Compassion in World Farming

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Completely cluckers!

Well where to begin? Such a lot seems to have been going on here! Middle son, after achieving really excellent GCSE results, has begun 6th Form & middle son has returned to school to begin his GCSE course. Eldest son is gradually moving stuff into his student house ready for his second year at University. So after the long, relaxed Summer holidays we are back into the routine of early mornings & shortening evenings. Despite gloriously sunny days, there is a definite Autumnal chill in the air come late evening. The leaves are turning, fruit is ripening & the grass has been shimmering with the first hint of ground frost. We have enjoyed some stunning sunsets & heard the first evocative sounds of geese overhead on their migrating journeys - my favourite sound of the Season. We have also heard pheasants' alarm calls & gunshots - my least favourite sound of the Season!

Our ducks and geese are sporting freshly grown feathers & the hens are ready to begin their annual moult. Jess, the ex-battery hen who was bullied by the rest, is a happy girl now, fully excepted by her fellow ex-batts & enjoying free ranging with the rest of the flock with gusto. Bibbity, Bobbity & Boo, our remaining rescued Mallards, are regularly stretching their wings & have taken a few very short flights around our little field. Boo, the smallest, got herself stranded the wrong side of the fence & needed guiding back into the field. She(?) doesn't have the same kind of flight ability as her two sisters(?) as her flight feathers haven't completely grown in yet so she had managed to get herself out but then couldn't get enough lift to fly back over! Her larger sisters greeted her with relief when she rejoined them! We haven't seen Ibbity so we are hoping that he(?) is enjoying an independent & gloriously free life as a wild duck.

It has been suggested to my on more than one occasion that if I enjoy my hens then I really ought to have a go with bantam chickens. Apparently, they can be even more friendly than their bigger counterparts & an absolute joy to keep. We did love our little bantam rooster Rodney who for several years heroically 'serviced' our standard sized girls! So I have some very exciting news! Sitting in a shady corner of our living room, quietly whirring away, is an incubator with 18 bantam chicken eggs inside. My very wonderful hubby bought me a whole incubating / hatching kit for my birthday & so here begins my very first hatching experience!

I have 6 Chamois Poland Frizzle, 6 Porcelain D'Uccle & 6 Blue Silkie eggs 'cooking' away at 37.5o'C with water in a little tray which is keeping the incubator at around 55% humidity. It is completely amazing to me that it will only take 19-21 days for the embryos which are hopefully growing inside the eggs to develop into fluffy chicks! Today is Day 2 of my incubation period & according to the chart in my 'Guide to Hatching & Rearing' the chick embryos have the beginnings of a digestive canal, spinal column, nervous system, head, eyes, heart & ears. Tomorrow their hearts will begin to beat!! How wondrous & miraculous is that?! My own heart flutters as I watch over the eggs & hope that they are fertilised & developing. At seven days I will be able to 'candle' the eggs (direct a beam of light into the egg) to see if I can see the tell tale spider-like shape of an embryo with blood vessels radiating outwards. How happy I will be if even a small ratio of these eggs make it!

My intention is to keep my bantams completely separate from the other hens in a secure area of our back garden. We have missed seeing feathered friends scratching about outside our kitchen window! Of, course, I have no idea how many of the eggs will hatch & how many will turn out to be cockerels, so this is a big adventure into the unknown. I will keep you posted!

Back to cockerels, it has become apparent now that in fact none of the eight young cross breed chickens we were given are cockerels. The hens have displayed some rather odd behaviour since Rodney passed away. Top of the pecking order, Chicken Tikka, who is most definitely a SHE, has been treading the other hens in the absence of a male!! I know some people find the sound of a cock crowing a noisy irritation but to me it is one of the most stirring, life affirming sounds of the countryside. Fortunately, my neighbours also seem to enjoy the sound! So I had in my mind that it would be wonderful to find a new cockerel for the girls. As well as blogging, I regularly 'Twitter' with a small circle of like-minded chicken loving individuals & it just seemed like fate that one of my most favourite fellow 'Twitterers' asked 'Twitterland' if anyone could give a loving home to some of his hatchlings that had turned out to be cockerels. Unfortunately, he is unable to keep cockerels at his home although he would dearly love to. You can read the truly heart warming tales of his chicken adventures (amongst other musings & rants!) in his blog by following this link So about the first week of December we are driving up to Yorkshire to collect two Copper Blue Maran cockerels & possibly one Welsummer cockerel too if he has not found a home by then. I am so looking forward to both collecting our boys & also meeting my Twitter pal! In the mean time, I know they couldn't be getting a better start in life :-D.

