Flock Update

Time for a flock update 🙂

Up until last week nothing had changed with the big flock, everyone was healthy and most were laying well. Then Della, my older Ancona girl, had a prolapsed vent which I couldn’t fix and had to be put down. All in all it was not the most pleasant experience, but I learnt an awful lot and at least this time it didn’t cost me several hundred dollars in unnecessary vet bills.

At the same time Arabella TopKnot, the broody hen who raised our four outside chickadees, had decided she was over being a mother and deserted her brood – they were 12 weeks old, definitely old enough to be left alone. So Arabella went in with the big chooks and replaced Della. She may have even started laying already!

Two of the three roosters are destined for the table and will be done sometime in the next two weeks. I’m keeping Barney, my only Barnevelder, while the Gold Laced Wyandotte and Rhode Island Red will soon grace our table. Looking forward to eating chooks we’ve raised ourselves. We know that they’ve had a really good life – no overcrowding (our coop and run could house twice as many chooks as it does), lots of sunshine, natural foods and free ranging – the kind of life all chickens should have.

Unfortunately they’ve been free ranging into the neighbours too, so three nights ago the entire flock had their wings clipped. I’m hoping that will curb the more adventurous birds! I’ll find out tomorrow when I let them out into the paddock again.

Of the seven little chickadees we hatched late autumn, I know for sure that I have two cockerals – the golden mixed breed, who thinks he’s a big boy at 13 weeks, and the little blue/red Araucana – I saw him crowing this morning, so now I know for sure. Golden boy I’ve named Christmas because that’s when we’ll eat him 🙂 As we’re keeping the Araucana I’m calling him Arioso from Vivian French’s ‘Five Kingdoms’ series.

I’m still not sure with the two outside Light Sussex. I think I have a boy and a girl. If so, I’ve decided to call them Tom & Barbara, named after the main characters from the show ‘The Good Life’ a show that helped us in our journey of rediscovering what it was we really wanted to do with our lives. However, if Barbara turns out to be a he, he’ll become Dinner instead!

Fluffball (wheaten Araucana), Puffball (Light Sussex) and Skid (mixed breed) from the hand raised trio are still all looking to be girls. I’d really prefer it if they all were as it would fit in with my plans much better. These three will be the founding members of our home flock – the flock that will be working the garden beds around the house, so I don’t have to.

At this stage I’m thinking that the rest of the home flock will be made up of Arioso, Arabella TopKnot (who has some Araucana in her breeding) and Cana who’s a lavender Araucana. I’m considering adding my two Spanish girls to this flock as they haven’t yet proven themselves to be great layers. I’m thinking some Spanish Araucanas could be quite interesting, we shall see…Mostly I just want lots of blue eggs 🙂

Is it a boy or a girl?

Trying to figure out which of our seven chickies are boys is driving me batty. ‘I think it’s a girl, no I think it’s a boy…’ has been my thought pattern every time I look at them!

I KNOW that we have one rooster from the outside four – I thought he might be from two weeks old. When he started crowing at eight weeks, I knew for sure. At twelve weeks he’s doing the little dance for my older girls when they come close enough! He’s the little mixed breed fellow.

I’m almost positive that the outside Araucana is a boy, some of his tail feathers are long and curved, his face is much redder than the other Araucana and he’s definitely way more boistrous.

Of the two Light Sussex from the outside brood I’m almost positive that one is a boy (longer tail, some curvy feathers, bigger wattles, darker red) and the other a girl (short tail, no curvy feathers, smaller wattle and not as red). I only want one Light Sussex rooster, so if the girl turns into a boy we’ll eat him; if she stays a she, she gets to stay.

And at this stage the hand raised trio are all looking to be girls – I’d like it very much if they were!

Chickies

Well, it’s been two weeks since our second lot of chickies hatched. All of them are feathering up quite nicely and growing well, and the best thing is that we’ve lost none of them. With the last lot we’d already lost two of the day olds we’d bought in for Scales to raise. Still, there’s a long way to go before I’ll be confident of their survival.

Below are tonight’s photos of the chickies with the broody hen in their outside house. The goldy brown one is a wheaten Araucana, the dark one is a black Araucana, the two light ones are a Light Sussex and a mixed breed farm chickie (there’s a little bit of black on the farm chickies wings – then again, I’ve just noticed a little bit of black on the wings of the Light Sussex too, so maybe the farm chickie is a pure breed afterall).

Arabella's Chickies 2

Arabella's Chickies 3

Arabella's Chickies 5

These are photos of the hand raised three – goldy one is the other wheaten Araucana, light one is a Light Sussex and the one with black wings is another mixed breed farm chickie.

Plumage

Plumage

image

Hatching – Day Two

3 chickies hatched yesterday (day 21). One Araucana & two Light Sussex. Still waiting for four more eggs to hatch – I think I saw another egg pipping. Maybe.

Kathy’s bringing her broody chook, the chickies and any unhatched eggs over. We’ll put any unhatched eggs in the bator and set the others up in The Broody Hen House and put two of our incubator chickies under her.

Xav desperately wants to hand raise one, so we’re keeping the Araucana chickie for him. If any more eggs hatch Kael will hand raise one too.

Of course if the broody doesn’t accept these chicks we’ll be hand raising all of them plus any eggs that hatch. At the last minute Kael decided he wanted to keep one of our incubstor chickies too, so the broody (who I’ve decided to call Arabella Topknot) only ended upmwith one extra chickie. We’re handraising a Light Sussex ss well as an Araucana.

Only one more egg hatched, another of Kathy’s mixed breed farm chickies. This one is white with a black tyre track on it’s head. We’re hand-raising it with the other two and have called it Skid.

Boys and Chickens

Boys and Chickens

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.’

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…