Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

It is that busy time of year when everything is hatching and growing and the sudden warm weather means all the plants came out of the greenhouse and want to go in the ground, and we find ourselves outside still watering at 10pm
Vorwerk chick

We had a hatch at the weekend, this time a mix of Vorwerks and French blue marans. The Vorwerks were a bit of a whim when I was having a bad day – they are striking looking chicks, with reverse colouring to their future adult plumage.
brown-neck and chicks

We snuck them under a broody hen and she is a very proud mum.

cool sheep
Thankfully we booked the shearer with perfect timing and he came at an unearthly time on Sunday morning and sheared the sheep, and they are now cool sheep.
The ducks failed us, and the second hatch only gave us two ducklings.. we may have to pop duck eggs under broody hens at this rate.. but one of the ducks is laying again so we live in hope.
Mostly though, it is about the veg, trying to compost and plant and all of the plants want to go in at the same time.. ie NOW! The cold weather suddenly passed and it all became a bit urgent and late too. However we are getting there.


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12 chicks

Last weekend saw our second blue marans hatch – this time twelve. Little disappointed as we set twenty four eggs – never had such a low rate – but we were breeding from a particular breeding group and eggs were limited, and we did set some eggs that were on the old side… maybe that was the reason?  The fertility was high, but they didn’t pip.  We also invested in a turning cradle, as turning the eggs five times a day is a bit of a commitment and makes going out for the day difficult.. so maybe it was that?  Dunno yet.. but twelve is still a good crowd.

Thankfully, we had a broody hen (well three  – like buses they call come at the same time), and we slipped the twelve chicks under our tried and tested broody who accepted them as her own – once again she sat on a plastic egg for a week and hatched 12 offspring and is sure she is very clever!

I do like seeing chicks being raised by a hen, she is so careful with them, taking them inside when it rains, and scratching the ground for worms, with a well practised routine she steps forward, the chicks rush away, she scratches the ground, finds some worms, they all rush in an scoff… and repeat.  These chicks are on a high protein diet thanks to her.
chicks at 7 weeks

Meanwhile the first hatch are looking good and like mini chickens at at seven weeks, and very happy in their large grassy run.  In this hatch we have two gold tops, which we are naming Enid and Edna as this year is E and we plan to keep them.  The reason we have these is for broody hen futures, my old broodies are knocking on and I am told a Goldtop – which is a gold silkie x light sussex is a good bet for a broody – The silkies are notorious for their brooding, but crossed with a larger hen, are a more sensible size with more sensible feathers etc…

I’ve never seen the attraction of silkies – I like ‘proper looking chickens’ – but actually these goldtops are great looking, and very friendly, so I might be a convert.

With so much more going on for us this year, we decided on just one hatch, so obviously the second hatch is a figment of our imaginations. As is the third in the incubator, the duckling situation, and the meat bird chicks on order. Obviously….

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first hatch of 2013

chicks first hatch 2013
Over the weekend we had our first hatch of chicks; 18 in total.
This hatch is mostly blue marans, but we also bought in some gold top hatching eggs, as I am told that these, a light sussex silkie cross, will make good broodiesgold top chick
Gold tops are also sex linked I.e. (more…)

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hen jokes

chicken jokes

Ha, ha.  Yes, very funny.  Now concentrate on what you are doing, girls.

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Other people who rear poultry are hoping for pullets and bemoan the arrival of cockerels – but we are the opposite.  We  are rearing for food, and cockerels weigh more.

Obviously we also rear to replace our laying hens, the new girls join the flock and older hens, whose laying days are over, move to the freezer. The hens are identified by colour or leg rings, and I keep a spreadsheet.  I record the good broodies, the parentage, weights of culled cockerels and costs of rearing. Oh yes, I love my spreadsheets.  nerdy huh.

So each hatch results in more pullets than we need – and we sell the surplus.  We have sold some via word of mouth and advertising this year, but with this summer being very busy for us, I have been slack about advertising more  and still had some pullets to go. So we thought we would try the auctions, this time as a seller. We figured if we shifted them and had the experience that would be good.

There is a lot of chance at auctions.  What other lots are also going, who turns up to buy etc,  Then there is know-how.  What time of year, the weather on the day,   which pens the birds/livestock are in,  and where they are in the order of bidding…   know-how we don’t have – but we didn’t have to fret about which pens to choose or where in the order we should place them, as there were only the three pens we needed left when we got there at 8.30.

We installed the birds, set up their water, and went off for a mooch around town, before coming back to note the price the pigs and sheep went for, and then see how our our own  lots went.

We knew (from my spreadsheet nerdiness) how much we would need to get to cover our costs, and silently cheered (obviously bad form to accidently bid on your own birds in your excitement!)  when we passed that point and went further. We were pleased with our prices.

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A few people have kindly checked in on us as the South West has been in the news with lots of flooding in the area.  We are fine – it’s all a bit soggy, the chickens are paddling and we have had July’s rainfall overnight, but we are fine – unlike other poor folk lower down.

The river is ferocious, and the riverbanks have been reshaped and a few trees that were on the sides, now find themselves as islands. The debris shows the water level was at least a metre and half higher overnight. But we are fortunate in being fairly high up here.  The height often makes things different for us – often we still have snow when everywhere is green again.

I fret about the chickens- damp conditions are ideal for myco – so far they are ok.  And the ducks – the ducklings and their mum are still indoors, we keep going to move them out but then the forecast is bad again and we delay.  The other duck is sitting on her second clutch of eggs – the last lot died, dead in shell and I am sure it was the heavy rainfall and cold that did for them – so.. I think the same will go wrong this time.  The nest is a hollow in the ground – in a shelter – and that much rainfall must mean the ground is damp

Either way, the older ducks will have to move out of their warm indoor home to make way for potential new arrivals – if we get any they will be smaller and more vulnerable. It doesn’t seem right that we have to take such precautions against bad weather in July.




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chicks in a trug

chicks in a trug

A few days ago we had our second (last?) hatch of the year, 15/16 – and they fairly charged out of their eggshells, unlike the last hatch which was a bit slow and troublesome.  This lot are crossbreeds, all from the blue marans cockerel, and crossed with welsummers and welsummerxbuff leghorn.

Partly I just wanted to see what colour combinations we got – I spend a fair bit of time playing with this genetic predictor program – I could get very nerdy and into chicken genetics…     and partly the ongoing quest to find the best combination to get replacement laying hens and decent weight cockerels at 20 weeks.  A lot of the heavier meat birds seem to need a big longer, but 20 weeks is our limit on listening to multiple cock crowing.

I was cleaning their box out today (lack of broodies means these will be hand reared), and put them in the trug on the windowsill whilst room service was going on, and they looked so cute peering out  at the world, that I could not resist taking a picture.

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