Thursday, 28 July 2011

What a trill.

The young boys are all crowing now, proper "cock a doodle do" noises. 

One of the boys, a Welsh Black/Sasso cross, has his mum's pea comb (I think it's a pea comb, it's sort of squashed).    His Cock a Doodle Doo finishes with a lovely trillllllllll.  

Growing up too fast.

We have more honey.

So, Plan D continued.  Yesterday, we were planning to do an inspection of Hive 2, with a view to removing the super completely if the bees hadn't used it,   and also to replace the three old frames (still leftover from the nucleus, and adapted to fit our Langstroth) with new frames.

It went well.  Eggs, brood,  a sealed Queen cell, stores,  nothing on the supers.   Sorry, go back a bit.  a Queen Cell?  a sealed Queen cell?  Before I could stop him, DH destroyed it. "They might have swarmed??!!" I said indignantly,  followed immediately by "but it's a bit late isn't it". And then "perhaps they weren't happy with the Queen, or something has happened to her". But it was too late, the deed was done.

Everything else went relatively smoothly, and relatively according to plan. Minor snippiness from both of us, recorded for posterity on the voice recorder.  Fortunately posterity only lasts long enough for me to transcribe the information into my home made (and home-bound) bee record book. 

The voice recorder works really well. I've ordered a lanyard thing so I can try wearing it round my neck, as I do have to put it down occasionally.  I was going to get an arm band thing, but I realised that would mean that my bee jacket would be pressed close to my arm at that point,  and I know (from bitter experience) that bee stings can get through at those sort of points.

Anyway, back to the honey. Last night, DH extracted the 6 partially filled frames (I was working, fortunately I can work from home), and we had about 9 pounds of honey.  The cappings are currently dripping over a sieve, and we think there's another half-  to a whole pound in there.

The next phase of Plan D is to put the extracted frames back on top of the hives, using our feeders as ekes.   We need to do that early next week, so that we can leave it a week and then get on with feeding the bees.       We can't really do it any sooner. (a) we've just stolen 3 frames out of each hive, so the bees probably aren't going to be too happy with us,  and (b) we've agreed that we should do these things early in the week so that if we do manage to upset the bees,  they should be calm again before the weekend - which is when most people visit their lotties.  Apart from our immediate neighbour, who is on shifts.  And our next two neighbours who are retired.    We might do it Sunday evening, as evenings seem to be a good time for this.  We'll see.

So, we need to do yet another set of inspections before we can "sign off".  We're still planning NOT to do the Varroa treatment until Spring. Both hives only have a small brood population, and we can't risk wiping those out.     We'll see what is in the drone brood comb on the end of the shallow frame, which we'll need to cut off next inspection.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A surprise Egg

Milly laid an egg!

Milly, our cream legbar, hasn't laid for....for...for ages.  I know she was broody on May 30th (when Lily died), not sure how long she had been broody at that point, but she certainly hasn't laid in the intervening period.

She was looking a bit under the weather a couple of days ago, and had gone to bed early for the last 2 nights,  so I thought she might be brewing a softie.

But no.  Today, in amongst a shiny brown egg from Florence, and a pale egg from Custard,  was our blue jewel.

I've missed those blue eggs.  Clever girl!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Bees have their own ideas

Carefully researched and discussed Plan A...became Plan B after listening to a talk on wintering bees, which then became Plan C after the Q&A session yielded yet more information...  Plan C was reuniting the two hives into one,  a process we wanted to start today by doing some stuff on HIve 1,  and complete tomorrow by doing some stuff on HIve 2 early in the day and then combining the two hives in the evening.   Regrettably, the Bees had neither read any of the textbooks, nor attended the information session.

Busy morning as we had our own chooks to do, and the chooks on a neighbouring allotment for a holidaying friend.  And we needed to do our Hive 1 stuff, and get clear and home in time for DH to have a work related meeting.

