Monday, 31 August 2009

Feeding the Birds

I checked on new mother hen Gertie and her chick this morning. The chick looked very odd - large head, tiny body. I thought at first glance that it was a second chick, it looked so different than 48 hrs ago. See for yourself - compare it to the picture of the chick in Saturday's post. Nope, all the unhatched eggs were still there, it was the same chick.

I spoke to Mike about it. He thought it sounded like malnutrition. The chick, when first hatched, lives off the yolk sac which it absorbs into its abdomen as it hatches. We reasoned that the chick had drained these reserves and Gertie, who was too focused on hatching the other eggs, hadn't yet taken chick to the feed tray and taught it to eat. It was starving to death.

We had to intervene. Either we had to take the chick and raise it ourselves, or we needed to take the yet unhatched eggs away to push Gertie into caring for her chick. We decided to remove the eggs. Even as a first time mother, Gertie had a better chance than me of successfully raising her own offspring and teaching it how to be a chicken. It was motherhood or bust for her now.

I checked on the pair at regular intervals. I'm pleased to say that Gertie was taking charge of her little one, calling it to eat and dropping tidbits for it. There's a good chance for that chick. The eggs we removed all appear to be addled or infertile so it looks like we did the right thing.

As it was raining again this morning, I thought I would get on with chutney and preserve making. As I checked the cupboards for ingredients, I realised I had LOTS of out of date stuff in my pantry, but all things the birds like, so I figured I'd cook for them first. After all, they're going to need the extra energy now that the weather's turning. Here's a simple recipe for your wild birds:
Clean out your cupboards! Nuts, dried fruits, seeds, stale crackers and bread or cake crumbs.

Take some lard (UK) or empty that coffee can of grease (US) from your fridge. Warm it in a pan and add the dry matter.

Make sure it's pretty soupy - the fat holds it together. If it's too soupy you can always add more dry stuff later.

Save a few paper cups from your Starbucks. (I had these still in the cup holders in my car!)

Fill it with the mix and put it in the freezer overnight.

When it's set hard, cut off the paper cup

Pop it in your fat ball holder and hang it in a tree, sheltered from the rain if possible. If you haven't got a holder, just put a long piece of string doubled to make a loop into the mix before freezing it. Hey presto! -

After chores, Mike and I did a little fishing this evening at the pond by 'The Hill' pen. I picked some more blackberries and elderberries while he cast a spinner. He lost 2 trout, released 3 trout, and kept 1 trout for Mr & Mrs Puzey, our neighbors who raise organic beef. I guess fish is a nice change for them. We dropped off the fish, and sat on their stone wall as the sun set, exchanging fishcake recipes and discussing rabbit damage to Mr Puzey's crops.

You can guess by the look on my face that I'm not crazy about touching fish. I'll gut any mammal you like but fish freak me out. Look inside a trout's mouth - all those rows of backward-facing teeth. It's not quite 'Jaws' but it's still not somewhere I want to put my hand.

I never did make any chutney. Maybe tomorrow.


Poppy Cottage said...

Wow!! That was close with the chick. Mine have now started sneaking over to next door. Now fish.... I can gut and fillet them no problem, comes from having a Grandad who is a fisherman. Cooked Jasper's shot rabbit into a pretty cool looking pie. Even got a thumbs up from my boy!! That doesn't happen often. Oh well off to work :0(

Colette x

Jennifer Montero said...

Did you put a picture of your pie on your blog? Good looking pies are undervalued artistic creations.

Sara said...

With your easy step-by-step instructions, I'm inspired to make suet this winter now. However, my only dry good leftovers are things like, sugared cereal crumbs, popcorn, ricecakes (Ranch flavor --yech), and Ritz cracker crumbs in hamburg grease. Just needs to be dipped in milk choloclate and decorated with pop tarts, and you've got yourself avian feast fit for an American backyard bird. ;)