Sunday 16 May 2010

The chicks have a really amusing defence mechanism. They play at Statues.
 I  had been watching the chicks on the webcam and decided to pop out and  see them.  The shed door was open, with some netting from top to bottom to prevent the cats from entering, so that the warm-ish air could circulate and the chicks could get used to outside noise.   DH was mowing the grass at the time. As I approached the shed I could hear them scurrying around and cheeping.    As I approached the door, I heard one of them give that sound that chicks give to alert of danger, and by the time  reached the netting and peeped in, everything was silent.  Not only that, but there were chicks all over the brooder pen, frozen still.  Just like Musical Statues. I made that sort of clicking sound (the sort one makes when one wants a horse to move, and  one doesn't really know anything about horses) and suddenly they were all running around again.  This morning's examination showed that thefeathering over the last few days has been dramatic.  We'd like to put them outside for a few minutes, but it not warm at all today.   Still, I've now jetwashed and disinfected the Eglu (and my jeans and glasses) so as soon as we get some realy warm weather we can put them out, even if it's just for a few minutes. 

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Sorry it's taken me so long to take some pictures.

Our latest hatch are developing well and, as always are such little cuties.  I put some cauliflower leaves in their brooder pen today... they were very suspicious at first, but they eventually plucked up courage to give it a go.

The Sassos have got wonderful feather colouring, including white tips to their wings. I don't know if this is a throwback to something earlier in their heritage, or whether the white will disappear... our Welsh Black (who will be black when grown) also has white tips.

Here they are a bit later today, you can just about see all 7

The teeny weeny one on the left of the feeder is the Welsh Black, an Australorp x Indian Game. Not very black at the moment.

The black one (actually black and yellow but the yellow is now mainly underneath) towards the bottom of the pic is the Australorp.

Wednesday 05 May 2010

So, we had three Sassos hatch on Mon/Tues;    the remaining four eggs (2 Sassos, 1 Australorp and 1 Welsh Black) weren't due to hatch until Saturday.  By Saturday, the three Sassos were already big chicks, so we moved them from the lunar module brooder into a temporary brooder made out of a cardboard box.

The new chicks arrived;  the two Sassos were big,  the other two are teeny tiny chicks, they look very frail in comparison.  We had them in the Lunar Module brooder, and were keen to introduce the two groups as soon as possible. We just needed the newest newbies to be strong enough.

Yesterday we decided that it was The Day,  and so we set up the "outside" brooder.  All 7 chicks were popped in together,  and they have been fine.  It's been much easier than trying to introduce them when they are older.

We wouldn't normally put them in the big brooder this early, but they seem to be managing well.

Saturday 01 May 2010

A beautiful, proper, egg.

Smooth, china white shell.

After the problems with her egg laying tackle over the last few days, at the egg yolk in her vent, and then nothing  at all,  it's such a relief.

I normally only get this excited over "first eggs",  but I found myself doing the Egg Dance as I came running in from the garden.  Had to phone DH to give him the good news.

Hopefully it means she's well on the mend.

I'll carry on with the antibiotics for a couple more days, just to make sure.

Friday 30 April 2010

The three Sassos are in the lunar module brooder, doing well; the other 3 eggs (1=Australorp, 1=Welsh Black, 1=WBxRoo) are still in the incubator, all diu to hatch over the weekend.  DH candled them again, and they are still looking OK.

Down on the Allotment, the two new Welsh Black girls are definitely settled in.  I noticed for thefirst time today that one has a normal comb and the other a rose comb.  I was finally able to name them, I've been struggling to come up with one of the names.  So, in with Roo and Mrs Roo we now have Rooby (normal comb) and Rose (rose comb).

Rooby ate corn out of my hand today. She was a bit timid, but quite determined. I'm really pleased with the progress this represents, and I mentioned it to OC (other chap) when we saw him. Turns out Rooby eats from his hand too.

In the garden, Lily is still zipping about everywhere. She's still on antibiotics, still not laying, so it's still fingers crossed. 

This chicken keeping malarkey, it's a bit addictive.

We took the Sussexes over to their new home today. Lucky, lucky little chooks.

Their new Mum and Dad had everything sorted ready, and we popped the babies into their new coop and left them for an hour. DH nd I went off to see our own chooks, then came back to watch the babies come out.

