Tag Archives: poultry

A yolk about eggs

We collected the eggs today, not that there were many, as we’ve sent most of the hens to market and it’s the wrong time of year. (Of course, from a chicken’s point of view, it’s always the wrong time of year to go to market).

In fact there were two eggs, and being from bantams, they were both small. One was much smaller than the other. On Monday I weighed three of these eggs and they weighed just over 90 grams, which isn’t much more than one decent egg. In fact I used all three of them in place of the one required for the Grantham Gingerbread.

 

This put me in mind of a limerick, (which I altered to match the circumstances).

 

There was a young hen from Devizes,

Whose eggs were two different sizes.

One was so small,

it was no use at all,

But the other won several prizes.

 

 


While I remember…

My father-in-law, who reinvented himself as a humorous poet after 25 years in the Royal Navy and many more working as a physio in the NHS, wrote a poem about memory loss and senior moments. I wish I could remember it…

I forgot to mention in my last post that I scored another pointless answer whilst watching “Pointless” on Saturday. The subject was “Wimbledon” and the answer was Minuetto Allegretto.

UK readers of a certain age are now  humming a variety of Wombles songs. The rest of you have no need to worry – you really aren’t missing anything.

I’m not sure whether to be pleased at getting a pointless answer or ashamed of the knowledge that produced it.

I had another one last night with korfball, which I feel is slightly more respectable.

I also forgot to give you the answer to my Doctor Who question from some time ago. The question was along the lines of what have Doctor Who and Wakefield Trinity got in common (apart from the fact that they both used to be better when I was younger).

The answer is contained in the film This Sporting Life, where William Hartnell first came to the attention of Verity Lambert. When she was casting for Doctor Who, she remembered him. Last time I was there his picture was still in one of the film stills on the stairway in the main stand.

The photograph shows one of the cockerels in the yard. Most of the poultry is being rounded up and sent to market next Monday. They cost money to feed and they make the place look untidy. Those, according to the way the place is now being run, are undesirable qualities.

Don’t get me started on this subject.

Rumblings of Rural Rebellion

When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

John Ball (c 1338 – 15 July 1381)

We came to work today under protest as we had planned to have a day away. Julia needs more pottery so a call on the factory shops of Stoke on Trent is in the pipeline. It’s not as good as it used to be (though I’m not quite as good as I used to be either) but we normally find some decent stuff and I’m also looking for a few bits to photograph pies on. Did I mention I have a new food blog and am shamelessly plugging it in the pursuit of more traffic?

As Number One son is now working in Leeds and Number Two son is due back at Sheffield next week we should be safe buying new crockery. You would not believe how many plates they can chip compared to the amount of washing up they do.

As so many times before, despite desperately wanting us on Wednesday, The Farmer, who does not pay us for this time, is off doing other jobs come Friday and we are totally forgotten.

We are currently being battered by the wind (just look at the swinging ice cream sign). I really don’t like wind. I can take cold or wet, but wind is so wearing. It was always noticeable when I used to frequent outdoor antique markets, that wind kept people away more effectively than rain.

The men in Sheds, having mended the old industrial toaster from the cafe, are making toasted teacakes and spreading them with the plum jam Julia made on Wednesday. She meant to do it on Tuesday but we ended up with no power. It’s very good. We sat around eating it and fermenting rebellion.

Someone came for two of the Polish crosses, though they don’t seem to understand my point that at this age I’m not prepared to guarantee they are pullets. If I was prepared to guarantee this I would want a lot more money for them. That’s how it goes. However, as The farmer has told her we will sort two out for her I had to do my best and grit my teeth.

We used to volunteer around the farm because there was an element of give and take in the relationship. Over the years, without us really noticing (a bit like the Boiling Frog) it has become more of a master servant relationship and my radical leanings are coming to the fore.

The example of local lads Robin Hood and Jeremiah Brandreth is never far from my mind, though it didn’t exactly end well for either of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like eating soup with a fork…

After an active morning, with a lot of poultry work and watering, we had lunch and settled down to some serious outdoor education with a trek in the woods and the making of nature memory sticks. I would say “and picking blackberries” but someone has got there before us, for the second year in a row. The sticks are on willow, but despite repeated soaking most of them stayed defiantly unbent.

Here are the results. They look pretty good in real life, though possibly not quite so good in the photos. The sticks, that is. The group, of course, when faced with a camera look shifty, bored or anywhere but the camera. That’s what suggested the title. I’ve just deleted about half the group shots because people moved, looked away, closed their eyes or opened their mouths unsuitably wide. The surviving shots then needed weeding for ones where they have greenery sprouting from unexpected places.

As you can see, it wasn’t the most successful of group portraits – long on character but short on technical skill is a kind way of putting it.

