Friday, 29 July 2016
A baker's dozen, Hatchwatch July 2016
It's been a jolly exciting few days. The eggs in the incubator were due to hatch this week, as were the eggs under the broody hen. I've spent a lot of the week finding distractions, so that I didn't just sit on a chair in front of the incubator willing the eggs to hatch, because as we have learnt, staring at the eggs doesn't make the chicks come any faster.
We had some more topsoil delivered on Monday, so I have created the next raised bed by putting down a layer a cardboard and covering it with topsoil and compost.
Into this bed I have planted some winter squashes, which may just about have enough time to produce some small squashes to store for winter. I've also put in a few perennial herbs too.
The last of the broad beans have been harvested, blanched and frozen and the garlic has been lifted and is now ripening and drying ready to be plaited or stored in netting bags for use throughout the year. Mr J and I eat a lot of garlic, I like it roasted we so can easily use two or three bulbs of garlic a week.
On Wednesday the first little chick hatched, it was one of the Cream Legbar's eggs (crossed with the bantam cockerel that we had for a few weeks). It is tiny, a tiny little ball of fluff, it looks like a black fluffy small golf ball, but it's feisty and was ready to come out of it's little egg (and it was little in comparison to all the other eggs).
Later in the day another chick arrived. I am assuming that it is one of Jack's eggs, but we won't know until the hatch is completed and we can check which eggs have or haven't hatched. It is the colour of champagne and looks like a typical Easter chick, now we are a tad confused because we don't have a white or champagne colour hen so can only assume that it's colouring comes from the parents of the mother. Whatever the reason that it is a pale one, I am delighted because I have a preference for white birds.
Following these two hen's eggs hatching, our first duckling hatched. Mr J and I sat quietly watching it emerge from its shell. I wasn't prepared for how sweet it would be and in comparison to the chicks, it was huge!
On Wednesday afternoon we went to collect another batch of spend brewery grain and hops which I will use to create another compost heap or two. I've decided that I need to use a better mixture of green and brown materials with the spent grain to encourage faster composting, but we are struggling to find much brown material at the moment.
However in the evening we took delivery of our first load of wood chippings, hopefully it is the first of many. As a thank you to the tree surgeon who is giving us the chippings, I made up a veg box and included a few eggs, which he took with him when he left. The first pile of wood chippings included quite a lot of Leylandii, which we had discussed beforehand and I was happy to take them as they will be used on the pathways and so shouldn't be a problem for our soil and plants.
The wood chipping pile also has a large section of broadleaf tree leaves, which I was delighted to agree to having as I can use them in the compost piles and of chipped broadleaf tree branches which will be ideal to mix with the spent grain and some straw from the duck house in the compost heap.
When I got up on Thursday morning I immediately checked the incubator and was delighted that a second duckling had hatched. I went out to open up the henhouses and when I came back in another chick had hatched and by nine o'clock in the morning, another one had hatched. They were both Australorp chicks and will be companions for the one that hatched in the previous batch of eggs and is now four weeks old. I headed back outside and moved some of the wood chippings onto pathways between the vegetable beds and around the perennial border, when I came back in an hour later, chick number four had hatched.
Trying to keep busy, I bottled up the elderflower wine that we made. We now have 21 bottles of wine stored away that will be ready to drink in a few months.
As the day went on, more chicks pipped (made a small hole in the shell) which was very exciting as we were already happy to have so many healthy looking little chicks.
We finished setting up the secure pen for the ducks in the stable, complete with a heated lamp to keep them warm and got the nursery box ready for the chicks in the boot room. Late afternoon we moved the two ducklings and the oldest two chicks to their new accommodation. The little chicks immediately looked at home, snuggling under the brooder, cheeping away to each other.
The ducklings however, looked cold and forlorn, so Mr J ran to into the house and found a suitable soft toy to put in with them. Almost as soon as they had the soft toy in the pen, they ran to it and sat down beside it. Snoopy toy is offering them comfort. But they still looked cold, so I placed towels over the top ends of the pen which would stop so much heat being leeched into the atmosphere and very quickly, the ducklings started to look warmer. It's a constant learning process here and despite being able to read masses of information and watch countless videos giving me a good idea of what to do, it is only with experience that we actually learn what works and what doesn't.
So by bedtime on Thursday we had eight chicks and two ducklings. We moved the two chicks that had hatched on Wednesday to the nursery box in the boot room, which made a little more space in the incubator and overnight another Australorp chick hatched.
Friday morning (today as I type) my daughter, her partner and my two grandsons came to visit us on their way home from a few days in Mid Wales. Grandson number one was very good about being quiet and not frightening the chicks and very good at counting them in the incubator.
It was great to be able to show him a photo of the tractor that had come to deliver the wood chippings, but I suspect Mr J and I had been more excited about the tractor than he was.
After they had left, Mr J and I checked on the broody hen in her house and she had moved off the eggs to the main body of the hen house (leaving the eggs in the nesting box). Knowing that she couldn't have been off them for too long, I decided to remove them rather than let them go off and potentially cause an infection in the hen house. As we lifted one out, it cheeped! So we raced back into the house and put it into the incubator. We quickly candled the other eggs which were infertile so we disposed of those ones.
Within five minutes, the egg from the hen house had hatched. Another of the pale champagne colour, which was now the third one this colour. One in the nursery brooder box, one in the incubator and the hatched egg in the broody hen's house.
We were beginning to lose count of the chicks and it was getting too crowded in the incubator, a lesson that I have learnt for next time (to put in fewer eggs at a time if we are going to have large breed birds in there), so we took six of the Australorps out and put them into a bucket to transfer to the nursery brooder.
Didn't take them too long to settle in and find their food!
To ensure that the incubator didn't become too dry, I sprayed some warm water on to the broken eggshells which increased the humidity without getting the chicks that were still in there damp. We noticed that there were two more eggs pipping and one was looking very dry. So I took the gamble and sprayed some warm water on to that egg in the hope that this would soften the membrane that had started to dry out. And about half an hour later the 'dry' egg was broken open by a small but perfect looking Australorp. We were now up to eight chicks in the nursery brooder box, three in the incubator and one under the broody hen.
The chick in the last egg that has pipped is still struggling its way out of the shell. It is heartbreaking to see a bird that is strong enough to break through the shell then fail to actually get out. But, I have come to realise that if it is not strong enough to hatch, then it's probably not strong enough to survive.
I will update this blog as and when I have further news from the incubator.