I'm hearing from a lot of breeders that this has been a particularly challenging season in terms of egg fertility, and loss of breeding stock from heatstroke. The bushfires and severe temperatures in Australia have been worldwide news.
We have just had 2 days in excess of 47C on the farm, and it's been a full time job trying to keep everything alive. On the worst day in history here last week (48.9C), I moved many of our breeding stock, boxed up, into our garage, with the portable air conditioner on. Rather a lot of work in that temperature!
A few tips for avoiding heatstroke losses, that I've picked up along the way:.
1) Chooks won't drink hot water. On hot days, change the water frequently.
2) Adding an electrolyte like AviLyte liquid to the drinking water, can reduce losses.
3) We freeze 2-4L ice cream containers and float them in the drinking water. These take longer to thaw, than just adding smaller iceblocks like party ice.
4) Avoid feeding chickens in very hot weather - the digestive process just creates more body heat. Some people feed cold watermelon to their chooks on very hot days. I find that the sugar surge they get leaves them more prone to heatstroke shortly after ingesting it.
5) Allow enough pen room for hot birds to move away from each other.
6) Any bird showing respiratory distress should be brought into airconditioning before it reaches the point of collapse. Electrolytes can be administered directly with a syringe. Keep them separate for several days & keep up the electrolytes until recovered.
7) If the chance of our penned birds dying from heatstroke, is greater than that of being killed by daytime predators (foxes, eagles, next door's bloody dogs), I let them all out to find their preferred coolest spot.
8) Wet loose soil with a hose, for them to sandbathe in.
9) Provide water in shallow dishes like cat litter trays. They'll stand in cool water, to lose heat via their feet and legs.
What on earth is going on with egg fertility???
The last few hatches have been pretty poor. Infertile eggs, blood rings, and a higher than usual proportion of late deaths-in-shell and weak chicks. I put this down to:
1) Reduced feed quality. Drought affected grains just don't have the same nutrient levels, even if using premium foods. We have been sporadically adding liquid vitamins to the drinking water this season.
2) The extreme heat means that eggs "false-start" incubation during the heat of the day. They really need to be collected and brought inside into a cool room for storage, before they start to incubate outdoors.
3) I don't believe our chooks are feeling super-amorous in this heat and smoke, it could be that they're just not in the mood.
I don't normally buy live birds, choosing to incubate purchased eggs instead. This minimises the risk of bringing a disease into our flock. However at Hawkesbury Poultry Auction yesterday, I couldn't help myself when I saw some breeds I've being dying to get into. So here's the haul (and I really did have to hold myself back from buying more!)
A big thanks to everyone who put on this fabulous auction. I'll be back again! I loved the quality & variety of the poultry, and met a stack of like minded people.
Consumers are being warned to check their homes for eggs produced by Bridgewater Poultry farm (Victoria) after the detection of Salmonella Enteritidis.
Bridgewater Poultry has had controls placed on it by Agriculture Victoria, preventing the sale of eggs while the possibility of contamination is investigated. The farm, located near Bendigo in central Victoria, is conducting a recall of their products which have been available at Woolworths and independent stores in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania and Coles in Victoria and South Australia.
Today, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said five cases of illness which could be linked to this strain of salmonella. However, he stressed eggs were safe to eat provided people follow the usual requirements to cook eggs thoroughly.
“People should avoid raw egg products particularly if they are vulnerable such as those with compromised immune systems, under two or over 70 years of age or pregnant,” Dr Sutton said. “These eggs should not be given to pets or livestock.”
Symptoms usually start around six to 72 hours after the contaminated food is eaten and usually last for four to seven days but can continue for much longer.
A Better Homes & Gardens episode, aired March 2019.
Dr Harry and Adam lend a helping hand to flamboyant entertainer Kris Stanley, who wants to share her passion for birds and a new chicken coop with the aged-care residents she loves so much. It’s amazing how the humble chook can bring so much joy and companionship to the lives of many!
Includes a video tutorial on how to dye white silkie chickens.
Yes we love our silkie chickens here, with their fluffy little butts and super sweet natures. But after seeing some Belgian d'uccle millefleurs (meaning chickens from the Belgian province of "uccle") at a local show, I fell head over heels for this quaint little creature. Millefleur means "million flowers", and that's exactly what their gorgeous plumage looks like.
So I hunted down some eggs from a decent Victorian Belgian bantam breeder, and had them posted to Sydney. Disaster struck 2 weeks into incubation when the heating element on the incubator failed, so the eggs were cactus. We have 6-7 incubators running between spring and autumn, but Murphy's Law said it had to be the one containing the mille's that failed.
What's that saying - expect nothing from posted eggs, and if something actually hatches, it's a bonus!
Round 2 of a dozen posted eggs saw 7 of 12 fertile at incubation lockdown. 3 had detached air cells (thanks, Aussie Post!) and were late deaths in shell. 4 hatched OK and have survived the first few days, not withstanding the power going out at 11pm one night & taking down all the incubators and brooding lamps for a good half hour!
I was perhaps unprepared for how TINY these fluffy-footed chicks are. They seem 2/3 of the size of a silkie chick, no bigger than a 20c piece.
Round 3 of posted eggs are on their way. Here's hoping Mr Murphy leaves us alone this time. So that should be enough breeding stock to get us started.
We will be retaining the Belgians hatched this year, but should have chicks available for sale in early 2020.
The Ayam Cemani, a prized breed of Indonesian chicken, is the result of a genetic mutation that produces a completely black bird, from beak to bone. Because of their colour and supposed magical properties, they can fetch up to $4,000 each.
Renowned for their rarity and defined by a genetic mutation that makes them completely black from feather to bone, the Ayam Cemani holds a special place in Javanese culture. Originating from Central Java, they are considered status symbols, good luck charms and are used in traditional medicine preparations to cure a variety of ailments across the island. They are even believed to have magical powers.
Ayam Cemanis are not raised for food in Indonesia, and any consumption is reserved for medicinal purposes. 90% of Indonesian buyers want Ayam Cemanis for their black blood, which is used in sacrificial ceremonies to encourage or celebrate good fortune.. (Technically it's not black, but a very dark red).
At the time of writing, nobody has yet imported Ayam Cemanis into Australia. The logistics of legally getting Asian birds or fertile eggs through Aussie quarantine might make that impossible.
Imagine my surprise when surveying the damage from a severe thunderstorm, from the safety of our balcony..... when in wanders a young female Sebastopol goose from nowhere. A local Facebook search failed to find her owner (not that I'm unhappy about that). She has now been with us for 3 weeks and nannies the young runner ducklings. We are still searching for a suitable name for her, and a gosling for her to love. She just loves being a Mum, as do I.
Yesterday morning (26/11/18) I opened our Janoel 60 which we use as a hex hatcher, and found this little chap, plus another 20+ of his siblings. I've never seen anything quite like him. My daughter noticed his hairstyle and christened him "Mullet". Here's hoping he stays this colour.
Update (8/1/19): Sadly Mullet is losing his Mullet.... and is going totally black apart from a few stray whites hairs in the pom-pom.
Update (1/3/19): Mullet is a hen! And at the very bottom of the pecking order. Perhaps it's the hairdo.
We will be attending. I went to the last auction Nicole ran & was quite impressed with the quality of the birds going through. We'll be looking for some new colours & genetics of Indian Runner ducks to add to our flock. Our birds have been selling very well in the private market, and it's time for us to replenish a bit.