Sunday, 28 June 2009

Two weeks old

What a difference a week makes!

It's been a busy old week and I have been away for some of it so the chicks seem to have been growing at a most impressive rate.

Eggnog, although still the smallest, is doing extremely well and devoted to Harriet. We are dithering on what sex it is. Although Eggnog started out a boy in our minds I get the feeling that Eggnog may in fact be Tallulah! As you can see below, that chick has been eating lots!

The buff Orpington bantam has been named Stanley, as I am convinced he is indeed a male due to already visible and fast growing comb (please tell me if I am completely wrong here). Stanley is THE most independent of all the chicks and is quite happy to go off exploring the garden without mother hens in tow.

The silkie chicks - I personally think they are a definite for being named Laverne and Shirley (for those of you who remember "The Fonz" the names should be familiar ). They do everything together, are slightly dim (I think it's a silkie thing) and so hope that they are both girls as I would hate to lose either of them. Any comments back to the blog voting for Laverne and Shirley would be deeply appreciated.

Harriet with Shirley and Laverne

And then we get to the baby turkeys. What we think are the speckled Sussex are growing at an alarming rate. They are probably twice the size of Eggnog. They are always the first to the food and I am sure that at least one is a male if not both of them.

Speckled Sussex chick realising its got wings!

After the "confinement" the girls have undergone both incubating and the start of rearing, they have now had both a chance to spend some time in the "lawn run" and if we are about, free-range in the garden.

The "lawn run" was a quick internet purchase which in the guise of a guinea pig run seemed to suit the purposes of getting one of the mums and some of the chicks out onto grass and some peace from the other. However that proved to be impossible as Harriet and Ruby are joint mums so dividing them, never mind the chicks just didn't work.

The positive is that we can get all the birds out onto grass for a good scratch about and a hugely enjoyable dust bath (it's hysterical watching the chicks emulating Harriet and Ruby dust bathing, usually underneath the mums and getting kicked out on a regular basis, not that they minded) when we are not around.

Best of all is that when we are about we now let all the birds out into the garden. Still not quite confident enough to leave them alone as although Ruby as turned into a complete headcase if she thinks any of the brood are in peril I still feel a cat could take a chick. However if we are about they now all go out and love it.

Of course for ever positive there is a (slight) negative;

  • Newly seeded lawn trashed and reverted to a dust bowl within a few days
  • How quickly newly planted vegetation is removed in search of the occasional bug
  • Physalis (Cape gooseberries) were outrageously victimised and eaten without mercy
  • Borders instantly scratched out onto the paths

So bless them a couple of rules are now applied;

  • chicken training - they now move easily between the lawn run and home run
  • when free ranging, mums are not allowed on the borders
  • when free ranging, physalis is seen as a legitimate target so that is a sin they are allowed
  • Stanley does exactly as he pleases
  • can chicken herding be classified as alternative employment? I love it.

All in all, could life be any better?

Allotment update to follow as I ran out of time.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Back home

Well the good news is that Eggnog is doing great!

Eggnog munching out in the lawn run

We have just had the most wonderful weekend in Devon with our dear friends Bunty and David. They are wonderful hosts though I fear our livers may disagree.

Also visited Paignton Zoo and met up with my great colleague and friend, Curator of Birds Jo Gregson. As ever I was very impressed with the work Jo and her team are doing, especially with cassowaries - here is a picture of one that I hope will soon be at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Now that is an impressive bird!
We did take out time to visit Devonshire Traditional Breed Centre in Crediton where I acquired three hopefully fertile buff Orpington eggs.

I'm not a fan of Bramha chickens but this lot were great - full of personality
It's still a lovely collection, the chickens and grounds were a pleasure to see and as ever the staff were great (Thank you Tracey for rushing around and getting fresh Orpington eggs)

If only I had a really big garden it would be FULL of buff Orpingtons

Back home and it was a pleasure to see the mums and chicks. It's been good weather in London over the weekend so some of the plants were a bit saggy but nothing that a good water around the garden didn't cure. Rob and Isobel had done an excellent job with the chickens though Harriet and Ruby had done an excellent job at trashing the run with the chicks.

Ruby on guard

First we got all eight out of the home run and into the lawn run - of course Ruby kicked off big time when we moved her chicks but once they were out on the grass they loved it. Slight problem in that the silkie chicks walked straight through the wire (well the gaps were a bit big) so a rapid job with some smaller wire soon secured the pen for the mums and chicks.

Harriet and Eggnog in the lawn run

So how are the chicks doing?

Eggnog is doing brilliantly. I have NO idea why we are calling him "he", I really want Eggnog to be a girl so fingers crossed. Still staying close to Harriet, Eggnog is now far more visible and he eats with gusto and is becoming a little mister independent.

