Anyone? Bueller??!!

If you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t blogged here in a long time. I’m in the midst of an overly-long transition to the new website, which will encompass all the ventures of the farm, not just Heedley’s Hens. You can find the new website here.

I’m gradually filling in the pages, and I’m still figuring out the blogging functionality in the new template, so please bear with me. Until it’s all finished (and I make no promises as to when that will be), you can catch up on our day-to-day shenanigans on on the Duagwyn Farm Facebook page.

Please join us there, and speak up!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back…

The Turkish are coming! The Turkish are coming!

I have just received notification from Porter’s Heritage Turkeys that my poults are on the way!

I have been disappointed by bad hatches so many times (a common occurrence with birds from a small gene pool) that I didn’t dare expect the shipping notice. I half-expected an email explaining that my order couldn’t be filled due to yet another bad hatch.

But, oh, they are coming, gentle reader!

I ordered ten of the Self-Blue/Slate turkeys, and am getting eight. I ordered five White Holland turkeys, and am getting seven. One must needs be flexible in the world of conserving rare and endangered creatures. These poults were ordered and paid for way back in September. That’s how hard it is to get these birds.

I have never ordered live babies before, not directly. I’ve purchased them through Chicken Debbie at Agway, who had them shipped from a large hatchery, but these are coming directly to me. I will drive to the post office at dawn, open the box and hold my breath to see if there were any losses during shipping. I will be responsible for their immediate care, making sure each and every one receives water immediately (with molasses for energy), and ensures each one knows how to eat and drink. I am nervous.

That may sound silly, but all reports are that poults are much slower to learn these essential skills than chicks are. Many people suggest putting a chick or two in with poults, to teach them. I thought to do this, but Chicken Debbie is no longer offering chicks, C3.0 is too big (and have now been exposed to the Great Outdoors), and C3.1 is three weeks too young. I shall have to be extremely diligent to ensure each and every poult is eating and drinking. Yes, they are that dim.

Here’s what I hope to find when I open the box:

Self-Blue (AKA Lavender)

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Slate (AKA Blue Slate)

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White Holland

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I have been notified that the White Holland poults will be marked with yellow on their heads to distinguish them from the Self-Blue poults.

And as if that weren’t enough, I have also received notification that my BBS Orpington eggs are on their way from Wisconsin, and my Plymouth Barred Rock eggs are headed north from Kentucky. I will be receiving packages very early Thursday morning, very early Friday morning, or both.

Tomorrow, I will be bringing Heedley’s Hens eggs to the post office peeps as a token of appreciation/bribe, along with a heads up.

Fingers crossed, y’all…

Picture day. C3.0 on Day 26. Is he or isn’t she?

Here’s an addendum to the Lavender Ameraucana pics. Here is Cordelia from the side:

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And Angel:

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They have been dramatically different, feather-wise, since Day One. Here’s Cordelia’s wing feathering at about 6 days:

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And Angel’s, the same day:

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Fred’s feathering looks just like Cordelia’s, only scaled down.

Now, all that remains is for me to be proved wrong, but I’m feeling pretty right. She said.

Picture day. C3.0 on Day 26.

It seemed as though the rain would never stop and the sun would never shine, but it has and it has. Halleluia! I’ve been looking for a day that wasn’t so very cold to take C3.0 out of the brooder and out from under the heat lamp for updated photos. Spreading and preserving the cute, yes, but also informative; I am impatient to know how many hens I have.

(By the way, it might amuse you to know that, in my head, C3.0 is C3PO.)

The sexing is foregone for many of C3.0 (See? You’re doing it now, too.). I am as certain as I can be without pissing off Mother Nature that I have a minimum of two Blue Copper Marans roos. My beloved Big Blue, the biggest, the fastest, the most precocious, who I had hoped would be a hen, crowed on Day 19, dashing my hopes. That his wattles are now a rather spectacular cherry red is just salt in the wound.

1305 Big Blue leRoo

Ladies and gentlechickens, I give you…Big Blue leRoo. If all continues on its current course, Big Blue leRoo will be my Marans rooster. He hatched first, easiest, healthiest, strongest, and biggest. (Wendy, he might well be #37.) I’d be a fool not to use him as the foundation of my breeding program, modest as it is.

Recall that I am naming the Marans after Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters, and the Ameraucanas after Angel characters…my Marans rooster will be named Spike. As I try not to tempt fate whenever possible, he remains Big Blue leRoo for the foreseeable future. How ’bout them wattles, huh? Here he is, at left, with Blue Roo Two:

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Not hard to see who the alpha is, is it? Big Blue leRoo has already begun to peck at me when I clean the brooder, and, thanks to the invaluable guidance of Justine at Les Farms, I know now to ping him when he does so, and force him to recognise my physical superiority. I am the alpha.

