Saturday, 17 April 2010

Nature adapts

Mike went to tray pheasant eggs this morning, ready to go into the incubator, and saw a hoopoe -
image from

I only ever saw one once, when I was living in France. They are an uncommon visitor to England. We wondered if the fallout of volcanic ash from Iceland played any part in his visit. He's been hanging around the incubator sheds all day (though not long enough for me to get a good picture!)

Our little hen continues to hatch out chicks. I should have stopped her sitting on so many eggs, or at least I should have stopped other chickens from adding to her clutch and causing a staggered hatch. With chicks and eggs she was struggling to keep both warm.

Against all advice in books, I helped a tired and cold chick out of its shell. An hour later when I checked on them, the chick was in distress and still very cold. It didn't have strength enough to move to a warmer spot under the hen. I took it away and stuck it in the warmest spot I could find - right on top of the hot water heater in the airing cupboard, tucked into a washcloth:
The little chick dried off and warmed up while we had our lunch. Once it was moving well enough, I tucked it back under its mom. I check on them every so often. So far, so good.

I had to take the rest of the unhatched eggs away, to save the five chicks. There is a setting of chicken eggs in my small incubator, due to hatch in the next couple days. Against all advice in books (again), I candled out the infertile eggs (which was about half) and put the rest in the incubator with the others. Our neighbor has a spare broody hen and offered to foster anything that comes out of the incubator. He has big Orpingtons so there's enough bottom to cover everyone.

I know I should be more hard-hearted but it's amazing what does survive when given half a chance.

The pheasant egg production is nearing maximum now. Each pheasant hen will lay about 44 eggs a year in the breeding pens, if the proper nutrition is kept up. The cock birds are doing their bit too, and it's easy to tell which ones are busiest. Here's a pheasant who's not covering many hens:

His red face patch isn't fully swollen yet. See his long tail? When they're treading lots of hens their tails get worn down and broken like this:

See how much redder his face is too, and more engorged. That's a real ladies man - at least in the pheasant world. But when he gets worn out and tired, the other pheasant will be ready to take over and fertilise those eggs. Nature thinks of everything.

It's the weekend and even though we're on egg duty, I'm hoping we will get a chance to ride the horses tomorrow. They've been turned out on fresh grass, I've harrowed their old paddock, repaired the broken fencer, given them a trim up with the clippers, and a good grooming to remove their winter coats. They are ready for a mosey and a look around. They seem to like the view from their temporary paddock:


Paula said...

I like the view from the temporary paddock, especially with the horse butts in it.

Maybe the experts advise against trying to save stuff for the bigger operations. I think that it makes sense to try- if the animal doesn't make it later because it's been weakened, oh well, but if it does, then there's a whole animal where there wouldn't have been one. Good for you for trying, anyway.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Nice bird sighting! And it sounds like you have your hands full, what with its being spring and all. I wish we lived closer, so we could borrow some of your eggs to placate Henzilla, Broody Monster of the Coop. Promise you'll post more pictures when those chicks get to the cute fuzzy stage.

Poppy Cottage said...

Having 'helped' a fair few eggs over the years I would like to see the person who walks away when sometime it is just a tiny bit of shell keeping the chick trapped! Some advice is there for advice sake!!

I just love the bum view!!

Take care.

Me xx

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

Book, or no book, how could anyone turn away from such a tiny little life in need of just a little help? I sure couldn't! Glad you couldn't either.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - So Henzilla is still rampaging then? I hope your egg production isn't suffering too much. I promise, more pictures of cute chicks, They are 'calendar picture' cute now.

Colette - That's the horses' best side. They're loving the sunshine as much as we are.

Karen - I've got a jumper that I wear on hatch days, just because the sleeves are perfect for putting chicks inside to warm up while I keep working. That wasn't in the book either but it really works.

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Beautiful horse bums! I am so intrigued by your blog. I always help the chick outta the egg, although sometimes you end up having to deal with a crippled chick. Love the meal countdown! So you hatch pheasants by the millions for hunting purposes?

Jennifer Montero said...

HKS- I find it comforting to lean on a horse's bum and stare out over the fields. Eveyone should have one for stress relief.

The response to hatching has been overwhelmingly in favour of the "assistance when needed" school.

We do hatch pheasants (and partridge) in largish numbers for a commercial driven game shoot. Once shot, the birds are hung and processed on site or nearby, and supply the buoyant game market here. The season runs from late September to late January.

We also supply deer and wild boar which we shoot on the estate, or which is shot by clients who pay for the chance to stalk them. That also goes into the food chain, mostly local but some goes to Europe too.

Cynthia said...

What a cool bird! I bet the ash is producing all sorts of unusual sightings.

Thanks for the comparison photos on pheasants -- so interesting & neat to see it instead of just reading it.

Jennifer Montero said...

Cynthia - I try to use as many pictures as possible, but my excuses are that I have a very old and low-tech digital camera so picture quality can bit iffy. Worse, I often forget to take it with me, and of couse that's when you see the best stuff!

I am glad you find the pheasants interesting - I do too!