Things started well.  I went to do neighbours chickens, DH went to do ours.  I then carried the bee stuff - including new frames and a plastic box to put in the frames we planned to remove -  down to our allotment...blah blah blah blah blah.

Suited up, smoker lit (we've been using rolled corrugated cardboard for the last few visits, and it has been excellent.  No more smoker refusing to light or going out.).    First signs weren't promising.  Very very few bees at the entrance.  DH smoked the entrance, and stood back for a moment.

I brought up the empty plastic box and the box of frames and stood them out of the way.   Lid off, cover off,  quick smoke,  and the air was thick with bees.  Lots and lots of noise,  a bit of pinging.  Frame 1 was one of the original old frames that needed removing.  I brough over the plastic box, we stood the frame in.  Then we worked through the frames looking to see what was on each one, and trimming the bottom (where necessary) in preparation for tomorrow's Uniting.

Frame 2 (now Frame 1): Stores; F3 (nF2): Stores & pollen; F4 (nF3): Stores;  F5 (nF4) Eggs and stores.  Drone Cells. Sorry, eggs?  eggs?  Handed the magnifying glass over to DH (excellent purchase, would say it is a "must have" for all newbies),  and pronounced there were definitely eggs.    I speculated. Did that mean one of the Workers had started laying??  This does happen and, if it does,  it's a problem.  It's impossible to work out who the culprit is,  and you can't risk uniting the colonies if that's what's happening.

Brood.  DH can also see brood.    I scratched my head, metaphorically speaking. Clearly I couldn't scratch it, I had my bee suit on.      I didn't think that a worker laying eggs actually raised brood.    And the cells seemed to be drone cells. Was it a drone laying Queen?  Bother, bother, bother, bother.

We continued the inspection.  Frames 6,7 (now 5,6) all stores.   Frame 8 (nF7) was the half frame. Drawn out.  Frames 9,10 were old frames and had stores.   We took Frames 9 and 10, a couple of hefty shakes to remove the bees,  and put them in the plastic box, and inserted 3 new frames at that end of the hive.   (With hindsight, I think we should have spaced them out a bit, but it's too late now).

We then put the hive back together, and then attempted to get the remaining bees of the three removed frames.   We then put the lid on, and I moved the box away, without having any following bees.

Quick peep inside Hive 2 - just through the top - told us that they hadn't even started to draw out the supers,  so we'll remove those tomorrow.

Back to the car, without any angry followers,  and we spent the journey home working out what to do.
  • If there is a laying Queen, even if she's laying drone eggs,  we can't reunite the hives (unless we find her and kill her)
  • If there is a Worker bee laying, then we can't risk uniting the hives
  • It doesn't look like uniting the hives is going to be an option now, not until the Spring.
So, we're on to plan D now.  Which is to do an inspection of Hive 2 tomorrow, as planned,  and look at removing old frames and replacing with new ones (We can then do honey extraction tomorrow evening).  Whether we remove any more will depend on where the brood is laid.    This will need to be the last time we take frames off the hives.
We need to go back into Hive 1 (sometime in the next week) to see what is happening there,  to reconfirm that we will not be uniting the two colonies.

Also need to decide when to put the feed on for them.  We've bought some Ambrosia (not the rice, obviously), which is a really easy food for them to use as it is already 80% inverted.  It means a lot less work for the bees than converting home made sugar syrup into useable stores.

I'm off to find out a bit more about workers laying eggs now...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Indian/Pakistani orchestra reinvents Jazz

Heard this on Radio 4 this morning.Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Just when we had it straight...

Ask 3 beekeepers for advice and you get 5 opposing answers.

We had our Plan of Action sorted out. We knew what we needed to do,  we had "discussed" it to the point of agreeing on it.  It seemed reasonable. It seemed straightforward.

We then went along to a special information session run by our local beekeeping association, on "Preparing Your Bees For Winter", which was especially aimed at Newbies like us.

