Chickens Category

  • My thoughts coming into a new year

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

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    As the year draws to an end, I have been thinking about it a lot in the past few weeks.

    2014 didn’t get off to a good start for me at all, as I felt some backlash, both locally and nationally, for arranging the world Guga eating championship. Afterwards, I made a conscious decision to move away from community-involvement and focus on my own plans. I had been involved in numerous community groups over the past 10 years; Ness FC, Social Club, Comunn Eachdraidh, village Grazing Clerk, Ness Golf Club & the Community Council, but decided to focus on my own plans after this.

    And focus on them I did. As soon as lambing was over, I ordered 320 hens. The thinking was to provide some kind of sustainable income from the croft. The sheep and everything else washes its own face, but I needed something that would make a decent profit. Having done the sums and spoken to shops, I decided that hens were the answer.

    Another big step was at the end of June, when I reduced my hours at work. I now work 3.5 days a week, having every Monday off, as well as every 2nd Friday. This has been invaluable during the winter, as I’d have no time to get anything done otherwise.

    There are plenty folk who were trying to convince me to work full time or who thought I was crazy in doing it, but I have always been of the opinion that work is there to fund life, life isn’t there to sit in an office. Work to live, not live to work. I know what I want to do and 18 months of hard work will get me where I want to be.

    The hens arrived at the end of July and things have gone well since then. They started laying semi-regularly by mid-September. Things have been ticking over since then and I hope to hit the ground running by the end of January.

    There are loads of things going on behind the scenes too, but I can’t share all of those quite yet, as things are at a sensitive stage. I cannot wait for 2015 though, I know it is going to be my most successful, profitable and happiest year as a crofter.

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  • Monster Saturday

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, Lambs, Rams, SheepComments (0)

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    I’m lying in bed on Sunday morning, feeling like a broken man. Not because of a hangover, but because of how much I did yesterday!

    Last week was one of these rare Saturdays when I actually managed to do everything I’d set out to do. Funnily enough, I repeated that feat again yesterday.

    I didn’t do anything until after 10am, as we had strong/gale force winds overnight and they didn’t ease off until mid-morning. I had arranged to help my neighbour Donnie take his ram from the ewes, and then he’d help me do the same with mine. We got them all in the trailer and moved them, with me travelling with them in style :)

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    We put the rams together on another croft that I have started using – more on that in a few weeks. They’ll be happy there for a while & are easily accessible to keep an eye on and feed, right out on the main road!

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    After this I caught up on tagging this year’s lambs. Lambs need to be tagged within 9 months of birth, so I tagged the last 5 today, as well as upgrading the slaughter tags in 5 I had bought. You can put a single slaughter tag in a lamb, which apparently markets & buyers prefer, but it means they have to be slaughtered within a year. The ones I bought will be 18 months before they’re slaughtered, so I need to upgrade. I just have 2 ram lambs to tag and that’s it all done. Hopefully I’ll do that on Tuesday.

    The 24 lambs I have we’re drenched for fluke and then I moved them to Cross, the next village, where they’re on good grazing for the next month or so.

    By this time, it’s getting dark. Back home and to the hen house to collect the day’s eggs and sort them. I now have 95 boxes of eggs ready to go. Anyone fancy some???

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    In an unusual act for me, I am going to work tomorrow. I haven’t worked a Monday for a while, but the weather is rubbish and Tuesday looks a lot better. I think tomorrow will be my last day of the day-job this year. No rest for the wicked though, plenty to be getting on with over the next fortnight!

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  • The storm

    Adventures, Chickens, Poultry, Sheep, videoComments (1)

    On December 10, 2014 • By

    Well, what a couple of days. It’s not over yet, but I hope that’s the end of the drama anyway.

    I suppose the storm build up started on Monday. The forecast was for strong winds, so I had to prepare for it.

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    My father and I secured the hen house by anchoring it down with wheelie bins and barrels full of water, around 900kg in total. After that I tidied up as much of the stuff lying about as I could, to make sure it didn’t blow away and cause any more damage.

    All good, I thought.

    Tuesday was a rough morning & started with a wee interview on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland news programme, talking about the weather, before I went to work. While at work, the forecast for Wednesday was upgraded to an Amber alert by the Met Office and most public services were closed to the public. I work for the council and we were all told to use our own judgement to decide whether it was safe to travel to work or not.

    I got home around 5.30 on Tuesday and decided to make sure everything was secure before the wind blew up again. This was the forecast on Tuesday:

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    First stop was the hen house. Everything was ok and then my dad happened to phone while I was up there. While on the phone, lightning struck nearby, with the thunder less than half a second later. Now, my hen house is on the highest point of my croft so I decided to get out of there asap! I hung up the phone without saying anything and hurdled the fence beside me and got into the house before my dad phoned back to see if I’d been fried!

    So we got through the night ok. I woke up around 2 and put my ear plugs in, as the noise was keeping me awake. I woke up at 6 & noticed my alarm clock flashing, indicating a power cut, before it went off again around 7. We ended up not having any power until after midday, although there was plenty to keep me busy before that.

