what is it about the birds!

We love the birds,005

We love that the birds love our garden.

Sort of that is.

Tuis love the flax.

Sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds and others love the strawberries and all other berries.

Chickens love whatever we share with them.

Wax Eyes love the flax flowers and the figs.

All the birds love our fruit.

BUT we have discovered an olive thief.

We have been watching our olive trees – we have 8 trees now, we have been watching the fruit grow.

This year all but one of the trees looked like they would provide us with an abundance. An abundance only because we have not yet had a harvest so any olives at all would be an abundance. Our trees are between 2 and 4 years old.

Suddenly all the fruit we had been watching grow has gone.

Oddly I thought, We have had many peacocks in the paddocks and orchard recently.

There has been an abundance of peacock droppings near our olive trees.

I did make the suggestion that maybe they like the olives.

Of course not said Best Beloved.

Well he was wrong, so wrong.

Bless his heart he even admitted it.

He and grandson watched some peacocks gathering olives from some larger trees across the road from the school bus stop.

Yes you guessed it – peacocks jump up and pick olives.

Now there is a new plan.

A plan to frighten away peacocks

So that we can have an olive harvest next year.

albino peacock and  friends

Last day of October

We are still very busy with our garden – trying to recover it after a cold and very wet winter. We have planted many many trees, including 41 feijoa trees during our time here in Miranda and my main task of these last few weeks has been to relocate the smaller ones in the long grass – weeding, clearing the grass and weeds close to them, applying worm tea and mulching with well composted horse manure and in doing so have been helping the wee trees to reach for the sun.

My Best Beloved is laying paving for a patio. It was begun with help of a dear friend and two young German travellers. We do have a very large deck on the north side of the house but it is far too hot to use in the summer time and we cannot manage to stretch to a covered area hence the the paving between the house and my Best Beloveds brew house. The patio is on the west side of the house and is an area more often sheltered from wind and sun for more of the day and will be lovely when done.

We still need to complete some fencing, but need some more willing helpers as the sheep netting is too heavy for us oldies to shift to the paddock and install. We also need a new section of fencing – which needs posts installed as well. That will enclose an area for future ducks in an orchard area. Maybe we can organise a working bee to complete some of this big job.

One of our hens has two wee chicks which are about 2 weeks old now. We are watching our flock very carefully as think we may have another 2 hens thinking about going broody. We don’t want to lose a brood as we did last year due to silly positioning of the nest by the dotty mother hen to be. The nest had been positioned where water flowed when it rained so the chicks didn’t survive and the silly mother was in a place where we didn’t find the nest until too late to help.

We are nearly where we thought we would be by this time 4 years after moving into this wee lifestyle block.

I am trying in my mind to count our fruit and nut trees and it is well over a hundred – maybe at tree post might be in order.

and my Best Beloved is cooking fish for lunch so am off now.

PS – the wee trees lost in the grass are along the top of a bank, all of them are feijoas and they were sticks when we planted them. We had bought them at $1.00 each. Their job is to help hold the bank and if they give us fruit it will be a bonus and 2 have flowers this year so our mistreatment has not been all that bad. They are no longer sticks although some still look nearly as sickly as they did when we bought them.

it was a cold grey morning with a bit of misty rain

It was a cold and very early start for us – at the Ngatea Garage Sale.

Having decided to have a stall selling our worm tea, or juice or wee or leachate – all terms I have seen we just didn’t decide early enough to enable us to prepare well – so we didn’t have labels and signage in place. We did write up a wee bit of information and some people did take it away. I hope they come back next year.

We did speak to many people about what the worm farm does and how good it is for our soil health.

Maybe next year more people will be interested.

The results are evident here at Fuddy Farm after 3 years of the worm farm on our very definitely clay soil which had been scalped by a bulldozer prior to us buying it and starting our gardens and orchard.

We did begin our garden 4 years ago in September 2012 but started out by buying some top soil and compost. We then began composting in earnest – we started compost heaps, bought and scavenged horse manure, and then 3 years ago our first worm farm began in a bath.

