Hi Folks...as promised I have got together the video of the chicks playing tag with an enormous worm. It looks really speeded up but it is actually normal speed. The chick that gets the worm at the end is a Silver Appenzeller. Note the funky hairdo.
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As promised, better late than never, I have gathered together some pictures of India and her brood. These are day old chicks. A few hours out of the incubator. India had hatched some of her own also and we "donated" a batch of 12 others so she had 14 altogether. We didnt actually think she would be able to keep that many warm, but she did. She could hardly sit down and her wings were spread out so there was plenty of room where it was nice and warm and protected.
You can see in the other pictures how many little heads pop out when they think there is food to be had. Chicks raised by a hen are much stronger and take on food and water much better than chicks who have had to work it out for themselves. They also get exposure to a less than hygienic existence. I firmly believe that for chicks to be strong and healthy they need to be exposed to bugs at an early age. Bugs but not filth I mean. It builds up their immunity and makes them more able to cope when they are older. They dont need the heat that brooder raised chicks need and they spend a great deal of time away from the warmth of the hen as they practice foraging for themselves. She will call them over when she thinks they need to try something new. If you are raising chicks this way you need to be aware that the chicks will be fair game for any birds like magpies, crows, seaguls, and raptors like hawks, falcons and owls. Your friendly neighbourhood cat or dog or a passing rat will steal them away also. A protective mother hen will protect them to the death if she needs to and she will be formidable but its best not to take the chance. The chicks will huddle under the hen all night so they need somewhere protected from the elements and predators at night too. It will give the hen a bit of relaxation time as she will feel safe and not anxious.
The chicks here are hitching a ride. They get to borrow some of the hens warmth while avoiding the log jam underneath. As the chicks grow the hen will stand more and more upright trying to cover the increasing size of the brood.
Now that winter is coming up. It arrived months ago I hear you say. It is a good time to worm your chickens so that they dont have a worm burden going into a season when they already have enough to do. They will probably be starting to moult soon and Flubenvet worming product needs to be done before the moult so that it does not damage newly produced feathers.
Our older bunch of two ducks are actually drakes as I suspected. One is a fantastic Silver Appleyard and he is huge. Much bigger than his parents. The other is a Dark Campbell, but unfortunately he ate something which didnt agree with him and he died suddenly. My other two duckies are younger and are definitely ducks (female). Drakes are very active in the romance department and are finding these two young duckies irresistable much to their disgust. They quack very loudly when the drake threatens to do the business. I have had to separate them by a low fence to keep them from being abused too much and so they feel safe until they are old enough to cope with the attention. The good thing about ducks such as Silver Appleyards or Dark Campbells is they dont fly so a low knee-high fence or temporary plastic fencing is enough to contain them into a particular area. As the weather this year has been so awful I have had to keep them off the muddier parts so they dont mess up their coop as much and it is healthier for them.
I have come to the conclusion that ducks are indeed stupid, but they are funny creatures though and just as watchable as chickens. They are apt to avoid human contact though unlike chickens, but herding them shepherd style is such fun as they all move like a little army all together all quacking loudly as they go.
Our little Poland and Appenzeller chicks are now 2 weeks old and are growing fast. They are living in a coop on our patio at home. It is completely fascinating to watch India the mother hen teaching the chicks what to eat and what to drink. When she spies a seagull or other large bird in the sky she issues a short, sharp cry which results in the scattered chicks immediately running for cover under my planters. Once she gives the all-clear the chicks come out again looking for goodies in my flower beds. The term "mother hen" is really appropriate. They are mothers in the highest degree and they have never been taught, they just know instinctively what to do.
Today I had a real giggle. India had found them a worm, a huge one, at least twice the size of the chicks and as thick as a pencil. One chick would grab it in the centre, and with the ends dragging on the ground like some weird moustache, it would run off, frantically chased by the others. Another would ambush the first chick, grab the worm and run off in the other direction, again followed by the others. Another time, two chicks would be having a tug of war at each end of the worm. This rapid game of worm tag went on for a full 20 minutes with them all in full cheep mode. It was a real delight to watch. As small as they are, they pick up their adult behaviour very early on. Once you start keeping chickens you realise just how clever they are. Not bird-brains at all.
After the atrocious weather we have been having in our wonderful summer, we have been getting ourselves together and clearing the patio out. As we were re-arranging our garden so that chickens were more weatherproof, we have been tipping loads of stuff on the patio. Its been a bit like clearing the attic, I dont know how on earth we managed to create so much junk. Little by little we have made a space now and we can actually see our beautiful cedar decking. It just needs a bit of sprucing up with a preserver and it will look as good as new. I am looking forward to having the "sun" umbrella up and drinking a little glass of chilled white wine whilst waiting for the barbecue to heat up. We have put the chicken keeping courses on hold whilst we have been doing our renovations but we will soon be raring to go again.
