Meekle’s Blog – An Insight into Downsizing

Dont Panic Mr Mannering, Dont Panic!
April 30, 2009, 9:56 pm
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In true Corporal Jones methodology, that will be me you can see running around the lounge, arms flailing around in a panic. Why i hear you ask? well the eggs i placed into the incubator on the 10th April this year, were expected to start pipping tomorrow and hatching Saturday – well, they had other ideas!

My dog – Maisie Moo – came running into me in the kitchen earlier on in a blind panic. I followed her to the incubator to find that the incubator was making a cheeping noise. Lifted the lid to find a slightly damp fluffy thing! Yes – it is chick time again – a day early!

So, my chick-o-meter (as Wallace or gromit would say) is working well. So far tonight she has come to me three times to show me new chicks. But why am i panicking? well, its all to do with the fact that we always set eggs on a Saturday so they hatch on a Saturday and that way i am around to deal with any. They have come a day earlier than i thought and have thrown our system out of the window.

My wife (she who must be obeyed) will have to decamp one lot of chickens tomorrow into the outside run from the shed, then move the chicks from the last batch into the shed, and then the new chicks into the brooder tomorrow on her own without my help. I know she is quite capable of doing it, but she shouldn’t have to do it – that’s what i am for really.

Well what have we had hatch? So far 2 Barbu D’Uccle chicks and a Silver Dorkin. All the Barbu eggs have candled as fertile – i should hope so too, the Barbu D’Uccle parents are on my front lawn and on a one – one ratio. He is a very active cockerel so the fertility is very high.


This is the first Barbu D’Uccle hatching at approx 4 minutes old! At an hour old it is very fluffy and bossing the other chick about.

In the photo above, notice how the incubator has been divided up into sections? We do this when we run several batches of eggs together in the one incubator. that way when they hatch they are contained behind the sections and therefore we can identify which chick comes from where if we are not around when they hatch. Once we have placed the rings on their legs (little 4mm coils of plastic that will loosen off as the chicks grow) they can go into the brooder to keep warm as we log each chick and its ring colour / number onto a spreadsheet so that we can keep accurate records – well as accurate as a semi balding, working his way to middle aged bloke and his naturally blonde wife can be!!

My chick-o-meter has curled up and gone to sleep so i shall assume that there are no more due to hatch in the next ten minutes. I wonder how many will be up and awake in the morning????

April 27, 2009, 7:16 pm
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As a test for fertility, i placed my Lavender Pekin cockerel in with my appenzellar cross hen. Incubated the eggs and out came a stunning littleĀ  bird. he/she/it is 4 weeks old tomorrow, being hatched on the 1st of April. I am very fond of this one as it was one of the first few to hatch. I also like the lacing effect to its feathers. i hope it gets them all over when all that black fluff is replaced. it will be a stunner. So, what do you get if you cross an appenzellar with a pekin – an Appenzekin of course!!!


Update on Battery Hens
April 27, 2009, 7:12 pm
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It has been noticed today that one of the hens had a sticky eye and was breathing rapidly and noisily. So i have been down to the vet with her tonight. I was worried that it might have been mycoplasmosis which is highly infectious and can cause total wipe out of the flock.

The vet has checked and believes it to be sinusitus as the nosies coming from her breathing are located in her upper airway not her lungs which is where the Myco lives.

So for the next 7 days i am trying to push a normal size antibiotic pill down a rather reluctant hen, three times a day. This also means that for 28 days after her course of antibiotics have finished i have to withdraw her eggs from the food chain so as not to have antibiotic laden eggs. I will construct her a small separate run to isolate her as i wouldnt mind collecting the eggs from the birds that havent got antibiotics!

She will be fine by the look of it. She has gained a good weight, she is 1.5 kilos which is a good weight for a battery hen – might be something to do with the mealworms she keeps getting as a treat and the mixed poultry corn!

The Ex-batts
April 27, 2009, 6:50 am
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Just to link up some of the randomness that i posted recently, i have rehomed 6 ex-battery hens on friday. I had a choice of fresh from the battery farm, which need a lot of TLC, and fortnighters which have been in rehabilitation for around two weeks. These have a few more feathers and can actually walk, whereas the others usually cant until they get their muscle strength back.

Then you also have the option of the older birds – which have been with him longer – arounf 4 -6 weeks and are usually nearly completly feathered and self feeding happily.

