Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Practice Run

My ebay eggs arrived yesterday. They were brilliantly packaged, well protected and perfect. Perfect, that is, until I dropped them. Then they were very far from perfect, and more of a gooey mess. I could have cried.

This was made infinitely worse by the fact that I had an audience, and had just finished excitedly explaining my plans. My audience was reasonably sympathetic, but I could see the swallowed references to scrambled eggs bubbling in their throats. Humph.

After spending a good few minutes mentally flogging myself over the potential chick mass murder, I contacted the ebay seller again. I grovelled and pleaded via email for more eggs, explaining my own clumsiness and offering to pay the same again. In the mean time, I rang around every possible pekin breeder I could get the number for. Not only did they not have any frizzle eggs, they didn't have eggs full stop. Sob.

For the rest of the day, every time I passed the laptop I hit refresh on the ebay inbox. A bit of searching meant that I saw a listing by the same breeder for 12 eggs, and I watched it avidly. Just to ratchet up the tension a bit more, this listing mentioned the fact that it would be the last batch of eggs from one breeding pen, as the hens had gone broody. Broodiness tends to spread amongst a flock, and I had the feeling that this was my last shot.

The ever tolerant husband was sympathetic to my plight and made no mention of the money I was syphoning from his bank account. The eldest child found my mishap amusing, while the youngest looked at me like I was a serial killer.

Finally, at just gone 7pm, the breeder replied to my email. She too was sympathetic, and offered to send my six eggs at a rock bottom price. I practically bit her hand off. So right now, six more frizzle pekin eggs are going through the postal system.

I shall unwrap them in the middle of the bed.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Embarking On The Adventure

Ok, who was I kidding? The incubator is ready to go, and there are now six frizzle pekin eggs winging there way to my door. Hopefully, they will arrive tomorrow morning. I am currently awaiting a phone call from my vet, and hopefully he will agree to cull any resulting males if I can't find them homes. Obviously, I hope that I will be able to, but I feel it's best to have a back up plan in place. Gulp.

The ever tolerant husband is ignoring the whole process, which is probably best. The children are excited, but cautious as I have been careful to point out all that could go wrong. Any resulting hatchlings will be brooded in the garage, the plan being that no small people will therefore get attached before we know which (if any) we can keep. I fully expect to get attached, and weep bitter tears if any rehoming/culling has to occur.

The plan is to document each stage of the incubation and hatching, so tomorrow I'll post pics of my ridiculously basic incubator (think fish bowl with a light bulb in the middle). Hopefully, I'll also be able to include pics of the eggs. All I need now is a large dose of courage.

The chooks are not enjoying the unseasonable heat wave. Much bad natured chuntering has occured, along with the odd vicious peck. When allowed to free range, they stick to the shady borders. The coop gets very warm during the afternoon, and a couple of enterprising ladies have started laying in the dust bath. I've thoroughly investigated the housing, and there is no sign of redmite or any other pest. I think they just prefer the cool sand on their bums.

Treats have mainly consisted of frozen peas and tomatoes from the fridge. These chicken ice pops are recieved gratefully and with gusto. The pellets remain largely untouched, and egg production is down. However, Celia has joined the laying ranks and the scatty silkie sisters have decided that being broody is a bit pointless.

Theoretically, I should be buried in eggs any day now.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Decision Time

Right, I have contacted every pekin breeder listed within a fifty mile radius and no one has any frizzles for sale. In fact, some don't even have eggs, what with the pekins love of brooding. Up and down the country, nest boxes are filled with flattened hens staring off in to the distance and muttering absently.

So yesterday, I recovered my accidental ebay purchase incubator from the understairs cupboard. I switched it on, just to test, and discovered that the bulb had gone. Bum. Just in case I should ever need it, I thought i really ought to buy some more bulbs. I also thought that buying some poultry disinfectant might be wise. This morning, at early o'clock, the postie delivered my bulbs. Now my incubator works wonderfully, and I have a few spare bulbs, just in case. I also found a small amount of disinfectant in the garage, so it is technically ready to be used, should I ever need to.

Purely out of interest, I rang 'round a few breeders this morning in case any might be selling hatching eggs. I was referred back to the pekins love of pancake impersonation, and advised that frizzle pekin eggs are unlikely to become available until early autumn. Hmmm.

Innocently trawling ebay, I have found a well known seller with six frizzle eggs for sale. My finger keeps hovering over the bid button. I very much want my frizzle, but I also need to think about the practicalities of homing the inevitable boys.

Decisions, decisions......

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Has Anyone Seen Any Pekin Frizzles?

Well, I shouldn't have got so excited yesterday. My pekin frizzle contact has just informed me that he won't have any for months, if at all. And he'll only sell pairs and trios. As one of these two/three will absolutely cock-a-doodle-doo, it's a dead end. Humph.

If anyone knows where you can get a couple of frizzle pekins, even if it's on the moon, could you please let me know? Thanks .

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Back To Reality

Well, hello there. I should probably explain my absence, in case anyone noticed. We have been on a lovely holiday to Tenerife, where I spent the days lazing by the pool, drinking garish cocktails with unpronouncable names, and liberally applying suncream to my celtic toned children. Oh, and sneakily, at the back of my mind, worrying about the girls.

My chicken sitting experience was largely trouble free. My friend's dinosaur chooks mostly behaved themselves, settling for rushing the run door when ever I opened it and pecking my toes. They laid like clock work, and greedily devoured the chopped cabbage that was left for them in the fridge. Offer my girls cabbage and they're likely to turn around and defecate on it in protest.

