Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: chickens

A Visit From The Local Fox And A Lucky Escape

Since my last post about the Silkies there have been a few developments. On the 14th of May Scarlett, the tiniest of the Silkie bantams, decided at last to sit on her eggs. Having decided that she was in earnest  this time I duly put Day 1 on my calendar. That very same night we had a visit from the local fox and the sight that greeted me the next morning was devastating. The group are housed in a double hutch which is inside a shed. The hutch was ransacked, the roof of it on the floor, the chickens traumatised but luckily still alive. After I had collected myself together, Laura and myself emptied everything out of the shed into the garden fully expecting bad news about the eggs. However, Scarlett was clinging steadfastly on to all but one of her eggs. We were very lucky that all the fox had got away with was ten eggs that Mai had gathered together. Oscar, my brave cockerel, looked as though he had done battle for his girls and won.

The situation today, 26th May,  is that Scarlett is on day 14 , Mai is on day 2 and Snowflake, one of my Pekins is also sitting on six Silkie eggs after she went broody with a vengeance on 22nd.  I think the total count to date is 22 fertile eggs under three broodies.  Oscar is doing a sterling job of looking after his girls and all of my fears about having a cockerel in the garden have disappeared. He is not noisy, as gentle as can be and so handsome that he can do no wrong in my eyes.

Breeding Miniature White Silkie Chickens 2018

I have decided to have a go at breeding Miniature Silkies and on Thursday 12th April I shall be travelling to Lincoln to collect my first family group of one cockerel and three hens. I have had experience of hatching with an incubator before but I have never kept a cockerel. I have always bought in fertile hatching eggs. I am acutely aware of the problems involved both with having a cockerel and having baby chicks who turn out to be boys. I am under no illusions and realise that although the law of averages says the hatch should be 50/50 this isn’t always the case. To add to this, although Silkies are renowned for being good mothers, I once had a silkie who ate twelve hatching eggs that I had bought from Scotland and put under her to hatch as she was broody. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I don’t have to allow live chicks. I could sell fertile eggs or eat them.

Today is 4th May and it’s the first time that I have felt able to update this post. I have had a massive setback in my plans to breed miniature Silkies. After travelling all the way to Lincoln, which is quite a jaunt from home, the Silkies on sale weren’t miniatures at all but bantams. I still bought them and they are living here in the garden. They are beautiful and I love them but I am still looking for miniatures. I may let this group breed if they are inclined to but I shall persevere in my search for miniatures. It’s a hard lesson learned. The world of show chickens do not recognise the miniature apparently so I shall have to be very careful when sourcing my group.

The Silkie is a breed of chicken named for its soft, fluffy plumage. The breed has several unusual qualities including black skin and bones, blue earlobes and five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens only have four. They are often exhibited in poultry shows and come in many colors. The Silkie comes in Large Fowl, Bantam and Miniature. After careful consideration I have decided to concentrate on pure white miniature. I have sourced some good blood lines so hope to produce some good stock.

In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics Silkies are known for their calm, friendly temperament. they are among the most docile of poultry. The hens are also exceptionally broody and care for their young well. Although they are not prolific layers themselves, laying about three eggs each week, they are often used to hatch eggs from other breeds due to their broody nature. Silkie chickens are very easy to keep as pets. They are ideal to be around children which was another reason that I chose them as the grand children love the chickens.

There is no doubt that the Silkie is a very old breed, probably of Chinese origin. It is believed by some that the Silkie dates back as far as the Chinese Han Dynasty in 206BC. The Silkie made its way westward either by  the Silk Road or by the maritime routes, maybe both. 

Their feathers lack barbicels, the hooks that hold the feathers together, which gives them their fluffy appearance. The fact that the feathers do not hold together means a Silkie cannot fly. It also means that the feathering is not waterproof so they need to keep dry.  Underneath all that fluff, the Silkie has black skin and bones. Sadly, this makes them a food delicacy in parts of the Far East. The meat is used in Chinese medicine too as it has twice as much carnitine as other chicken meat. Carnitine has anti-aging properties apparently.

Too Close For Comfort

This vixen is being seen in a garden very close to mine on a regular basis so the chickens have been confined to the run for the foreseeable future. They are showing signs of boredom already but at least they are safe. The lady who is feeding the fox assures me that she won’t be interested in my chickens as she is well fed however, it is a natural instinct for a fox to kill a chicken and this will be even more true come the spring when she has cubs to feed. I love to see foxes and think they are  beautiful creatures but I know that I need to be really vigilant to keep the hens safe from now on.

 

Eglu – 13 years on.

The Eglu was the start of a big adventure for me as I ended up with fifty chickens, all bantams, and fifteen ducks, calls and runners. This adventure came to a crashing halt when my son was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I don’t regret a single minute spent caring for Adam and In fact feel very privileged to have spent that time with him and honoured to have been able to help him through, what was for him, a horrendous time. My new chicken venture is to help me through my grief after losing him in February 2016. Life will never be the same for us without him. However, he left me with three wonderful grandchildren, and they are a lasting legacy for which I am truly grateful. They love the chickens and the Eglu is really safe for them to use.

