Chickens Category

  • New Hens

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggsComments (1)

    On July 10, 2016 • By

    A little under two years ago, I travelled the length of Scotland in a hire van to collect 320 hens. This week, these hens have all gone, and have been replaced by 300 new ones.

    The past week has been hectic. I decided to rehome the old hens, rather than cull them all, because even though a two year old hen isn’t commercially viable any more, she lays enough to keep a family in eggs.  Production for me recently was at about 30% of what it was last spring – with feed costs the same – so I have been eagerly awaiting this new batch.  I ordered them over the winter, from Donald ‘The Hen’ in Skye, and he delivered them to my door.

    The old hens left during the week, with folk coming in their droves to rehome them.  Many took 4-6, while some took 10-30.  I didn’t ask for any payment for the hens, I was just wanting them gone.  I did have to cull some, though.  It wasn’t something I was particularly keen on doing, but there were about 30-40 that couldn’t be rehomed, for one reason or another.  Myself and Innes did that on Thursday night.

    Saturday was a really strange day.  The hen house was eerily quiet, with only a handful of birds left. That didn’t take long to change though!  The new ones arrived around 2.45pm, and by 4 they were all in their new home.

    Because the hen house is a hundred metres off the road, we had to transport the crates using my pickup. Uisdean here came to give me a hand.

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    Myself and Uisdean ferried them to the hen house, while Donald unloaded them.  It was smooth and easy, so I was quite happy with how it all went.

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    That’s them all inside, bunched up in the corner.  Very nervous in their new surroundings, I will have to get them used to me going in and out, and also Bud being amongst them! He comes with me every time I go up there, so the sooner they get used to him, the better.

    These birds are around 17.5 weeks old, so should start laying in the next 2 weeks or so.  I reckon it’ll be around a month before I have decent sized eggs (pullet eggs are very small) but it’ll be full steam ahead then!

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  • ‘An Lot’

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, Chickens, Freelance PiecesComments (2)

    On December 3, 2015 • By

    Having started filming 16 months ago, we’re now just a couple of days away from the first airing of ‘An Lot’.  I am excited, and also quite anxious. I’m more than comfortable in front of the camera, although this is a little different.  Usually, I am talking about a third party, but not this time.  This time I am opening myself up to the big bad world!

    To date, I have seen (and added my voice to) the first four episodes.  The final two will be completed on Monday, the same day the first one is broadcast.  I am delighted with how they have come together; Director Neil and Editor Paul have done a power of work, while locked away in a studio for the past couple of months.  I think I come across as myself, which is one of the things that I was hoping for, and I feel the series gives you a true taste of what crofting is like; full of highs and lows, not just a romantic image.

    Filming started in July 2014 and follows the arrival of the 300 chickens, ups and downs of the sheep, my family and has plenty laughs. I think the parts with Innes and Martin will make quite a few of you laugh!

    Anyway, the series starts on Monday at 8.30 on BBC Alba.  You can get more info on the BBC website – or you can ask me!  Hope you watch and I hope you enjoy!

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  • A hell of a day

    Adventures, Chickens, Lambs, Medicine, Poultry, Sheep, WeatherComments (0)

    On March 6, 2015 • By

    I’m sitting on my bed at 8pm, just having had a shower and feeling exhausted. Today was an unplanned day off work and I expected to take it reasonably easy, but that wasn’t to be the case.

    We had a gale today, probably 60mph gusts throughout the afternoon, with strong wind and heavy rain all day.

    The ground is totally soaked after relentless rain and is really tough on livestock

    Yesterday, I got a load of big bales delivered, so I took the tractor out for the first time in 2015 and moved the bales to the appropriate fields. All was going smoothly until the tractor got stuck in reverse! Not one to give up when I’m in a working mood, I finished job while drivinng backwards.

    Next, I checked the livestock. One ewe, scanned for twins, was on her back, and had probably been so for several hours.  I righted her and took her out to my parents barn. I noticed a wee bit of blood round her rear, so I phoned the vet to be safe.

     

    The vet gave her the usual injections but also left me some pen & strep to administer over the next few days.

    Fortunately, the blood around the rear was a peck or two by a crow, and not the beginning of her aborting, as I had initially feared. I had hoped it was a peck, but you always fear the worst!

    When he inserted the digital thermometer into her, she was so cold it didn’t get a reading. Looks like I got to her in time. She had a heater beside her for most of the afternoon and was eating when I checked her around 7.

    While the vet was leaving, I noticed 2 hens, who were standing around looking very sorry for themselves.  They were outwith the hen enclosure and totally soaked. They were so cold, they couldn’t move and didn’t look like they’d last long.

