Saturday, 30 April 2011

Hannibal, again

Last night we left the four injured chicks in the big brooder with their siblings.  They'd been out in the garden together all day without any problem.    We brought the "small" brooder (actually a large lawnmower box) into the kitchen and put Hannibal in there, along with a dustbath   It was more roomy and there was a bit more for himher to do.

DH suggested that we put a couple of the whiter chicks in with himher for company.  I wasn't too sure but, as the four injured chicks had reintegrated successfully, decided it was probably a good thing to do. 

The three of them were really, really noisy.  We put heated up the pad. Still they cheeped.  We covered the box with a towel (and some mesh so the cats couldn't get in and the chicks couldn't get out), and eventually they went to sleep.

This morning the weather was gorgeous, so we put all the other chicks out straightaway.  DH hung up a couple of lettuces, which were a great success.  

We put Hannibal and his two friends out as well.  Everything seemed fine.  They ran around, eating, cheeping, barging, doing normal chicky things.  I came in to write my update,  and a few minutes later DH came in with the bad news: Hannibal had started again, not just a quick peck -  but trying to eat the feathers of the black chicks, actively seeking them out to so do.


No point trying any more.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Non-Chick close-ups

Decided to get a Macro lens for my camera, in the hope of getting some fab photos of the bees.


I've been trying it out all round the garden....
rosemary

unripe cherry

strawberry

clematis

virgina creeer

bluebelle

inside of a dandelion clock

no idea, probably a rose bush stem

Spinach? Lettuce? Something gone mad in a veg bed

Not sure. Quince flower probably

Hosta leaf

A different hosta leaf


Time for your close ups

Hannibal spent yesterday in the indoor brooder in the kitchen.   We spent quite a bit of time talking to himher,  and letting himher out to have a run around.   S/he's in solitary cofinement to protect the others, not as a punishment.  Of course the upshot of such one-to-one contact is that we're getting quite attached to him/her,  even though we know what the outcome will be for her if she won't stop her behaviour.

This morning we put the chicks out early, extending the netted area even more.   We put the four injured chicks out with the others, and watched to make sure there wasn't any trouble. 

DH cleaned out the big brooder pen (it's amazing how much mess they make, especially considering they are only in there overnight now!),  and will be making it bigger today.

Eventually, we decided it was time to let Hannibal out.  We were still hoping that time away would make himher forget their cannibalistic tastes,  but we were sadly disappointed.   S/he pecked several of the black chicks, pulling tails, etc. Again, it wasn't done with any malice or attack,  she's obvisuly just attracted to black feathers.    We hoiked Hannibal out again,  back in the brooder temporarily.    

DH then rigged up a corner in the outside run, with its own food and water,  so that Hannibal could go outside with the others, but be separated from them.  We're trying this method of separation to see if being in sight of the others helps.  It's certainly less distressing for him/her than being in solitary confinement.   We'll try once more tomorrow to see how s/he behaves.


S/he'll have to come into the indoor brooder tonight. We're planning to leave the 4 injured chicks with everyone else overnight; we want to make sure Hannibal isn't there in case (a) s/he attacks them overnight, and (b) they get attacked  by someone else and s/he unfairly gets the blame.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Chicken pictures

Here are the chicks in their newly-extended Go, with externally netted foraging area:
Two of the three panels on this side have doors; the middle panel on the other side has a door; and the end has a door.

Here are pics of two of the injured chicks - this one has purple spray all over his back...:
 ..and this is the one who has been most severely injured:

And, completely non chick related,  I had to bath Custard today.  She has a really odd shaped bottom - it sticks out below her vent so poo tends to get stuck on it.  This is her, after her bath:

The saga continues

Weather earlier today was quite chilly, sothe injured chicks (ICs) were in the shed, in a small brooder with their own Electric Hen, recuperating.  Hannibal was in solitary confinement in a brooder in the kitchen,  and everyone else was out in the newly extended Go.

DH came home,  had some work to do, and then he marked out a netted area.  The new door panels arrived, so the end of the Go run and one other panel were replaced, giving us (hopefully) easier access.   The chicks were then shut out of the Go run (so they were still in their extended netted area), so that we could give the ICs some time outside in the safety of the Go run.    The ICs took matters into their own claws though,  and soon everyone was together.   DH watched them carefully, for quite some time,  and decided that they were all getting on OK so we'd leave them all together for now.

More later.

 

Hannibal still a Cannibal

We put Hannibal back in the brooder with the others. He had a bit of a peck, but we decided to give him the Benefit of The Doubt.     DH rigged up the large Electric Hen (EH) in the Go, and we then moved them alll outside into the newly enlarged run. The 4 injured babies are still in the shed in their own little brooder with another EH.

I can see the Go from the kitchen window. A couple of times I thought I saw Hannibal peck some of the remaining black chicks, but I couldn't be sure.   I went outside and watched.  He did it. To several of them.  In a short space of time.  Then he was happily eating grass and taking no notice of the black chicks.  I watched some more. He did it again.  A bit of tail pulling here,  and peck on the back there.  

