Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty-One

The incubator day counter ticked over to day 21 at about 9pm tonight. Nothing’s happening yet… Everybody tells me they should hatch fine. Me, I’m not so sure. If there’s no sign of hatching in the morning I’ll be disappointed, even though I’ve been telling myself it will be a terrible failure and they won’t hatch coz I don’t want to get my hopes up.

Went to the Benalla craft/farmers market today and spoke to Tony the chook man. He had a couple of wheaten Faverolle girls with cute little ear muffs and I was sorely tempted. But with the imminent arrival of a bunch of chickies I’ve nowhere to quarantine them. Oh well, maybe next time. I told Tony that when my next hen goes broody I’ll get some Plymouth Rock eggs off him, hopefully he’ll have some by then.

Started painting the brooder this arvo – the first coat is done. I’ll do the second coat in the morning tomorrow, and if I’ve got time I’ll see if I can paint something intresting on it too. Maybe a mother hen and some chickies. Right now I’m trying to think of a cool name to give it but at the moment all I can think of is “The Chickiebator” or “The Broody Hen”.

Just starting the first coat

Just starting the first coat

Xav doing his bit

Xav doing his bit

While I was painting Kathy phoned to say that two eggs had hatched! An Araucana and one of her bitzers! Whoohoo!! Meanwhile nothing was happening in the incubator. And still nothing was happening at 5:30am when I staggered out of bed to help Xav. However, at 9am this morning, one of the Light Sussex eggs has started to crack! Still, as the saying goes, ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’

Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty

Well it’s day 20 now and these eggs should be hatching over the next four days. I’m really nervous. What if none of my $50 eggs hatch??? I’m hoping for an 80% hatch rate as I think it’s pretty unlikely to get a 100%, although that would be pretty awesome, but really I’d be happy with 50%.

Spoke to Kathy last night about what we’re going to do once the eggs hatch. We’ve decided that we’ll let each other know when the eggs start hatching and I’ll bring over any chicks on Sunday and Monday nights (if they’re hatching on time) to put under the broody.

After two days Kathy will bring the broody and chicks to my place and we’ll house them in the chickie house (need to paint it this arvo then and give it a good clean out). I think I’ll put it under the olives out the back near the kids’ sandpit.

If after two days we still have some unhatched eggs we’ll put them in the incubator for a couple mored days and see if we get any more chicks hatching. I’d better have a brooder ready just in case. I’ve got the box, just need to figure out how to do the light.

Fertilised Eggs – Day Eighteen!

Well it’s day 18 now for our fertilised eggs. If all goes according to plan we should get some little chickies hatching in the incubator in the next few days.

Of course my experience with chickens of late has shown me that rarely do things go to plan and it really is “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” because the chances of all twelve eggs hatching are very slim. Not that I’ve got twelve eggs – seven are in the incubator while the other five are under Kathy’s broody hen.

Not sure what happens once the ones at Kathy’s hatch. Do we leave them with her broody? Bring chicks here after they hatch and put them all together? Leave the broody with one chick? Or just leave them with Kathy and I’ll get some fertilised eggs off her later? Guess we’d better sort it out pretty soon.

Tim and I tried candling the eggs last night, but obviously we have absolutely no idea as it was a complete failure. I’ll have to look it up for the next time we do it so we know how to do it. But what I did do was take the eggs out of the turny thingy and place them on a tea towel on the tray and refill the water so the humidity is high for the next few days.

Apparently I should hear pipping from the eggs on about day twenty, although the incubator is quite noisy so maybe we won’t… I’m just hoping we get a decent hatch rate and I didn’t waste my money. Guess I’ll know in a few days.

The Fertilised Eggs Drama!

Scales went broody again, so after umming and ahhing for a while I ordered some fertilised eggs. This time of year finding eggs is a little tricky as all chooks everywhere are going into moult and their laying drops right off. So my order of Araucana and Light Sussex eggs arrive on the same day I notice that Scales doesn’t seem quite so broody!

Sure enough, after letting the eggs rest for 24 hours (important to do after receiving eggs via the post) Scales is most definitely NOT broody! To be sure I locked her in the nesting box with a couple of unfertilised eggs. She was hanging to get out the next day. Needless to say her lack of said broodiness sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I’d paid $50 for these eggs and now I was without nature’s perfect chick raising machine, meaning I was going to have to do it myself. Problem, I don’t have an incubator! Aaaah!!!

