Thursday, August 27, 2009

Which one...incubators?

As anyone using the internet would know, hours can be wasted in the name of "research"! Google is my best friend in this regard, but it can also be a long-winded one. Page, after page, after page of results. I wish they had a new feature called, "these are the ones you really want!"

Alas, you just have to sift through the lot to find what you're after. So I thought I'd share some of the links I found during my internet research on incubators. There are quite a few different ones out there.

Being budget conscious, I didn't want to spend over $300 Australian, for an incubator to hatch my chicken eggs. Neither could I see myself needing to incubate over 100 eggs at a time. I wanted a few indulgent features; like the turbo fan for more even heat distribution and a thermostate to maintain an even temperature. I had to ponder if I really needed the automatic egg turning features though?

Well the first ones I came across were the styrofoam type incubators. They look like this:



This particular brand is known as a "Hovabator", but there is also an Australian made version known as a "Bellsouth". They have two clear windows on the top for viewing the contents, and the styrofoam is meant to insulate well. One of my main concerns however, was keeping the styrofoam clean, especially after chickens hatch.

Of course with the Hovabator, you can also purchase auto turning racks, which look like this:



These are really handy, as they'll turn the eggs regularly for you, without having to open the incubator. But unfortunately, a Hovabator or Bellsouth unit, with every feature I wanted (including the auto turning unit) would cost in excess of $300 Australian. That's not including postage and handling either. So it was on with my search!

I really liked the next incubator, as it had a bigger window to view and just looked easier to use:



This is the IM, 12 egg, manual turn incubator. This one cost bang-on $300, but I felt is was just a little too small for the asking price of a manual turn incubator. If I wanted the IM 24 egg, with everything included - it was around $560 Australian. Yep, it really is that expensive to buy a good incubator. Maybe if I was thinking about making money from hatching eggs, I could justify the expense - but I was really just "small fry" hobby hatching at this stage.

Not this small though! An "R-Com 3" (as the name suggests) only incubates 3 eggs at a time, but it's claimed to be fully automated. Set and forget!



While all these units had some of everything I wanted, I still hadn't found the one unit I could part with my money for. Then I stumbled across the Hexabator unit.



You would recognise this photo from one of my earlier posts - but this is the Hexabator set-up. It had the automated features I felt were essential, without the auto turning features. It was under $300 Australian, it was plastic for easy cleaning, turbo fan, thermostat and digital thermometer included as well - I didn't even have to buy the batteries! Including postage and handling, it cost around $230 Australian.

Of course, I have to see how it incubates with my first batch of eggs. Which actually brings me to a very important piece of information - the competence of the user. As good (or as bad) as the instruction manual may be, you really should join a poultry forum or have access to people who have used an incubator before. There is no substitute for experience- when you don't have any, find others who do. Expect the first few batches won't be the success you dream of, until you learn the tricks of the trade.

To help a little, I've included a link to a very good Poultry forum based in Australia. More importantly, it is to a discussion about the best incubators. It's a very fascinating read, and you'll find it here.

Also, here are some of the online incubators for sale in Australia:

Planet Poultry - where I purchased my Hexabator
WA Poultry Equipment - Australia wide sales, & pictures used from this site
Bellsouth Pty Ltd - Australia wide sales, & pictures used from this site
Brookfield Poultry Equipment - Queensland based but posts Australia wide.
Top Knot Poultry Supplies - Posts Australia wide.
Small-Farm Permaculture and Sustainable Living - best stats on the Hexabator unit
City Chickens - For South-East Queensland, option to rent units, also sales Aust wide

Have fun researching what incubator is best for your situation!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New ways to hatch eggs

I received a wonderful surprise in the mail on Friday...okay, so I was totally expecting it...but it still felt very exciting when the mail-man finally arrived with my package!

After much research, I finally decided to purchase an incubator for hatching my chicken eggs. While the styrofoam type incubators on the market did seem more popular, I wasn't comfortable with the thought of egg goop, getting into the foam once the chickens hatched. So I came across a plastic type of incubator, that was very cost competitive.

Here is my Hexabator (pressing the link will take you to the website I purchased it from) :



As you can see, the major housing unit is made from plastic. Not only will make it easier to clean, but it will also make watching the hatch (in approximately 21 days time) easier too. Which by my calculations, should be around Monday 14 September.

What's that you say? Yes, I've set the eggs today! There are 2 dozen in at the moment, although it says the incubator can take up to 60 eggs.



I've got bantam lavender Araucana eggs, bantam Orpington eggs, as well as Gold-Lace Wyandotte X bantam Orpington. I was going to cross the Wyandottes with my Araucanas at first, but they seemed to get on better with the bantam Orpingtons in the end. Should be exciting to see what eventually hatches!

The temperature on the incubator is now set at 37.5 degrees celcius, which is close to the optimal temperature for hatching eggs. For more information on what's involved in the incubation process, visit this link.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Late Winter garden

Like many bloggers I've read about lately, I'm also experiencing an early taste of Spring weather. My garden has responded by coming out in new growth or bolting straight to seed. Like the bok choy. Don't mind the kiddy-sized wheelbarrow - it's helping to deter kangaroos.



It barely made it into the ground from punnets, before it went to seed. Even those I planted from seed, bolted straight away. I was actually getting them confused with the broccolini I'd scattered seed around with too.



These broccolini plants have done exceptionally well, and while we haven't eaten any yet, the leaves are catching all the morning due, so it won't be long now. Much like their larger broccoli cousins who are starting to head really well also.



I thought this plant was done for, after I plucked off 12 fat caterpillars stripping the leaves bare. It has done really well since though, even better than it's neighbour who has gorgeous leaves but a very small head. So I'm stripping leaves regularly from the other one, to feed them to the chickens.

