Chicken House Part 3

After a whole lotta work we finally got the chicken house and coop finished just in time for our new arrivals, ok I was still finishing the skirt and fixings as it went dark the night before, and we only got it in place and set up by lantern-light, but it was done.

The finished hen house:

No roosting perch installed at this point (it took us ages to find a pole the right length) but it doesn’t matter as the girls won’t be strong enough to jump up and down from it yet anyway. You can also see that the front tyres are flat, we haven’t been able to fix the problem (which seems to be valve related rather than a puncture we think) but we have just been blowing them up and then bracing the house on bricks in between movings.

This is the finished run before we moved it into place, we’ve since added tarps to help keep out the rain and protect the ladies from the wind but it certainly appears sturdy enough and with all the mesh added it’s flipping heavy !

The entire set-up with the boxes containing chickens inside ready for unloading. We had to treat the house for red mite as the farm the chickens came from had it. We haven’t seen any signs in our ladies, but it pays to be careful with this type of thing. Looks Idyllic in the sunshine doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not so lovely in the pouring rain with the wind howling across the paddock, we’ve moved it twice since the original set-up and the ladies seem to enjoy the chance to munch on grass. It turns into a muddy, poopy mess in the space of about 3weeks and we’re waiting to see how long it takes each patch to recover after we move the run, so far the original patch is just sprouting new grass and the second patch doesn’t seem to be picked quite so clean, hopefully when we get some sun (if we *ever* get any sun) it’ll recover quite quickly. 

Ducks

Well, the menagerie continues to grow. This particular part of the family expanded quite suddenly after a concept discussion on Friday night (27th April) during which we did a lot of reading, talking and arranging, some emailing and some getting very excited!

We started talking about ducks! Red has been hankering after ducks for a while (ducks are cool) and we’d been discussing the possibility of expanding the chicken family so naturally made the progression to ducks. Interestingly this is one of those times when I think the universe just comes together and everythin is so easy it was clearly meant to be. Red found a lady selling Chocolate Indian Runner eggs, fertilised and ready for incubation in Nuneaton which is really close to us, at the same time we decided that if we could get the homemade incubator together by the following day then we’d go for it! Red emailed the lady and she got back to us that night saying that they had 12 eggs ready to go, so we emailed her back saying that we’d like 10 and could we collect them Saturday. 

Saturday morning we got up and Red went into town to get a haircut and collect some packages from the Post Office, while I went to Planters to have a look for thermostat and bits for the incubator. Not only did I find a stat at a reasonable price, I had a chat with Barry in the pet centre and he sorted me out with a cheap lamp cage with clip and some poly boxes for use for the incubator.

When we were both home we had to change our plans a bit because the egg lady (Sylvia) came back and said that we could collect them between 2pm and 3pm that day! Cue big hurry to get everything sorted, make sure we were ready to get the incubator set up and then set off for Nuneaton. We arrived and were able to see the ducklings that had hatched the week before, they are sooo cute and I was allowed to hold one, cheeping madly while we exchanged pleasantries and got some information about these ducks specifically, most of the information on the internet is a bit generic and we knew they’d hatched eggs recently so they were able to give us quite a lot of information.

We left there and made our way home via Countrywide to get some sawdust for the chooks and some more firewood (it’s a very firewood-needy weekend) then headed home and started work on the incubator.

We had the idea to use Cyrils old small viv since we know it has good heat retention properties, but we gave it a bit of help by attaching poly sheets to the inside and putting a flat poly tray in the bottom. We tried using the on/off thermostat in the incubator to begin with but couldn’t get the temperature to stabilise so we switched it with the habistat in Cyrils viv which dims and brightens the lamp rather than turning it off and on. By the time we went to bed last night we had a stable 37C in the incubator so we left it to settle overnight with a little dish of water to help keep the humidity up and put the eggs on the windowsill in the kitchen to keep them cool until this morning.