I’ve heard tales of people incubating eggs in an electric frying pan, but when push came to shove it was very hard to find reliable information out there as to how to do it, yet an awful lot of people believed it to be possible or had heard of someone doing it. In fact one of my friends hatched some guinea fowl eggs in one, although they only had three days to go and just needed some extra help. Anyways, it’s got me more than a little curious, I’m so curious I’m going to try it later, but with some less expensive eggs! When I do I’ll blog about my experiences.

After checking out the frying pan option I finally remembered there were people I could call who are a wealth of information when it comes to chooks. Only took me a couple of days to remember, and the first one I called had a broody hen! I went over the next day (which happened to be a Saturday) with my precious eggs and Xav. Upon arrival I was told there was someone else with another broody hen or duck and an incubator! So after a cuppa and some very yummy Anzac slice (the biscuits had all run together) we went off to meet my potential saviour.

They had ducks, chooks, geese and turkeys, two dogs, a cat (with which Xav was extremely taken) and numerous other animals including a cow and some sheep. Anyway, after much talking and getting to know each other I was presented with an incubator and shown how to use it. It’s now sitting on the fooseball table lid merrily humming away with four Araucana eggs and three Light Sussex. The other five I left for the broody. Sixteen days later the broody is still sitting and the machine is still humming away. It is well and truly time to candle the eggs to see if any of them are fertile. Not that I’ve ever done it before and I have to admit that I’ve been putting it off – I’m a teensy bit scared that I may have wasted my money. Maybe tomorrow…

Chicks & Chooks, together at last

D-day has arrived – it’s time for my six surviving chickies to go in with the big chooks. Six chicks out of twelve, a 50% success rate. I was hoping for higher, but at least I got that. Half of them are roosters. I knew that I had at least one – the crowing was a bit of a give away. But I know for sure now – Tony, the chook man, showed me how to tell the difference.

Roosters feathers are different to hens on the rump region, they become long and thin just before the tail and are called ‘saddle feathers’. In the same area hens feathers remain fat and rounded. So my only Barnevelder, only Rhode Island Red and one of the Gold Laced Wyandottes are boys. Well, that’s two, maybe three for the table – might keep one for breeding – and I got three girls to replace the three I lost last year, so that’s good.

It was just after dusk when I grabbed the chickies and put them on the roost in the henhouse with the big chooks. Interestingly not a single one of them stayed on the roost, they all jumped down and huddled in the corner together. Not surprising really when you consider that’s what they’ve been doing all their lives, except when they decided to roost on their house and in the creeper instead of going to bed in the cute little house Tim built where they’d be nice and safe! Xav and I spent many nights searching for missing chickies, until I trimmed back the creeper cave and it no longer seemed so dark and appealing.

Anyway, everybody was still alive in the morning when I let them out, so that was nice. I left them all locked in the run that first day to give the youngsters a chance to adapt to their new home. The first lock up was interesting – none of the young ones wanted to go in, and when I physically put them in they ran back out the door! So that was a bit tricky! However, after many exclamations about their inability to stay in the house or let me catch them, I finally got them all in, and again they roosted upon the floor beneath the roosts.

Day two and I opened the run. The big chooks roamed free while the chickies stayed close to their new home. On the third day Sprinter (my only surviving Ancona named for her incredible short bursts of speed) decided to give roosting a go, and after about a week they were all roosting quite happily, well mostly anyway. I think it’s going to work, and most importantly, all fourteen chooks are doing well.

A Very Aspie Christmas

Christmas in this Aspie household is something I both love and dread. At one end of the scales the youngest boy is overjoyed and desperate for the decorations to go up and Christmas to come. While the eldest boy doesn’t want anything to do with it until Christmas Eve – he can’t handle the anticipation, and with his birthday only a few days later it’s just way too stressful.

Me, I really enjoy decorating the house for Christmas and even having people over, although I’m always relieved when they leave. Not so big on the travelling to go to other people’s places but that’s because three Aspie boys in the back seat together is always a recipe for disaster. Sometimes we haven’t even got out of the driveway before it starts, so a two and a half hour drive is something I don’t like to do with the whole family. One day, when we have some more money (I can dream can’t I?) we’d like to buy something like a Kia Carnival – we hired one for a weekend away once and didn’t want to give it back!

