Hatchlings, seedlings and ducks 

Monday: Today I shall be mostly checking the incubator every hour or so for signs of hatching! The sun is out so I need to get outside and do a bit in the garden area while I can. Washed down and swept out the greenhouse and gave it a good tidy up inside and around the outside. I transplanted the broad beans, which are doing very well, into the poly tunnel and put some more seeds in to germinate hopefully giving a succession of beans. I also sowed, some sweet corn, sugar snap peas, comfrey and sorrel seeds as well as a free pack of sunflower seeds I had. The sun was fabulous today and really made me feel that it was worth doing, I hope it was. Then I spent another hour and a half on the veg beds, weeding, clearing, tidying, half knowing that the next chance I get to go out there the weeds will be back again 😝One job I am really forward to is that first cut of the lawn when it’s dry enough, then I know Spring is sprung. I don’t mind telling you I was fair tuckered when I came in, 10 minutes rest before I start on the afternoon routine, at least my fav magazine arrived today Home Farmer so I will enjoy a sit down to read it tonight, if I can stay awake that is!

Tuesday: Feeling a bit rubbish this morning, the cough came back last night and now my ear is blocked again 😫 I started taking some multi vits last week, I wouldn’t bother normally but this has lingered for nearly three months on and off so going to try and kick it into touch. I was starting to think that the quail were not going to hatch for whatever reason, maybe they were not fertile eggs, usually eggs would be candles at 10 days incubation but because of the colour and pattern on quail it’s very difficult to tell so I let them run. Anyway this morning I can hear cheeping so as long as they can do the job and get themselves out of the shell we should have quail sometime today, at least one anyhow! The eggs sales are up so much it’s hard to keep up, I checked around 3.30 yesterday, there were around 4 dozen in there, by 5.30 they were gone and I had refilled the shed in the morning, it’s great but hard to keep up, luckily we have the eggs it’s just the man power that’s slow 😜

A glorious day out there today, few and far between at the moment but I am hopeful there will be more in the weeks ahead. I had Mia so no work outside and she was poorly bless her so plenty of tlc and cuddles. 1 chick has at last hatched I will leave it in the incubator and hope some more hatch overnight.

Wednesday: Rain 😖 we have 4 hatchlings this morning, I’m hoping we get more than that eventually. I will prepare the bigger cage with the brooder lamp and transfer them over sometime this morning where they will be able to access food and water. 

Surprisingly, even though it’s raining it quite pleasant out there, the temperature is mild and I didn’t get too wet, the ducks are laying like crazy, 20 eggs today! The chickens are are laying well, and we have nearly collected 40 eggs from the geese since they started laying 😀

So I transferred the 4, I can hear cheeping from the unhatched eggs so hopeful there will be more. The first thing that happened in the big cage was a bid for freedom from the oldest and noisiest chick, can you believe it, only a day old and it had identified the highest area, which is where the water bottle is as I made steps up to it, and it tried to get out through the bars! I have had to put pieces of cardboard along the edge to stop it lol, even when I put it back in the middle with the others it made straight for the getaway area, I guess survival instincts are very strong, it doesn’t know it’s better off in there 😜

Thursday: We now have 11 hatchlings with more still trying to get out, I’ve never had a hatch over so many days before but at least they are hatching. 

I’ve have read two things over the past couple of days that set me thinking about the beginning of our journey into smallholding and the influences that sent me in that direction. First and foremost my parents both have ‘green fingers’ and I guess if you grow up with parents who garden it becomes part of who you become, we lived in villages and grew up with village/country ways. Second came Hugh and River Cottage and the chance to move to a house with a huge garden with an established fruit and veg bed, then came Ernie, the most inspirational man I have ever met when it comes to horticulture and wildlife, listening to him on the days I went to college were some of the best days I ever had and I could listen and question him for hours. Throw into that mix a friend who asked if we could look after any triplet lambs that were born one year, I leapt at the chance and we hand reared a lamb for 8 weeks keeping him in the garage and garden. We already had chickens and at that point I knew this is what I want to do on a bigger scale so here we are today. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how or even why you started on a particular road, but if you look back and realise that it still makes you feel that way (mostly) then you took the right path. When I talk to people who are just starting out I usually don’t stop talking and realise the enthusiasm I had all those years ago is still there, it’s just buried under day to day stuff. 

