Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

Howdy from the Howes

November 18, 2015
Just thought I would share a few photos about things we are up to at the moment.
Firstly, Kim enjoyed participating in his first photographic exhibition with the local club.  It was great to see a bunch of his photos printed out nice and large, along with the other people’s photos too.
Mole Creek Photography Exhibition

Mole Creek Photography Exhibition

He continues to enjoy getting out and taking pictures of all sorts of things.  He took this one of the tulips in Paul’s garden.


And saw this echidna on our block one morning.
Echidna (Tachyglossus Aculeatus)

Echidna (Tachyglossus Aculeatus)

We have a good crop of tomatoes coming up this year.  We now plant seedlings in our cages under a cloth grow tunnel to protect them from the frosts in October and early November.  Then they seem to be better established when the warmer weather kicks in and they take off nicely.  Of course they enjoy the compost and chook manure that we have in the cages too, and the netting probably keeps them all a bit warmer as well.


We decided to let a couple of hens raise some chicks again this year.  This is one of our old Wyandottes who is a very good mum.  I do love watching hens with their chicks as they scratch for food.  The chicks are so responsive when the hen clucks for them.  While most of our chooks free range during the day, we keep the hens with chicks in the area between our pigeon run and the garden cages.  It is covered with bird netting to hopefully keep out birds of prey.  One of our turkey hens is nesting in there too, and just today I saw a poult had hatched!  I love the poults, but they do not survive as well as chicks.  Sadly our gobbler was attacked last week, presumably by a quoll.  He survived the attack, but we had to put him down as he was not eating or drinking.
"Pea" with her chicks

“Pea” with her chicks

We bought ourselves a new wood stove this week.  It is a 90s model Rayburn, in much better condition than the 45+ year old Everhot that we pieced together out of two stoves some years back.  We had some problems with the Everhot this year and decided we would keep our eyes out for a replacement.  Kim finally found this one in Hobart.  The hot water system in it is 4.7kW, almost twice the heat of our old one, and it has enough power to run some radiators as well as heat water.  We also like the flue going straight up instead of out the back.  The colour even matches my kitchen benches!  Kim is going with a friend to collect it this Friday, and it will be quite a job to remove it from the house it is in, down some steps and onto a trailer before the 4 hour drive home!
However that job pales into insignificance compared with the task of bringing home our bus!  It is an 8 tonne electric bus that has been used for camping for many years and is in a paddock just around the corner from us.  We have been given it for free and were hoping we could just tow it home, but it turns out that one of the wheels will not move so we are now looking at having to get it onto a truck somehow and carried home.  Our plan is to renovate it, hopefully partly as a schooling project with Josiah, and to cut the front off and attach it to the back of our shack as a couple of extra rooms.  It is 10m long and in better condition than it appears from the photo.  🙂
Old Buses

Old Buses

We are expecting the lime spreaders to come this week or next to put lime on our middle paddock.  That will help the grass to grow well after we get the paddock all ploughed up.
We also found a lovely new home for Zorro, Lydia’s ex pacer, who was wasting away in the paddock.  He is still here at the moment, as his new owners need to get their fences sorted out before he moves.  He is actually not going very far, just over the hill in fact, but I am sure he will enjoy being somewhere where he gets a bit more attention.  Lydia’s pony will miss him no doubt, but she will still have my cow for company.
Josiah has started playing futsal (a sort of indoor soccer) recently and enjoys it a lot.  It means even more driving each week as the games are played in Ulverstone, a one hours drive from here, but I think it is worth it for him to be involved in a team sport.  Caleb and Sam both played futsal when they were healthier, and they loved it too.
Well, I think that is enough news from me for now!  Take care.

Hen of the Year – its a long story!

January 1, 2014

My Hen of the Year Award goes to the nondescript black hen in the photo.  She has no name but she’s a bit of a hero to me.  “Platinum”, the Silver Laced Wyandotte on the left comes in as runner up.  It’s a bit of a sad story, but with a heartwarming ending.