That said, Blue Roo Two will be kept as my backup until the fall, at which time, if all goes according to plan (ha!) he will make a fine Marans rooster in someone else’s flock.

Then there are the blue girls, which is to say, what I hope are the blue girls:

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A dramatic difference in combs and wattles, you’ll agree. Although there is likely a slight age difference, it can’t be more than one day, so I don’t think it’s a factor at this point. I will need a blue rooster and blue hens if I’m ever to breed the elusive splash.

Then there are my two blacks. Both of these chicks required help hatching. Medium Black was born 25 days ago, and Scrappy 24. Medium Black may have needed help getting from the shell, but was completely independent thereafter, and never required my help again. That said, she is significantly smaller than the blues.

Scrappy, as you’ll recall, was very high maintenance. She pipped when I had given up hope of any other hatchings, and needed quite a bit of my help, including an after-hatch bath and and elaborate leg bracing to correct weak toes and an inturned left ankle:

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Here they are today:

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They were the wiggliest of the bunch and this shot is the most in focus of all the shots I took. Scrappy, at left, may be tiny, but she is undaunted. She was the only one of the nine who tried to fly off the 3.5 foot roost on which they were perched. As you can see, she is still behind developmentally, but is now making progress.

I believe both of these blacks to be girls, and await the thoughts of more learned chickeneers.

Which brings us to the Lavender Ameraucana trio. I think I lucked out and got a proper breeding trio, one rooster and two hens. I base this conclusion not on combs and wattles, but on the rate of feathering, as I’m told this is a reliable method of sexing in Ameraucanas. From the outset, two of the LAs feathered in quickly, and one slowly.

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Although the roolet, at center, is blurry in this shot, you can see how his feather development differs from that of the pullets on either side of him. He and the girl to the right were born on the first day, making them 26 days old; the pullet to the left is none other than Light Preemie, who has blossomed.

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Assuming I am right (and that’s always dangerous), I am going ahead and giving them their adult names. The roo will be Angel. The larger, more glamourous hen, at right, will be Cordelia, and the perky, come-up-from-behind hen will be Fred. Yes, Fred. Innit she sweet? In the shot above, you can also get a good look at Cordelia’s beard coming in.

So, there you have it: the kids of C3.0, on Day 26. Coming later this week, the babies of T1.0, and the embryos of C3.1.

It IS easy, however, being blue.

Hatching the Marans was my first foray into the genetics of blue colouration, but not my last. Ten of my fifteen heritage turkeys are to be in the blue spectrum, and one dozen of the hatching eggs I’m expecting are for Blue/Black/Splash (or BBS, as it’s known) Orpingtons. It’s turning out to be my thing.

There are differences between the genetic laws of blue colouration in chickens and in turkeys, and I’m learning those as I go (as I do), but there are also similarities.

Here’s what I know from my very first hatch of a BBS chicken breed: it pays to be blue. Of the twelve Marans that hatched, eight were blue, three were black, and only one was splash. Two black chicks and the splash chick needed help hatching. None of the blue chicks needed any help at all.

Of the four blue chicks of C3.0, all are healthy, active and growing, two of them prodigiously so. Big Blue is just so…big. And it’s not just her size. She is feathering out at a fantastic rate. She is also fearless; she was the first to jump onto my knee, and the first to fly up to the (rather high) roost I placed in the coop brooder.

The first black chick I helped is the only chicks of the five I helped who has required no further assistance, and is doing just great. S/he is, however, considerably smaller than his/her blue siblings. The difference is remarkable.

I look forward to observing the poults. I won’t have any blacks, but I will have slates (the turkey equivalent of blue) and self blue (the turkey equivalent of splash). Just to make things interesting, there is a divide amongst breeders of Blue Slate turkeys: some refer to the colours as Black, Blue and Lavender; others refer to them as Black, Slate, and Self-Blue.

As my foundation stock is coming from Kevin Porter, I will be using his terminology: Black, Slate, and Self Blue. You can read about Kevin’s thoughts on blue colouration in turkeys here.

When the Orps eggs arrive, it will be back to the drawing board again. I’ll need to study this. I never was very good at science.

The upside? Both the Orp eggs and the Rock eggs will be light, and easy to candle!!

It pays to get a good seat.

