Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Ducklings are gone!

When got home from work and let the birds out I noticed there were no ducklings. Have looked everywhere, as has mum- she's been calling and searching, but no sign, no calls, and its not as if they didn't stand out. Am gutted

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Friday, 24 August 2012

Duckling updates

I promised a few pics of the gorgeous little ducklings. SO thought I would let you know how they are all doing.

The first one I rescued and the two that I nabbed that had been hatching are happily getting around the with day old chicks in the brooder box. I sold some day old chicks last night and the lady nearly took one of the ducklings by mistake ;)

The four ducklings that Mum successfully hatched are doing really well. They have been out and about, although never far from Mum or the clucky chook who thinks she's thier auntie.
I have seen them eating, so feel alot better about that. Though I haven't seemt hem drink. MAtt did place ramps to and out of the paddling pool for them (thoughI think they are still too small, but guess that's Mum's call) and I keep taking them a shallow tray of water. Though I don't know that they are using it, or whether the rest of the flock are drinking or spilling it. 

But in checking on the duck inside the chook shed -she who has systematically discarded her eggs for the chook eggs, as they seem to lay in her nest all the time. And to collect the chook eggs from the nest beside her- as they've started laying in there, as she'd leaving her nest less and less. 
To my suprise I picked up a very light egg- it had no top! So I began scanning the shed for a duckling, trying to see in the nest by Mum... and there in the dirt at the back of the nest beside her was a little grey and yellow shape. It was cold but alive!

So this little one spent the night in the incubator (that I now need to clean out- again) and was doing well enough this morning to be introduced to the others in the brooder box.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Operation save the ducklings

Yesterday I entered the chook pen to feed the birds, only to find a small yellow and black lifeless body in the sand. But unfortnately I was too late.

We had been waiting for the ducklings to hatch, guessing that it was around 5 weeks- the ducks seem to have been nesting for ages now.

So turning to a distressed mum (as I conviscated her lifeless baby) I noticed a second lying closer to the nest. This posed more of a fight, as I had to contend with both mum and dad. But it was worth it... this one, though cold, was just about breathing.

So I put it down my top and rushed it to the house. When inside I dunked its beak in water- which swilled out alot of sand and dust. I dare say the little thing would have suffocated, before too long.
Once it had drank, I placed it and the container lid full of water in the inucbator.

I'm happy to say this little one made it out to the brooder baox last night. But I am now watching the ducks and their nests very carefully.

I managed to steal these two hatching eggs from her this morning- she was not happy with me. But I could not let them hatch whilst I was at work, just in case.
So these are currently in the incubator- hopefully hatching and drying safely!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Piggy business

Well I witnessed our boar Smokey mounting this morning. Admittedly he initially attempted to mount the head, but he eventually got there. Only it wasn't Streaky he was mounting, but our little freezer pig, due to be Christmas ham. So guess time will tell

The tanks are in, and just in time

Well this weekend the tanks were moved and reconnected, apparently just in time as Sunday evening saw the return of the of rain, with more forecast this week.

Friday morning 8 am Deon arrived with the excavator, taking a little over 2 hours to clear the area and move the tanks in position. Well we did end up pulling them back away from the shed with the car (as they were a little too close). And Matt rolled the empty one out again and climbed inside in an attempt to pop the top back out- as the excavator had pushed it in. (Some thing that’s been annoying him ever since).
Excavation begins
Matt digs for existing pipe work

We also asked that he scrape back the area carefully as the stormwater and house connections run underneath. All of which we would need to reconnect the tanks following his departure. These he did not find, even though he had cleared the area along side the shed to the depth the tanks were then submerged.

Final tank moves into position

Finding the pipes

So once the excavator and driver had left Matt began digging back along the pipes by hand. It was really surprising how deep they went! I’m afraid Matt did most of the work alone on Friday. My contributions of supervising, documenting and generally getting in the way, mostly just irritated him. My lack of assistance was not an aversion of manual labour, but that I have spent much of the weekend suffering from a cough and cold. I did manage to pass him bits and pieces in the afternoon, as he ran up and down the ladder realigning and gluing the PVC down piping in place. Reconnecting the pipe work that leads to the pump (and therefore the house). This went on until dark (which in the tropics was probably 7pm), but meant working under work lights, which didn’t make the job easier.

I did perk up a bit Saturday, and I helped test the reconnected pipe work (now that the PVC cement had, had time to cure). This involved running hose pipe to the gutters and flooding them until water run through to the tanks… This didn’t exactly go to plan. We discovered that the pipes at the front of the house filled the one tank and the back fill the other. This may seem in consequential, but the downpipes at the front are lower than those at the back. Therefore the outlet supplying the tank also needs to be lower, as water finds its own level. And if the tank outlet is too high (which at the moment it still appears to be- by centimeters) the water will drip/ flow over the downpipe and not into the tank.