After half a session, where we learned that we needed to be doing everything ( get the honey crop off urgently, get the 4 week varroa treatment started - can't do that until you've removed any honey - squeeze in letting the bees clean the extracted frames - takes at least a week - then feed as soon as possible so the summer bees do the conversion work before they die so that the winter bees don't wear themseleves out doing conversion work) now, we were convinced that our PlanA was going to take too long.  We had to reappraise and adjust so, sitting in the hall, we worked out a new Plan, Plan B, taking into account the new information.  We weren't sure whether we should give them the frames to clean the week before or the week after the 4 week varroa treatment, and I waited patiently to ask the question.

And then the questions from other participants and answers from various experienced beeks present provided yet more information. Varroa treatments sometimes kill off brood. If you have a swarm with only a small amount of brood (like us), you have to consider not treating for varroa until spring.  

And we're also planning to reunite our hive, which will take at least a week.  We just don't have enough time to get it all done and finished.

As we walked back to the car after the evening, we worked out Plan C1, which is to not treat for varroa until early next year. That will give us time to unite the hives, feed them, and take off any frames as part of the reuniting process.  We were both on the same wavelength with this.

We decided to implement step 1 of Plan C today, which was to go to the allotment and remove the ekes (containing frames that needed cleaning, which they had done with mixed success) from both hives.   We've been using feeders as ekes, and we need to get them all cleaned up ready to put the Ambrosia in to feed the bees. 

We also decided to remove the Super from Hive 1, as the bees hadn't even started drawing the frames out and we might as well get it off and out of the way. One less thing for us and the bees to worry about.     We tackled Hive 1, our Queenless and Angry hive first.  It went well.   The bees were angry pretty much immediately,  but we were able to get through the process. 

I took the super and the eke away to try and get the remaining bees off, while DH put the hive back together and did a job of removing the eke from Hive 2.
We don't want to go into the bees again until next week,  as the next set of steps is likely to upset them a bit (at least, I'd be upset if I were a bee) and we don't want angry bees on the allotment over the weekend.

Here's our (current) thinking on the rest of Plan C:
Next week, Day A: Hive 1 (angry hive):
  • do full inspection to make absolutely sure there is no sign of a Queen. 
  • If there is a Queen consider removing her as she's creating angry bees and if you have an angry hive who are not Queenless, the only way to resolve things is to kill the Queen.
  • Remove some frames of stores and replace with new frames. The Queen moves UP when laying, so it will be good to have the newest frames here in what will become the upper box.  Scrape the bottom of frames so there are no jagged bits that could tear the newspaper when we come to Unite.  We will need to check again just before we Unite, but doing it in advance means there will be less work on the day.
Day B, Hive 2:
  • Look at Supers on hive 2, remove whole box unless they have started using them.  
  • Scrape top of frames on hive 2, ready for reuniting.
Evening B, both hives:
  • unite the two colonies using a sheet of newspaper to separate them.
Day C, one week later, cobined hive: 
  • Go into combined hive, rearrange frames if possible/desireable.   
  • Feed. 
  • Seek information to help make decision on whether to leave two boxes on until Spring, or to see if we can get down to one box.  
  • Decision not needed for another week.
I feel surprisingly calm at the need to change plans.  I'm a frustrated newbie in that I have to rely on the advice of others, or what I read, as we aren't experienced enough yet to know what is right, wrong, or just better.     

I do realise though that most of what we are doing is not wrong,  and that gives me confidence.   I also know that we always start by thinking about what it means from the bees' perspective rather than just what's convenient for us,  and that means that even if another route might have been better at least we aren't doing things through arrogance or carelessness.
I still feel safe in my bee suit.... although I'm usually a teeny weeny bit nervous as I disrobe by the car.  I'm always expecting a crafty bee to suddently pop up from nowhere, sting shining and extended, laughing as it stabs me.  I've obviously seen that in a cartoon and it's burned on my memory!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Bee wearing

Oh my goodness, have just seen this!