We have had a bad year for spotted tailed quolls – or a good year I suppose – depending on whether you see it from the poultry’s point of view or the quoll’s.  Quolls are kind of like a fox that can climb trees, seriously efficient little hunters.  One has been systematically working it’s hungry way through any of our poultry that decided on the more adventurous life of roosting on the outside of the electric fence, rather than in the cages provided on the inside.  I had kind of given up on trying to do resolve it this year since we had a few feral birds that would roost 15m up in wattle trees and there was no way I could stop them.  I reasoned that most of them were destined for our bellies anyway, so ending up in a quoll belly wasn’t such a bad thing.  Then of course some of our hens decided to hide their nests and go broody in the bush.  Where possible we have moved hens with their eggs or chicks back into a safe area, but it is surprisingly hard to find where the birds are nesting in our scrubby bush.  You can walk right past them and not see them.  We even lost a couple of turkey hens who had hidden nests, poor things.

Anyway, one morning we had an Araucana hen come out of hiding with a bunch of tiny chicks in tow.  She was near the house and I thought I might be able to find where she was nesting if I watched her closely.  However it was not to be, she managed to disappear again while I was inside and I couldn’t find where she was hidden.  Hope reigns eternal and I figured I would just try the next day.  Then, in the middle of the night, I heard a loud squark.  I charged outside and was just in time to see her in her death throws with a quoll firmly attached to her neck.  He fled in the torchlight but there was nothing I could do for the hen.  Concerned for the chicks I hunted around for a while and managed to find 3 tiny fluffy little things.  What to do with them?  I really didn’t feel like setting up a brooder box at 1am in the morning so I hit on another plan.  Platinum and the black hen had been sitting on eggs which were just in the process of hatching, perhaps I could get them to adopt these newly hatched little ones as well? So I gathered them up, took them down to the chook houses and carefully shuffled them underneath Platinum.  I chose Platinum over the black girl as she is the more placid of the two hens, the black girl is very flighty – and more inclined to peck.

With a wish and a prayer I headed back to bed, but as I got back near the house I heard some sad and soulful peeping in the dark.  More hunting revealed a couple more fluffy chicks and I deposited them with Platinum as well.  This time I decided to have a drink of milk before going to bed so sat in the house for a little while before heading over to the caravan where we sleep.  Once again there was peeping in the dark, so I spend more time fossicking around in the dark finding chicks and delivering them to my patient hen in her box, and that wasn’t the last time!  Finally, around 3:30am I got back to bed, having found and delivered 10 chicks to a nice warm hen with no more peeping to disrupt my own pathway to bed.  It was cool and it rained before dawn, so I was surprised to find yet another 2 chicks looking rather lost and lonely but quite healthy when I got up the next day.  I gathered them up too and managed to put them into the box with their brothers and sisters without disturbing the hens too much.

Over the next day the two hens continued to sit on their own eggs while happily looking after their suddenly expanded family.  They competed a bit, both of them clucking at the fostered chicks to call them over to themselves.  They hatched another 3 chicks of their own.  The black hen was out and about first, so the dozen impostors who were older and more vigorous went off with her, while the 3 younger chicks, being younger and slower, stayed behind with Platinum.  It was all a great success and I was very pleased with the outcome.  The two hens continue to sleep together in their box and the chicks happily shift from one to the other of their foster mothers.

Imagine my annoyance when almost immediately yet another feral chook appeared with her own bunch of tiny fluffies trailing behind her.  One of the chicks was pretty slow moving and the hen left it behind, so we popped it under a lamp for the day to keep it warm and put it under Platinum once she had settled for the night.  She took it under her wing with barely a second thought.  She must think that this is how the whole process works now.  Lydia and I had searched hard and actually managed to find the new hens nest complete with hatched eggs so when it was good and dark, around 9:30pm at this time of year, we trooped out to catch her and shift them all to the safety of inside the electric fence.  It was rather frustrating to find that she had not returned to her nest but had taken up hiding somewhere completely different.  Grrrr!

The next couple of days were busy with the mad rush of Christmas events etc etc and I just didn’t have the time to do anything more about locating and moving the chook and her chicks.  One afternoon, when I went out to feed everything, I realised that I hadn’t set eyes on them all day.  Feeling rather guilty I started a search and sure enough I found a bunch of feathers that were pretty fresh and rather looked like they marked the demise of the mama hen.  I felt pretty bad.  The chicks must have been alone half the night and all that day and further searching failed to reveal any sign of them.  I dwelt upon it as I went back to feeding the stock.  Many possibilities crossed my mind as to their outcome, from being eaten by the quoll after he killed their mum to being taken by crows or currawongs during the day. Moving along I came to the box where Platinum and the black girl were settling in for the night.  I tossed out a handful of grain and the chicks came racing out from under the hens wings to have a snack before bed.  Chicks were everywhere scrambling over each other and ducking back under the hens with grain, and it dawned on me that there were more than the usual 16.  Sure enough, another 8 had been added to the number so 24 chicks were now comfortably snuggled up with our two foster hens!

