody enough to settle down on the eggs again.

Alas, in the morning, I parted the cover to find her still angry and the eggs all stone cold. She hadn’t sat on them at all. Angry with her myself, I let her out. There’s no point in trying to make a hen go broody again. You can’t make a hen do anything. However, seeing I have an incubator I thought I’d set them all in case any were still alive. However, I wasn’t confident as the night had been very cold- it was the start of winter after all.

Every day, I checked the eggs and put water into the incubator. After a week, I candled them and the very dark masses inside the eggs made me think there may be hope. I actually broke one whose insides looked irregular and sure enough it was rotten. Not much hope for the rest then.

A little after a week in the incubator, I heard a cheeping. Sure enough, one egg was peeping. So I put the darker mass eggs off the turning rods and onto the bottom of the unit so they wouldn’t hatch and fall. That evening, a little black chick hatched out. I left him overnight to recover and in the morning went to check on them. There were 7 tiny chicks all hatched at once! I was amazed. It is remarkable how nature persists despite terrible odds. Two more hatched out . The remaining eggs were given time to hatch but didn’t. Meanwhile the 9 were so cute- little balls of fluff  of many different colours. Their mother had obviously been mated by a variety of roosters.

Today they are about 4 weeks old and eat out of my son’s and my hands. They have a lovely turtle shaped light as their mummy to keep them warm and also a night heat light overhead. They have yet to see daylight out of the cage, I’m waiting for a milder Winter day before I put them in an outdoor rabbit hutch for a few hours. How they react to the sun for the first time- well that’s another story.

Adios, amigos.




The duck house and yard is completed, or so I thought. Having ushered the ducks and drakes into their new home, I was rewarded for all my hard work and effort in the ‘spare’ time I could allow to build the complex with most of them flying back out of the enclosure! Only the really fat ones stayed because they are too heavy to take flight- which was about 4 of them. So, hoping to give them extra room while we went to Sydney for a few days, instead they went back into their old much muddier home. Even the enticement of only feeding them in the new enclosure did not change their minds. The only solution is to  put wire overhead in the enclosure which I did not think about when I made it so big. So I will have to fence in a section and enclose that. So, ducks: 1, Owner: Nil.

I sold two of them the other day to a woman who wanted a few friends for her male duck. We will have to eat some eventually, I mean, that’s why you keep these big meat birds called Muscovies isn’t it? I have been putting this off and a friend has volunteered to help- so it’s a fact for the future.

Today I had to rescue the Tuckling. You all know the Tuckling from previous writings, ie the duck raised by a turkey. She is now mature as was amply demonstrated today. I heard her quacking loudly. Racing over to the pen, I saw her head firmly planted in the mud while one of the drake brutes who’d got locked up with the turkeys et al  last night was mounting her. Needless to say, I sent him on his way. Poor little Tuckling, will she really give up the notion of being a turkey now? The turkeys just stood by and watched, not very understanding of them was it? However, nature will reign, even if the Muskovies are busy hunting less dominant males into submission for ‘The Act’ as well. The other ducks keep out of their way and somehow manage to return to the pen at night looking white and relaxed. I am nervous however. Last year at this time we ended up with a population explosion of ducklings, so I am busily hunting for eggs and keeping them locked up until midday in the hope that they won’t start building any hidden nest and sitting. I want the eggs, damn it! They are so big and tasty. They are equivalent to two chicken eggs in weight and size at least.

Sayonara, it’s raining and the ducks are having a free swim in the  huge puddle that collects in our driveway and I have other writing to do, so until next time.

Today was Day 6 of my holidays and Day 2 of work on the new duck house. I decided that an essential feature of this duck house was that it collected rainwater. I had in mind at first a pitched roof and researched various ‘pitched roofed sheds’ on Youtube. However, if you can make a pitched roof shed you are basically making a house. Then I set on the brilliant idea of making it with only one pitch. Jake, my son , Anthony’s friend suggested the orientation ie the pitch to be facing west as that’s where the weather usually comes from.

Yesterday, my husband helped me with setting in some posts and today I continued by completing the posts and attaching rails with will form the structure for the walls. I put a sloped piece of pine at the back and attached a piece of ‘guttering’ ready for the portable water tank. I got too many pine posts and not enough straight pine. Anyway, I realised in building this little shed that it’s a lot easier than building the complicated structures I already had built from recycled half water tanks. They were really pretty intricate! Anyway, hopefully with some bought sheet metal, I’ll get it finished quickly. There are too many ducks, so some I think will have to be eaten. Anyway, they won’t be pooping on the front lawn or verandah for too much longer. Soon they will have their own enclosure in the paddock. I got some free wood at the hardware store which will do nicely for the front of the shed and some cheap wire was rescued from the tip face at Moss Vale for some of the duck yard fence.

An update on the duckling raised by the Speckles. We now call it the ‘tuckling’ and he or she is amongst it with the best of them. He regularly squeezes between the fences of the turkey and chicken yards to sample whatever fare is on offer. He following his ‘mother ‘ around everywhere, completely unaware that he’s not a turkey.

The turkey who was the only one we raised this year has turned out to be a boy and was displaying over the last few days. He’ll probably have to be sold as a breeder. I’m not so sure how he and his father will continue to get along. The pair of them are at times terrorizing the chickens and I’ve had to rescue a few before they were killed by them.

So, it’s all go in the poultry world here. I’ll let you know how the duck house turned out.






The turkey Mum called Speckles you already know about only successfully raised one of the turkey poults previously mentioned. This poult is now almost fully grown and is looking like a female. It’s daddy, Mr T, adopted it and they spend all their time together.

Speckles, unfazed by the loss of the other poults immediately started laying eggs again- about 10- and started sitting on them. She wasn’t aware apparently that none of them were fertile due to the fact that the male had not been with her in the enclosed pen. I wasn’t absolutely sure that none were fertile either, he had visited once or twice. So, poor Speckles sat on the eggs again. After about 5 weeks with none hatching I decided to remove them. She went spare so I washed them and put them back. Soon they stank so much that 10 metres away you could smell them.I don’t think that any of you have smelt a worse egg odour than the smell form these rotten turkey eggs. I threw them as far away from the pen as possible.

Banished from the smelly nest what did Speckles do? Why, she laid another egg and proceeded to sit on it in a different hut, the main turkey hut in fact. She continued to sit until one day , weeks later,I thought that maybe I ought to check and see if she’d hatched anything out.

Inside the hut in a very big nest all by itself was a poult. Ah, but was it? I looked closely. It was looking very yellow for a poult, so I picked it up. It was yellow. Then I looked at its feet. It had webbed feet.It wasn’t a turkey poult. It wasn’t a chicken. No, it was a duckling! She’d hatched out one of the duck’s eggs who had stayed for a while in the turkey house!She hadn’t laid that egg at all! I gave it some TLC in the brooder thinking I would put it under a broody hen. However, how could I take this little creature away from its adoptive mother who had sat for so long expecting something? I could not. So I put the duckling and the turkey mother in the enclosed pen and hoped for the best.

Today, it is still there getting bigger and with two chicken friends who inadvertently got into the pen too. The duckling has a turkey for a mother and its two best friends are chickens. Will it have an identity crisis?

Adios amigos, until next time. Life does suck at times, but not all the time.