Archive for the ‘Hens’ Category

Big changes at Garybuie

April 10, 2017

2016 was a very difficult year.

Some of you may remember that my dad came to live with us five years ago. Over the past couple of years his health began to fail and he became gradually more dependent last year. The season was also our busiest yet and so some changes were needed. Although it saddened us greatly, we decided to go back in time to a ‘chicken only’ policy. No ducks. No guinea fowl. Also, we now only have one vegetable plot rather than the two, although we do have the polytunnel still.

Our shrunken veg plot & fruit cage.

Our laying hens were getting old too so we replnished our stock by incubating fertile Cuckoo Maran eggs from the internet. I like marans; they are good dual purpose birds, good foragers and endearing personalities!

Some of our new layers.

Of course just as we get organized with our new poultry regime, Big Fella bows out! Wee man is determined to fill his spurs…

…although being a bantam means that he isn’t always ‘up to the job’ so to speak!

We did get more fertile eggs last mont in the hope of producing a new cockerel for later in the season, but out of a dozen eggs, only TWO hatched!!!

Blue-laced Wyandotte chicks

I’m currently awaiting more eggs from the internet. Lets hope that the postal guys handle them with care!

The silkies went broody quite early and as we still had eggs fertilized by Big Fella, all three girls were sitting happily – BB first by a couple of weeks. Soon after she hatched our first four chicks of the season, one dying after a few days, Thelma and Louise abandonned their nests and went into ‘Auntie Mode’!!! So now we have three chicks with three mums…

By the autumn of last year, Dad had come to need pretty much round the clock care and his wee appartment next door was fast becoming unsafe as he became less steady on his feet and more confused. Consequently, in November, he went into local residential care.

Our B and B season is now underway and looking like another busy one. At least we should be less thinly spread.

A silver lining…

March 8, 2017

…or is that four silver linings? More like wee fluffy rain clouds really, but after the loss of Big Fella, BB cheered us up with the arrival of her first brood of the year.

And do you think that maybe our next rooster is waiting in this box? I ordered Wyandotte fertilized eggs online, a breed that sounds perfect for our needs.

Meanwhile, with no competition, Wee Man thinks it’s his birthday, surrounded by our new layers! Of course he can’t reach ‘the task’ with some of the bigger girls! We reared our new Cuckoo Maran girls last season to replace our old, decreasing stock.

Farewell to the big guy.

March 5, 2017

Big Fella

Yesterday was a sad day as we had to say good-bye to Big Fella, our magnificent rooster. A couple of weeks ago, he started the day with what appeared to be something like a stroke. His left leg was unable to support him and he fell a couple of times, spending most of that day sitting around.

He’s been managing to get around since then, but was struggling to maintain his balance. More to the point, he was unable to do his “Job”. Yesterday however, he took a turn for the worse and we couldn’t work out whether he’d lost his sight or was just very confused/disoriented, behaving very uncharacteristically. An obviously distressed bird.

He will be sadly missed as he was a wonderful gentle giant, popular with all our guests and is present on many a holiday snapshot!

guests

guests

Double loss at Garybuie

October 27, 2016

I know, I know, it’s been quite some time since you heard from Garybuie, but more of that another day. It’s unfortunate that my ‘Returning To The Blogging World’ post is one which brings sad news – on two counts. Firstly, Broody Brenda, our wonderful mother hen, died yesterday.

" Is this my best side?"

” Is this my best side?”

She’s been quiet for a few days, nothing specific but just winding down I suppose. She was ten years old and a great character, raising scores of chicks over the years. She was a frequent visitor to the kitchen, stealing any leftovers from the cats. All cats respected Broody Brenda!

Brenda with Dottie

And secondly, Patches has gone missing. We returned from our end-of-season holiday last week and we haven’t seen her. Our cat/chicken holiday carers didn’t see her but there was nothing unusual about that as she’s not keen on strangers and will only sneak back to continue her snoozing when they leave! We’ve been searching the area although she never wanders far. Plump as she is, she can move pretty fast the minute she hears a car, so being killed by one seems unlikely. I phoned both vets in the area, but no one has brought in an injured cat. With Brenda, there was hard evidence of her demise but not so with Patches so I still have my fingers crossed that she’s gone off in protest and sneaks back for food during the night. In our former life in England, we once had a cat go missing for six months after which he came sauntering up the driveway like nothing was amiss!

Patches

New mum!

June 8, 2016

You may remember that earlier in Spring, Thelma was entrusted to raise some of her own silkie chicks (we usually exchange silkie eggs for regular ones), for a young lady who wanted some as pets. Three of her four chicks survived and are obviously very happy with Isy, their new mum! Conveniently, they are different colours for easy recognition!