Last year we decided to have Christmas Day as just our family, so caught up with the other families before Christmas. Spreading it out worked really well for our family, so we decided to do it again. It’s more work and goes for longer (14th Dec – 4th Jan including 13th birthday), but it made the Christmas period far less stressful.

My parents and an Aunt did the 3½ hour trek to our place. Sibs don’t come coz my sister is a retail manager and it’s crazy just before Christmas. Whhile my little bro, doesn’t really have a lot of the Christmas spirit…but that’s okay, it makes for a peaceful Christmas. No arguements I don’t do the traditional roast and plum pudding it’s too hot and not my thing. Still working out what my thing is, but it ain’t that! We had crisps & my homemade dips, cheese & crackers, cold meats, salads, mum’s eggnogg with organic free range eggs from our chooks, a fruit platter and my Grandma’s Fluffy Stuff for dessert. I think it’s proper name is flummery, but as kids we always called it ‘fluffy stuff’ and fluffy stuff forever it will be..

Two days before Christmas we did the 2½ hour drive to my SIL’s place – it was going to be in a park about an hour and a half away, but Aspie kids couldn’t handle the idea of Christmas anywhere but in a house and with the sensory issues we quickly came to realise that it would be a complete disaster. Flies, heat, bright, wind, uncomfortable seats…boys were melting down just at the thought of it. So we changed it, which turned out to be a good thing weather wise as it was cold and rainy! It was an interesting drive, boys tried really hard to hold it together but by halfway it was all falling apart. On the way home Tim sat in the back while the eldest sat in the front and that worked better, especially with the youngest falling asleep.

In hindsight we realised that the 23rd was too close to Christmas, especially as the next day was Christmas Eve and we had things planned for that. Next Chrissy we’ll arrange better dates.

On Christmas Eve the boys opened their presents to each other. Buying them was drama in itself – I took each boy out seperately and with my help they selected prezzies for other members of the family. The younger two did all right at this with only a few small meltdowns, but the eldest melted down at the very thought of it. It was a combination of things – lots of people, noise and the stress of having to choose something for someone and they may not like it! So in the end I shopped on his behalf.

After the unwrapping of gifts we went into town and had pizza in the park from our favourite pizza shop and then drove around town to check out the Christmas lights. It was disappointing, not many people bothered. Oh well, we’ll just have to get our act together and set up our own amazing decorations next Christmas 🙂

Christmas Day dawned and the boys slept in til 8am – nice. We opened pressies together and then everyone went off to their own space and did their own thing. We nibbled throughout the day and did the same thing on Boxing Day and the next. Obviously we all needed time to recover. And then the birthday preparations began!


Run Timeshare

With temperatures pushing 40 degrees celsius I have come to the realisation that Minnie and the chicks cannot stay in the chook shed during the day. It gets way too hot in there.

My solution has been to line the bunny run with cardboard so little chickies can’t fit through the gaps (at the moment they are so small they can just pop through the chicken wire like it’s not even there) and put them in there once the temperature hits 30 degrees, coz that’s when I bring the bunnies in.

So Cloud and BlackOut have the run for a few hours in the morning (without the cardboard because they eat it) and Minnie and the chickies have it in the afternoon. It’s a fair bit of fiddling on my part, so I’ll have to come up with a better solution…I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Chooks – The Agony and The Ecstacy

Okay…this chook journey has not quite been what I was expecting it to be…On Friday 13th December, Bella, one of the Ancona girls started getting sick and continued to go down hill. She ended up with severe diarrhoea and a slight rattle in her chest. By Monday she was really bad, I’d changed her diet and done everything I could except worm her. That day I also found that Minnie had hatched two of her ten eggs. By Tuesday we had four little chickadees. I’d written on the bottom of the eggs and according to my notes we had one Blue Barnevelder and three Gold Laced Wyandottes. So Tim and I finally got round to building our two small pens on the inside of the chook pen for our broodies and their chicks. It was pretty hot, but we got it done.