The two silkie chicks look gorgeous and are fast as hell, they have got the idea of catching flies, just like Harriet - is fly catching a silkie thing?

The buff Orpington bantam is growing really quickly and had the fullest crop.

Most impressive are the speckled Sussex. They have grown faster than anybody, you can see the flight feathers already starting to form on the wings. They scratch about just like the mums and with the size of them I wonder if they are indeed bantams!

It was lovely to be away but it's equally lovely to be home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Eggnog - it's a long story

Sometimes you wonder where your partner is coming from - seriously.

We have and indeed continue to worry about the little black Orpington bantam. It, although now a "he" in our minds, has ended up with the most unusual of names.

Aforesaid chick is black with small white stripes (though these have now turned yellow) so I instantly thought, in an alcoholic sense of course, that we should call him Guinness.

So innocently asking my lover what drink name did little chick inspire...........Eggnog!

"Eggnog???" I ask?

"Yes, Eggnog, what's wrong with that? Isn't it champagne and Guinness?"

Rejoice, Eggnog we love you!

Various worries - chicks not getting the idea of running up the ramp to the hut in the evening though Harriet stayed with them in the run as Ruby went to the nestbox.

Eggnog has NOT got the idea of eating and preferring to stay in the warm feathers of Harriet instead of eating however we did see him eat and drink.

Various good bits - all the other chicks are doing great and both Harriet and Ruby are doing a great job at feeding them especially as this is their first time.

Various wonderful bits - the George clan came around this evening to take over chicken and chick rearing duties over the weekend while we are away in Devon. A huge thank you to them.

There may be an update from Rob and Isobel (that would be good) however that's it now until Sunday evening

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Day 2 - The Responsibility Begins

"The official photographer writes" So, day 2 is nearly over but alas, no more little chicks. The other six eggs have not hatched and it doesn't look like they're going to either, so we can only assume for now that they are infertile or dead in the egg. We're going to give them 24 more hours and then we'll find out what's happened to them.

The Mums

HOWEVER, the little'uns we do have are absolutely wonderful, truly marvellous!!! The Buff Orpington chick seems to be developing a very brave personality....we could have another Cybil on our hands here...God help us all!

Buff Orpington - Cybil's successor??

I came home tonight and the little Black Orpington was alone outside, both Mums were inside with the other chicks so I picked it up and put it back with Ruby, then we gave them all some mini mealworms, which they LOVED....the little Buff Orpington was whizzing around eating anything and everything it could get its tiny little beak into....wonderful to watch.

Blue Silkie with the little Black Orpington

The Mums seems to be coping very well although Harriet was sitting in the main inside area without any chicks.....Ruby had them ALL underneath her......little Madam! Ruby has really taken to this like a duck to water. Its amazing that this is their first time as Mums and yet they know exactly what to do with no help from us at all. Mother Nature is truly fascinating!

Come to me my Children

The Speckled Sussex chicks are looking good and healthy and are almost as brave and confident as the Blue Silkies and the little Buff Orpington (we're going to have to watch this one methinks!!!)

One of the cheeky little Speckled Sussex chicks

Anyway, I am loving being a new 'Dad' although all this adrenalin and worry is knackering me!!!

May the joy, stress, worry and sleepless nights continue and may our little babies grow into gorgeous, lovely little you hear me??? Girls!

Monday, 15 June 2009

18.45pm and we officially have chicks!

After the cheeping of chicks this morning there had to be some more chicks when we got home and we were not disappointed. As I walked down the garden I could hear them even over the rumbles of thunder.
Ruby's nest first as she hatched the first chick. Fairly sure that the two brown ones are buff Orpington bantams, very lively and very noisy and climbing all over mum. Not sure about the other one as the writing had rubbed off the egg but its either a black Orpington bantam or speckled Sussex bantam. We think its the Orpington.

How cute are this lot. Two blue silkies and a light Sussex bantam that hatched under Harriet. Oh and she's such a lovely mum. I have to say that Ruby has turned into Mother Warrior!

"Hello world"

Of course all said all we wanted to do was watch chicks with mums but that wasn't going to happen as both girls still had three eggs to hatch and both had newly hatched chicks. Saying that both the little Orpingtons were very happy running over Ruby and the photo above shows a cheeky chick checking out the photographer.

So amidst torrential rain and thundering above we left eggs, chicks and the girls (no longer girls but the mums) safe, dry and snug in the little shed and we'll see what the morning brings.

