Tuesday 13 August 2013

The 8-Ball

Sussex Ponte young rooster
Cast your mind back, if you would, to my post of 28th April this year (http://deefer-dawg.blogspot.ie/2013/04/of-hatching-chicks-and-flying-geese.html) and those little multi-coloured fluffy chicks hatched out under Broody Betty on her first sitting of the year. Those little mites are 'all growed up' now and most of them are bigger than the existing hens including BB herself. They are 16 weeks old now and approaching that significant poultry keeper's milestone 'Point of Lay'. Here even the ones which are very difficult to sex like the white Silkies we had back in Kent, and the black Jersey Giants we have here now, should either lay an egg or shout "Cock-a-Doodle-Dooo!" and give the game away.

La Bresse cross with a Buff Orp (head obscured)
There are 8 of them all still surviving and they have formed a tight-knit group who range around the 'farm' quite independently of the 'grown ups', always together. We call them "The 8-Ball" because they remind us of a group of golfers wandering round a golf course bantering with each other about who is playing with Top Flite balls because there's one here in the rough, who's sneaked onto the green, who's just played a blinding wood shot and inventing spurious scores to "card" (a well known 'verb' known only to golfers and sports commentators).

Jersey Giant (black) and Mini-Buff
The 8-Ball were hatched from eggs which came 5 from our own (Sussex Ponte) birds and 7 as a generous donation from Mentor Anne and Simon; a mixed bag of the main breeds they stock - Buff Orpingtons, Jersey Giants and a La Bresse cross. As luck would have it, only one of our 5 eggs hatched but all 7 of Anne's managed to. The 8-Ball now comprises one SP, 2 Buffs, 2 JGs, a La Bresse cross and 2 of a cross between Buffs and something smaller and possibly bantamised; these two are way smaller than their siblings and a lovely dark golden colour - we call them the 'Mini-Buffs'.

Buffs, the Sussex rooster and the La Bresse cross
As I said, some chicken varieties are hard to sex till they are at point of lay. Anne and Simon who are way more expert than us are not even prepared to take a punt on the Jerseys. Others start to show shape differences much sooner, so that we have known that the Sussex was a boy for weeks - bigger legs and feet, sticky-up tails, more developed wattle and combs and so on. They also seem to start behaving like roosters or being treated like hens by our existing rooster, William. He tries to mount them and we say "Ah ha! She might be a girl then!" Two of the youngsters start squaring up to one another as if to fight, and we suspect they are boys (though Simon tells us that sometimes 2 hens will do this as part of the pecking order process).

The 8 Ball gather round (and on) the keyhole bed.
Taking all this into account we think we have a male SP and a male La Bresse. We think the big pale pure Buffs are one of each. Both the mini-buffs may be hens and we have no idea on the Jerseys. I do not need to tell you that this can be bad new for the boys. You can only have one rooster in this set up and William the Conqueror is filling that slot, though the main rooster can tolerate and become quite matey with a 'buddy'. We quite fancy starting a Buff Orpington group, so we are hoping that William will get on with the Buff we think is a male. All the other boys may have shorter careers, possibly in the catering line. All the girls we hope will join our laying flock.

In other news we have been out this evening observing the Perseids Meteor shower. It was, to start with, a gorgeously clear night of the sort we have only ever experienced in Ireland, clear skies and no light pollution. There was a small amount of cloud low down on the NE horizon, just where we were expecting the Perseus constellation to rise. Liz was on an ironing marathon today and still going strong at 11 pm, so I went out to see what I could see. I took the bat-detector with me and very quickly started to hear the patter and squelch of either lots of bats or one bat lots of times. This was at 45-50 MHz, so we guess pipistrelle.

Sure enough, I saw a quick burst of 6 meteor streaks tracking from North across the Great Bear. Brilliant exciting stuff and I was keen to get Liz out there too, so that she could see some. When a hazy cloud came across from the west I feared she might miss the show, so I interrupted the ironing and called her out but sadly, too late - that was it. The bats kept whizzing around, one so close to my face I could feel the draught from his wingtips, but the haze grew thicker and we saw no more meteors. At 11:45 we called it a night and Liz came in to finish the ironing. There's dedication! Never mind, the Perseids are 'on' for a few days yet and we might get another clear sky tomorrow or the next day.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

By the time we looked out it was clouded over, maybe tomorrow. Mini Buff in the photo hen, will have to look more closely at the others next time we see them. You could advertise the JG cock if he is, as they are considered a rare breed now. All the ducklings are doing well and growing fast.