It promises to be a super sunny day today, let’s hope we are not disappointed and I can spend long hours outside 😀

Before I went outside, I increased the humidity in the incubator by another 10% as I can hear chicks tapping at the shell but not breaking them so we will see later if that helps. It’s hard not to help them out but if you do you risk them haemorrhaging and if you don’t they die inside the shell 😔 so it’s best left to nature and a little intervention fromthe incubator. 

So far in the garden today I have pruned the other gooseberries, repaired path edges that have come away, built a new compost bin, done a bit of hoeing and put down some weed membrane on the bed John built last year. While I am not a great lover of swathes of black plastic, neither to I want to spend most of my time in the garden weeding so on goes the membrane until the bed is needed. 

Having written that, I then spent two hours weeding 😂😂 all but the fruit cage and two beds are now weed free, one of them was too wet to do and I got too tired to do the others. The cabbages I planted last autumn have had 50/50 results, one lot are fine the other lot have either rotted away because it was too wet for them or are struggling to put on any growth, still it means the bed is empty enough for planting into rather than waiting so that’s what I will do. 

Came in for an hours sit down, then thought it’s way too nice out there not to go back out so I set about dividing and potting up some chives (which smelt amazing) oregano and mint then walked over the lawn and it was dry enough to give it a cut on the highest setting, planted the garlic and weeded the flower troughs, phew, now time to feed, water and collect the eggs 😜 That was definitely a dirty fingernails day 😀 love it. 

I think the final number of quail is 11 the other eggs are fertile but they are not hatching, weak chicks, one I helped out but it has not absorbed its yolk properly and probably won’t make it though I will leave it in there and give it a chance. Eventually I will turn off the incubator and they will go cold and die, sounds harsh but they won’t make it either way at this stage 😔. 

Friday: well you could knock me down with a feather this morning as the quail that had not absorbed properly is alive and fairly well this morning, good job I didn’t turn the Incy off as there is also another one hatching lol, I’ve never known anything like it in all the hatches I have done, I guess the survival instinct is strong, so we are looking at 13 and I will leave it running just in case. 

Burnt all the paper rubbish and feed sacks this morning, it’s quite pleasant and mild out despite no sunshine. 

Number 14 and 15 hatched although in the long run they didn’t make it 😔 and I have now turned off the incubator ready to clean, disinfect and think about ducklings 🐥 

In the morning I went down to the front of the driveway to cut back the willow whips, I also have a contorted hazel which throws up reverted stems so they needed cutting out as well, while I was there, the dustbin men came, a walker with a dog, an egg customer and the postman, the only cheery one was the postie, who is always cheery no matter what, they were all polite enough lol just not very chirpy. 



I spent a couple of hours with Sam looking at plants and flowers for her back garden, she is in the enviable position of basically starting from scratch with what to plant and where, she likes cottage garden so we went for clematis, roses, perennials and bulbs and got a good deal online, it will look fabulous when established. 

Did a quick hoover round and a polish and then out to do the afternoon rounds, all as it should be although I have a duck that is looking a bit sorry for herself, she is one I hatched out a few years back and I can’t quite remember how old she is possibly 5 or 6 so getting on a bit. 

Saturday: Finally got round to processing the other 9 drakes, I started at 8 and finished at 1, with a coffee break with Mum and Shelley in between, we now have a freezer full of duck! John did all the routine jobs so I could get straight on with it. When I had finished I went for a much needed break to the garden centre with the girls to help Charlie find plants for her hanging baskets and have a cup of tea 😀 I picked up a couple of herb plants while I was there, parsley and bergamot, also some seeds to sow, basil and coriander.

Another of the quail chicks died this morning so I now have 13 left hopefully that will be all the deaths and the others continue to get stronger. Next batch, ducklings, I have eggs that were collected before the drakes were done so they should all be fertile, I have 3 drakes left with around 15 ducks I think but I need to count them to be sure. 

Sunday: We got a good amount done this weekend, cleaning out chickens etc, I cleaned out the incubator then turned it on to wait for it to settle back to the correct temperature and humidity then put in 16 duck eggs, they will be about 25 days before they hatch. I will candle them around 10 days to make sure they are fertile and growing. Roast duck for dinner tonight 😜


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