It also seemed strange when nothing was flowing from the back of the house- especially as the downpipes were much higher. Matt then uncovered s leak in the downpipe at the corner of the house, a few meters off the patio. A patch that has often been damp during the wet season, but as it’s a bit of a dip, we had not really paid it much attention since we moved in. But a meter or more down was a cracked elbow joint! So the water had not been reaching the tank. So another trip to the DIY store and more PVC cement.

Ffion & Madog inspecting

Saturday afternoon was all hands on deck to shovel the remaining soil back around the tanks. Matt did admit toward the end of the day, that I was beginning to fade quickly (and didn’t want to be accused of making me work when I was sick. But finishing the job took us half and hour, although he had offered to finish the last few barrows alone- I did feel rather guilty for abandoning him the day before. And I’m sure my Nan used to swear by sweating out a cold (or something like that). Though once we were done I had a shower and went straight to bed for about 2 hours.

Sunday we reconfigured the connections to the water pump. Incorporating taps, that should allow for the tanks to be operated without the need to disconnect or connect pipe work. In other words, if Matt’s not here I could do this easily without struggling or having leaks. As some of the connections and seals are quick tricky. I also don’t think taking them on and off all the time is really any good for their lifespan.
So the tanks are in, all reconnected and we had begun running the bore into the tanks to test them… but then came the real test.
It does look as if we’ll need to drop the outlet level of the one tank a few more centimeters, as the water is sitting in the outlet and then backing up at the downpipe. But it’s pretty close.

Otherwise this weekend I sold my first dozen “fertilised eggs” to a colleague of a lady I have sold chicks to in the past (and who we bought Madog from). As they have a few broody hens. They said they would let us know how they go, as we haven’t hatched chicks out from under a chicken.
I have often wondered how people sell fertilised eggs. As how can they guarantee thy are fertilised. I know we have a working rooster (we have some hatching in the incubator right now). And the eggs were fresh, they were collected that morning and the ay before. So I hope they have some success with them.
As I just said we have a few hatching at the moment. 2 arrived Saturday, 3 more Sunday and I woke to 9 this morning, with at least half a dozen more “pipped”.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Now the work begins

Well its taken the excavator driver less than 2 hours and the tanks are in place (more or less) and the wholes on the neighbours land have been filled... now for the fun part

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

How does your garden grow?

Well I guess the question should be what does your garden grow? And where?
At the moment I have a few seedlings germinating in the shed, so far we have a few lettuce shoots, brussel sprouts, pak chi (red & green), stripy beetroot, chinese kale, thai basil. I shall be sewing some more this weekend. The last of Augusts crops- I'm trying to sew a few every 2 weeks, so we have a continuous supply. But I do get impatient and love to see plants flourish, so try to hold back.
I took a trip to Bunnings last night and picked up a new sprinkler for my veg patch (one of those oscillating ones- apparently it can cover 70m² so then I can use my soaker hoses to water the trees, along the fence line- as with the now drier weather the grass, let alone the fruit trees Iplanted are not lookign so good. 

Wom bok

I also picked up a composting bin yesterday. So hopefully we should be generating our own fertiliser/compost soon enough.  Now I don’t have the greatest amount of kitchen scraps to fill it with- as the pigs, dogs and chickens do pretty well out of these. But am sure I won’t find it hard to fill; we do have a reasonably unlimited supply of green waste and manure, along with used animal bedding (hay, sawdust, paper etc). It has bugged me in the past, as I clean the animals out that all that potential fertiliser was going to waste- since you shouldn’t place animal manure directly onto plants, as it will burn them.  
Pak choi/ Red choi

So to the garen itself, we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour.
Capsicum plant


Cos lettuce

I was really surprised to see that the Fennel seeds and beetroot has finally germinated, along with the Wom bok, Bok choi, leeks and radishes. We have some success with the one capsicum (pepper) plant and lettuce (this one has re-produced a few). Also the herbs (that should be moving to their own patch soon)- basil, coriander and parsley thriving. Fingers crossed this bay tree is doing well (this is our 3rd attempt) and the "Maltese mint" I had from my neighbour needs pruning to stop it taking over. To be honest I'm nto even sure what it is, Ihave been told by many its edible and it does smell nice. Will have to post a picture, see if anyone can identify it.

