Notes from “Rivendale’ #8

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Chickens

This summer while on holidays, I made a new pen at the end of the existing chicken run for separating out young chickens and feeding them up on pullet grower. Of course, that’s not what it is currently being used for because two hens sat together and raised a total of two chicks and as they were in the turkey house, they had to be moved. The reason being that, 1) the turkey male is huge and 2) because the pen hasn’t got a cover and chicks are therefore prone to attack by crows and/or currawongs. So I moved both hens with their one indulged chick to this new pen complete with roof cover. The other chick wasn’t with them because a day earlier it had begun to run amok in the turkey house and I could hear its peeping from our house, a good 30 metres away. I rescued it and put it in with the two chicks raised and hatched in an incubator on Christmas Eve now currently in the brooder. Then I frantically worked to finish the new pen for the new mothers.

The crazy chick eventually settled down and was there in the brooder a few days before I had the brilliant idea to reunite it with its parents and also to put the Christmas chicks in with them too. My grasp of chicken psychology is usually good. That day it was at an all-time low. I put the three chicks in the pen with the mothers and their one, totally spoilt chick, during the day. Normally you would introduce new chicks to a hen while she is still sitting on the eggs when they have started to hatch, thus deluding her that the introduced ones are ones she has hatched. This does work, however, when you introduce chicks to a hen in the day when she can see that they are not her chicks she will peck them. This I did not realise at first.

Later in the day, I heard furious cheeping from a distressed chick. One of the Christmas chicks had gotten itself under the wire and was cheeping for its life in the enclosed turkey raising pen where the female turkey is currently sitting. I managed to grab it and put it back with the hens, their chick and its brother. A few hours later it was out again and cheeping in a distressed way behind the turkey hutch. So again I picked it up and put it back. This time I watched it. I ran to the other chicks and one of the hens, the Iso-brown one pecked it. So, now I understood, 1) the hens had rejected the new chickens and 2)the chick  had escaped into the turkey run because it was being pecked. So I picked up the two Christmas chicks and put them back in the brooder, where they will stay until they are big enough to go back to the new pen. I can put more of the older chickens from earlier hatchings in with them and so they will be ok next time.

Yesterday, I took one of the Langshan black hens and her four orange chicks to the new house. She of course, went straight to the dirt  and rolled around in it to get rid of lice. Her four chicks, who are about 3 weeks old, have settled in well as they have a mother to look after them. One of them, to my delight is a Frizzle! These chickens have extremely stick out feathers all fanned out and fancy-the glamour chickens of the poultry world.  So far, we have only bred rooster Frizzles so let’s see what comes of this latest chick.

Turkey update: In total we raised one turkey chick in 2015. Of the three left, one died and one was attacked and killed by currawongs. This lead to my hasty covering of the turkey hatching pen with bird netting. The mother is currently sitting on 10 eggs again but I’m not sure how many are fertile. She is also sitting on a chicken egg. I didn’t have the heart to remove it so in the not too distant future, I’ll have another chick to go in the brooder. Hopefully the two Christmas chicks can be its minder and teach it how to drink and peck feed. Adios!

Notes from “Rivendale” #7

Posted: November 21, 2015 in Turkeys

Turkey update:

Four turkey poults hatched in all from the incubator. The night I went out to the pen to move the turkey into her new home and put the 4 little poults under her, there was a surprise for me too. As usual I grabbed her off the nest and put her in the new pen. I popped the new little turkeys under her and they just disappeared into her feathers. We were about to leave and go inside, when I heard a distinctive cheeping! She’d hatched a poult herself and I’d just left him behind! So I grabbed the chick and popped him under her again. Now we had 5. Four were white and one was speckled like her. Its a bit hard to tell their sex but 4 seemed to have a little bump on their noses and might just be boys.

A week passed and the turkeys were settling into their new section of the turkey house. The little speckled chick was looking a bit sad. It had been a cold and wet night. So I got him out and put him next to the turtle light again. I remember he looked a me with his bright little black eye and I hoped the light would warm him up but he just wouldn’t eat or drink and the next day he died.