Best for Bees?

Due to inspect Hive 2 today.  As usual, talked through plans over coffee before we left. Less usual (but not exactly unusual) we didn't see eye to eye over some of the details.  Didn't quite resolve it before we left, but it turned out to be academic anyway. 

Whil I did the chooks, DH used handshears to cut down the grass that had grown up in front of the two hives.   He was quickly set upon by bees (from Hive 1, we presumed), and moved to the back of the chicken area, with the bees in tow.  The bees stayed with him for some time,  while I finished skipping out the youngsters' shed, filling up the feeders, scrubbing and refilling the drinkers.

I then lit the smoker, suited up,  and we went on to inspect Hive 2.   Our main priority was to see if we really did have eggs (and hopefully brood, by now).  The Girls from Hive 2 were very well tempered, so we were hopeful that they did have a Queen.   We had purchased a suitable magnifying glass after our last inspection,  and this was a real boon.  Yes, we definitely have eggs and brood so we definitely have a Queen. Yay!

Most of the brood box though is full of stores (honey and pollen), and the Queen won't have much room to lay.  We had expected that the bees would have started to move the stores up into the Supers,  but this hasn't happened.   We discussed whether it was harder work for the bees to move honey fron the brood frames up into the super, or whether it was harder for them to draw out a ew brood frame.  We were wondering whether to take out a couple of frames of stores and put some empty frames in.  We want to do whatever is less work for the Girls (all worker bees are female) but neither of us knew the answer.   The stores weren't capped,  so weren't really ready for extracting... so we decided to leave things as they were and ask the question of someone more experienced.

We then had to decide what to do about Hive 1, which had been the source of our disagreement.   We decided to do a brief inspection to confirm what we thought we knew, that there was no Queen.  We were also prepared to clean up some of the frames ready for uniting the two hives, but we weren't planning to so any reuniting today.

As soon as we opened the hive, we knew we had no Queen.  The bees were bad tempered, although not in the "call Michael Caine" category.  We pulled out a couple of frames and found only stores.    There were a lot of bees still, which ruled out one of the two methods of reuniting the hive (where you simply remove the hive and leave the bees to beg for admittance into the neighbouring hive).   We put the hive back together, and moved away. No bees followed us.

That's when I found that my bee trousers (which are at least one size too big) had slipped below my bottom.  I imagine that's why the bees didn't follow, they were probably too busy laughing.   I should point out that I had jeans on underneath my bee trousers, so I wasn't mooning at the bees.

Back at home I've got my bee book out, have asked a question on a bee forum, and I'm working out our next plan.

I think it will be:
  1. possibly take a couple of frames out of hive 2 and replace with foundation frames, if the response is that this is easier on the bees than moving their stores 
  2. unite hives by putting the brood box (which is full of stores) from Hive 1 on to the top of HIve 2. (separating by newspaper etc etc etc) 
  3. One week later, go back into the hives and rearrange so that we have stores on top and brood below, with the stores above the brood.  This will need to be two brood boxes for now.   Add in more empty frames to replace any frames we take away
  4. probably leave it like that until Spring.
I'm sure DH and I will discuss this to death.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Who needs Buffy?!

Last year our garlic crop was a bit of a disappointment both in terms of quality, quantity, and size.   This year, we've been overwhelmed.

DH grew both hard necked and soft necked varieties this time (who knew there was a difference?!).  Both did really well.   The bulbs are big, with big fat juicy cloves.   DH harvested them, left them to dry and has been trimming and tying them for the last couple of days.

Our kitchen is now festooned with garlic. Soft necked varieties are in traditional plaits, the hard necked varieties can't be plaited.


