Monday 2 June 2014

Stop Turning!

Silage making breaks out in Lisacul after our recent surprise (and very pleasant) succession of hot sunny days. Any animals or birds on the lane had better watch out, because these guys do not hang about and the machines are the big, heavy selection from what's available - big heavy tractors, mowing machines, balers and wrappers, bale trailers and then the slurry tankers to spread the stuff on the aftermath trying to ensure a good second cut in ten weeks or so. They are keen to get on and snatch the 'harvest' before the next rain front comes through so you hear engines roaring, balers grinding and clanging and the spreaders churning away up and down our ridge. This is the time when we were sure our cock-bird Guinea Fowl would 'get it' if he hadn't before now, sitting as he did, out in the lane watching over his egg-laying 'wife'. Sadly, you'll know, he was hit a while back and she has since kept clear of the lane, so we hope none of our lot are hit. We have only seen two road-kill casualties so far, a big hedgehog and then, yesterday, somebody's white cat which Liz stopped to pick up and move to the roadside ditch. Good harvest you silagers!

Candling Guinea Fowl eggs at Day 24
Today is day 24 for the 16 Guinea Fowl eggs in the incubator, so tomorrow, according to our book of words, we have to stop turning them and top up the humidifiers, then sit back and wait. They've been turned 4 or 5 times a day for these 24 days, you have to do this to ensure good development. I can remember learning in biology at school from some teacher who obviously knew how to catch his students' attention why you do this.

Hubbard chick at day 33. Enormous legs!
Apparently, in nature the mother bird is for ever rolling and shifting them and this means that not only do they all get a turn at the warmest centre of the clutch, but also that the embryo on the yolk, suspended on the spiral strands (chalazae) gets rolled around in the 'middle', not touching the outer membranes. If it is not rolled the embryo sags against the membranes and can grow welded to the membrane or in among it, leading to deformed and not properly grown chicks. Yoiks. Or maybe the teacher was just having us on. Strange things get lodged in your brain when you are a ghoulish school-boy! Anyway, I decided to candle a few of them again at this stage and held them to my ear. I am no expert at this but I think we are still OK. I swear I even saw twitching movement in one, not just the flopping about of dark debris, and also that I heard a tiny 'cheep' in one, but I'm not putting any money on the latter.

Geranium 'Orion'
This is also P-minus-3 day; we collect our pigs on Thursday. That will be quite an adventure. The farm, near Ballymount, Colbinstown, County Kildare, is two and a half hours away on Google Maps and our friend and rabbit-mentor, Charlotte wants to come along for the ride. We had to 'practise' getting the three of us into the little car with the pig (actually dog) crate to make sure we'd all fit. Charlotte will be a bit cosy in the back there along with Mapp and Lucia, but at least the little weaners will not be lonely. Liz is also promising to construct a picnic for the way down.

Sweet rocket. 
I have been reading up my 'National Pig Identification and Tracing System' documents to make sure I know what I am doing with the journey/movement paperwork, though I expect the seller will help me out if I get 'lost'. I have to contact a 'central agency' by (lo-call) phone to tell them about my new arrivals within 24 hours, quoting herd number and a secret 'PIN' code. Wish us luck. I hope to be able to post on Thursday that we have successfully completed this mission.

Lupins from Vendor Anna's seed
One other small drama and sad tale to report. We now have, as you know, one successful gosling back with his Dad, George and either Mum or Aunt, now out in the orchard each day, feeding well and growing like a Hubbard chick. The other goose stayed home to sit on the later eggs which we left her, for which we have no accurate dates so we are by no means certain when to expect hatches. Well, we had a hatch three days ago and woke up to a little, apparently happy, cheeping form in the nest along with the two female geese and George (Junior). But the broody seems to have a focus problem - she's mad keen on anything egg shaped but doesn't give a tinker's cuss about anything yellow and fluffy that might come out of the eggs, so the new chick was allowed to wander off and never an attempt to guide it back to the nest.

Beekeeping Federation magazine. Very professional.
There was no beak-to-beak nuzzling or any kind of recognition. I let George, Black Feather and the bigger gosling back 'home' from the orchard early thinking that BF might adopt it, or GJ might go and talk to it. It was a warm night, so we decided to not rescue it till morning if it still looked lost and abandoned. Sadly, the little mite never made it that far and it was a dead, cold, stiff gosling I had to gather up.

We will never know if this was bad parenting or something wrong with the chick causing them to instinctively ignore it, or a result of its rather on/off incubation period, or our bad husbandry. Possibly geese need a 'mass hatch' of the majority of eggs in one go, to trigger the change from 'incubate eggs' to 'rear chicks'. If there are any more and they look like being left, we will rescue sooner and give the baby a few days in the brooder under the lamp and then try a re-introduction. It's never boring.

Yellow flag iris in the pond.
Oh and then tomorrow, of course, is Happy Birthday to 4 of our animals - Towser and Poppy, Blue and Rolo all make it to 2 years old tomorrow, though if they shout me awake at ten to 6 again it might be a very short celebration.


Dan said...

Good luck with the pigs tomorrow! What are you getting?

Matt Care said...

2 little 8 week old purebred Tamworths, all being well. We like the look of these and they are supposed to be brilliant for the outdoor life.