New mum

Spring

April 9, 2016

Admittedly, THE VIEW today didn’t look particularly spring-like…

THE VIEW

…and even the few daffodils that we have, were bowing their heads in the rain.daffodil

Even so, it’s a new season and there are new lives at Garybuie. The first arrivals were six Cuckoo Maran chicks.

Maran chicks

Our laying hens are dwindling in numbers through natural wastage so we thought we’d get some new blood by buying some eggs online. We bought a dozen but struggled throughout the incubation with humidity levels. Whether that affected the hatch rate I don’t know, but the outcome was disappointing. It looks like three of them could be female. (Darker head colour in the Cuckoo Maran)

Over the last couple of days Thelma, the Silkie, hatched four Silkie chicks. These chicks are destined for a new home when they’ve grown; a birthday present for a young lassie.

Thelma and chicks

There are other birds awaiting their own spring arrivals, including BB and Louise who are in the same ‘maternity wing’ as Thelma!

L to R, Thelma, BB and Louise

L to R, Thelma, BB and Louise

Polly Blue-tail made her nest a bit too early I think as a particularly cold snap has seemingly thwarted her efforts, as she’s already a week overdue. Mrs Under-by however, began a week or so later, opting for the main coop this time rather than the Guineafowl house!

mrs under-by

And let’s not forget the other young lives at Garybuie, Hamish and Dottie, who are now discovering the great outdoors!

Hamish

Dottie

Always up to mischief, outdoors or in!

Hamish and Dottie

More than we could chew

August 12, 2015

The View – a different perspective…

The View

I’m sad to have to report that once our quail endeavours were fully up and running, we soon realised that we had bitten off more than we could chew. It turned out to be a very high maintenance venture, with runs having to be moved/cleaned out every other day. And for insufficient financial return. Our days at this time of year are already full and we took a step too far with this project. So, the quail are no more. Of course the wee birds haven’t gone to waste, filling a space in the freezer, labelled (in my mind at least) ‘Romantic meals for Two’. We have an abundance of preserved eggs too. Hey ho.

So, let’s get all the bad news out-of-the-way in one go; one of the female guineas got knocked down. Some drivers in the glen can be heavy-footed and she didn’t manage to move fast enough. It was an outright death thank goodness, I don’t think she would have known much about it. Her mate called for her for a couple of days then promptly stole someone else’s wife!

Guinea fowl

The grey guinea, who out of season is on the periphery of the flock, now has TWO husbands – the widower and her ousted partner who still hangs around! Sometimes I’ve spotted the ousted one with the lone, bottom-of-the-ladder female instead but preen him as she might, he doesn’t stay.

Enough of the gloom and doom. Polly Blue-tail hatched five ducklings a couple of weeks ago and Mrs Under-by hatched nine yesterday but kept them well guarded.

Mrs Under-by

BB has produced her third family of the season; five ‘regular’ chicks…

BB

…meanwhile, the inseparable sisters, Thelma and Louise, are sitting on their third set of eggs this year. Maybe they like to chat through the wall?

Thelma and Louise

After the quail disappointment, we decided to put Kevin’s specially constructed brooder to good use by incubating some of our own hen eggs. You just can’t have enough home-grown chicken!

brooder

Annnnnd in the middle of all the summer chaos, I got two portrait commissions from some early season guests – Dottie…

Dottie

…and Poppy.

Poppy

Never a dull moment then!

Still here!

July 2, 2015

Dinner guests Good grief! It’s AGES since I posted on Garybuie’s blog but worry ye not (on the off chance that you were!), we’re still here, just busy, busy with guests, gardens, birds and dinners! Skye is heaving with visitors so we are full every night and many of our guests have been taking us up on the offer of dinner.
Besides spending more time in the kitchen, outdoor tasks are also at their peak. The weather is awful; damp and dreary, cold too until the last few days. We may have reached mid-summer but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Of course our daylight hours are abundant and Pusscat seemingly disapproves, trying his best to seek SOME darkness to facilitate his naps. At least I have an eye mask to help!

Pusscat

Anyway, as it’s been so long, I decided that a pictorial ‘catch-up’ would be easier, so here goes!

The quail are OUT!

Quail

quail

quail

Aunts Puff and Biggles took over ‘child-minding’ duties of Polly Blue-tail’s offspring…

Puff, Biggles, ducklings

…whereas Mrs Under-by’s three remaining ducklings have been learning all about adult conversation…

muscovies

…and are seemingly unimpressed by it!

muscovies

Broody Brenda decided to sit…

Brenda

…and the Plymouth Rock decided to join her!

Brenda

Brenda appeared with the first three chicks of the joint hatch…

Brenda

…followed a couple of days later by the Plymouth rock and seven more. They’re still all sharing the same coop.