Nothing. They were all busy rooking around in their coop. Then we had a few heads around the door,  and finally everyone rushed down the ramp.    The pair of geese, who also live there,  feigned disinterest.

We left Mum and Dad watching the littlees antics.

I'm not sad to see them go. I thought I would be,  but I think their new home is so lovely, and their new Mum and Dad are so keen,  I'm actually just happy for them.

I've emptied the Eglu and have left it open (rain is due), and I'll jetwash and disinfect it as soon as we have some decent weather.  I've also brought in and scrubbed & disinfected all the drinkers and feeders (different sizes for different sized chicks), ready for reuse in the next few days.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Today we have 3 Sasso chicks hatching. 1 is from poor Mrs Roo Too who had to be dispatched after being badly injured (accidentally) by Roo; and 2 are from Mrs Roo.   One of Mrs Roo's  emerged late last night, the other two haven't come out yet but their are big holes in the shells.

We have three other eggs in the Incubator which are due to hatch on Saturday, fingers crossed.  We've got an Australorp, a Welsh Black,  and a Welsh Black x Roo.

Lunar Module brooder has been disinfected, and the current hatchling will be transferred in there at bedtime.  

It's all go.

Monday 26 April 2010

...and so are the chicks.

Our cherry tree and pear tree are heavily in blossom....
 ...the bluebells are out....

..DH has been busy planting out corn, sowing lettuce etc...

And I've spent the day collecting escapee chicks.  Firstly it was Purple, I spotted himher out of the corner of my eye;  then Pink;  then Rhodey; then Purple; then NoRing.  

I'm just going out to modify the netting on top of the Eglu run to make it more escape proof. Or at least to try and make it more escape proof.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Yesterday was not a good day.

Lily (our loony White Ranger)  was very, very, very unwell.  Tail down (in itself unheard of for her) and all hunched up.  She looked...well, she looked like Jasmine had,  on the day Jasmine died.

I walked up to her to see if I could offer her something, and she moved away from me. Again, very unusual.   I left her alone for a while, and tried to work out what might have happened.     Jasmine had suffered some sort of "poisoning".   The other Girls were all fine,   nothing had changed in their routine.   The only thing that had  happened is that Lily had managed to fly over the netting into the bed where the wild bird feeders are.  We are visited by those parakeets, and they hoik lots of food out of the feeder onto the ground.       My guess was that Lily had eaten some stale wild bird feed, and it was causing her problems.

I also hoped that it might be she was goign to lay a softee, or something like that,  but that didn't seem to be the case.

Our chicken vet doesn't work at the weekends, they have some sort of stand-in service who don't know anything about chickens.

Meanwhile, I tried to find out abut post mortems, and learned that PMs need to be done on fresh corpses,  otherwise the pathogens are often gone by the time the PM is done. if I wanted a PM on her, she'd have to go in the freezer until Monday. 

I tried offering Lily a couple of things, but she wasn't interested.  Then I got out a pot of natural live yoghurt and 2 spoons, and I sat in their grassy area with it, and attempted to feed them.   The other 3 went mad for it, so I used one spoon to offer them some  I used the other spoon to offer some to Lily. who did partake a small amount.

I spent a lot of time crying. I know she's only a chicken,  but she's my Lily. She's my loopy chicken,  a  White Ranger, a breed known to be flighty, but  an individual who is happy to be picked up and stroked by me.  She is the one who can get over fences, and through tiny gaps.  And who comes to the back door to tell us she's escaped and to get her reward of corn. 

I knew she was likely to be fairly short-lived,  and I did suspect that she might pop off this year,  but I didn't expect it to be this way. Or now.

During the day, she had perky periods, and then down periods.   Her last down period was just before they went to bed.  SHe settled in the nest box, and I said goodbye.

And this morning, I couldn't face going down and taking a look, so DH went instead.

And Lily is still with us, and looking brighter.   She didn't lay a softee, but she did lay something strange. A tube.  Imagine one of those long balloons (the sort that are impossible to inflate unless you have the knack) before it's filled with air.     Only half the length.   We imagine that it was an eggshell, but with no egg to go in.

Fingers crossed she'll stay OK today.    I'll make an appointment for the chicken vet tomorrow, in case the egg burst inside her.



