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…

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!

Resting lamb

I’ve tried several times to get a better shot of the Boreray cross sitting on her mum, and yesterday did manage to get a bit closer:

I had to lean through the hedge to get the shot, and I had the geese threatening me on one side which was a little worrying.  If I’d actually entered the orchard area the lamb would have jumped off before I got close enough to take a decent shot – I know as that’s what happened last time.

Lamb watch:  No new lambs – 8 so far, 6 ewe lambs and 2 ram lambs

Ex-bat egg watch:  Nada.  Zip.  However there was a duck egg yesterday which was lovely with my dinner.

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!

Dead little piggies

I found two more of our piglets dead this morning.  One was from Hacker’s litter, nothing seemed wrong with it but that sometimes happens in the first day or so, more often with pigs than with lambs.  Also one of Bernard’s litter, which seems to have got lost and managed to get into the enclosure with Hacker and Gaffer.  Not sure what happened there.

All the rest of the piglets seemed fine, and I suspect it won’t be long until we see Bernard’s lot running around outside.

Lamb watch:  Still just the 5.  This is the fun we have by not controlling the ram’s access, we get a much, much longer lambing season.  I’d expect the remaining Suffolks and Mules to pop in the next couple of weeks, and then the Soays will start, they’re usually a bit later.  Perhaps because they’re a bit more flighty and harder for Muga to catch?  I have no idea how the Borerays will fit into the cycle, but suspect they’ll be closer to the Soays.

Ex-bat egg watch: None.

 

Piglet Watch II

Hacker has been looking very heavy for the last few days.

Clearly she too received some love and affection from Humphrey in the break out I can’t recall in November.  This morning she produced conclusive evidence with a fine litter of piglets.  Six alive, and two unfortunately dead.  But lovely looking little monsters nonetheless:

Lamb watch:  5 so far 3G:2B (WhiteFace had two boys and a girl, the white faced suffolk/Soay was a girl, and Lamby’s remaining lamb is a girl – one lamb lost, Lamby’s second twin)

Ex-bat egg watch:  Still nothing.  I think they may have forgotten how.

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.