Tuesday, 16 May 2017

FREEDOM!!!!! The trials and tribulations of poultry keeping.

Avian Flu Restrictions Lifted
The poultry are free! Restrictions are lifted. They can stretch their wings, explore, scratch around wherever they want (but NOT in my veg plot!)

The chickens helping me clean up the land, fertilising as they go.

The geese hatched their eggs with impeccable timing to tie in with the end of the avian flu restrictions. So yesterday they took their four goslings out on their first ever excursion from the stables. Four goslings from four nests is not the greatest of returns, but is completely typical of geese. They sit tight for weeks on end, only to abandon their nests as soon as the first goslings emerge, whichever nest that might be from.

Focus not sharp, but I was risking my life approaching this close!

Unfortunately two goslings were lost before they left the nest - just sad little bundles of yellow feathers left in the nest. Sadder still, one of the four which was waddling around yesterday was presumable squashed in the nest last night, so we are down to three.

And then there were three
Life expectancy for goslings is not good. In past years we have lost them to crows, in water buckets, behind piles of wood. Even with seven adults looking after three youngsters, their chances are still not good. If they can, they will find a way to expire! The strongest and luckiest survive.

The alternative would be to keep them in the stables. This would be safer for them but the practicalities of food and water would be very messy, even if it were possible for us to get into the stable without being set upon!
The only other option would be to remove them from the parents and set up an enclosure with a heat lamp in the same way that we rear the meat chickens which we hatch in the incubator.

Anyway, any geese that do make it through will be considered a bonus. In previous years we didn't really mind, but now that we have tasted one of them we are keen that some survive! I know that sounds a little harsh, but that is an inherent part of smallholding for self-sufficiency.
The geese have to earn their keep. They achieve this partly by mowing the lawns, though they do get a little messy at times, and in part with their bounty of eggs which feed us handsomely for a couple of months with quite a few left over to sell.
If we fail to rear any goslings to adulthood, I think we will buy in some geese later in the year specifically for meat.

A Disappointing Hatch
Since I've already mentioned the meat chickens, I should mention that our last incubator hatching was disastrous. Three out of sixteen eggs hatched successfully, which is a woeful percentage. Next time we'll go back to the recommended humidity level. We had upped it on the advice of others and it didn't work.
Humidity levels in the incubator are very important as it affects evaporation through the shell and the size of the air sac which develops at one end of the egg. From memory, if the air sac is too small then there won't be enough air for the chick to breathe before it can break free. Too little humidity and the shell and inner membrane can be too tough to break out of.

We are now collecting Ixworth eggs as quickly as they can lay them to get another batch going in the incubator.
The first batch of eight birds are doing well now. One developed a bad leg and couldn't stand for a while. I thought we would lose it but it seems to have made a good recovery.

Perky Turkeys
In one of the other stables, the two turkey hens still have poults to look after. Unfortunately we have lost two - all part of natural selection - but the remaining five look very strong and healthy. (But so did the other two until they went rapidly downhill).
I am just urging them to grow, for every day they survive their chances get better.

Finally there are the Muscovy duck eggs. One duck has now been sitting for 34 days. Muscovy eggs have an unusually long incubation period - 35 days. So tomorrow is D-day.
We have tried to put Elvis onto another dozen duck eggs but she does not seem so broody this year and I'm not sure she is ready to sit. Maybe she is just getting too old for all the hassle. I would far rather hatch ducklings under a bird than in an incubator as the rearing is taken care of for me and ducklings seem more hardy outside than any of the other young birds.

Egg Thief!
Finally on the subject of poultry, at this time of year our egg production always seems to plummet. I have been in the habit of finding excuses in the weather, but I have slowly come to suspect the crows which, for the last two years, have nested in the ash trees. The drop in eggs seems to be closely correlated to their nesting.
So yesterday I loosely covered the entrances to the chicken houses with grates and hey presto! Seven eggs. Crows are super intelligent and will eventually work out that the new arrangement is not a threat to them, so I will hang some old CDs over the doorways. Apparently this is an effective deterrent and doesn't bother the less intelligent chickens who just blunder straight through the obstruction.

So that's it. Successes and failures. Life and death. Smallholding in a nutshell.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave comments. They are really valued.

Looking Back - Featured post

Storm Arthur

What's been going on at Dowse Farm recently? Well, we escaped Storm Abigail, but Storm Barny swept through with gusto one night. We'...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...