And Then There Were Four

Well, there’s really only one thing I’ve been up to lately and that is looking after the baby. It was a bit of a shock to the system to go from being heavily pregnant, six days ‘overdue’, feeling like the baby was never going to come out and starting to discuss ways to move things along, to having a labour that was only 5 1/2 hours from the first contraction and suddenly having our sweet baby girl out and in our arms. I felt like a startled rabbit to see her actually out. She took her time but once she started coming round the mountain she was off.

Miss Scarlet is the most beautiful baby girl in the world, in my opinion. And possibly the biggest feeder. So far she has been pretty good at night sleeps but with less desire to sleep during the day. When she does nap I scramble to eat, rest and shower in whatever order is deemed most applicable.

It was more than a week before I managed to get outside for a little wander, and that was nice. Recovery is going much better than last time but in my rundown state I caught a cold off The Little Fulla, so I’ve been feeling quite munted. Not the ideal way to start out. The Husband has been doing chicken chores and other things around the house as well as keeping The Little Fulla occupied and doing baby duties. But after two weeks the sad time has come when he has to go back to work.

Enjoying the flowers in a rare moment of escape into the garden (Manuka – Leptospermum scoparium ‘Red Falls’).
Do you think the chickens missed me?

The Husband had gotten rid of the bad pallets and acquired some more, just heat treated this time. He has now gotten those dismantled, cut and stacked on the firewood shelves. We’ve been using a lot of wood with us all at home. It is so nice to have a toasty, fire-heated house while there are frosts or stormy events going on outside.

Our heat transfer system that is part of the ventilation system works really well with the fire to transfer excess heat into the bedrooms. We also have two heat pumps, one in the living room and one in the hall. The living room one gets used a lot for air conditioning in summer but is also handy for heating before getting the fire going or if I’m unable to start it during busy times. The hall heat pump gets used the most at night when we can have it on low on cold nights to keep the bedrooms warm. On hot, sticky summer nights it can also keep us cool. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done on our house but having the heating and cooling sorted is so good. Yes, our hallway is adorned with ripped wallpaper and the new toilet hasn’t been installed yet… But the house is warm and dry.

Fires are also useful for toasting marshmallows.

The Husband made a few tasty things to eat in his time off. We have a good amount of eggs now that most of the pullets are laying and the hens have all but finished moulting. Winter is a good egg-laying time for our Australorps. The Husband made some bacon and egg pies for The Little Fulla and himself. With the leftover pastry he made some sausage rolls with pork mince and used some gluten-free wraps to make some for me.

The Husband’s sausage rolls.

It’s a slow start to chicken breeding season this year, for obvious reasons, but at least something is going to happen. Two chickens were casualties of late pregnancy because I just didn’t have the ability to look after them well enough. Both Jacinda, one of the hens, and Hollyhock, one of the pullets, got impacted crop, at different times. I made the hard call to cull Jacinda after beginning to treat her as I couldn’t keep up with it and didn’t want her to suffer. Weeks later, I found Hollyhock with a very swollen, hard crop, looking very sad. I started to treat her but whatever she’d eaten caused a major problem and she died overnight. The next day was the day before Miss Scarlet was born. Although it was sad it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t have to worry about Hollyhock while I was in labour and at the birth centre.

Hollyhock (right) was fine and then days later she wasn’t.

If that wasn’t enough, I found Frodo lying down looking very sad in the pen the other day. She was hiding behind a tree and it was only because I counted the chickens to check them while I was out there that I noticed she was AWOL. She’s now in a cage but I don’t know if there’s much I can do for her. She’s looking a little better after drinking vitamin water but isn’t eating much. She is old, hasn’t laid for some time and has been slowing down. I figured she was heading towards the end of her days sooner rather than later but it’s still sad to see her unwell after living such a seemingly invincible life. It seems inevitable that things like this happen at the trickiest of times. It’s frustrating but we can only do our best.

Hollyhock, daughter of Helen Cluck, was the only granddaughter of Frodo’s that I ended up keeping. Her loss led me to thinking. I have a lot of time for thinking right now. I have decided not to carry on with the Frodo line since trying to breed out the red feather genes is taking up real estate that is better given to good quality chickens, or just having less chickens. If we had more space I would have room to play around, but thinking about space and time restrictions I really want to focus on producing good quality Australorps without question marks being part of the process. Frodo’s daughters, Helen Cluck and Penny Black, can stick around for now and we’ll see what this breeding season brings from the other hens.

The Henley Hut was readied for habitation and I moved blue cockerel Sage and the hens chosen for him in there a few nights ago. He sure seems pleased to have his own pen and hens. He’d been getting chased off a lot by alpha Jack of Spades as his interest in the females grew. I have given him three hens, who all happen to be blue: Jemima, Ninja and Judith. Ninja and Judith are the last hens who need to be checked for any accidental occurrence of red feathers in their offspring. Jemima is Sage’s mum. Breeding sons back to mothers and daughters to fathers is standard practice in line breeding to carry on desirable traits. Breeding blue to blue gives a chance of getting some splash coloured offspring too, so I’m hopeful of that, as well as getting more blue offspring. The pullets are a bit young for breeding yet so the only other hen I considered putting with Sage is Morpheus. She is Jack of Spades’ mum so I want to make sure she gets bred to him.

Before Miss Scarlet came along I got a few more beeswax food wraps made with the leftover wax mixture from the first lot. I also got a tractor coaster knitted for The Little Fulla’s bedroom using the chart that I made up. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out except that the tension ended up too tight in some places so it doesn’t sit very flat. It was tricky with so many strands of colour to be carried across the back. Now I’m back to knitting the log cabin rug again, although I haven’t gotten much done with a baby in tow. Fow now, Mum duties come first and anything else that gets done is a bonus.

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