Above one of the Copper Blue cockerels & below, left of photo, the Welsummer cockerel

My last bit of news is that after a long wait our bedroom window has finally been knocked out & replaced by French Windows - yippee! It has made such a difference to the room already. The light just pours in when you open the curtains. Eventually we will be able to step out into a little arbor. In my imaginings I have romantic pictures of hens wandering in to join us, wild birds singing on the door step & bunny rabbits hopping around our feet. But in reality I'm sure it will be more a case of shouting at the dogs for bringing in muddy paw prints & hubby for muddy boot prints!

I am going to hang a crystal in the windows to bring rainbows into the room. Whatever horrible, scary things are happening in the wide world out there, my own little universe is a very peaceful, content & fulfilled place right now & I feel very lucky to have this little sanctuary away from the madness. I hope each & every one of you has a special place too, whether it be a favourite seat in which to read a book, or a garden to nurture or a favourite walk with the dog. We all need to be able to take time out & breathe in life, before time starts rushing us on again!


  1. Ooooooooooooooh! Whereabouts in Yorkshire are you travelling to? Let us know!


  2. How exciting! I hope they all hatch! Seeing those tiny chicks shoving the eggshell halves apart is truly amazing!

  3. Ohhh sara good luck with the hatching. If it turns out my little brood are all male you might find a few cardboard boxes full of chicklets with your name on them.....

    Enjoy the windows, before you know it you'll have chickens in bed and a cockeral on the bedside table insted of an alarm clock.

    jess x

  4. keep the humidification up with those eggs especially when you stop turning just before the hatch....

    believe are in store of many sleepless nights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. How exciting with the eggs - I do hope you have lots of hatchings! I'm looking forward to seeing the progress.

    With regard to special places - yes I do have several! And wherever I go there is always a special place to be found, somewhere peaceful where there is a certain 'feeling', a kind of recognition, even if I've never been there before.

  6. Will enjoy following the progress of your hatchings... I am sure its going to be very successful for you!!
    Adore your new French Windows... what a delightful for you and how lovely to be able to have your French Windows open on a balmy summers night..... and of course finding the odd hen or two residing on your bed!!
    I to have a special places.. one when I walk the dog, another couple of places in the garden.. essential for peaceful moments.
    With Love, Jane xxx

  7. Good luck with the hatching Sara :-)

    If you would like a couple of pekin bantams, I have a black female and a partridge male, both 14wks old free to a good home.

    I thought the partridge was a "she" until "he" started cockadoodle-dooing at the weekend, you have never seen my backside move so quick out of bed to shut him up before he woke the neighbours up lol

  8. Thanks again for a delightful read. (and no tears this time!!).

    I'm sitting here with my rescue muscovy duckling on my lap and a glass of wine in my hand, looking at the Surrey hills - not a building in sight - total silence and the promise of a rib-eye steak in an hour or so. Bliss !!

    Happy hatching.



  9. I'm tremendously jealous of your chickens, I really am. :)
    I remember having them around as a child and going and collecting the warm eggs and just loving it!
    And as for having some hatch right there in your lounge? That's just not fair I tell you ;)

  10. To answer a previous commentator's question, Skipton in North Yorkshire! :-)

    Definitely wise to keep bantams entirely separate from full-size hens, don't know if they're friendlier as such... I think you get the same variance, to be honest, and as ever it all depends how much time you spend with them, how much love and care you give them, that determines their engagement with human beings.

    Marans are supposed to be 'stand-offish' I've read but ours only display a strange disinclination towards being picked up - but once you do pick them up, they're friendly and 'talkative' like no others. Araucanas, on the other hand, are said to be friendly and ours bear out that notion. Still, a friend who keeps hens including Marans and Araucanas, but can't spend as much time with 'em as I do, for reasons of having to go to work, found Araucanas to be a bit skittish. We can say generalities but as always, the environment in which animals are raised, just like children, determines a whole lot more than genetic predisposition.