I couldn't catch him.  I came inside and pondered what to do.  I went outside again - no problems.  Then, there it was again. And Again. And Again.  Then it was OK.  I tried again to catch him, no chance.  I came in and got my Grim Reaper net.   The Big Girls, who had been lining up against their netting to watch the sideshow, ran away and hid.    The little chicks all ran up one end.  I put the net in, and tried to catch Hannibal as he ran past.  Missed him. 

I moved the net trying to get the chicks (including Hannibal) to run into the Go, reasoning that I could shut the door, then get him out from the back.  The other chooks ran in the Go, Hannibal ran the other way.  i moved the net again, and I managed to catch him in it (which was a fluke, and not what I was expecting at all).  I moved it slowly towards me so I didn't hurt him,  and there he was.


He's now back in solitary confinement, until DH comes home and we can decide what to do. hi specking doesn't look particularly malicious - but then, my cats don't catch things with the intention of killing them either, they only want to play. They still end up killig the plaything though,  and Hannibal is still going to end up drawing blood and hurting the others.

The morning after

Hannibal - Red Ring -  wasn't happy at being alone in the brooder in the kitchen.  I felt awful for himher, but I would have felt even worse if we'd left himher in with the others and then came down in the morning to find more bloodshed.  Chicks can tend to be copycats (copychooks, perhaps),  and we don't want this behaviour to spread.

This morning, he was fine, cheeping everytime we walked past him.   In the shed, one of the chicks had escaped the big brooder and was sitting on the spare Eglu panel which was acting as a roof of the second brooder.   Hmm. They have reached the stage of using the Electric Hen (EH) as a launch pad,  so we were going to need to put some form of roof on it now, especially as the EH needs raising again.

The four injured chicks were under their smaller EH. I called anc clucked, and a head appeared. I clucked a bit more, and two heads appeared.  In the end, I had to put my hand under the EH, and all 4 little chicks appeared.   At least we didn't lose the one who had been most injured.


I left them at that point, as DH and I are putting the extension on the Go run and putting a more thought-out netting run around.   When the two door arrive - hopefully later today - we can replace the appropriate panels. We can then put them out - separating the injured chicks initially - and reintroduce Hannibal and see what s/he does. 

Wish us luck.  I'll let you know how we get on.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Turn your back and what happens?

The chicks were out today,  my Aunt and her grand-daughter came to visit, everything was fine.


At the end of their visit,I took them to the station, 15 mins at most I was away. When I got back, five of the chicks had blood all over them. - mostly tail area, but a bit on the back. DH and I got them out and sprayed them with  Septiclense (an antiseptic spray, which disguises the red blood), and put them back in with the others.   ALmost immediately, the others were pecking them again. 

We separated them out, sprayed them again, and put them in the run attached to the Go; we made up a netting run for the others, so we could keep them apart.    We filled up some spare feeders,  made up a second dust bath so both runs had one,  and kept watch while we worked out what to do. One little chap, the most severely injured,  was very quiet.  I heated the Snugglesafe in the microwave and put it in the run for him, but he didn't bother with it.


We discussed options, and decided to make up a temporary second brooder pen for the injured chicks. Fortunately we have a second, smaller, Electric Hen.   We set this up in the shed and left it to warm up.


Amongst the uninjured chicks, we noticed that one particular chick seemed to be attacking the others.   I got out some leg rings, and we put a red ring on the one we thought was causing an issue.  We watched them for a little while, and he really was a problem.   We hoiked him out, and put him in the second brooder while we discussed what to do.


We decided to put rings on all the chicks, so we could identify any persistent trouble makers.     I had some numbered rings, so we put even numbers on those we thought might be girls, and odd numbers on those we thought were boys.   We only had 25 numbered rings,  so we then put blue on the remaining boys (different coloured chicks so we could still tell them apart),  and the remaining colours on those we thought were girls.


It ws getting late by this time, so we moved Red Ring (the trouble maker) into the old chick brooder in the house so we could put the poorly chicks to bed.  Don't like him being on his own, but it's better than letting him injure others.   The four injured chicks then went into the temporary brooder,  and everyone else went into their normal one.   We'll see how the injuries are tomorrow and then decide whether to continue to keep them separate or whether to try and reintegrate them. 

Red Ring can go back in with the others tomorrow, under supervision, and we'll pull him out again if he starts any trouble.

I'm covered in purple spray,  my clothes are covered - I didn't have time to change, so they aren't my chicken-keeping clothes, and  I feel drained!  I know I should be more resilient, I'm just sad that this has happened, and annoyed that it happened while I wasn't there to see what occurred. I think it's the "not knowing" what made it all kick off that is so horrible.  Was it an accident?  What sort of accident?  How can I stop it happening again?  Did something catch them from the outside? Was it a cat paw? 

Monday, 25 April 2011

Gnom Gnom Gnom!

Had slow roasted belly pork for dinner yesterday (from the half pig we butchered a while ago). It was fantastic.  Used Jamie Oliver's recipe http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/jamie-oliver/pork-belly-roast-recipe

Today we had the leftovers.  I fancied trying Chinese-style pancakes, with hoisin sauce, spring onions, and cucumber.  We've used flatbread recipe before, but I really fancied trying to make those extremely thin pancakes one gets in Chinese restaurants.   I eventually found a recipe on Videojug. I was a bit dubious whether it would work (especialy the separating bit) but I decided to give it a go. They were fantastic!  We've got pancakes leftover for the freezer, which we can reheat in a steamer another time.  The recipe is here http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-make-chinese-pancakes.  Definitely one for my cookbook!