To date we have 2 x 1 metre by 1 metre compost bins (made from pallets – one the chooks deal to and the other being created by us. We have a tumble bin, a 3 tier composter as well as a ready compost storage bin. We have one bath worm farm from which we take the worm wee, dilute it, and use on the gardens and around our fruit trees. We have one large pile of horse manure with various grasses, hay and wood chip with it and worms, it is about 3 by 3 metres – and should be ready to use by January. We have another bath with worms, it is full of horse manure and thousands of leaves gathered in the autumn at Mangatangi school. We do feed garden and kitchen scraps to both the bath worm farms. We also gather sea weed on the shoreline after storms and so have bags of autumn leaves and piles of seaweed quietly breaking down.

We also have an ongoing supply of chicken poo and straw. Our chickens also deal with garden and kitchen waste which we place in one of the pallet bins – and they convert it into compost for us.

We very nearly have an excellent garden and orchard.

It does sound like a lot of work setting it all up – but we have taken 4 years and have slowly slowly worked on the infrastructure (good word that) of our place.

Now we are just running the various processes although we do have two more baths to establish worm farms in and the rest will simply continue composting for us. In the longer term it might be that the worms will take over much of our composting process and why not – they don’t complain and they just get on with the job and as two retirees in time we may not feel like lugging all that compost about. see here for information about worms etc

So a year from now when we attend the Giant Ngatea Garage Sale (in October 2016), we will have an excellent garden and orchard and we will have labelled bottles of worm tea or juice, or wee, or leachate and information for anyone interested as well as signs that people will understand.

Our hand written worm juice and worm tea signs prompted many odd statements and we were even asked how we had munted the worms to make the worm juice.

huh!!!

Worms are our friends, we only feed them.

Eggs been a long time coming

Our chickens have taken a very long time to recover from being broody and failing at that job, and then a long time to moult and recover from that moult.

Some say we haven’t had any eggs for about 2 months. Me; I am more inclined to think it is at least 3 months, maybe from mid March. We didn’t record the last egg as we didn’t realise it was to be the last egg.

The bantam hens that successfully raised 8 chickens between them had not come back into lay and their chicks hatched at the end of December. They are all now in the freezer and those we have eaten have been very tasty. That is mothers, Frankie the rooster and their chicks. All our fowls are here to provide us with meat, eggs, bug clearing and compost creation.

The big New Hampshire Red hen, Big Mama, failed in her bid to hatch 12 chicks due to the silly place she hid her nest – right in a water course during very heavy rains in early December – all the chicks died still in the egg.

But since the shortest day (June 22nd) – we have collected 9 eggs from 5 possible laying hens. We have 4 more teenagers that should be laying within a month or so.

Today Best beloved is cooking himself a 1 egg omelet for his lunch. WHY? well it is the last of our bought eggs. From tomorrow we will be eating our own eggs for the next 9 months at least.

Yippee!!!

So the eggs have been a long time coming – but from now on there will be eggs aplenty.

I know I haven’t said but this is dramatic Chicken country

There are many stories to tell about our chickens – and today we let the 5 that have been resident inside our garden out into the wild wild blue yonder, outside the vegetable garden windbreak and chicken proof fence.

And they have disappeared it seems.

But there is a story to be told.

This mother bantam is a pure Sebright – she established a nest which we did not find until rather too late to move her to a safer environment. Our calculation was that there were about 2 or so days to go before hatching might start. Apparently at that point the would be mother stops turning the eggs so the chick inside will be the right way up to peck her way out of the egg.

And yes they did – 8 of them.

But her nest was precariously balanced on the edge of a 3 foot drop beside our garage at the bottom of a slope.

inside here was the Sebright nest There was a nest inside this jumble which is why we couldn’t find her.

And you guessed right, the chicks hatched and fell off the wall one by one. Over the first couple of days we picked up four tiny chicks and gave them back to their mother. The others we discovered too late to save. Mother wasn’t best pleased thinking we were stealing her chicks and became a beast in her reaction to us. A truly ferocious, feathered, angry, noisy beast who only stopping her screeching and wing flapping when we returned the chick to her. She believes in her heart of hearts that we are nest robbers and not to be trusted.

