Five days to go

Five days to go

Just five days to go until hatching!

We have been absolutely flat out working in the garden.  We levelled and prepared the left hand side and it’s near enough complete now.  The veg plot is in place and just needs filling with soil, we made a long planting box to separate the two parts of garden and we’ve laid slate chippings on the walkway parts.

The planting box is made so that plastic boxes slot into it, our vision is that these will be loaded with colourful flowers.  It’s nice that all the wooden stuff we’re building has been 100% recycled from the deck, including the screws.

We’ve since moved the greenhouses over too

When I ordered the slate chippings I also got a pallet of 72 aggregate blocks to build the new chicken coop and run with.  There will be two courses of bricks and then timber and weldmesh for the rest.  I’ve also bought a used cement mixer that I found locally.

Belle is broody!

Something I never imagined has happened.  Belle is broody!  She’s been behaving differently for a while and this explains it!  She manages to pull the eggs up in the roll-away nest box and sit on them.  We’re occasionally finding broken eggs still and I think this is because she’s dropping them are accidentally breaking them when trying to pull them up.

If only we had some more duck eggs, we could fit quite a few under her!

I’ve been moving her out of the nest box every opportunity, which is quite difficult due to the current setup.  Tonight I made her a nest in a plastic box inside the coop, complete with rubber eggs, ideally we want the main nest box free for Star and Zazu to lay their eggs and stop Belle messing with them.

Temporary nest

I blocked off the roll-away nest box and put her in the plastic box but she got straight back out and went in the run. When I checked back 10 minutes later, the plastic box was tipped over and she was sat on the floor in the coop on the rubber eggs!

So instead I just poured the wood shavings out of the plastic box and made her a nest in the corner of the coop and put her on top of the eggs, she seems to be staying there.  I’ve removed the perch that’s normally there to give her some room.

Quite comfy there but I bet she gets in the nest box tomorrow

Working in darkness I unblocked the roll-away nest box so that Zazu can get in to lay her egg in the morning, she’s always the first.

Snowy the Silkie hen and the duckling eggs

Meanwhile, Snowy is doing a great job on her real duckling eggs in the other coop, I candled them tonight and they all look good and there’s visible movement!  Only 5 more days to wait to see what happens!

In readiness I have ordered some duckling crumbs feed, I called Allen & Page to check on the Niacin (B3) content as it wasn’t listed in the ingredients on their website, the helpful lady confirmed the amounts per KG and it was exactly what I was looking for.  This is the vitamin that ducklings need more of and last time we had to supplement the feed with Brewers Yeast and I later added Nettex Vit Boost+ to the water – to resolve the weak leg issues we spotted.  That was because we were feeding them chick crumbs which have less Niacin in them.

I also filled the coop and run with loads of wood shavings so there’s no slippy floors with gaps that the ducklings would struggle with.

She’s been sat on these eggs for a long time now!

I also put a piece of wood against the step up to the coop and covered that with wood shavings so there’s now a ramp leading in and out of the coop.  It’s all duckling ready!

A great little place for the tiny ducklings

Our nestbox that I put up in one of the trees in the front garden also seems to have residents!  We noticed a pair of Great Tits seemingly building a nest in there a month or so ago but then it went quiet.  On Saturday I noticed they were in and out bringing food back so I suspect there’s little chicks in there!

I got this picture of one of them with my “big” camera

It’s non stop here at the moment with so many plans, but I can’t help but feel it might be the calm before the storm?!

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It’s all go!

It’s all go!

It’s all go here at the moment

I haven’t had chance to sit down and type out a post.  There’s probably too much for a single one so I’ll try and keep it to the point!

The eggs are doing good, since my last post we found that number 11 is actually OK!  So we have 4 in the incubator and 3 with Snowy.  The weights and visible development all look great.  I will update the hatching eggs page soon to be more relevant and future proof, and also post the weights etc. Only 11 days to wait now!

We have been spending most of our spare time drastically pushing forward with the garden changes.

It’s all hands to deck! We stripped the turf and levelled the ground for the paving slabs that form the new shed base
The turf that we cut from the garden was donated to the chickens who were over the moon!
I laid the base for the shed using slabs from other areas of the garden
The small chicken run is no more!  We’d also started to level the area for where the chicken run will move to
There was some confusion after I sealed off the hole that was between the two runs!

