The time for the Batch #2 eggs to go into lockdown had come. After candling on Day 8 there were only nine left that were given to broody Helen Cluck to sit on in her nestbox in Featherburn Lodge. For some reason all of Ninja’s were infertile. I cracked a few of her eggs saved from the days following these ones (to make scrambled eggs) until I could see one that was fertilised again. I just caught her in a bad patch for this batch. Morpheus’ few were infertile too, with a different rooster, but I figure it’s because they were from right before she went broody. Helen Cluck had gotten nine eggs to sit on: three of Jemima’s and six of Dahlia’s.
For lockdown I took Jemima’s three eggs off Helen Cluck and put them into the incubator. This meant I could be sure of whose chicks were whose while still letting Helen Cluck have a go at hatching. Somewhere along the way one of Dahlia’s eggs had disappeared from the nestbox with only a few traces. It is likely that Helen Cluck broke it getting into the nestbox, then cleaned it up. She is a broody that doesn’t have a problem with getting off the nest for breaks. Thankfully, she stuck with her eggs the whole way through. Penny Black, who was the other broody hen, had to keep getting booted out of her nestbox since she was in a bottom one and other hens were laying in it. After being booted out so many times, Penny Black had had enough and ceased to be broody, which is better for everyone right now.
All three Jemima-Sage eggs hatched in the incubator, much to my delight, and the chicks are all blue. I waited until all of the eggs ought to have hatched under Helen Cluck before touching her. We also had to wait for the untimely steady rain to go away, meaning two big chick moves ended up needing to be done on the same morning.
As a slight tangent, I’ve been really pleased with the little racks that I bought a while ago to be dividers in the incubator. They are technically spice shelves that are 39cm long, 11cm deep and 7cm high, purchased from Mitre 10. I recently bought two more so I have four. I can sit them up against each other at each end and there would still be a small space in the middle of the incubator, creating five separate spaces to hold eggs from different mothers so they don’t get mixed up when hatching. The first racks I tried had walls with only vertical wires, which the chicks could get through. I ended up taping strips of cardboard around them, which was ok in a pinch but wasn’t very practical for cleaning or for visibility. These ones have horizontals wires too, creating squares. They are not totally foolproof as I have had one chick get through, I think from scrambling overtop. But the chicks aren’t capable of that to start with. I want to get some little clips to attach the dividers together for extra security against chicks pushing and flailing around.
The morning of the big moves arrived. Miss Scarlet was down in bed for the last time after an early morning feed and The Little Fulla and I quickly set to work while I had hands free. The first big move was getting Morpheus and her chicks out of the Big Cage and into the main pen with the black chickens. A few days prior I had changed all the leg tags on the growing chicks, while they were easy to corner. It cost me a shower that night but at least it got done. I had also moved the chick feeder box into the right pen. First, I put filled food and water vessels out into the chick feeder box, where they are protected from the big chickens. Then Morpheus had to be put into another cage with rubber gloved-hands, because she’s feisty. Ain’t nobody wanna mess with broody Morpheus. Then all the chicks were put into the feeder box with their food and water and Morpheus was let out beside it. Of course all the chicks ran straight out to their mum so I had to do some awkward feeder box training/herding with the baby in the carrier later on. That’s fine, I’m used to being awkward.
Next, I quickly swept out the Big Cage ready for the next big move: moving Helen Cluck and her chicks into it. By this time it was clear from the sound monitor that Miss Scarlet was not asleep, so we were working as fast as we could. While I got the food and water sorted and got Helen Cluck and whatever was under her out of the nestbox and into the cage, The Little Fulla was sent with a bowl to get the three blue chicks out of the incubator in the laundry and bring them outside. There were three wee, fluffy, black Dahlia-Jack of Spades chicks under Helen Cluck and two unhatched, unpipped eggs. They all went into the cage until I could check the eggs later. Helen Cluck began motherly teaching duties and sat on all the chicks. I got back inside to the baby, who had, unsurprisingly, pooped in bed. Everything becomes an intense juggling act with a baby around but I’m grateful for The Little Fulla’s help.
Helen Cluck has been a great mum to her six chicks so far, one who sits a lot to keep the chicks warm and is fairly quiet. As for the two eggs, one had died earlier on and one just didn’t hatch. The incubator trumped the broody in hatch rate this time.