We've been a bit busy with various harvests, and bees, recently, and DH hadn't checked for ripe courgettes for a few days.  He went to look today, and brought this back....
It's huge! 40cm (16 inches).  The end (right hand end in the picture) had been poking through the netting and DH had to cut the netting to free the courgette.  Our normal courgette looks rather inadequate in comparison.       It will be a feast for the Allotment chickens tomorrow.

Normal Service Has Been Resumed..almost

Milly, my Cream Legbar and now my oldest Girl, has been broody for some time.  A long time.  In fact, she had just gone broody when Lily died on 30th May.   She has been coming out of the nestbox, of her own accord, to eat and terrorise the others;  and she has been out of the nestbox when I turf her out several times a day.

Recently, she's been stopping the others from going in to the nest box to lay. Either that, or the others know she steals their eggs and are reluctant to lay while she's there.  Whatever the cause, the morning row has escalated to the point where we have to get up at some ungodly hour and go and see what's happening. Not that anything ever is. When we open the egg port door, the offending hens just look at us as though butter wouldn't melt in their beaks,  and we don't hear a peep from any of them.

On Mondaymorning I had had enough of the morning ritual,  and at 5 am I went to the shed and got the broody cage out. It's a collapsable dog crate - fantastic purchase - which goes up in second (even when the operator is bleary eyed and half asleep).  Food hooked on, water hooked on,  peckablock hooked on,  and Milly was inserted. I went back to bed.     

Later, I went and put a cucumber in as well, and Milly just moaned at me.  I'm not really sure what she was moaning about really - it's bigger than the nestbox, she has foood drink and treats within beak reach. Once everyone had finished laying, shut the pop hole on the Cube and let Milly out of prison.  She took out her frustration by going around and pecking everyone on the head.

On Tuesday, we had another round of bokking so I put her in the sin bin while Custard and Tilda were trying to lay.  As soon as they had finished, I let her out.  On Wednesday, we had to go to the Allotment, so I popped her in the sin bin while we were away, and let her out as soon as we got home.  She ran aroud making sure she had chased the other Girls at last once,  pecked Roobarb on the head a couple of times, and then settled down under the Pampas.  She didn't go into the nest box as far as I know.

This morning, I went to let the girls out and I was surprised to see Milly was up and about.  She stayed up and about all morning.   

She was probably getting a bit fed up with the broodiness anyway,  and the threat of solitary confinement seems to have persuaded her to stay out.   The broody cage, however, is staying put for a bit....just in case.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hive 2 inspection, 13 July

Not much going on around the entrance.  A couple of bees from H1 came to try and scare us off.  Openedup the hive, and started the inspection.  The old frame in the Eke has been partially cleaned, we tried to turn it over but it was to stuck.

Supers are drawn out

Frames had lots - and lots - of stores, a combination of capped and uncapped.  A bit of propolis made the frames stick.  Not a huge number of bees in the outside frames.  Plenty of bees on the inside frames.  Didn't see the Queen. Got to frame 8, which is the half frame (put in so they build their own comb underneath and fill with drone cells, which you can then inspect for Varroa) and thought saw eggs. The cells were very polished.      Had a debate about why there would be eggs here. In the end we realised that much of the brood frames were full of stores, so this was probably the only place for them to put eggs until they moved the stores upstairs into the super. 

We completed the inspection, 9 and 10 were old stores.  Didn't see any more eggs, so we went back to frame 8 and checked again.   Still think it could be eggs.

Closed up.

Need to read up on uniting hives, to come up with a plan of action.   Ideally we would wait untilour next inspection, to be certain of whether there were eggs, but that  might be too late for Hive 1.

Bees were beautifully calm.  Didn't follow us at all!

By the way, my voice recorder makesh me shound like I have a speech impediment.   I was more than a little relieved when DH commented - unprompted - that the voice on the recorder didn't shound like me.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Roo's gone

Just had a phone call from Other Chap (OC). It's his turn today to go and check on the chooks, and he phoned to let us know that Roo had died.

