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?

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:

Back…

The last few months have been a little manic, which is why I’ve written nothing.  things have calmed down a little, but I’ll probably still be infrequent, or perhaps erratic, in my updates.

With the animals we’ve been engaging in a more dedicated reduction strategy, and over the past short while have reduced our pigs by 22, and our sheep by 30 or so.  Most of these went to new homes, only a few went on holiday… and the last OAP Soay Ram died which was sad.

We also sorted out a lot of our fencing, and the new stuff is pretty impressive.  It allowed us to get a few more chickens, I’ll take some photos and get them online soon.

I shall try and write an update on each animal group over the next few days to get back in the swing of things.

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.

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!

Update

As the rain pours down outside, doing it’s best to turn all our fields into muddy swamps, I thought it best to stay under cover and write a general round up of where we are.

Geese – loving this weather.  Still being extra aggressive.  Alex thinks the goose may have laid an egg, but I have not yet seen it…

Hens – another ex-bat died, which leaves us with just the seventeen.  She’d been a little listless for a couple of days, though she was eating a little she wasn’t really getting into it.  I found her dead in their shed on Thursday morning.  The others however all seem fine.  No eggs off the ex-bats, but the original hens are averaging around two a day.  Which is nice.

Lambs – no more lambs since the last set of triplets, which were all girls.  So at this point we have 6 ewe lambs, and two ram lambs, for a total of 8.  We have suspicions that the Mule in with the Borerays isn’t pregnant.  She doesn’t look that heavy, and her udders certainly haven’t filled, though I’ve always found that to be an unreliable indicator.

Pigs – all is well with them at the moment.  Both sets of piglets have now been outside, and Bernard’s lot are starting to explore a little bit.  Soon they’ll be all over the place!

Ex-Bat MIA

The chickens move around a lot, which makes counting them rather tricky.  However, I think there are only eighteen of the ex-bats left.  I’ve counted several times and not counted the nineteenth.  I’ve scoured round the orchard area, but not yet found the body.  This could mean a number of things:

  1. The body is under a particularly big tuft of grass.
  2. She flew off.  Possibly south, after all it’s been rather chilly.
  3. She’s hiding from me – unlikely given how excited they get about food.
  4. A fox got her – unlikely as all the others are still there.
  5. I can’t count – possible given how much they move about.  Really, they jitter all over the place, climb over each other and all sorts.

I hope she hasn’t really gone missing.

Also, the ex-bats are still not laying.  Not a single egg in two weeks from them.  The others are laying quite happily, between two and four a day.  I guess I can’t complain as I wouldn’t know what to do with any excess eggs.  Still, it’s the principle of the thing!

Electric Fence worries

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been having a few challenges with our electric fencing. It doesn’t always seem to be working.  I have two main methods of testing it, the first is to watch the pigs and see how close to the wire they go.  If it’s live they are very careful around it, though sometimes still get pushed onto the wire, resulting a yelp and the sight of a piggy bottom disappearing into the distance.  The other method is to use a pair of pliers to cause a short and watch the sparks.  Actually, there is a third method where I accidentally electrocute myself, but I try and avoid that.

Our electric fence has four main roles:

  1. Protect the poultry from foxes
  2. Stop the pigs getting out
  3. Stop the cows and sheep from getting into the south facing slope field, and thence potentially to the road
  4. Generally protecting the physical fences from the animals – the electric stops them challenging the fence and slowly breaking it down

Of these the first is the most critical, as an extended lapse could see us lose all our chickens, again, and maybe even the ducks.  So I generally keep an eye out for the fence operation and try and fix any shorts as soon as I spot them.

The fence didn’t seem to be operating at all and I walked round several times to try and identify the cause.  The most likely seemed to be the pigs, who’ve mounded up quite a lot of the earth against one of the fences, and that was connecting with the wire.  When it was still muddy it was particularly bad (you can see the wire going into the mud on the left hand side) :

The frost has meant it’s not quite so bad, but there still have been some lumps touching the wire.  I’m trying to feed them a little further away from the fence to stop them doing this.

However, this still didn’t fix the problem.  On another trip round I found that some of the barbed wire round the top of the poultry orchard had become caught up with the electric fence, and that was definitely shorting it out.  I fixed that, and had another look.  Everything seemed good, but I still thought the wire wasn’t working.

It wasn’t, because I’d turned it off while fixing the wire covered in the mud!  So I turned it back on, and finally it seemed to be working.  I’m still nervous about it though, so I’ve been checking it more carefully than I usually do, just to make sure I catch anything early before it turns into a major problem.