Every box of eggs we sell in the run up to Easter will be accompanied by one of these ladies, guarding their clutch.
Keeping the chux in during the avian flu scare has been hard for all of us. The one benefit is that the girls have had to lay in the nest boxes so we’ve been able to collect all the eggs without every day turning into an egg hunt.
Once the restrictions are over, we’ll need to turn our attention to isolating Bilbo and his girls so we can collect hatching eggs. We didn’t breed any chicks last year as 2015’s bumper ‘crop’ of 13 out of 14 incubated eggs caught us on the hop so we were pretty close to the limit when we have to notify DEFRA and become ‘official’. This time we think we’ll only do four French Copper Marans and three Cream Legbar or vice versa.
My ambition to enter a trio into the Llanrwst Show / Sioe Llanrwst has been thwarted for yet another year! Bilbo French Copper Black Marans and Tim “Nice But Dim” Cream Legbar have started to moult. Most of their girls have followed suit, in fact only Jude has no bald patches and she has just gone broody – again – so would probably be disqualified for attacking the judge. Soon, the garden will look like the scene of a giant pillow fight and Megan will be permanently wandering around with a feather or two in her mouth, giving me the abdabs as I think she has been a very, very naughty girl. “Comme ci, comme ca!” as Bilbo would say.
Sold another Cream Legbar boy on Tuesday evening. The birds had already gone to bed when his new owner arrived so I essentially had to dismantle the coops to locate and grab him. She was a liitle disappointed he didn’t have a straight comb – he takes after his dad and granddad – but I explained that I’m having to hold one back as he has a sore eye. He scratched it, or it was pecked, last week but the likelihood of it getting completely better is reducing. My poor boy! He’s the tamest so is a favourite. The other is earmarked for being showed as a part of a trio in the local country fair, another event on my chicken checklist.
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.