A few weeks passed. The weather started to get hotter. I kept thinking about how they were exposed to the sky even though they spent a lot of time under their mother. I’d been working on a new hen house in the yard next to them. Under the door of the big hen house is a detachable piece of wood I remove in the day so the hens can get in to lay. This is because we have a lot of marauding crows and currawongs, who with their cruel big beaks just pick up eggs and fly off with them. Thinking to thwart them from getting in to steal eggs, I hung some CDs in front of the space. The next morning I was awoken to the sound of a distressed hen. It was about 6am, but nothing will stop me from jumping up and seeing if a fox is about, nothing will stop me from hurtling out the door and chasing off into the paddock, nothing except for needing to visit the toilet. So, after this small delay, I raced over to the turkey house to see a baby poult dangling from the near the top of the wire. He’d been severely attacked by currawongs, who disbarred from their normal morning egg breakfast by the CDs, had decided to eat one of my poults instead. The poor little thing was bleeding but still alive so I raced him inside and put him near heat. Back at the pen, I assessed quickly that he’d been taken from behind the house where the turkey herself couldn’t see him and this is when the currawongs had seen their chance. Putting a tatty piece of bird netting over this section, I also installed the male turkey to strut inside the pen with the female. At least his strutting and displaying would have a purpose there.

That afternoon, I bought bird netting and draped it over the entire pen. Not only would it keep out the currawongs and keep the turkeys in, but it also kept out the few hens and roosters who live in the turkey pen so saving on me buying starter crumbles. But best of all never again would a currawong take one of the poults. However, the poult who’d been attacked died. Poultry keeping is definitely learnt the hard way.


Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #6

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Turkeys

It’s turkey time! Last week on Tuesday the 20th of October our first turkey poult hatched. He is all white ie fluffy yellow. He literally smashed his way out of the shell in record time and proceeded to nearly smash the other eggs in the incubator. I put him in the temporary brooder which is a cardboard box with a removeable polysterene foam lid and a turtle shaped light that the chicks love to cuddle up to. He was doing really well. The next day, got woken up early by a noisy hen outside that I thought was being chased by a fox- it wasn’t- and just as well too, as when I checked on the turkey chick he has fallen into his tiny water container and was almost dead! Wet and cold, I got him out quickly and dried him and then put the hairdryer on him then back into the incubator. It was touch and go for a while there but he recovered and I put him back with a tiny amount of water. the next day we had two little brown chickens out so I put them all together. As usual I spent a while trying to get them to eat the chicken crumbles and drink the water in the brooder. They didn’t get it. So I tried one of my tricks that works really well. I got a chicken who was about two weeks old and put him in with them. In literally seconds he was at the crumbles and so were they. In no time, he’d taught them to eat and drink. This is a good tip for those of you without a hen to teach your chicks. A hen is always best if you have a broody one with few chicks or one whose sat on duds.

Today three little poults are trying to hatch in the incubator, the last from this current batch. The turkey herself has sat unsuccessfully on chicken eggs!. I took her turkey eggs for the incubator and plan to return the chicks to her when they are established, so hopefully she will raise them. As they have hatched over some time, this is taking a while but we will see how this works out. Its hard to let go of them. Hope she’s a good mother. News on the three turkey chicks next time.

You do inevitably get feedback at times from the strangest of sources. I began , what I thought, was a nice straight fence made for under a $100 from treated pine sleepers and palings. I orientated the palings horizontally and spaced them out nicely. I concreted the sleepers in, using them as posts. The concept worked well. It’s not a fence for fencing anything in, rather it’s a way to ‘tart up’ the driveway, making the entrance to the driveway a bit more impressive. I plan to plant a series of natives along the fence when the small plants I bought recently have grown on a bit. So, I went out one morning to recommence constructing the fence when I noticed that the wombat who lives behind our garage in a hole dug into a bank, had left me an early morning  present. Was it a sign of approval? You be the judge. On top of my small but useful measuring stick and a sleeper on the ground he’d  left a sloppy green poo. Was this a subtle message about the quality of my work? Or rather was he marking out his territory, warning me he planned to burrow under the fence and undermine it in the future? Or was it that he really wanted  to know who was boss here and that any future constructions needed to be run past him first?

Contemplating his hidden messages I went up to the front of our property, where I have flowers, usually for sale and so have a few ‘flowers for sale’ signs there too. Mr wombat had been there before me and planted another nice sloppy poo on the flowers’ sign. I was beginning to feel victimized. Are all our endeavours ‘shit’ in his eyes? To increase his point, on each occasion he’d dug a few scratches in the dirt too. Just a warning, I thought that we weren’t to get out of hand. Perhaps Mr wombat reminds us all that as humans, we are just caretakers of this environment, not owners. That we should consider our constructions as part of a shared environment, not our own domain exclusively. I think that his not too subtle message has a meaning for us all.

Ever wondered what people would think of a video you made as you  travelled home? I guess I have a better than average daily drive through rolling hills and frost-covered roadside, past black-faced sheep, under huge ancient Eucalypts and along grassy roadside verges. When its foggy, the fog hangs over the dam like cappucino froth and seeps its way into all the hidden curves of the valley. If its sunset and you are headed away from home, the whole sky is pink and the trees are a heavy deep green.

