Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #21

Posted: December 2, 2017 in Chickens, Ducks
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December already! It’s pouring down outside, a Summer storm putting paid to plans to go shopping. Luckily, I mowed the lawn earlier in the day. Not much is in the garden, only some silverbeet so that’s a major job for the holidays. I have some small tomato plants in pots ready to go. My attempt at a green house failed. The wood I put on the roof got soaked and weighed down the plastic pipes supporting the roof of plastic sheeting. So I’ll have to use smaller plastic pipes for the cross pieces. Anyway, not a biggy as they say. Just noticed the kiwifruit vine and it’s enormous and very thick over the old chook house. Hopefully, we’ll get lots of kiwis again this year.

Update on the farm animals. We have about 25 new chickens of various ages and 6 baby ducklings hatched out about 2 weeks ago. The ducklings are very yellow but two have black markings as well, a bit more than the black marked ducks we already have. I have about 5 duck eggs in the incubator due out on the 11th of December. Some of the chicken eggs we hatched came from a lovely little black hen that was taken by a fox. We found a secret stash of her eggs sitting in hay in a small shed out the back so I put a couple in for incubation and they hatched. As usual we have also had a few losses, the worst of which was Swampy. While we were off on a few days holiday in Bendigo, Swampy was taken by a fox. I miss him still a few months later. He was a very sociable little bird and always come up to us when we were outside wanting some food or just curiously pecking at my hoes. He ‘helped’ build the duck house, well gave me company anyway while I was building it. I have never known a bird so keen to hang around us, that’s because I raised him form a small peet.

My retirement from school teaching  is imminent so I am looking forward to having lots of daylight hours to achieve things on the farm not the least of which is to get fit again. There is always so much to do, but I am determined to get things done one by one.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #20

Posted: September 28, 2017 in Chickens

First the good news. Swamp, our male swamp hen returned after a sojourn of three days. He looked a bit worn out! Probably because he was off pursuing a mate! He hasn’t left again since, either. Now he’s content to chew on my shoes whenever he can. He particularly likes a small gold chain that came with a tag on my Ugg boots. It still hasn’t rained so I ‘ve decided to make a greenhouse in the hope I can start a garden and it won’t need too much water. I’m constructing it from steelies and agricultural pipe which form three arches. I have a big roll of glad wrap I’m considering using as well, I’ve also been hunting around for recycled plastic so I don’t have to buy too much. This is one of my construction principles- to use recycled material wherever possible. Not only is it cheaper, its also better for the environment. It’s quite windy at the moment and I’m wondering how the plastic will go so I’ll have to tape it well. I bought some cloth tape for the purpose.Veggie gardens are precarious entities and unless you have a ready supply of water there’s not much point in going ahead. I’m hoping the greenhouse  as well as mulching the garden well will retain moisture in the soil. So  maybe we will get some veggies this season after all.

On the chicken front, we had 5 successful hatchings of chickens this week. One grey, two buff, one white and one black chicken. I still have four eggs in the incubator so we shall see how they go. They were put in later than the first lot over about 5 days. Generally, if you put in all the eggs on one day they hatch 20 or 21 days later over a 4 day period. Nothing viable hatches later than that. We had a few deformities this year in chickens that hatched or died in the egg so I’m really looking at what I feed the chickens and will cut down on their all wheat diet. This is supplemented with grazing on pasture and the occasional box of vegetable scraps as well as regular household scraps. They all seem pretty healthy at the moment so I’m not sure what went wrong with the hatchlings. The survivors are doing well eating tiny birdseed and starter crumbles in the brooder. I have a broody hen at the moment as well and thought I could put the chickens under her but she rejected one and pecked it so they are all in the brooder and she’s in the lower cage sitting on 11 eggs. She’s only a small bantam so its a big ask but I want her to have at least a few hatchlings so its better to set more eggs. The rest of this  year, I’ll stick to broody hens to hatch the eggs hoping there aren’t too many of course. I am getting about 6 eggs a day on average- buff, brown and two shades of blue. They all look so pretty in the egg basket that sits near the door- a convenient when you are dropping off eggs to the house.

Hoping your Spring plantings are going well and happy rain weather to us all,

regards

 

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #19

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Chickens
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The last time I wrote we’d had too much rain, now we haven’t had enough. My Dad used to say that farmers always complain about the weather- now I know why. It’s coming into major planting season , the season when you look back on last year and hope to do better this year. So I got some corn seeds in last weekend but the wind blew off their straw cover and I probably haven’t watered it enough. I do hope every year to grow some decent corn, so far I haven’t. We had a few drops today and I was hanging out until tomorrow , Sunday, to see if it’d rain a bit more before I put precious water on the seeds. Iv’e planted a boysenberry and a few more grapevines  and a smattering of brassicas which Swamp has mostly pulled out anyway.