DH cut up the remaining pork belly, and reheated it in a wok-style pan.  At the end he added some soy sauce.

Yum!  We ate so much, it was really hard to stop because everything(pork, pancakes, hoisin sauce) was so delicious.

My, how you've grown!

The chicks seem to have grown overnight.  

We use a large tub trug to transport them from their shed brooder to the outside coop,  and originally when we needed to put them somewhere so we could clean out their brooder.  The first couple of times we cleaned them out (which was every three days back then) we could easily fit all 34 in the trug.   The last few days we've been inspecting their bottoms and feet before putting them in the trug. This takes some time, so when DH has moved 10 or so chicks, I  swap the trug for an  empty one, then pick up the chick trug and take them to the outside run.  I then come back, swap trugs, and repeat the process until all 34 are outside.

Today,we decided to see how many chicks could fit in the trug: 17.  This means they've (sort of) doubled in size.   The last few days must have been about increasing body mass, as well as producing feathers.

After they had been out for about half an hour,  I went to check on them.  They all ran away (nothing unusual about that), but today they decided to run into the Go.     Another step forward - this is the first time they've ventured inside.

I'm hoping we can use this to our advantage.  Naturally they really like being out, and they don't really want to get caught to be put back in the brooder.  At the moment we have one door on each side of the run (at different positions), but it's still tricky to catch the little darlings.    We've found that I have to move round to wherever they are standing, so they rush away from me into DH's hands.   They are starting to catch on though.

If they're now running into the coop, that might be a good thing.  The Plan is that  I can "loom" over them so they all run in there, DH can shut the door,  and then we can extract them from the back. Ha ha!

Failing that, I have some additional door panels arriving on Thursday. 

I'll let you know if the Plan works. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Scrub-a-dub

Decided to take advantage of the continuing good weather to scrub and poultry shield the allotment coops.  Left DH at home to do some finishing stuff in the kitchen, and to look after the chicks, while I went off.

Takes a surprising amount of time, especially as I had to work around one broody girl in each coop, and one Laydee who hadn't laid yet.   Took me about 2.5 hours. They are large wooden coops, and they need time to dry after scrubbing and poultry-shielding,  so I work round one coop, then leave it open to dry and go and work on the second coop. 

I started on the nesting boxes for the second coop, as one of the Laydees hadn't laid.  She still hadn't laid by the time I'd worked my way around (there are 5 nesting boxes on this coop, so it takes aaaages to get all the nesting material out).   I had to eject the broody (Siouxsie Sioux), who complained loudly.

By the time I'd sprayed the second coop, most of the first coop was dry enough to put down stalosan and diatom;  I then scrubbed and disinfected  the drinkers, scrub and disinfected the roosting bars and tidied up.  At this point Roo, having been nagged by his broody wife and hearing the distressed calls off both broody Siouxsie Sioux and NotNotman in the other run, decided to Sort Me Out.   I knew what he was up to as soon as I saw him sidlling up to me.  I swung round with the poultry shield can in front of me, just as he launched.  I tried to stop him, but his Dander was Well And Truly Up, and he hopped around and attacked me again, and again.  I put down the Poultry Shield container, which I think had been the last Straw, and II managed to get my hand on his back and squash him to the ground.  From there, I picked him up and held him snugly under my arm. I wasn't really sure what to do next, so I stroked him and talked to him, and then put him gently on the ground.  He regained his balance, and walked off. 

So, I went to Stalosan and Datom the second coop.   I then scrubbed and disinfected the roosting bars of the second coop,  and then put everything away.  I  put some nesting material in one of the nesting boxes, so that NotNorman could finally lay her egg.
I left the coops and came home. DH is popping to the allotment on his way to the pub,  and will fill up the nesting boxes, put the poo trays and roosting bars back in.

I'm covered in diatom, stalosan, and stale aubiose. 

Off to have a shower and wash my hair.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bathing Beauties

Another hot day, so we put the chicks out at about 11, and left them out until 5pm. Today they discovered the dustbath...
video

They've also started trying to sort out the pecking order, lots of standing on tippy-toes and squaring-up going on.


They were all extra hungry after their day's adventure (despite having free access to chick crumb all day)... think they'll sleep well tonight!




Fun in the sun

Yesterday was really hot, so we decided to put the chicks outside for a while.
We put together the Go, and sited it so the run was partly on our patio and partly on the grass (as they've only been eating chick crumb up to now), then we introduced the chicks:
It only took them a couple of minutes before they were happily running around, exploring...
...eating grass etc
  The feathers on their wings and shoulders, and the tails in some cases, are also continuing to develop..
 They were out for a few hours in the end. We cleaned their indoor run out completely, and settled them back in.


No light last night. They were all quite sparko from their outside adventure.