I'm so sad that he's gone. I'm crying in sadness at the loss, and happiness that we were so lucky to have known him.  He was a gorgeous boy, and so friendly.  He was one of the first three chicks we hatched ourselves, originally destined to be dinners but all so friendly that we decided to breed from them. 

I'm happy that he went quickly, no long lingering illness and not a violent death. Liver failure, I think.

He had a very happy free range life.  He had four wives, 3 of whom are still with us,  and was very active and fertile.   2 of his daughters live in my garden flock;  and we have 20 youngsters from this year's hatch with a good number of cockerels, so one of his lovely sons will succeed him.

It may mean we are likely to have a bit of unrest and aggravation from six girls left behind (3 who formed the Harem and the 3 laydees who were too small and agile for Roo to catch). They will, no doubt,  be trying to sort out a pecking order in his absence.

On the plus side, it means we can take the saddles of the Harem, and I'm sure they are going to enjoy that.    We'll re-saddle everyone (including the Laydees) later in the year when we introduce the new cockerel.

Goodbye, my gorgeous boy.

Monday, 11 July 2011

No Queen

Hive 1 inspection today.    Last time we went into Hive1, just under a week ago,  the bees weren't too happy, we couldn't find any eggs, and we suspected that they were Queenless.  I came home, did some calculations to see when was the earliest/latest we should be seeing eggs and we knew that today was likely to be a tough day.

Over coffee, before we left home,  we went through our plan.  We've learned that it is better to discuss this before we get to the Bees, so that (a) we can talk through any disagreements without trying to do it surrounded by small buzzy insects,  and (b) we both know who's doing what, what we're looking for, and we can work together as a team rather than having an argy bargy.   As I now take a voice recorder to make my notes, instead of trying to memorise our observations, or to write them down,  I definitely don't want to be listening to us snapping at each other!

Did the chooks first.  Roo looks brighter, but still not right.  No one is broody, for the first time in ages. Worming went really well, with everyone getting dosed once and and only once.  Once that was all out of the way, we suited up and got started.

There are quite a lot of weeds growing up around the hives, so while DH was unstrapping hive 1, I trod down the weeds around hive 2.     Roof off,  we could see a few bees still cleqaring up the frame in the eke. Decided to leave it in there for now.  Opened up the Supers, and looked at a couple of combs - none have been drawn out - so that's not a great sign.   Lifted the supers off.

A reasonable number of bees, but not lots.  Took off the Queen Excluder (which stops the Queen going up into the Supers and laying eggs there), and we had a lot of bees around.  They were not happy.  I didn't expect them to welcome our intrusion, but these ladies started attacking us straight away.   We continued with the inspection, safe in our bee suits,  and pulled out a frame from the middle.  All stores, one cup where there bees had obviously been desperately trying to create a queen cell.  Looked at another frame further back,  still all stores.    

We were now getting pinged.  It's not a problem per se, as we were secure in our suits and gloves,  but it was astrong indicator that the poor bees had no Queen.  If they have no Queen, the pheremone that binds the hive together is lacking,  and they need this pheremone to feel contented (For anyone who has been watching "V" on TV, it reminds me of when Anna gives the "V" Bliss).   We put the hive back together,  trod down some of the weeds, and walked back to the chickens escorted by a number of guard bees.  It took a while before the guard bees left us alone,  so I kept my bee suit on while we gave the chooks their corn and locked up.

I am normally petrified of anything sting-y. I'm a bit more tolerant of bees than I used to be,  that I now how they work and how hard working they are.    But when I have my bee suit on, I don't mind them. Obviously I don't like it when they are pinging and stinging, but I don't feel the need to run away screaming.  When I think back to my original concerns about whether I would be able to cope, I'm really pleased about this.