In the meantime we have just hatched some gorgeous little Poland chickens under our broody whose name is India (because she is an Indian Game) a bit lacking in imagination that one, but she suits it. She reminds me of a pretty little bird. She is a typical female colouration that you get in garden birds, not flamboyant like a cockerel but she is stunning as she is. She is mostly dark but she has lovely markings on her feathers which light up in the sun. She is also such a sweetie and a fantastically dedicated mother. I will put some pictures of the chicks on soon so keep looking.
My sister, whom I love very much, has told me off for awful spelling. She cannot seem to grasp that technology runs, kicking and screaming, away from me as soon as I come near. She is the one who has created these web pages. I have just learned to text. Not very well I might add. It takes me hours to do what comes naturally to her. Please stop giving me difficult tasks to do. Dumb it down. I'm not a typist. Or a good speller. Be gentle with me.
All my love
Your thoroughly exasperated sister
We have been getting into the swing of doing our Chicken Keeping courses for this year and we have to say that we have thoroughly enjoyed doing them. We have been very lucky to have picked some good weather for our dates and we have been very fortunate to have met some great people at the same time. Its a great feeling to know that we have passed on some of our enthusiasm for chicken keeping onto others. Keith is our main presenter as he is highly skilled from his years of holding seminars for the NHS. He delivers with a great mix of humour and attention to detail and I am very proud of him. I act as his sort of Debbie Magee and provider of the most delicious oven fresh scones for our Cream Teas. I have to confess that since we visited Cornwall I am also now addicted to clotted cream, so I can indulge myself whilst baking, and if I am lucky enough, there may be one left over at the end of the day so I can scoff with a guilty but very happy smile.
Our 15 week old ducks that I had high hopes would be female are not quacking, they still sound like males. I cant say I am not disappointed. One of them is a beautiful light colouration so he/she will be particularly good as a breeder. The other is more like a Dark Campbell. They are fantastic layers it has to be said. My original 2 Silver Appleyard ducks started laying just after new year and have rarely missed a day. That is a fantastic record and duck eggs are marvelously tasty.
I have two more ducklings at 7 weeks old and they are quacking so at least I have females there I think.
We have installed the pond and the new filter system created specially for us by Cougar Coatings Waste Water Division. After much deliberation and heartache we found this company and they responded to my plea to let us have a solution to our duck pond. They normally deal with industrial sized sewage plants but were very happy to answer any questions- however lame - I had about how to solve my problem. Now ducks are very messy creatures, they can turn perfectly clean fresh water into chocolate coloured muck in the space of 10 minutes. Its not their fault, its just that they dig in the soil and then they have to rinse their beaks and sinuses out and consequently all this muck ends up in the water. They shake their beaks in the water and this flicks all around the water containers and turns the surrounds into a mud bath. Great for ducks, bad for chickens. Our pond was first installed with an Oase filtral 5000, a filter/pump which comes with a clear water guarantee. Doesnt work for ducks, nice clean koi yes maybe, but ducks, definitely no. Our pond is 470 litres and this pump is capable of 5000 litres per hour. Complete rubbish. We then purchased another external filter to filter the filter. Another complete waste of money. The filters were gummed up with feathers and duck grease in a week. Dirty water continued. Most of these fancy filter systems are all designed for Koi and Koi bear no resemblance to the problems caused by ducks. We have installed our new "mini" sewage treatment plant designed by Cougar utilising a Bio-Blok and nothing more exotic than an air pump and our dirty pond is clearing in 9 days. We can nearly see to the bottom of the pond, despite the ducks dabbling in it for the whole 9 days. We added a UVC to the outflow to kill the microbes and nasties that might still exist and hey presto. Healthy water and we haven't had to clean a stinking filter out yet. If you have a pond problem and need a brilliant filter, you wont go far wrong by speaking to Cougar. I have to say to Andy Gostling and Dave Ward at Cougar, that you are my heroes. A huge thank you.
Naughty me, husband Keith has just read my blog and he has just picked holes in the fact that it seems to be me doing all the work. He is at pains to point out that he actually does the bogtrotting morning run and not me. I am too busy getting myself off to work. There we go I have put the record straight and he is actually the sainted man I live with.
