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.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Whatever happened to Lola?

Back on 27th April, I said that I wasn't hopeful for the clutch of eggs being sat on by one of our West of England geese, Lola.

At that stage she had been on the for 31 days. The normal incubation period for geese is 28 to 31 days, and there was no sign of anything happening, although it was difficult to be certain, as she was very defensive of her nest.

I left her on them for another 4 days, but when there was still no sign of any goslings, I armed myself with a dustbin lid, and removed the eggs from the nest. Although Lola was getting off the nest for short periods to eat and drink, I did not want her sitting indefinitely. Besides, assuming the eggs were infertile, they were likely to start going off!.

Meanwhile, I had taken the eggs laid by our other West of England, Amelia, and had six of them in our small incubator. Amelia continued to lay, and I put her later eggs into a nest I had made in their stall, in the hope that she might sit. No such luck. As soon as I had removed Lola's eggs, Lola moved herself onto this new nest, and sat there prepared to wait another 4 weeks. She really did want goslings!

We had timed the incubator for a hatch one week after our return from the Scilly Isles. Candling before we left had been inconclusive, but after our return it was clear that these eggs too were infertile. It would appear that Amos, our gander, was not performing, and the likelihood was that Lola's new clutch would also come to nothing.

So, yesterday I phoned around a few breeders and suppliers I know, and by good fortune found that one was at market, and was expected back at around 3 pm, probably with some goslings. We arrived there at 2 minutes past 3, just as he had unpacked a number of goslings and ducklings, including 6 day old goslings. We bought all 6, and rushed them home, where we put them in with the chicks that had hatched out over the weekend.

Then, once it had started to get dark, and the birds were settling down for night, we took the goslings up to the goose stall, and I gently placed them into Lola's nest. Mo & I watched anxiously, in case the geese attacked the youngsters as unwelcome intruders, but all 3 examined them with incredible gentleness.

I removed the eggs from the nest and put them in the incubator (I'll candle them this weekend), and left them to it.

And when I went out to check on the birds this afternoon, there was Lola, out behind her stall, carefully watching over her babies, and feeling very pleased with herself for at last managing to hatch them out! ( I don't think I'll tell her the truth, she probably wouldn't believe me).

Early Purple Orchid - A Regular Visitor

We look forward every year to the return for the summer of the swifts, swallows and martins, the latter of which have a number of nests under the soffits around Welle House.

But here is a here is another harbinger of summer, who never really goes away.

During our first spring here in East Prawle, when cutting the grass for our self catering accommodation, I came across an orchid growing near to the northern wall. I carefully cut around it, and it stayed with us for about 10 weeks.

The following year, we had forgotten all about it until, in mid-April, there it was again, in exactly the same spot (unsurprisingly). And again last year. So that this year, along with the return of the birds from North Africa, we eagerly awaited the reappearance of this beautiful flower, and it did not disappoint.

There is a bank on the lane that approaches Stokenham, about 4 miles from here, that has a profusion of these, but this one shows no sign of spreading. Nonetheless, we feel privileged to have this one.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A surprise newcomer.

Mo is a keen gardener, and when it comes to rabbits in the veggie patch, she takes the same view as Beatrix Potter's Mr McGregor - put them in a pie!

But we couldn't do that to this little chap. I was moving a pallet we use as a gate, so I could get through to cut the lawn for the self-catering accommodation, when there was a flash of white.

I followed it onto the guest patio, and there was a tiny albino rabbit, trying to hide in a corner. He seems to have been driven out by his more conventionally coloured family. There is no way he would survive in the wild - if our cat didn't find him, the fox that patrols our garden every night certainly would.

We have an old rabbit hutch that we originally bought for broody hens, so I dusted it off, bought some hay and rabbit treats (dried artichoke leaves) and put him in there with a saucer of water.

I would love to keep him, but Mo doesn't (worried about the veggie patch), so feelers are being put out to local families with small children.

Monday, 12 May 2008

And here's Fluffy!

One day old, and straight off a chocolate box!

If you look at the photo closely, you can just make out the beginning of feathers on the end of the wing.

In a week's time, that feathering will be much more pronounced, and tail feathers (and possibly back feathers) will also have started.

BTW, the eggs and birds in this little series have switched between dark and light. I put two types of egg in the incubator, Leghorn (which lay pure white eggs, and in the variety I have are pure white feathered) and Marans (which lay dark brown eggs, and will end up black and white mottled - or "cuckoo").

Out at last!

After hours and hours of struggle, the tiny chick at last manages to push away the top of the shell, and with a twist of its body, emerges to start it's like.

It is still wet at this stage, and very exhausted. I leave it in the incubator until it is dry and fluffy, before transferring it to a brooder pen under a heat lamp.

It carries sufficient reserves from the yolk within the body to sustain it for 24 hours or more, so there is no need for food or water within the incubator, but the brooder has a feeder full of chick crumbs, and a drinker kept full of fressh clean water.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Ready to hatch

Most of the work has been done now.