The general concept of the layout is that the chickens will have a strip across the back of the garden which will consist of the big run, a shed-like coop and an outside area.  There will also be a small storage shed for keeping food and other poultry related paraphernalia!  Then the left hand side will have the long awaited veg plot, a composter, the greenhouses and the shed.  The right side where the chicken run currently sits will become an area for the kids to have a swing and playhouse.

This gives an idea on the total area the chickens (and ducks!) will have

Snowy is doing amazing with her eggs.  My youngest daughter has taken pride in looking after her by way of regular treats and drinks delivered to her coop!  The eggs are all developing and weigh as they should, there’s movement when candled which is exciting to see.  I am hoping she sits for the full duration this time, I think she will.  I hope that when she can feel the feedback of movement from the eggs it will keep her there.

Snowy out and getting some refreshments
This is the very first time the three big ones saw themselves in a mirror 😀
I think they found this cucumber refreshing

On the veg plot side I have recycled some of the wood from the old deck and built a composter which turned out OK.  I even managed to reuse the screws from the deck!

The composter

In the last picture for this post you can see the veg plot side taking shape.  there’s just a bit more grass to remove and then I will build the veg plot using more of the wood from the deck.  I also need to come up with a way to separate the grassed area as we’ll be covering the walkway with either slate chippings or bark and need to have a defined separation.

It’s taking shape!

The fences have also been painted or given another coat where required, but I can’t take credit for that, it’s Sam’s handy work!

We’re quite happy with the progress!

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Day six egg update

Day six egg update

Day six egg update

Today marks day six of the current batch of Indian Runner duck eggs being incubated.  It’s the first official day that we candle and weigh them,  the results are below:

We weighed and logged the dud eggs too as I wondered whether they would lose the same amount of weight as a developing egg – they do.  I’ve ordered the log below so that all the good eggs are first.

EGG LOCATION 21-Apr
WEIGHT
25-Apr
CANDLE
28-Apr
WEIGHT
28-Apr
CANDLE
#8 INCUBATOR 58g EXCELLENT 56g GOOD
#10 INCUBATOR 55g EXCELLENT 54g GOOD
#12 INCUBATOR 56g GOOD 55g GOOD
#15 SNOWY 48g GOOD 46g GOOD
#16 SNOWY 52g EXCELLENT 49g GOOD
#18 SNOWY 51g GOOD 49g GOOD
#11 INCUBATOR 54g GOOD 51g DUD?
#9 INCUBATOR 61g DUD 59g DUD?
#7 INCUBATOR 60g DUD 58g BIN
#13 SNOWY 54g DUD 52g BIN
#14 INCUBATOR 44g DUD 42g BIN
#17 SNOWY 51g DUD 48g BIN

The dud eggs were removed with the exception of number 9 and 11.  Number 11 was previously developing but looks to have given up.  Number 9 looked like it wasn’t developing a few days ago, but looks like it  has since.  So to be sure I have left them in the incubator for now.

It now seems that we have three in the incubator and three with Snowy that are all progressing.  Snowy is sitting tight and I really hope her work pays off.  It will be amazing to see her as a mother hen!

I have marked all the good eggs as “GOOD” as they all seem to be at the same development stage whereas before three of them seemed more developed and were marked as “EXCELLENT”.

The eggs seem to have lost roughly 2g each, even Snowy’s, which means that Snowy must be keeping them at the same humidity as the incubator, I have added water to the bedding around her eggs a few times, just to give her a hand.

So it looks like we are down to 50% of the eggs, I’ve realised why people use big incubators and set lots of eggs.  I expect there to be loss with eggs that have travelled through the post and the 5 that didn’t even seem to try may not have been fertilised.

Hold your nose

Today Snowy reminded us how terrible broody poops are!  It amazes me how a broody hen can sit for so long, they stress their body with lack of exercise, food and water.  But that once-a-day event really is unmistakable!

Garden changes

I keep meaning to write about the garden changes that we’re making.  It’s not a massive plot but we’ve come up with a way to lay it out that allows us to use all the space to our advantage.

The left hand side of the garden has always been earmarked for the vegetable plot and that is still the plan.

