Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A guide to chicken breeding... from a novice.

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

In March this year we were looking to build up our flock as our egg production was too low. I took the kids to the farm nearby to pick up a couple of point of lay hens and they convinced me to also get a couple of young chicks for them.

Kai and Sen with their chicks, Browny and Icku

It started to become clear after a few weeks that our new black hen (bottom right) was not a hen at all. The chooks get let out into the garden for limited times - great for when it's time to dig over a bed.

One of the point of lay hens turned out to not be a hen at all - but has become a very noisy and overprotective (read aggressive) rooster. Rather than get rid of him I told my closest neighbours of the situation and asked them to let me know if he was becoming a problem for them - and that I'd deal with it. I contacted council to check in regarding the legalities of having a rooster in town, and it appear that this is not an issue. I imagine that if people complained then that would be a different story. I make an effort to get along with my neighbours, which certainly helps in situations like this. My hope was that the rooster would help provide us with the next generation.

The next generation

Mistake #1. When one of the hens became broody in early Spring I left her to sit on her small clutch of eggs. This, in retrospect was a mistake. I later read a section in Jackie French's Chook book, confirming that if the hen is broody (for a few days running) she should be put in her own special pen, away from the other chooks. Instead I left her with the others in a high nest, about 40cm off the ground.

Mistake #2. The other hens kept laying and I added some more eggs to her clutch, about 10 in all - not a good idea either. It meant that the chicks would hatch at different times. I should have let her sit on just one egg, while I collected more - then taken the one away and added a fresh batch of 6-15 eggs at one time. For an inexperienced hen like mine, Jackie recommends just six eggs. Apparently you can use eggs that have been collected for up to a month after lay.

Mistake #3. When the first chick hatched I realised my earlier mistake and quickly made up a new pen and tried to move the hen. Very bad idea. When I let her into the new pen she escaped in a flash and freaked out, running round the backyard. I opened the main chook yard for her and opened the hut for her and she went straight back on her clutch of eggs again - a lucky escape for me.

The first chick made an appearance in the high nest, it wasn't long before it's exploring lead to a 40cm drop to soft grass below.

Of the 10 eggs that were under the mother hen, 4 chicks hatched out over 2-3 days. The nest was up high and the chicks couldn’t get back up when they came off the nest, so the mother came off leaving 6 eggs. When I checked the eggs I could hear cheeping and so decided to crack open the eggs to see if any chicks could be rescued...

Another mistake?

Here's the story in pictures of my rescue attempt.

15th November 11:44am - 2 of the chicks from the clutch of 6 appeared close to fully developed, showing movement, though not much. The other 4 chicks did not survive.
15th November 1:30pm - I got a cardboard box and hooked up a 75W incandescent light bulb to keep the chicks warm. They were quite cold. I was aiming for a temperature of 37ÂșC and used a thermometer and adjusted the box lid to reach the right temperature. I used an eye dropper to give them some water.
15th November 4:45pm - One of the chicks was quite active, the other wasn’t. I decided to leave them in the box overnight and see how they fared in the morning.
16th November 6:00am - after staying the the warm box overnight both chicks were lively. I thought they could join their family and hoped that their mother would take them under her wing.
16th November 8:00am - I introduced the chicks to their mother and siblings. She was a bit unsure initially, but accepted them thankfully.
17th November - I kept the mother and chick separate from the other chooks and rooster. 6 happy chicks with their mum. I made a drink station for them, auto refilling and shallow so they can’t drown. Being low it does fill with scratched grass so needs to be checked often.
I got the idea for the drink station from the youtube video below:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Energy Futures Forum - a local event

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

While there is still quite a bit of work to do around the house, none of it is that urgent - so my focus has moved to the garden and the local community. My involvement with local environment group BEAM: Mitchell Environment Group has increased somewhat since taking on the presidency role in August. With the VCAT hearing on the Cherry Tree Wind Farm to be decided any day now, I've become the face of the group and appeared on local news channel WIN TV to present some of the benefits of the proposal - for 15 seconds or so.

While the Wind Farm may or may not go ahead, one thing that has come out of the 'debate' about the proposal was the people who are for or against it all seem to agree that renewable energy is good and a way for the future. Perhaps just 'not in my backyard'. With that in mind we, as a group, decided to run an event with Yes2Renewables, which we called the Energy Futures Forum. Where some renewable options are demystified and presented to the local community, along with why we shouldn't look to fossil fuels in the future.

A big part of my role in the event has been surrounding promotion. I created the image below along with a flyer - which I've put around town and beyond - and have been posting articles from various contributors within BEAM on our website, social media and emailing it out to newspapers in the region and even got a spot on the local TV news. The response has been fantastic, with many articles published and great feedback from people that I've spoken to. We have no idea how many people will turn up, but we hope that the hall will be bursting. See links and more information below - come along if you can!

BEAM will be presenting an ‘Energy Futures’ forum in Seymour which will look at the what, why and how of energy.

In transitioning from our dependence on limited fossil fuel reserves to harnessing clean renewable energy – we can lower our impact on the environment and the severity of climate change. Reducing our own energy use will play a major role in our ability to make this transition. We all have a part to play in our Energy Future.
Guest speakers from around Victoria will talk about future energy options including solar and wind power, how to reduce energy use, your household bills and the risks associated if we don’t move to a renewable energy future. Not to be missed!
y2r-logoThe day will be facilitated by BEAM’s Phil Bourne with support from Leigh Ewbank of Yes2Renewables.

Speakers include:

Gwenda Allgood – Ararat Councillor, community benefits of wind farm development – see article
David RobinsonL.I.V.E. community solar on the South Melbourne market – see article
Chloe AldenhovenLock the Gate, coal seam gas & challenges for rural communities - see article
Trent Hawkins – Reducing bills and energy use in the household
Doug Hobson – Waubra wind farmer, benefits of living with wind power

Stay tuned, more speakers to be announced. Download the Energy Futures Flyer, print it out and spread the word!
* VRI Hall – Victorian Railways Institute Hall is next to Seymour Station, on the bus terminal side.

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