Friday, 31 July 2009

Unexpected death.

Went down to let out the Dinner Birds this morning, and one of them was dead in the coop.

Very sad, it was a bit of a shock to say the least. No signs of trauma, best guess is that she had a heart attack. It's strange how sad I am about it, as they were due to be culled on Monday anyway. I think it's because it's such a waste - as we don't know what the cause of death is, she won't be eaten.

On the positive side, she had a good - free range - life. Last night they were busy rooking for their mixed corn and eating tomatoes & courgettes.

Still sad.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Eggs - two thirds of the way!

We candled the eggs in the Incubator last night, and were pleased to find that four of the Ixworth eggs and four of the Sasso have chicks in them. One of the Sassos looks a bit small, so it's a question mark really.

We took the 4 other eggs out, and destroyed them. If we'd waited much longer then they would have smelt rotten eggs.... but these weren't too bad.

Less than a week and the Ixworths should be starting to hatch!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Rubber dub dub

Our little next door neighbour, R (aged 8 and 11/12ths), came over the other day to see the Girls. He does it quite a lot, usually under the pretext of retrieving a ball or other missile that accidentally came over the fence.

He's a lovely chap, very inquisitive, and we always try to answer his many questions. This particular day he decided it was time he held a chicken (Daisy obliged), and he wanted to go inside their walk in run. Then he wanted to crawl into the "T" part of the walk in run, which is actually 3metres of Cube Run. I said no. He was in there before I'd finished the "n..".

He crawled along, and then told me it smelt. I explained that it wasn't surprising, as the flooring had got wet when I washed the Cube, and I hadn't taken the cover off to let the air get to it. I was a bit embarrassed.

Yesterday, I decided I'd better empty the flooring out, and I cursed my laziness for not moving the Cube properly to clean it. It had saved me a fair bit of time on the day, but it was now going to take me much longer to remove all the flooring and replace it. I looked at the flooring in the main run, and thought I might put that into the "t" piece, and put fresh stuff there.

I filled up the bags with the old stuff and sprinkled Stalosan (a poultry-safe, powdered, disinfectant. I piled the old stuff into the trailer, realising that the stuff from my last main run clear out was still there, and some stuff from the time before. A trip to the Tip was needed.

I stood and looked at the bare earth under the Cube Run, and decided that now would be a good time to try rubber chippings. The "T" piece is self contained, and stuff from there cannot get into the main run. I'd been thinking about Rubber Chippings for a while, I'd been considering using it for our Allotment Birds. This would be a good test run.

It was "on sale" at B&Q, but the nearest "in stock" place was 20 miles away. Alison, at Hook Farm is 28 miles away. In the end we decided to buy from Alison, so we had to take the trailer to the Tip to empty it, and then we Trailered off to Hook.

In fact, we didn't really need the trailer. We only bought 6 bags to cover the 3m2 in that part of the run. We got back quite late, went off to do the Allotment Birds, and it was too late by the time we got back.

So this morning, I've been out there spreading the chips. I decided not to put down weed matting first. Reason for this is that parts of the run are quite shallow, and I think the Girls would easily reach down to and tear the mesh. It's also contained on all sides by slabs, so it's not like it's going ot get kicked out and lost. So I decided to try without. Worst case, it doesn't work and we've wasted some chippings - but it'll be a good test.

Not sure I really like black chippings, but I'll get used to it. Looking forward to seeing how the Girls react.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Daisy's beak, again

It's been a week since we took Daisy to see Mr Cook, so today we took her back.

Her beak is still split, and has split further. Mr Cook did a diagram of an aeroplane wing to tell us what is done to repair cracks there, and he explained that it's not possible to do that with Daisy at the moment because it would go into her the sensitive part of her beak.

So, he clipped it back to the Quick (ew, and ow), and then applied surgical glue. We now have to wait until her beak has grown considerably before we can do anything more.

Poor little girl.

Monday, 27 July 2009

New flock installed!

The founders of our new flock of birds have been installed in their new home.

Yesterday we collected three Dorkings (or Dorking cross, they have yellow legs) from Sarah (thank you!). The two ladies are just 9 months old and are really pretty, very petite, and will continue to grow for the next year or so. The Boy is older, and is absolutely stunning.

Got the home last night and popped them straight into their new coop. Left them shut in while we fed the other birds, sectioned off some grass, organised feed bins etc, then let them out. They were at home straightaway, scratching about and exploring everywhere.

The Geese in the pen the other side were fascinated.

We went back down to make sure they had ound their way into the Coop, to find they had decided to roost on the very high fencing. Got them down, popped them in the coop, shut the pop hole.

This morning, we decided to clip a wing on each bird. They are very light little things and we can see they'll escape into next door's allotment, or into the other chicken pen, so it seems the best thing to do. They were very good while we did it.

A bit later, the Boy emerged, crowing, and all the Dinner Girls next door came rushing to the fence to see the new chap on the plot. They'd make mincemeat of him, they are huuuuuuge in comparison. There was a bit of a crowing competition between the new Boy and the Dinner Girls' cockerel. We're keeping an eye on how things progress - if there's trouble, the Dinner Cockerel will just have to go a bit sooner than we planned.

Their Newbies names are Captain Flint, Buffy and Willow; Other Chap refuses to call them by these names, so I expect they will have two names for some time. He immediately called the Girls Itchy and Scratchy, because they were so active in rooking around the moment they came out of the coop; the Boy he's been calling Mutley.

I don't really mind what they are called, as long as it's done with kindness. We want to make sure they get used to us as soon as possible, and that they learn to come when we rattle corn. As soon as they do that, we can let them out onto other grassy areas while we are at the Allotment. I'll post pics as soon as I've taken some.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Dinner Chickens - the problem with giving them a decent length life

After our last cull a couple of weeks ago we were down to 11 chickens; 10 very large and happy Ross/Cobb girls and one large unidentified breed, who we had previously thought to be a hen but were having suspicions he was an underdeveloped cockerel. They have all bloomed and been displaying proper chickeny behaviour, such as dustbathing. They look wonderful.

In the intervening couple of weeks, more girls have come in to to lay. We've had to make them a nesting area in their shed, and there is usually a couple of eggs in there. I find this very sad. They've shown no inclination to be broody.

Yesterday DH and OC (other chap) culled four girls. The unidentified brown chicken is definitely a cockerel, he's developed all his tackle since we culled the other cockerel ("Lumpy") last time. We've decided to leave him to the end, as he's doing a good job of keeping the Girls in order.

Anyway, DH dressed three birds yesterday at OC's house. He brought the fourth bird home and we kept it in the salad box to be dressed today. He commented that it was much easier to dress the cockerels, as with the Hens there is now oviducts to deal with, nor partially formed eggs. I saw what he meant today. I thought there were cherry tomatoes in the entrails (I gave the girls lots of tomatoes and cucumber on Sunday night before they went to bed) but they were the eggs.

It's very sad. I sort of wish we'd culled them before they got to Laying age.

Split beak

Daisy is a dirt magnet. She's an off-white Amber Star; she often dust bathes when her head is wet, and the compost/sand/woodash sticks to her making her look somewhat uncared for. I bathe her head from time to time when nature seems unable to get the clumps off.

I did this on Sunday, and noticed that her beak was split. Vertically - along its length. Bit scary. I hadn't noticed it before, but it was possible that I just hadn't seen it IYSWIM.

Looked up what to do, but the books didn't really talk about this sort of problem. I found a posting on the Practical Poultry forum where someone else had had this, and he had been advised to superglue it together.

Now, I can sort of see that this would be tempting. With a stretch of the imagination, I could see this possibly working in theory, but I don't see that it would work in practice. Even if the superglue didn't actually harm the bird (or the beak) long term, the application would be fraught with risks.

I took her to see the Vet instead.

He clipped her beak carefully, with nail clippers, but couldn't go all the way back. Bring her back in a week for another trim. In the meantime, she's going to find it difficult to be precise when pecking, so make sure all food containers are deep (no problem there, they already are). Also be aware that food can get lodged in the split and (a) make it worse and (b) rot and cause infection.

She's back out with her friends now, I'll see how she looks later.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Incubation Interruptus

We have 12 eggs in the Incubator at the moment. 19 days to go.

