Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Broody hens - what now?

The hens have made a good start. They settled in well and were producing an astonishing four eggs a day. I have identified which egg belongs to what hen.The brown eggs are laid by the hens without a comb. The small egg to the top left was the first one produced by the boss hen after she went through a period of about three weeks being broody. During this time she was pestering the other three chooks with the result that production of eggs was down. The three pictures were taken on 3rd, 4th and 5th November 2013.
The chooks look quite similar, but the eggs look so different. Does this mean they come from different races. The combs give it away, two have a short one and two have long combs. I think these are (mainly) Light Sussex hens.

The home made nesting box was clearly too big for the Isa Brown. These hens fit in well. The two nest places have been well used, but when the broody hen (without comb) placed herself in the middle of the box there was not much room left for the other hens to lay their eggs. However, it was splendid for Ms Broody. She was able to put all eggs under her feathers and brood away happily.

Egg production went down and we had to do something about Ms Broody annoying the other hens. A simple separating wall did the trick. Now we have two compartments and hens cannot interfere with each other when laying.

Ms Broody finally got out of this mood when the egg supply dried up. However it did not take long until the second hen became broody and egg supply got diminished again. And  then the first Ms Broody got back into it too. I was not aware that chooks can get in and out of broody mood. But it seems to be quite normal http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/791285/broody-for-the-second-time-in-a-month.

For three days now two hens are hogging the nesting boxes and give my other two eager chooks some grief when they want to get into the comfy spot. May be the nesting box was designed too comfortable? I believe it's simply the season for hens to do their thing. But my other hens need to get on with their business.

How to stop broody hens from brooding has been subject to a few publications. When I grew up on a farm we used to put the chook into a sack and hang her up under the roof of the barn for three days. This cruel treatment usually stopped her from creating the heat needed for brooding and get her back on track after three days.

My friend suggested the use of a cage and organised one for me. Ms Broody#1 has been in the cage most of yesterday and the day before. At night time I always let her out and allowed her back into the co-op. It has not done the trick yet, but I will persist.

This morning I found Broody#1 and #2 in the nesting box. I chucked them out and provided fresh veggie scraps and laying pellets. I will check the scene again in an hour or when the noise starts. Usually my other hens complain loudly when they can't get into their usual spot. The cage is waiting for Ms Broody#1, sad to see her sitting in there but this is a warranted temporary measure.

The only other options would be to get some fertilised eggs and put them under her. This would need me sorting out the food supply for my future chicken stock first and being prepared to deal with roosters should any eggs be fertilised. The council does not allow any roosters so they would be destined for the pot. I need a bit longer to think this through. But food supply is  already getting better, as my neighbours are chipping in with their food scraps and a steady supply of vegetables is coming in the direction of my hens. Big thank you to them. Keep it coming.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Growing nectarine trees in Perth

We planted two nectarine trees on 26 July. They were bare rooted then and about five years old. They grew in Beverley before they came to us and were about 1.75m high. We prepared the earth with compost and worm juice and sat them into the soil, not too deep and about less than a metre from the fence, as I am considering future espalier growth.
Nectarine Trees 25 July

We mulched the soil around the stem but not too close to it and I installed a plastic grid that prevents the chooks from scratching directly under the trees. The trees took to the new place very well and about three weeks later started flowering in the with very pretty pink flowers.

Nectarine Trees 24 August
I was surprised to see that so much fruit had set, as I did not observe many bees or native insects around the the trees. Lots of the fruit fell off in the winter storms and heavy rainfall in September. Upside was that the tree's root system grew well and the wind brought back the number of fruit to a level the tree can manage. As soon as the fruit had set I made some fruit fly traps, just to be sure. They filled up quickly in the rain and had to be emptied. I will make some more in the coming weeks and have noticed the first nibbles by birds on bigger fruit in the top of one tree. Will think about netting when closer to harvest.

Also there is an issue with leaf curl. Currently it looks like the tree can manage, as there is no infection on recent leaves. My worm juice treatment seems to kick off, boosting the tree's immune system. However, I'll keep an eye on it and will spray when needed.

All in all, a promising start to growing nectarine trees in Perth.