Many years ago, I watched an NBA game from five rows behind the Chicago Bulls bench; we’re talking Jordan, Pippin, Rodman…it was breathtaking. The seat made all the difference.

And you know the people on that plane in LOST know this. The seat to which you had been assigned made the difference between life and death.

It seems this is also true for my incubator and egg turner.

As I approach my second hatching, I’ve had time to ruminate over the first: what worked, what I would do differently, and contemplating patterns that reveal what thermometers and hygrometers cannot. Confused? Here’s an illustration of C3.0′s hatch in the egg turner:

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The egg turner seats 41 chicken eggs; the yellow square in the upper left is the motor for the turner. The blue and dark brown eggs were numbered and laid out as illustrated above, and that’s where they stayed, turning slowly, until I heard #37 peep from within his shell at the end of Day 19.

The first eggs to hatch, on Day 20, were #29, #36, #37,  and #15. #1 & #8 were the first of the Ameraucanas to hatch. See a pattern? The two LA preemies were #7 & #12. Hmmmm….

Now, this is a very fine incubator, and new, with a circulating fan. There shouldn’t be that much difference in temperature from one corner to the other. And, yet…

When I incubate C3.1, I will rotate the eggs each time I candle, and watch closely for the outcome…

All hope is lost.

Oh, gentle reader, pray for me please, for, verily, I have lost what’s left of my mind.

The hatch of 3.0, my first, and shipped eggs of a difficult breed to hatch, to boot, went pretty much as expected, but not as hoped. As soon as I saw that I would have ten chicks, the laws of Nature and mathematics dictated that five of those will be roos; I will only be keeping one of each breed. This brings Heedley’s Hens up to fifteen, presuming no further losses, and, well…I have an itch.

While Ameraucanas and Marans lay lovely, unusually-coloured eggs, neither breed is known for high production. It’s great that we’ll have purebred hatching eggs come spring and lovely colour in our egg cartons, but pretty don’t feed the bulldog.

And, yes, I have 15-18 Kevin Porter heritage turkey poults coming in the final days of May, but that’s not quite scratching the aforementioned itch.

By now, you’re sitting back in your chair, gasping, the back of your hand to your parted lips…yes, gentle reader, yes. I just bought more hatching eggs.

But, wait! There’s more!! I ordered the eggs to coincide exactly with the arrival of the poults, hereafter known as T1.0.

This weekend, The Man will make the finishing touches on the crate in the coop, and C3.0 will move out of the house and in with their older sisters. Hilarity will ensue. This will leave the baby brooder in the house free for a thorough cleaning and new sand before the poults arrive. If the new hatching eggs are set at about the time the poults arrive, we can build the turkey house and stabilise the poults in two weeks, and get them into their new home in time for the newly-hatched chicks to move into the baby brooder.

By the time C3.1 is too big for the baby brooder, C3.0 will be integrated and roosting with the older girls, and C3.1 can move into the crate in the coop. Think I’m kidding? I have it all sketched out on the school calendar on the side of the fridge. I swear, it’s true, and those of you who know me know it’s true.

So…may I introduce you to C3.1?

I felt a need to pay homage to the girls I lost, my magnificent 1.0 girls. My first decision was to get more Plymouth Barred Rocks, in honour of the fantastic production I had from Coraline, Maisie, and especially Abby. These won’t be hatchery PBRs, though. Plymouth Barred Rocks are one of the oldest breeds in America, and there are breeders who have developed the finest heritage stock, going back many generations.

There are two important lines of heritage PBRs in America, and my eggs are coming from one of those lines, Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. I just heard from Fred of Fred’s Hens, from whom I will be getting the eggs. Here’s a pic of some of my babies’ daddy (the eggs will be fertilised by two different cocks, for genetic diversity):

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Is he not studly?!

I still find the occasional black and white striped feather around here, and they make me so sad. I look forward to having more Plymouth Barred Rocks here. Some really snooty ones.

And what about the second breed? I miss me some Buffy and Trixie. You know that. I know that you know that. You know that I know that you know that. How to have Orpingtons again, and still be du a gwyn?

Blue, Black, Splash Orpingtons, my dear, breeder quality, not from a hatchery.

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Quite.

The same lovely, affectionate personalities of my Buffy and Trixie, and broodiness, too, but much larger than hatchery birds. It will be like having feathered basketballs strewn about the yard.

So, now you are up-to-date with my insanity. The Man is in support of this insanity, by the way, but I don’t think he’s quite put together that two more breeds, if we’re , you know…breed them, means…two more roosters