Still in the veg garden, here are some celery plants we bought from the shop, marked down to 21 cents a punnet. There are two punnets in this circle, so a total of 81 cents! Not bad for value.



This celery circle is a bit of an experiment. I've dug an old 1.5L softdrink bottle in the ground, which has small holes drilled into it's sides and the base cut off. It was located in the middle of the circle to access all the plant roots - in summer I plan to water the celery via the bottle. You may also notice the green plastic fencing around it too.



This is for keeping kangaroos out, but also for holding the celery together as they grow. I'm even contemplating lining it with shade cloth when they get bigger, to help blanch the stems. Outside the circle, I've planted some sugarloaf cabbages in hope they will also benefit from the continual moisture.

My potatoes are chugging along nicely as well. This was a bit of an experiment too, as my mum had some potatoes sprouting in her pantry and offered them to me. I thought, why not?



The buckets are there to place over the tops at night, so they don't get burned off by frost. We haven't had any yet but it's certainly a possibility nonetheless. I love those experiments you just chuck in the ground and see how they go!

Speaking of experiments though, here are a few more...my pineapple tops and choko seeds. They've all rooted and grown in their pots; once spring arrives I have a place already planned for them in the garden.



I got my wish for my birthday last month however - fruit trees! My beloved Dave got me two apple trees, a red and golden delicious. They should help cross-polinate each other. But then another surprise came along recently...



A grannysmith apple seed has germinated for me! Yes, another one of my crazy experiments. I figured grannysmiths are only really a cooking apple anyhow- so even if the fruit turns out to be small and tart it won't matter to an apple pie or apple cake.

Still in the greenhouse, I've got some old-man saltbush seedlings coming along. I want these as a windbreak eventually.



I was really happy when I got them to germinate, although some are doing better than others. I will probably have to try germinating more.

And finally to my mixed lettuce seeds...



Several have come up and growing well. I'm plucking the leaves regularly for the chickens. I've had a few too, but at this time of the year the chickens aren't getting that many greens. I'm going to have to rectify that in Spring, by planting a lot more silverbeet and bok choy!

I've got more pictures of the garden to share, but I think that's enough image downloading for one post!

**apologies...I've edited the title from "Late Autumn garden", to "Late Winter garden." What on earth was I thinking?**

Change to comments

Due to some spam entering my posts, I've had to enable comment moderation from now on. I've been debating for a few days whether I should enable it or not - but after three spammers used the same post as a free advertisement board; well it was time to knock it on the head.

I'm genuinely sorry to my regular readers, that you now have to wait for me to approve your comments. I will do my best not to delay them.



In the meantime, here is a picture of our Eureka Lemon in bloom...the rest of our garden is chugging along too. I will have to do some more update photos soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wooden homes

Can you believe we've been living here for 3 years, come next March? How quickly time goes when you're having fun. But in all seriousness, our brand new house would have to be the most neglected. We've stashed things here and there, used our open plan for storing junk and basically, well, we haven't made a home.

I realised this recently, when we finally rolled up our sleaves and did some serious organising. This is what we came up with...


Can you believe we had all that wooden furniture in our house, and hid it under accumulated newspapers, toys and recyclables? At one stage we had a huge aquarium against that wall, believing a big room needed a big focal point. How wrong we were. A home needs care and attention to the little things that matter in life.

A lot of the wooden furniture was stuff my mum got from second hand shops. She often stripped back years of garish paint to reveal old wood. I'm so proud she went to so much effort and passed them on to our family. She even made us the lamp from things she had collected.



You may already be familiar with this collection from an earlier post. I have added a few extra things to the shelf however...like the horse shoes our daughter found on a walk at her Nan's property (bottom shelf) and the dried marigolds I hung from the top shelf last summer. Funny that such a small shelf can hold so many memories.

And that's the paradox - why are we so attracted to big things which stand out in life, when it's the little (insignificant) things which stay with us the longest?

So it's a tad ironic that our house built of fibre cement sheeting, almost three years ago, could feel so wooden for so long on the inside. All it needed was some real wood to make it feel like a home again.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact I grew up in a lot of old Queenslander's (a colonial period home) and my mum was always fixing old wooden furniture, but there's something special about having wood built into the home. Fibre cement sheeting, as economical and convenient to work with as it is, just doesn't strike me as "warm" or "welcoming" when it comes to clading all your interior walls with it.

Do you have any particular finishes that warm your heart within the home?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Timber!

We've been busy around the yard lately, but mainly getting rid of trees. Why get rid of trees? Well they grow in excess of 30 metres, and the ones we're taking out are too close to the house.



I caught Dave busy chopping away at the root ball. It took him a few hours yesterday just to clear the dirt around it, but today he finally got to fell the tree.



Firstly, here's the size of the root ball he's attacking. Much thicker under ground than it is above. We should've removed this tree last year, but in summer it helped shade part of the chicken run. This year it just has to go, or it will be a professional job to fell it later!



And thar she blows! Or should that be, thar she goes!



The tree fell across our little forest footpath but no major damage was done. Dave then cut off the side shoots with a mattock and I set cutting the trunks into more managible sized pieces. Even our daugther got into the act and carried away gum leaves so we wouldn't slip on them.

She couldn't help herself in the end and had to jump in all the leaves, pretending to be a gorilla in it's nest.



The branches aren't going to waste however. I've already built this trellis with three long branches, and some scrap fencing wire. I'm hoping to grow some sunflowers in front and beans over it, when spring arrives. This side of the garden shed gets all day sun, so hopefully it will help shade it during summer.

We've been doing a stack of stuff in the yard, preparing for spring, which I'll have to write about later.