Swamp is our swamp hen raised from a tiny peet last year. Until recently when my daughter pointed out the difference between male and female swamp hens, we thought Swamp was a girl but he’s a boy. He follows us everywhere gets on top of cars, has helped me build the new duck house and even pecks on the side window insisting on me getting out  to feed the poultry. Swamp was becoming an institution around here. Unfortunately, Swamp has been missing for two days. I am hoping he’s simply seen a female and flown off after her, I’m really hoping he’s not been taken by a fox!

The daffodils are flowering really well this year. I have more than enough to sell but they are selling quite slowly. I will need to find more outlets to sell them next year. In January, I’ll lift some bulbs. They are a good seller as well.

The chickens are doing ok. We are getting about 7 eggs a day at the moment and they are a lovely variety of colours, pale blue, blue, green and white as well as a nice mid brown. The Araucanas are laying well. I’ve got 16 eggs in the incubator and we’ve raised 10 chickens so far this season. I’m planning on getting pure bred eggs and raising a whole lot more. There’s always lots to do. Happy Spring everyone and here’s hoping we get some decent rain.

Last weekend two fabulous sunny days, wow! This is after about 5 weeks of rain everyday. Still, up on the Highlands, we don’t flood like those poor people in Queensland and northern NSW whose homes have been washed away and emersed in flood waters for days. On my birthday, I stayed back in town for coffee with friends. It had been raining all day and was getting heavier. From the coffee lounge, we heard ambulances and fire engines race down the street. It was nearly 5, I decided I’d better head home and was hoping the roads were still open. Kangaloon Rd was full of stopped traffic so I turned back and headed back to Moss Vale where I quickly saw the reason for the emergency vehicles. A side street was flooded and a car partly submerged. Those residents wouldn’t be getting out of their home for a while.

Now on the Illawarra Highway, I was reminded by the warnings of my friend , Sandy, that the SES said only 15 cm of water rushing over a road was enough to make a car drift and be washed away due to the sheer momentum this much water has. All was going well, despite the heavy rain, when I came to a causeway rushing over the road. It wasn’t really deep but I remembered the warning. Also I was driving the Golf, not a good car to tackle any depth of water so I stopped. I think people were annoyed behind me, but I wasn’t going to risk it. A police car was parked on the other side of the causeway facing Moss Vale and I tried to yell out to them. I got out and checked the water. No way. I was going back. Another Police car drove up next to me, a big four wheel drive and I told him I was turning around. He went through ok but I turned my little Golf and headed back to town. Thinking I wasn’t going to get home today and I’d have to stay with friends in town, I tried Sheep Wash Road hoping it wasn’t flooded as well. Luckily, I got to the Kangaloon Rd turn off and was grateful. For once I was glad of its hilly terrain. I negotiated it well and was on the downhill run to home. Beside me, masses of muddy water was washing off the paddocks and down the incline onto the road. I scooted home.

My driveway was a miniature creek. I have never seen so much water running down it. At last I was home. The trip had taken twice as long as normal. And who, may you ask, was happy in this torrent? Two groups on the farm, the cat, our all black Foxy, was inside ensconced in the warm, her belly full; and the ducks, happy as Larry, white as snow from all the fun in the puddles and small lakes on the farm. Their bellies full of worms and small creatures flushed out of the ground and the lush as ever green grass. It’s good to know, something enjoys torrential rain. It’s a timely reminder to all small farmers to keep livestock that actually do enjoy your climate. Where we live is too wet for sheep. When the climate was drier , they seemed to do ok but I’d never keep them now. They get foot rot and fly blown and other equally horrible diseases. They do better on the less lush grass and solid soil out west. I’m sticking to my poultry.

Australia Today

Posted: January 29, 2017 in Australia Today
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What we need to do better: Reflections on Australia Day.
If you watched the Australia Day awards for extraordinary people last night, individuals in this country are amazing. Its the Government that has it wrong. Due to their decisions about old age pensions and War Service pensions, I offer the following advice: Never enlist to serve your country in time of war and expect respect for your sacrifice because it will abandon you in your twilight years and take away your Service Pension. Don’t get married if you want a relationship because if your combined assets are over $800,000 when you are 67, you won’t get a pension. Ditto don’t save money for your retirement, or not obviously, maybe better to put it in an offshore account or in gold.
Spend like mad, leave your job, stay on the dole all your life or become a bankrupt and then you’ll get the full pension at 67. In fact, don’t bother getting a Tertiary education at all and, for goodness sake, don’t become a member of the middle class in this country because your taxes are paying for the rich and the poor at the same time and your income is ensuring you have to continue to pay for everything even after you are no longer able to work.
Ok, so you think that your money is safe in your $600,000 + home, well when do you think the Government will change that law and count the family home as well? I guess sometime soon just like they have created uncertainty in everything else we thought was safe. My final word of advice: Create a multinational new technology company like Apple or Google and base it in the 10% company tax haven of Singapore and you’ll be paying less tax than the middle class in Australia. Happy Australia Day to all!