She is so right. We quaked in our boots and ran away in fear and left her with what remained of her chicks.

edge added by BB to save the chicks from falling Wooden edge attached by my Best Beloved to prevent if possible more chicks falling to the ground.

After a few days she must have decided enough was enough and started to herd her chickens towards the big chicken house. We, the big nasties indoors saw her and herded her and her wee brood into the vegetable garden which she has inhabited for the last nearly 6 weeks. She has interrupted our weeding, our watering, our digging, our planting, our tying up of tomatoes, and our gathering for most of that time.

She is a vicious and dramatic flake of a chicken but a truly staunch mother hen.

Today she was expelled from the garden; out to trust her luck with the other 20 chickens that roam in our large garden.

We have Pavarotti, Big Mamma and her 2 sisters, Frankie and the other bantam mother and her 9 chickens (8 bantams and 1 New Hampshire Red), 2 young light Sussex nearly point of lay we hope, and the 3 hussies from next door – who eat here, roam here, lay their eggs goodness knows where, but sleep next door.

We did do it nicely – we took plenty of chicken crumbles and we fed her and her brood at the garden gate and then outside the gate and while she calmly ate there my Best Beloved moved the nesting box and water supply outside as well. We did feed nearly all the other chickens as well – so Best Beloved had to go back and fetch more dishes of wheat and even more chicken crumbles so that all the chickens would be fed and none would see the Sebright and her babies away from their food. A chicken gathering and party.

And now she has wandered off.

Will they be back for supper?

I do hope so.

Sebright in the wilderness

there they are – OUTSIDE the fenced garden.

Now we just have to find the rabbit that lives in the garden eating the greens and hopping away when ever we enter

then and now

Then

cropped-looking-down-on-our-house-17-Sept-2011.jpg

Now

chicken runs, compost bins and enclosed garden

enclosed garden

now from the driveway

We have 2 large flat areas of fully enclosed gardens – vegetables, fruit trees, flowers to attract the bees. Out side the fenced garden we have a big hen house and run, an ark for 2 white ladies (light sussex hens) until they join the flock and a nursery with 1 bantam chook and her 9 chicks. Sadly or gladly we have another bantam with full run of the garden with her 4 chicks. That was because she chose a bad position for her nest and 4 of her chicks fell down the bank and didn’t survive. We saved her and the remaining chicks and they are housed in the fully fenced garden which was created to keep out the wind and you guessed it the chooks. Sadly because the garden fence is a windbreak as well as a way to keep all the free range hens and roosters from our vegetable patch. Gladly because she is safe as are her tiny chicks.

Soon she will have to be outside the garden again.

We also have 2 large compost bins – one being turned over by the chooks and the other with compost I am now using in the garden. We also have the 3 tier composting bin as well as a tumbling bin. We are on rain water – and have 50,000 litres of storage. When we came here there was only one tank, we quickly added another.

Not too bad for 2 fuddy duddys – one to be 70 this year and moi, a young 67 year old, to be 68 this year.

Not too bad at all.

Our Pavarotti

We don’t believe in naming our flock as they are all here to work hard on our behalf. We don’t want to become confused as to their purpose. The chickens are here to lay eggs, roosters to keep the chickens in order and to assist in the process of providing sufficient chickens to become a meat source for us. All the flock are here to keep down the bug levels and to help turn our household waste into compost for the garden.

And to provide us with some amusement in their daily habits and quirks. Which they certainly do.

But : there is always a BUT

pavarotti

Our but is the large New Hampshire Red rooster who does all he should by way of keeping our girls under some control (You will note that I say some), and he has a big deep voice – much like the powerful tenor voice of Pavarotti.

So yes we have named him.

He still does all his jobs around the place but when he struts about, or expresses alarm, or discovers food and announces to the rest of the flock that it is available, or when he just crows for the sake of saying here I am, I am a big boy and you just watch out. He is Pavarotti.