Thursday 22 April 2010

We've spent a lot of time over the last few days helping the chicks to become more and more hand-tame.    They were already used to being pucked up and transported from their brooder to the Eglu and back each day, but we want them to associate being handled with good things.

So, we've been picking them up a lot, which also gives us an opportunity to check them over and to second-guess whether they are male or female.    We escalated this, starting by offering them growers pellets (they are still on chick crumb in their feeders) on the palm of my hand.

They are all now very happy to crowd around my upturned palm and peck every last pellet. And the rings on my hand.  And my nails.  And my sleeves.     This is great, and we'll continue with this.

I've also taken to picking one or other of them out of the crowd at random, and offering them pellets from my hand.  Initially they wouldn't eat while I was holding them, but now at least three of them are happy to do so.  I'll continue with this, increasing the frequency, so that they are all used to it by the time they go to their new home.

They're now outside permanently, snug in the Eglu.  We've got the heated pad available so if the night is cold we can slip that in, but we've been really lucky with the weather.  The brooder pen has been dismantled, and we've scrubbed everything ready for disinfecting... our next chicks are due to start hatching in the middle of next week!

Sunday 18 April 2010

We put rings on the chicks today, much to their distaste.  They spent a few minutes afterwards pecking at these things, which looked like old fashioned leg irons. Although not iron, obviously. And brightly coloured.

We only had 6 different coloured rings. The Rhodey doesn't need one, being as how he's unlikely to ever get confused with his step siblings.  And one of the Sussexes is uninged. unrung. 
We also attempted to guess the genders, using the sussex sexing method  at age 5-7 weeks, based on tail deveopments (more tail=female), redness of wattle (red=male), and comb development (more comb=male).  We have a 2 weekish window before the sexes look the same again.

Saturday 17 April 2010

The chicks are 5 weeks old now, and today we let them out of the Eglu run into a secuirely netted area.   The netting, by necessity, also covers the top of the open area: (a) so the chicks can't get out by leaping on the Eglu and (b) to stop the cats having a chicken takeaway.

One of the first things the chicks did was to make a dustbath, all 8 of them trying to dustbath in the same spot.

It's sooooooo sweet.
It's really warm today, no wind either. We might try turning the electric hen off tonight, as a start to weaning them off-heat completely.

Friday 16 April 2010

Those poor people in Iceland!

While people here are bemoaning the possible loss of a holiday, the Icelanders are really struggling with the direct effects of the erupting volcano.

With my previous job I travelled abroad (to US, or Europe, sometimes further afield) every week.   I know how horrible it is to have a flight home cancelled and the stress of trying to rebook/ find an alternative way home.
We've also had our once-in-a-lifetime holiday threatened by strike action, anhd that wasn't much fun.

But - on a selfishly personal note -it's been so lovely and quiet with no aeroplanes overhead.  
I wonder how long it'll go on for?

Tuesday 13 April 2010

..the chicks have "grown" enormously.

Up until Sunday, we used a 6-bottle wine box to move them from their broody pen to the ouside Eglu, and we could easily fit 4 in the box.  Now we can only just fit three in.   They are also much taller, and can escape too easily from the box, so we've switched to a much taller and sturdier 12-bottle delivery box. (Thanks Waitrose).

Yesterday they tried peas.  Today, a few little bits of apple.   
They are so boisterous, at least one of them has started trying to roost on the side of the brooder pen.      
If the weather continues to be warm, when they are at 5 weeks old we might try leaving them out in the Eglu overnight (with the warmth of a heat pad of course).  We'll see.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Chicks are back in their brooder pen for the evening, but they are still full of beans. I've been watching them with the webcam, and they are all over the place!
The Rhodey launched him/herself from the top of the Electric Hen ton to the top of the feeder.   He stood there for some time, until he was knocked off by one of the sussexes, who "flew" past him.

Collected two lovely Welsh Blacks yesterday (Australorp x Indian Game), who are going ot join Roo and Mrs Roo.   We also accidentally collected 6 Australorp eggs, and they are now in the Incubator.  I'm usually too well disciplined to impulse-buy chickens,  but the reality is that if the chap had had Australorps for sale, I probably would have bought those instead of the Welsh Blacks.  I;m hoping we hatch some girls, as I may accidentally keep one.

