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!
What we need to do better: Reflections on Australia Day.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.