We put them out again at 11am this morning (Saturday),  doing feet-and-bottom inspections as we went along.    they've definitely grown - no way we can fit 34 in the tub trug anymore.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Monitoring the babies

When we first raised chicks at home, I bought a baby monitor.  I thought this would help us hear if the chicks were unhappy (they tend to cheep quite loudly if they are at all distressed).

I was moving some stuff around the other day and I came across the baby monitor.  I wondered why we hadn't used it since the first time.   I plugged the transmitter in near the chicks, and then I couldn't find the power supply for the receiving end; it's taken us a few days to locate a suitable 7v supply.  At last, today, we found one, and plugged it in to the kitchen.


A few minutes later, I remembered why we had stopped using it.   It's fine when everything around is quiet - apart from the odd few transmission noises.  But it's not so great when an aeroplane goes overhead.  Not only do we have the aeroplane going overhead anyway, but we now get it in inside the kitchen as well as outside.


We have more than an occasional plane going overhead - I can see that I'll only be using this for limited periods.



 

Bee homing

Yesterday it was time to transfer the bees to their new hive.


DH had to go and do it on his own,  I was at home waiting for the new cooker to be delivered and installed.     It was a much slower process than expected,  partly because the Queen was on the last frame to be transferred, and DH was checking each frame to make find her to make sure everything was OK.

He brought home two mostly-unused frames from the old box, as these are great for showing how the bees work.

Firstly, this is an unused frame.  It has a sheet of wax in it, which the bees would use as a foundation to build on:


 On this next frame, the bees have started to "draw out" the foundation. This means they've used their own wax to build the honeycomb shaped storage cells.  The bottom left hand corner of the frame has not been "drawn out", the rest ofthe frame has been. You can just about see the difference in this photograph:

And lastly, on this frame there is some honey (which the camera isn't picking up very clearly), and also some pollen (which are the darker bits which you can see).  The different colours are different types of pollen  - pollen from different flowers.


All the theory we've learned...and now we're trying to put it in to practice!

Chicks Day 11

Yesterday we turned the heat lamp off during the day (leaving the Electric Hen on), and we left it off until we went to bed.  The chicks were fine - they were sleeping partly under the EH, some were away from the EH, so we could see they were warm enought.   We debated whether to leave it off overnight, which would be our preference, but decided not to, as the temperatures can drop quite a lot.   It probably wouldn't matter, as the EH is their main source of heat, but as we've been using the lamp I don't really feel able to just leave it off completely yet.

Why do we want the lamp off?  Well, having it on creates permanent "daylight" and so the chicks just eat and sleep and run around and then sleep again, for 24 hours.    Without the lamp, the night-time is the night-time, and they tend to sleep during it.    It's more natural - what the chicks would be doing if they had a mummy hen.   Leaving it off until we go to bed at least gives them a few hours of darkness,  so I think we'll do the same tonight.


The shoulder feathers have started appearing on the most well developed of the chicks, I'll try and get some pictures later.






Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Left Hand, Right Hand

Grrrr.

We bought a range cooker.  After much research we decided NOT to go for the Britannia, but to go for a Stoves.    According to their specialised "Range Centre" website, Stoves had a promotion on, offering a 2 year guarantee (instead of their standard 1 year guarantee), if you bought a range cooker (excluding mini ranges) through one of their authorised range centre specialists between December 2010 and 31st March 2011.   We had a participating dealer near us, the price was reasonable, and we paid for the new cooker on 30th March.

Said range cooker was delivered today. I phoned the number supplied to register my warranty.  In common with most manufacturers, the warranty is actually handled by Domestic & General; they denied all knowledge of this promotion, telling me it must have been something offered by the shop.   I explained that it was a Stoves warranty, and the chap I spoke to suggested that I take it up with the manufacturer.


I phoned Stoves.  The lady I spoke to denied all knowledge of this promotion, and told me that it must have been a special deal offered by the shop.  I explained that it was a Stoves warranty, the literature was Stoves, and that it had been advertised on their website.    Apparently I was mistaken, they do not offer 2 year warranties, apart from on a certain model (which I'd never heard of). I explained that that was NOT what the leaflet said.  Apparently I was mistaken.  She suggested I take it up with the retailer. I could feel myself getting cross; I really don't like getting cross with customer service people as it's not their fault, so rather than risk taking out my rising frustration with her, I agreed that's what I would do.


I phoned the retailer.  The salesperson I had dealt with wasn't there, so I left my number.    I went back to Stoves' web site to see if I could see the information on the promotion, maybe as one of their old news items.  I couldn't.  I cursed my stupidity for not taking a screenshot at the time.  Then I clicked through to their specialised RangeCentre website, and there it was!


So, I phoned Customer Services again.  The lady I had spoken to previously was on another call, so I went through the saga again with a helpful chap called Stuart.  Initially he told me that it must be a retailer promotion offered by this RangeCentre company.  I told him that Stoves was RangeCentre.  We had a bit of a surreal conversation, where he assured me it wasn't.  I told him it was, I'd just clicked through to it from the Stoves website.  I gave him the  web address. He looked at it online.  We both agreed that it it was a Stoves website.  We both agreed that the promotion did  exist (fortunately it was on the home page, even though it has expired) and that my product qualified.   He asked if he could phone me back.