Bella came in, sat in the nest box and stayed for a while before leaving. She really wasn’t looking good and smelt worse. I was recommended some drops to give her, so I did. But on Tuesday morning she was dead. By the time I’d removed Bella’s body and stuck it in the freezer (Capital YUK, but it had to be done – weather was hot, dirt was cement like and we decided it was better to freeze her than have her decomposing on the back step waiting for burial. Needless to say I put her in the freezer outside, the one I don’t use all that much) and fed them, Myrtle, one of the big black Croad Langshans started neck stretching, honking like a goose, shaking her head and struggling to breathe. At first I thought she might have something stuck in her throat, but it was not to be.

That day I also bought ten more fertilised eggs to put under Scales who’d finally gone broody. I put them under her and checked on Myrtle who was getting steadily worse. I was concerned that the girls had something contagious and it was going to go through the entire flock, so I took her to the vet.

I was given three options: 1. have her chest radiographed 2. give her anti inflammatry drugs and antibiotics or 3. euthanise her and let the vet do an autopsy

I wasn’t going to spend $$$ to have a radiograph done – I like Myrtle, she’s a good layer, but she’s not a well loved family pet, she’s a ‘production’ animal. I didn’t much like option 3 either, so went for option 2. In hindsight, I should have gone for option 3 because she is a production animal and it was better to have one put down and autopsied for the benefit of the flock. Another reason I should have gone with option 3 was she died 15mins after the two injections!

The autopsy didn’t show up anything to be worried about and neither did the one test I had done. There was another test we could have done, but with the dollars mounting up and at $200+ a test we chose to only have one of them done. The only thing the vet could conclude that it was a viral condition and we just had to wait and see. With cost of the vet bills I could have easily replaced the girls I’d lost and got a few more!

In the course of all this I made an interesting observation – both Myrtle and Bella had been among the handful of chooks to get sick in the first couple of weeks after getting them. Ara the Araucana had died, but the others, Myrtle, Bella, Minnie and Welzy had all recovered. But now, in mid December, Myrtle and Bella were also dead. Is it a coincidence or is it somehow connected. Whatever, it was one of those things that make you go mmmm. The rest of them are now on antibiotics and the vet says we can’t eat the eggs for 28 days!!!

So we in the space of 24 hours we had the ecstasy of new life and the agony of death, and can’t eat our organic, free range eggs – the reason we have chooks in the first place! Talk about a rollercoaster ride.  I miss Bella and Myrtle and their eggs, but the chickies are so cute, little puffs of fluff on legs and they make me smile, a lot.

Chookie News

Well, I got my wish, I have a broody hen, just not the one I was expecting. Instead of Scales, our Gold Laced Wyandotte going broody (bought especially for the task), Minnie, the Minorca has instead. From all my research, the Minorcas were amongst the last of my assorted breeds that I’d have thought would go broody.

A week later and Minnie is still insisting on sitting on eggs so I lashed out and bought half a dozen fertilised eggs of Blue Barnevelders, Barnevelders and Gold Laced Wyandottes and placed them underneath her after removing an egg laid by Welzy. I’ve closed her box off from the others so no-one else can get in there to lay eggs and we’ll see if we get some little chickies in the next 3 weeks.

Tim was wondering if there’d be any for Christmas Dinner or his birthday in Feb 🙂 I laughed and told him that they’re not commercial meat chooks and will take about 6 months before they’re ready for the table instead of 6 weeks. If all 10 eggs hatched (which is doubtful) then at least half of them will be male and end up on the table. Hens, well we’ll see, but I’d really love a couple of Barnevelder hens that’ll hopefully lay nice chocolate brown eggs.

On another note, my chook supplier said he’d replace the Araucana who died, so in the next 3 or 4 weeks we’ll get another Araucana, and as I won’t introduce her to the flock alone, I’ve requested a Blue Andalusian too, so it’s all fun in the Chicken Coop at our place.

The Alysium Dilemma

The following 800 word story is what I wrote for the Benalla Festival Writers Competition, the Open Division, which I won! A week later and I’m still ridiculously excited about it, doing little victory dances around the house and having my ‘mature’ almost 13 year old rolling his eyes. Still finding it hard to believe, but I have the ipad proof in my hot little hands 🙂

The topic was ‘We Are One’, celebrating and acknowledging Benalla’s multicultural diversity, a topic I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with. With only four days to the deadline the idea of how I could write it came to me. I honestly didn’t think I’d win because what I’d written was probably nothing like what they’d be hoping for. I thought about that, came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t win, but I WAS extremely happy with what I’d written, and that was enough. An hour later they phoned to tell me I’d won and that it was a remarkable piece of writing! I was very, very, very excited 🙂 Anyway, here it is…


The Alyssium Dilemma

My name is Serrai Akbai Carnevali. My ancestors came from Old Earth. I am twenty New Earth years old, which makes me twenty-four in Old Earth years. I’m an Old Earth Historian, and right at this moment I’m deep in the bowels of the archival system, searching for any documentation I can find on how the people of Old Earth dealt with the problem of integrating different cultures.

