Saturday, February 11, 2017

Failed Hatch

On Thurdsay, the 9th, the chick were due to hatch.  The day came and went . . . and nothing happened.  I thought perhaps I had miscounted, they hatch at the END of the 21st day . . .so I waited.  Friday came and went.  Nothing.  I put my head to the incubator and listened for peeps or any noise and was greeted with silence.

So today, Saturday I took the eggs out of the incubator.  I cracked open a few shells to see what had happened.  There were partially formed chicks in 10 of the eggs.  Rats!

I am struggling to figure out what went wrong.  I think . . . the temperature of the incubator was too high.  I'm going to see if I can-recalibrate it and start again.

I had everything ready too; box, warming lamp (with spare bulb), chick feeder, waterer and a 25 kilo bag of chick crumb.

I'll see if I can reset the temperature and start again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Candleing the eggs

Eggs must be turned when they're in an incubator.  Some incubators have automatic turners.  Mine doesn't so a couple of times a day, I turn them myself.

The eggs are due to hatch on the 9th of February.  On the 6th the eggs go in "lock down".  The humidity is increased and there is no further turning. and this is the lock down part - NO OPENING THE INCUBATOR!

After a week, you have to "candle" the eggs to see how they're getting on in there.  A primitive xray if you will.  Regular chicken eggs are easy to candle. Why don't you try it at home?  You will be suprised how porous an egg shell is.  Shine a torch (flashlight) under an egg and see what you can see!

With fertile and incubating eggs there are things to look for.

This egg didn't develop at all.  Perhaps it wasn't fertile in the first place. Eggs that look like this after 9 days will be removed.

a yolker - not my photo
In the egg incubating world, and egg that looks like this during candling is called a "yolker".

You can also see if they had started and then stopped developing and died, "a quitter". Quite often they have a well defined blood ring.
a quitter - not my photo
 All yolkers and quitters need to be removed from the incubator.

a winner - not my photo
This is a winner!

You can see the little embryo safe inside, a well defined network of veins and a nice air sac at the top.

My eggs have very dark brown shells,  I discovered when trying to candle them on day 9 that detecting development is super difficult, bordering on impossible.

If I can't see what's going on inside, I'll just keep them all in and hope that the rotten ones don't poison the ones that are developing.  

Do you know how tense this is going to be on the 9th?  I'm glad I have to go to work . . . or I will finfd myself staring at the incubator and willing chicks to come out.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Beginnings

I am back in my beloved Whitelees.

December 2016 saw the arrival of Avian flu.  This means a clamp down on all domestically kept birds.  We have to keep the chickens away from wild birds. To keep my four hens (and the wild birds) safe, my birds are in the hen house.  They're not allowed out in their run and certainly  not allowed access to the garden.   Boo for restrictions but if it keeps them safe, then alrighty.

My birds are getting old and even though they are hybrid layers, the slackers have not given me many eggs lately.  I was thinking about expanding my flock.  How can I do that if there are all these restrictions going on? Restrictions mean that the movements of live birds is forbidden, but not eggs! If I'm going to hatch some eggs out, I'm going to hatch GOOD ones!

I got some Maran hatching eggs (the dark brown ones) from Greenfield Marans in Lancashire. Look for them on Facebook.

I kept some Maran chickens years ago.  They came at great expense and from over 100 miles away.  They laid beautiful eggs. In the end, a fox got them. The death of those birds meant the end of the free range life for my home flock.  I replaced the chickens but never got the Maran breed again.  Getting other more common breeds was just easier.  Somebody in the village has a commercial flock and I would get birds who have just finished their first laying season from them at a very good price.

As I only have a few hens, I thought that if I was going to invest in some new birds, I'd get ones that make me the happiest.  Those hens that lay the beautiful brown eggs will be just the thing.

The Maran eggs arrived today.

Look at how expertly they have packed those eggs!

As soon as I was home from work, the eggs were popped in an incubator that has been warming up for 24 hours.

In the past, the incubation here at Whitelees was done by an actual hen.  A broody hen does a fantastic job of incubating eggs.  Once, I had a hen hatch out 14 chicks in one go!  I've also used a broody hen to hatch out duck eggs. In the absence of a broody hen, I am using a borrowed incubator.

When placing them in the incubator, I marked them with an X on one side and a O on the other. The incubator that I have does not turn the eggs,  It is supposed to turn eggs, but that part of the incubator broke.
Turning has to be done manually.  Now that they are marked, I can tell which ones have been turned.  Egg turning must be done a couple of times a day. up until the end.
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch.  You must stop turning the eggs on day 19.

Now our watch begins

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Planting Day!!

It was close enough to the end of the month for me.  I have the weekend off from work and the weather has been glorious!

For seven hours planting took place. 
Blank garden

Side patch
The blank canvas.  A plowed and tilled garden that is ready to receive the plants 
Plants ready to go out
Carrot tape unrolled and waiting to go in
This little beauty was crawling away from me as fast as it could!

A whole bunch of plants that have been waiting patiently to go out.

Planted up and watered
Cabbage patch!

The brassicas have been kept to this side patch.  It is now affectionately named the cabbage patch.   I was originally going to put all the pumpkins and squashes there (the pumpkin patch). . . . but I'll find another place for those.  
 The cows thought me irresistible 

 I was shattered (tired) by the end of the day.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hanging Baskets

It is STILL not time to plant outside yet. . . . so I can't do anything yet.

Preparation still goes on
Hanging baskets have been filled with plants and now await the day they can hang outside.  I like to give them a good head start inside, out of the wind so they can establish well.
Bean frames have been lashed together . . . with help from my handsome garden help.

Donkeys like mints.
Cows are unsure of mints 
An additional strip has been plowed.  I worried that I wasn't going to have enough room for pumpkins, squashes AND all the cabbages.
I have such indulgent garden help!  I merely mentioned that I was worried I wasn't going to have enough space . . . .and more space was provided! Ten more days to go to planting time!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Never Cast a Clout Until May is Out

I am still trying to let go of the old garden and the old plans I had for it.  When I see the big fat buds on the wisteria and the flower buds on the apple tree, my throat goes tight and my nose stings for all that is lost.

It doesn't do me any good to look back and weep.  I have to move forward.

So, this is what has been happening in my new garden this week. . .

Earlier in the week, I added agricultural lime to the soil.  We've had years of heavy rain and the acidity in the soil has been creeping up.  Vegetables do better if the soil is "sweetened" as my neighbour put it.
The garden was tilled up and five big rows of potatoes were put in. I am going to plant up the other half with all my vegetables.
The seeds that were planted on the 5th have sprouted nicely.
Basil (pesto plants)

Each grandchild has a sunflower dedicated to them.
This is the table where all the hanging basket plants wait to be put into the hanging baskets.

There was a frost last night. . . I am so glad this latest round of nice weather has not tempted me to plant things out early.  "Never cast a clout until May is out". . .

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Small Visitors and More Tasks

At the weekend my son and his family stopped by.  After eating cake, we went to my garden and I showed them what I have been doing.
We planted some sunflower seeds and I showed them where everything will be planted in a few weeks.

Future gardener?
I showed my grandson where an old blackbird nest is.  Today I found a second nest hidden away under a bench.
With all the rain we've had over the past couple of years, the acidity levels in the soil have crept up.  Vegetables grow better and absorb nutrients from the soil a bit better when there is a bit of lime in the soil.  Agricultural lime was added today.  (face mask as the stuff is caustic)  
The soil will be tilled more finely in a few days.