Monday, 19 November 2012

A Punt on Sex?

As Liz arrives home from her few days in UK, the baby chicks reach 4 weeks and are starting to get feathered up, the baby bunnies are big enough at 6 weeks to come out of the Maternity Unit and join the main 'warren', and our sheep-mentor and former plasterer, Kenny O'C turns up to assess our sheep performance.

The chicks are starting to develop their facial features - the comb and wattles which may be the first indication of whether they are female (pullets) or male (cockerels). We are in regular contact with other Irish poultry keepers on a website called  and when we publish pictures of these chicks on there, my friends are starting to take punts on the sex of the babies - several guessing they'll be one of each, but our main mentor, Anne W thinking they look like they may both be boys.

The one-of-each punters are going with the darker one, with the redder comb, who we tentatively named CJ after a character in "West Wing" (American political TV drama), being the cockerel while the blonder one (our "Donna") is the girl. We cling to the hope that they are both girls and can be added to our little group of 'Lovely Girls'. It will be nice to know we bred them (all be it we'd then have to be careful not to try to hatch any of their eggs as they'd be Father x Daughter line-bred progeny, assuming William is still at the helm). If they do turn out to be boys then they will be for the freezer but hopefully Broody Betty will do her thing again next year and we will do it better having learned from the mistakes on this one (October hatch, eggs of varying start dates, candling sooner, not reacting quickly enough when BB got bored and the eggs started to cool).

The bunnies are now HUGE at 6 weeks and starting to out grow the hutch, plus definitely weaned at this stage. We decide to put Mum (Padfoot) and all three back into the run with Ginny and Rogers. In my dreams I have the possibly ill-advised plan to keep these rabbits in a family group in a warren type environment as close as possible to the way they'd live in the wild. This might be nutty and we may end up with all sorts of problems, but I am thinking I'll keep Ginny and Padfoot as the two matriarchs with Rogers (plus visits to see Peter) as the male input, with any other output being culled for the freezer or for sales as pets. Having said that we have not had a breath of interest from our advert on so pet sales might be a non-runner.

The move is done on Sunday 18th and goes well. Ginny and Padfoot have a bit of a chase around and kick at each other but this may just be the excitement of 2 sisters being reunited after their 4 or 5 weeks apart and everyone settles quickly and no-one tries to kill the babies. As I said, I am aiming at a warren type environment with a family group rather than hutches and everybody separate. We are not sure where this will happen but for now we have, by happy coincidence the big run in an excellent position. There is a short wall on the north side of the cattle race, behind which I had stacked our kindling wood (former floorboards) in flat sheets and rows of bits on edge, rather like a book shelf, all raised off the ground on old cavity blocks (concrete building blocks with big holes through them). Next to this I had created a compost heap for which the sides were old panels of wooden picket fence.

We had moved the run to this site as part of a tour of the garden, moving on every time the grass ran out, but it was here that Padfoot came full-term and created her nest (in the compost) so we had to stop moving on. It's still there and the grown up rabbits seem to have adopted it with delight, burrowing around in the compost and now through the cavity blocks to get under and into the 'bookshelf'. I put corrugated iron over the whole while the nest was in there and the bunnies seem to like the new three dimensional nature of their home, happily scrabbling up the book case behind their now abandoned hutch to sit up on top of the corrugated, as if keeping watch. All the new babies and Padfoot have all now settled into this environment, so we may well adopt this as "The Warren". If that is the case I will have to make a permanent run here and use the move-able one in the summer when there's grass to graze AS WELL some how. I may also have to re-think my supply of kindling!

The sheep and Kenny, I will cover in a separate post.

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