Today I received a refurbishment kit for the Eglu from Omlet. My Eglu was number seventeen off the production line when Omlet, the company, was born. It was delivered by their own chicken bedecked van and assembled in the garden in August 2004. It came with three large fowl, Araucana, which are blue egg layers. The students who designed and produced the chicken house have come a long way since then. I have bought plastic replacements for the originally wooden perching bars, a new green shade and an all weather transparent full cover for the bad weather to come. Other than that, thirteen years later, it is as good as new.

Well, I am a little disappointed as the replacement perches didn’t fit. They looked lovely too. Strong and easy to clean but just not the right size. However the Eglu is back together and looking safe and warm with the two new covers. The five new chickens look happy. They are all small breeds so have plenty of room and I feel confident that they will be warm and dry this winter.

Orpington Bantams

I have decided to sell my chickens so that I can be available to spend more time with Adam. My son Sean and his partner Deb are taking the eglu and four of the smaller chickens to live in their garden. I have advertised the three Orpington Bantams for sale and will be advertising the others soon.

White Faverolles Bantam

Today I have received twelve hatching eggs of the White Faverolles Bantam from Benjamin Shepherd, a breeder from Lancaster. The link to his website is on the sidebar under friends. They will go into the incubator tomorrow along with six replacement eggs of the Buff Plymouth Rock as only one of the first batch of eggs was fertile and the breeder very kindly replaced them. I have bought a ‘Brooder Hen’ from P&T Poultry Supplies. It is an electrically heated plate that hangs above chicks in a broody box to supply them with constant body heat for the first few weeks of life.

White Faverolles BantamPictures courtesy of Benjamin Shepherd

Faverolles originate from the village of Faverolles in Northern France and were created from a mix of several different breeds. They have a broad, square body with small wings, a single upright comb, short neck, a striking beard and muffing. The head is broad and round and the eyes are reddish bay. The pinkish legs are sparsely feathered with the feathering concentrated on the outer toe. They have five toes. They are quiet, friendly, gentle birds that can actually become very affectionate towards their keepers and are an ideal breed for children. They are alert, active birds and the hens make very good broodies and mothers. The hens will actually lay prolifically over winter. They are not good fliers. Information from omlet.com

 

Memory Lane

Yesterday we had a bit of an adventure. We delivered two silkie boys to a lad in Bishops Castle. We had never been there before and the whole journey, including getting lost on the way home, turned into a great day out. We stopped to get our bearings outside a lovely pub where we had a welcome rest, a drink and something to eat before we set off again to get home. We went miles out of our way coming back but saw some lovely places including some hop fields which brought back some good memories from childhood for me. We drove through the Hope Valley which was really beautiful in the Autumn sunshine. We also drove through Church Stretton, a beautiful place and well worth another visit in the future. My son Adam went there once on a field trip from university and I remember that he rang on his mobile to tell me about the wonderful views. He was right too. All in all we had a great day with some laughs and met some really nice people and a little dog called Sophie. Rob leaves for Poland this afternoon so another busy day ahead for us.

 

Lindsay

The 12th is usually a sad day for us all as it is the anniversary of the death of Glenn’s partner Lindsay.

 Along The Road by Robert Browning

I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she
But oh, the things
I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me

Well Done Misty

This morning I sowed seeds of Swede Best Of All in modules as last years crop sown direct was hopeless. I also sowed two 3″ pots with lettuce seeds Iceberg and All The Year Round. I did loads of potting on again and before I knew it the whole morning had disappeared. I seem to have less time now that I am retired than I did before.

Lettuce All The Year RoundLettuce IceburgSwede Best Of AllThis morning I sowed seeds of Swede Best Of All in modules as last years crop sown direct was hopeless. I also sowed two 3″ pots with lettuce seeds Iceberg and All The Year Round. I did loads of potting on again and before I knew it the whole morning had disappeared. I seem to have less time now that I am retired than I did before.

 

The chicks are due to hatch tomorrow and the incubator is due to arrive too. The weather is picking up and I am hoping for a bit of sunshine for the babies. Misty has been a very good broody as her sister Frosty was last year too. They are Silver Sussex and are well known to be good mothers. Her brood will be Bantam Wyandottes. Can’t wait.

Hey Big Spender – RCOM20 Incubator

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We finally decided to invest in an incubator and went for the RCOM20 from P&T Poultry. Our savings have taken as much of a battering as the allotment this week as we have also bought some plastic tubing and some netting to build a tunnel.

On Tuesday morning I checked on Pecker, who was initially sitting on three duck eggs and six Wyandotte eggs,  and she was down to three intact eggs.  I took the last three from her and popped them under Misty, our other sitting broody. The hatch is due next Tuesday 1st April. The first try we had this year was with some Silkie eggs and the broody ate them and then with what happened with Pecker’s clutch we decided not to risk any more eggs. I have sixteen eggs here now. They are a mix of Silkie and Pekin so we are hoping for more success with the incubator. We popped down to the plots today even though it was blowing a gale down there we managed to dig over a couple of beds ready for planting up.

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How could we tire of hope?
– so much is in bud. Denise Levertov