New Chooks

So much for the planned update the next day…  Life just seems to get in the way constantly.  I have no idea how, but it does.  Friday was spent surviving the hot temperatures and mostly doing nothing, Saturday saw a respite in the hot temperatures, but we were preparing for a party, a fancy dress party and I needed to deal with my costume.  It took me all day.  Sunday was lost to recovery and then Monday started OK, but went downhill in the late morning when I was taken down with a bug.  Nothing wanted to stay down including plain water, and all my body wanted to do and was capable of was sleep.  Tuesday was much the same, until early afternoon when I seemed to pick up.  Today, I was meant to be at a friend’s home, but she has been taken down with it as well and hospitalised as a result, so I guess I was lucky!

So Chooks.  We needed more chooks for our rooster, so after visiting Stuart’s cousin, I had arranged for us to call by at a place on the coast and purchase 2 new chooks.  There is a lack of point of lay pullets at the moment in our area, and these were almost the closest I could find.  Plus they were a pure bred Australian Black Langshan which is a nice looking bird and whilst once they start to lay, they will lay yet more brown eggs, they are different and I wanted something different.

We were both immediately impressed with the place, the elderly couple who bred the pullets, took pride in them and in keeping the place clean and tidy.  They were basically a small holding with a couple of cattle and sheep somewhere, geese and chickens everywhere and a dog or two thrown in for good measure.  Cats went without saying.  But they were getting on in age and starting to struggle to look after the several hundred chickens they had and were clearing out some of the flocks.  The flock in question only had the 2 pullets left unsold: I had arranged to purchase and collect them 10 days or so previously, so I didn’t really get a choice in the birds I had.

As we headed home from the coast, we had a couple of options as to whether to sit on the main highway (single lane mountain road with hairpin bends and a fatal road accident) or head off on what could and is probably a dirt road up and over the top.  We didn’t do it, my back was on its last legs and we both knew I had done too much in the day.  Heading up the highway seemed to be the best idea.  We could eat whilst we were on the road, pulling over at one of the rest stops if needed for Stuart, but when we were to get there, there were several very large recovery vehicles there including a crane.  We made the decision to carry on and hope we were getting in front of them rather than having to wait for the road to be closed and them to do their work before we could proceed.  I always pack picnic style food on these occasions, though I will include a salad with a spoon (rice salad for example) for the passenger (yeh, I know).  Sometimes I am allowed to drive, but not normally on the way home because I won’t given the amount of morphine I have usually had to take by the end of the day.  It is just not worth the risk if I can avoid it, but my back is one of the reasons we have a vehicle with heated seats – the warmth helps considerably with the pain!

We still had to stop and wait for some time whilst the police held up the traffic for various reasons, oncoming vehicles being allowed a turn and for a recovery vehicle to position itself.  Hairpin bends are awkward places for recovery!

The newbies, the twins has they have become known, settled down in the back of the car making a whole load new series of noises that we had not heard before.  Sometimes we could get them to reply to us, but mostly they were terrified and we left them alone.  It is to be expected.  They were not expecting a pet carrier and a long journey and had never experienced anything like it.  We were to arrive home long after dark and our flock had already gone to roost, so I just left the pet carrier in the chook house and locked up for the night when we arrived home.

The next morning, they were introduced to the flock.  I don’t have biosecurity options, sorry that should ready didn’t, we have had to make some amendments to the place since their arrival, but when they arrived we still didn’t have any biosecurity quarantine options available, so they were given a brief once over (I was exhausted and in pain and not looking at them carefully enough) and locked into the chook house and inner enclosure whilst the flock was left to its own devices, as per the norm, during the day.

I was to spend most of Sunday sitting out in the top of the veg plot watching to see if I could introduce the lowest in the pecking order and our rooster to the new twins.  That went surprisingly well and I got to spend most of the day sitting in the garden knitting, hiding from the sun in the shade and watching the flock as they tried to work out who the newbies were and what they were doing in the top of the veg plot when the rest of the flock isn’t allowed in there!

