Meekle’s Blog – An Insight into Downsizing

the ups and downs of life
May 31, 2009, 9:20 pm
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Well today has been a rollercoaster of emoptions.

we started the day with 18 beautiful chicks hatched out, all fluffy and bouncy. Standard protocols state that the chicks be left in the incubator for up to 24hours to dry out and fluff up. finished off the new run for the grower – this is the first batch of chicks we hatched at the start of april. They are now fully feathered up and now outisde in their run to do what chicks do best – grow up!!

Got far too hot at around lunchtime, so we took a short drive up to Stone in staffordshire, then onto Bridgemere in Cheshire where the garden centre there was reducing all its veg plants down to clear, so we picked up some nice broccoli plants ( a dozen) some dwarf beans (a dozen) and runner beans (dozen) and we also picked up a dozen sprouting plants too, all for the princley sum of £10. so that works out at somewhere around 20p per plant. So we will put them to one side until it cools down tonight and plant them up in the coller weather.

when we got home, disaster had struck – it looks like the thermostat on the incubator had got stuck open and the temperature inside was around 47 degree and the humidity was close to 75%. We lost one chick, all the others were flaked out on the floo rlike someone had steam rollered them. We immediately whip them out from the incubator into the garden where it was cooling down and dunked them in water. (not all the way otherwise they might have drowned, so really we dunked them, bum first, up to their shoulders.

As the water evaporated it cools them down, but we still may lose another three chicks. The rest seem to have come around. time will tell.

Its hatch day
May 30, 2009, 6:38 am
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well, so much for writing in my clandar the hatch day for the next lot in the incubator. I forgot, so have been pleasantly surprised this morning to find 4 chicks hatched and another 6 pipping away!

happily it looks like a good selection of Barbu D’Uccle again – i will have a wide diverse range of unrelated stock now with this breed, some lavendar pekin – again i need some more fresh genetics so this is good, some black pekins and a partridge pekin. This again is good as this means that here will be plenty of unrelated birds for me to move matings around.

I need good quality diverse lines as it helps maintain the vigour and health of the flock if they are all unrelated, also it allows me to pick the better genes to breed from, rather than breed from one set of parents, which may bring undesirable traits along with desirable ones.

So i will keep you all updated with more chick hatchings as they occur. Ta ta for now!

May 29, 2009, 9:16 am
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well, we have been to the Stafford County show and seen lots of interesting animals. My daughter now wants to start showing chickens after seeing some at the County Show. Some where absolutely mind blowing in quality, some were less so! But i suppose they won their class due to the fact that they were the only ones entered.

Anyways, we saw some beautiful pigs at the show. I think we have enough room in the vast wilderness that is the field to have some pigs. I reckon we could keep two weaners (6-8 week old piglets) for ourselves and maybe another one or two to cover the cost of the others. Except, it probably wont happen that way round as my long suffering friend of mine (he puts up with a lot of my bad ideas) would like to invest in “Porky Futures” and therefore if i had a couple of pigs i would raise one for him too. The deal being he covers the cost of his animal from purchase through to slaughter and he can either come up and learn how to cut it up into the joints he wants, or i can get the local butcher to do it for him.

Anyways, doing my maths, a weaner will cost around £55 to buy in. Then it will cost around £150 in food to rear to slaughter weight – say 90kg. based on the average sale prices, the pig would be worth around £450 butchered and in the fridge, therefore, you are effectivly getting your pork at half price. And what tasty pork it would be!

However, this cost does not take into account the capital costs of fencing etc, but you cant really take that into account as the fencing will last more than one season therefore you either need to depreciate it into the cost of the meat over, say 10 years, or just shut and and put up and bear the cost of the fencing. Lets face it, with all the veg coming out of the field, the honey and the pork and chicken, a couple of hundred on fencing is neither here nor there.

So, i will keep you updated on Porky Enterprises – i think my choice will be a rare breed pig such as the Gloucester Old Spot as they are a docile pig that is cheap to rear and puts on a good weight. they are the traditional cottage pig…….