 The silverbeet has done well, as has the rocket… though I must admit, neither of us are particularly fond of it, so the pigs and bugs have had the majority of it. The bugs have mostly been munching on my cauliflower and brocolli plants! Need to keep spraying them, though am trying to use natural remedies... I may have to resort to chemicals soon, as I may lose the lot. 


Cauli plant- already munched

The Bortolli and Cherokee beans have begun to flourish and we are harvesting the last of the snow peas- am hoping to plant more of these next year.


Welsh bunching onions


From last year’s crops the Welsh bunching onions have continued to thrive right through. I would advise anyone give these a try- regardless of your garden/ pot size. As they’re great. You just pull them up, split them; taking what you want, but placing an individual onion (and root) back in the ground/ pot and it will multiply all over again. Also the tomatoes and egg plant (aubergines) have come back on their own… so should have a good supply of these soon enough.

Pigs are vandals

Well it was only the beginning of the year that we bought the pigs a new shed, and laid a concrete pad to fix it to; giving them high, dry ground in the wet season. Whilst the ground doesn’t hold the water, as I’ve seen in some areas. The clay content of the soil does mean it stays rather wet. Now first thing you have to know about pigs is that they are intelligent and curious animals- but ultimately they are vandals!

Since the sheds construction, we have had to make a few modifications- including the removal of the door and its frame, for their own safety. And a steel frame around the base to bolt the shed to. As the original anchor points had been torn through the sheeting.
The shed has been buckled and bent, but so far we had managed to straighten out most of damage. But over the last few weeks Matt had said it wouldn’t be long before we would need to cut off the bottom foot or so and drop the shed down (re bolting it)… This is the pigs most recent attempt. So guess what else we will have to get done this weekend!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Christmas dinner arrives and piggy worries

I must admit I was a little distracted this weekend and my focus was not here. As I participated in a local Triathlon; so pretty much avoided doing anything too strenuous Saturday and spent the rest of Sunday feeling sorry for myself and resting my sore muscles.

So I now have a list of jobs to do before the excavator (and driver) arrives to move the tanks on Friday! Including climbing inside the one currently lying on its side in the garden- to fit a new seal. So there will be an update on the tanks soon.  
Saturday did see the arrival of our Christmas dinner preparations. I think I can say in all honesty that I have never began planning my Christmas dinner this early before. Christmas is just over 18 weeks away (scary thought) . And turkeys are apparently table size between 20- 30 weeks.  So we bought 3, 7 week old ‘self blue’ turkeys (sometimes called lavender). They were unsexed from a local guy, though I think the one is a male- as the horn-like bit on its head is alot larger. Am yet to find out what this appendage is called- if you please enlighten me!

We have not reared turkeys before, so this should be an interesting experiment. Reading up on them, there are so many people who do this differently, and have had different experiences. I have read horror stories of aggressive males chasing people (especially women and children) or that you shouldn’t keep males with chickens, as they’ll die of exhaustion!
(Last year) I did ask my Mam to ask her friend (back in Wales) about how difficult turkeys were to rear; as she has raises turkeys every year.  And her answer was “if you can keep chickens, you can keep turkeys”.  And the family we bought them from also allow their turkeys and chickens to free range together.
I had heard these kind of scare stories about ducks and geese with chickens (and ours being Muscovy’s are a bit of both) but we have had no trouble- they “cohabitate”, and I have no intension of the turkeys being any different. Though I am away that chickens can carry some diseases that are fatal to turkeys- so will have to keep an eye out for those.

Well as it has been unseasonally cold this winter and prolonged- for the tropics. With temperatures dipping to 3 or 4 degrees over night, I made the decision to place our new arrivals in the small run and chicken coup with our month old chicks and ducks. The chicks and the turkeys are fully feathered, and our original ducklings lived outside from the day we had them (approx a week or 2 old- though it was summer). So I’ve placed the work light in the nesting box (via a timer and extension lead), so they should be more than warm enough at night.
First night we placed each bird in the nesting box, closing the sliding door- to keep them and the heat in. Hoping they would learn to roost there, as they had all huddled around the food dishes in the open run. Last night they had all had the sense to huddle inside the coup (in the light), though none had ventured into the nesting box. So I may end up moving the light under the box… But so far the birds appear to have accepted their new environment and housemates.

On the other birds, the Rhodie x's, 2 little ducklings, duckling with the bad leg and last weeks arrival; appear to be getting along fine in the brooder box.

One thing I will point out about birds sharing thier living quaters- it to clean them out regularly and change thier water daily. Alot of bird related diseases come from poop. So I treat my young ones for Coccidiosis for thier first week, even though we use medicated feed. Although this is something that really doesn't affect backyard, free range birds. As we're keeping different species together- I'd rather be safe than sorry. 

Our 4 pure Light sussex are also looking good. I am now confident we have 2 roosters and a HEN! But the other, we'll just wait to see if it starts crowing (I suspect it will).

Pig worries- we had a few concerns about our gilt Streaky. We are watching her very carefully at the moment. There were some strange noises Saturday evening and late Sunday that we eventually pin pointed to be her. It was strange as it was a low call, where pigs squeal when stressed or excited. So we had ruled them out pretty quickly.
But Sunday afternoon I heard the sounds and realised it was coming from her, as she was lying down, heaving. She and the noise stopped, she got up, look at where she had been lying down and lay back down.  So we were really confused.  We’ve both examined her and she was not too bothered (no flinching or anything that felt odd), she’s eating. She did appear out of sorts Sunday (sort of uncomfortable, but not agitated). Though this could be me seeing something that wasn’t there.  I haven’t heard her do it since and she has seemed her bright self since; happily trotting up to the fence with the other two, eagerly awaiting their food.
So whether she ate something that disagreed with her- though she hasn’t had access to anything unusual, or was just having an off day, I’m, not sure… But am watching her closely encase of any other changes. So if there are any I’ll update, but have not really had a scare about the pigs health before.  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Surprise arrival

We had quite a surprise when we heard chirping from the incubator yesterday morning... then last night this little one made itself known.

I had placed 4 eggs in total (2 had nothing in them after candling) in the incubator on 23rd (so just under 2 weeks ago).
I had retrieved these eggs from the ducks nest- under the nesting boxes, in the chicken shed. I placed them in the incubator, as I wasn’t keen to use them- as I couldn’t honestly say how long they had been there. As the mumma duck had not left here nest, whilst either of us were present for about 5 days. Not even for food.
The previous week I had managed to coax her so far out to feed, but I think she was far too aware that I was raiding her nest. So my presence even in the shed had begun to stress her. And I had taken to laying food next to the nest, to ensure she was feeding. This in itself had done little to repair our strained relationship. Something she regularly displaced, as she would nip and ‘chip’ at me if I came too close.   
So as chicks take about 21 days to hatch; though using the incubator, ours seem to be 19-21, obviously this little one had been successfully maturing under the ducks care. It will be interesting to see how far behind the other one is.

I also placed another 10 in the incubator a few days later. These should have at least another week. But who knows. Have had to mark each egg, so I know hwat is what. We usually try and hatch chicks weeks appart for ease of housing (brooder boxing). Guess we may just need a few more lights.

As we've been adding the Indian game eggs, as they've started laying (and are not notorious for their egg production or fertility rate). So guess you could say we’re just taking our chances as they come.
We'll just end up with a few more chicks at different ages, along with the ducklings. Especially since Mumma duck is still sat on 4/5 of her original clutch of 7- they instinctively reject eggs that are not progressing or fertilised, throughout nesting.
Along with about another ½ dozen chicken eggs… I just wish they’d lay in their own boxes instead of her nest.

We have a second duck nesting just outside the shed, but none of the other birds bother her and her nest.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday has been a poultry day all round.

First thing we culled and skinned the last of our “Meatbirds”. These were a replacement batch from the hatchery of specifically developed “Ross cobs” (originally a Scottish breed- though these were a New Zealand version). These birds are commercially used for “meat birds”. And whilst they fulfil their purpose (and currently stock our freezer, along with the one roasting in the oven). I have some issue with their lack of chook instincts. At 12 weeks of age these birds were probably older than any we have raised (of this breed) for the table in the past. Mostly as this time around we regularly removed the food and tried to encourage them to scratch and graze- normal chook behaviours.
As commercial poultry these birds would have access to food day and night and be kept in a lit shed, meaning they wopould quite contently sit and feed constantly. Ans as a result are ready for the supermarket shelves in 40 days- ½ the time of ours.
Although I have to be honest, whilst I am always sad to see an animal go. And I know that is what they were bred and raised for- something I reconsile myself with as I know that their life (however short) was probably better for being here. If we had of kept these monsters they would not have been long for this world and it would have been cruel- as their quality of life was dwindling and would probably have died due to the stress on their bodies from their size alone.

But these final birds does mark the beginning of our own “meat birds” (think I prefer the term “table birds”)- A cross between game and dual purpose layers. Hopefully these will be able to free range happily and hopefully be more chook-like.

Today also saw the arrival, and passing of some ducklings. The ill fated batch from the borrowed incubator. As a result this will be returning to its owners by the end of the week.
At present we have one running around contently in the brooder box with the Rhodie red crosses and the 2 w/o duckling with the bad leg. We are waiting on 3, that have pipped and unfortunately the first to pip, struggled to break free. And even with assistance it had begun to dry out, inside the egg and much of it was stuck to the egg or itself. It just didn’t have to strength to survive. So from 20, so far only 5 have had any signs of life. Maybe the settings of the incubator in those early stages were just too high and had already done the damage.

And then this weekend was the annual Sarina Show, so having dropped Rockie and Ronnie off for their Show debuts bright and early yesterday morning.

Rockie- Light Sussex

Ronnie- Indian Game

We collected them lunch time today. Both had placed (3rd & 2nd) in their respective classes. Even if I did (unintentionally) enter them both as “cocks”- so they were competing against fully fledged roosters (nothing else). As opposed to the “cockerels” that they should have been, which are birds under 12 months. The confusion lay as I understood cockerels to be a young male, as “pullets” are young females. Only once a female is laying (usually 18-22 weeks), I thought they were then “layers“ or “hens“. And by association young males become “cocks” or roosters once they are crowing and working.

But apparently not, guess as the saying goes "you learn something new everyday". So considering they were being compared to fully grown birds, they did very well. But I have to admit this is an experience neither of us are too keen to repeat. Whilst I entered them as a bit of fun, fun was the last thing it seemed for our birds. It was stressful, and clearly something they were neither used to, or comfortable with- confinement. That is without the stress caused by catching them (and to me and the scratches I sustained as a result), as well as transporting them there and back. Whilst this seems a regular thing for many of those locally who keep birds (as well as all around Oz and at home). I guess it just wasn’t for us, I’m happier watching our birds roam, and being birds.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

No fish but lovely day

Well we took the tinny for its first run. We almost landed a beautiful travelly before we'd even finished setting up the rods. Unfortunately that was to be the only bite of the day... other than that we definitely caught the sun!


Before we set off on our maiden voyage aboard Fred & Barnie (told you I wasn't sure abou the name) we dropped Rockie and Ronnie off for their show debut- Will update tomorrow on how they went.


We also had a few more arrivals. But so far 2 ducklings from the borrowed incubator, first to pip had done little more. Poor thing had dried up and was stuck to the dhell. So again broke the rules and helped with the hatching. Unfortunately no signs of anymore.
Also potted my first batch of Augusts seeds. And planted out the strawberry plants and did a little weeding- nearly pulled a few out before realising I had beetroot and fennel coming! So not weeds at all!

Poor duckling had dried up in the shell

Friday, 3 August 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Duckling update- we have an injury

The ducklings are around 2 weeks old (some hatched a few days before other- and you can’t tell which is which- so about 2 weeks). But when feeding and changing their water yesterday I noticed one shuffling a little awkwardly and then being trampled in the stampede that occurs when my hand invades their safe little box.

So further inspection, it doesn’t appear to be using the leg at all, sort of springing around on one side. But when I’ve picked it up it has some movement and grip in the foot. And moving the leg didn’t seem to bother it.
So it is currently being isolated from the potential stampedes and is imposing on the younger 4 rhodie- red x’s. Who were very tentative of their guest. Initially avoiding the duckling and huddled in a corner (away from the light), as he happily ate thier food and drunk their water. Only it then proceeded to call through the petition to the others and become quite stressed. Eventually deciding to try his luck with it’s new hosts; continually following them around the brooder box, calling, to little or no response.

So when closing up the shed last night (I took one final look) and moved the two chicks from the shadowed (and cooler) side of the box back to the warmth of the light.  This morning all 5 remained in the warmth.

So guess we’ll be keeping an eye on our injured little duckling. It appears determined and is coping (so far). I just wish I knew what it had done and how, suppose it’s just one of those things.

In other duck progress 2 of our females are attentively sat on little nests. Chirping and even nipping if we get too close, unless you are offering them grain. One is inside the hen house (under the nesting boxes) and becomes quite stressed when we try and collect the chicken eggs. Particularly as they appear to lay in her nest!

The other incubated eggs (in the friend’s borrowed incubator) are due this weekend (guess this really will be the final test). As Matt remains sceptical as to whether we will see any hatchlings, since the incubators many variants may have compromised them, and as the settings were too high it may have cooked the eggs in the early stages- so still a case of wait and see. We noticed the problem when we placed our digital thermometer on the egg trays (their raised in the box) and it read 39 degrees (point something), where the incubators own thermometer (at the base of the incubator) still only read 36. We have no idea what problems this may cause, since eggs are not supposed to be in an environment over 38.
Also in my assessment of the incubator I felt there was little head room for chicks in the hatching tray. We temporarily put the Rhode Island x chicks in there to clean out ours, and ducklings are bigger.