So Black Langshans.  What do they look like?  Well they are black and have a lovely green sheen to their feathers when they have adult feathers.

Looking rather pathetic after a good demiting.  Sadly they had feather mites which meant that the entire flock had to be dusted down, plus the nesting material thrown and the chook house dusted as well.  Needless to say it will be a while until Stuart and I have mites!  We have a tendency to get covered and need a shower afterwards as well.

A week later and after a wash in dog flea shampoo as well, and as you can see, they are looking a lot better.  That one is Spot, actually her name is Clara after our friend’s 2 girls Clara and Tilda, but Spot has been nicknamed Spot after we took rather a long time to choose names and also because the 2 pullets are almost identical.  The only different is that one has a couple of black spots on her comb and the other has a single white feather on her right foot (so she, Tilda) has nicknamed White.

Looking better now after a bath and a few days to recover.

A walk around the garden a few days after they were re-introduced to the flock, they were quarantined in the area beneath the house which we had originally tried to put a deep freeze into, only to find out that the door hole size (literally a hole in the wall) wasn’t big enough to get the deep freeze (or anything for that matter) through.  It’s a shame because it’s a 6 foot by 6 foot space of brick build under the house which remains pretty cool through the day even when you leave the stairs door open.

HP taking a dust bath in the new plant bed.

HP has decided that our new border is a great place for a dust bath – in fact the entire flock including the twins now use it.  I guess that shows how dry it is and that we need to get more organic matter in to the soil.  We now have an active composter, a tumbler which is making compost for us much faster and safer than abandoning it on the compost heap some distance from the house – this style does not attract vermin because it is complete enclosed and they can not get in to it being raised off the ground as well.

Mum and the chicks.

Mum (CC) and the chicks, currently named Ginger and Welsummer or just Summer.  We haven’t named him, knowing we are going to have to part with him soon.  The sex of Ginger remains unknown.  She and we suspect she is a she, hangs out with Summer during the day mostly but he is the only other chick her age, so that is natural, but she roosts up in the hayloft with the other pullets and Ellie, and her behaviour is such that we suspect she is a she, but the comb is very large and her legs very strong, so we are not particularly sure!

 Australian Black Langshans are not particularly huge layers of eggs, laying around only 200 eggs a year once they start to lay, that is compared to something like an ISA Brown which are what most commercial chickens are and what our 2 rescue hens (Ellie and Vickie) are.  They are bred to lay +300 eggs a year but are very sadly very short lived as a result.

Vickie trying her hardest to roll over in a deep dust bath in the new border!
The Twins, starting to explore
Ellie, also making herself a dust bath area

So overdue updates and visits to relatives

yep – well and truly over due.

The last update should have been that we had been to see some relatives of Stuart’s, so I will start there and also introduce you to a couple of new additions to our flock.  And hopefully get some of this done before the studio gets too hot to sit in and pray that the 35°C does not happen (which I don’t hold out much hope for personally, but one can hope!).

So, Stuart’s relatives.  We had been trying and trying to get to see them. Problems ranged from incorrect addresses to the point of them not having lived there for the last 15 years (oops) to playing table tennis voicemail… tag you are it (yet again)…. Eventually however, a date was set and it arrived.  Saturday 28th January…  yet another really hot day, again.  (Did I mention we are in a heatwave at the moment, words like “the weather isn’t normally like this” and routinely over 35°C and several days over 40°C.  The state has had the fire warning at Catastrophic in the north.  Luckily we have only been as high as Extreme (level 5 out of 6).

Anyhow, getting there proved more eventful than we had hoped for, but that was after our first stop.  With my back and knowing I had a long day ahead of us, we started with stops at regular intervals.  The first being a little of an hour away in Braidwood.  It’s not far from us, and tbh, it is probably not an hour away.  You would expect it to be quiet.  It is not.  It is, however a single street with a supermarket and a couple of extra shops along the side road that makes the crossroads where the main road actually turns off left to the coast.  It’s the major highway, but you would really not know it.