We also have the Jersey Boy or Frankie Valli – that should be another story – suffice to say he is a wee Sebright / old English Game bantam rooster that crows in a loud falsetto voice.

Why don’t we name our chooks as my young brother did years ago? He named his piglets so that his children were under no illusions as to why there were three little piglets on his wee block. The three piglets were called breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I think maybe we have too many chooks to enable us to call them curry, roast, fried, grilled, sautéed, baked and so on.

So will stick with Pavarotti and Frankie

oh and Big Mumma

and the hussys

and the ladies

started by JJ and finished by moi

Bantam Chicks aplenty

We have a bantam rooster and hen – both a cross between a Sebright and Old English Game. The other bantam is a pure Sebright.

We did research bantams generally but not Sebright specifically.

Should we have done so?

Why am I asking that now?

Well you see I went looking on the internet to establish a level of knowledge on my bantams and this is what I found – Wikipedia says:

The Sebright /ˈsiːbraɪt/ is a breed of chicken named after its developer, Sir John Saunders Sebright. The Sebright is one of the oldest recorded British ‘true’ bantam (meaning it is a miniature bird with no corresponding large version of the breed), created in the 19th century through a selective breeding program designed to produce an ornamental breed.

Husbandry:
Sebrights are neither prolific egg layers, nor outstanding meat birds. They can prove to be particularly difficult to raise, especially for beginners. Hens rarely go broody and chicks usually have high mortality rates. Adults are generally hardy birds, but are especially susceptible to Marek’s disease.[19]

In temperament, Sebrights are friendly and actively social birds. Males are not known to be aggressive, but Sebrights in general, like most small chickens, are somewhat skittish birds. Due to their small size and relatively large wings, they are one of a minority of chicken breeds that retains a strong flying ability. Thus, most keepers keep Sebrights in confinement rather than allowing them to free range. Due to their genetic make-up, males may on occasion be born infertile, further complicating breeding.

Darn – could we have made bad choices here?

Absolutely not – Our bantam cross – laid eggs from day 1, and our pure bred Sebright from day 2. We bought them as young birds at point of lay. and so they were.

They laid their eggs every day. It is clear that they had not read Wikipedia because then they may have not worked so hard to deliver their delicious wee morsels for us to eat.

Oh and then they very quickly went broody and both had 10 eggs in their nests when they started to sit full time and they have both hatched 8 bantams and one hatched 1 New Hampshire Red chicken – because we were so mean as to remove a couple of her eggs and replaced them with New Hampshire Red eggs.

Right now I can tell you of my experience – they are great layers, great broodies and so far great mothers. I don’t know about their meat as we haven’t tried any yet – but will do if any of our chicks should be roosters in the making – so that will have to wait. Our first chicks are 2.5 weeks and the Sebright mama has very very tiny chicks now 1 week old.

The one New Hampshire Red chick which hatched is twice the size of her fellow hatchlings or nest mates.

I did read somewhere that once one sees the wee fluffy bundle – a day old chick one becomes besotted – and yes it is true – we are.

Happy Brown Shaver – One of our egg laying machines

happy Brown Shaver

It has to be the good life for an egg laying machine. We have 4 Brown Shaver hens, all happily ensconced in our chicken run at night but with full access to free range all over our wee lifestyle block during the day.

What can one do when the picture is perfect – chase the hens or leave the hens. We have decided to let the hens be and simply fence anything we wish them to avoid. So we are in the process of fencing all of our vegetable garden away from the chickens and rabbits and we hope possums.

For a time we also had temporary fencing to keep the chickens from the garden around the deck but as you can see in the photo it has become redundant and futile. Anything that survives the chickens has every right to be there including the weeds. I am no longer aiming to keep this area weed, bug and chicken free. The good and bad bugs can protect themselves from the mighty hunters, my chickens.

We call these chickens our egg laying machines because this breed – the Brown Shaver will lay an egg very nearly every day unless it is moulting. We would love eggs every day and we are making certain their lives under our care will also be carefree and happy and to date the egg predictions are fairly accurate.

written and posted on the 6th March 2015