The good weather has broken. Mist has come in as thick as a fisherman's sock. The weather pine cone is closed tight which tells me that the rain is in, at least for a few days. Barbara the weather chicken is starting to look damp and threadbare, as she takes her brood out to explore the garden. I'm inside catching up on paperwork and knitting today. And of course there are more pheasant chicks to bit.
Not much of a view over the hedge this morning
Mist and rain doesn't stop morning chores; it just means that you're soggy and your glasses are steamed up by the time you've finished. All the animals need feeding, walking, and letting in or out as required. I've been getting up by 6am so I can finish the basics by 8.30. It makes me feel more productive.
Grandma Brown and Susan are still sat tight on their respective clutches. Grandma Brown went broody in an old wine case in the tool shed -
A few days ago I swapped the two dummy eggs she sat on with two fertile ones from the incubator. Both her eggs and the others in the incubator are due tomorrow. Grandma Brown's ass is the size of a dinner plate so she's going to foster them all. Susan is incubating her second clutch of the year, though she's only ever managed to rear one chick per hatch. She's not due for a fortnight yet.
One of the brown laying hens is limping, and has adopted the 'tail down' position of an ailing bird. Perhaps she had a run-in with a dog or a car, I don't know. But she's foraging and generally soldiering on with being a chicken. I'll just observe her for now.
A second brown hen has split her beak down the middle. I think I'll have to catch her and trim it up, to keep the split from getting any worse. We have a special tool that trims and cauterises beaks, though I've never had reason to use it before. That can be my new skill for next week.
And my new skill for this week? Sexing quail. I was given four little Coturnix quail and shown how to sex them. It's surprisingly straightforward. At 6 weeks of age (or sexual maturity), the males produce what look like little balls of foam. Pick up a quail, turn it over and expose the vent. If you can see one of these foam balls, it's a boy.
Boy quail (L) and girl quail (R)
It turns out we have two boys and two girls, though the dark hen has a joint deformity that causes her to walk on her elbows. I don't think it will correct itself as her joints are noticeably large, probably damaged. I will watch and make sure that she doesn't develop any sores or wounds on her elbows where they touch the ground. As long as she stays healthy, there's no harm in keeping her. We're only eating the eggs, not hatching them.
This "give everything a chance" attitude means that, between us, Mike and I have had our fair share of gimpy pets.
This same attitude was present last night, on our ride back from Milkweed field. Mike was driving when he swerved the truck, hit the brakes and opened his door.
"What the hell are you doing?" I said.
"There's a moth in the truck" Mike said.
"And I wanted to let it out so it didn't die in here. Lepidoptera are suffering this year after such a hard winter. It needs to get out and breed."
It's true, I thought. I haven't seen many moths or butterflies this summer.
" Oh honey, that's really sweet of you!" I said.
"Well, there's not a lot to eat on a moth so it wasn't worth keeping anyway." Mike said
A gamekeeper with a heart, but still a gamekeeper. I just hope he doesn't realise how much meat is on a lame quail.