Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

in all the commotion, and yes there was a fair bit going on, I forgot to tell of new arrivals:

sheep and lambs
New sheep, this ewe (Geraldine) only has one side of her udder working, so no good for breeding from, but we don’t intend to so that’s ok, she comes with her twins – the girl lamb (Gilly) got the good side but the boy (Godfrey) was bottle fed – he’s eating grass now, and will soon catch up in size with his sister. They are all poll Dorset, but clearly not all that pure, as Gilly has black around her eyes, the tips of her ears, hooves and scattered through her wool – as we like naturally coloured wool, we will be interested in seeing how her fleece turns out.
fiesty and chicks
In addition to the ewe and lambs we also have had chicks.. lots and lots of them – too many really… and the latest lot (fourth hatch of the year) were hatched under our new broody – given to me by the lovely Sandra from Bellecross hens – and this hen is mean when broody.. but a good trait in a mother I think, as she is very protective her her charges

It’s all go in other areas too, in the veg garden and house renovations, and getting out and about too. The flower garden has to manage itself – I’m all about the cottage garden
home sweet home

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broody takes no prisoners
Seriously, take a look at that face. You wouldn’t want to get between her and her chicks would you?
Technically not her chicks, well I suppose they are now. These hatched in the incubator over the weekend, and last night we slipped them under this broody hen, removed the fake egg she was nursing and now she is a proud, fierce mother of eight.
She is excellent for these fosterings, as soon as we slip the first one under she is clucking and shuffling her feathers to make room.. and yes pecking the hell out of the hand that delivers the next chick into the warmth of her feathers.

The chicks seem pretty happy with the arrangement too.

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first chicks of 2015

Well that confirms it, with the arrival of chicks, spring is here. Sixteen hatched easily and quickly – which is the way we like it.  And this is good news for Eddie our Rhodie cockerel, as it confirms his position within the flock.  We set 24 eggs, 6 were blank – a fairly high ratio but he is outnumbered by a fairly large number of hens.

I realise we could improve fertility rates by putting him with just 2 or 3 girls, but I’m not keen – a hen can be fairly battered and sometimes injured by being the centre of a cockerel’s attention, and by running him with his usual harem; birds I have put with him on purpose to breed from, the flock is settled, and there is no time wasted waiting for everyone to re-establish the pecking order.  It’s easier and we accept the loss of some blank eggs in the hatch.

Interestingly, fertility rates are also affected by other factors, such as diet, stress, age of the parent birds, and time of year.  You can spend a lot of time worrying about it, or you can be like me and go ‘oh a broody hen! let’s hatch some eggs!’

I like to get a hatch on fairly early, just to ensure we get the birds I want to breed this year.  We gambled that we would have a broody to raise them before the twenty one days were up – but no broody – so I shall have to hand rear them.  The plus side of this is I get chick-cuddles.

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easter chicks

foster hen

The eggs we set just before mothers day have hatched. These were from my dark brown layers – the French blue marans – resulting in a mix of blue, black and splash marans, which we then fostered onto our old reliable broody.  She’s a good girl and very defensive of her babies.. all fifteen. At first we don’t get to see them, unless they cannot resist a peak from the safety of  her feathers, but then she will bring them out to show them the food and water.
2014-04-17 10.40.25
We moved them out to a pen this morning, and they enjoyed bathing in the warm sun.

All in time for the Easter weekend.


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incubator full of eggs
Easter is a moveable feast – and this doesn’t mean you can eat your chocolate egg at home or in the park (although you can, it is up to you!), it means it is calculated on the moon phases, to be exact, it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  Bit of a faff eh?  and then all those other dates tie into it – such as those we do celebrate:  pancake day, and a whole bunch of others we don’t observe in this household.  One we do nod at is Mother’s day, which moves about in relation to Easter, being on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and therefore always three weeks before Easter.

In my mind Easter  is all about spring, fertility, new beginnings, new life etc and I have waxed on before about my opinion that the whole ‘no eating eggs’ in the few weeks before Easter means it gives the hens the chance to raise some chicks.  Not a bad rule of old to live by, if you want to keep your poultry stocks up.  To me the whole mothering thing seems also tied in with spring,fertility, new life.  A coincidence perhaps that the time between mothering Sunday and Easter Sunday is the same amount of time it takes for an egg to become a chick.  If you want chicks for Easter, always set them on mothers day.

I set some a couple of  days ago and hoping for chicks come Easter.
Today does seem suddenly full of hope and new life – helped along by the clocks changing, and a day of hot sunshine.  Seedlings are popping up in the greenhouse, older seedlings being hardened off, and some making their way into the veg patches.

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first hatch of 2014

shoebox of chicks
I’ve been very good and held off hatching all through the really horrible weather but suddenly having two broody hens pushed me into action, and a good opportunity to see how  Eddy, my new Rhode Island Red cockerel was getting on with his girlfriends. The result is these ten RIR chicks.

As per my preferred method of hatching, we set the eggs in the  incubator, then fostered them onto the broody by sneaking them under her at night.  Always a worry that she will reject or worse attack them, and as this is a new, young, inexperienced broody, worse so – but how else do you establish if you have a good hen unless you give her a try?  So we carried out the box of chicks and under they went.
fostered chicks
This morning the hen is doing a good job mothering them, telling them about the food and water, brooding them to keep them warm and generally telling us to go away.

I’m plotting my next hatch now…

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Rhode Island Red


Meet Eddie and his girlfriend, they are both Rhode Island Reds and represent a new venture for us.

In addition to this pair, I also raised some chicks, and introduced some RIR pullets to the pen, much to Eddie’s delight.

They are all hatched this year, so Eddie has some growing to do yet, and will develop longer tail feathers, but so far I am very pleased with them as a breed,  Their plumage is beautiful, a glowing chestnut browny red.  Eddie is friendly and non aggressive, and attentive to his harem.  The chicks were a lot later to feather up than other breeds – something I will have to keep in mind when planning hatches, but the plus side is the cockerels don’t start crowing until around 20 weeks – a really good trait if you raise the spare cockerels for the pot and yet still want to have good relations with your neighbours!  The older pullet came into lay at about the same time, and has laid an egg every day since – ideal!

So, for 2014 I hope to be able to offer Rhode Island red pullets for sale,, and will also be trying some crosses, with my French blue marans, and Plymouth barred rocks, as these are all said to make excellent crosses, with lots of hybrid vigor – i.e good egg layers!

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