Meekle’s Blog – An Insight into Downsizing

June 23, 2009, 6:12 am
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As with most habit forming drugs, we have fenced off more space in the garden for chickens! We put the main birds up at the field, but the newly reared chicks and some breeding stock we like to keep close to home so we can keep an eye on them.

Our early May hatchings of Dorking and Millefleur Barbu D’Uccle are now fully feathered and outside, the 6 bronze turkey chicks are growing fast, to the point that they have to duck to get through the doorway to their house now! A new house might well be in order.

We are having a rationalisation of accommodation here as we have lots of housing for the birtds, but it is a bit ramshackle, so now we will gradually phase in some proper housing. As one pen becomes vacant we will replace it with a new pen built from planed timber and not rough sawn etc etc.

The turkey chicks indoors are growing quickly, they are about a week old now yet are the same size as the three week old Pekin chicks already, soon they will be large enough to go outside! Once they are fully feathered they will be outside.

I need to start thinking of getting more laying birds! i have 12 layers but some are getting older and dont lay as well as the new birds. I have regular orders for around 4 dozen eggs per week, plus what we need for our own consumption. This means i need to reliably have a minimum of 60 eggs per week, which means around 8 eggs per day. some days we only get 6 eggs.

Matters are made worse when one of the Cochin hens decided to go broody. so i think in the next week or so i need to invest in some more ex-battery hens as they will be on-line in around 4 weeks to start laying strongly again.

Speaking of broody, my Partridge Pekin hen has gone broody and sat on a clutch of eggs. This is good as i could do with some more chicks of that colour. Its a pain as she has tucked herself up into a really inaccessible part of the run that makes it hard for me to reach her! well, give it two more weeks and they will be running around and i can move her top a better run.

The joys of chickens eh?

All arrived
June 17, 2009, 6:48 pm
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The final turkey chick has arrived. It was very weak and had to be helped in the last moments. It had broken through the shell and pulled back some membrane, but it wasn’t progressing very well and was getting weak. Couple this with the fact that it kept cutting itself on the shell edges, its egg shell was stained red and the inside was filling up.

The executive decision to assist the hatch was made as we felt that it was going to bleed to death if we left it where it was, or we could pull it out and risk losing it.

It is out now, and bleeding from the umbilical chord has been stemmed. It is now laying in the incubator drying out and getting its strength back. Once it has found its feet, we will put it in with the  rest and let it take its chances.  If it makes it past 5 days we are onto a winner.

5 days seems to be the magic number as this is when you know that the chick has used up all the energy from its yolk sack and for it to be maintaining its life it must be getting food from elsewhere – i.e the pot of chick crumb that is left out.

Once they are feeding you can generally assume that you are home and dry. all you have to watch out for is to make sure that they don’t try and drown in the water drinker – which is why i use the special chick drinkers that limit the chicks ability to get more than its beak into the water.

New Turkeys
June 17, 2009, 6:47 am
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well to date 5 slate turkeys have hatched, one died in its shell and there is a final one just pipping. This one is late as it was put into the incubator 2 days after the others, so we will let it off for its tardiness!

They are now all running around the brooder, getting up to mischief!


They are all Slate Grey turkeys, not sure why one appears to be black speckled? Do Turkeys get their milk delivered by randy Milkmen? 🙂

Good Day
June 14, 2009, 8:08 pm
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Nature provides antidotes for its own harsh realities. Just when we think we have hit rock bottom with sadness over the loss of Beauty our Cochin hen, we hear squeaks of delight as we discover that out rare breed turkey eggs are hatching!

Just peeping to see what the world is all about

Just peeping to see what the world is all about

This picture was taken at around 3:30pm today. The chick did have some membrane stuck to its head, which made hard work for it to hatch. So my good lady very very carefully took a pair of nail scissors and snipped the offending piece of membrane, taking great care not to snip through any reddened areas or fine red lines, which would have indicated a still active supply of blood to the chick. These veins dry up as part of the hatch and when fully dried (and therefore disconnected) the chick is fully ready and detaches from the shell.

wahey - nearly there!

wahey - nearly there!

This picture was taken around about 2 hours later, when the chick had worked its way out of the shell, but it was still attached to the membrane inside so back into the incubator it goes until its fully ready

I'm free of that Ovarian Bastille

I'm free of that Ovarian Bastille

The chick has fully hatched now and detached itself from the egg membrane. we have popped it back into the incubator to dry itself off, and then when its fully dry and walking about, we will place it into the brooder where it will be maintained at 37 degrees Celsius for the first week, dropping down to normal room temp by around 5-6 weeks, when it should be fully feathered and then can go out into a growing pen to stretch its legs and run around!