Splinting Legs
May 21, 2009, 8:24 am
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One of our last chicks to hatch under the Pekin Bantam appears to have been sat on. It has a condition known as spradle (or splayed) legs. This is where the muscle tissue holding the thighs in place gets stretched beyond its point of return and they remain spread out. This commonly occurs when the chick is sat on and squashed by the parent bird.

In commercial flocks these chicks would be culled, but with a bit of  fiddling, there is a way to return the legs back to where they belong. You must do it within the chicks first week of life as this is when the chick is more rubbery and can tolerate the pulling about.

What you need to do is to bind the two thighs back into their proper place with the use of some kind of splint (we use two sticky plasters) to hold them where they should be. Then the splints are left on for around three days. this allows the muscles to contract back to where they should be.

If you use sticky plasters, wrap the first one around the chicks thigh, supporting the thigh with the lint part of the plaster, then close the two sticky ends on them selves so you get a tab. Then wrap the other thigh as before, but this time stick the sticky bits over the tab you just created with the other one. That way they will stick in the right place.

Now, be ready to feed and water the chick as it may not want to stand up as it will feel very awkward and unsafe, but after three days it should be ok to let it run free around the brooder. There is a good chance that you will be able to slide the chick back to its mother if it can walk, but if there is the faintest chance that it is limping, keep it in unti lit looks ok, otherwise the mother may attack the chick. When intorducing the chick, do it at night when everyone is asleep. and do it by sliding the chick under the mother from behind. That way when everyone wakes up she will acknowledge the chick as one of her own as she cant count!

Launch of New Enterprise
May 21, 2009, 8:02 am
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Well, we buy and sell a few birds here and there, but now we are getting serious about the amount of birds we are hatching out, we need to think properly about their breeding programmes and their eventual path in life, be it with us or to be sold.

Therefore, we have set up a company called Bramble Poultry, (bramble after all the brambles at the field) and we will run our operation through that. We have installed a holding page, but the website will be at

To help us keep a track of where we are with the birds, we have invested in some specialist software, designed to not only keep a track of the financial side of things with sale and purchases etc, but it also provides record keeping for the flocks of birds along with suggested matings but keeping a record of each birds pedigree.

This way it will be able to tell us the percentage crossings and likely outcomes. This will provide an invaluable tool to help keep track of al our birds. For half a dozen in the garden, its a bit overkill, but when you have 80+ birds on site, and another 40 in the incubator, any help offered is great!

Cost of Chickens
May 19, 2009, 9:05 am
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well, i had to laugh. The most i have ever spent on a chicken is £15, and that was for a Millefleur Bantam. I emailed a breeder the other day to get some extra bloodlines in for my hens.

I couldnt believe that she quoted me £100 each for the hens!

They are never worth that much! I think its a fair price to pay around £10 – £15 for a bantam. Any more, and you are likely to loose the goodwill of the purchaser, any less and life becomes a cheap commodity to be disposed of at will.

£100? No wonder theft of livestock is on the increase if they honestly believe that their birds are worth that much!

Increase in Chicks
May 19, 2009, 9:02 am
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well, just when you think the hatch is over, my little bantam has amazed me in hatching out another chick with one more on the way!

The day of the hatch was Saturday, but here we are on Tuesday mopping up the stragglers to the party!

In future, i need to be sure not to remove any unhatched eggs from the hen until at least 4 days past the expected hatch date!

so for your reference, dont be too keen to throw out unhatched eggs, when the hen gets off and leaves the nest is obviously the correct time! as she will know better than I

May 18, 2009, 11:24 am
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Well, a week or so has passed and its all chaos here again. I have had six fertile eggs from my new Turkeys so i will set them in the next couple of days and try and get some viable poults ready for Christmas.

The second incubator (polystyrene one) seems to be very unpredictable. only two out of 30 eggs have hatched, with only 15 showing any signs of fertility – so that was very depressing. we lost one of the chicks so “Billy no-mates” was in a brooder all on his own. As luck would have it, our Lavender Pekin hen has just started to hatch out her brood, so we slipped him in under her and she is fostering him.

