I Guess The Chicken Plans Are Changing Then

Alright, it’s time for some decent catch-ups on what’s been happening around here – so much. Let’s start in the chicken department.

The Chickens

Just before we went away I found that the one cockerel I was growing out, the back-up to Mr Anderson, the blue Frodo boy, had red feathers growing through on his neck. Noooooo!!!!!! I’ve always been a bit unsure about the possibility of red feathers in Frodo’s genetics, which came through in her offspring from discovered-to-be-non-purebred rooster Elrond. Frodo came from the same breeder as him. But as none of her previous four purebred offspring (Thomas, Tabitha, Timmy Tiptoes and Ribby), all blue, had had any red feathers come through whatsoever, I thought the red feather issue must have just come from Elrond, who had colour faults that were quite observable to the initiated. But now I fear the red colouring must have gotten into that line from a breeding incident somewhere along the way. This is not good.

The blue Frodo boy has RED FEATHERS on his neck. Noooo!!!

Firstly, it meant that this Frodo boy had to go. I was disappointed because he was coming along really nicely. I culled him as soon as I could after returning from holiday. Secondly, it means I will have to watch all Frodo’s offspring closely for development of red feathers. Any with red feathers will have to be culled. Those without red feathers will have to have their offspring closely monitored too, and so on until I have gotten rid of any red colouring to the best of my ability. If I sell any of Frodo’s offspring I will sell them as non-breeding chickens (well, non-purebred breeding) and say why, as I don’t want to exacerbate the problem. The pullets will be perfectly fine for laying eggs and doing all other chicken things, but the cockerels will be butchered, not sold. Thirdly, it means I will not be keeping any cockerels from Frodo until I am convinced that they’re not going to pass on any red colouring. Red feathers are more likely to turn up in males and I don’t want to risk passing that on into my other lines.

Since I’m still hoping to get some good traits from Frodo into my chicken breeding, I will proceed with all the above things in mind. I really dodged a bullet in culling Thomas and Timmy Tiptoes. Tabitha was culled for Mareks last winter. Ribby is still kicking around and then I have four Frodo pullets out of Andrew: one blue, three black. They are 17 weeks old now.

You’d think that would be enough to think about for now, but then something else happened. I opened the coop door one morning to find Mr Anderson, head rooster, dead on the floor. That was a rather shocking way to start the day. He had shown no signs of being ill and was happily hanging out with his favourite hens as I threw them caterpillars the afternoon before. My best guess is that he ate something toxic.

Mr Anderson, looking very good three days before he died.

I walked around the pen for a plant check, which I have to admit I didn’t do before I moved the chickens into the Orchard Pen after returning from holiday. I was eager to get them in there as they were overdue to change pens since I didn’t want them in that pen adjoining the neighbours’ paddocks while we were away. We get the occasional escapee, especially when they’re young and I didn’t want to risk that while we weren’t here. There were a few young black nightshade plants in there, which I pulled out. He could have eaten green berries from them, which are toxic. The other thing of note that I discovered was an arum lily growing up right on the fenceline between us and the neighbours. I hadn’t even thought to get rid of it and it was rather larger than the last time I noticed it. All parts of arum lillies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and indeed all lillies are quite poisonous to people and animals. With horror I noticed that there was a low, nibbled leaf and a stem with a seedpod bent down and on the ground, the seedpod having been opened by some creature and the seeds pecked at. I can’t be sure of what killed Mr Anderson but I feel like an idiot for not having done a routine plant check of the pen. I have also discovered that the seeds of Pseudopanax lessonii are poisonous and there was one in the Cedar Pen. I wonder if that’s what suddenly killed Rory this time last year. In any case, all the aforementioned plants have now been removed.

So, we are suddenly left without a rooster or coming-of-age cockerel. It’s probably a good thing that I got so many boys from the last hatch then. Of the 10-week-olds it looks like there might only be two girls, one blue, one black. The splash one looks to be a boy, unfortunately. It will be a couple of months before we have a fertile cockerel again.

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Two of the young cockerels, including the splash one (right). Of six blue chicks you’d think I’d get more than one girl. Hmm.
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The blue Duchess boy on the left is one of the front runners for the rooster spot. Duchess is my best hen at present. The black Tiggywinkle boy is another option.

I am forging ahead and there are now eggs in the incubator. The eggs should still be fertile for a few weeks after Mr Anderson’s demise. The only problem is it’s been hard to get good eggs from the hens I want since a couple are moulting and half the others are caught up in ongoing broodiness or semi-broodiness. The hot weather is messing with them. I might continue to collect eggs that I want to hatch and use a hen if one will properly commit to broodiness. We are still getting enough eggs since there are nine hens laying now. Or capable of laying.

Harvesting and Processing

The plum harvest lasted longer than I expected this summer. When we came back from holiday there were actually still some plums on the tree, albeit starting to deteriorate, so we had more for eating and The Little Fulla and I chopped and de-stoned more for the freezer. Being a sucker for punishment, I bought some peaches that were on special and then we had to de-stone and slice those to freeze for later. At least they were easier and much less messy than plums.

The blackcurrants are done but we’re still harvesting blueberries and a very few strawberries. There are green raspberries developing on the raspberry canes for the autumn harvest. The ‘Aspiring’ raspberries are extremely vigorous and have been lolloping all over the tomatoes. I banged a waratah into each end of the bed and have strung rope along through the top holes for now since we’re out of wire. When I get some wire I’ll string one length through the top holes and one lower down to support the smaller canes.

The Little Fulla has been helping me to pick the bush beans and shell them. He’s gotten quite good at picking only the bean pods that have dried out properly. We both get a kick out of shelling the beans and sorting them into jars. We grew Kidney, Borlotti and Cannelloni, plus a few of my ‘Burgundy Borlotti’ beans that I am gradually getting more of, having started with one chance pod two seasons ago.

Shelling the dried beans is fun for all.

The Husband has made two batches of tomato soup from our tomatoes so far and we have chopped a bunch for the freezer as well, to make more soup later. The Husband is talking about buying some tomatoes from a market while they’re cheap. I am mortified at the thought of doing this for the second year in a row and am sure that I have planted enough for our needs. There are some plants that were planted later that are only just ripening or haven’t started ripening yet. I did lose three plants to a virus. And the ‘Black From Tula’ that we are growing for the first time has not done very well. But still. Next year there will be more tomatoes in the Veggie Plan. Mark my words! The Husband continues his sentiments that the entire Veggie Garden should be planted in tomatoes. “100 tomato plants!” he says. Um…

Tomatoes: Black From Tula, Amish Paste and Brandywine Pink. The Gardener’s Delight cherries are underway with production now.

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