Some minutes later, he phoned me back to say that he would sort it out. Took my details, and is going to ensure that my guarantee is registered.    


My retailer phoned me back shortly afterwards as well, so I went through what had happened.    I explained that I was very happy with the cutomer service chap who helped me in the end, but that it was really overall a bit of a poor show that (a) D&G didn't know about the promotion and (b) that Stoves own customer service didn't know about the promotion, nor that they now had a specialised "range centre" which had authorised range centre dealers.  

He's going to feed back my experience to the people who manage the range centre bit, as clearly the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. It doesn't even know there is a right hand, in fact.

As long as I get my warranty, I'll be happy.  That was one of the final deciding factors in my purchase decision.

I'm pleased to have been able to buy a British made product (one of the numerous small factors in my purchase decision)

The oven it replaces was also a Stoves, which gave me many years of trouble-free service.

I'm reassured that Stoves has a UK Customer Service centre (another small factor). I like to think that I can always go and stand outside a company with a placard, if things get really bad. Not sure I'd ever do it, but I like to know it's an option. 

Stuart was very helpful, I'm confident that he will get it sorted out. 


EDITED TO ADD:
The area manager, who was contacted by both the retailer and by Stuart  has phoned me to apologise, and to let me know that it is being escalated and resolved to make sure it doesn't happen to someone else.







Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chic pics - day 9

The chicks are still eating and sleeping a lot, but have started to show a bit more interest in their surroundings.   The weather is warmer,  so yesterday and today I turned off the heat lamp during the day, so they have the Electric Hen  (EH)for warmth.   We're waiting for the nights to be warmer so we can stop using the lamp altogether, and just rely on the EH.

Their wingtips are continuing to develop...
 ..and some of them have almost fully formed (but tiny) wings:

Edited to add:

We cleaned them out again today.  We also did bottom inspections, only a few needed attention. However, we also did feet inspection (which we didn't do on Saturday and I now wish we had), and that took a while.  Fortunately the weather outside is glorious, so we could sit on the grass and do them one by one. The Chicks got to do a bit of sunbathing, which was great,  and a couple of them had a go at dustbathing.  

Monday, 18 April 2011

Happy B'day

We have bees.

Collected them this evening.   Need to leave them to get used to their new location for a day or two, then we'll move the frames into their new hive.  

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Normality partially restored

Small bedroom (chick hatching) is now clean and tidy, and back to normal.

Bathroom (disinfecting everything in the bath) now restored.

Some progress on the kitchen and the guest bedroom, but the sort of progress that only we can see.

PetPorte, part 4

Both cats are now coming and going through the PetPorte.  We haven't "helped" them since Thursday.

I haven't watched them to see whether they go in/out without thinking, or whether they still sit and stare at it first.  I'll try and keep an eye on it and let you know (bet you can't wait!).

Saturday, 16 April 2011

chicks Day 6

Especially for Alexis... a couple of really short video clips the chicks, Day 6
video 

video

Rock bottom

One of the chicks had a really large lump of accumulated poo, so DH brought himher into the kitchen so I could sort it out.  Isabelle jumped on to one of the kitchen stools, and was very interested in what DH had in his hand.  She pawed at DH in that appealing way she has.   

We took little chick back out. It was very warm out, so we decided we might as well clean the brooder and go through all the chicks while we were at it.  We scooped all 34 into a very large trug, and stood it in the sunshine (probably the last time we'll be able to get them all in one trug).

DH then cleaned out the brooder, while I did bottom-inspections.   I cleaned those that obviously needed cleaning and then, when the brooder was ready for re-habitation, we inspected each chick before putting them back. This meant we could deal with any tiny bits of poo, before it became a problem.

So many little bundles of fluff, and they are so cuddle-able.  The little black ones remind me of baby penguins. Not that I've actually ever seen a baby penguin,  but it's how I imagine baby penguins.



Clearing up

Did I mention the other day that my kitchen is looking like a tip?  No, really.  I don't mean it's a bit untidy.  I mean I have stuff dumped everywhere, it's a bit out of control. 

Bits everywhere - chicken related stuff,  chick related stuff, cat related stuff and bee related stuff, new-oven related stuff....   I've got tins of paint,pain tray, rollers,  bits of beehive, boxes for incubator bits,   plinths from the side of the kitchen where the new oven will go standing against cupboards, bits of hive frames, grass seed, chicken-grass-seed,  a box with the old catflap in ("just in case"),  the contents of DH's car boot, bits emptied out of kitchen cabinets that no longer have an obvious home...

The mess had spread to the smallest bedroom - where we were hatching chicks,  the guest bedroom - where we'd dumped stuff from the small bedroom to make room for the incubators & tables,  and the lobby/utility room where we'd had to put a temporary mat in to cover the cables for the new cat flap and the cat drinker thing.

Up to now, we've had good reasons (excuses) for the mess... but it's time to take action.  A lot is happening next week, and I'd like to get the house back to some sort of normality at the end of it.

Yesterday I started washing and sterilising all the chick hatching equipment, and it was easiest to do this in the bath.  I filled the bath with water and Milton sterilising fluid, put a towel in the bottom to protect the bath*, and put everything in.    Last night, everything was out of the bath and all over the bathroom floor, drying.

