RSPB Bird Watch

I did the RSPB Bird Watch yesterday,  and wouldn’t you know it – there were less birds around than I’d seen all week!  Well it was raining most of the day, and the deal is, you count what you see in 1 hour only – I’ve posted my results just now, as its raining again today and I won’t get any better results!

However, I have got an area where I’ve hung up a few bird feeders, and I took these pictures last week.  First bird pictures I’ve taken!

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great tit – I think – perching on the wooden bird feeder

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a robin just approaching the bird feeder

 

let’s create a gallery of your work – please contribute ……

The A-Z challenge is over, and I will no longer be referring posts between my two blogs – this one “the spare” and my crafts blog – julzcrafts.com.

I will keep posting information about poultry rearing, and pictures of my chicks on this site, as well as anything I feel like – as its my “place to play” – smile.

a scarf I made!

a scarf I made!

If you are interested in crafts, of all kinds, please check julzcrafts for new posts.

Today, I put an invitation to all my customers, readers and followers to contribute a picture of their work for a Gallery of Your Work.

I AM using this post to direct you there, for information on how to contribute.

Look forward to seeing you there!

black-julzlogo-rotated

V is for Vampire – Naked Neck Chickens ……

VA friend of mine has a thing for naked neck chickens, and when I needed a companion for Missy, my Barbu d’uccle – see my previous post – in a hurry, I went to see her to buy something, anything, immediately!

There weren’t many she was prepared to sell – as she proudly showed me around the pen, and pointed out her naked necks.

Yuck I said – they look like Vampires.

In the end she sold me a black silkie cross for a fiver – she’s now called fiver – because, she had been an unsuccessful attempt to breed a naked neck with a silkie – and she doesn’t have a naked neck – does she`?

fiver was bought for £5

fiver was bought for £5

I hate to think what might happen if I let her sit on her own eggs – what kind of monster chicks might emerge!

NakedNeck_m_600This is what naked neck chickens look like, they actually originate from Transylvania, so they really could be VAMPIRES!

Apparently there is a rather sinister reason they still exist, the breed was refined by German breeders, because they have about half as many feathers as normal chickens and thus are easier to pluck, when preparing for the table!

naked neck chick

naked neck chick

Oddly enough, the naked necks do not seem to affect their ability to flourish – “They are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases. The breed is also reasonably cold hardy despite its lack of feathers. Naked Neck roosters carry a single comb, and the neck and head often become very bright red from increased sun exposure.” (Wikipedia)

U is for Update on my chicks

USo, I got it slightly wrong last time I posted about the chicks, they were not quite four weeks old, and they are just over four weeks old now – Oh, I really should just slide my finger down a calendar!  But, because its the U day in this challenge, its the best fit for another post to show you how they have grown – smile.

It was a big day yesterday – I finally moved them into the pen it took me ages to prepare for them – Outside – in the garden!

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This had involved, a major pruning of my bay tree – see Hiatus – working out if I had enuf space to put the new £12.99 mini plastic greenhouse and the cage in the space by the fence – I did!  It then took me three goes to fit all the pieces of this little wonder together – sorry I’ve actually cropped it out of all these pictures – then dragging the large cage out of storage – cleaning it – finding a way to prop it up – a few bricks, slates & whatever else was available – stabilising it with some heavy plant pots that a friend had carried outside for me – the house plants needed some sun – and finally yesterday, getting someone to cut up some old boards for me to fit into a top shelf, so the chicks wouldn’t get lost in the back of the ‘cage’ – oh you really don’t need to know the details!

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So – when I realised I hadn’t got a way to add the “extension” – well a sort of extra bit of ‘cage’ that I have fixed onto the front opening so that they have room to jump about – I thought about it for a bit – the thing is, that I’d have to move some ‘kerb stones’ so that there would be no gaps and no escape holes – and it would take yet more time to sort it out – and its supposed to rain today – I decided to let them see the outside world in the sun for the first time, in a cage that was a bit too small for all 10 of them.  And of course, I had actually planned to write this blog and needed some pictures for it!

the inspection!

the inspection!

The chicks were only there for a few hours – they were rather scared of being taken out of their larger comfortable home in the cellar, and it took me a while to catch the last few!  Then I didn’t have room for a feed tray, just the water container – but it didn’t matter – they had been wondering what was outside – I purposely kept the cellar door open so they could get a taste of it – and now they were overjoyed to see something new – and a bit fearful of the dog barking next door, but they did have space to move around and inspect their new quarters, and watch the insects and the birds – whilst of course my other hens, had another good look at them!

That’s “darker” the first of the pair of Maran’s I bought about 6 weeks as POL (point of lay), who has only just started laying some nice brown eggs. (The sign that hens are ready to lay is that their combs turn from pink to a brighter red.)  Her sister ‘lighter’ (names apply to the amount of black feathers they have on their necks – smile) has yet to come into lay.  And ‘fiver’ who will feature in tomorrow’s post, the silkie cross on the right.