Our plan of action is that we need to take a look in Hive 2 in the next day or 2, and try and establish whether we have a Queen in there or not.  If we do,  we will reunite the two hives into one.  If we don't, then we will definitely need to obtain a Queen.  There are a couple of fundamental questions. 1) Do we go for a live Queen, or do we go for a queen cell?  A live Queen is probably the best option, as we won't then have to wait for her to hatch.   We'll take advice on that.       (2) As the temperament of the Queen determines the temperament of the whole hive,  we need to work out where the best place is to get a new queen.  It's not that they are difficult to come by,  lots of places rear them.... it's getting one that we know is of good temper.

I'll do a bit of research today, so I at least know what are options are.  And I'll be keeping everything crossed that we find evidence of a Queen in Hive 2.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Time for your close ups. Again.

I've been downloading pics from the camera, and found these garden ones. 

First, we've had a good fruit harvest....
(taken through bird netting)

We've got a range of poppies. Some of the archetypal battlefield ones....

...some frilly black ones....

..and a some semi shaggy ones...

We have Hollyhocks in a range of pinks, reds and blacks:

And various other flowering plants that had interesting blooms:

Edited to remove pic which appeared multiple times.

Baby photos

The Chicks are now 13 weeks old, and they are soooo much like their parents - it's easy to see who belongs to which Mum.
Firstly, here's a pic of their Dad, Roo (I had to purple spray his comb, it's not normally that colour!)
 Then we have Mrs Roo, who is also a Sasso....

And then the two Welsh Black (Australorp  Indian Game) ladies, Rose and Ruby.  One of them produces only black girls, the other produces black, or black/brown.  We don't know which produces which.
And now, here are the Baby Photos.  They are all just quick snaps, as they are a busy little flock and they don't stand still long enough to frame a proper picture.
Roo x Mrs Roo Sasso cockerel; this one is very compact
Another Roo x Mrs Roo cockerel,  definitely Daddy's Boy
(background) Roo x Rose/Ruby cockerel
Another Roo x Rose/Ruby lad. This one has more brown

Another Roo x Rose/Ruby, all are stunning in real life
Both these pullets are Roo x Rose/Ruby on the left (one of them throws a high proportion of brown dominated babies)

Not a great photo, but you can see the game bird stance these boys have
Rose/Ruby girl again - she's such a gorgeous looking thing

Roo x Welsh Black pullets
Roo x Mrs Roo Sasso pullet. She'll darken and end up the spitting image of her Mum

I took loads of photos but I didn't manage to capture all the colour variations!  Never mind.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Nearly lost Roo!

Roo (our cockerel) has been a bit  subdued lately.  Last year, when we moved the dinner chickens into the next-door pen,  he got quite agitated, naturally feeling threatened by the presence of so many young studs on his coop-step.

This year, he hasn't really done much.  At first, we thought he might be mellowing, or just getting old.  The other day I noted that he didn't crow in response to one of the youngsters broken-voiced attempts.  On Thursday, I started a 7 day course of wormer for the allotment crowd.  I don't really think they need worming, no evidence in their droppings,  but it's been 6 months since they were last done, and it;s conceivable that worms are responsible for Roo's listlessness. 

Yesterday I noted that he was a bit slow eating treats and his upper beak looked like it was protruding a bit more than was helpful, so today we took the toenail clippers with us so we could trim his upper beak.    He let me pic him up and put him on the table,  he ate his bit of cucumber,  and DH attempted to clip the beak. Unsurprisingly, Roo didn't really want to have his beak trimmed, thank you very much, and moved his head out of the way.  I held him and had my hand around his head to limit the movement - and Roo had a panic attack and nearly fainted. 

He ended up sitting on his bottom with his legs in front of him, as if he were a cuddly toy. I ran and got the Nutridrops, and Roo let me put the whole dose in his beak at once. Normally I have to dribble it down his beak a drop at a time, so that in itself was a bit of a shock.  We stood next to him, but without crowding him while he gradually came round.  Eventually, he was back up on his feet and eating cucumber, and we lifted him down.

