I think I’ve turned into a Bird Lady. No, wait, I mean THE Bird Lady. You know, the one that keeps lots of feathered friends and can be seen at parks throwing bird seeds.
Let’s do a head count (birds only):
6 budgies (parakeets to my American readers)
2 weiros (cockatiels)
2 brown hens (Alice and Bella)
varying numbers of Japanese Quail
flock of regular visiting Wood Pigeons
Back in Ireland, in 2008, I incubated and hatched dozens of fertile eggs bought on eBay. We ended up with 90 chooks, the place was swarming with them. We kept them in 5 homemade sheds, and they were brilliant at putting themselves back in at night. The only problem was, my idea was to keep the breeds separate so as to be able to offer purebred chicks – we had Marans, Araucanas, Light Sussex, Dutch Barnevelders, Silkies, Orpingtons, Australorps, Sumatras – but because they were freerange, it soon became obvious that their offspring were mutts. Adorable, fluffy, feathery mutts. It didn’t help, of course, that a lot of Musical Sheds was going on at shut-in time.
The downside of this experiment was that over half of the chooks were boys. Noisy, raucous, crow-at-sparrow’s fart boys. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much sparring going on, but the din at dawn proved too much for us and off to the market they went.
Fast forward to 2012 and Australia. No more large scale poultry farming for me. We bought 2 cute little chicks, named them Alice and Bella after the Twilight girls, and now our fridge is over-run by their eggs. Alice is a Serial Escape Artist, and every morning my son Jack has to catch her and throw her back into the enclosure.
We also bought a trio of Japanese Quail, ostensibly to keep the floor of the budgie aviary clean. Well, they weren’t much good at that, so we bought an A-frame wooden hutch and bunged them in there. I knew they wouldn’t sit and hatch their own eggs, so on Boxing Day 2012 we drove 25 miles north to another Bird Lady’s equally unkempt home farm (ahem! I’m creative, I can’t be tidy at the same time), and bought 20 just-ready chicks from her.
From the 20 and our own 3, we got lots of fertile eggs. I bought a cheap plastic Chinese incubator (I regret having sold my incubators in Ireland before moving to Australia, they were Brinsea Octagons and excellent incubators). And before long, we were running awash with new chicks of all shades from yellow to brown to russet red.
Chicks grow fast, so hubby was put to use making up 2 large walk-in aviaries. Before this, the 20 quails had been in a large cage. With the walk-ins built, the 20 found room to stretch and fly. And the new chicks, once feathered up and hardy, went into the aviaries too. (Newly hatched chicks have to spend their first 3 weeks or so under a heat lamp. I keep them in a cardboard box with a 60 watt light bulb over).
Again, the problem with males. When it became apparent which ones were males (the ones that crowed, humped the females and each other, and didn’t lay eggs), I placed ads for them on Gumtree. FREE. I managed to sell some through a couple of our local pet stores too.
When numbers dwindled due to sales and freebies, I would whip up another batch of chicks in the incubator. And so on and so forth.
Call me a crazy chick, but the experience of keeping birds and breeding them is also a lesson in business and economics.
Our 2 weiros, Angus and Julia, were bought off Gumtree in 2011. They were named after the artists Angus and Julia Stone, whose song “Big Jet Plane” was playing on the car radio as we drove to collect the weiros. Angus the weiro clearly isn’t doing it right, as 4 times now he and Julia have tried hatching their own eggs, and each time they have proven infertile.
Anyway, I will leave you now with some videos and photos. One video shows Bella laying an egg, with a cameo appearance at the end by a curious Alice. The other video is of a live Japanese Quail hatch.
Posted from WordPress for Android.