The chicken run and coop is moving from the right side of the garden to the back.  This makes use of a patch that doesn’t currently get much attention, it’s bare earth.  The chickens have free range in this area at the moment.  By moving the covered run and coop there, we make the best use of this area.  It then frees up the area where their run currently is and we plan to put some play equipment for the kids there.

With the new layout the chickens will have a new big coop, probably one that we can walk into like a shed, for easier cleaning.  They will also have their enclosed run like now which will have the facility to be closed off into two separate areas for isolation or integration purposes.  Then as a bonus they will have an outside, fenced off area where the bushes are, they already hang out here and love to scratch about under the bushes and in the soil, so it’ll be perfect.

The downside is that I have a lot of digging and levelling to do before we can move the chickens. Look, I’ve started:

The new run will be between me and the tree, and then the outside run will be from the tree to the far fence. The fence on the left marks the barrier

I’m planning to rebuild the run and coop with a couple of courses of bricks and then the timber frame on top.  There’s a lot of work ahead of us but it will all start to fall into place quite quick once the groundwork is complete.

Today the hens were cautious around the spade but enjoyed lots of worms while I was digging.

One legged Star. What is she doing?!

I think we will be spending most of the day out there tomorrow, which should see some massive progress achieved.

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The egg situation

The egg situation

The egg situation so far

Before setting the eggs in the incubator and with Snowy, I gave them an ID and weighed them, logging the weights onto a sheet of paper.

This evening I decided to take the top off the incubator and candle the eggs with the torch to see what’s going on.  We’re now 4 days in and I candled at this point on the last eggs and saw development on the viable eggs.  I couldn’t resist!

Exposing the eggs for the first time in 4 days

There’s something uncomfortable about taking the top off the incubator, it feels like it’s compromising the possibility off the eggs developing correctly.  That’s not the case though and reports have shown that daily cooling of the eggs is beneficial – it mimics the hen getting off to sort herself out.  The incubator even has a feature where it will cool off for a programmed period once a day, we have that turned off at the moment.

I’ve been shining the torch through the incubator casing to try and peep into the eggs but it’s shown nothing.  So, with the top off, I went round each egg and held the torch against it.

The first egg was number 8 and is developing good!  The spider like veins are well developed and the embryo was relatively large, the heart beating is clearly visible.  Egg number 10 was next and has similar development, amazing!

Great development in egg number 10

Out of the seven eggs in the incubator there are 3 non developers, I’ve left them in for now and will check on Saturday, the official candle and weigh day, removing them if they are definitely duds.

We then went out to check the situation with the 5 eggs Snowy has.  Only two of hers seem to be duds and three are developing well, one embryo was larger than the other two.  This is great!

So out of 12 eggs we have 7 developing embryos.  Hopefully all will hatch but even if we lost a couple that would be 5 ducklings.  We have fingers crossed that Snowy will successfully incubate her eggs and sit until the end.  I’m hopeful that once she can feel movement in the eggs, she will know to stay put.

Here’s the current egg-log:

EGG LOCATION 21-Apr
WEIGHT
25-Apr
CANDLE
#7 INCUBATOR 60g DUD
#8 INCUBATOR 58g EXCELLENT
#9 INCUBATOR 61g DUD
#10 INCUBATOR 55g EXCELLENT
#11 INCUBATOR 54g GOOD
#12 INCUBATOR 56g GOOD
#13 SNOWY 54g DUD
#14 INCUBATOR 44g DUD
#15 SNOWY 48g GOOD
#16 SNOWY 52g EXCELLENT
#17 SNOWY 51g DUD
#18 SNOWY 51g GOOD

I haven’t tried to find any patterns yet.  We did wonder whether the larger embryos are from one set of parents and the smaller developed embryos from others.

Ideally we would somehow keep track of which egg each duckling hatches from, you can do this by separating the eggs into areas within the incubator on hatch day, so the duckling stays in the same compartment as his shell.  It might be tricky to achieve with our incubator though.

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Naughty chickens

Naughty chickens

The naughty chickens

This is a common find at the moment:

Look at the mess

The yolk is never eaten so it’s probably hopefully accidental breakage when they’re trying to retrieve the eggs that have rolled away from underneath them.

Why they’re trying to retrieve the eggs we’ll never know!

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