Part of it was my fault, I suppose, as I kept asking for different sorts of cheese to encourage them to pay attention. It may not have worked, as shouts of “Boursin!” and a discussion on paneer proved not to be advantageous to the job in hand.  So, by the miracle of coincidence and cheap digital photography,  here are some pictures.

 

The Incubator Diaries (Part 1)

I’ve been fighting off involvement with the livestock since we arrived on the farm. After years of working weekends and bank holidays, and being called out on emergencies I left farming about 20 years ago and didn’t want to be dragged back in.

However, I’m doing a bit more as time goes on, and recently bought an incubator (as I may have mentioned last week).  The idea is that we will be able to do more with visiting kids if we have young chicks and a bit of science to offer. At the moment I’m a little lost. Compared to the industrial machines I used to work with a plastic box holding 20 eggs doesn’t seem much of a challenge. For one thing, I keep wondering where all the other eggs are and for another I’m apprehensive about what happens if the attempt is a disaster.

All I have going round in my head is a list of things that can go wrong (dirty eggs, infertile eggs, poor egg storage, too much humidity, too little humidity at the end, dead in shell, mushy chicks, unabsorbed yolk sacs…). How will I ever hold my head up again if I make a mess of it.

Yesterday I noticed that the humidity had been falling since I switched on – stabilising at 36% when it was set at 40%. Of course, when I went through everything I found I’d pressed the wrong button and set the humidity level at 20%. I set it at 45% and the pump immediately started working, with humidity shooting up to 56%. It’s stabilised at 45% overnight so all is good for now.

This is our new machine. It has automatic turning and humidifying as there are times we will be away for days at a time and automation is more reliable than the farm staff.

It currently has eggs from the Polish Bantams and the ones that lay the blue/green eggs. I’m not even sure which they are, we just kept the coloured eggs and are hoping for the best. They must have some Araucana blood in them but the previous poultry keeper was a bit of cross-breeding freak. Well, he was when it came to poultry; I can’t really comment on his personal life.

Watch this space, as they say.

Bread, butter and Brownies – Part 2

Well, I’ve updated the gallery page with a slideshow, if you’re interested, and I’ve re-read Part 1 and realised that I may have been slightly less than accurate in my comments on butter making. It’s easy, as I said. However, twice it has proved to be impossible. I did it as a unit of a PTLLS course I took some years ago – the cream was hot from being in the back of the car and the evening was humid and the classroom unventilated. After half an hour of shaking, as I showed signs of passing out, they decided to let me off that bit. It still took me an hour after that to stop shaking. The other time was similar, hot and humid day, trying to make butter at a care home. Fortunately, with a clientèle that were all around 90 we were able to nip to the kitchen and substitute butter from the fridge without anyone spotting it.

So, butter making is generally easy. Apart from when it isn’t.

I’ve just been run into the ground by 23 Brownies. I don’t think I could cope with being a Brownie leader – the enthusiasm is great, but I don’t have the energy to keep up!

It’s also trickier doing the visit on your own, but as Julia was working at her “proper” job tonight we didn’t have much choice. What is a seamless performance with the two of us working like a well-oiled machine (I may be exaggerating a bit here), becomes a touch fraught as you have to prepare everything in advance and go from one to the other hoping that it all fits together. It just about did. I forgot the picking of herbs and chillies for the soup until I had them all washing their hands in the outside sink so I had to alter my choice of herbs to sage and golden marjoram – those being the ones they could see from the sink.

There was also a bit of  a gap where I needed to serve up the soup, but the leaders covered that for me with a song about gorilla snot. Yes, it was a surprise to me too.

😉

In the end it all went reasonably well, kids and leaders seemed happy, we had no accidents, the animals behaved (OK, apart from the goats) and I’m left with a feeling of well-being as we head into tomorrow and the fifth day. I’ve a few points to improve on but nothing too bad.

List for tomorrow – cream crackers, fly spray (it’s not good weather for those of us with waterless toilets), air freshener (ditto), long bamboo skewers (for our November Project), and bread for lunch.

I think that’s it…

 

 

Dogs, oranges and apostrophes

You never have a camera when you need one do you?

I’ve just seen Edie the sheep dog leap from the back of the pick-up and run round in a big circle to gather a mixed flock of hens and guinea fowl.

The results were both spectacular and predictable, with one of the guinea fowl ending up on the barn roof and the dog looking perplexed as everyone disappeared in a flurry of beating wings.

There’s nothing wrong with her ancestral need to herd things, but there’s obviously a bit of fine tuning to be done.

Meanwhile I have discovered that a citrus-scented keyboard makes typing a more pleasurable experience. That’s a spin-off from my diet, as I’m now eating more fruit as snacks to kill the urge for biscuits and other bad stuff. The yoga group left some biscuits yesterday and they are still there. Well, most of them are. It seemed rude just to ignore the gift. At one time they would have been gone before I left on Thursday night.

