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.

 

 

 

Notes from “Rivendale’ #8

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Chickens
Tags:

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
Tags:

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.