Saturday, August 19, 2017

Waiting for baby chicks

This is a video of my chicken sitting on her eggs.

My Buff Orpington chicken has persisted in her delusion that if she sits on eggs long enough, surely they will hatch.  Even though there is no rooster, and even though I removed the eggs every day, she still sat on the nest.  Earlier in the spring I removed a Buff Orpington (I don't know if this is the same Buff Orpington chicken but I suspect that it is) and her co-delusional chicken to another chicken house without access to a nest for a couple of weeks to break the broodiness.  This process worked for a couple of months, but she has been broody for a month or more, I suppose.  I traveled a lot during July and was not certain which chicken was on the nest.

After I realized she was determined to raise some chicks, I remembered a friend's offer of fertile eggs. We have had two roosters.  As my girls say, one of them  was nice and stupid, and the other one was mean and smart.  The nice one met his end defending the ladies against a bobcat, and the mean one died last summer at the end of a hatchet blade.  I had scars on my ankles from his spurs, my girls were scared to go into the chicken pen, and with a baby about to become a toddler I didn't want to risk permanent damage to anyone.  We would like a nice and smart rooster to add to our flock.

My friend gave us a dozen fertile eggs.  In this video you can see and her co-broody.  Originally I planned to split the dozen eggs between the two hens because I believed the Barred Rock was also serious about broodiness.  After I put the eggs under her (watching her carefully and knowing that the ambient air temperature in SC in August is nearly hot enough to brood eggs without a chicken--just kidding, sort of) I realized within a day or less that she was not serious.  She got off the nest, forgot which nest she was supposed to sit on and got onto another nest, sat in the nest backwards, and is generally a mess.

After I saw my Buff Orpington in action, with her constant attention to the eggs and her faithful sitting except for a brief stretch and dust bath in the afternoon, I took the eggs from the Barred Rock and gave them all to the Buff.  One egg broke within the first couple of days.

Another egg broke earlier this week.  Inside the egg was an almost fully-formed chick, complete with feathers.  Although I was sad about the loss of the chick, I was glad to see that things were going okay with some of the eggs.

Earlier in the incubation period I held the eggs up to a flashlight beam and saw the eye spot and some blood vessels developing.  Now I see a dark blob in the eggs.  Eggs without a developing embryo are translucent.  Seeing the eye spots and blood vessels develop within the egg was nearly as exciting as seeing my own babies on ultrasound.  Okay maybe not quite that exciting, but seeing new life is miraculous!  Plus, I don't have to be pregnant to see this life happen

Check out the video of the hen here on YouTube, and, as long as there is no disaster, I hope to share a video of chicks hatching within the next couple of days.  I put them under her on July 29; it takes 21 days for the chicks to hatch, so we expect babies within the next couple of days.  Maybe they will be here for the eclipse; we are in an area of totality and I also hope to share a video of my chickens going to roost in the middle of the day.




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My spring garden 2017


I haven't posted anything in over two years thanks to the arrival of this sweet boy.  I could either spend my newly limited time and energy actually gardening, or writing about gardening, and I chose to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.  After he learned to walk, spending time outside is his favorite activity.  He loves the chickens, and they, well, tolerate him I guess.

He is fascinated by their eyes and wants to poke at their eyes in the same way he enjoys poking at the eyes of people.
 He does sample the dirt when he goes outside.  He will eventually decide that dirt is inedible, and will gain many immune-system-strengthening microbes in the process.  At least that's what I tell myself, because it's impossible to keep him from eating the dirt.  As long as we keep him out of the fire ants, the electric fence, and don't let him eat chicken poo, I consider our outside time a success.
I've also had to have several serious conversations with my older girls, when I tell them to supervise him, about Why We Can't Leave the Baby Outside Alone Even Though He Doesn't Mind Being Left Alone.  I think they understand!
 Here is an overview of the entire garden.  We haven't had a frost here in about three weeks, and spring is fully committed to remaining.

 Below is one of my asparagus patches, with crimson clover blooming red and blackberries blooming white along the fence.


 Baby bean plants that have survived trampling by the toddler have four sets of leaves.
 Several rows of garlic are happy in their mulch.  I was self-sufficient in garlic for many years, but last year my garlic rotted and I had to purchase new seed garlic.  To the right, above the clover, are leeks.

I'm doing an experiment with cover crops this year.  This is the site of my tomato patch for the summer.  My plan is for the crimson clover and rye grass to die in the heat of summer and to provide a mulch for the tomatoes.  In past years I have spread hay as mulch, which is a time-consuming process, especially in the scale on which I grow tomatoes.  I let the chickens into the clover last week and they have helped trample it.

 To the right are English peas, and to the left rear are Fava beans.  Cilantro flowers in front.
 More beautiful asparagus below the peas.
 Below is a closeup of the Fava beans.  I planted the seeds last fall.
 These are thornless blackberry plants.  I was afraid the buds were killed by the frost, but they are blooming and even forming baby blackberries.  Perhaps the harvest will be as abundant as it was the summer I was pregnant with Luke and I canned 30 pints, or maybe even more, of blackberry jam.
Here is another experiment.  I planted Austrian winter peas in this bed.  Between the rows of peas, I cleared a furrow and sowed Crowder pea and lima bean seeds.  I plan for the beans and peas to grow and for the Austrian winter peas to die back as mulch in the heat of summer.