At last, the incubators, the inside brooder,  the fold up tables etc, are all cleaned, put back together, and stacked ready to be put away. 
The spare bits for the beehive have been painted, so hopefully they can come out of the kitchen and be put away as well.

I'm going to tackle this sensibly.  Today, I will clear out the small bedroom.  By the end of the week, we will have some semblance of normality restored.

*Note to self: next time, use an old towel.  The one I used now looks like it's been tie-died - and not in a good way.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Chicks - end of day 5

The chicks are spending a bit less time sleeping, and a bit more time eating and interacting with each other.   The Electric Hen has been used as a platform for more of them now,  we can tell by the mess.    We've raised it up a little, as the chicks are growing.

Already many of them have wingtips appearing....

...but overall they still look like the cute and fluffy chicks so associated with Easter.   


The weather is meant to get a bit warmer, and I can see from watching them on the camera that most of them are chooing to sleep just outside the EH during the day. We'll raise it up a bit more tomorrow, certainly during the day,  and as soon as it is a reasonable height we'll look at putting in a shallow tray with some compost and sand in, so they can try scratching and dustbathing. 

When they are asleep in a heap, they remind me of Tribbles!



Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Cats like to help

I was on bottom brushing duty today.   Custard and Tilda are a bit of a strange shape, which means that they often end up with dried poo on their knickers.   Lily, who has stopped laying eggs but I think has been responsible for a couple of shelless eggs lately, was also a bit crusty.   So, I caught them one by one and, with gloves on (i hasten to add), I attempted to get the crusty bits off.  I have a toothbrush which helps.

Each captive chook got to eat corn to her hearts content while I worked.   Tilda, who is getting bullied at the moment,  was allowed to sit under the seat and catch falling corn while I did everyone else.


The Cats were not impressed.   Wash came sauntering across the garden and spied Something Under The Chair.  He assumed his panther-like hunting pose,  slinking up on the prey.  He got to the chair, wiggled his bottom ready to pounce, and then realised he was facing a chicken.  He switched to nonchalant mode, and walked off.


Izzy came out to see what I was doing, and seemed appalled that I had a chicken - on my lap!! She wandered off down the garden.


Wash had obviously decided to hide from all those chickens....







...and Izzy decided to help DH with some potting up....




Chick pics - day 4

Thought you might like to see some pics of the chicks in their shed brooder.

The brooder is round, so there are no corners for them to get trapped in.  We've got some special matting in the bottom,  with a layer of Aubiose which traps the poo and helps stop them getting smelly.We've got both a heat lamp AND an electric hen (EH) at the moment,  we'll move to just using the EH when the weather improves.     

The heat lamp is obscuring most of the chicks...

..so here's a close-up of them.

And here are some of the chappies peeping out from the Electric Hen

Honestly, could they be any more cute?

Bees are coming!

We're collecting our bees next week!

PetPorte, part 3

I think I should say at this point that we really DO think the PetPorte is a great piece of kit, and we wish we'd bought one ages ago.

At about 10 this morning, I went into the garden to let the girls out to free range.  We've been keeping them in until 10 - in their spacious walk in run, I hasten to add - so that they stuff their faces with chicken pellets (dinner) before they get to snack on whatever takes their fancy.         From nowhere, Wash appeared.  He'd heard me unlocking the door, and wanted to come in.

I shut the door behind me so he couldn't get in, and went to sort out the Girls.  When I came back, he was lolling around on the path in front of the kitchen door.   So, I scooped him up and carried him around to the cat flap,  almost losing him in a minor struggle where I was trying to unlock the gate.


I put him in front of the cat flap and stroked him.  He sniffed the door, *click*, he backed off. I stroked him. He nuzzled the portch.  He nuzzled the plants.  He rolled on the path. I picked him up, and stood him in front of the door, stroking him. *click* He carried on sniffing the door. It *clicked* locked. It *clicked* unlocked*. Sniff sniff.  Rub porch.  *click*  sniff  *click*.  This went on for hours, well, about four minutes, with me stroking him all the time.  Eventually he decided to try going through.


Hurrah!  I hadn't pushed him (well, not physically),  I hadn't held the door open for him....   


Let's see what happens later.

PetPorte. part 2

Izzy seems to be coming and going through the PetPorte with only a bit of fuss.  She chooses to try pawing the French WIndows (FW) in the kitchen first, and then only using the catflap if we aren't around.    This is pretty normal behaviour, both cats have us well trained and we usually open the FW upon command.


Wash is proving more problematic.  Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting working in the kitchen, and Wash wanted to come in. He pawed and pawed at the window.  In the end, I went to the lobby (other side of the house) where the cat flap is, opened the window and called him.  He came, he saw, he would not go through the cat flap.  

I got his dinner out, and tapped the bowl on the floor by the catflap.  He peeped through the clear catflap, the mechanism, *clicked* and he jumped back ,startled.   After many minutes, during which time my knee began to really ache,  I have up, went and caught him, and helped him through the cat flap.

In the evening, he pawed and pawed the glass of the FW, and in the end DH took him round and made him come through the cat flap.  He got a cat biccy for coming in with only a little bit of help.