Power cut today, just for a short period of time. I hope it doesn't impact on the likely development of the eggs. I suppose it won't really. I mean, if they were under a Broody, she'd be getting up once a day for a comfort break....


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Incubation, part 2

Well, things are moving along.

Our 6 Ixworth eggs arrived this morningand are sitting, pointy end down, recovering from their postal journey. I'm hoping for delivery of 6 Sasso eggs tomorrow.

My flytesofancy order arrived, bringing me some really cute, chick sized, feeders and a drinker, and some Sanitiser. The incubator has been running for a couple of days. and we'll be santising it this evening so that it then has time to warm up again before the eggs go in.

I'm trying not to get excited in case none of the eggs prove fertile. But it's tough.

Monday, 13 July 2009

My brave (step)daughter

My lovely stepdaughter abseiled for charity on Saturday.

The participants abseiled from the top of the maternity block of their local hospital. She was brilliant, and we're very proud of her.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


We've got an Incubator!

I bought an R-Com 20 from the really friendly people at P&T Poultry plus an infra red lamp and a candler.

We're going to start a flock of Dorkings, which we will use for eggs/flock creation (Girls) and Dinner (Boys). We'll probably try crosses with other breeds (eg Indian Game) later, but that's wa-a-a-a-y into the future.

It's going to be some time until any of them will be ready for Dinner, so we're also goign to be hatching 2 Dinner breeds, probably Sasso and Ixworth.

We were going to hire an Incy, but decided it would be as cost effective to buy one. If we decide that incubating isn't for us, we'll sell the equipment - and the loss will probably be less than the cost of hire IYSWIM.

I've been bookmarking suppliers of fertile eggs for a few weeks now. We just need to check the calendar to decide when we're going to start....

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Buttering up

Taking advantage of the cooler weather, I got the cream out of the fridge yesterday morning ready to turn into butter yesterday afternoon. I unexpectedly had to work until late yesterday evening, and it was only when I got up this morning that I saw 4 litres of double cream on the worktop.

It's not a good idea to make butter when its warm. It doesn't churn as readily, and so its keeping quality is impaired. Still, I couldn't face throwing away all that cream so I made it anyway.

I found some old fashioned jelly moulds in the back of a cupboard when clearing out stuff to sell on Ebay, and I thought I'd try them as butter moulds.

The cream did turn into butter today, only takes a few minutes in the food mixer, but it was a very soft and slippery end product. I didn't get out as much buttermilk as normal, so I know theres still some buttermilk in there despite me washing it in cold cold water. The jelly moulds full of butter are stacked in the fridge, along with several Lock 'n' Lock containers of butter. The L&L ones will go in the freezer as soon as the butter has hardened off.

I also made a litre and a half of Tayberry cordial today.

The Tayberry, Raspberry and Blackcurrant vodkas all need attention as well, but it's just too hot!

Cherry busy

We have a sour-cherry tree in the garden. For the first few years of living here, we didn't do much with the cherry tree, the birds usually beat us to it. A few years ago, we tried the cherries but found they were acid cherries, and I didn't know what to do with them. Then the yield declined and we didn't bother.

The year before last I tried making cherry jam. It didn't end well. It was more like cherry rock. Last year, I tried again. Same thing. The tree was looking rather decrepit at this point, so we (by which I mean, of course, DH) did some drastic pruning.

This year we have had an abundance of cherries, beyond belief. I gave up sugar in my drinks a couple of years ago, and I find I can eat the sour cherries without wincing. Much. And we decided to Do Something With Them.

So. DH made some cherry wine. That was 5 pounds of cherries. The tree didn't look as if it had been harvested at all. So, I found a reciple for Cherry Melomel, which uses honey - I guess it's a kind of mead. That was 3 pounds of cherries.

The local yobs of the bird world, starlings, have been ravaging the tree and leaving cherry pits everywhere. The Girls have had cherries (but I stopped after they'd had two each, as I saw one of them swallowing a cherry whole).

And today we decided to make Cherry Cheese. That was another 3 pounds of cherries. It's taken forever. Hope it tastes ok!

And if only it was a sweet cherry, we wouldn't have all this trouble!