The chicks are at the scraggy looking stage – well feathered – their legs growing, able to jump and even fly, but in that awkward ‘pre-teen stage’ – you must recognise it if you have any kids around you – well – if they can get into mischief, they will – I will have to fix the extension cage up for them the next time I put them outside!

So here are a few more pics – its nice to have a record of them on the blog, so I’ll be able to refer back to it when they are fully grown …… if you click on the pictures, it will turn into a slide show ….hover over them and you see the titles ….

 

S is for Silkies

SI’m following on from yesterday’s post which was entitled Rare Breeds, but I never got round to them – smile.  In fact due to the increasing popularity of “backyard chickens” these aren’t really rare breeds any more, but pure breeds. There are very many different pure breeds to choose from.  I thought I’d start with Silkies.

my pair of white SILKIE bantams - cockerel is in front of shot

my pair of white SILKIE bantams – cockerel is in front of shot

They are as far from factory farmed chickens as you can get!  They wouldn’t survive in those sheds, they’re not good to eat, they have very little meat on them, and they aren’t prolific layers.

But apart from being really attractive, they are docile, can be handled easily – altho the full size cockerels can be fierce in protecting the hens – but best of all, silkies go broody, and will sit on any fertile eggs you have, and mother the chicks perfectly!

silkie cross cockerel

silkie cross cockerel

Silkie crosses, the hens, will usually go broody too. This was a silkie X cockerel I once had, to show you the variations you can get.  I can’t remember what he was crossed with but he was a handsome fellow!

blue silkie chick - from feathersite.com, another good reference for breeds

blue silkie chick – from feathersite.com, another good reference for breeds

Pure Silkies are usually white, black or a ‘golden’ brown colour.  A particularly prized colour is ‘blue’ which is a pretty blueish grey, and they go for very high prices!

Silkie feathers are different from other breeds, they are ‘fluffy’ not flat and streamlined,  and unusually the feathers also extend down to their 5 toes! Other features are bright blue ear lobes and black skin.

Origin: China, found there by Marco Polo in 1298. (ref here!)

If you are keeping chickens, you are usually keeping them for the eggs, and hens are quite happy without ever seeing a cockerel.  Many, but not all of the breeds of hens, will go broody from time to time, and stop laying to sit on a clutch of eggs that are not fertile.

You have two choices in this circumstance – you can buy in some fertile eggs as fast as possible – and put them under her – removing her own eggs, and she will normally but quite happy to continue sitting on them for the 21 days they take to hatch.

If you don’t want to do that, the only thing to do is to keep removing the eggs and taking her out of the box she lays in.  You may even have to move the box, or block it, so she doesn’t return immediately your back is turned!  She may go off lay for a while anyway, until the hormones triggered by broodiness have disappeared from her system.

If you do breed from your chickens, please remember that you should not allow related chickens – ie those hatched from eggs of one pair – to breed with each other.  You may have to swap cockerels, or sell them and buy an unrelated one.

On the other hand, recent genetic research seems to show that chickens actually have more genes than humans, and thus more variations are possible.  You might like to look at this lesson in the genetics of chickens.

Chickens were originally wild birds that lived in forests, before they were domesticated.  They still like scratching around under trees, which give shade in summer, and are omnivorous ie: they will eat almost anything, including insects and raw meat off carcasses!  Of course grass and grain are the usual feeds we give them, together with leftover food scraps.  Exceptions are covered in my recent blog.  If you want to give them a real treat, try grapes and watch them fight to get at them!

R is for Rare Breeds of Chickens

RRare Breeds, of chickens, or any other animal, are those variations that are no longer popular with the agricultural industry, which by definition are not as ‘productive’ as the specially bred varieties that populate most ‘factory farms’.  I don’t even know what breeds of chicken are used for ‘our chicken dinners’ or the caged egg birds.  I suppose I could look them up?

illustration from an old book "Poultry of the World"

illustration from an old book “Poultry of the World”

Well I just spend quite a lot of time trying to find out, and the best I can come up with is this!

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

A commercial chicken house in Florida, with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

Since their domestication, a large number of breeds of chickens have been established, but with the exception of the white Leghorn, most commercial birds are of hybrid origin.[10] In about 1800, chickens began to be kept on a larger scale, and modern high-output poultry farms were present in the United Kingdom from around 1920 and became established in the United States soon after the Second World War. By the mid-20th century, the poultry meat-producing industry was of greater importance than the egg-laying industry.

Battery hens in Brazil

Battery hens in Brazil

Poultry breeding has produced breeds and strains to fulfil different needs; light-framed, egg-laying birds that can produce 300 eggs a year; fast-growing, fleshy birds destined for consumption at a young age, and utility birds which produce both an acceptable number of eggs and a well-fleshed carcase. 

Both of the illustrations show well kept facilities, and yet, how can you compare the welfare of those chickens with these?

chicken in grass pasture

an idyllic photo I found on the web!

Well I intended to give you some information on Rare Breeds today, but I seem to have got distracted!  I will continue on this subject tomorrow – in the meantime, if you want to see a list of Rare Breeds, with photos, you can’t go far wrong if you look at this page on the website of the Poultry Club of Great Britain.