I remembered then that I had seen the black hen that morning out and about with her chicks not far from where I found the feathers of the deceased mama hen.  She must have heard the lost chicks peeping first thing and gone out and gathered them all up.  It warmed my heart to think about it!  Such a great hen.  So since then she has been taking her 20 chicks out with her during the day.  It is a bit of a challenge to fit them under her wings at night, but Platinum is happy to share the workload and she keeps some of them warm under her too.  So, these girls have earned my appreciation and respect and a whole email dedicated to them.  🙂

We have now fenced in the large area between our two chook runs, so the mama hens can keep their growing chicks in there.  We are hoping this will mean that we finally have all our poultry under control, and that the new generation will learn to roost within the fencing rather than up whopping big trees.  Also all the adult hens are restrained within fencing too now so no-one can go and nest in the bush!  If they go broody we can choose to let them sit or to break them from the mood instead.  That is the plan anyway, we’ll wait and see what the reality brings.

I’m finishing with a family photo of us with all of our old VWs.  We are considering the possibility of selling a couple of them so I thought I should commemorate the fact that we currently own them, as the situation may not last for long.

Happy New Year


Family2013         FamilySilly2013

Death of a Dream

September 26, 2012

Sorry it’s been a while since I last wrote.  I’m afraid that we have all been a bit “down” lately, and trying to sound cheerful in a blog post just seemed a bit too difficult.  I mentioned before that we have had some chooks get sick and die with weird liver effects and we had been trying to diagnose the problem using the internet, but when another hen become ill in the same way we thought it was time to call in the experts and so we took her to the local vet.  He was very helpful and sent us to the pathology section of the Department of Primary Industries (Ad Dept) for a post mortem.  The results came back as Avian Tuberculosis: no preventative measures, no diagnostic tests, no vaccine, no treatment, no cure, no hope for Lydia’s dream of an organic egg business anymore.  😦  Oh, did I mention that the disease is zoonotic?, so people can catch it too although it doesn’t seem to cause any symptoms from what I can tell.  The bug is particularly difficult to get rid of as it stays in the soil for up to 4 years, crosses to sparrows and other wild birds as well as to mice to spread it around through their faeces and since disinfectants don’t really touch it either it is basically here to stay.  The chooks can have the disease for many months or even a year or two before any symptoms appear as it only shows in the latter stages of the disease in birds 18 months or older.  This makes it is very hard to control from a bio-security point of view as you don’t usually quarantine new stock for 18 months!  Some birds are more affected than others, our Barnevelders dropped like flies whereas we have only lost 1 Araucana so far, but I doubt any are completely immune.  Apparently the disease is not seen so often these days because the modern commercial practice is to cull all laying hens at around 18 months of age.  So, that is bad news for us, we are now feeling a bit lost and in need of inspiration.

Still, life rushes on.  For a while we thought our lakes were not going to fill, but late rain in August filled them up and the horse and cow had to vacate their favourite paddock for higher land.  Since I last wrote we have started building another chook house / garden run, burnt off lots of piles of branches, tried my hand at making liquid soap and planted a bunch of fruit trees in a sunny spot then carefully ran an electric fence around them to keep the possums and wallabies away.  Spring is now thinking of coming to Mole Creek, and I have been hopeful and planted some tomato seeds in the greenhouse.  I’ve also planted lots of pea seeds in the chook house / fenced gardens so I am watching every day for them to germinate.  I love home grown peas!  We had another September wind storm recently, causing about 4 trees to fall behind the house.  We were actually quite pleased about that as we wanted the trees down but they were going to be really nasty and dangerous to try to bring down ourselves.  God felled them for us.  🙂  One of them clipped the lounge room roof but did not do too much damage other than poking a couple of holes in the roofing iron and flattening the TV aerial – Again!  We were without power for 2 days and were very thankful for our limited off grid power which allowed us to have lights, fridge and freezers and some limited computer use.

Anyway, I best be off to do the chores and get Josiah moving on his schooling for the day.  Other plans for the day include paying a farmer in Beulah for 10 rolls of hay to be delivered this week, poo picking the horse and cow paddock and checking on our boar Erlestoke who did not eat his tea last night – a major event for a pig!