After the incubator was emptied and rinsed out I put the last batch of eggs in for now, Batch #3. Recent moultee Judith suddenly went back to laying just days days after I butchered blue rooster Sage. That figures. I put in eggs that were saved from all three blue hens after Sage was gone. I was highly curious to see if his fertility remained long enough for all of them and whether Judith’s managed to get fertilised at all. This was the last chance for Sage chicks. I hope to hatch some more chicks out of black rooster Jack of Spades later on.
With their last lot of eggs in the incubator, the blue hens were released into the main pen with the rest of the flock. Jack of Spades had to sort out some scuffles but they’re all fine now. As long as they steer clear of Morpheus.
I candled the Batch #3 eggs from the blue hens on Day 8, with better-than-expected results. And better-than-last time results. Ninja had definitely gotten over her loss of fertility blip as only the last egg out of nine was infertile. That could be where Sage’s goods started to run out. Of Jemima’s six, three were infertile, two of them being her last two. Best of all, four of Judith’s six are growing babies! One egg was infertile and one had a blood ring indicating early death. So we could get a few Judith chicks after all! We have 15 eggs, which could hatch blue, black or splash chicks.
The Little Fulla’s chicks, Sprinkles and Winkles are doing well. At the moment it looks like Winkles, the black Dahlia chick, is a boy and Sprinkles, the splash Ninja chick is a girl, much to our relief!
All the pepper seedlings have been pricked out and potted up. The biggest of the tomato seedlings have also been potted up. They and the seed trays are all under the cold frame on the outdoor table, where they seem to be doing well. The Husband made the perfect stay to hold up the heavy window top with a piece of timber attached to it by a hinge we had lying around.
The latest lot of seeds to get going was the cucumbers. I put the cucumber seeds in the hot water cupboard to germinate with the paper towel method. Last season I saved seeds from two fat, overripe cucumbers of the Homegrown Pickles variety, which I make gherkins from, but they were open (naturally) pollinated so there’s a chance they could have cross-pollinated with a slicing variety. I’m keeping the seeds from each one labelled separately to see if there’s any difference. I’m not sure if pollination works like with their pumpkin and squash cousins where different seeds from the same fruit can grow plants with fruit of different characteristics. After four days all the seeds had rooted and the freshest home-saved ones were past ready to be potted up. They’re all under the cold frame now too.
We need to get the seed potatoes planted in the Front Plot. The trouble is, the winter brassicas in the row where the potatoes will be going aren’t mature yet. I got them started and planted later than was ideal in autumn due to the first round of seeds not doing well, courtesy of pregnancy. I’m trying to decide whether to wait a bit longer or to ditch some of the brassicas. I don’t want to wait too long as it is better to get potatoes in sooner rather than later to get them growing before blight takes hold in the hot, humid months.
You know you truly appreciate your bed when you start talking to it. “Hello, bed.” That’s me when I get into bed at night, addressing it like an old friend. Last week was a week of bed training round #2 for Miss Scarlet. This time, I am pleased to announce that it worked. Miss Scarlet can now sleep in her BED during the day, instead of being carted around in the carrier. Hooray! It was stressful getting through it and at times I wondered what on earth I was thinking trying to get a 2 1/2-month-old baby to sleep in her cot all by herself. But I prayed, I persevered and the intense crying and feelings of abandonment subsided so that she now sleeps in her bed every time I put her in there. This seems both bizarre and nothing short of magical to me. All I can say is there’s power in the mighty name of Jesus.
This is a huge game changer. It means I can now do things that I couldn’t do before, like gardening things! I was running out of garden tasks that I could actually do with her in the carrier on my front. I found myself wandering around with secateurs doing ‘micro pruning’ of things I could reach standing up, that weren’t going to whack her, such was my pruning withdrawal. I was scowling at the weeds and offering up empty threats as they flourished in the spring rains. Then I got a sore back from trying to do too many bendy things with her on me, which is part of what prompted the second attempt at bed training. She’s a sensitive wee thing, Miss Scarlet, so I do have to tread carefully. I’m so proud of her for learning to sleep by herself and settle herself. And I’m excited about the possibilities ahead of me. I still don’t have a lot of time during her naps, but I am free to do so many things that I couldn’t do before. Weeding the garden was never so exciting!
We are starting to get some semblance of routine now with school drop-offs and pick-ups and bed naps. The Little Fulla would rather entertain Miss Scarlet than get ready in the mornings but he’s full of funny advice for her like this: “When you get older you need to learn to row your boat gently down the stream.” I think there’s more wisdom in that than he realises…