    I went in to check the sheep just before dawn (around 8, which sounds less impressive!) and came back via the hen house. I can see it from my house & looked ok, but, on closer inspection, some of the roof was missing, with several other sections flapping in the wind. I checked the birds inside; one dead and the whole place soaked. I had cleaned it all out on Monday, but that didn’t last long!

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    That’s the only photo I have of it, as pictures weren’t really a priority! Fortunately the wind died down a little, gusting probably 40-50mph, so with the help of my neighbours James and Donnie, we managed to replace the missing sheet and secure the rest of the roof.

    Another power cut and 3 hours without internet but we can live without that! Credit to the Hydro boys who got us all back up and running, and also the BT guys who fixed the fault. Shame I can’t say the same about Vodafone, as I haven’t had any signal since 8.15am.

    After the hectic morning, I went to the Butt & Port to take some photos & video. You can see more of them on the facebook page but here is my favourite

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  • Calendar

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, Dog, Fishing, Lambs, Peats, Pigs, Poultry, Sheep, tractor, WildlifeComments (2)

    On October 25, 2014 • By

    2015 is just around the corner, fancy an Air An Lot calendar? I’ve printed a few using some of the most popular photos from the past year and I’m selling them for £10. Leave a comment if you’re interested, payment via PayPal.

    Here are some of the photos:

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  • Miffed

    ChickensComments (2)

    On October 23, 2014 • By

    I’m a bit miffed tonight.

    You may remember a few weeks ago that I had an inspection on the hen house, to make sure it was all in order. As part of that, I had to get a couple more feeders, so I duly ordered them, along with other bits and pieces on my week’s holiday last week.

    The company had previously sent me a massive cardboard box with feeders & drinkers, which came via courier for a very reasonable £13.95.

    This time, they decided to do the same, but strap the box to a pallet for extra strength. I paid my £13.95 and the box came on Tuesday. Happy days.

    Tonight I got home to an invoice for an ADDITIONAL £60 from the courier for transporting a pallet from Inverness!!!

    I’m astounded. I managed to manoeuvre the ‘pallet’ on my own, as it wasn’t that heavy. I’m not sure what steps to take, but I’m not keen at all at paying the extra £60.

    Suggestions?

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  • Good & bad

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, death, Ducklings, Ducks, eggsComments (2)

    On October 12, 2014 • By

    I’ve had such a hectic few months I’m now in Glasgow for the weekend, relaxing. My mind never drifts far from the croft, though.

    I have a sense of satisfaction this weekend, I have made progress in the right areas and I am confident that the croft is going to provide a viable income.

    Through the day job, I had to pop out to the dump in Stornoway, where I took the opportunity to ask a question about a subject that I’d been thinking of for a while; using old tyres as an animal shelter on the croft. My crofts are flat and offer little in terms of shelter from the wind, and this is a (hopefully) cheap way of doing it.

    It was recommended that I contact SEPA though, as there may be an issue in terms of pollution. I did that and applied for a licence which now means I’ll be able to take old tyres from garages etc and create wind breaks with them for this winter.

    I’ve also been working on the efficiency of the hen house. I think I’ve got my system in place for ensuring the maximum number of eggs remain clean (I can’t sell dirty ones in shops) and now all I have to do is get my lighting situation sorted and I’m good to go! I think I have finalised my labels too, so hope to get them finished shortly.

    I’m on a week’s holiday from work now, so I’m getting round to sorting out all the wee jobs that I can’t get to in a normal week.

    The one aspect of the hen house I have to improve is the mucking out; I spend too long moving wheelbarrowloads of it and end up reacting to the wood shavings I put down. This is how I combat it!

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    One negative from this week was an apparent otter attack on one of my young ducks. I found it like this on Thursday night.

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    I’ve lost a couple of birds to a buzzard attack in early 2013, but never any to ground predators. I’ll perhaps have to be more vigilant now.

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  • Quad

    Chickens, tractorComments (0)

    On October 5, 2014 • By

    So. I bought a quad.

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    I’ve never had one before but the chicken work kind of forced my hand. Carrying 5-10 bags of feed up to the hens isn’t really an option and the pickup was going to end up damaged if I carried on, so I got this instead.

    I’ve done a heck of a lot of spinning around with it – it’s great!

    It’s a diesel quad. 2 wheel drive. Not fast but it is exactly what I’m after. Very happy.

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  • Progress, progress, progress

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

    On August 31, 2014 • By

    I can’t wait for winter. There, I said it. This summer has been the busiest I’ve ever had; 320 hens, sheep, filming, football and a job are all catching up with me. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and being able to focus on getting things running properly instead of getting them started.

    I have 2 sheepdog filming trips in the next fortnight, the World Trial and International, while our football season ends next week with a cup final on Saturday night. That should mean a little more time to myself, once they’re done.

    There has been so much happening here in the past 3 weeks and I haven’t been updating this as much as I should have, purely down to long long days.

    The hens are settled and starting to lay their eggs. Buckie, the joiner, has built a fantastic hen house and decorated it in his own unique style.

