Tuesday, 19 April 2016

First Hatch of the Year

It's that time of year. Our poultry seem to have nests all over the place.
Two of the geese are sitting on nests in the stable, effectively making it a no go zone for a few weeks. The others have therefore made new nests to lay in.

Our girl turkey started sitting on 1st April and is still there, in the flower planter at the front of the house. She may have timed it wrong for the tulips to still be open when her eggs hatch, which should be the end of this month.

Elvis doing what Elvis does best.
Elvis has gone broody again. She has been surrogate to many families over the years: chickens, ducks and even guinea fowl. So this time we have shut her up in the high rose coop with ten Muscovy Duck eggs. If they hatch she's in for a big surprise.

Then just yesterday Elvis's most broody daughter Priscilla, was found sitting on eggs on the hay bales in the stable where Rameses, our orphan lamb, goes at night. So we quickly swiped those eggs from under her and replaced them with a dozen eggs we had been collecting from the Ixworths, which will eventually give us some meat birds later in the year.

And so to the first hatch of the year, not a very successful one but it's a start. Remember that Crested Cream Legbar which started sitting in the most unlikely of spots under a pile of wood right by the garage door? Well her eggs were due to hatch last Wednesday. Somehow the 12 eggs we put under her to start had been whittled down to 7. I don't think it was rats and I almost wonder if, after sitting tight for so long, the laying hens don't occasionally snaffle one of the eggs, maybe the ones which have something wrong with them. But that's just conjecture.
Anyway, come Saturday I decided that something must have gone wrong. Maybe the cockerel which we got in was firing blanks. I put my hand under the hen, suffering several sharp pecks, and pulled out an egg. The intention was to crack it open to see whether it had ever been fertile. As I pulled it out though, I saw a small hole in it and heard it cheeping loudly! I quickly placed it back under her.
Later on there were two fluffly white chicks poking their heads out from beneath mum's feathers. We resolved to leave the new family until evening and then move them to the safety of a coop.
But that plan went awry when I found one of the chicks huddled under a lump of concrete several metres away from the nest. We resolved to move the family there and then. I picked up mum and left Sue to collect any chicks she could find and any unhatched eggs. It was a smooth operation and we were quickly shutting the lid on their new coop.
When we looked yesterday, there are only three chicks (one dead, probably the one which had wandered away). It's a start though and as long as some of the other hens go broody we will have a production line of birds going through the spring and summer. The two unhatched eggs (the seventh vanished) contained fully grown chicks when I opened them. What a shame.

Now I know this all sounds rather cute, but we have quite enough poultry birds at the moment, so all these new hatchlings are destined for the table. Poultry meat production is the one thing we've not been very successful at yet, hence the Muscovy Ducks, the Ixworth chickens and us keeping back a pair of turkeys.

The only poultry birds I've not mentioned are the Cayuga Ducks and the last remaining white duck. These live in the vegetable garden and spend most of the day snaffling slugs. They give us a couple of eggs a day at this time of year, but they are not productive enough to use as meat birds. We never got round to dispatching the drake who was born last year and it has caused trouble for us this last week as his hormones have been on overdrive. Drakes don't give the girls an easy ride at the best of times, but a couple of the ducks have really been suffering.
So this morning there was only one thing to do. Duck for dinner tonight!
This may seem a rather violent end to a cute post about chicks, but if you could see how he treated the girls you would have chosen exactly the same outcome. It is essential as a poultry keeper to be able to thin out the males as there are always more of them than are useful. No comments please!!!

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