Initial Thoughts on a Grandpa’s Feeder

The video below is our initial thoughts on a Grandpa’s Feeder, from New Zealand, that just moved here using a moving company for this.

Anyone who has ever seen a rat get into their poultry feeder knows that feeling that something must be done. I’m a firm believer in prevention is better than cure, and to that end we invested in galvanised treadle feeders a few years ago. The best thing we ever did (along with galvanised auto drinkers and plastic coops). However, the two feeders made in Britain were great, and still are, but the one we suspect is an import (thinner metal, rusting already and never quite sat straight) has started to allow the chickens to scrape all the pellets from inside. The lid that covers the eating area until the chicken stands on the treadle has always been a bit temperamental, getting jammed every so often for no reason I can see! I suspect the device is so wonky that it slips down its axle gradually and sticks to one side.

Our new Grandpa's Feeder

It will never look this good again

Fed up of this, we decided to invest in a new British-made treadle feeder but alas, the only one we could find has now had a plastic lid and plastic tread plate fitted! Plastic does not last as long as metal – fact. No matter what they do to it, it will always become brittle with exposure to UV light. Also, plastic is simply not rat proof – I can vouch for that personally – and a rat will gnaw through anything it can to get to a stash of food it can smell.

So we ended up buying a large Grandpa’s Feeder, available from www.grandpasfeeders.co.uk. I’d heard of them, and thought “crikey – they’re expensive!”, but with no reasonable option around, and following my other mantra “buy good, buy once”, or something along those lines, I (we – though Suz had no idea it was happening) bought one.

This video is the first impressions video – I’ll add another post and video after a few weeks, when it’s a bit more lived in and our Marsh Daisies have had their wicked way with it.

Hedgehog!

When we first landed at Merrybower, about ten years ago to the day, we were chuffed to bits with a hedgehog that sporadically showed itself – one night even appearing silhouetted against the garage doors by the car headlights, like a slightly less sinister parody of Nosferatu.

hedgehog

Mr Hedgehog makes use of the fallen grain.

But as the years passed, the hedgehog has been sadly lacking here, for whatever reason. The reality is that whilst we live in the countryside, we are surrounded by open fields, the distance between hedges growing ever longer as some are grubbed up to allow for larger machinery.

Not One,

However, this year our hedgehog, the one above, has become a nightly visitor, almost like clockwork. Of course, the hedgehog’s clock isn’t based on time, but the sun, and our prickly fellow pops into the garden to nibble on fallen grain from the bird feeder, having wobbled its way from the patch. We’ve been careful to leave gaps under the various gates, to allow such passage, and delighted to find our little friend is making use of his own personal highway.

Not Two,

It doesn’t stop there though! A few weeks ago I was on my way down to the patch to close the coop pop holes when I noticed a prickly bottom poking from a clump of grass near the rhubarb patch. At first, in the light from my head torch, I thought it *was* a clump of grass, but the noise gave it away. It had its head firmly planted in the grass, and wasn’t shifting, so I carried on. Several minutes later, coming up the path in the opposite direction I met the hedgehog once more, heading back to the patch having extracted itself from the clump. Rather sweetly he just bent his head to one side, to avoid being blinded by the beacon on my bonce. I muttered an apology to “Mr Hedgehog” and scurried past him, watching him continue on his merry way as I’d passed. Fifteen feet further I glanced at the clump I’d seen him in and, to my delight, there was a prickly bottom still wedged tight! Wait til I tell Suz, I thought – two hedgehogs!

But Three!

My last chore was to head to the front of the house and bring the eggs in from the front and to empty the honesty box. Now either one of our two previous friends was extremely quick on their legs and had sprinted around the house or, as I strongly suspect – mainly due to the fact this one was so much larger – I was confronted with a third hedgehog coming in under the main gate! Wow – three hedgehogs at Merrybower – incredible!

That night further affirms the good that our way of growing does for not only ourselves, but the animals we share the land with – we’ve gone from an empty acre of monoculture crop to a feast of wildlife, all making it their home. And that feels good.

The Perfect Sight

You know those times when everything just feels perfect – when the small things that niggle are put into perspective and for a moment everything is just as it should be. For me, and I know others here at Merrybower, it’s ‘down the patch’, where you step into another world – a world that belongs to the animals, the trees, nature – where you’ve guided things but never have complete control – nature’s not too kindly towards you taking complete control.