Following on from our rain saga. The two holes mentioned below are now just one hole. We filled in the old one (for the old pond) and we have now discovered that the new pond hole is brim full of water. It took us a while to think it through....why did we have this much water in a hole when the garden was only 6 inches underwater, surely we hadn't had 3 feet of water in a day or so. Hmmm. It then dawned on us that the new pond was in fact acting as a soakaway for all the surrounding gardens. We had done them all a favour and drained all their lawns nicely. Ours was still a bog and sucking water out of the surroundings like there was no tomorrow. However ducks will be ducks and they love it. A natural pond. There are some unmentionable floating bits in there, but hey ducks will be ducks and they will try to eat anything that floats, grows, moves - anything. The strange thing is that although they are splashing about in a chocolate coloured "pond" they are coming out lovely and clean. Not understanding the logic there because it is definitely not happening to me! The only thing we need now is an outbreak of Cholera in the back garden to put the tin hat on it. We have the landscape that resembles a third world flood disaster. Praying for some rain free days.
Yet another gloriously wet, squalley, windy grim day. We have just bought a run for my garden girls from Gardenlife.biz which is excellent, but the garden is so wet we can't get into it to do some work. The duckies are having a ball though. There are no chickens around to bother them and the worms are turning our boggy garden ground into a duck banquet. Once the rain stops...if it ever does...we can clear the ground and put some sleepers down to act as a base for the run. It will also stop the soil that the chickens fling up when they dig from going onto my paving areas. These are not done yet so I am still doing the bogtrotting run in the morning, running round all the coops letting the girls out. The run has a full cover which can be rolled back so they can get some sun if indeed we do live on a planet which can take advantage of such a rarity. The cover will stop the rain turning their run into a quagmire on those days when they dont want to go out and get wet. Don't you think quagmire is a brilliant word? It fits what we have here at the moment perfectly.
I thought I would share a little of my misery with you all today. The weather is still fowl. We now have two massive holes in the garden. One from the old pond and one where the new pond is going. As the rain is still pouring down the garden now resembles one of those mud wrestling arena's (I would imagine). Walking past the new pond to get to the gate requires the sort of sure footedness of a mountain goat to get past it. Of course we have put the soil out of the hole into a mound beside it, but in this weather it offers no grip whatsoever. If you slip on the man-made land-slip, you end up in the large grave-like hole which beckons for the unwary. Mostly me. I am not happy. What I wouldn't give for a drought up north just at the moment. Just long enough to be able to put the garden back together.....
If you want to make any comments to cheer me up click on the comments link below.
Today the weather was fowl....excuse the pun. Really nice weather for ducks. Talking of which, we have decided that the chickens need a run which is covered by the weather. We have been plagued by mud for most of the winter and yet the poor chickens still don't seem to mind it. Our current run is just about big enough for them to shelter from the rain but when it is muddy outside we like to keep them off the mud, but what do we do? We need to get a bigger run which is covered, that we can walk into without having to bend double and stop ourselves getting lynched by the various useful hooks screwed into the roof supports. Its bad enough most times but when you suddenly get cramp in your legs, there is definitely no getting out in a hurry unless you leave clumps of hair wrapped round these useful hooks and catch the middle of your back on the door. No more mud is our aim. The bigger run ends just by the pond so this means we have to move the pond, or find some way of nimbly shimmying our way past it without falling in. This is turning into a big job. Today we decided that the next phase after shuffling the old run out of the way was to move the pond. Trying to dig a hole when the mud is sucking onto your wellies and the rain is seeping through your coat is no fun at all. We got thoroughly wet through and hours later I am still cold. The ducks loved the rain, no chickens to get in their way, and free access to all the worms that have foolishly tried to pop their heads above the soil. Tomorrow there should be a hole big enough for the pond or maybe the husband. Who knows?
I have spent the last half an hour trying to cram 40 eggs into a 20 egg incubator. These are to be the last vestiges of Blue our dear departed cockerel. He is not actually RIP but off to sunny Widnes to enjoy life with his new harem of lovely hens. As I could not find any female Australorps anywhere to join with him, he has had to make-do with a choice of 20 or so exotic ladies in our garden. He has mated with anything that moves actually and we have eggs from crosses of Australorp with Light Sussex, Brown Burford, Cotswold Legbar, Indian Game, and Welsh Black. I have gotten together all my best egg layers of the bunch and put them in a bursting incubator which is using the equivalent of the national grid in electricity trying to keep the temperature and humidity stable. This RCOM King Suro is definitely the dogs danglys. There is never a broody hen when you need one!! I am looking forward to seeing what comes out. I shall call them Legalorps, Burfalorps amongst many other silly made-up names but a little bit of Blue will certainly live on in our garden. I dont have the space that Jane does at Heswall Hills but I do love my hens.
