Another Odd-Job Day…

…I love those days where there’s no pressure to anything in particular, because you know full well that there’s always a list of things to complete.

As the weather’s warming up, it seemed like an opportune time to get the good old squash going, so in we popped the squash, to start in the house, and eventually move to the greenhouse, then outside under cloche until we’re so very sure that Jack Frost won’t visit.

Our squash choices consist of:

  • Tonda Padana – our favourite, great for Suz’s Lemon Yellow Squash Pie.
  • Butternut Waltham – we do like a roasted butternut soup.
  • Green Kuri – never tried it before, but keen to give it a whirl!

And then we have some Cocozelle von Tripolis courgette, Boltardy beetroot, and Tall Utah celery. I suspect I won’t get around to the beetroot as that will be sown directly in to the allotment, whereas the rest we’re starting from seed.

Next up is the cucumbers – nicely potted on and in to their final position in a greenhouse. We keep them separate to the tomato greenhouse as they like a slightly humid atmosphere, as do aubergines.

Whilst the tomatoes are looking a little leggy, we’ll try and check their growth by hardening them off to greenhouse temperatures. Soon they’ll be potted on into their own greenhouse.

Then on to mulching the currant bushes – we have two of each colour – black, red and white. Any berries that fall off can pop up as new plants, so we mulch to help prevent that, to keep the weeds in check, and to preserve soil moisture.

And finally, the Marsh Daisy chicks are four weeks old and feathering up nicely! This is their first trip outside, where we’ve moved them to a new Green Frog Design coop which will be their home for a while. Indeed, for those that stay with us, their home forever!

Second Day of Decent Sun

Light Sussex

Following on from yesterday’s start on getting some sort of order into the outside, today was spent mowing and strimming, to make sure the electric fence surrounding the orchard and poultry was running at full capacity.

 

Marsh Daisies

The Marsh Daisy parent flock are happy in their current home, but the difference keeping chickens makes to the grass height is amazing! I know they eat grass, but the their paddock hardly needed cutting, whereas the one left fallow (where their children will eventually live) is over a foot in length!

Pilgrim geese – Dwt & Barty

Barty and Dwt have settled into couple-dom better than hoped. After Barty lost his soul mate last year, it seemed as though Dwt would never replace him. But this year she seems to finally have won him over and they’ve been doing the dirty. About once every two days she’s been leaving an egg in her nest, which she decided wouldn’t be in their house, but rather sandwiched behind a pallet we’d erected as a makeshift wind-shelter for them!

 

pear blossom

The mild air has come just in the nick of time for the pear trees, which had been holding out to blossom. All we can hope for now is a lack of frosts over the next few weeks, and if we’re lucky in that regard we should end up with a bumper pear crop. Look at this tree, that’s an incredible amount of blossom!

2018 spring patch panorama

There’s really nothing better than sitting back at the shed and admiring the end result of hard work. Aching back and limbs feel so more worthwhile when you can take a view in like this.

marsh daisy chicks

Marsh Daisy – Hatching Day!

marsh daisy chicks

There’s always one!

There’s Always One

Finally the day has arrived and the Marsh Daisy eggs have begun to hatch! Most of the newly hatched chicks moved themselves to the back of the incubator, but this one did its utmost to make its way to the front – a potential trouble-maker if ever there was one!

Three Tired Chicks

marsh daisy chicksThe first three out of the incubator and into our prepared broody-box. When I say broody-box, I actually mean a spare black plastic field trough, which has proved perfect for brooding in. We give it a good sterilisation, then line the floor with newspaper and terry towelling towels. This gives the chicks a good surface to walk on, the friction of the towel prevents splayed leg, and they’re easy to fold up, shake off outside and pop in the washing machine. Once they’re three days old we move to shavings, by which time they’ve figured out (mostly) that the chick crumbs are better to eat than shavings!

The More The Merrier

marsh daisy chicksThe first thing we noticed is that the usual ‘cheep cheep’ noise made by new chicks is more trilling with these chicks, much more warbling. They are also more active compared to the larger Light Sussex we’ve hatched in the past.