Tonight a grey kangaroo came bounding out of the fog and high beams of oncoming cars and miraculously failed to collide with me. Someone was looking after me because they can do a lot of damage to a car and its inhabitants. I think it just bounded between the cars making it smarter than your average roo who usually bounds straight across the road. Unfortunately, as our drive is also in the country you see a lot of wildlife killed by the side of the road. Wombats, big heavy beasts waddle into the traffic at night. Their eyesight it not good and they don’t get out of the way fast enough. I want ‘Wombat’ road signs on this road because so many have been killed. I’ll have to make a submission to Council again.

If I could make this film you’d see that my words are not even close to containing the beauty of this area and this stunning drive. One day you might drive along it and see for yourselves.

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #3

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

The farm cohort has considerably increased from last year. Today we have over 24 hens, 14 ducks, two turkeys and about 10 roosters. As the countdown to the shortest day approaches, so we have started to get a few eggs. One hen lay an egg with a paper thin shell yesterday, usually a sign of a new pullet who has started to lay. Another one was tiny, also a sign of a new pullet laying. As it has cost me around $37 a fortnight to feed these animals, getting 2 dozen eggs a day (hopefully) might make it worth it. I have also made money by selling a few ducks, mostly females and a few males as I just can’t bear to kill them myself even if eating succulent duck meat is sacrificed. They look up at me with their cute little faces and I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s a bit easier killing roosters who annoy us with their constant crowing but still, its an unpleasant job and not one I feel good about having to do.

The two new chook houses built last year have withstood high winds and rain and I am proud to say, they have not fallen down or suffered in any way. The hens and turkeys seem happy to live in them and I am very happy when they actually lay in the nesting boxes instead of on the dirty ground. The male turkey, who loves to display his huge fan of a tail and sporting a bright blue face has yet to mate with the female so we have had no eggs, certainly no fertile ones yet from that pair. I hope they are worth their feed. They certainly add some charm to the flock with their eccentric faces and huge bodies. The male, is all  white and we call him Mr T. He has a small patch of black moustache-like feathers in his chest and a dropping red wattle like a tiny trunk hangs down beside his face when he’s displaying. The female is grey and white and we call her ‘Speckles’. They dominate the other poultry and make sure they eat first when it comes to getting a good feed of grain.

My favourites amongst the chickens are the frizzles. We started with a white frizzle rooster and now we have a pure black rooster and a pure white hen. Next cutest are the silkies and we have buff females, a gorgeous golden/ russet rooster  and two pure white roosters all bred on the farm using my incubator and a friend’s eggs. The incubator and brooder have proved their worth and when the eggs are flowing again, I’ll start incubating some more eggs to build numbers and hopefully to sell. The ducks don’t need any help. We have had two clutches of 8 and 14 eggs which all hatched. The bright yellow ducklings are amazingly beautiful and very cute when they all follow their mother in a line. In fact, an amusing sight on the farm is all the, now grown up, ducks following me in a line to be fed at night. They waddle in their beautiful white feathers and plod along slowly. A few, especially the ducks, show off by flying back to the house and trying to get in first for a feed. My poultry give me a lot of pleasure and hopefully will start to produce decent lots of eggs to sell on a Saturday out the front of the farm.

We were coming home late one night last week and turned into our driveway and who should be bumbling along but our own wombat! He’s a big old fellow, thankfully mange free and a tough dirt miner. He’s responsible for a sizeable heap of dirt behind our garage where he’s burrowed into the dirt mound thrown up when the garage was built. When it rains heavily here, the whole burrow fills up with water and then the overflow floods our garage floor. This is a problem as we want to line the garage and use it as accommodation. Someone is going to have to shift this excess dirt thrown up by you-know-who!
Mr Wombat has another four residences on our property. One under a tagaste tree, one near the creek on a bank, one under an old goose house and the piece de resistence is an underground metropolis near our western boundary that’s at least 6 metres down to the entrance with a huge entry of excavated pathways. Sufficient to say, Mr Wombat, had designs on our own house a few years ago when he discovered the door to the underfloor area dislodged and proceeded to start tunnelling under the house. Alarmed, I rang the local ranger who suggested I spread ‘blood and bone’ fertilizer near the entrance to deter him as wombats don’t like the smell. He seemed not to worry so eventually I put down flour and could see if he’d gone in or out. When he was out, I shut the door again firmly and threw some corrugated metal down so he wouldn’t try tunnelling under it.
Despite the flooded garage and the threat to the foundations of our house, we were so proud to see our own wombat. Determined, resourceful, stubborn and expert, he’s a native animal that calls our property his home, so how can we not be happy to live beside him?