My chicken sitter and I had a rather complicated change over of duties. She was flying in from Majorca a matter of hours after we flew out to Tenerife. The morning of our departure, I spent a manic couple of hours making her girls comfortable, before racing home to get the palace in order. The packing was almost an after thought. At last, after checking the coop for the thirteenth time, we left for the airport. I resisted fretting to the ever tolerant husband about flight delays, and chicken sitters stranded in Majorca, and dinosaur chickens turning cannibal in order to survive, and more refined ladies having to use underlings as spades in an attempt to break free from their secure habitat.

We had a blissful holiday, and I managed to only text my chicken sitter once (she also caved and texted me while away). Safe in the knowledge that all was well, I set my mind to other interesting developments.

The ever tolerant husband finds switching off from his job some what difficult, and could be seen sneaking in to the internet room at the hotel at regular intervals. During one such foray, I asked him to check my emails. The week before we left, I had an interesting email from a pekin breeder who mentioned that he had the 'odd frizzle'. My interest well and truly piqued, I had emailed him back asking for colours, ages and prices. Getting the ever tolerant husband to check my mail served two purposes. It subtly introduced the idea of aquisitions, and I also really wanted to know. Alas, no email was forth coming. However, the holiday spirit had relaxed the ever tolerant husband enough that he was quite amenable to the idea, merely breezily stating that he didn't want to know what I was up to as long as he didn't have to be involved.

A green light, in my book.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Swimming And Hen Sitting

At the weekend, my youngest turned 7. We spent the day at a park, where the children ate ice creams, paddled in the pool, went rowing on the lake and fell face first through the spiderweb climbing frame. A fairly normal family day out, then. The youngest had a lovely time, and after a pub dinner, we returned home, weary and full of cake.

The hens had been in all day, and burst through the run door in a mass of feathers and squawks as soon as allowed they're freedom. We sat in the garden, sipping wine and nattering, while the children played in the paddling pool and the girls dust bathed under the shrubs. Blissful.

The silkies are still broody, so after a bit I turfed them out of the nest box they had both wedged themselves in to. A broody hen takes a few moments to come out of her trance, so initially they sat placidly on the ground. Suddenly coming around, they got up and decided to chase the chooklets about the garden. Celia and Purdy hot footed it around the perimeter of the garden with the psychotic silkie sisters hot on their tail. Celia dodged left behind the magnolia tree and shook them off. Both furry banshees homed in on Purdy. Making a schoolboy error, Purdy went right, and ended up at the paddling pool. With barely a pause, she flew up and over the side. Uh oh.

I expected there to be much panicked splashing and bokking, but silence reigned. Tentatively, I approached. I found Purdy, wings spread, bobbing about on the water looking rather bewildered. I have often wondered whether hens can swim, and now it seems that they can't, but can float. She looked up at me with a 'What the..?!' expression, and attempted to walk through the water. This sent her slowly rotating, and she muttered with alarm.

Kicking off my sandals, I waded in and scooped the soggy hen up. She gripped my fingers with her claws, obviously delighted to feel something solid under her feet. Once placed back on terra firma, she shook herself and lifted each foot in turn and peered at it, as if checking that they were still there. Flexing each leg, she took an uncertain step. Realising that this particular surface would allow her to move at will, she trotted off to tell the others about her soggy knickers.

My chicken owning friend is off on holiday for a week tomorrow, so I shall be hen sitting. Her girls are hybrid warrens, and much bigger and more dinosaur like than my balls of fluff. As she talked me through their routine, I could feel three sets of beady eyes on me, weighing me up. One of her girls is an escape artist extraodinaire, and while I was there she scaled the coop and made a (failed) bid for freedom over the eight foot high run.

I predict a riot.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Annual Wash Day

I've been putting it off, but it's no good. Preparing myself with a deep breath, I ran a bucket of warm, soapy water. The hens watched me carry said bucket out on to the patio, and en masse decided to leg it in to the Palace. They weren't exactly sure what the bucket meant, but they knew it didn't contain corn.

Several of the girls have been walking about with dirty knickers. Now, in the winter, this isn't a major issue (although, of course, it can be a welfare matter), but in the summer it becomes a more serious problem. Fly strike is a real risk to the hens, and the best way to protect the girls is to wash their undercrackers. They do not enjoy this, as a rule.

Steeling myself, I went to fetch Maude, by far the most laid back hen. Unfortunately for me, just as I was about to scoop her up, the youngest presented me with Maeve, by far the most narky hen. Not wishing to show fear to my children, I nonchalantly brought her over to the bucket. She eyeballed me, and muttered a low threat which roughly translated went along the lines of 'If you go through with this, I will remember. I will remember, and I will exact revenge. Terrible, unthinkable revenge'. Ignoring her chickenny hard talk, I plunged her in to the soap. Remarkably, she sat up to her neck in the foam and allowed me to clean her bum feathers. After a few minutes of soaking in the warm water, the tiny poo balls had melted away, so I released the beast. She stood, dripping, in front of me. A wet chicken is a truly pitiful sight. As the suds slid from her foot feathers, she stretched out her wings, shook herself, glared at me over her shoulder and did her best to stalk off with her dignity intact. She failed. The bath had flattened all of her underfluff, leaving her bald chicken bottom on show for all to see. The children nearly had a fit laughing.

Maude, Kiki, Doris, Mabel and Purdy all followed suit. Kiki was by far the least impressed, and on release legged it around the garden leaving a trail of suds in her wake. This new, slimline Kiki went like a bullet. Mabel attempted to walk regally from the bucket, but found that her saturated leg feathers made anything more than a shuffle impossible. Margot and Celia escaped bath time, as their undercarriages were clean as a whistle. They are obviously more lady like in their toilet habits.

So now I have a very soggy, skinny looking flock. The bathed beauties are all flattened on the lawn, getting a solar blow dry. The other two are watching from the dust bath, and probably sniggering.

Now I just have to worry about Maeve's come back.