    I took both out to my mother and we both sat in front of the fire, drying them and trying to warm them up. I left them with my mother and went to feed the sheep. When I came back,  I was SHOCKED at what I saw.

    I’m so surprised at how well, and quickly, they’ve recovered. They’re in the barn tonight and will be back in the hen house tomorrow.

    That’s not it though, there was also a recently-acquired lamb that was suffering from exposure too. It spent the day between a heater and a heat lamp! It too will be kept inside for a few days.

    Predictions then are then that hens are fine, the lamb should be ok but I’m worried about the ewe. She’ll need some TLC.

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  • First in the queue

    Agricultre, Chickens, SheepComments (0)

    On February 28, 2015 • By

    How to make sure you get your fill

    Tired yet satisfied after getting everything done today. The ground is so much wetter than it has been at any point this winter. Everywhere is waterlogged – and slippery!

    I wasn’t due to clean out the hen house until Monday, but had to do it early as it was so mucky. Hebs are staying inside and when they do go out, they take mud back in with them!

    That’s me for the weekend now, apart from feeding the sheep tomorrow. I need a rest!

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  • Highlights

    Adventures, Agricultre, Cats, Chickens, Lambs, SheepComments (2)

    On February 22, 2015 • By

    I am going to post a selection of my favourite photos from the last month or so. I can’t wait for spring, the extra hours of daylight will be a big help – as will some grass growing!

    Gizmo wanting in

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    Returning a lost ewe to the flock

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    More repairs to the portacabin. Still awaiting payout from my insurer.

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    Hungry Hogg

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    Swollen eye

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    A couple of visitors

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  • Entrails

    Agricultre, Chickens, death, PoultryComments (6)

    On January 26, 2015 • By

    Don’t look any further if you are squeamish or easily offended.

    I was cleaning out the hen house earlier today and was just spreading the new wood shavings when I noticed a hen dragging something behind her. Her intestine….

    The other hens were pecking away as I lifted her up, and the entrails, and took her down to the barn. Unfortunately it was a total mess around the rear, so I culled her.

    Not nice. Anyone know what causes this?

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  • Hens & eggs

    Adventures, Chickens, eggs, PoultryComments (2)

    On January 23, 2015 • By

    Just under 4 years ago, I got my first three hens. Today, I’m not aware of anyone in Lewis, possibly the Western Isles, with more than me.

    I remember when I was wee, asking my parents if we could get hens, but being told no as the mink would kill them all.

    The mink are now long gone (due to SNH eradication scheme) so that meant no ground predators here, just as had been the case.

    Anyway, my first three hens came by accident, almost. My cousin Erica was recently married and was building a house with her husband. She had 4 hens at a house they were renting, but there wouldn’t be space for them at her new house. So, in early 2011, I took them on. Unfortunately one had been run over, so it was only 3 of them that made the journey to Ness.

    Here they are, 4th April 2011

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    I don’t think any of those ones are still with us, but 2 weeks later I got a cockerel. This was him when he arrived, and he’s still strutting his stuff!

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    Slowly the numbers started creeping up. People who got no longer wanted their hens started leaving them with me and before I knew it, there were 45 hens!

    18 months ago, I moved them all into one largish hen house but by then I had already made up my mind to go bigger.

    I had seen a gap in the market for local eggs and kept meaning to give it a go myself. I was selling eggs at work and covering all my feed costs, so knew it wouldn’t be a loss.

    Around this time last year, I decided to change the way I worked. After 10 years on committees and supporting local community groups, I decided to take a step back and help myself instead. I’ll go back to the community stuff at some point in the future – when I have the time, energy and patience. In the meantime, I just wanted to do my own thing, so I just went ahead and ordered 320 hens.

    They arrived in July and I have been soldiering on with them since then, until this week. After months of selling eggs privately, things finally came together this week and I got into the shops. I had registered with the Government back in the summer and had an inspection in September. That was all fine but I couldn’t get into the shops until I got my labels and environmental health gave the the all clear, which they did this week.

    After a sleepless night on Sunday, I got through my inspection at the first time of asking and got eggs into the shops within minutes! This has been one of the most hectic and exciting I’ve had a a crofter, and it’s given me a taste for more!

    My eggs are now available in the two Ness shops, Swainbost & Cross, WJ MacDonald in Stornoway, the shops in Tong and Point, as well as the Community Co-op in Leverburgh, Harris.

    Make sure you buy some eggs!

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  • Late night birding

    Adventures, Chickens, eggs, Freelance PiecesComments (0)

    On January 15, 2015 • By

    The last two nights have seen a lot of late night hen house action. Being back at work means that I have to do most of the croft work either before or after work. Being a night owl, the mornings are a last resort!

    Fortunately my father is looking after the sheep this week, so *all* I have to do is tend to the hens.