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #17

Posted: January 11, 2017 in Chickens, Ducks
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Lots of babies are growing or being born at the moment including my first grandchild who came into the world on the 6th of January, 2017 at 5.25 am. She is very pretty and both she and her mother are doing well. On the farm front, we had 3 chickens hatch in the incubator from a flighty hen who did not take well to being moved. Her mother, also a flighty white silkie cross, had raised two chickens and was in a separate pen with another hen. Two wasn’t enough it seemed, so she starting sitting again. Of course, without a rooster in with them the eggs aren’t fertile. I had 7 or so fertile eggs left in the incubator a few days from hatching and one of those synchronicity movements occurred. Hen with infertile eggs, eggs in incubator, why not get them together? She sits for less, I don’t have to care for chicks , a win-win situation.So the mother is now sitting on the daughter’s eggs which were themselves laid by different hens in another pen!

Here is a little duck/ water hen story: 4 ducklings were raised in the incubator with a few other chickens. I keep them all together for warmth and comfort. They seem to get on well with each other. From the brooder they go into cages, like rabbit cages, and grow up a bit before going into a vacant pen. One morning, I went into the garage expecting to see the brooder empty but the red light was on. I looked in and saw two strange little chicks inside. I looked at them and wished very hard they weren’t crow babies.Luckily they were peets, or waterhen babies abandoned by their mother in a neighbour’s paddock and brought over by my son’s friend. I found them worms and painstakingly fed them and added a black feathered chicken a bit bigger than them for a ‘mother’.  A day later one was dead due to it being pecked by the other one. The remaining one, continued to take bits of raw meat from my fingers but increasingly his ducking and doving away from me made it hard to feed him. So he got weaned onto chicken starter and some fine seeds eating what the other chicken ate. He has very dense black down and extremely long legs and toes. He really is a very odd looking little bird who makes his own distinctive little call. He has happily been rehoused into a bigger pen with his chicken ‘brothers’ and a duckling. What’s a duckling doing in with them you might ask?

Remember the four ducklings at the start of this story? 3 of them successfully resettled with a mother duck and 6 older ducklings in the duck pen. This one little duck would not stay. He escaped back to the cages and hung around trying to find his pals. My son and I spent about ten minutes trying to round him up. He’d already spent one night out by himself and I wasn’t going to risk another. He kept going into a dense patch of shrubbery but eventually we funneled him into a gap where he was caught. He wiggled and struggled when I picked him up but now he’s very happy ranging around the pen with the chickens and the water hen peet. They are a strange mixture but then oddness works, doesn’t it?

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #16

Posted: December 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

A lot has happened since the last post. The duck who was attacked by the fox is well and healed and back to being a normal duck. Her abandoned eggs all hatched in the incubator. There are now 8 sturdy ducklings around 3 months old- about half grown- wandering around in their determined way poking their beaks into grass for worms and catching flies. There are 5 males and 3 females.

We  have 6 new ducklings hatched by mothers and 4 ‘finished off’ in the incubator. The incubated ducklings were abandoned by their mother on the point of hatching. I discovered them all cold in the nest and put them straight into the incubator which was already set up. One hatched almost straight away and the others hatched over the next 3 days. I am not sure why she got off them but its a lesson for the poultry keeper to be vigilant. Also to never give up on abandoned eggs if you get them early enough. Candling them on the first night in the incubator will tell you if they are ok or not. The live ones actually move when a small torch is held onto the egg. You can see this best at night with the lights out. If in doubt leave them for a few days. Rotten eggs have patchy dark shaped masses that don’t move. I keep checking them over a few days before discarding them. It’s important to save little lives if you can.

Some lives are, however, not saved. My beautiful mother turkey Speckles was killed by a fox a few weeks ago. I stupidly let them wander and the group went too close to the forest fence. The two turkey babies survived the attack, but the young speckled poult died a few days later. I assume the last one, a young white pout would soon follow. I was wrong. The male turkey I raised last year took the youngster literally under his wing and squatted on the ground so he could get under his wing in a sheltered part of the pen. The two grown males now look after this poult and he follows them everywhere.

A important discovery I made after losing a few chickens was to put sliced up bulbs of garlic twice a week in their mash. I’ve had no more fatalities from gape or other worm infestations. I also put apple cider vinegar in their mash every few days.

Now when they free range, I have to be outside with them. This has reduced their free ranging time to about an hour a day, longer on the weekends. The ducks get more time out as they stay closer to the house. I’ve separated a lot of the new pullets into the bigger yard with only two roosters. This gives them more access to food. I’ll start feeding them pullet grower to fatten them up but as this contains an anti-coccidiosis I won’t be able to eat or sell these eggs. Sayonara until later, have a Happy Christmas!