Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

It’s Spring and everywhere is green again after five long months of drought. I visited some local gardens on display last weekend and they gave me lots of ideas to improve my garden. One thing to do is plant trees/bushes with contrasting foliage to give depth to all that green! Purple and maroon as well as red look stunning against a green backdrop. I like the way people raised garden beds with rock walls and separated gravel from lawn using pavers in curves. A simple but effective garden plan was  using raised beds made from treated pine and filling in pathways with gravel. This made a more formal garden but one that would be quick to create. They grew both veggies and ornamentals in this garden.

I saw lots of different ideas for chicken houses. Most had a covered area and then an open wired in run also with a roof. The chickens looked fat and well fed and were bedded on sawdust or straw. One group of all female hens were so fat they almost waddled. People also used tiny wire on the lower sections of runs to keep out mice and rats- a great idea. I was amazed to see how many plants grew under huge fir trees that dropped pine needles. This also made a good mulch for informal pathways.

I have growing in the garden at the moment: silver beet, kale, lettuce, beans, strawberries and have sown carrots, potatoes, zucchini and orange eggplants- that’s right, quite unusual and apple shaped. Hope they come up. Its a bit too cold for tomatoes and some of the seeds I’ve sown are slow to come up due to the cool weather. Recently, we have still had the wood fire on at night.

The animals are thriving with almost 30 new chickens on the property in various stages of growth from day-olds to about 10 weeks old. We have two hens looking after them, the rest have been raised in an incubator. One hint is to put some older chicks in with the day-olds in the brooder to teach them to eat and drink and to give them company and warmth. They all seem to get on very well and end up pals for life! The young female turkey now has a new male suitor and he struts around displaying his big white but slightly mud-stained feathers. We also have 6 new ducks- 3 pekins and 3 new muscovy females. The pekins are very pretty and they just love being let out to nose around for worms- its as if they have never been on grass before! They are very attractive ducks with cute faces and look like the Jemima Puddleduck of Beatrix Potter fame.

I let the ducks and chickens out for some fun today after work and several of the male muscovies were looking disgracefully dirty, I was hoping they’d go for a dip in the duck pond, maybe tomorrow. While I haven’t go much fencing done in the last few weeks, at least I have been saved from doing endless watering!

Adios, amigos.

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Notes from’Rivendale’ #22

Posted: June 8, 2018 in Chickens
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It’s Winter and the burning log fire is going. The heat from it is the most comforting thing when its bleak and wet outside. Outside in the paddock, I bedded down the best 10 hens with a frizzle rooster and the one remaining turkey after I returned from the US two weeks or so ago. I called it putting them in ‘lock down’. My reasons were thus: They are in the strongest house which is big and has lots of light and nesting boxes. It should be fox-proof. And I can see if having them in close quarters helps them start laying.

Well to report something good at last, they have started laying. Well two of them have. And interestingly enough, they seem to eat less food because they are less active. I give them all the best scraps form the kitchen and greens as well. Today I got them shell grit. They love scratch mix and for some reason, its cheaper than pure wheat grain. I also feed them a laying mash, often hot with scraps mixed through. They really love this.

The other hens and roosters who are free range have produced no eggs. The ducks are loving their new pond which the wet weather has considerately filled up. So the muscovies are looking blindingly white instead of murky mud splattered brownish. The weeds I have so far put in the pond, the ducks have equally enthusiastically eaten so getting a real pond ecosystem up and running is a work in progress at the moment. All the pens have feeders made from plastic down pipes which allows me to go off for a few days and know they will be fed well. The material on the floor of the ‘lock down’ pen is straw though I plan to buy a shredder and put all my scrap paper through it to make litter for them. I noticed a few years ago that worms love this mixture of shredded paper and chicken poo and some of them were massive in size when I was digging up the litter to put on vegetable beds. It’s a good way to recycle paper too. Time to get in some Winter greens in the vegie garden. Have a great long weekend, fellow travellers in life.

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!

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.