Once we were up this morning we put a towel in the bottom of the poly tray, mostly to help keep the eggs stable and not rolling all over the place, but also because when the eggs hatch the ducklings will need something to help them grip the bottom of the tray, there’s a problem with baby ducks called “splay legs” which can affect them if they have nothing to help them grip.

There are some further articles covering the incubation of the eggs, candling and the ducklings once they (hopefully) all hatch, read on for more.

Incubation

Eggses are incubating! :o)

We’ve set the incubator up at 37C and put a tray of water in to help keep it a bit humid. We washed the eggs this morning just in warm water to get rid of the poop and dirt from the outside, we don’t want the baby ducks to get ill from something on the outside of their own eggs. Once they were clean and dry we numbered them all in pencil and put a ‘X’ on one side and a ‘O’ on the other so we can make sure we’re turning them properly.

The eggs need to be turned 3 times a day for the next 23 days! This is to make sure the membrane doesn’t stick to the inside of the shell which will prevent the airsac developing properly and mean that the duckling won’t be able to breathe inside the egg :o(

We’re going to candle them after about 8 days inside the incubator to see which are developing well and see if any are unfertilised or dead. See the candling article for more detail on that after the first candling whcih will be about the 7th May. Other than candling and turning (candling is only done a couple of times during the development) we’re going to pretty much leave them alone to grow, everything we’ve read says that the best thing for them is to leave them alone as much as possible so they keep a stable temperature, everytime we open the door to do anything with them the temp will drop a bit and we want to keep that to a minimum.

After 23 days we will stop turning them and hopefully anytime after 25 days they will start to hatch. According to our readings they will break through the inside membrane of the egg first for the oxygen to let their lungs develop properly, we may be able to hear them tapping and cheeping inside the eggs before they actually pip.At this point we will need to add more water to the incubator to raise the humidity higher during the hatch.

Pipping should come fairly quickly afterwards, within 24 hours hopefully,they will use their bills to break a hole in the shell to get them some more oxygen and may stay like that for 24 hours or so absorbing the rest of their yolk sac until they are strong enough to break through the shell and hatch properly. Duck egg shells are particularly tough, much tougher than chicken egg shells and it’s possible they won’t be able to break them open from the inside, even with the increased humidity. There are a number of schools of thought on helping them hatch if they are having difficulty, apparently it can cause them problems (although nowehere really says what kind of problem) but I think from our perspective we’d rather have them alive rather than exhausted and dying so we’ll help them if they need it.

Sylvia gave us some good advice, she said help them by all means but if you peel back any shell and see blood then stop and let them develop a bit more before helping again (12 hours or so) they lost one during their hatch because they went to bed and the duckling couldn’t get out of its shell and died :o(

So, the above is the ideal process, we’re all new to this so we’ll see how things develop for our eggs.

Watch this space………..

Chicken House Part 2

 

We’ve finally got a date for the arrival of our girls! 24th of March and there are 8 reserved for us :o) I’m more excited than I can tell you. As a result, work has started on making sure we’re all ready for them.

Today we went out to the place that has the stuff for the thing and we bought timber for the run, some fixings to hold it all together. We also bought some wood treatment for the house and some new brushes etc. Then when we got home we started work.

This is the chicken house before:

 

After a couple of coats of “light brown” timber treatement it’s nearly ready for it’s new occupants:

 

Looking good!

There’s still some more work to do, but mostly that’s the chicken house ready. Tomorrow should see us building the frame for the run and getting that treated as well. Busy day ahead and I’m still excited!

 

The house

This is our beautiful house. Fairfield by name and colloquially known amongst our friends and family as “Chez Red”

We moved in May 2011 after a long house hunt looking for a place that would allow us to expand the family and also to bring Rosie home so she’s easier to work on. Our list of demands for the perfect home was quite long but we have specific needs, we needed off-road parking for Horace and Gordon, a garage for Rosie, plenty of garden space for dogs and etc, as well as 3 bedrooms and somewhere that would allow us to have lots of animals. Due to this list of requirements, we went through 53 houses before we found Chez Red, and were lucky enough to find kindred spirits in the lovely people at Howkins Harrison. The owner has had some bad previous experience with the guy who lived here before, so he’s been a little “clingy” about us in the house, but we’ve aced all our inspections and we’re doing nothing but improve the house and grounds.