I’d been sent down here to look for something called ‘multiculturalism’. Our World Leaders thought this multiculturalism could provide a way of integrating the massive influx of alien refugees, flooding in from the Alysium sector, with us New Earthers. Unfortunately, this section of the archival system was a mess. Historical documents, government policies, ancient texts, music scores, shopping lists, screen plays and telephone directories were all jumbled in together. It was as if they’d been thrown in just before the space ships had left for New Earth.

I picked up some of the papers scattered on the floor and a piece of sheet music fell out. I almost ignored it, but the title “I Am Australian” caught my eye. ‘Australia,’ I said. ‘That’s the nation on Old Earth my ancestors came from! Sarah Carnevali, who I was named for, and her brothers, were skilled Bovine Agriculturalists and had been on the first ships that came to New Earth.’ I searched for the rest of the song, but it wasn’t amongst the papers I’d picked up. Clearing some more papers off an old filing cabinet, I started a ‘keep’ pile.

‘Ha!’ I said, pulling a sheet of quotes from Old Earthers about multiculturalism out of the stack with a flourish. “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures,” I read. ‘I wonder who Cesar Chavez was?’ I added it to the ‘keep’ pile.

Another page had four principles of Australian multiculturalism. Most of it was unreadable. It looked as if it had suffered some major coffee spillage. All I could read was “Respect for each person…all Australians…right to…own culture… reciprocal… respect…others…” Perhaps Utzo’s department could restore it. It was worth a try. But what really blew me away was a short piece by a twelve year old girl with the same name of my ancestor! It began

“We haven’t been in Benalla long,…”

‘Benalla! That was my ancestor’s home town!’

“…so I’m finding it difficult writing a piece celebrating the multicultural diversity of this town. There are lots of different cultures here. I know this because since arriving here we’ve eaten at Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese Restaurants. All very yummy.

The topic is ‘We Are One.’ So what does it mean to me? It reminds me of a song on one of mum’s old records called ‘I Am Australian’…”

‘No way!’ I said in amazement, ‘That’s the song I just found.’.

“…It’s a celebration of our history and all the different cultures that make up this great land.
My family is very multicultural, although Grandma says it wasn’t always that way. She grew up in a very Aussie family, descended from convicts and early white settlers. In her day Italians were ‘wogs’, the Chinese were ‘nips’ and the Aborigines were ‘abos’ and were seen as second class citizens, or a waste of space.

As a child the closest Grandma got to multiculturalism was spaghetti cooked way beyond al dente. Fortunately she broke the mould, marrying a Greek. All her kids married into other cultures too. My dad’s Italian and my cousins are half Japanese, half Indian and half Turkish. I love our family get-togethers, we always have such a wonderful range of food.

But multiculturalism isn’t just about race, religion or food. It’s about people – black, white, male, female, able bodied or not. Multiculturalism is respecting each others’ differences and making sure everyone has access to the opportunities and freedoms meant for all people.

Nobody bats an eyelid about me being half Italian, but my twin brothers both have High Functioning Autism.

‘We call it Sagacious Perceptiveness now and it’s highly valued on New Earth.’

They view the world from a different place, so they don’t respond to the world like ‘normal’ people. I’ve seen first-hand the ‘racism’ of others towards my brothers and it makes me sad. My brothers might seem a bit strange, but they’re people too.

Multiculturalism is about accepting and respecting all people, so I’m hoping Benalla’s embrace of cultural diversity will extend to my brothers’ and others like them, whose differences are not so much in how they look or where they come from, but how they think and view the world. I hope their differences can be accepted, appreciated and even celebrated.”

‘Woohoo! I’m sure this will help with the Alysium dilemma, and it’s written by my ancestor! What a find!’