Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer (August 2015 Edition)
Welcome back to the Cackleberry Farm and this, the second installment. I was planning on waiting for a month to pass since publishing the initial Cackleberry Farm hub to make sure that there was enough new happenings to create a hub around. However, today there was just such an occurrence to warrant bringing it forward, and as it is a new month I decided to call this the "August Edition."
(I wrote the following paragraph a few days ago as a filler to help this hub make an acceptable word count. This was before the most recent "notable event" so I have since considered deleting it. Then I thought why not just leave it in, it is just one paragraph.)
The winter weather here in Ballogie has been generally cool with only three of four really cold days in the last two weeks. It hasn't rained since May either, so the grass is brown and brittle and I've been watering the garden, with grey water from the shower, every second day.
Shortly after writing the first hub in the series I came across one clucky hen hiding in among the bromeliads and sitting on a nest containing 14 eggs (not bad for a tiny bantam hen). I subsequently relocated her (under severe aggressive pecking) and the cackleberries into the hatching pen (an ex-trailer cage) to protect them from both predators and the weather.
After an hour or two of squawking and flapping the hen finally settled back down on top of the eggs. This was a relief as they needed to be kept warm if they were ever going to hatch. The incubation period for eggs hatching naturally is usually 21 days. The fact that there are 14 eggs under her doesn't mean that the hen has already been sitting for two weeks because it is likely other hens laid in the same nest and she gathered all the eggs up together. That being the case, it has been a couple of weeks since I found her so I'm expecting the chicks to start hatching anytime soon.
Yesterday, when I went on a cackleberry hunt, I found a hen still sitting on the nest. Thinking she still needed time to lay her egg I decided to leave her and check again in the morning. Well this morning when I checked, she is still nesting so it appears she may have gone clucky too. If she hasn't moved by nightfall I will scoop her and any eggs up in a grass catcher and move them into the nesting cage with the other clucky hen.
Kathy and I wake up most mornings to either King Parrots or Red Wings chattering on the bird feeder that hangs outside our bedroom window. Often when we move suddenly they will fly up into the nearby Macadamia nut tree to hide before returning in a few minutes when they are sure there is no danger.
They are becoming tamer all the time however and one day there was a Red Wing that was so tame it climbed onto my hand off the roof over the cob oven and the next day actually came into the kitchen and was perched on the back of a chair.
The other wild birds that frequent every day are the butcher birds, magpies, and noisy mynas and currawongs. As I mentioned in the first article, these eagerly watch in wait until the dogs and cats are fed each afternoon at precisely 4.00pm before swooping down to feast on any left over pet food. God help me if I am late feeding the animals.. the wild birds let me know about it.
Their numbers seem to be increasing every day and today I counted ten noisy mynas, six magpies and four butcher birds. These were darting back and forth in turn from the electricity wire to the wire fencing around the verandah, even as the dogs and cats were still eating. Currawongs usually come around earlier in the day and prefer the left over chicken seed left behind by the poultry.
I don't really begrudge the wild birds the left-overs because it is winter and natural food such as insect and lizards is scarce. At least it' also too cold for snakes to be active so I don't have to worry about encountering pythons in the lounge room for a few more months (I previously said I wan't going to keep discussing the weather...oh well.) I also make sure that the bird bath is full of clean water so they always have easy access for drinking. I read recently that lack of water is the main cause of death among wild birds.
Today we also had the added pleasure of a visit by a small flock of rainbow lorikeets or rosellas that found some uneaten chicken seed on the ground.
Being a cackleberry farmer is not all collecting eggs and feeding chickens and animals (Oh, did I mention writing hubs?) Sometimes we actually have to spend time in the garden, either planting or picking herbs, fruit and vegetables.. and it doesn't stop there! In order to make the most of what we grow and waste as little as possible we also dry a good proportion of our herbs.
Just the other day I was busy harvesting parsley, basil, and sage for drying in our food dehydrator. Then I just had to pluck the leaves from the sage and basil and pull the parsley apart and spread out on the mesh shelves of the dehydrator. Turn it on and leave overnight. In the morning "voila" .. Perfectly dried herbs. Place it in bottles in the pantry and it will keep indefinately for when you need it. We also dry fruit such as apple, banana, pear, strawberries, pineapple, and tomato, and vegetables such as beetroot, ginger, and onion.
Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch
In the earlier chapter on "clucky hens" I mentioned a hen that I suspected may have gone clucky and that if she hadn't moved by nightfall then I would relocate her and any eggs to the hatching pen.
Well, my suspicions were correct so I prepared a grass catcher nesting box by lining it with clean straw, then crawled under the asparagus fern and between the aloe vera to access her nest. A few scratches later I had her and one lone egg in the catcher and moved to the pen without any dramas. The beauty of dealing with chooks at night time is that they are always calm and inactive and are easily managed.
Oh, at the start of the article I mentioned a special occurrence that convinced me to publish the hub now instead of waiting another couple of weeks. When I opened up the gate of the hatching pen to add it's new resident something caught my attention. I heard a faint "cheep cheep." On checking the nesting box I was met by a pleasant surprise. Two small yellow chicks had just hatched. Even though it was almost dark the mother hen wasn't impressed with me trying to look underneath her, but it appears that only two eggs have hatched at this stage. Hopefully by morning there will be a few more arrivals. So we now have ten chooks and the number is hopefully still growing.
Just to keep my readers updated: This morning when I checked the hatching pen I found the hen was no longer sitting on the eggs but running around her were six tiny chicks, three yellow, three grey and white. That will be the final number. I have added a couple more pics of the new babies.
Thanks for reading.