I've been reading in other blogs, how goals were being set for the year. Which is brilliant, but I just hadn't reached that mental place, for myself yet. Maybe in a week or two?
Large egg (top left) from parent hen, the rest are pullet eggs
A good place to pick up for this year, is the arrival of new eggs! Compliments of our new pullets, we hatched back in late August. It's been many years since we hatched eggs, and I forgot what the ideal number to incubate was. I started with 20 eggs, and ended up with 15 chicks. Too many for our meagre accommodations for them. I'll have to revise that number down to a dozen in future.
"Mumble", facing camera (RIP)
Sadly, one suddenly passed due to complications from their head injury (birth defect). But even 14 turned out to be too many. The small chicken tractor I resurrected, was quickly outgrown by the little scratchers.
It was increasingly becoming a problem, the older they were, to keep the tractor in the same place for just ONE day. They quickly fowled it and weren't able to graze for more than an hour. So it became imperative to decide another plan.
Poor man's patch job
Resurrect Middle Ridge chicken coop! Only it was partially demolished, with intentions to turn it into something else. Well the bones would have to do for now, so we purchased extra shade cloth to go over the top again. It was about 20cms too short, on either side, and the hens eventually figured out how to fly out the gap.
It wasn't really safe to keep them in overnight, so we let them in the run during the day, and they gladly toddled to their old tractor, for lock up, at night.
Don't mind the jungle!
We placed the chicken tractor, close to the coop door, so at dusk we could open it, and they put themselves to bed in the tractor.
This too worked for a time, until they out grew the tractor. With Christmas approaching, and hens still able to escape the coop during the day, we needed to secure the coop properly. Just so we could leave, and not worry a neighbour's dog, fox or wedge-tail eagle, might make a meal of them.
Hiding the hole, where the "permanent" iron, use to be
What a glorious and ugly patchwork job, that turned out to be. We didn't have time, let alone money to buy anything to do the job. So we scrounged bits of everything which didn't have a permanent purpose yet. From old guinea-pig cage parts, to ancient chicken feed bags, and even heavy pieces of steel we somehow managed to acquire. That's an old chicken perch too, which rotted at the base.
Thankfully we still have chicken mesh up to that orange conduit pipe. Which you can't exactly see. Much like the additional chicken mesh, I had to add above the pipe, to cover that gap the hens were flying through. But now they all live in Middle Ridge permanently.
During all this however (in such close quarters) we realised some of the roosters had to go. I was surprised how quickly these roosters matured. Some began crowing before 10 weeks.
Blurry picture of the last rooster
Maybe I'll write another post about roosters, but for now, all but one, has been dispatched. Even his days are numbers now too. Limited space with maturing roosters meant, we had to cull many before they even reached a table worthy size. But they made excellent tree fertiliser, so have returned to the land they grew up on. I know that sounds harsh, but so is overstocking a flock with too many roosters, in limited space. The hens only have so far they can run.
Out of the 14 chicks we raised, only 5 turned out to be roosters though. Leaving us with 9 hens! That was quite a surprise. So were some of the features, which came out in the mixed genes.
We got 3 pure white hens, some which looked like regular ISA Browns, and do you notice the missing tail on the hen above? She has a pekin tail, which is a breed I've kept before. The presence of pekin genes, would also explain the feathered legs which appeared on some of the roosters too. So there are definitely some interesting genes in this mix.
Bantam pekin hens, I kept a long time ago
We even got some that looked like a ginger Australorp (the one feeding on the grapes, 2nd image above). We did have an old black, Australorp hen, who wasn't laying much at the time I was collecting eggs to incubate. But I'm sure, with some of the black hackles which have developed in some hens, a few of her eggs must have snuck in.
Unfortunately, she has now passed, as did her sister - Matriarch.
Guarding her new friend
Matriarch was the one we had to let free range, outside the coop, because her sister had outed her from the new flock, we introduced. She was relentlessly pecked for doing anything, So free ranging daily, it was! Matriarch even became very protective of a visiting Brush Turkey chick, which naturally doesn't have parents from birth. They have to fend for themselves. It was sad when she passed. There are some hens which stand out from the rest. Matriarch was one of those.
But I'm not as sentimental as I used to be. When you are exposed to so many animals passing, or intentionally culled, you realise they carry on, in the landscape regardless. Whether they get buried under a new seedling tree, or they feed you in some other way, they go on to serve another purpose. Those turkey chicks are now fully grown, and I'm reminded of Matriarch, whenever they pass through the yard.
One egg, two yolks
One eventuality I wasn't expecting though, is how one of the new hens is a regular, double-yolk, egg layer. It will become an issue when incubating eggs, next time. Double-yolkers don't tend to survive incubation, as there isn't enough room for two chicks to grow in the same egg. I was considering, only hatching a dozen eggs next time, but I may have to increase the numbers to compensate for the double-yolk, egg layer.
If you're wondering why we didn't properly prepare accommodations BEFORE incubating eggs - we "intended" to build accommodation straight away. Which I did with the chicken tractor (phase one, for growing chicks out) but when it came to building something bigger, our new rainwater tank project went over schedule by two months! That's eight weeks we could have been preparing chicken accommodation.
We just weren't anticipating how big the tank project, or time consuming it would be. But alls well that ends well, I guess. We're happy to see our recent additions, starting to lay now. We do have plans to upgrade Hilltop chicken coop again. But more about that, another time.
I hope the new year brings my readers, something to look forward to. Even if it's just a little time to recuperate.