Busy fortnight

I haven’t blogged in a fortnight, things have been hectic!  After shearing, I was away filming Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach in Argyll, played 3 games of football (I was sent-off in my last one, last man offence) and the day job too.  So many things to do at this time of year, I actually found myself looking forward to the long winter nights when I can relax and do NOTHING!

When I came back from from filming, first thing I did was check the hen that had been sitting on eggs for the past few weeks.  Much to my surprise, this wee fellow was waiting for me!

I think this was the first (and only, unfortunately) chick to be born on this croft in over thirty years.  My mother thinks it’s that long anyway.  This didn’t end well, however, I found the chick crushed by it’s mother after 3 days.  Gutted.

I added some more hens that week though.  A friend was looking to cut down the number of hens so I took seven off her hands.  This is me up to 16 hens, plus 2 cockerels now.  Here are the hens boxed up for transportation.

A few months ago, I acquired a second (possibly 3rd or 4th) hand hen-house.  It’s a wee bit shabby and wasn’t being used to I took it for a tenner.  I eventually got round to doing a couple of temporary repair jobs on it, to house the new hens.  In true Lewis crofter fashion, I recycled some bits and bobs that were in the barn to patch it up.  The door here is a tile left over from the laminate flooring that went in my parents utility room – perfect fit!

Couple of other things needed repairing too – like rehanging the door!

I’ve noticed that the number of eggs I get each day is down.  As of 3 weeks ago, I was getting 4-8 each day, now it’s one or two.  There are 3-4 hooded crows that are pretty much resident around the house and I think they’ve started to pinch them.  That’ll need sorting soon.  I also suspect that some of the hens are laying in this patch of long grass.  Will get the strimmer on it when I have time.

The grass is growing there, but it’s not everywhere.  Most of the UK is complaining of heavy rain but we’re the exact opposite as this Farmers Weekly article shows.  The article also features an interesting map, showing rainfall percentages across the UK, oh and a quote or two from me.

The plus side of no rain is nice days!

As I posted last week, all the sheep have been shorn.  The wool has been bagged up and sitting in our barn since then, so myself and my father closed the bags and prepared everything to take them over to Stornoway.  The bags are usually picked up by Hebrides Haulage sometime in August, but three bags take up a lot of room so we’ll take them over next week.

The bags are sown shut and a label attached, identifying who they come from.  We had 65 sheep shorn at £1.50 each (£3 rams) so paid £100-110 for it.  Depending on wool prices, we should get most of that back, maybe all of it.  I remember getting a cheque for around £10 a few years ago, for all our wool.  You don’t make much money out of it but it’s something that has to be done anyway.  Prices are much better now, I think we got £70-80 last year, making up for what we paid out.

We still haven’t been out on our new boat yet.  She hadn’t been at sea for a while so there was some work to be one.  The outboard has been serviced and my dad has painted most of her.  We had a joiner up yesterday putting a floor in her.  Here’s Donnie “Disaster” Campbell, checking out his handywork.  We’ll hopefully get out sometime in the next fortnight.

Lots of other things being done too.  The dry spell means I have to take water to the sheep on a more regular basis than normal.  They’re all home now after a week in the village park after shearing.  All marked and drenched (for worms etc) and split into different fields.  The rams, hoggs and gimmers come home this Saturday, hopefully not too early in the morning as I have my cousin’s wedding on Friday night!

The following week I’m off to Glasgow for 5 days, filming Faraisean Chon-Chaorach and also going to Hampden for Olympic football!

 

3 Comments

  1. Laying’s down because the days are getting shorter, a Dhomhnall – the cycle is hardwired into hens and sunlight controls it. I found egg-yield rose dramatically from Christmas (only two or three days at the solstice, peaked in late February, and then held to a plateau to late June. Hens besides lay most in their first season (commercial farms get rid of them after that) and very little after their second, so point-of-lay pullets are worth acquiring next year, rather than another vanload of old moggies!!! The best breed for our island conditions is the Bovans Black (one trademarked form is the Black Rock, but they’re all the same first-cross hybrid between a Plymouth Rock cockerel and a Rhode Island Red hen.) Donald MacDonald in Struan, Skye, who advertises in the West Highland Free Press, is reliable and there are regular deliveries to Stornoway, courtesy of Lewis Crofters. Of the traditional utility breeds (for both eggs and eating) Light Sussex do very well; so would pure Rhode Island Red, but they’re not easily found in the Highlands and the cockerels tend to be psychos.

    Interestingly, my parents remember a curious breed of hen that seems to have been unique in Lewis (and I think my auntie Kate, sister of the late Bipdan Sheumais of Habost, had one or two even in my own time, on her croft in Newvalley) which laid blue/green-shelled eggs – it now seems to be extinct but a similar ‘Shetland Hen’ survives. It’s significant because only one pure-breed in the world has this gene – the Auraucana, from Latin America, though in recent decades it’s been bred into new varieties like the Cream Legbar – and the question then arises how these fowl established themselves, long ago, in the Scottish islands. One has to suspect the Spanish Armada…

    Anyway, the hoodie-crows are almost certainly innocent – if you have an egg-thief, it’s much more likely to be a rat.

    • I didn’t know that about laying cycles. Very interesting. The crows are definitely taking some though, I saw one hop out of the hen house is evening! When I returned from my weekend away, there were 3 or 4 broken eggs within 10 metres of the hen house too. It’s not rats anyway, no evidence of rats here for 15 years at least. Traps in next doors barn havent caught more than mice and my cats would have killed one, had there been any around.

  2. Interesting. Crows did occasionally take my eggs, but I had the advantage of working from home so collected frequently. I did one summer have a rat problem (the South Shawbost cliffs were full of them), but got on top of it quickly with traps and poison. Mink predation kept them down in rural Lewis for years and also slump in oat and barley growing since the 1970s; availability of food is the main factor in any rodent problem.

    Diet is also important in egg production – ideally they should be fed exclusively on layers’ pellets/mash. I gave mine an evening scratch-feed or corn, being a nice guy, but in the knowledge it pushed egg size and egg production down a bit.

    http://freerangereggs.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/why-hens-stop-laying.html

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