Plymouth Rock

Feeding time is certainly more chaotic with such a motley crew.

Feeding time

And as for the Guinea Fowl, after having most of their eggs stolen by our local, dastardly crow, they have finally made a nest out of his sight – which they’re all sharing – and we’re now getting a great supply of eggs! They do enjoy our rare days of sunshine taking a bath…

Guinea Fowl

…or squawking up a tree!

Guinea Fowl

As a culinary conclusion, we’ve enjoyed our first quail and have sold our first eggs!

Roasted quail

Hatch and dispatch

May 21, 2015

It was a good day yesterday. The weather was pleasant, Mrs Under-by managed to hang on to her remaining ducklings (despite regular fly-bys by the hooded terror) and Louise hatched four chicks!

Louise

Louise

And there’s more hatching going on as I write; quail this time, our third batch which was unexpected as there was obviously some mix-up at the supplier’s end and although the eggs have had to hang around for longer than is preferred, (waiting for the incubator to be vacated) so far 13 have successfully put in an appearance.

quail chicks

That’s the first batch off in the hat transporter to the brooder. They’re a blurry bunch right enough, not because of my poor camera skills for a change but because they are CONSTANTLY on the move. All squirming and clambering! I love the discarded quail eggs. They are all exactly the same; a very neat split in the shell, almost as though it’s un-zipped!

quail egg

At the ‘darker’ end of quail production however, yesterday Kevin dispatched the first birds. They were seven weeks old which is a wee bit early but one of the females from the more boisterous group had suffered a broken leg. We thought that maybe there were too many males around so whittled them down to two males per run in the hope of restoring peace. Eventually, there will just be one male per run but until they are sexually active, we’re taking a ‘just in case’ view. Unsurprisingly, one of the males from the same run as the injured female had very large testes, a problem we’ve come across in chickens in the past when young cockerels have demonstrated excessive aggression.

So, it would seem that quail is on the menu tonight! You can see the severe bruising on the small, injured female.

Hinnisdal Quail

Weird family planning!

May 11, 2015

There’s plenty of family planning going on around the place at the moment. Polly Blue-tail appears to have been the only mother who planned it right; in a nest box in the duck house. Unfortunately, being a single parent, without eyes in the back of her head, has meant that she’s lost two of her offspring, probably to the dreaded crows.
ducklings Yesterday, Mrs Under-by hatched her new family of eight, an extra two having been sneaked in there after MY family planning of a ‘Max 6’ strategy! You may remember that her spot of bad planning was the fact that she chose a nesting-box in the Guinea Gang’s house, a foot off the ground! In order to avoid concussion of the wee mites when leaving the nest, we decided that some nice, soft straw should break their fall. Kevin went out first thing this morning to let the Guineas out. Soon after, Mrs Under-by took herself off for some ‘me time’, instructing the wee ones to stay put! The ideal opportunity then for Kevin to transplant the ducklings from box to straw, under the stern gaze of herself! On her return, it didn’t take long before she encouraged them out into the big, wide world where they met their cousins!

ducklings

There was confusion for a while with the new kids not knowing who to follow and mother ducks scolding each other’s offspring! It’s interesting to see the difference in size, with Polly Blue-tail’s ducklings at three weeks old now.
Still with ducks, Puff has been settled on her nest for about a week, with Biggles still laying next door. Yesterday however, Puff decided to move into Biggles’ box, possibly because the ducklings had taken to sleeping with her and making a mess in there. So, the revised plan seems to be one of sharing!

Puff and Biggles

Planning with the Silkies involves ‘Musical Boxes’. Louise started to sit (on regular hen eggs once more) about a week ago. Then Thelma joined in.

Thelma and Louise

If they both leave the nest at the same time, the music begins and whoever returns first just plonks herself down on the first eggs that she sees!

Thelma and Louise

But the award for the worst planning of all goes to the Plymouth Rock hen, a first-timer. You’d think that all was well with this cosy looking nest…

Plymouth Rock

…but don’t be fooled! Two of the other hens are still laying in the same nest (which I remove) so a couple of eggs have got broken. The nest is also somewhat nomadic, moving to different positions in the coop. Sometimes she sits on the eggs, others she sits on the straw with no eggs. Somehow I don’t think she’s cut out for this motherhood malarkey!

And finally, a technique which seemingly involves no planning at all! The Guinea Fowl Technique. We’ve had about half-a-dozen eggs from them so far and not a nest in sight; just a single egg placed randomly on the grass or by a bush! I understand that they like to lay in a shallow depression in tall plants, well, everything’s so slow at coming on with such unseasonably, cold weather, that any formal nest-building has been put on hold!

Eggs


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