The Welshies have been installed on the Allotment. Normally we'd keep them separate for a few days, but the Eglu is in use for the chicks.   We saw the place that the Weshies came from, and we saw their pen, the conditions were fine, everything was well kept and all the birds were well cared for,  so hopefully it'll be OK.

We had deliberately chosen well established hens, and we put a saddle on one of them straight away as she already had slight feather loss from the previous cockerel. 

Mrs Roo is not impressed, and has been busy asserting herself.  I've gone from worrying about how poor Mrs Roo will feel dealing with two intruders to feeling more sorry for the poor girls that we've introduced.       We went to the allotment early this morning to check for problems, but couldn't see anything.   The girls are very wary of us (unsurprisingly), so I'll go back later and see if I can get some one-to-one time with them. 

Roo is delighted.

The chicks are *almost* through the scruffy stage now, and are starting to look like miniature light sussexes.  They are realy boisterous and bouncy,  and have been outside during the day for three days now.

They've started to use the proper feeder when outside, but they aren't using the proper drinker, so we're still putting the chick drinker in the run for them.

First day or two they were very timid, and spent a lot of time inside the Eglu.  They moved as a crowd in and out.  We made a point of walking past them and talking to them but not stopping, so they get used to having lots of activity around them.

This morning DH is mowing the rest of the grass, and strimming everywhere that needs it, and we've left the chicks in the broody pen in the shed while this goes on. I think lawnmower noise would be a bit much to take at this stage.

Wednesday 07 April 2010

I've been browsing, looking for some large breed girls to replace Mrs Roo Too.  I came across a picture which made me do a double take,  as the girs (and the cockerel) in it were the spitting image of Captain Flint and the two Mrs FLints.  And their offspring.

Not Dorkings, but Silver Duckwing Welsummers perhaps?

I searched some more and found other pics of the breed, and the similarity is remarkable. 

We've always introduced them as Dorking Crosses (the yellow legs, brown eggs and four toes told us they weren't purebreed Dorkings).  

I'm not sure they are Silver Duckwing Welsummers either though, the eggs aren't brown enough, 

I don't mind what they are, they are really pretty girls, with super soft strokeable feathers.

Tuesday 06 April 2010

It was warm enough today to put the little chicks outside for a while.

I made up the (scrubbed and disinfected) Eglu, and popped them in it, along with a heatpad. Then I opened the door so they could venture out into the Run if they wished.

And they wished.

They spent ages moving around the run area, in a tight bundle.  Everything got tested for food-worthiness, and they just cheeped and cheeped and cheeped.   Izzy came and lay down beside the run, in her best "i'm-just-being-cute-and-lying-here-not-at-all-interested-in-the-chicks manner";  Wash strolled past the run, did a double take and came back to take a closer look.  He saw me watching him watching them, and he sauntered off in a not-bothered kind of way.  He didn't fool me.

After about an hour, the chicks  all went back inside the Eglu for a nap; I'm not at all surprised, the assault on their senses must have been overpowering! So, I scooped them out and put them back in the chick pen in the shed.  

Don't want to overdo it on their first day.

DH phoned me from the Allotment this morning to say that Mrs Roo Too was in a bad way.   She's been badly damaged by Roo treading her. We discussed getting her to the Vet, but when I phoned DH bac a little while later he said it wasn't worth it, she needed to be put down.

Roo is a lovely cockerel, very gentle, very polite, and very considerate of his ladies. But he is a big boy (and they are correspondingly big girls), and it wasn't done out of any nastiness or agression on his part.   It's still very sad though.

I've ordered a leather saddle to be delivered tomorrow, as Mrs Roo Too will need some extra protection, as she's bound to receive additional advances from Roo,  while we look for some new girls.    I'm going to contact Smart Chicks to see if they are able to let me have a couple of fully grown Sasso girls,  as I think we need to get additional hens asap.  PWe can't put the Dorkings in with Roo, unfortunately - they are just too small. 

The new hens need to be sturdy girls, but also suitable breeding stock for dinner chickens.  Need to do a bit more research on what might be big enough.

Mrs Roo Too only came into lay (at a ripe old age of 34 weeks) last week.  On the plus side,  she had a very happy and free range life.     It's still sad.

Omlet Cartoon