Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Remembering to put the chooks to bed!

OK, so I don't lock all my chooks up every night.

In my main run, where we have two large coops, one broody coop, and one small isolation coop (this is for a broody and her young chicks before they get let loose with the grown ups, a way of introducing the little ones so the resident hens are used to them and don't bully them when they are let out) - we currently have 10 hens one brood of 3 youngsters that are now around 12 weeks old, one brood of 5 that are around 9 weeks old, a brood of two that are around 4 weeks old, and a another brood of two that have just hatched out.

This run is a very large area, about 50 metres by 30 metres, and has a 4 foot high fence with a single strand of electric fencing running along the top and another running along the bottom. It is a main unit so there is a good wack if anyone or anything touches it (it is not mains electricity, it is a small DC current, run off the mains) and gives a constant level of power as opposed to a battery operated unit that gets weaker over time.

This has been in place for two years and just once over that time have I lost any chickens, and that was on a really wet and windy night, when my llamas were sheltering in their shelter, oh yes, my llamas have access to the next field and guard the fence line on two sides, the two sides where predators, mainly foxes are likely to approach my land.

In this run, I do not go down and lock the chooks up, I leave the guarding to my llamas.

This year we decided to breed a few pure Light Sussex, I had 11 chicks hatch out and they are now around 12 weeks old, we think we have 7 pullets (females) and 4 cockerels which have been split up into two groups. The 7 pullets have had a refurbished coop, and a 6' high enclosure built around them, they too have llamas guarding one side, but as they are youngsters and not wise to the ways of the world they need shutting in at night, no electric fence up there as way too far away from any power.

The 4 cockerels are also in a coop away from all the others and only has a small fence but are closer to my office and have goats on two sides (not sure how effective they'd be against a fox, and in any event they are all locked up at night.

So, a new routine, these two sets of chooks need locking up at dusk, and whilst I have remembered most nights, I have forgotten once when a glass of wine seemed to ruin the memory, luckily nothing happened but I must not forget again, must I?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Changing mobile phones!

What a pa lava!

Our contract is coming up for renewal and it was time to look at upgrading my phone.

The main aim though was to try and save ourselves a few bob, after all these top of the range rockets cost an arm and a leg and at the end of the day they are just a mobile phone. OK, they are a mobile phone that you can send and receive emails, you can tweet away, or check out Facebook, you can upload pictures that you have taken on your phone, and you can even take videos.

Well, on researching, there were a lot of smartphones out there that will do all that the top of the range models do at a fraction of the price.

I had an iPhone - cost was around £500 - they said it was free but I have more than paid for that during the 24 month contract I had to sign up for, and if you deduct a cost of a SIM only contract then that is what I paid for it.

So, this time I have gone for an android, cost just less than £90, and I will be going on to a SIM only contract when the current contract expires - I should save myself over £20 a month, so the phone will have paid for itself in four and half months and the most amazing thing is that this phone does everything that I ever did on the iPhone.

There, I feel better already!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Another broody!

Yes, we have another broody!

This is our 4th - the first successfully hatched 3 chicks, the second 5 chicks and the third just two.

In between times we hatched out a big batch in the incubator. 15 hatched, and 11 have survived so far!

Trouble is with broody number 4 is that our eggs are no longer fertile as we had dispatched the cockerel, so a quick shout out on our local Devon Smallholders Facebook group and I found someone local who had some hatching eggs. So, a quick dash up to Woolsery and I bought 5 french maran eggs. The lady I bought from said that a broody will sit on an odd number of eggs, so I couldn't have six, I had to have 5 or 7, so 5 it was!

Who knew!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Blooming animals are forever picking up ticks - just found a fat juicy one behind one of Lladdies ears. The 50p tick remover that we invested in several years ago has well and truly paid for itself. I think this year that is Lladies second, Gizmo has picked up four, Pepper one and Hilda the cat has picked up three.

Luckily though, no humans have picked up any - always wearing boots or wellies and jeans, very rarely have any bare skin showing. If you do get bitten by a tick be aware of Lymes disease - Many people with early-stage Lyme disease develop a distinctive circular rash at the site of the tick bite, usually around 3 to 30 days after being bitten. This is known as erythema migrans. Follow the link to the NHS website for further symptoms and as long as it is picked up early it is treatable.

However, it doesn't appear to infect the animals - it is just an irritant whilst it sucking their blood.

Monday, 13 July 2015

We have rain..

In fact we have loads of rain, the type of rain that gently comes down and soaks everything. It's good because it soaks into the soil instead of running off and flooding places, it's also good as we fill up our water butts with, in some case much needed water. It's also good in that the vegetable plot won't need a good soak for weeks, but....

It's not so good, because it is summer, and we need sunshine to ripen my tomatoes, amongst other things, so please can we have some more sunshine!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Two's company, three... a crowd.

Until recently we had 4 dogs and with the recent passing of Cookie, our 14 year old Samoyed, we now have just three.

Lladdie & Gizmo (a border collie and a springer spaniel respectively) are both three years old and have plenty of energy and while they do not always get on, do play and race each other around our fields.

This chap ...

Pepper, our 10 year old springer X is feeling a bit left out - poor thing. He misses Cookie dreadfully as she has been there all his life until 2 weeks ago, and he has no one to play with.

I actually feel really sorry for him!

Friday, 3 July 2015

I think we are winning the war against rats... least in the meantime!

This warm weather has seen an explosion in our local rat population. Whether we like it or not rats (and mice) like to live close to us humans as we regularly leave food out for them to eat. Whether we feed the wild birds, leave cat food out for the cat, or drop some rubbish near our bins, all of these things attract rats.

In our case, it's our chickens!

There has been the odd hole appear in their run (they have a large outdoor run, some 40 metres by 20 metres) but this summer they seem to have multiplied out of control.

They didn't seem to like the poison put down for them in the run and seem to avoid going anywhere near the bait stations. The rats then seemed to build a nest in one of our clumps of pampus grass which is just outside the chicken run and we seemed to have two populations, so something had to be done.

We changed the bait in the bait stations, we moved them closer to the pampus grass, the dogs got a few as they seem to be very bold in coming out to scavenge, and a friend in the village lent me their air rifle. Yesterday we had someone come around and remove the pampus grass, and that seems to have reduced the numbers still further.

A few dead rats have been picked up and disposed of - Pepper managed to kill a rather large one last night - but the sight of them scurrying around when we go in to feed the chickens has stopped. phew....

I didn't manage to shoot any with the air rifle, I am obviously a bad marksman, but I got close a few times and that scared them.

Our baby chicks are safe as they are small enough for a large rat to decide to have for tea!