Charlotte managed to acquire some Silkies at the weekend….. she has always wanted some and i could do with a few for brooding the  eggs, so i said why not – what i didn’t realise was that the black silkie hen she wanted also came with a pair or Black Cochin, a hybrid layer, a gold silkie cockerel and 7 chicks! On the plus side, i have managed to get Blossom the cochin with the bad leg into the run with the silkies, so now she has some company.

So that was my weekend…. making chicken runs in the pouring rain, there is a new phrase where i live, when the water is running over your feet down the driveway, its probably best not to be using power tools. One day that will become a famous quote, until then its a piece of invaluable advice!

Another sad story today is that my son’s Bearded Dragon, has had to go to the vet. Apparently it has an ear infection causing it to loose balance and be off its food. Therefore, we have left it with the vet so that they can run in the antibiotics and tube feed it, giving it the best chance of survival. Its not in the clear yet, and i know that he will be distraught when he finds out, but at least now she will have a fighting chance.

Well, if we get a break in the weather, i will be up the field clearing the bushes etc, but until then i cant get much done up there, so i will be concentrating on the birds at home. We have an idea of turing over the office / study  room into a hatchery, thereby saving the aggrovation from the dogs trying to “look” at the chicks (sometimes you wonder if they want to treat it as an all you can eat buffet), and also keep all the heat producing appliances in one place hopefully saving fuel by space heating the room rather than individually heating the brooders. We will see……….

Turkeys are here
May 10, 2009, 10:22 pm
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Well, after a 2 hour drive to what should have been a one and a half hour drive (gotta love satnav) we found our way to deepest darkest North Wales, where the local shop keepers speak English until you ask directions, whereupon they tell you the directions in English, then revert back to their conversation in WELSH! I should have spouted a few words in Welsh myself then perhaps they would have thought that i knew what they were saying and been apologetic. Sorry to harp on but i find that rude and bad mannered. Anyway, back to turkeys………

We now have the two beautiful birds at home. Just to give you an idea of their size, the run i constructed for them temporarily whilst i get the field ready is 4 feet wide and 8 feet ling. The fence panels i made are three feet high and then the rest of the height (6′) is made up in mesh. The stag (boy to you and me) happily wanders about the run, then lifts his head and peers over the run when he wants to see who is coming down the drive. Its very comical.

One thing i didn’t realise is that his red colouring to the face and neck is purely variable upon his mood. when he arrived at home, his colouration was mainly grey, but once he felt at home and was trying to show off to the hen, he flushed red and blue and was really showing off. We have been rewarded today with a beautiful egg, late afternoon, so we will save that until the end of the week and see if we can get some in the incubator!

Travelling Home

Travelling Home

On look out duty - watching the driveway

On look out duty - watching the driveway


Showing off to the ladies

All go!
May 9, 2009, 9:56 pm
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Well since i last wrote, we have managed to secure a lease on a half acre of land. Its overgrown, made up mainly of brambles and trees, but that can soon be cleared out.

The numbers of poultry we have now have far exceeded the 50 limit imposed by Defra if you include the chicks – which apparently we must – so I have now registered our garden and half acre plot with Defra as an agricultural holding.

When the landlord said the plot was overgrown – he wasnt kidding!


You can see in this picture the tribe hacking their way through the brambles to see what they can discover. Later on that afternoon i went back with my petrol powered brush cutter and did some bramble removal. Here is the same view, after i cut it down.


It is the plan to move the poultry up to here and run the chicks etc from up the field. that way we wont get into any hassles with the neighbours! To be fair, he has been very very good considering we have somewhere in the region of 5 cockerels at the moment. I suppose it is because they are Pekin cockerels, they are a lot quieter than ordinary sized cockerels!

We are off into Wales tomorrow – we have got a good deal on a pair of Slate turkeys, a rare breed originating from around the 17th Century. they have good eating qualities apparently, with Asda actually trying to encourage them with its “Extra Special” range. For their press release click here ->

So who knows, i might be able to supply good, high quality Turkey for Christmas this year!