Bantams in trees

Since we got our new bantams, and they managed to get out of the ark, I’ve been wondering where they were sleeping.  The other evening I was late home and so was feeding everything in the dark, and I got my answer.  The bantams appear to be nesting in one of our trees:

They seemed quite happy, and let me get quite close while taking their photos.  It’s clearly where they sleep every night as there is quite a bit of poo underneath.  Now the mystery is, if they are laying eggs, where are they laying them?

Goose poo!

The geese are free to wander all around our drive area, and along the hedge.  Occasionally when I come out of the front door they’re waiting for me, but it seems fairly rare.  However I noticed today that there is quite a lot of goose poo in the area near the front step.  They’re clearly spending a lot of time camped out waiting for us.

I wish they’d poo somewhere else though…

Update – Chickens

After our disaster earlier in the year we took a while to get some new chickens.  It was just too depressing, and we decided we needed to get our fencing sorted before we did anything more.

Our two remaining brown hens were fairly reliably laying, so we rarely had to buy eggs, which was positive, but we still wanted more.

We had a man in to redo our fencing properly.  I’ll write more on fencing a few days, but suffice it to say this was the real thing.  He said he thought our fox-proof fencing was actually OK, we just needed to get our electric tightened and add an extra row just off the ground, which he did for us.  It also helped that he fixed the rest of our fencing, as we had much less which was shorting out across the full length.

So last month we decided to get some new chickens, and after looking around, and exclaiming at the price, we decided to go back to bantams.  We started with bantams, and I always felt they had lots of personality, and with their smaller eggs having more doesnt give quite the same egg overload (as I can happily eat four or five for lunch, and it’s the same as three or so normal eggs).  We got five, four hens and a cockerel.

There’s still some debate on cockerels, and I’ve read a couple of articles saying they can be dangerous.  My view is that they make the hens happier, and that all animals need to be treated with respect, if they feel threatened they can become violent.  So I’d still suggest keeping one, and just being aware of them.  Which is not to say that I’ve not heard of some fairly evil cockerels (attacking their own hens and being vile) – but if you get one of those, then there’s an obvious answer, and there are always more cockerels.  We’ve never had to pay for one…

The cockerel is a Japanese bantam, then we had three silver laced wyandottes (reminiscent of Bella Bella, who I describe in my book – see link on the left.  I promise – no more plugs.  Probably), and a brown one.  At first they were very skeptical of us, and hid in our rather large amount of nettles.  After a week or so, and having cut down half the nettles, they became friendlier, and while they’re not yet eating out of my hand, they’re not far off.

The first night we locked them in the ark so they’d know it was home.  Unfortunately it was dark and we didn’t close it properly, so they got out easily the next morning.  This means they’ve found another place to nest, somewhere in the remaining nettles, and we aren’t currently getting any eggs from them.  I’m not sure what to do about that, but I’ll figure something out in due course…

The cockerel, getting in amongst the ducks for food:

Three silver laced wynadotte hens in front of the ark they spurned:

Update – Geese

Our geese continue to thrive.  If by thriving you mean scaring everyone who comes to visit and maintaining a generally bad attitude!  To be fair they’ve calmed down quite a lot since earlier in the year.  There was a time when the goose was sitting so much we thought we were going to be blessed with some goslings, but fortunately she gave up before they hatched, otherwise we’d have had to find a new home for them.  Three is definitely enough!

Here are the three of them together, as you can see the goose (to the left) is being a little more sensible than the other two.

And here’s one of the ganders getting up close and personal:

Ducks!

We have seven Cayuga ducks, and since the fox wiped out most of the chickens, they’ve had the poultry orchard more or less to themselves.  The remaining two chickens are stuck in the house with its run until the fencing is properly sorted out.  The ducks seem fairly happy with the world, though I wish they’d help me by eating the nettles.  Still, you can’t have everything.

They’ve been laying recently, but something has been getting to the eggs.  I suspect it’s crows.  They wait for the duck to be away from her nest and then swoop and steal the eggs.  I’ve found broken eggs out in the field, as well as quite a few in the orchard.  Still, now that the nettles are really starting to get big I think they’re hiding in them, and that’s probably putting the crows off.

We might get a set of ducklings appear at some point soon…

Damned Fox

Yesterday was a very bad day.  It was early evening and I was feeding the animals.  Having just fed the pigs, and noted that we had another pair of lambs, I was heading back to the poultry orchard to feed the chickens and ducks, when I saw something odd by the fence.  I realised it was a dead chicken.  And then I realised there were several more.

I ran in, but it was obviously far too late.   They’d scattered and run, but been taken down one by one, all over the orchard.  we did once surprise a fox in the orchard half way through such a spree, so I did look around carefully.  No fox.  The ducks were fine, probably they’d retreated to the pong, and two hens survived.  Just two of twenty-one.  All the rest were lying pathetically, drenched by the rain.  Cold and unmoving.  One had clearly provided a meal, but all the rest were just as they’d been the instant they’d died.  It’s likely that the fox – for that is the only reasonable culprit – was planning to come back later to take the chickens somewhere where it could store them.