Whilst they’re not that interested in chick crumbs straight away, we scatter a small amount on the towel, so they can learn what food looks like, and we wet the end of our finger with water, offering it to their beaks. This way they learn what water is from our finger (their surrogate mum’s beak).

marsh daisy chicks

Sometimes Sleep Hits you Unexpectedly

I love it when a chick forgets what it’s up to, and just stops mid-track. This one was waddling across the towel when sleep took it, and it dozed off!

The only thing we would like to improve is the hatch rate. Of the twenty eight eggs incubated, twenty seven proved fertile at one week, and all continued to grow up to lock down. For some reason, only seventeen of the twenty seven actually pipped (63%), and one of those needed help. We left at least twelve hours between opening the incubator to remove hatched eggs, six more than the minimum recommended. We rely on the bulb thermometer which came with the incubator, and have had good hatch rates in the past, but the previous year we also suffered with the Light Sussex in a similar way. Eggs hatched by another incubator at our other site, also of Marsh Daisies, had a higher hatch rate, so my first thought is humidity issues in the first two weeks of incubation is too high, meaning that the chicks are possibly drowning when breaking the internal air sac. To help, we’ve invested in a digital thermometer/hydrometer and will use this with our next incubation of Light Sussex eggs.

Marsh Daisy Lock Down

Lock down!

Today is Marsh Daisy lock down day. The day where the cradle on the incubator is stopped from turning, the dividers keeping the eggs upright are removed, the water reservoirs topped up, kitchen towels used to help dissipate the water over a larger area to increase humidity, and fingers crossed. We have twenty seven eggs, hopefully we’ll have a good hatching rate!

Marsh Daisy Incubation

Spring is here, and it’s never complete without an incubator purring away in a corner of the house. Today we started cooking 28 Marsh Daisy eggs – children of Mikey (the 2015 rare breed winner at the Staffordshire County Show) and the ladies we hatched two years ago, from Sharon who runs the Marsh Daisy club.

We have a hatching from last year from the same coupling, who are all at Rob’s a couple of field’s away and are due to be served by Rupert, their uncle. Hopefully Mikey will be good for another year and we’ll be able to run him with his grand-daughters from this year’s hatching, creating a closed flock system. Fingers crossed fate plays along with the plans.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the incubation room, Larry, Curly and Mo are keen to see what all the fuss is about 🙂

Initial Thoughts on a Grandpa’s Feeder

The video below is our initial thoughts on a Grandpa’s Feeder, from New Zealand, that just moved here using a moving company for this.

Anyone who has ever seen a rat get into their poultry feeder knows that feeling that something must be done. I’m a firm believer in prevention is better than cure, and to that end we invested in galvanised treadle feeders a few years ago. The best thing we ever did (along with galvanised auto drinkers and plastic coops). However, the two feeders made in Britain were great, and still are, but the one we suspect is an import (thinner metal, rusting already and never quite sat straight) has started to allow the chickens to scrape all the pellets from inside. The lid that covers the eating area until the chicken stands on the treadle has always been a bit temperamental, getting jammed every so often for no reason I can see! I suspect the device is so wonky that it slips down its axle gradually and sticks to one side.

Our new Grandpa's Feeder

It will never look this good again

Fed up of this, we decided to invest in a new British-made treadle feeder but alas, the only one we could find has now had a plastic lid and plastic tread plate fitted! Plastic does not last as long as metal – fact. No matter what they do to it, it will always become brittle with exposure to UV light. Also, plastic is simply not rat proof – I can vouch for that personally – and a rat will gnaw through anything it can to get to a stash of food it can smell.

So we ended up buying a large Grandpa’s Feeder, available from www.grandpasfeeders.co.uk. I’d heard of them, and thought “crikey – they’re expensive!”, but with no reasonable option around, and following my other mantra “buy good, buy once”, or something along those lines, I (we – though Suz had no idea it was happening) bought one.

This video is the first impressions video – I’ll add another post and video after a few weeks, when it’s a bit more lived in and our Marsh Daisies have had their wicked way with it.

The Perfect Sight

You know those times when everything just feels perfect – when the small things that niggle are put into perspective and for a moment everything is just as it should be. For me, and I know others here at Merrybower, it’s ‘down the patch’, where you step into another world – a world that belongs to the animals, the trees, nature – where you’ve guided things but never have complete control – nature’s not too kindly towards you taking complete control.

