Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Born on the 10th April

This is my 1500th post on this blog. Just thought I'd say that. A little bit proud of the fact.

Hubbard chick on Day 6
It is about time we had a bit of a catch-up on livestock as there is so much going on at the moment I can lose track of whether I have left any stories hanging; I wonder is there anybody out there wishing I'd tell them how 'it all ended up' with the Guinea Fowl. So not very entertaining this time, more a status report.

Weighing chicks in batches to get
an average - they are 91 g on Day 6
The biggest news is that we have now heard from the pig breeding people in response to my progress check query; 'our' pigs were born on the 10th April so they are roughly 4 weeks old now and we can collect them at 8 weeks old on Thursday 5th June. We are all very excited about this, keen to get them here, set them down in the pig-patch and see how we get on. We were down at Anne+Simon's today where they have their pigs for just over a week and I have to admit to being amazed about how much rooting and digging theirs have done in such a short time, and how deep are some of the rooting holes. They have gone with electric fence all round the run, I am hoping that a high tensile strand of barbed at ground level will deter little noses from trying to get under the fence, but now that I have seen the depth of the digging I am doubting my decision. I may have to go with electric fence after all. We live and learn.

The Hubbard chicks arrived on 1st May and are doing fine. We started them in a plastic crate inside wire-mesh dog crate to protect them from dogs and cats. They have already outgrown this and moved on to a bigger crate which they will inevitably also out-grow. Their future fate depends on a number of things. We would love to get them out into the sunshine to feel grass under their feet and start to scratch in the dirt like 'proper' chickens but it needs to be warm and dry for that.

We also have a Buff Orpington hen currently sitting on eggs which are due to hatch tomorrow. However, although she is in the groove now and keeping them all warm, she is a first-time Mum and was not brilliant at it in the early days. She trod on or kicked and broke most of the original 7 eggs - we are down to only 2 now (plus 2 dummy eggs to keep it feeling OK under her). She also used to let them 'leak' out from under her skirts and we'd find them stone cold and try to sneak them back under her, so the remaining 2 eggs may well be chilled to death. She may produce a miracle tomorrow and actually hatch a chick or two but we are thinking that if she doesn't, by about Sunday (4 days late) we might try to substitute the failed eggs with a Hubbard chick or two (and then 12 ! ) to see if she will adopt them and rear them. Our 2013 champion 'clocker' Broody Betty has not showed any signs of wanting to go broody yet.

Bloodied and relegated but un-bowed.
Our original rooster, William
While we're on chickens, we have had a change of dynamic 'at the top'. We came home one day to find William badly cut about the back of the head and with blood splashed into his cape feathers. The Buff Orpington 'roo' was clean of feather, although with a little dried blood on his face and a whole new confident strut about him. We are certain that the two boys had another big fight while we were out and Buffers must have jumped on top of William and held him down for a good pecking. Buffers has no spurs. Now William is very much the underdog and hangs on the periphery of the flock with a couple of loyal females while Buffers struts and Cock-a-doodle-doos with the bulk of them. If he tried to mount one, William used to come running to push him off. Not any more. The fight was a(nother) one-off and does not seem to have been repeated. William's cuts have scabbed over and the rain is cleaning up his feathers. He will be back to his old magnificence soon but will presumably have to accept his new role as Number 2. Oh and we lost our lovely Black 'Jersey Giant' hen, after a sudden and very quick-onset illness which we have no idea what it was. That is sometimes the way with poultry. Like all birds - they work to such fast systems and rates that when something goes wrong it can go wrong very quickly. The old adage in the poultry world is that they do not go sick, they go from healthy to dead. It is good for the vet bills but a bit galling when you lose a favourite. She was a tame and friendly soul. RIP Blackie. Lovely slow-cookered stew, mind.

Full grown Hubbard hens from the 2013 day-olds.
The white Guinea Fowl, Blondie, was never seen again and never reported to us by any neighbours or friends, so we guess we have to give up on her. Just somebody we used to know. Henry and Min are now trying another nest and clutch, we think, this time is a much more perilous position than their 100 yards-off-the-road previous effort. We think she is laying deep in the (12 foot thick) snow-berry hedge almost opposite the house. While she sneaks in to lay the egg each day Henry stands on the grass verge trying to look innocent, being noticed (and frequently reported to us!) by those same passers by and neighbours. We cannot find the nest and do not want to tread down too much verge trying, so we cross our fingers and pray fervently for the half hour they are out there and dread the 28 day (?) incubation period when she may be out there continuously and Henry, bless him, may THINK he should stand guard in his verge grass. Thankfully most neighbours know and expect Guinea Fowl, so they drive with care and the birds are also street-wise and sensible; they stand still and do not try to run in a panic across the road. We just know that if we hit the hurly burly of rush about silage cutting season the machinery flying about might not be as merciful.

In the goose department, things are a bit more secure and less confused. Black Feather (pictured) is solidly sitting and just comes off the eggs for 20 minutes a day for a bathe, eat and toilet-break. The 12 eggs, when we can get at them are intact and lovely and warm. They are due to hatch next Monday (12th May). I have constructed a wee gosling ramp so that they can get back into the nest should they go exploring - the nest is in a feed manger 6 inches above ground level. A concrete cliff to a gosling. They now have a gentle plywood incline to get home up. The other female goose, Smudge, has come back into lay and has now dropped a further 6 shiny clean eggs into Black Feather's nest, but we can easily spot these and remove them.

At least 9 little fat bellies. 
Goldie-rabbit's babies are now 8 days old and we can sometimes sneak a peek at them. In the warm they let the fur nest open at the top and you can see enough legs, ears and closed-eye faces in the tangled pile of 'kittens' to estimate that there are at least 9 babies. Well done Goldie. Our rabbit-expert, owner of the 'sire' and friend, Charlotte had a look today and pronounced herself very pleased with their plump little bellies - a sure sign that Goldie is delivering plenty of milk. They should start leaving the fur-ball nest to explore the 'bedroom' in the next few days, but it might not be till they are 3 weeks old, before anybody emerges into the sunshine.

Non-breeding rabbits Ginny and Padfoot are fine but not doing anything reportable. Our 2014 lambs are still with their Mums, suckling away. We will not see them till July. The bees are also still only a dream, we hope growing fast and rapidly expanding their parent colonies in Drumshanbo so that we can have our 'Nuke' (Nucleus colony) as planned in June. Dogs and cats are also fine but not doing anything note-worthy unless you count Poppy's lightning-fast-despatch of a mouse which Rolo did not even mean to give to her. We humans are also OK, enjoying our spring time after what seemed like a long, wet January, February and March.

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