We parked up and went into what counts for a service station café in these parts.  There are a couple of other cafes but this one is definitely aimed at the truckers and families coming through and we wanted a fast drink and service, not a leisurely one (or expensive for that matter).  It’s a ‘at the counter’ job and once it was our turn we asked the usual question… this covers me for eating our own food in establishments when they reply that they don’t do anything dairy free.  I was to get a very big surprise.  All of their gluten free stuff (a list was produced of over 10 items or more) and another 10 or so items as well were dairy free!  I actually had a choice and not just of a couple of things like apple strudel and apple turnover (OK I think the turnover wasn’t dairy free but the strudel was) and they had soya milk as well… I could have a drink and a cake to go with it!  And a choice… Stuart had to order first whilst I choose!  It is so unusual that I wasn’t prepared… As we left, I spotted the manager and thanked them.  I don’t think they were expecting someone to be surprised that there was a choice, but trust me, I never have a choice unless it is a vegan café and even in vegetarian cafes I have been left without anything other than a coffee.

After that surprise we were to set out into the unknown, literally.  We play this game about being lost.  It’s really hard to actually be lost.  For one, there are not that many roads to choose from in the first place.  In fact there are really only 2 ways of getting to where we were going and one of those was roughly 50km longer than the ‘obvious’ route!  Then there are the onbvious things like the sign posts… they are rather obvious and there are also kilometre counters with the direction you are going in, so if we are going to Braidwood, then every km you get a little signpost at the side of the road saying B27.  Braidwood is 27km away.  Really difficult.  In the other direction you will get the next town’s initial and a number.  And of course the car has satnav and whilst it is out of date and some roads are missing or in a different place now, routes such as this are just fine!  The car is 5 years old.  The map is roughly that as well.  You can’t buy an update because it runs from a DVD behind the display.  You have to purchase a new copy and that is over AUD $350 and for the time being, we have decided we can spend the money in a better manner!

So from Braidwood it was all new territory and you saw nothing.  Yep, if we had been cycling it I might have managed to show you photos of pine trees and possibly even managed to abandon the bike at the side of the road and show you an impressive view obscured by pine trees, or perhaps even some of the palms and ferns growing in the forest to the side of the road, but it is mountainous as well and would have been a very hard route to cycle.  It is also a dangerous road as it turns out and we were to be held up for a while because of an accident.  This gave Stuart chance to get a drink.  The day was warming up and the road not one to take a chance on even to have a drink.  It’s roads like this one that make you glad for satnav and a map telling you that you are coming up on a 180 switchback or a very tight acute 30 degree bend… I’m not saying they are not signposted, they are and very well, but some of these bends, when you are driving it for the first time, well extra warning helps.

So we found the place without too many issues and I for one immediately knew we were in the right place when I saw Stuart’s cousin, Peter.

Now Stuart does not think Peter looks exceptionally like Jon.  And if I could find a photo of Jon, I would post it, but, trust me.  If you want to know what Jon looks like….  well you are not far off.

OK – I have found a video message Jon left us sometime ago on Skype and taken a screenshot for you.  I can see the similarity immediately and there were plenty of other little things during the day, mannerisms and the like that were the same.

No, well I thought there was.

Anyhow, we chatted and talked, snacked and the likes.  Had lunch and did the usual tours and the likes for relatives that haven’t seen each other in a decade I think it was and even then it was only a brief meeting in the street!

All too quickly it was time to go, so cameras came out and we all went outside for photos.  It was hot and sunny out and the shade made life interesting, sometimes too much, and often the sun hitting just the wrong spot!  But that is also one of the family resemblances!

After a look around the garden and at their ducks one of whom is permanently sitting on eggs, it was time to leave because we had a slightly longer journey home that coming because we had to collect a couple of new chooks for our flock.  Our rooster needs his enthusiasm for life spreading a touch thinner than the existing 5 hens (it should be 6 but mother chook is still looking after her chicks).  But I will leave their introduction for my next update.  It is now 12:30pm and the Studio is getting too hot to remain in sadly and I need to get some lunch and then rest.  I have to collect Stuart from the airport later tonight, and it will be a very late journey home!