Archive for July, 2016

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.