The top of the shell has been separated. One more push, and the chick will hatch.

Half way to hatching

Here, the chick has been working slowly around the shell, and is about an hour away from removing the top section, enabling it to extricate itself.

It can take 24 hours or more from the first pip to hatching, and the chick will emerge wet and exhausted.

Friday, 9 May 2008

First pip.

This photo shows one of the eggs in the incubator which has just started the hatching process.

The build up of CO2 in the egg has caused the chick inside to jerk its head involuntarily.

At this stage, the beak has a small hard protuberance, known as an egg tooth, on the tip, which initially breaks into the air sac in the round end of the egg, and later to start breaking the shell. This is known as "pipping".

The chick develops in the egg curled up, and as the hatching process develops, it slowly unwinds, and makes a series of "pips", eventually breaking away the blunt end completely (a bit like a soft boiled egg!), enabling the chick to hatch.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

More Egg Candling

Here's another photo of a candled egg, taken last night.

Where the last photo showed a system of veins, with the heart showing as a dark spot, here the whole top end of the egg is dark, where it is occupied by the now nearly fully developed chick.

Over the next few days, it will continue to develop, and as it does, there will be a gradual build up of CO2 inside the egg.

When this reaches a certain level, it will cause an involuntary jerk from the chick's head, which in turn will cause the beak to make a small hole in the shell, starting the hatching process.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The adventures of my son and the Salcombe 'C' Crew at the 2008 World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Egg candling

This is a photograph I took last night of one of about 30 eggs I have in our big incubator. The egg is being held blunt end to a powerful light source, so that I can see what is happening inside.

It's not a particularly good photo, being taken with my mobile phone, but it is possible to make out blood vessels around the shell, and a dark area towards the top right, which is the heart.

I'll try and get more photos as the incubation progresses, to show how the chick embryo develops in the egg.

Lola's eggs haven't hatched yet. She's been on the nest for 31 days now. They should hatch after 28 days, so I'm not hopeful, but I'll leave her there for a little while yet, just in case.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Miracle birds

As planned, I put 40 Leghorn eggs in our big incubator in early March. All went well. After 10 days we candled them (held a bright light to the blunt end in a darkened room). In 30 of them, a system of veins and a small heart could be seen, indicating that they were fertile.

The 10 infertile eggs were discarded, and incubation continued.

Then we had severe gales, and a 3 hour power cut. We moved the incubator onto the Aga to try and maintain temperature, but that is far from ideal.

After 18 days incubation (3 days before the due hatch date), we candled them again. The results were very varied. Some eggs had hardly moved on at all, and in a large number there were large dark areas inside, showing that the chicks had developed, but not as much as we would have expected, One of them was almost entirely dark, but our fear was that the power cut had completely scuppered the incubation.

The due hatch date came and went without any chicks, and we were sure that our fears were correct. Then, the following morning, when I went to check, there was a little damp newly hatched chick.

Normally, we move chicks to a brooding pen under a heat lamp, but just one? It was upset enough on its own in a supermarket basket in our airing cupboard - putting it in an outhouse would have been like torture. So, our bed & breakfast guests had trier breakfasts to the accompaniment of assorted cheeps and chirrups from the airing cupboard.

That wasn't going to continue forever, however, and we were not looking forward to the time we would have to move it out to the brooder on it's own. Then two days later, when I went out to turn off the incubator, lo and behold, there was a second chick! It is very hard work for these little creatures to break free from their shells, and it can take some time, but this was 72 hours after the due hatch date!

It is now 1 ½ weeks since the first chick hatched, and I moved them to the brooder yesterday (the eldest had managed to jump out of its basket - fortunately Mo spotted it). I am hopeful that both will develop into productive birds. If either (or both) turn out to be cockerels, we will try and find new homes for it, rather than cull it. After hatching out against the odds, they deserve all the life they can have.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Lola's moved her nest, and she ain't shifting!

Well, I said I'd wait until I had the goose eggs in the incubator before I encouraged Lola to to use a nest in her stall. Turns out she needs no encouragement, and that she was not prepared to wait.

When I went to let her out yesterday morning, she was sat firmly on a nest she had made out of her own bedding straw and feathers, and she was not coming out. I left her to it, having made sure she was secure and had fresh water.

I checked on her at midday, and she was still there. What's more, Amelia had also laid an egg, although she doesn't seem to have the same nesting instinct, and her egg had been left in the middle of the floor.

Taking my life in my hands, I walked very slowly into the stall, picked up Amelia's egg, and then moved even more slowly and cautiously towards Lola's nest, and very gently placed the egg in the nest. Lola hissed, shifted a wing, and rolled the egg in next to the other.

Encouraged by my success, I collect two eggs from those I had been setting aside for the incubator, and succeeded in persuading her to adopt these as well.

We had a squally and windy day today, but Lola has only left the nest 2 or 3 times for water. All the signs are that she'll stick out the (28 day) course.