Sad day
June 14, 2009, 7:57 pm
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Unfortunately the Cochin with the sour crop didn’t make it through the night. We separated her so she didn’t get picked on by the others, and gave her some water, but she just wouldn’t drink. I even gave her a syringe of water orally, slowly dribbled in so she didn’t choke, but that didn’t help.

With hind sight, i feel that given the size of the crop distention, she must have been like this for around a week, and therefore had probably lost a lot of condition. I should have checked her more thoroughly on my daily stock checks, but i must have missed the signs.

I now check every bird for a large crop (at times when the shouldn’t have one) and check to see if it is hard or soft or can be drained. Well, i now have a lonely Black Cochin cockerel. He has a few ladies to be with, albeit hybrid layers or a partridge Cochin hen, but when we get back from holiday, i need to see about getting some black hens in for him.

Sour Crop
June 13, 2009, 6:47 am
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Last night as I put the hens to bed i noticed that one of them had a very large crop. When i scooped her up, the crop was huge and distended, and feltlike it was full of fluid. So a quick read through the text books came up with the diagnosis of Sour Crop.

Apparently sour crop can be caused by the bird over gorging on green food and getting it trapped in the crop. The crop then fills with fluid which festers. The cure? well apparently the best idea is to get the fluid out. So here i am – panicking about open crop surgery. Well panic not, as you dont need to do that! A very simple technique it to tunr the bird upside down and drain the bird out. Basically you are making it throw up!

grab the bird by the back legs to hold it securely, and with your other hand direct the head downwards, try and get the neck as straight as you can. The bird naturally wants to keep ts head level so you may find you have a battle of wills at this point.

Auction results
June 12, 2009, 8:05 pm
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Well we were very good at the auction – only bought a couple of birds for my mother (a gold laced wyandotte hen and a barnevelder hen) and 6 bronze turkey poults. We also bought a cracking broody coop which will come in handy. all in all a cheap night out all things considered.

We nearly bought a Lavender Pekin pair, stunning cockerel, but when we looked closer, he was twitching. Looked closer still and he was crawling with lice. infact, when we looked closer still at all th eother birds entered by this one particular breeder they all had signs of lice.

so, the first thing we did when we got home was check over the new birds and sure as eggs is eggs, the new birds had lice. So a quick dose up of lice powder and they were let in with the others. I also treated the hens for scaly mite on the legs as the wyandotte showed signs of it. It was at this point i realised that the pair had both had wings clipped but they were very badly done. All the feathers had been cut even the trailing edge primaries that allow the wing to keep its shape. Not impressed – however, its not irrepairable as they will moult out in the next few months.

June 10, 2009, 4:11 pm
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well the rain has suddenly arrived! it has put down around 2″ of rain in about 20mins! the drive is flooded, as are the some of the chicken runs! i am going to go out now and brave the heavy rain, thunder and lightening to check all the livestock before i go out on another job. Oh the fun of a small holder!

More chicks!
June 10, 2009, 4:09 pm
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Well the total hatch number of the lemon cuckoo pekins is now 3. and that looks like all she wrote. Next hatch due is the Turkey eggs! these are due to pip on saturday.

We still might end up with extra birds however before then, as it is the rare breeds auction tomorrow night, the same place as we got the Gold Partridge Pekin and the Silver Sussex – so who knows what we will come home with!

I will put a cap on our total expenditure of £150 all in, but i bet it sneaks over the top for the right birds.

will let you know tomorrow night

A Surprise Hatch
June 9, 2009, 6:36 am
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If you are expecting to hatch eggs, you should know the date that they are due to pip and then ultimately hatch. I have a half dozen lemon cuckoo pekins in the incubator, due to hatch last Saturday. No-one hatched. But having been caught out before with the late arrivals (even under a broody hen) i tend to leave the eggs in the incubator for a couple fo days longer to see what occurs.

Well, last night i was rewarded for my patience as a lemon cuckoo pekin chick started to pip. Four of the six eggs are making “Cheeping” noises so hopefully all being well i should get some more hatch. Having said that, i have come down this morning to find that the one chick hasn’t made much progress. It is in danger of having the membrane in the egg harden under the incubators heat, so i have moistened it again with a damp cloth to help it break out. It is very tiring trying to hatch out of an egg, and can take up to a day to complete. No wonder they lay at the bottom of the incubator for a couple of hours to get their breathe back!