Saturday, 19 September 2009

More birds!

Muscovy ducklings hatched by their Mum 2 days ago.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Here we go again

Another year and more goslings, but this time they managed to do it properly!

We collected the first few eggs after our geese, Lola and Amelia, started laying in mid-February, and after that left them in the nests they had made in the frames left in their stall.

Over Easter they started sitting, and I moved a drinker near to the stall, so they wouldn't have too far to go for food or water. I wasn't overly confident that the sitting would be successful. None of last year's eggs had been fertile, and the one time I saw Amos, our gander, doing what ganders are supposed to do, he seemed to be making a fearful hash of it.

I was able, after about 2 weeks to candle 3 of the eggs whilst the geese were having a short break for food and water, and they did seem to be fertile, although as I was only using a small pocket torch, it was very hard to be sure.

The expected hatching date, 4th March, came, and although there was no sign of any goslings, Amos' behaviour changed. During the sitting, he wandered around the paddock, looking somewhat lost, and although he would hiss if I approached the stall while he was there, it was more of a greeting than a threat. However, from 4th March, he would not leave the stall, but stood guard at the door, and making serious threatening noises and moves at any approach.

Then, yesterday morning, when I opened the stall for the geese, I was sure I could hear a "peep peep peep" under the hissing of the adult birds. And when I checked later that afternoon, sure enough, there was a little bundle of yellow fluff!

I was able to get close enough this morning to count 8 goslings. They were all in Lola's nest. We still may get some from Amelia, but I suspect that either she was a less attentive sitter (and she did seem to be up and about far more than Lola), or Amos restricted his attentions to one bird.

Eight goslings is probably too many for the amount of land we have (although it would save on the lawn mowing!), and I'll probably try and sell half of them when they're a little older.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Leghorn Cockerel - 26 weeks

Ok. The plan was to put up a photo of the leghorns every week until they were grown.

Then the season started, and the B & B takes up nearly all our time during the summer - certainly not leaving time for frivolous things like photographing chickens.

But the little chick that hatched way back on 12th May has grown into such an impressive bird that I had to post a photo.

Egg production has dropped right off for the moment, but when it picks up again in the New Year we'll put this chap (we haven't worked out a name for him yet) in a run with some unrelated Leghorn hens, put 2 or 3 dozen of their eggs in one of the incubators.

We also have a Maran cockerel ( I'll have to do an item on him soon), and we'll do a similar exersise with him and the maran hens. That way we keep up the laying flock as the older birds' production falls away.

The plan is that we'll hatch out the new chicks before we need the incubators for the geese and ducks. Ideally the geese will hatch ot their own eggs.

We'll see.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Hello Rangemaster

We decided some time ago that we wanted to do something to make Welle House greener and more fuel efficient in some way. I thought of solar panels, wind turbines etc, but nothing really seemed to fit the bill (and the available funds).

I spoke to Devon Council, who are really into this stuff, and they told me that basically none of the new technology is cost effective yet and the best thing we could do (given its age) would be to change our boiler.

We then spoke to our friendly, and utterly reliable, plumber. He checked out our boiler and basically said it wasn't worth changing it. It's a very good one and has been well maintained.

What we needed to do was change the Aga. Shortly after that our oil tank went dry and we contacted our usual suppliers (and some others) who told us that it would cost about £1600 to fill it.

We went for a half tank and started using the Aga only when absolutely necessary; switching on last thing at night and switching off after breakfasts.

I became really adept at cooking eleven full englishes on two electric hobs!! Yes really! I am amazing!

Anyway, we then did the research. Logically speaking, all fuel is going to go up, but the fuel that comes from non-renewable resources has to go up more as it runs out. We don't have natural gas here anyway (which was always my favourite, but the same reasoning applies) so that basically left electricity.

We then read about "induction". Brilliant we thought! Less consumption. More efficiency. More control. And electricity can always be generated using green methods as well as fossil fuels.

So I've got a new cooker!!! A Truly Super Duper job. It's an Induction Range cooker. Rangemaster Classic 110. It's only the second time Andy and I have ever bought exactly what we wanted (on electrical type stuff) instead of going for the cheaper option - the first being our lovely big TV (which I talked him into buying), and which is still going after almost 20 years - and STILL looks good.

We've had the new cooker 1 day so far, and so far it's better than expectations.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Bye Bye Aga

When we first bought Welle House, we were thrilled to have a kitchen with a real Aga cooker. It was an old, probably 1940s solid fuel Aga, converted to oil.

We moved in just before Christmas, and coming into the kitcken with the all pervading warmth was a rreal treat.
Then we ran out of oil.

We called in the oil men, who filled our 2500 litre tank for about £700. We soon found that running our particular Aga as it was meant to be run meant about 3 tank refills a year, even when we switched it off during the quiet times.

Then came the massive rise in oil prices this spring. The tank needed filling, so I phoned our supplier. To fill the tank would have cost £1600. Three times a year, that comes to nearly £5000! Totally unsustainable.

