Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

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.

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’ #15

Posted: September 25, 2016 in Chickens, Ducks

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.

 

 

 

 

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #14

Posted: September 16, 2016 in Chickens
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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.

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #13

Posted: September 9, 2016 in Chickens
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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.

Auf Wiedersehen