05:45 am - Hatching news update

Went down to check how things were progressing and cheeping could be heard quite easily. A quick peek revealed that Harriet had just hatched a blue silkie chick, Ruby had at least one chick as well which had hatched sometime early as it was dry and fluffy - not sure what that one was but could have been either a light Sussex or a buff Orpington. How exciting!
Needless to say a day at work is going to pass very slowly as I can't wait to get home to see what others have hatched.
No doubt further updates when we get home later today and photographs I would imagine :)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Wot a weekend

Well the suspense has been killing us! The girls have been sitting fastidiously for the past three weeks and have just been brilliant. Every evening at 6.30pm after we have managed to struggle home through the London rush hour (and thanks Bob Crowe for the Tube strike - idiot) we gently lift Harriet and Ruby off their respective nests and eggs. If we didn't I am convinced that they would go as far as they could sitting on their clutches of eggs without food, water or exercise. Anyway they love their 25 minutes incubation break. Food, water, the biggest and smelliest chicken poo ever, a quick preen, and if they can fit it in - a dust bath, another drink and then straight back on the nest for another 23 hours and 35 minutes. Bless them.........and we have just been waiting and waiting for chicks!

It's been a great weekend. Saturday we went to the South of England Show, a huge agricultural meet-up where you can buy everything from a combine harvester to a ferret harness. Watching the cattle and other domestic stock being shown was humbling. The pride that the farmers and owners had in their animals was evident and it was great seeing them being paraded. Saying that I nearly bust a gut laughing at the youngsters trying to steer pigs around a judging ring with a board and stick - some pigs will just NOT do what you want them too!

Glad we got to the Show early as it became too busy and too crowded. The chickens (which was one of the main reasons for going) were disappointing with far fewer breeds than I have seen at other shows and the quality wasn't exactly that good either and in fact without being that rude I think Harriet our silkie would have walked it with first prize and not even a buff Sussex bantam on show (so by default Ruby was a winner). Still, a very enjoyable morning and we picked up some lovely plants for the garden at bargain prices.

Today - main event of the day was seeing "The King and I" at the Royal Albert Hall - a very generous gift from my boss for my birthday. All geared up for seeing it at 7.30 in the evening we were mortified when we got the tickets out at 3.00 in the afternoon to find it was for the 2.30 show - OH BUGGER!
Anyway -we had a good afternoon at the allotment where a spate of burglaries has scandalised the site. The worst was a poor plotholder having their entire shed stolen! I'm never going to complain about the occasional golden courgette (zucchini) disappearing again. We had some very tasty freshly harvested radish for dinner along with lamb marinaded in our own home grown herbs.

So back to chickens - and the waiting and the waiting, however this afternoon as I was putting the girls out for their daily feed and preen I heard cheeping. And it was the chicks in the eggs cheeping as they started to hatch from the eggs. John was amazed as the calling of the chicks was so clear and loud. Didn't take long for Harriet and Ruby to do their business this evening - its hatching night so tomorrow evening check to see how we and the girls did (and like there is going to be any sleep tonight).

Monday, 8 June 2009

News in early June

After the week of sunshine and very respectable temperatures we are now back into the early summer run of sunshine and showers. I think our incubating girls prefer this weather as opposed to the very hot times. Saying that, with no mud to bathe in Harriet has returned to her most white and pristine loveliest.

They are creatures of habit are our hens, as indeed we are, and get lifted gently off the eggs once a day for a good feed, drink and a very big poo (which as previously mentioned is very smelly and getting smellier as the incubation goes on it seems!). Both revel in having a good flap about, a quick preen but they are normally back on their eggs within 15 - 20 minutes.

We are getting excited now as the eggs could hatch as soon as Friday (only 5 days time). I think that we have got everything ready for the arrival(s) and needless to say no doubt lots of photos on the way.

The blue tits did very well and although we are not sure how many left the nest the parent birds still have a minimum of 6 chicks with them. The entire family are now using the bird feeder in the garden so we see them on a regular basis. The female blue tit looks as scruffy as ever - I wonder if they will do another clutch? There also seems to have been a small explosion on long-tailed tits, lots of them in the trees at the end of the garden.

Allotment and although we were a bit late in getting it sorted this year the strawberry plants have given a wonderful harvest and we are now getting to crop radish and salad leaves. The little fruit trees that we put in three years ago are doing well with apples and cherries on the trees but the Victoria plum has never done anything like producing blossom or fruit.

Finally the garden. Obviously lots of chicken poo has worked wonders and with the girls now incubating there has been a flurry of plant activity and its looking lovely. The downside is that the slug and snail populations seems to be on the increase as there are no little poultry predators to polish them off.

Next update hopefully we'll have some exciting news.............