So we made the decision - the Aga had to go. And 3 days ago, it went. It took the best part of a morning to dismantle and remove it, and for this coming weekend, when we are full up for The Animals gig at the Pig's Nose, Mo has a a two ring work top unit to work with.

But on Monday, we get a Rangemaster induction cooker. Not cheap, but the saving in oil, even with reducing oil prices, will pay for it within a year.

Photo to follow!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

More ducklings, with a hen for Mum!

Using the incubators, we have successfully hatched out 48 Muscovy ducklings this summer. 3 died in the first few days, which is a reasonable survival rate, although I hate losing any.

The photo to the left shows the first two clutches that hatched in June. The eldest of these are now 10 weeks old, and are pretty sizeable birds.

Whilst the 3rd and 4th clutches were in their respective incubators, we had one of our Marans chickens go broody.

Chickens stop laying when they go broody, and you have the alternatives of putting them in a special coop where they cannot settle (we use a cat basket) with food and water for a few days, so the broodiness stops, or using the bird's natural instincts to hatch out some chicks.

The muscovies were still laying, so as an experiment, we put 6 Muscovy eggs under the Maran in a run seperate from the other hens.

Chicken eggs normally incubate for 21 days before hatching, whereas Muscovies take 35 days, so it was a big ask of the hen, but she stuck to the task diligently, and this weekend hatched out 4 ducklings. One died shortly after hatching, but the other 3 are doing well, and Mum had them out in the run two days after hatching. They could not be more adorable.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Now we have ducklings!

The four birds on the right are Samson, Thelma, Louise and Delilah, our Muscovy
Ducks. Unlike "regular" domestic ducks, they are not descended from mallards.

The wattling around the face, more noticeable in the drake, is an obvious
physical difference. The don't quack like mallard type ducks. The drakes are virtually mute, making no more than a hissing sound, and the ducks make various pipping noises.

Their eggs take 35 days to incubate, unlike other ducks which take 28 (
see entries about Wee Curly elsewhere in this blog), and the offspring of a
muscovy/mallard cross will be infertile.

We put 2 dozen of their eggs in the incubator 6 weeks ago. We know they are true Muscovies, as we have all parents, so we knew it was going to be a long incubation (5 weeks).

The first hatched out 2 days early, and the last 2 days late. A few started, but never made it out. I suspect I had the humidity in the incubator too low (60%).

The small incubator has another 8 eggs due a week later (tomorrow!), and I have the humidity up at 74%. We'll see if that produces better results.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Leghorn Chicks - Cock & Hen - 5 weeks

The chicks are looking more like hens now.

For the next few weeks, the only real changes will be in size, although as can be seen from the photo of the male, they are now learning to perch.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Leghorn chicks at 4 weeks - Cock & Hen

Changes are more subtle now. The birds are slightly larger, the feathering to the head is now complete, and comb and wattles are more developed in the first bird shown.

This is the same bird as that shown at 3 weeks. Given the difference in "head furniture" between the two birds, I am assuming that the first is male and the second female.

A yellow band can be seen on the leg of the second bird. I ring all birds at about this age (when the rings won't fall off), so that I can track which hatching a bird came from, once they have been introduced into the main flock.

The weather is very warm now, and the chicks no longer need to be under a heat lamp, even at night. They are getting bigger also, and I have moved them from the (now crowded) brooding pen into a larger stall.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Lola's goslings aged 3 weeks

After 3 weeks , the goslings are thriving.

They have been out on the grass every day with the adults and are now 3 times their original size.

Experience over the last 3 years tells us that fairly soon they will start looking scruffy, before the feathers start to develop.

Because we didn't breed these birds, we don't have any real idea what their final colouring will be.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Leghorn chick - 3 weeks old

At 3 weeks, the chick appears almost entirely feathered.

There are bare areas on the sides of the bird where the down has gone but the feathers have not yet appeared, and the head is still largely covered with down.

The comb has started to develop colour, and overall the bird is beginning to look more like a hen than a chick.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Scenes from Prawle Fair 2008

Every late May Bank holiday weekend, a village fair is held on the green here in East Prawle, with funds raised going to the upkeep and maintenance of the Community Hall.

It is a fun, traditional country fair, and here are some pictures (none great art, I know) from the fair held last Sunday, 25th May.

Hogwash provided traditional music throughout the afternoon.

The BBQ did a roaring trade.

Old and young alike enjoyed boat rides around the village.

Finding a bargain on the toy stall.

The traditional swingboats are always a favourite.

Enjoying the sunshine amongst the frivolity!

A pint on a stick!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Another week, and a lot less fluffy

Now the wings and tail feathers are well developed (the chicks can now fly a little), and the fluff on the body and head is giving way to the beginning of feathers.

The beak is growing, and the chick is about twice the size it was when it hatched.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Fluffy one week on

I can't be sure this is the same chick I photographed last week, but all the Leghorn chicks look virtually identical.

As predicted, the feathers on the wings are much more developed, and tail feathers have started to show, although they are difficult to make out in this shot.

In another week, the chicks will be slightly less "cute", as they start to loose their body down, and feathers start to show on the back.