Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Confession time.  The second batch of eggs didn't hatch either. It is crushing when that happens. When the hatching day comes and goes without a peep, you know that all have died in the shell. The eggs were infertile, damaged OR I suck at incubating eggs.

As I wasn't going to throw good money after bad and buy more eggs, I took the decision to not get any more eggs for the incubator.  I will wait until I have a broody hen and increase the flock that way. But that is for next year.

Shortly after my second incubator failure, there was an add on a Facebook poultry group I belong to for day old chicks.  Just the balm I need to soothe me after incubator failures. I bought ten chicks and picked them up yesterday after work.
A box of 10 day old chicks
Little yellow peepers!    They are one day old but if you look in the corner, there are two that are still a bit damp as they have JUST hatched.  Sold down the river on the day they were hatched.  Life is tough when you're a chicken.
Light Sussex (not my photo)
The breed is Light Sussex.  A really good domestic breed for a garden.  The Light Sussex is a handsome dual purpose chicken.  Hens can lay on average 200 eggs in the first laying season. They aren't too scrawny to eat after they've finished laying.  If one of the hens goes broody, they are known to be good mothers.
lining up for breakfast
As things stand now, I don't know which chicks are male and which are female.  They are therefore all named Snowball.
an indignant Snowball
They are named in honour of the Leghorn rooster we had when I was a small girl in North Dakota. His name was Snowball, (The Hammer of Bismarck).  He was one bastard of a mean rooster.
Snowball, the Hammer of Bismarck 
My sisters and I have stories of being terrorized by this very dominant male chicken.  If we wanted to play outside my sisters and I would walk out the back door.  Moving quietly to the corner of the house, we would call for Snowball.  In my childish memory, Snowball would come running full speed at us, flapping his wings and squawking.  We would dutifully run squealing back to the kitchen door and claim sanctuary.  My mother would shut Snowball up and we were free to enjoy the outdoors without fear.

Snowball had to be tough.  We lived on the edge of town where there were coyotes on the ground and owls in the air.  He had to protect his flock - which consisted of two skittish hens named Phoebe and Alice.

Back here in SW Scotland.  I have managed to keep the chicks alive for an entire day.  The chicks are small and vulnerable with many enemies.  Anything could eat them. They have no natural defenses.    It is my job to keep them safe, warm and fed until they can fend for themselves.  It has been noted that they are already a little bit faster and brighter today than they were yesterday, so three cheers to me.

Nature Walk

A favourite walk is up to the duck pond.  Polly is growing too old to enjoy walks up there.  One of her legs hurts so I won't make her do anything she doesn't want to.

The Man of the Place and I went up and were astounded by the devastation!  The trees are gone!

Trees in Scotland are quite often planted as a crop.  This means, that after the trees have matured, you have forgotten what the place looked like before they were big and the creatures of the forest start living in them, they get harvested.

It looks like a war zone.

There are still signs of spring.  They didn't harvest the gorse

One of the remaining Larch is sprouting needles

A dandelion

and of course, frogs  :-)

Just so I could prove to Polly that even though we went up to the pond without her, we didn't have a good time.  I fell in the mud.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Waiting for Spring

Taking part in the next Red Squirrel survey means that I get to go walk around local woods on a regular basis.

The trees are so beautiful.

The squirrel feeders get checked on a regular basis.  The food level is checked and the sticky tape that is underneath the inside flap of the feeder is swapped for a fresh one.

Today when the feeders were checked, all the sticky tape had small bits of red squirrel fur on them!  

After four sets of samples have been collected, my portion of the red squirrel survey is complete.  The samples will be posted away and scrutinized under a microscope.

Meanwhile, we wait for spring.

The fuchsias have overwintered successfully.  New leaves appear.  I will remember what happened last year and not let them get frosted.

It will be the vernal equinox on Monday and Tuesday, the 21st the second batch of eggs are due to hatch.  I am hopeful but actually more fearful than I was last time.  I know the heartbreak of a failed hatch.  The eggs are in lockdown now.  No more turning.  Just waiting.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring things

The next batch of 12 eggs are in the incubator.

From what I have deduced, the temperature was two degrees too high and the little chicks couldn't survive.
2nd batch of eggs in the incubator

I've turned the temp down a smidgen and have tried again.  The eggs were put in on the 1st of March.  This will make remembering when they are supposed to hatch a bit easier.  (chicken eggs take 21 days to incubate).

I sure hope this second batch works.  I have 25 kilos of chick crumb waiting to be consumed!

In the meantime, a few garden jobs have been done.  Winter storms blew the ground cover off the vegetable bed.  It was the work of moments - very muddy moments - to replace the ground cover and weight it down with a carefully saved stash of bricks.
Sprayed apple tree

As we enjoyed a sunny, still day last week, I took advantage of the fine weather and sprayed the apple trees and rose bushes with Bordeaux mixture (mostly copper sulfate and lime)  It will prevent black spot on the roses and scab on the apples.

With all chemicals, protective gear is recommended.  I didn't use them.  I should have worn goggles and a mask.

I'll be better next time.

A new wire was added to the wall.  This will give my beloved wisteria a new thing to cling to in the upcoming year.

I love warm, still spring days.

The plants like them too.  Corkscrew hazel has lovely dangling catkins and tiny little pink flowers.

Spring is well on its way.