Tuesday 3 July 2018

Maternity Mayhem

A first tiny turkey emerges.
As is usual for here, our poultry 'breeding programme' has long since left behind the  realm of "a bit organised" and is accelerating towards "Ah well, what harm can it do?" Regular readers will know that we were steadily building up a little kindergarten of Mums, each with a well disciplined band of chicks at foot, all fussing around Mum, coming when called, enjoying being shown how to scratch in the dirt, what was food and what wasn't, how to dust-bathe, where to safely drink and so on.

....and this year's first gosling.
A friend on the Internet who breeds only nice beautiful Buff Orpingtons and 'tweets' as @TheFloofLady has me smiling every morning with a series of 'Good Morning Floofs!' videos which show the same - nice neat groups of Mum with babies at foot. I am in envy of her pens of identical hens and chicks and her organisation.

2 turkeys now for the 2 Mums
Our gang had started with Silvergirl, who went broody in the bad old "Beast from the East" days and hatched 5. They all growed up now but still hang as a little group (of 4, one vanished). This gang were quickly followed, you may recall, by a grey hen who hatched 6, Shtumpy who managed 5, and then Donaldina (in the duck house) who came off with 7 babies. I hope these numbers are right - you do tend to lose  track.

The (now) 7 ducks have now settled on the pond as their
'safe place'
While all that was going on we had a random outbreak of everybody going broody in the Tígín (tool shed) and quickly got out of hand with stray hens climbing on the nests to drop in an extra egg, or climbing in to lay and decided to stay overnight brooding the displaced Mum's original clutch. If Mum was a less dominant hen, she'd just have to sit there clucking her frustration till the usurper would let her back on. One went broody on nothing at all (it's quite common) and I slipped 7 turkey eggs under her. Sometimes you'd see a little pile of 6-7 eggs, apparently abandoned in the nest. At other times there seemed to be 4 hens all piled in there squishing each other out of the way in their keen-ness to contribute some broody-warmth.

You do what you can in terms of sorting them out, pulling the usurpers off, creating private cages round the known broodies, stealing back new eggs which you know were not there yesterday, but it is not an exact science. Luckily, hen maternity instinct comes to your rescue at this point and the Mums do not actually fight over the babies, but go into a Mum-and-Aunt mode, sharing the rearing to start with. Later, one just seems to take over the whole clutch and the other goes back to the flock to rejoin the rooster(s). So, at present, as well as our kindergarten of para 3, we have two hens minding 4 baby turkeys, 2 hens minding one chick. We have also lost ace-Mum 'Shtumpy' to the fox, so her 4 babies, at 5 weeks are now orphans. They will do OK. She was a good Mum and rears them tough. She would normally kick them out at 6 weeks anyway.

A good job tackled gently. Our collection of rather fragile
tubs are getting emptied, moved and refreshed.
The geese are also starting to hatch some goslings and now, with Gander George in charge these are being brought out into the sunshine. Elizabeth is in charge at the moment and tells me there are currently 3. Sorry about the rough pictures of these new kids so far. I will try to get some better, cuter pics for the next post.

Swarm lure box gets some interest.
Finally, on breeding (of sorts), I was delighted to note that my hive-bee swarm lure box has caught the attention of a local swarm (possibly, but by no means certainly, our own). The front is covered in bees and there is plenty of coming and going through the entrance hole. No counting chickens yet - this box now needs to sit for at least 6 weeks to establish whether we have a valid, queen-right colony or just some gang of scouts sniffing about. All good clean fun as our drought and blue skies continue.

No comments: