Monday, 11 February 2013

Flock Update- 9 down, 2 up plus a few eggs on the go

Friday and Saturday was successful in ‘downsizing’ of the flock. We sold six Muscovy hens to a lady who had travelled over 120km (approx 75 miles) for them- this included 3 of our original girls and 3 youngsters. I was very apprehensive about letting our proven Mums go, particularly the coloured ones. Though we kept our Merle girl and a white hen, I just have to be happy in the knowledge the other 3 girls were going to a great home, with acres to roam and graze and their own dam!
They must be happy there,as the lady sent me a photo of them swimming in a paddling pool in the “quarantine pen” (always a good idea, though am sure not necessary with our girls- but I do the same, you can never be too careful)and another of an egg. We had been getting an egg a day, and duck will not lay, if they do not feel safe and happy.
Mammoth Muscovy approx 2months old
Friday evening we did take a backwards step in our ‘downsizing’, though really I didn’t mind. As we bought 2 Mammoth Muscovy hens. Matt has had his eye on these giant versions of the breed since we saw a Mammoth drake at the local show last year. But I guess we sold more girls than intended, so a new bloodline was a welcome and we could afford to home a few more. These girls are younger than our own, though they were almost or as large already. So I guess we will keep you updated on the differences.
Mammoth Muscovy approx 3months old
Saturday another 3 made their way to a new home. This one wasn’t so far, but 2 girls and a drake were on their way to their new family; leaving us with just one boy to go.
We also added a few more Indian Game eggs and some Indian Game crossed Old English game (cross) to the incubator. It has already been running for a week and a half; these we candled at the weekend and only a few were inactive or appeared to have not developed any further; So fingers crossed for future Indian Game and meat bird flock. As, as my Bamp (grandfather) used to say ‘don’t count your chickens, before they hatched’.
Adding to the incubator at the moment is probably a little presumptuous of us. As we are going to have to rely on our house sitter to continue to turn the eggs and monitor the water levels in our absence. However you have to take advantage of Indian Game’s laying, as they are not very productive birds, and tend to go through laying frenzies and then months of nothing.

For not so attractive birds, they lay very pretty eggs

In Turkey news, we had another 2 eggs from our new arrivals this week; though they are yet to nest in a suitable location. This week’s first, as with last week’s, was laid in the open run. The second in the hens nesting box! Had they laid in the nesting boxes in the large silver poultry shed I’d have left them there. But I still cannot quite understand how the turkey even made into the small hen hutch, let alone laid an egg in the nesting box at the back! Leaving her nest there would stress and inconvenience the chickens too much.  So I have taken the eggs and placed them in the incubator with the other eggs... so fingers crossed.

Speaking of new arrivals, I also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce our very friendly and photogenic roo; who is yet t be named.
He is still pretty young, however he is very inquisitive. And I think as he was raised by a family with very ‘hands on’ children, he is very used to being handled; something I have been going out of my way to encourage and reward. He was been very responsive to bribery in the form of chicken pellets, though he has not had any trouble claiming his share in the pen.

Reclaiming veggie patch... but burned in the process

So this morning I am very sore and very uncomfortable... I am ridiculously sun burned. And yes I know it was cloudy, so I covered up, with t-shirt t, ¾ jeans and a hat, applied sunscreen before heading out, and once during the day. Cleary this was not enough as now I can hold my head with pride that my veggie patch, especially my vine garden actually resembles a well cared for, productive veggie patch. I can also say today I can barely even sit, lie down or move. As whilst I gallantly tackled my rainforest of a veggie patch, which was pretty much cultivating grass! Much to the pleasure of the pigs and birds, who benefited from the gardens invasion; or stripped invader.

Today however, I am afraid, holding my head up, involves standing up right, which also hurts! I am not expecting any sympathy, the complete opposite. I am sure many of us have been there, at one time or another.. and we all know how stupid it is. But it just goes to show how strong the UV is in this part of the world... even when over cast. And even those who are generally conscientious about being sun smart can get caught out.
Back to the plants; to my amazement the eggplant (aubergine) plants had thrived in amongst the thick grass.  I guess these hardy plants, that thrive in the tropical humidity were able to grow strong and tall, and with nobody picking their fruit continued to propagate new plants.
My tomatoes did not fare so well. But with a number of fallen fruit in the soil, I am sure these will flourish now they have the space to do so.
What hasn’t done so well since I cleared the raised beds last week is my capsicum (pepper) plant. I am hoping some plant food and mulch over the coming week will help it recover. Other than that I have a few capsicums (peppers) in the fridge that are a little over. I have held onto them, as I want to keep and dry the seeds, for future plantings.  
I hope to begin sowing seeds again after our interstate trip. As I can’t expect a house/animal sitter to look after my veggies too. But I do want to get the existing garden in top shape, so it also doesn’t need a lot of TLC in our absence. But I don’t want to have to put our garden on hold either, after all its just a few days.

So this week I have a few things still to plant out from the plants I bought last week; a punnet of zucchini and a punnet of cucumbers, which require construction of a new frame to climb. Along with a few cuts of 2 sweet potatoes that I got from a friend, that had begun sprouting. I intend to cut sections around the shoots and plant these in the lower part of the vine garden. Just goes to show, there are alot of fruit/ veggies out there that are in your cupboards/ fridge that will propagate and produce more.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Operation save Streaky's bacon... and freedom for the little fella

Well not exactly to plan, as Streaky is in the pen .

Saving Streaky's bacon
But as we let the little fella out, or more to the point he let himself out, with some assistance from the other pigs Saturday morning. Given it had been the plan to let him out Friday evening (hence why Matt had cut the wires holding the pen closed). The plan was to encourage Smokey (our bore) in, and keep him there for a few days- til Streaky comes into season. (As we think she should be due in the middle of the week), Valentine’s day to be exact... so maybe 'absence can make the heart grow stronger'... for her sake.

This plan however was not happening, and an opportunity came up. As Streaky happily obliged, taking Smokey's bait.
Guess the result us the same...Hopefully separating them before she's due in season may increase interest for when she does.
Fingers crossed as thus is her last hope... or she will be for the freezer.
In fairness she has been rather calm about the whole thing, with the exception of feeding time. She gets especially vocal and anxious, until she realises she's getting her own supply that the others can not have any of.
Guess its for her own benefit in the long run, or as Matt reminds me, "she would make awesome hams". A really I understand when rearing pigs. But the plan was the breeders were to be pets.

Saturday in the Sun

As for Berky, he had a ball! I was a little concerned that he maybe small enough to fit under then fencing; and whilst he has exploited the boundary for snuffling. So he already understands what the electric fence is and what it does. But generally he hasn't ventured far from Mum. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Chicken Day

Our dog’s love chicken day...

Nothing goes to waste on 'Chicken day'

Matt and I however have mixed feelings about it. This time being more sombre than usual, but we do enjoy the rewards at the end. As 'Chicken-day' is generally as weekend day event, and depending on the numbers can be a few hours. It is something we often (as this time) do on a Sunday, so Sunday dinner tends to be chicken... fresh, free range chicken.

Indian Game dressed out- Sunday Dinner

As part of rearing chickens, we end up with a number of roosters. So when we began incubating we decided we would keep a few hens for our own stock, sell what we could and the remaining (likely to be roosters) would be for meat consumption. At the end of the day we eat meat, chicken being a regular food source for us , as many households. So it was a process, part of this lifestyle.
Now we have raised a number of birds for food now, and this was no exception. We had the remaining 2 Indian Game roosters and 2 ‘returned’ Rhode Island Red crosses. These we have had since before Christmas and have joked they were ‘Red Roosters’. Which if you have ever been to Australia  would know is a fast food restaurant, specialising in roast chicken. These guys were the product of the eggs we hatched for our friends. Many of the roosters either didn’t sell or out of the giveaways, some were returned. And these 2 made it back to us.
Now neither of us take pleasure in the process, and I have been asked many times “how can you do it?” But the reality is, if we don’t eat our birds, we’re eating someone else’s, and at least we know how these lived. Besides once you’ve killed the bird, you can’t take it back. So you just get on with it, and do it justice. Or it was all for nothing.

This time however our “downsizing” involved the culling of a few hens that are no longer laying; our ‘spent hens’.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have a few pet hens already and they will stay and live out their days; as we have always been more emotionally involved with our original suburban flock. We did however make this decision prior to purchasing our next batch of layers. As a perpetual cycle of replenishing layers and keeping our older birds would be expensive (which isn’t everything), but would also limit our numbers, due to being able to offer the birds space. And in the long run, would affect their quality of life.    

Indian Game

Rhode Island Red cross

RIRx leg meat

So first we processed the Indian Game’s were at least 6 weeks younger than the RIRx’s and substantially smaller in stature, yet the Indian games had far more meat on them and we were surprised by how white the meat was, as we were expecting it to be more of a ‘game bird’. But we were especially surprised by how lean it was- not that was such an issue for us, given we skin our birds anyway, but anyone else out there considering a ‘meat bird’ I would highly recommend these.

Leg & breast v feathers

The RIRx’s on the other hand we all feathers. We actually removed the legs and breast meat, then stripped the remaining skin so that we could utilise the carcasses as bait for crabbing. Felt like the most efficient use of the bird. As I would not recommend rearing Rhodies for meat, which is hard when breeding produces so many roosters.

We used this process for the ‘spent hens’ too. As whilst many will tell you older birds are stingy or tough, I couldn’t in good conscience just kill them because they had surpassed their use.  So I boned out the legs and last night I made a very large, very tasty chicken and vegetable pie. I will admit, I think to cook older bird meat you do need to cook the meat slower. So crock-pot meals, pies or curries would be ideal.  

Left over 'Spent- hen pie' for lunch

Pigs, Roosters, Chicken day... what a weekend

What a busy weekend! Highs, lows and everything in between.
From the intended downsizing of our flock, resulting in a tasty chicken dinner Sunday night, but I will come back to “Chicken Day” separately.   We did also have a few unintended losses, but on the whole the weekend was productive.

Firstly, on the piggy front. Our “Berky” is doing really well. So Friday we separated him from Mum, to the relief of Mum. Berky has been reasonably calm during the process, though he has been following Mum from inside the pen as best he can. I am looking forward to being able to reunite them next week. I am hoping this is long enough and that he is big enough. As we intend to swap the bore over- so Smokey is to be penned for a few days, so Berky can settle a bit. And hopefully his separation will increase his interest in our other girl, who is due for season in the following few days.


Absencemakes the heart grow fonder...
as the case may be. I just think the familiarity between the two and her dominance over him appears to be interfering with our Berkshire breeding. So I guess this is my last attempt to save Streaky’s bacon! As after this, I (or she) is running out of options.
Mum enjoying her freedom
Given the success of our first litter I have updated our Pig page. I have also updated our bird related pages. So whilst I have left a ‘Poultry’ page, it is mainly in reference to how our flock expanded and generally how to get started. You may notice that there is now a Chicken, Duck, Goose and Turkey page. This seemed a little more appropriate to address the individual bird species, as our flock has
now expanded... again. Somehow, poultry seemed a little general, and the page would have gone on and on, if I had discussed our progression into each species and our intentions/ aspirations for each.

So back to  the past weekend, Friday was also the day we lost our resident Sussex rooster “Rocky”. Now in the grand scheme, Rocky was not in the list or downsizing; but vital to retain for future restocking and production... and he was more of a pet.
Unfortunately we don’t know what was wrong with him as such. He hadn’t really been himself for a few weeks; looking dirty and a little soggy. Pretty much since our first round of rain a few weeks back. But we mostly put this down to the lack of dry areas for him to dust bath. Though the girls all looked perfectly clean, though they sleep inside the hutches and sheds where Rocky roosts outside the door- almost like a guard, but asleep on duty!
Then in the week although he was still first to the gate and eating well, but he looked a little unsteady on his feet, and not quite his assertive self. So we separated him. Tried worming, just in case; though the flock had, had their water treated not that long ago. We tried sprays for respiratory infections, anything and everything we could. But he deteriorated and finally gave up, with us there Friday afternoon.
So Sunday afternoon; against the trend, we collected a young bird from another bloodline that we had enquired about over the weekend. A little quick I guess, but at the moment he is a nice looking bird. Not “working” as yet, but appears to be settling in with the hens far easier than Rocky did- at least they are letting him eat! So I haven’t had to stand guard and protect this one. So hopefully by the time he is ready, so will we be.
Sunday was also a tidy up day and rearranging of a few things.  
The reduced size Indian games and honorary member (our Old English Game cross hen- thinking a cross may produce meat birds? Either way she’s a better layer) moved into the small poultry shed, with the addition of the enclosed run (more for the OEG cross). This we placed on the currently empty (well weed ridden) raised garden bed.... this is my idea of weeding and fertilising!
This freed up the small hutch, so our young chicks that we incubated and hatched for my nephew moved from the brooder box to the small hutch outside.
So with the brooder box vacant we tidied the shed and yard... Which any shed owner would understand is not a small task.

As well as making headway with the garden, pruning the various fruit trees that we had planted last year- the surviving ones are flourishing. As is the grass, so we mowed- yet again! And made a start by clearing the veg patch, ready for replanting.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Update to poultry page coming soon... due to planned and unplanned changes

I have been meaning to update our Poultry page for a while now. As we have a few new additions- geese we've had for a few months. And now we have some permenant turkeys. These being permenant, as we are hoping to breed them, following our success with rearing a few for Christmas dinner, last year.
But thought I'd post today, as yesterday we lost Rocky (our resident Light Sussex rooster). He came to us, a little over a year ago. As friends had hatched a few and he was displaying domenance... something he took time to display amoungst our established flock.
We wish we knew what was wrogn with him, but he begun looking dirty and scraggly after the resent rain and never quite recovered. We seperated him earlier in the week as he had become unsteady on his feet, and had began losing some weight. Unfortunatley he battled all week; and we treated him for worms and anything else we could think of, but he gave up his fight yesterday afternoon.
I know he wasn't a favourite amoungst everyone- as with all rooster, he protected his girls. And occationally he would challenge me; resulting in his hatred of blue buckets! And my needing a new feed bucket. But in all honestly he was a gorgeous looking boy and gentle with the girls. And I having stood guard over him for the first few weeks, so that he could eat, was quite attached to him, so am very sorry to have lost him. But I guess that's rearing livestock.