The downside to the citrus-scented keyboard is that I can’t type any questions at the moment as the key that produces question marks is wedged by a piece of orange peel that fell from one of the fruity snacks.

I think the answer is probably to lever the key off gently using a penknife or small screwdriver and to clean underneath. Me, penknife, electrical equipment…

I may wait until Monday. If it dries out I may be able to get it going without further work.

If not, I may be able to work round it. Over the years I’ve managed to get round most of my apostrophe problems by rearranging my words. I mean, how difficult can it be to do without a question mark…

…ah!

Rain, robins and roosters

The Met Office misled me. I was expecting passing showers, but instead we had a prolonged hammering from hail.

Despite this we did manage to get some of the Kew seeds planted.

More lambs today, but no photos in case any of my you start to suffer from cuteness fatigue. I’ll post more on Wednesday. You will have to make do with a picture of a robin singing in the barn. No, I’ve never seen one singing inside either, but as the front is open it’s easy to get in and out.

The final batch of ewes were due to start lambing today, but let’s face it, when do sheep ever do what they are supposed to do? It doesn’t matter, because we’re still knee deep in lambs from the main group, and have plenty more still to come as some of them are showing no urgency about giving birth.

The poultry emerged after the rain, as did the sun, so it ended on a positive note.

PS: Yes, I do realise that the title is both inaccurate (rain) and Americanised (rooster) but Hail, robins and cockerels just didn’t sound so good. Oh, and I just realised there was only one robin…

Trials and Tribulations

Sorry for the lack of communication this week, it’s been one of those weeks. Whether I can accurately describe it as hectic, or whether I should just put it down to lack of application is one of those grey areas. There has certainly been plenty happening, but I have also spent a lot of my spare time in displacement activities.

I was going to rectify this as soon as we arrived on the farm this morning but the flock of chickens that came to look at us as we unlocked the centre indicated that all was not well.

They are supposed to be on the field by the vegetable plot. I sometimes wonder if we are a little tactless in putting them so close to the carrots and potatoes that will accompany them to whatever afterlife a chicken may have, but what they don’t know won’t worry them. The same goes for feeding apple pulp to the pigs after we have been juicing.

We’re not sure what had happened but it looks like someone has opened the doors and just let them out. One of them has a badly fitting bolt that needs leaning on to make it shut, and if it needs me to lean on it then you can be sure that no flapping chicken or gust of wind has accidentally opened it. Even if that had happened, what is the chance of the second coop opening too?

It’s either kids, the provisional wing of the Chicken Liberation Front or an egg collector with no common sense.

I hope they don’t do it again as we’re still in mourning over Nelson the white(ish) cockerel.  About a week ago I mentioned how the farmyard flock seemed to lead a charmed life regarding predators. Two days later we arrived to find a cloud of pale feathers and a distinct lack of cockerel. Looks like a fox caught him out. The main picture shows him from his good side – he was blind in the other eye, hence the name, and possibly why he didn’t see the fox in time.

Anyway, after some gentle persuasion most of them pottered back into the coops and the rest were safely locked away after some scrambling that looked like the training scene from Rocky.

 

It’s still not feeling very springlike. Though it’s ten degrees Centigrade outside, it’s overcast and there’s a gusting breeze from the north which makes it feel quite chilly.

This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the poultry in the yard, who are foraging actively as I type.

 

They don’t seem to have a bad life. They have food, water and plenty of room to roam. We don’t lose any to predators, so they must have found a safe place to roost, and they have plenty of shelter from the weather. With glossy plumage and chicks being hatched every year they seem to be in great condition.

On the downside, we rarely find their eggs, but they look so decorative we forgive them for that. We do, after all, have other poultry in runs to produce eggs.

I have to say that after my experience of poultry suggests that they don’t have an active intellectual life, but then again, with a brain the size of my fingernail, they are probably too dim to realise that. Even if they did want to read they are going to have problems without having hands.

Radio, on the other hand, is a different matter. I have known people play the radio to chickens. I’ve been told several times that poultry find it soothing. I have also seen it used where poultry sheds were near RAF bases – the theory being that they will get used to the noise and not panic when jets fly over.

One man told me that his poultry preferred classical music, but everyone else used popular music programmes (I’m tempted to mention the Light Programme but that might show my age). It’s difficult to decide what a chicken likes, as I suspect that the choice of programme was dictated by the musical tastes of the egg collectors rather than the poultry.

One day, if I am reincarnated as a scientist, I may research that question by playing Radio 1, Radio 4 and Classic FM to groups of poultry. It could be a tricky ethical area, as I’m not sure that being compelled to listen to radio 1 all day falls within the welfare codes.

 

 

Footnote: My experience of working with poultry on deep litter near RAF Wittering in the Harrier days (and they were noisy!) was that they all fluttered and fussed the first time it happened and then just used to go quiet and cluck a bit on subsequent occasions.