I chose three fresh ones, and three fortnighters, If you look at the pictures posted in the last post, the fortnighters are the darker ones with brighter combs. the fresh ones hardly have any feathers and have very pale floppy combs.

We have had two eggs from them so far, freedom eggs as the kids call them, and as soon as they get back to full health, then i will move them up to my new field to scratch about to their hearts content.

Pictures of my ex-batts
April 26, 2009, 11:12 am
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Here are some pictures of the ex-battery hens i have collected and are now in the process of being rehabilitated before they go into the laying flock. Having said that, they have already produced 2 eggs, which my daughter nicknames “freedom eggs”

veggies away!
April 23, 2009, 10:37 pm
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well, lets stay away from talking chickens for a bit, my good lady has dug over the border by the kitchen, she has the strawberry planters up and the beds are now planted with some cabbage, some lettuce and some pea plants. She has sown in the carrots, the parsnips and the other root veg. We now have the potatoes in bags (those blue ikea bags filled with soil are very handy!) and they are off and running, even my supposedly defunct mushroom boxes are on for their 5th flush of small mushrooms. I wonder if i can transplant them to a bed of rotting chicken muck topped with straw and soil? i wonder if that would let them develop even more? i feel an experiment coming on!

influx of chickens
April 23, 2009, 10:34 pm
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just when i think i have enough eggs to bake a cake or similar, someone in the office wants to buy some eggs. So, to that end we have arranged to collect half a dozen ex-battery hens tomorrow night from Cannock in staffordshire.

They will be in various states, some with some without feathers so they will spend a few weeks with us at the house getting some R&R and back into condition. Once they are firing on all four as it were, it should be time to move them up to the field where they can end their days scrubbing around in thickets and bushes looking for earwigs – a far cry from the hell hole they were in at the battery egg unit.

A new home
April 23, 2009, 10:31 pm
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Well, the day has finally arrived. We have signed, well shaken hands actually, on a half acre plot of land, not more than a mile from home down a rarely used track. The guy who owns the land lives directly opposite and is our local postman!

He has this half acre (along with other bits of land) but this has fallen into disuse. It is therefore full of brambles and stinging nettles and has offered it to us for a silly amount of rent on the condition that we cut it back and make use of it. Hell yes is the answer!

so we offically take up residence on the patch at the end of this month, and the first thing we need to do is to hack down the brambles. Then up will go some wire fencing and in with some chooks to help dig over and manure the ground.

He is happy for us to treat it as our own and looks forward to it being used again. It is tall mixed wood hedges to all sides and a small brook running along the bottom. This is good as people cant see what is occuring on the land as the hedges obscure the view.

So roll on the 30th when we get chance to start in anger!

Icrease in Stocking levels
April 19, 2009, 8:53 am
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Well the auction bug has really hit home now. we have been to Leek as you know and purchased two pairs of Millefleur Pekin Bantams – only to find out when compared to our others that we have in fact purchased two pairs of Millefleur Sablepoot. Oh well, not to worry, on a financial bias we did really well as they are worth twice as much as we paid for them!

We have had about a dozen eggs from the one pair and they are now in the incubator and all are showing as fertile!

Our first batch of eggs in the incubator were a mixture of our own mixed pekin (to check fertility) and silver partridge pekins, araucana, appenzellar, and black pekins

we lost about 15% in the egg during incuabtion so they didnt hatch at all. we have lost none since hatching. our real dissapointment was the araucana – out of 30 eggs only two were fertile – those two hatched!

We hatched a pair of the appenzellar and one fell over and scratched his eye with the wood shavings, so we have been bathing his eye daily to clear it from infection. He is now smaller than the rest but looking a lot better. I suppose if i had been a commercial hatchery, he would have been put down as a waste of resource, but alas he is not commercial so now he has been treated!

Our next batch of birds are in the incubator – and consist of lemon cuckoo pekins, millefleur pekins, sablepoot, silver dorking, black dorking. The silver dorking lay green eggs so will be good for the egg flock, and as the cockerels get to around 11lb in weight, any surplus would be good table birds!

We went to a specialist auction last week and picked up a quartet of partridge pekin and some silver sussex. The silver sussex will be going to my sister, but the pekins are staying here as they are lovelly.

We also replied to an advert for “free pekin cockerel to good home only” advert and managed to get a stunning black pekin cockerel. so he will go with our black hen and start giving us black chicks!!

so all is looking good at the moment. Fencing going up around the runs to stop straying eyes from the road, and a new shed pucrhased to house and brood the chicks.

Chickenopolis is born!