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    I’m currently getting around 20-50 eggs a day, a far cry from the 250 I need to fulfil orders. I hope to be in the position to sell eggs when I’m back from filming, probably week beginning 22nd September.

    Buckie has also been busy getting the portacabin ready too. One of the rooms is where I’m going to have my egg packing station. It’s coming together nicely. Just about ready, just needing a clean.

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    I also hope that I’ll be able to show you my egg box labels some time this week. Fingers crossed anyway!

    I’ve also been fortunate in that I’m now using a barn on the croft next to mine. It has been particularly useful for storing feed and Buckie was also hard at work here, fitting large double doors that make it much more practical.

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    I was at the lamb sale in Stornoway last Wednesday and ended up buying 17 sheep; 9 lambs and 8 ewes.

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    I’ve since agreed to buy a few more ewes, so I’ll have to sell some lambs soon and maybe move on a few sheep. I have twice as much land this year, so I have plenty scope for expansion. I’m not sure my father will agree, though!

    On that, I am putting sub-tenancies in place on the crofts I use. First up is my mother’s croft, which I received confirmation of this week.

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  • A big day

    Adventures, Chickens, eggsComments (0)

    On July 29, 2014 • By

    I write this sitting at Glasgow Central train station. I am about to get a train to Lanark on the first leg of my journey to take the chickens home.

    I have been away from home since last Thursday, as I was filming Farpaisean Chon Chaorach in Ireland at the weekend. Because of this, I had to rejig most of my plans. The 320 chickens had been due to arrive last Friday, but obviously that wasn’t going to work as I was in Ireland, and I couldn’t really turn down a trip that was going to pay me 1/3 of the cost of the chickens!

    The company I’m buying the chickens from, JSR Services, have been very accommodating. They were initially supposed to drop them off in Inverness, as part of a bigger delivery that they were making, but said I could pick them up from a farm in Lanark if I wanted to delay things. The problem then was getting a van down to Glasgow so that I could drive it back up. This is where the new series BBC Alba are filming came in handy. They obviously want to film the arrival of the chickens, so it made sense for the cameraman to drive the van down. The next problem was lack of spaces on the ferries. At very short notice, I had to delay everything by another day, as there were no bookings available on ferries to or from Lewis/Harris.

    So why am I getting a train? Well, John the cameraman, quite rightly, wanted to avoid Glasgow this morning, so I am getting the 6.50am train to Lanark before I take over at the wheel, pick up the chickens and start the long drive home. Due to busy ferries, I have to go home via Uig/Tarbert, so that adds to my journey. So many things can go wrong today, I just hope they don’t!

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  • Progress

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, tractorComments (2)

    On July 20, 2014 • By

    I am currently in the middle of the busiest period of work I’ve ever had, and I love it! Full steam ahead right now with getting everything ready for the chickens and the tourism side of things, so much going on and I don’t have time to blog about it all.

    Last week I erected my new signage, and I’ve already had lots of nice feedback about that. I bought a portacabin a couple of weeks ago and I hope to have it in place in the next week. I actually had a local contractor, Danda, here yesterday, clearing the site for it.

    It is right behind my house, on the site of the original house (latterly a barn) that was on the croft. My parents knocked it down in 2004 as part of the extension had started to come away but I am now majorly regretting allowing this to happen. It would have been PERFECT for what I’m doing now and would have had such a nice story behind it. Anyway, what’s done is done. Danda (from the next village) was actually the contractor who knocked it down initially, so he knew what was in store.

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    The stones had been left there for 10 years, just in case they’d be handy at some point, which is now the case.

    They were an eyesore to be honest, but one that I had grown accustomed to. You’ll notice that there is still a pile of stone behind the site, that’s being saved for the barn I intend to build in the next year. No point getting rid of that stuff if I then need to go any buy more infill later.

    The haulage company I intend to use to get the portacabin over from Stornoway have been busy with the Heb Celt Festival, so hopefully they’ll have time this week to move it. Once in place, I hope that one of my Ness FC teammates is going to paint it for me and I’ll get it up to the standard required. One of the two rooms is going to be my egg-packing station for when the 320 chickens start laying. I had someone from Environmental Health cast their eye over it last week, just to provide advice on what I need to do to get it up to scratch. It won’t need too much work or money thrown at it.

    The chickens themselves are due to come in the next week. I was initially supposed to pick them up in Inverness on Friday but I’m now going to be in Ireland until Sunday, filming Farpaisean Chon Chaorach. Plan B is now leave Glasgow at 6/7am Monday, pick up the chickens in Lanark, drive home and get the Uig-Tarbert ferry, drop off the chickens at home and play a cup semi-final for Ness at 7pm. I’ll be over the moon if all that works.

    My hen house will hopefully be ready in time for this. It has to be! I’ve been badly let down by a timber merchant and my joiner is short of 4×2. If I can’t get them to him early tomorrow, I’m in serious trouble. I’m so lucky I’ve reduced my hours at work though, there’s no way I’d be able to get everything ready otherwise!

    There’s also one major piece of exciting news that I’m not allowed to share yet. Hopefully I’ll get permission to do so this week!

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