Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Raising Chicks

When I first got chooks, I bought Brown Leghorns, because I liked the idea of old breeds, and I had always loved the roosters of this breed, which look like the roosters of farmyards in children's picture books. A couple of years later, when I wanted to extend my flock, I couldn't get any, and had given up on the idea of a rooster. Partly because of the noise, and partly because I thought the cats would eat the chicks produced. So I bought Red Shavers, the hybrids used in battery egg farms. They have proved to be wonderful layers, and pleasant natured in the main.

One of the characteristics of hybrids is that they hardly ever go clucky or broody. I've had one who has gone clucky several times over the last three years, but that was easily cured by putting her in a pet rat cage given to me by a friend. (Rat not included!) With lots of light and air, and nothing to make a next with, she quickly gave up on the idea of raising babies.

However, this January not one, but three hens decided their internal clocks were ticking and all went broody the same day - and I couldn't fit three of them in the cage! I bought a dozen eggs off Trademe and put four under each hen. Twenty-one days, the Lifestyle Block book How to Car for Your Poultry said. Would they be right? They weren't right about hybrids not going broody!

 Day 2 - 1 egg broken by a clumsy new mum.

Day 18 - 2 eggs broken by helpful children collecting the eggs for me. Sad, but I knew from the remains that something was happening inside the shells.

Day 21 - CHICKS!!! But one died, exhausted from its efforts getting out of its shell.

 What's that little bit of white on the right? Egg shell!
 Breaking out.
 Out!
 So much easier when they were in, though.

For the first few days after hatching, I kept the chicks and mums in an old chook hutch designed for 2-3 chooks, but soon the mums were fighting and so I decided that they would have to take their chances in the main chook run.

 The old 'hutch was so dilapidated, I had to encase it in bird netting to stop them getting out....
 
 .... and to stop Spike from getting in.
 So glad my new-borns weren't this active!
 The chook mommas would have preferred that too.
 Out in the big chook run.
We weren't sure what decapitated number 8, but a couple of weeks later there was much squawking from the chook run and when we got down to the run, we could see just 2 chicks, and found 3 broken eggs as well, rolled away from the nest some hens had made in the grass. We assumed ferret, stoat, weasel or rat, and set a trap. Later, when the chooks had settled down, we discovered that only one chick was missing.
 And there was dancing in the streets....



Turns out, it was an Australasian harrier (hawk), so I set to and made some extra 'canopy' to deter the harrier, and as far as I am aware, it's only been back once. Mac heard that there are people who will come out and trap them, and relocate them away from people. I hope he can track them down, because earlier, the same bird was stealing our duck eggs. They have gone off the lay now, which is, I assume, why it has moved its attention to the chook run. Enough, I say!
 There is quite a bit of cover in the run, from flax, fig, apple, pear and avocado trees, also a bare area.
 
 Looking like a hippy chicken run now!

The remaining 6 chicks are growing well - now I'm holding my breath to see if any are female, or if they will all turn out to be roosters. I hope not, although I think I might keep one rooster.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Love Is A Verb

Three months ago my friend Marcia died. We first met in 1972 working at the Post Office Savings Bank, both in our first 'proper' jobs. She, straight from school, me, taking a break from university to earn some money, so she was two years younger than me. She was a lively, vivacious young woman, and we had a lot of fun together, but then I went back to university and then off overseas for the great OE (overseas experience), while she married and had a baby. By the time we got back from overseas, she had been widowed, had a new man in her life, and we drifted apart due to the very different lives we were leading.

Then in July 2009 I went along to a Hamilton Organic Gardeners' meeting and there she was - talking about urban beekeeping! Shortly afterwards I signed up for the Fraser High School night class that Marcia was teaching, and each evening after class we talked and caught up on all those years, and found that we had so much more in common now. Our friendship started again, stronger and more interesting than before. For three years I enjoyed her company online, by phone and in person, mostly coffee and a walk at the Hamilton Gardens. Then she was gone again. I'm so glad I talked to her just a week before she died. I'm so glad I had those three years, getting to know her as an enthusiastic, intelligent, passionate, interesting, mature woman. She help me see life more positively than I am apt to do. She showed me how to enjoy life for the good in it. She showed me how to acknowledge the bad things that happen, but also how you can then step out of the shadow and focus on the good stuff.

I miss Marcia so much. I think of her most days. I have also been brought face to face with my own mortality. After so many years of depression, I have been basically free of it for a couple of years, and I want to live longer, to live and enjoy life. Marcia was enjoying her life: she died at a time of her life when she was following dreams, making plans and living hopefully. I want to live like that. I hope I get the chance to live like that for a lot longer. But I also want to die like that - in the midst of a life lived in joy, hope and dreams.

A few days ago, a man a couple of years older than me died after his car left the road - the scariest road I have ever driven. I didn't know him well. I knew his widow via the online homeschool community, and enjoyed her online friendship, but lost touch after the email lists we were on broke down. I visited them in 1999 along with Steven, Simon and Jeffrey, staying in one of their various tourist accommodations. They were lovely people. They have 10 children and some grandchildren. They loved each other in a way that shone brightly and obviously. Now he is dead.

So, after three months of pondering about my life and what will happen between now and when I die, Tim's death has brought me to pondering the awful possibility of Mac dying before me, and what that would be like.

I realise that life is all I have right now. The present is all we have: I have to live joyfully, and I have to do anything I can to make Mac's life more joyful too. I must not take life for granted. Nor can I take Mac's life for granted.

Partners, parents, children, friends - don't take any of them for granted. If you love them, show it. Talk to them. Spend time with them. Make sure they are part of your life. Don't put them off until you aren't so busy with other things.

Love is a verb: do it. Live is a verb: do it.