We discussed again whether to turn it off so that there would be no click, until they got used to it.  We decided against it, as we'd only end up with the same problem when we switched it back on,  and he's been going out through the flap without any fuss. Well, without any help.


We were convinced we had sorted it out when he came through the catflap with DH behind him, but without DH having to physically push him. Or hold the flap open.

...
At 4.15 this morning, we both woke up with a jump as we heard a cat mewing.  DH got up and went downstairs.  The mewing had stopped, but DH didn't come back to bed.  I got up.    No idea where Wash was.  We used the loc8tor, on silent mode, to try and find him.   He didn't register at all.   We gave up and went back to bed.  I coudn't sleep.. Izzy came and jumped on the bed. The clock flicked over to 5 am,


Well, clearly I did sleep because I woke up again at 7.30 to hear DH saying "hello Wash, when did you come in?" . Wash was asleep on the end of the bed.


Is he OK with it now?  No idea. I'll update you later!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Altogether now..

All the chicks are now in the shed brooder. The first batch didn't seem to object to a second batch of chicks joining them,  wish older hens would be as accepting of newbies!

It's a bit chilly outside, so we have set up a camera to enable us to watch the chicks. Not just for our comfort (although it is convenient, especially at night), but we don't want to keep opening and closing the shed door at the moment, not until the chicks are a bit more established.


I took a quick snap of some of the chicks - they've now got to the stage where they are climbing on and sleeping on the Electric Hen (EH). Because it's a bit chilly, we've actually got both a heat lamp and an EH on the go,  so the chicks can decide where they want to be.



Posting cats

So, the PetPorte arrived the day after ordering (thank you Pet Supermarket),  and DH installed it.   Easy enough to do - certainly from my point of view,  as DH did it all.

We registered both cats with the reader,  and then we tried to get the cats used to it.   Stoopid cats.  They've had catflaps of one sort or another all their lives. They've had catflaps which click when it registers a magnet all their lives.  But they both decided they were Dubious about this one.

Firstly, it has a little porch out the front.  Initially I thought it was like a little rain shelter, then I realised that the porch houses the reader (*slaps forehead*). The Cats found this A Bit Disturbing.    The reader reads the microchip, then there is a *click* as the lock is disengaged enabling kitty to go through.  Or in the case of our cats, allowing the cats to look suspiciously at the lock for just long enough for the lock to re-engage, before they try to go through the flap.

So, we played post-the-cat.  Each cat, several times.  The cats didn't think much of this game.    We soon tired of it, and were confident that the cats would be fine. We could see that the reader was working. 

Sometime later, we called the cats in.  Isabelle arrived first, but wouldn't come through the cat flap.  I shook the treat jar.  She got close enough for the *click*, then just gave it a Look. It *clicked* again (locked) so she tried to come in.  Obviously she couldn't get through.   It *clicked* again (unlocked), so she  snigged it for a moment, then pushed her paw through.  She wouldn't follow it. 

We tried offering food.  Paw in, no cat following.  

I went outside, came round to the cat flap, and pushed her through.

Later, she went out.  And she came in again.  So far so good.

.....

This morning I was lying in bed, DH was in his study. I heard a pathetic mewing.  I thought it was the radio, although I couldn't really see the relevance of a cat on the news.  I sat up. Cat still mewing.    Ran downstairs,  and saw Washburn sitting at the kitchen window mewing pathetically, and scraping the glass.

It was quite a feat, as our window doesn't have a windowsill on the outside.  When I opened the door I saw that he was sitting on the back of a chair.  Sooo cute, and quite funny,  but not very amusing from his point of view.

He came in and was very affectionate, devoured his breakfast but kept breaking off to give me a cuddle.  I suspect he'd been out all night.    I took him round to the catflap, and heard a convincing *click*, so it seemed to be working OK., but I wanted to check.   Wash ran off as I was trying to post him a second time. I followed him. He got faster. I got faster. He ran into Next Door's drive. I went after him. He gave in and rolled over.  I tickled him, and left him.

I came in and saw Izzy sitting by the catflap.  Had the catflap really unlocked for Wash, or had it unlocked because it saw Izzy?

Much, much, much later that day,  Wash appeared at the french windows in the kitchen.  He pawed and pawed to be let in,  so I scooped him up and walked round to the cat flap. Wash struggled manfully (catfully),  he clearly did NOT want to be posted again.      The cat flap definitely clicked,  and I encouraged Wash to go through.  He wasn't a happy kitty.

Let's see what happens at Kitty Tea Time.

Izzy, meanwhile, is coming and going without any trouble.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Number 34

The 34th (and probably final) chick has hatched.  We had to help him a bit, but he finally emerged from his shell a few minutes ago.

So, of our 40 eggs:
  • 34 chicks have hatched, of which 14 are either Light Sussex, or Sussex x Rhode Island (the eggs from our friends)
  • 3 were clears (were not fertile), and were removed when we did the second candling
  • 2 are still in the incubator and have not pipped at all. We assume these are duds, but we'll check later
  • 1 chick died in shell after pipping 
As soon as number 34 has dried off, we'll move him and his two other most recently hatched chicks into the indoor brooder with the rest of the hatchlings from that incubator.      And then tomorrow, we'll move them to the brooder in the shed, so that all 34 are together.