I collected up the cold corpses ready for disposal, and put the two remaining hens into the ark, and closed up their run.  It’s likely to provide them with decent shelter.

From the looks of things our electric fencing has been shorted somewhere on it’s length again, and the fox took the opportunity, during the day and probably not long after lunch.  We’re going to review the fencing situation before we get any more, and the two we have are going to be somewhat restricted in the meantime as well.

Very upsetting.

Goose control

As I’ve mentioned several times before the geese can be a bit of a handful.  They’ve bitten me a couple of times, and often I need a bucket to fend them off.  Or at least I did, until a friend of a friend passed on a tip for keeping them away.  What I now do is hold my hand out and up and make it look a little like a goose head shape.  It’s amazing the affect it has on them.  They still hiss, and honk, but they back off.  To them it’s a bit like a bigger goose has come and threatened them, and they’re clearly intimidated by it.  Since I’ve started doing that I’ve not even been close to being bitten.  Which is nice.

The goose is sitting again, so the ganders are extra noisy and aggressive, so having a way of keeping them back is extra handy.

Egg Watch!

It’s been a while since I’ve moaned about the lack of eggs from the ex-bats.  That’s because for the last couple of weeks they’ve started laying with avengeance!  We’re now getting between ten and twenty-one eggs a day. Every day.  I’m backing to trying to work out what to do with all the extras!  Still, they are lovely.  Interestingly some of the ex-bats are laying in the chicken ark, where the original hens live, and some are laying in the shed we set up for them.  I haven’t determined if they’ve actually moved in, but there’s obviously not enough space for all of them!

The hens all look in great shape too, and it’s now impossible to tell apart the two original brown non-ex-bats from their more recently added companions.

Also, we should probably stop calling them ex-bats, as really they’re full recharged now!

Eggstacy!

We’ve had geese for several years, and ducks for same time period.  In all that time I’ve only ever managed to have a couple of duck eggs, and no goose eggs.  That all changed a few days ago.

First of all the ducks.  I’ve found where they are laying, and sneakily decided to leave an egg in place, so as not to dissuade them from continuing to use the spot I have harvested an egg every day or so.  The egg I’ve left is quite easy to spot, so I’m fairly certain I wont grab an old egg.

Now the geese.  I have written on occasion about their boundless aggression.  At this time of the year it’s even worse, and all because it’s laying time.  Therefore getting an egg from the goose was always going to be a challenge.  Of the three geese the ganders are the talkative ones, and the goose very rarely says much.  However, when I walked close to her while she was sitting on her eggs, she went ballistic.  Louder than the ganders combined, and it brought them flapping over with murder on their minds.

However, she’s not sitting, so they do wander a bit, and so I took the opportunity on Friday when they were about fifty feet away to go and investigate the egg.  Since I’d last looked she’d laid a couple more eggs, and I managed to grab one of those quickly.  I had to back away pretty smartish as the geese were almost on top of me, with murder in their eyes.

Still I had my prize, as well as a duck egg, and also, miracle of miracles, an egg from one of the ex-bats.  The first one from them in weeks!  So my lunch was decided.  Eggs!  Here they are in the pan:

It’s pretty obvious which is which as they correspond to the size of the birds!

The duck egg, as always, tasted like a stronger chicken egg, particularly nice.  The goose egg tasted exactly like the chicken egg, but the yolk was much thicker, as well as much much bigger!  Much eggcitement I must say.

I haven’t managed to get any other goose eggs since then, though have had a couple more duck eggs.  No more ex-bat chicken eggs, but the original four are giving me about three a day.

Coda:  The geese went mental about an hour ago.  I assumed it was someone visiting who’d become lost, but when I looked out there was no one around.  One of the geese seemed to be shouting at a crow sitting on the fence, and then I noticed the goose trying to marshal an egg, which had apparently been cracked open.  I think the crows, and probably the magpies, had repeated my trick and stolen a goose egg.  Maybe the goose will sit on them now.  Which may prevent me from getting another one!

Extra agression

Our geese have recently become even more aggressive than usual.  They’ve tried to attack us several times, they try and attack the chickens and ducks even through the fence separating them, and if the sheep or goats get too close to the gate when the geese are there they attack them too.  Normally this isn’t much of a problem as we can handle them, however they’ve also started started attacking the early morning, by waking us up honking and squeaking before the sun has raised it’s weary light, or even the lazy sparrows have shaken themselves awake.  It’s very irritating, and this morning they went on for about 45 minutes.

As it happens it’s probably because our goose is likely to start laying soon, and all the extra hormones have wound the ganders up.  Traditionally geese start laying on Valentine’s day or so I learned from a more country wise friend over dinner last night  I’m hoping this year to be able to snag some of the eggs early.  I do like goose eggs.

Also, while our goose doesn’t seem overly eager to sit she does a bit, and I would rather she didn’t sit long enough to produce yet more geese.  Three are enough fun… so the best thing to do is take her eggs away.  I suspect however this will be a challenge.