Chez Red has the massive advantage of a 1/3 acre paddock by the side of it which we are renting as well, this means we have plenty of room to build the chicken run, put up mews and weathering for the birds of prey when we get that far and, with the gardens as well, gives me plenty to keep me busy, particularly during the summer.

The house itself is 3 bedroomed, although the 3rd bedroom is Reds office. We sleep in the front bedroom with the lovely view from the bay window:

That photo was taken during the annual airshow which takes place on the farm behind the house, we’re lucky enough to have all the planes taking off, landing and doing the aerobatics right over the paddock, so we have a few friends round, have a few beers and try not to get too sunburnt as we watch the show:

This year I think we’ll invite both families round for it as well and make it a bit of a party.

Anyway, back to the house; The spare bedroom is at the back of the house and looks out over the back garden and the farm beyond the really tall trees that border the land, in fact, there’s a good view out of every window of the house which is ideal.

Chez Red also has the benefit of being out in the sticks, miles from any shops or in fact anything, except farms, which is perfect for us, we really love living rurally, we get amazing starscapes without too much light pollution. We do have neighbours next door, but they are nice and even with a young daughter sleeping in the front bedroom next to us, we hardly ever hear any noise, even when she’s at full throttle! :o) The house is late 40s early 50s build so it’s good and solid with thick walls, great in the event of nuclear attack! :o)

The disadvantage to this of course is that the walls were built to last, not sure what it’s constructed out of, but after a few attempts at hanging things on the walls, we’re beginning to think it might be solid diamond under the plaster….

Needless to say, we’ve respectfully requested that nobody buy us anything else that has to be hung on the walls!!

So, that’s a snapshot of the house, the gardens and paddock are a whole other subject matter, if you’re interested in reading more about those then I have a blog set up seperately for that, you can see it here: Chez Red Garden Blog

 

Egpyt Part 3

Day 13 Cont’d…:
We’re safely in Aswan. The train journey didn’t seem overly long and when we got out at the station our initial impression was that Aswan is enough like Luxor to feel familiar and friendly, but different enough to be interesting and fire our enthusiasm. It took nearly 40 minutes to walk from the station, down the Corniche to our hotel, and would have taken longer if not for a helpful kalesh driver who showed us the hotel entrance, down a dusty alley.
My heart fell a little when he showed us the entrance, it had a haunting of the New Everest, but once inside it has become v. Arabesque. Simple, a bit tired-looking, but with a working elevator and nice spacious rooms, also the reception is actually a reception not a building site, which really helped.

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Egypt Part 2

Day 7:
The train journey was good, dinner was basic but tasty, the wagon lit for our carriage was very smiley and by the time we’d finished dinner it was 22:30! The train was late leaving Cairo and we were quite happy because that meant it would be late into Luxor, which was better for us. The wagon lit came and set our beds up, after which we laid down and read our books. It was odd after all this time being so completely separate from each other to sleep, with the cabin set up we were actually physically closer to a complete stranger (separated by a partition wall) than to each other.

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Egypt Part 1

Travelling Day:
We arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time to spare. Checked in our luggage after saying goodbye to my folks and then stopped at Café Nero for bacon panini and coffee. Went through to departures and found a bar to sit and drink Bass and Hobgoblin until boarding time. Hobgoblin ran out after 1 pint, the curse has followed us from the New Inn to London :o(
We stopped in the Duty Free bit to buy an adaptor plug for Egypt then made our way through security to the gate. I got stopped and had my bag searched (due to the camera equipment) but by a very nice Indian man who was nice about it and we concluded that if everyone could have a sense of humour about their jobs it would make the whole process much easier.

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