This is a sad day, Blue our wonderful Australorp cockerel is going to a new home today. I raised him from an egg and he was the only one of a batch of 6 eggs to survive. His broody step-mother, a beautiful buff Orpington was a bit clumsy and managed to squash all the rest. Only Blue survived. He wore a blue band so I knew he was the Australorp and he was raised with a clutch of other mixed chicks at home. Blue was the most attentive of all the new chicks and we got really attached to him. If we went outside in the garden, Blue was the first one to greet you. When we talked about them, Keith my husband always used to say it is the one with the blue band, hence he got named Blue. Blue he was, and Blue he remained. He is now a huge magnificent lovable creature but his crowing is upsetting our neighbours so being a garden bird, he has been rehomed. He will be leaving today to live in Widnes with a new set of ladies to look after and it sounds lovely with a wooded area for him to roam in. The ladies here will miss him and so will I. I will try to be brave and not shed a little tear but I will fail...as I always do.
Started our worming regime today. Every 6 months a week of Flubenvet. It's a pain but it gives good results and you don't have to withdraw the eggs, which is great because if I have to tell people at work their fresh eggs aren't available I might get lynched.
Met a lovely family today. It was the mother's birthday and she was buying their first set of chickens. They had fabulous taste too. Except she didn't seem to like white chickens for some reason.
I must have one of the best jobs in the world. I meet all sorts of people, from all walks of life, but I can't say I've ever met anyone, who likes chickens, that has been unlikable.
Chicken lovers just Rock!!!!
Had a wonderful day on the small-holding today. Got most of the coups cleaned out ready for the weekend thanks to my 80 year old mother. My goodness she works like a Trojan. If I had 10 of her there's no telling what we could get done. A lovely customer came and bought 4 beautiful hens to replace the ones killed by a fox. I sent Alan my husband in with the Cotswold legbars because Charlie the cockerel can be a bit possessive of his ladies. That was an excellent choice for me because Charlie flew up and attacked Alan's head whilst the amused customer and I laughed on. Charlies looking a little worse for wear with Alan's boot printed on his arse but, as with all cockerels, was convinced of his dominance as Alan was the first to remove himself from the coup.
As I was selling my duck eggs today, I was asked by one of my lovely regular customers, "How are the duckies doing" and "What are you calling them". I replied that I didnt know but that I would like to continue on the D theme. My other ducks are called Daphne and Dilys, so these are going to be called Douglas because I think one is male and the other is possibly a female so she will be Dorothy. There .... job done.
Daphne is a lovely white Silver Appleyard and Dilys is more true to the Silver Appleyard colouring. Both lovely ducks. The drakes are not named because they might become dinner at some stage, but one is Silver Appleyard and the other is Dark Campbell.
I must say that the Silver Appleyard is a brilliant egg layer, they started laying just after Christmas and have laid almost every day since then.
Today the weather is absolutely lovely. No sign yet of the appauling weather that has been forecast by the gloom and doomers. The chicks hatched by Julie are now coming up to 6 weeks old and are taking over the patio. She has 14 and doesnt yet know whether they are male or female. They are a cross between a magnificent Australorp cockerel and either a Cotswold Legbar, a Burford Brown or a Welsh Black. Some are looking quite nice. A couple have the tell-tale crest of a Legbar but have a black mottled colouring. Lovely. The chicks are sunbathing on the patio as the sun comes round. It is fascinating the way even in such a young bird they learn all the habits of an older bird without even being near one.
Just beginning to get the hang of this blogging lark. We have 2 of the cutest little ducklings hatched this week and they are just beginning to get used to their water and where their feed is. We were told that there would be a problem with imprinting on a human if we werent careful. I wasnt careful, as I wanted a duckie to be wanting to be with me, however the duckie is not imprinted at all. In fact the duckie is frightened of me and anyone else who goes near the brooder. So much for the accepted wisdom of others. I am gutted, not even a duck loves me.
This is the first posting for Heswall Hills Henporium and is the first of many. In our blog we will be adding all sorts of up and coming news for you to see. We hope that if you enjoy what you see, you will want to contribute.
We have just started holding Chicken Keeping Courses and so far we have good feedback from those who have attended. They are held in Heswall on the Wirral and take you through all aspects of raising chickens for your garden either as pets or as a small cottage industry if you decide you want to keep more than a couple.
Heswall Hills Henporium breed chickens specifically for the home keeper and for the smallholder although they can cater for larger quantities too if required.