Friday, 20 May 2016

Maternity Chaos

Hubbard chick at 2 days
The little list of birds currently keeping us waiting grows ever longer. There is turkey hen Barbara, of course, possibly still AWOL, out there in the fields sitting on eggs or possibly hatchlings and maybe, just maybe, planning to walk them all back up here to the farmstead at some stage. At the other end of the 'hope' scale, of course, there is no Barbara and the bones of the former Barbara are drying out in the midden heap outside some fox's lair. We can only wait and see but turkeys are famously mainly grass-grazers, so if she is out there somewhere in the lush Roscommon grass, dodging the hooves of clumsy cattle and teaching the young 'uns to eat grass, we could be waiting a while.

The broody geese, sharing the manger 'trough' and swapping eggs between the two nests each day are also devoid of fluffy goslings. Day 28 for the first eggs we knew about, was 16th May, so we are fast running out of 'late hatching' but regular readers will know that our goose 'breeding' is fairly chaotic and the sister birds have been happily dropping new eggs into the trough for the last few months. There will be eggs in there coming due every day from now till Heaven knows when.

Class of 2016. 18 Hubbard chicks.
We have three separate broody chickens on the go at the moment. One is a-top a 4-bale high pile of straw, wedged up into the door lintel. I suspected when she started that she was sitting on nothing and today she hopped off and confirmed this for me. She has sat for 28 days on fresh air and straw. Might be time to move her on and break the habit. I was toying with the idea if she even hatched ONE egg, of sneaking a few 'ringers' in there (of which more soon).

Gone broody in an old dustbin
One is, rather daftly, in an empty feed bin, 2 feet tall and only containing a few bits of rubbish plus any straw that has fallen in. I was using it as the shed dustbin. This nest has also been plagued by all manner of other poultry hopping in there, squeezing the 'clocker' aside and laying 'cuckoo' eggs in there for her to brood. She had 11 including some Guinea Fowl eggs last time I looked. But think it through, hen! Once they hatch, how do you get them out into the world? I can see me having to do some surreptitious tipping over of the bin at some stage. The 3rd broody hen is the only one doing it sensibly in an actual nest box in the actual coop. Yes, it happens occasionally.

Holding up the beekeeping jobs. Blue asleep in a commercial
'super' box. 
The antidote to all this failed Maternity Suite malarkey is, of course, the annual purchase of our day-old 'Hubbard' meat birds. Hubbards are our most delicious and fast growing (free range) meat bird of choice and we are generously included in the run made by friends Anne and Simon up to an industrial scale hatchery up by the N. Ireland border where they know the team and are allowed to buy small quantities of day-olds (as opposed to the 10,000 bird batches the 'factory' would normally supply to commercial growers.) We 'ordered' 18 this year and these arrived on Wednesday. We had the brooder box set up ready and the 'electric hen' heater plate running. The babies quickly settled in while we fed tea, cake and home-cured 'serrano/palma' style ham to Anne and Simon and chatted. as usual, poultry, gardening and small holdering in general.

Neat and tidy now with a 'super' box (dark
green) added to the top of the stack and
the roof straightened out. 
Meanwhile, outside of poultry and broody birds, I have been settling in the new bees - after a few days of just sitting, getting to know the area, we tidied up the new hive removing the straps and gaffer tape that we'd secured it with, adding an empty super to give them more space (trying to discourage swarming) and settling the roof straight. In the dark we'd not lowered it on quite right and it was a bit drunken looking.

Although I know of no proper 'bluebell
 woods' within our 365 patch, once you
get your eye in, there are plenty of small
patches in hedge bases etc. 
This manipulation also gave us a chance to see if any more work was needed to set it up for summer, and we found, as T McC had said, that the upper brood box (painted white in my pic, above the silver gaffer tape) had some dummy blank frames in it. These will need replacing with proper frames and wax foundation for honey comb next time we are delving around in there.

Lough Adreen, in Cloonargid (Silver Field)
I have been out and about some more on the 365 project photography and as this week is 'Bio-Diversity' week I have been asked to go get pics of flora, fauna and 'natural' stuff. I found myself exploring one of the local cutting bogs down south of Lisacul, in 'Cloonargid' (Silver Field) and found this lovely little lough - I'd known it was there from the map; it is called Lough Adreen (there's no real translation unless the "dreen" is one of those transliteration jobs from 'small oak' like for Ballaghadereen (Bealach an DoirĂ­n)). I am convinced that even after 366 days of photography, I will still not have seen the whole patch. Which is good.

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