Today was one of those days, and this photograph sums it all up – a group of happy fat Light Sussex hens scratching beneath a fruit tree coming into blossom. A display of the life there is, and all the life yet to be.

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Dwt Meet Barty, Barty Meet Dwt

Dwt & Barty

Today was the day that Barty’s new girlfriend arrived in a big surprise box, complete with red heart drawn on the outside and her name. Having travelled all the way from Wales from the homestead of Deborah Kieboom, she turned up with all the grace only Dwt could have, as we later came to find out.

Deborah had two geese left, her question to us was “Would you like a leggy one, or a petite one?”

Dwt takes control of the red bucket.

We asked Barty, apparently he has a preference for petite ladies, so Dwt it was!

In case you’re wondering how to pronounce her Welsh name, it’s “Dŏot” – the ‘oo’ is as you would say wood in English. It means “small and sweet”, which really does sum her up. She epitomises all that you could wish for in a Pilgrim goose – light, inquisitive and ridiculously friendly – the sort of goose that gets excited to see you and will follow you around for tidbits.

Far friendlier than Barty, she’s also had a great influence on him – since he’s been with her he’s also started to take apple from the hand and you can get the occasional stroke in if you’re lucky. She’s also highly intelligent – within three days she understood the ‘bedtime’ suggestion (it’s never a command with geese – they don’t like commands – you have to let them think it’s their idea), and would take herself off to the goose house, Barty in tow.

 

Marsh Daisy Update

2016 marsh daisy chicks 3wksIt’s been three weeks since the first Marsh Daisy chicks hatched here at Merrybower, and they’re all looking beautiful to date! Here you can see the five we’ve hatched, mingling with more of our Light Sussex, and the nine Rob has hatched. Ours are shown individually in the gallery below, as we’re handling them to tame them for possibly showing. Rob’s are those running with their bantam mother, she’s done a fantastic job!

2016 marsh daisy chicks rob 3wks_rob_3wksWe’re keen to learn of any impact the darker head stripe may have – you can see it on two of the chicks. There’s also quite a bit of variety in wing colouring, some more a caramel and others a dirtier brown with more black. Again, there’s also a distinct difference in leg colouring, even at this age, with some showing more of the tendency towards the green hues we’re looking for.  It’s going to be an interesting journey!

Marsh Daisy Eggs

2016 marsh daisy eggsWe’ve been thinking of adding another breed to our chickens here at Merrybower, and flicking through a borrowed poultry magazine I stumbled across the name Marsh Daisy. It sounded pleasing, so I read the article, and discovered this breed was on the endangered list. Originally from Lancashire – not a million miles from Derbyshire – it had similar qualities to the Derbyshire Redcap. Namely, a rose comb, flighty and a good forager. They were, according to the article, easier to tame than a Redcap, which made it sound a bit easier.

I mentioned it to Rob over a cuppa one morning, and he’d been looking to possibly replace the bantam Brown Leghorns with something, so between us we decided to have a bash at helping an old breed out. So where to find some Marsh Daisy eggs?! Using the ubiquitous internet I tracked down the Marsh Daisy Breeders Group and spoke to Sharon who runs it. A trip to Wales a couple of months later and Sharon had fifteen precious eggs ready for us, which was fantastic, and after admiring their setup I hastened back with my eggy cargo, and six pints of fresh milk from their new cow! Delicious!

One for Me, One for You, One for Me…

It was like choosing sides for a playground footy match – Rob and I chose the best twelve Marsh Daisy eggs, six each, and then we split the last three between us (my egg equivalent in the footy picking terms). There were also a couple of odd white eggs that one of Sharon’s Marsh Daisies had popped out, so again we placed one of those in each of our piles. Today Rob placed his under a broody bantam, whereas here we’ve gone the incubator route, as it’s a good excuse to fill the incubator with more Light Sussex eggs. Fingers crossed!

Light Sussex Chicks

Light Sussex Chicks at Three Weeks

Light Sussex ChicksI can’t believe we’re already at the end of the first three weeks the Light Sussex chicks have been with us – they grow up so fast! Over the course of the first few weeks, everything about the chicks gets bigger – the noise, their appetites, and their daily pile of brown gifts left in haphazard piles on the wood chippings. Ah yes, and the smell also grows bigger – when you wake up to the not-so-fresh odour of chick poop, it’s probably about time they moved to the garage. Today was that morning – no amount of coffee could unplug my nostrils – so for the first time ever the chicks were lifted out of the house and on to grass. I love that feeling – showing them the world for the first time, knowing that it just gets better hereon. The weather was warm and we borrowed the rabbit run for them to play in for a couple of hours – there were no complaints about cold so we knew we were good to go with the cleaning. Whilst they skipped and frolicked (well – ate and drank), I gave their brooder a thorough clean and disinfect with Dettol, and moved it into the garage. The heatlamp is at its highest, their feathers are coming along nicely, with the black heads appearing quickly. We may even be ready by the start of week four to move them off the lamp, but I’ll check the outside temperature and their feathering before risking that – they may need another week.

