Monday, 24 March 2014

Rabbit arrivals

We have had eleven new rabbit arrivals.

The first is a new Old English Spot doe, who is blue in colour not the traditional black. So her name is Blue, yeah I know not that original. She is a lovely rabbit, very inquisitive and soooo friendly. She is still a bit young to mate with our buck, give her another month or so.

Jes and her have hit it off and Jes loves to run along the side of her hutch and press her nose through the wire and Blue will sniff her and run up and down with her. If the hutch is open Blue will have a nosy outside and loves a bit of fuss and Jes and her like to investigate each other. Jes got a bit freaked when Blue grunted down her ear while having a good sniff. Poor Jes, she doesn't realise her killer instincts or is it poor Blue?

One of our other doe's, Lavender, gave birth last Thursday to ten, yes ten little kit's. We have been treating her ears for the past couple of weeks and we really didn't think she was pregnant because we were catching her up every other day. Once she had gone past her due date I didn't expect anything, but I went to work early one morning and got a text from Diz to say she had given birth. For the first couple of days the weather was too wet and cold to have a good look at them, but as soon as we could we were surprised to find ten little babies. Wow. As you can see from the photo there is eight black and two black and white.
They will slowly grow their fur over the next ten days and grow rapidly and by two weeks they will open their eyes and start to venture about. Mum seems quite content, but they will all need moving to a larger hutch.
These babies will be destined for meat so we will grow them on until the are four or five months old.
We have another doe, Sooty who is due at the end of March. Mum and Dad are both Old English Spot rabbits so we are hoping for some nice marked rabbits.
Keep you posted.

Stell and Diz

Friday, 14 March 2014

Our first Cloghermore rabbit meat

I know there are a lot of you who will be saying 'aahh how could we', but everything grown at Cloghermore has a purpose and we intended on raising rabbits for meat.
Last October we welcomed the arrival of our first rabbit kits. Five were born to our doe 'Spot' who sadly died last month, and fathered by our buck 'Jacko'. Jacko has gone to a new home to continue his life of love, to make way for our new Old English Spot rabbits.

Once the babies reached nearly five months old we decided it would be a good time to take the plunge and turn them into meat. A mix of emotions, I did try to sell them to a pet shop, but they were too old. So Diz dispatched them.

 He butchered them and saved the fur for curing later. Not sure what they will be turned into but the pelts were too lovely to just dispose of.
We were surprised to have 750g per rabbit, which is enough meat to easily feed the two of us and possibly for two days depending on how it's cooked.

The first dinner was rabbit in a creamy mushroom and leak sauce served with mash potato and steamed sprouting broccoli. The meat was tender and slightly sweet, and a definite success. It has roughly cost us €10 per rabbit to produce. This is production over the winter, we are hoping it will cost less over the summer as there will be so much other free stuff they can eat.
We are hoping to be able to sell the Old English Spot babies which will help with the cost of feeding all the rabbits. We currently have seven adults, but two will be sold and the rest will produce meat or kits for selling. That's the plan, but who knows what will happen.

We have two females that were mated last month and are just waiting to see if they will give birth, we won't know until it happens. Fingers crossed.

We'll keep you posted.
Stell and Diz

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

First hatchings of the year

We invested in a new incubator this year, there is nothing wrong with our old one other than it only holds 24 eggs and this new one holds 48 hen eggs. It is just as easy to look after 48 chicks as it is to look after 24.
We collected the eggs from all three hen houses, the Indian Game, the Light Sussex and the Barnevelders and set them in the incubator. After seven days I candled the eggs to check fertility and dispose of any infertile eggs. Sadly all the Indian Game eggs were infertile, but we expected this as they are usually a bit later in the season. So we were now down to 31 eggs. Another 14 days and we would see how successful we would be.

The night before day 21 the eggs started to crack and the excitement began to build. I was banned from touching the incubator for the next two days as I normally remove shells as they hatch, assist where I shouldn't and generally do things I shouldn't. So the incubator was not to be touched until 48 hours was up, by that time the ones that will hatch will do so and anything left are just not meant to make it. It's hard, but we do it and they are soon popping out throughout the next day and a few the following morning. 