DH meets the VC

DH has met the Visiting Cat (VC)

Alexis's comment yesterday made me wonder if it could be a fox rather than a cat,  but today - when he was in the garden getting the brooder ready - DH actually met VC.

He heard that caterwauling noise that cats make - not when they are fighting, but when they are warning other cats off.  Isabel was on the compost bin with her back to DH and was wailing loudly.  DH moved nearer.    Washburn was on the ground, looking the same way as Izzy and was also wailing loudly.

They were both looking at VC.   VC was looking back.  DH called out, everyone ignored him.    DH moved closer, VC looked at him briefly and then sauntered off into a nearby garden.

I expect he'll be back.

Only 3 left to hatch

So, we now have 33 chicks, 3 eggs left to hatch, and one of those is trying to hatch now. The other 2 may be duds, we'll check later.

We're just getting the outside brooder ready to move the first lot of chicks outside.  They are all eating and drinking,  and are spending a lot of their time sleeping.    As soon as that's done, we can move some of the chicks from the incubator into the indoor-brooder. 


I'll update again later.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Visiting Cats

We've suspected for a while that we have a VC (Visiting Cat).   On previous occasions we've noticed an increased food consumption,  and sometimes That Smell.  Nothing like that, this time. 

The last time this happened we went through a couple of magnetic cat flaps.  A relatively inexpensive one, which was activated by a magnet - any magnet.  This worked reasonably well, wth two minor drawbacks.  The first was that we could hear the poor cats collar magnet being attracted to the cat flap each time one of them tried to come through the door.  It was quite useful in some ways, as it meant we always knew when one of the cats was coming in or going out.    The other drawback was that the magnets on the collars were, rather strong magnets.  This meant that if Wash walked past something metal, like a skip, we'd hear this *clunk* as his magnet got attracted to it.   Whenever he walked past the bar stools in the kitchen we'dhere *clunk*(pause) *clunk*, as the magnet got attracted to the stool legs.    And the magnets were quite powerful.  it's a good job we didn't have any Robin Reliant owners nearby, as  Wash 's magnetism would have pulled them home!   The last straw was when Wash came home with a humugus nail stuck on his collar - he could so easily have garotted himself.

So, we switched to the much more expensive coloured magnet system.  In order to gain admittance, a cat not only has to be wearing a magnet, but it has to a particular magnet.    The collar magnets for these were very expensive; I know this because we had to replace Wash's collar/and or magnet more times than I care to remember.    In the end, we bought a Loc8tor and strapped that to the collars as well so that if Wash lost his collar, we had a chance of finding it. (And, of course, we could find him if he went missing. Assuming he hadn't managed to remove his collar of course).

But this was quite a lot of hardware to be carrying.  We discovered a catflap called a PetPorte, which uses a cat's microchip to determine who can come in and who cannot.   We ummed and aahed about it for a it.   The problem of the Incoming Cat seemed to have resolved itself,  so we took off the magnet.  We swapped the cat flap back to be the cheaper version,  and just covered up the magnet so that it was open to all.


But now, it seems, we have a VC again.    Wash and Izzy have been taking turns to keep watch.   And last night, in the middle of the night, all hell broke loose as VC had apparently got in the kitchen and a cat fight ensued.   It was a horrible way to be woken up,  and when we got downstairs VC had gone, leaving 2 cats with the most enormous bushy tails.  And bits of cat fur all over the floor.


So we've finally got round to ordering a PetPorte. It'll be here in the next couple of days, I'll let you know how we get on.

19 so far (+1 didn't make it)

Of the 20 in the newest incubator,  19 have hatched so far and we had one dead-in-shell.   We've moved 16 of the earliest hatchlings into the brooder, leaving the 3 most recent hatches in the incubator. 



We aren't convinced that the humidity/temperature settings on the older incubator are accurate.  The eggs were allocated at random to the two incubators, and it cannot be coincidence that all on the right hand side have now hatched (apart from the one poor chick who didn't make it).  A number of these eggs have pipped, and one is near to hatching but is a bit dry.  We sponged  the membrane gently in a cloth dampened warm water (with hatchery sanitiser in).


We moved the eggs from the older incubator to the newer incubator,  and DH will get a some equipment to test the older incubator.

Let's see what happens over the next few hours... fingers crossed!





Overnight deliveries

We had more chicks hatch last night... you can see the empty shells in the incubator.  Some pics, especially for you Christian ;)

They were mostly dry, so we whipped the lid of to take out the broken shells, to give more room to the others. I took the opportunity to take a quick snap:



More have hatched since then, we have 12 chicks now, and we're hoping the rest should be out shortly.


In the other incubator (which we think is running colder than the temperature guage suggests) we now have several pipped eggs, but no chicks yet.


Actually, that's not a bad thing.  Hopefully we will be able to get the first lot into the lunar-module shaped brooder today,  and then out of the brooder into the big brooder in the shed tomorrow, just in time for those in the second incy to want the lunar -module.


I'll post more pics later.


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