Said farewell to one of my Legbar boys today. Although I purposely didn’t name last year’s hatchees as I knew I was putting them up for sale, I always referred to him as Berry as elderberries are his favourite thing in the world. He’s gone to join his brother ‘Shy Boy’ (there I go again!) on a farm near Pwllhelli. I didn’t charge his new owner as when she bought Shy Boy I said she could have one of his brothers for free. Today we also handed over 6 blue eggs, gratis, to our neighbours for hatching. Our plan to sell eggs on-line hasn’t gone to plan as the girls have hardly been laying, but if our neighbours benefit then there has been a positive outcome. In the past few weeks, people have done us favours so it’s time to pay it forward.
On the first morning of my breeders’ incarceration, after I’d opened their coop, I noticed that they had knocked over their food and water feeders. Of course both were in the far corner so I fetched a bamboo cane to manoeuvre them to within arms’ reach. I was rushed! A boy and three girls jumped over my shoulder in a bid for freedom. Worst still, I’d already opened the pen up for the others so they bolted for the wild bird feeders, down the path, anywhere to escape from me. Kylie was fairly easy to catch. Then I crept up on one of the other girls and took her by surprise. The boy was a little harder. He’s normally very friendly and like to hop onto my shoulder. Of course he wasn’t falling for that this time but I managed to corner him. The last girl was a right slippery customer, slippery being the operative word as the ground is saturated after all the rain we’ve had so the garden is a mudbath. I managed to catch her just before the Other Half returned from walking the dogs. “Been busy this morning?” Grrrrr.
After an unprecedented 93% success rate with last year’s hatching, resulting in an additional 13 birds – 7 boys! – in less than 4 weeks, we decided to give hatching our own chicks a miss this year. However, the Other Half wanted to sell hatching eggs to supplement those that we sell to eat but I’ve been dragging my feet as it entails the hassle of separating the breeders from the rest. So, I was cleaning the coops out on Monday when he returned from walking the dogs and informed me that he’d just had a chat with our chicken-keeping neighbour. He’d told her that she could have some blue hatching eggs. He’d also told her how, in the past, we had timed the hatching for Easter weekend which she thought was a lovely idea. (She would, wouldn’t she!) Now, Easter Sunday is March 27th this year, quite early. This means that the eggs need to go into incubation March 5th/6th. Unlike humans, sperm can survive in the hen’s body for 4 weeks, which is why the breeding birds need to be separated from the rest – or at least, the girls need to be kept away from the ‘wrong’ boys – for a month prior to collecting eggs for hatching. Working backwards that takes us to, oh, this week! That is why late yesterday afternoon, in the rain and hail, we were hastily assembling a run then chasing several reluctant Cream Legbars round the pen. A box of fertilized pure breed eggs can be sold for approximately four times what we sell the ‘eating’ eggs for so, fingers crossed, it will be worth the effort.
It hasn’t been the greatest start to the year, has it? Not even in our chicken pen.
Lulu, our Black Rock, was looking a bit mopey compare to her normal cheerful ‘beak in everything’ mood on Monday. She didn’t leave the pen at all yesterday so I checked her over and she looked fine, but she refused a handful of corn. I knew that was a bad sign and, sure enough, she died in her sleep overnight. She was our oldest hybrid so it wasn’t entirely unexpected but it’s still a sad day when you lose one of your favourite (don’t tell the others) birds. Still, she had a fab life.
On a brighter note, I’ve just waved off one of my French Copper Black Marans cockerels to a new home up the road. He’s got six girls to look after so he’ll be a happy boy!