Shortly after that he was back to his current version of normal.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Bee unsure

today was our first inspection of Hive 2.  We created Hive 2 on 12 June, and it had an uncapped Queen Cell in.    More bees than we have observed before.  Extracted frame, in the eke, was being cleaned still so we left it there.   We pulled out a couple o fthe cerntral Supers, and saw that they have been drawn out.  

In the brood box, we saw stores, lots of stores,  and pollen. No eggs, no brood.  Bees were reasonably tolerant. The half frame now has cells underneath it.  We knew it was very early to see eggs,  so we did not inspect each frame nor search for the Queen.  What we should have done (and did not) is take a look at the Queen Cell and see what had happened to it.  I've made a note in my hive record to do this next time.

Calculations (when I got home) are as follows:
Divided Hive on 12th June, and at that point the cell was uncapped.  Let's assume that the bees capped it on the 13th.   The new Queen would emerge +8 days on 21 June.  Her earliest mating would be Emerge+11days, which is 2nd July.   Let's assume she lays on the same day (to give us earliest possible dates), the larvae would hatch 3 days later on 5 July.     So, today was a bit too early to see anything anyway.

As we didn't do much of an inspection on Hive 2, and we're expecting rain in the next few days, we decided to take  a look inside HIve 1.

Far fewer bees than last time.  This could be because we've had another swarm, or it could be that the hive is Queenless and dying.  The bees were not happy, so we're leaning towards the latter.  Supers were not drawn out at all.  Stores.   Unhappy bees, so we decided to put the hive back together and review actions at home.

We believe there was an attempted swarm on 7 June, which means the sealed Queen Cell which we left in the hive when we divided it on 12th June, would have been sealed that day.    If so, she would have emerged on 15th June,  and the earliest she would have mated is 26th June.  She would be too old for mating 10th July.    

We will need to do a frame by frame inspection, looking for the Queen or evidence of the Queen next time.

If we have a Queen in only one of the hives, we will need to re-unite them. If we have no Queen in either hive,  we will need to look at requeening.  Hopefully we won't have to do that, but we'll need to prepare for this possibility.     Time to read up on sourcing and introducing a queen, either a live queen or a queen cell. Just in case.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Currant Affairs

Blackcurrant harvesting today. 1.1kg currantly (pun intended) being turned into Blackcrurrant Cordial.  Smells lovely.

Have a few left in the fridge,  and a very small amount still out there on one of the bushes.  My back was hurting too much to finish harvesting.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Chicken Maintenance

DH was away, so I was looking after the allotment chickens.  I was working most of last week, so haven't seen them for a while.

The youngsters are growing (still) and look fabulous.  One of the boys is attempting to crow, with that breaking-voice sound that young cockerels have.  To my surprise, Roo didn't crow back.    In fact, I noticed,  he didn't crow at all.  Not once.  Not even when the cockerel on the neighbouring allotment got started.   Either he's old enough to not be too stressed by youngsters,  or he's not feeling himself.  I reassured him that he has a home (and a harem) for life, but it didn't make any difference.

I iscrubbed and disinfected all the drinkers, and mucked out the 2 coops and the youngsters shed.   

The water barrels needed cleaning.  They've needed doing for a week, but I kept forgetting to arrange to borrow a water pump to get water directly to the allotment.  . So today I did them anyway.  Scrubbed, disinfected, and then refilled - partially - by hand. Lots of trips to the nearest water thingy on the allotment. I borrowed a wheelbarrow, cleaned out one of the large tub trugs, and then hung the watering can on the tap thing, so the spout acted as a conduit into the trug. I then barrowed the water back to the allotment,  used the watering can to partially empty the trug into the barrel, and then lifted the trug into the barrel.

Several journeys, and one barrrel was a quearter full. Enough to last until Monday when I can arrange to borrow the pump.   A couple more tips and the other barrel had a bit of water in, plus I had refilled all the drinkers.

I'm really glad it's done.

Off for a cup of tea now.