Today was one of those days, and this photograph sums it all up – a group of happy fat Light Sussex hens scratching beneath a fruit tree coming into blossom. A display of the life there is, and all the life yet to be.

Save

Marsh Daisy Update

2016 marsh daisy chicks 3wksIt’s been three weeks since the first Marsh Daisy chicks hatched here at Merrybower, and they’re all looking beautiful to date! Here you can see the five we’ve hatched, mingling with more of our Light Sussex, and the nine Rob has hatched. Ours are shown individually in the gallery below, as we’re handling them to tame them for possibly showing. Rob’s are those running with their bantam mother, she’s done a fantastic job!

2016 marsh daisy chicks rob 3wks_rob_3wksWe’re keen to learn of any impact the darker head stripe may have – you can see it on two of the chicks. There’s also quite a bit of variety in wing colouring, some more a caramel and others a dirtier brown with more black. Again, there’s also a distinct difference in leg colouring, even at this age, with some showing more of the tendency towards the green hues we’re looking for.  It’s going to be an interesting journey!

Marsh Daisy Eggs

2016 marsh daisy eggsWe’ve been thinking of adding another breed to our chickens here at Merrybower, and flicking through a borrowed poultry magazine I stumbled across the name Marsh Daisy. It sounded pleasing, so I read the article, and discovered this breed was on the endangered list. Originally from Lancashire – not a million miles from Derbyshire – it had similar qualities to the Derbyshire Redcap. Namely, a rose comb, flighty and a good forager. They were, according to the article, easier to tame than a Redcap, which made it sound a bit easier.

I mentioned it to Rob over a cuppa one morning, and he’d been looking to possibly replace the bantam Brown Leghorns with something, so between us we decided to have a bash at helping an old breed out. So where to find some Marsh Daisy eggs?! Using the ubiquitous internet I tracked down the Marsh Daisy Breeders Group and spoke to Sharon who runs it. A trip to Wales a couple of months later and Sharon had fifteen precious eggs ready for us, which was fantastic, and after admiring their setup I hastened back with my eggy cargo, and six pints of fresh milk from their new cow! Delicious!

One for Me, One for You, One for Me…

It was like choosing sides for a playground footy match – Rob and I chose the best twelve Marsh Daisy eggs, six each, and then we split the last three between us (my egg equivalent in the footy picking terms). There were also a couple of odd white eggs that one of Sharon’s Marsh Daisies had popped out, so again we placed one of those in each of our piles. Today Rob placed his under a broody bantam, whereas here we’ve gone the incubator route, as it’s a good excuse to fill the incubator with more Light Sussex eggs. Fingers crossed!

Light Sussex Chicks

Light Sussex Chicks at Three Weeks

Light Sussex ChicksI can’t believe we’re already at the end of the first three weeks the Light Sussex chicks have been with us – they grow up so fast! Over the course of the first few weeks, everything about the chicks gets bigger – the noise, their appetites, and their daily pile of brown gifts left in haphazard piles on the wood chippings. Ah yes, and the smell also grows bigger – when you wake up to the not-so-fresh odour of chick poop, it’s probably about time they moved to the garage. Today was that morning – no amount of coffee could unplug my nostrils – so for the first time ever the chicks were lifted out of the house and on to grass. I love that feeling – showing them the world for the first time, knowing that it just gets better hereon. The weather was warm and we borrowed the rabbit run for them to play in for a couple of hours – there were no complaints about cold so we knew we were good to go with the cleaning. Whilst they skipped and frolicked (well – ate and drank), I gave their brooder a thorough clean and disinfect with Dettol, and moved it into the garage. The heatlamp is at its highest, their feathers are coming along nicely, with the black heads appearing quickly. We may even be ready by the start of week four to move them off the lamp, but I’ll check the outside temperature and their feathering before risking that – they may need another week.

Light Sussex ChicksThey’re still on chick crumbs, with a coccidiostat to help build up an immunity to coccidiosis. At six weeks we’ll start mixing grower’s pellets into the crumbs, over the course of a few days, until by week seven they’ll be on growers only. This will change to layer’s pellets at around 22 weeks – some suggest earlier but as these are Light Sussex chicks – a pure breed and slower to mature – 22 weeks is about right. If for some reason one of them starts laying quicker than that, then we’ll start the layers before then.