After 48 hours we have 26 little fluffy chicks, 14 yellow (Light Sussex) and 12 brown speckled (Barnevelder). The remaining eggs had no movement in them so they were left to go cold.
The chicks were scooped up and put into the brooder house in the spare room and they will be moved to the shed in a few days where they will stay for the next 5 weeks. Once they are feathered and the weather is warmer they will occupy the old cockerel house to continue growing.

It was a bit of a test for young Jes, she was only a small puppy when we had the chicks last year, so she would have to relearn not to touch. She is use to catching mice and rats now and these are similar just different squeak and they flap. She did try to grab one but got scolded and hasn't tried again. You can't see in the photo but both dogs are licking their lips!

We are currently collecting another 48 eggs to re set the incubator, we are hoping to have more chicks this year and in a shorter period of time. So far so good.

And so another year begins.
All the best
Stell and Diz

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Goose Watch 2014

Monday 24th March
Mrs G has settled onto her eggs and has been sat tight for the past week. We have no idea how many eggs she is sat on, but there is at least 9 from the last count. Bruiser is already bored sat on his own, shut in the other part of the field. He would only torment everything if he was aloud to roam. If we are not quick enough with his food he will fly over the fence (with ease) to find out what the delay is. Then it is a hassle to get him back and dangerous, especially if Jes decides to torment him.
We have another 3 ish weeks to wait to see what hatches.

Wednesday 12th March
Diz checked out the nest this morning, while Bruiser wasn't watching, and found 9 eggs. It wasn't long before he was spotted and Bruiser thudded over to stop any interference, but he soon thought better of it when Diz challenged him back. Mrs G is spending more and more time on the nest during the day and night, so it won't be long before she sits. Would like her to have a few more before she settles down.

Wednesday 5th March
Here we go again! It's that time of year again where we work with the geese to ensure they have a successful year's breeding. Things had been fairly calm in the geese camp, but once Mrs G got it into her head 'it's time' then everyone has to watch out. Bruiser has stepped up his wickedness and is living up to his name. He prefers to pick on me the most as Diz will show him who's boss, but He has got a sneaky few attacks at Diz. Every time I feed them he chances his arm and even though I defend him off he does his best. One day while I was pushing him away with one bucket to then throw his bucket of food on the floor, he reached over and managed to grab my sleeve cuff! As his wings opened for the attack I knew I had to do something so I started to swing him round in a circle. If you can picture playing 'aeroplane' with a child, this is what I was doing but with a hefty gander instead of the child. He was lifted off his feet with his wings spread, but refused to let go! As I threw his food onto the floor he let go to get to the food. I was relieved to live another day without getting bruised. I hate that bird! After that they were banished to their side of the field, less painful.

At the beginning of February we moved the goose nest box, cleaned it out and put in fresh bedding. Mrs G had seen us go into the field and when I called her she noisily came to investigate.

Both had to give it an inspection, Mrs G stays for a while giving it the once over while Bruiser gets to look over her shoulder and then once they approve ...

Bruiser will begin to preen while Mrs G has a good look. They will then walk away and leave it and seriously get on with the business of making gosling's. We will now need to keep an eye on the nest and make sure there is enough nesting material and that the chickens don't kick the straw out looking for bugs.
For the first week, Mrs G shows no signs in the nest what so ever, but then one morning when they are let out of their house she makes a mad dash for the nest.

And the first egg is laid.
It is getting more and more challenging to shut Bruiser away at night as his aggression increases. When he attacked Diz, while he is trying to get the door closed it was decided that they are better off left to their own devices. Mrs G also laid an egg in the house that night instead of the nest so they know what's best. Good luck to any fox that fancies it's chances.

As of Wednesday 5th March there are 6 eggs.

We'll keep you posted.
Stell n Diz