There's no guarantee that any of the 4 eggs she's sitting on are fertile, but fingers crossed. A mother goose with her offspring would be such a thrill.

Friday, 7 March 2008

A Nest in the Veggie Patch

This is Lola, one of our two West of England Geese. She started laying in Mid-February, usually in her stall before I release her in the morning, but she has now made herself a proper nest, in a corner of our vegetable garden.

Her chosen spot is in an area which had become somewhat overgrown last Autumn. Mo had killed the grass which had grown up, and the next step would have been to clear the dead grass away, preparatory to tilling the ground ready for planting.

But Lola thinks all that dead grass is perfect for a nest. What's more, we have wind break netting along the side of the plot, so she's nice and sheltered from the prevailing westerlies.

When she's laid her egg (and she lays one once every other day), she spends half an hour or so carefully covering it with more dead grass, before wandering off to join Amelia, our other West of England, and Amos, our gander.

It would be nice to leave the eggs there, and let her sit on them when she feels she has a big enough clutch. But we get foxes in our garden every night, and she would be killed for certain if we didn't put her away in her stall every night.

I'll be putting 40 odd Leghorn eggs in the incubator on Monday, and after they hatch at the beginning of April, I'll put a clutch of Lola's and Amelia's eggs in. Once those eggs are in the incubator, I'll try and encourage Lola to use a nest I've built for her in her stall. If she does, I'll leave the eggs there and see if she will hatch them out.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

FIRE!!! (or not)

Tongues will definitely be wagging in East Prawle!

A little while ago Mo lit our wood-burner, and after it had been burning for a while, was alarmed to hear crackling from the chimney. With help from our son (I was delivering my daughter back to University after a weekend at home) the fire in the grate was doused.

The next day, I was sent up onto the roof to brush out the chimney. Virtually nothing came down, so the next task was to get a chimney cleaning log. This was duly used, and over the course of the next few days, fires were lit without incident.

However, two nights ago, after lighting the fire, Mo again heard suspicious noises from the flue. I was not convinced we had a chimney fire, but better safe than sorry, and the fire was doused.

This evening, Mo was wanting to light the fire, but nervous to do so. Then, a brilliant idea. She phoned the Help & Advice line for Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue. She explained the problem, and the operator said that they would send someone round to check the chimney out.

Gratitude was expressed, and we got on with our evening. Until 15 minutes later, when two, count them, two fully manned fire engines turned up, sirens blaring, virtually doubling the population of the village in one fell swoop!

Within minutes, the phone was ringing. "Is everything all right?". Explanations were given, but our legs are bound to be pulled next time we show our faces in the pubs.

Anyway, after a thorough visual and CCTV examination, our chimney has been given a clean bill of health. We will be lighting a fire in a ½ hour or so. If I don't post anything in the next 2 weeks, fear the worst!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A new dog

We always like to have 2 dogs, 4 or 5 years apart in age, mainly for company for each other, but also so that, when one dies, it is easier emotionally getting another. With only one dog, it would feel like replacing him or her, which cannot be done.

This would have been particularly the case with Meg, who died last week after 12 years as a member of the family. We knew she was fading, and had already been around the local rescue centres. The difficulty was that we have a cat, and the Rescue centres will not rehome stray dogs, for whom they have no history, into households with cats, in case there a conflict such that the dog has to go through the trauma of being taken back to the centre.

However, one of the centres, Gables Farm Dogs' & Cats' Home also keep a list of owners who need to rehome their dog for various reasons, and they gave us details of Becky, a 4 year old Standard Poodle. Her owner was no longer young, and had recently moved into a mobile home park, and was no longer able to give Becky the exercise she required.

We were originally looking for a German Shepherd, having lost a wonderful old Shepherd
called Jason a few months before moving to Prawle. But the idea of a Standard Poodle appealed instantly. Not everyone appreciates that poodles were originally bred as retrievers, or that their coats were originally cut to make water work easier. They are a very intelligent dog, and can be long lived - 15 years or more which is a very good age for a large dog.

After Meg left us, we phoned Becky's owner, and arranged to go and see her, with our Labrador Sacha (Satch). The 2 dogs were instant friends, and after a cup of tea Becky came home to Prawle with us.

There are a number of girls in the village called Becky, and to avoid any offence, we have started calling her Bessy. On the first night home, we took Bessy and Satch to The Providence Inn, where they were both as good as gold.

The following day, we introduced her to the sea side. Mill Bay at East Portlemouth to be precise. Bessy was in heaven! (Although the water was a little cold in early February for her to be particularly keen on swimming). The tide was out, and it was a fabulous day. We walked up the estuary as far as we could, and then back again. In the course of that wonderful afternoon, Bessy realised that we were her new pack, and that she liked it.

She has attached herself to Mo, which is lovely, because Meg was pretty much my dog. She sleeps in the same bed as Satch, and play fights with him every morning.

She has abit to learn - to come when I call in particular! She's also due a hair cut. Fancy show cuts don't quite look the part in Prawle.

But she'll do. She will definitely do!