    Because the weather has been so poor the past week, the hens have barely ventured outside. This means that they are eating A LOT more feed. I usually fill the feeders once a week, with around 18 bags. This week’s 18 bags lasted from Saturday until Wednesday! Another 15 taken up then, in the pitch black.

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    Tonight was even worse, sorting out eggs and collecting them from the hen house in 60-75mph winds! I was extremely concerned I was going to get caught by some flying debris!

    Anyway, all done for the evening and preparing for heading to Aberdeen in the morning. Doing a spot of filming there and then back home on Saturday morning – all weather permitting.

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  • Worst storm I’ve experienced

    Adventures, Chickens, death, Lambs, SheepComments (6)

    On January 9, 2015 • By

    I am totally exhausted just now. The last 30 hours have been non-stop tension, fear and worry.

    After getting everything tied down last night, I went to bed around 11, with the wind gusting around 70/80mph. I slept until 1.47am, when the wind woke me. This was the last sleep I would get until 5am, when I slept for a couple of hours.

    The power went off around midnight and is still off now. I was up and around the house numerous times during the night and I was so so worried that the hen house would be damaged. As well as the obvious impact it would have on the hens, it would be financially disastrous for me – my eggs are literally in that one basket! (It is insured, but that’s not the point!)

    In the middle of the night, this was the sight that greeted me from the back door – the ‘skin’ on the roof of the portacabin torn to shreds.

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    After checking the roof was intact, the hen house was next stop. Fortunately it survived the storm, although there are possibly some issues with the doors, which will be inspected properly after the weekend – as long as it survives tonight and tomorrow. I found one hen dead outside, she must have left it too late to head back inside last night.

    I had some damage on the roof of my house, slates missing and flashing torn, but not too bad.

    The sheep I had moved to the front of my house had a lucky escape, with sheets of metal gouging out chunks of earth right between them

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    The lambs didn’t fare so well though, 2 dead with another apparently in shock. It’s inside and doing a lot better now.

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    After moving the lambs to a more sheltered field, I saw the carnage that had been left – and that was only in 2 of the 15 villages in Ness.

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    Shipping containers and skips blown over, houses stripped of slates and thousands of pounds worth of damage to the church.

    In my own village, this boat was flipped – despite being anchored down with blocks and tied to two fence posts, which were ripped out of the ground. It usually takes 6 of us to lift that boat!

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    I’m in now and totally exhausted. I’ve been worrying and tense since 3pm yesterday and felt a wave of relief when I sat down at 6pm tonight. I just hope that everything makes it through the night ok.

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  • Hatches battened down

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On January 8, 2015 • By

    Finally sat down and had my dinner after coming home early to get ready for the storm that’s about to hit us.

    Last night, this is the forecast that we had for Fri/Sat (this is from xcweather, the site I use almost exclusively)

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    96mph, which usually means that we will have gusts over 100mph. The weather station that was formerly Eoropie Tea Room has been relocated to my village, so should be interesting to see what it reads. I’m pretty sure it’ll be over 100mph. In the past few hours though, the forecast seems to be dipping ever so slightly, so I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as feared – but still very very bad.

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    Because of this, I came home early from work today, to make sure everything was as secure as it could be. On Monday, I put the blackface sheep out onto the moor. They are hardy and can find plenty of shelter out there. As you can see from the picture, though, there is absolutely no shelter on the crofts.

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    So I went to take the Cheviots back from the field they were in at the bottom of the croft, and leave them in front of my house for the night, where they can shelter. That was supposed to be a 5 minute job, until I noticed the rope on the gate had snapped (probably in yesterday’s mini-gale) and the sheep had disappeared!! Fortunately, they came when I started calling them, they had gone down to the shoreline – probably the worst place for 100mph winds straight off the Atlantic!

    They followed me all the way out, nearly a mile, and I treated them to some feed in front of my house.

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    Everything else tidied away, bins put in the barn and peats taken in. One more job was to check the hens. I am pretty sure the hen house itself won’t move, but I am concerned about the roof. One section tore away in December but hopefully the repairs will see out the winter and then I’ll replace it with box-profile.

    One wee issue has been wind-driven rain coming in under the ridge. This is because the roof has a shallow pitch, so wind doesn’t have to fight gravity when pushing rain in. I think I have plugged most of the holes with expanding foam

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    Now I’m in by the fire, all gadget fully charged, torches to hand and ear plugs by the bed. Hope I sleep, although worry and wind will probably keep me awake.

    One thing is that I bought a generator this week and it’s sitting in the back of the pickup, at the back door, ready to be put to use if (or probably when) the power goes out.

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    I just hope the hens are all ok in the morning!

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