Light Sussex ChicksThey’re still on chick crumbs, with a coccidiostat to help build up an immunity to coccidiosis. At six weeks we’ll start mixing grower’s pellets into the crumbs, over the course of a few days, until by week seven they’ll be on growers only. This will change to layer’s pellets at around 22 weeks – some suggest earlier but as these are Light Sussex chicks – a pure breed and slower to mature – 22 weeks is about right. If for some reason one of them starts laying quicker than that, then we’ll start the layers before then.

Welsummer Chicks & Cuckoo Marans Chicks

Welsummer Chicks & Cuckoo Marans ChicksOf course, just because I’d gone to visit the goslings, it didn’t stop me taking delight in meeting a tiny flock of brand new Welsummer chicks and Cuckoo Marans chicks! A few weeks old now, they have the same type of heated house that the goslings have, allowing them to run around outside in the fresh air as and when they feel like it, but with a nice warm house to retreat to if it gets a bit too nippy for them. The black and white mopheads are Cuckoo Marans, and the brown mopheads are the Welsummers.

West of England Goslings

West of England Goslings Update

West of England GoslingsI went on one of my regular trips to our neighbour’s farm two fields away, for the usual chinwag and cud-chew over  a strong cup of tea. The “I’m just popping round to the farm for ten minutes” type of visit that Suz knows full well may be the better part of an hour or more. But today was a special day, as two of the West of England goslings being sat under a broody bantam chicken had hatched! Luckily I’d take my camera and managed to grab some images that are just too cute – proud mum and huge children!

West of England GoslingsOf course, it didn’t stop there! The new broody banty setup had increased the hatching rate to a ridiculously high level, surpassing everything Pete and Rob had experienced in the past. It’s a magnificent site, with West of England goslings at every age waddling around, like a mini, ever-so-slightly less vicious Jurassic Park.

2016 goslings west of england 3These goslings were about two weeks or so old, and have been moved to one of the heated coops outside, so they canchoose to run in the sun if the day is warm enough, or retreat to the warmth of the coop if they so choose. It also gives them a chance to mix with the main flock of geese, some of whom are no doubt their parents.

West of England GoslingsAnd then of course you have the teenagers – these are eight weeks old now and are part feathered. Like every teenager, they prefer to hang out by themselves, probably listening to awful music and muttering under their breaths about how fuddy duddy their parents are, or how annoying their younger siblings are turning out to be, and they were never that bad 😉

Light Sussex Chicks – 1 Week Old

Light Sussex chicks - one week oldAs the Light Sussex chicks become slightly larger, their poops also become slightly larger – it’s the law of inevitability 🙂 Towards the end of the week we’re changing the towels they walk/run/sleep/poop on, twice a day. However, by this stage they’re also pretty sure what their food looks like, in the shape of chick crumbs, so we’re safe to move them on to quality pine shavings. It’s a well-timed plan, they’re all air-lifted into a waiting pet carrier (“Rescue Pod 1″ as it’s known here, as it brings all sorts back), then clean shavings are added to their run, to between 1 and 2 inches deep (2.5cm – 5cm). We also take the opportunity to raise the drinker and feeder by aroud 4cm, low enough for them to reach each, but high enough to prevent a mass of wood shavings from clogging them up – they’re more feisty now and have a tendency to kick shavings high up – I’ve even cleaned poop from the side of the drinker, 8” high – they must be firing cannon balls! We’ve also raised the lamp slightly, and during week two is a good time to begin bonding with your Light Sussex chicks – we pick them out one at a time and gently hold them close, so they get a feel for us. This said, Light Sussex are generally a calmer bird than many, and you can even see this in the chicks themselves. Our last lot of Derbyshire Redcaps were the exact opposite and I’m not sure I would have handled them as chicks in the same way! Five minutes close won’t harm them, you’re warm enough to keep them happy.