Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Extreme Composting - What can't you compost??

We are reasonably avid composters at house. What isn't fit for the chickens goes into a bucket in the kitchen and then makes it into the compost heap. We pop in our grass clippings mixed with leaves and most of our weeds and all the things that normal people put into a compost heap.

I was at a gardening club meeting a week or so ago and in their library I saw a book called "Extreme Composting" by a guy called David the Good and picked it up - completely intrigued by the title!




I thought we had composting sorted in our house but it seems you can take composting to a whole new level!

In the book he does cover all sorts of composting - worm composting, melon pit composting, banana circle composting, compost crops, cow manure composting, sheet composting, chicken manure composting, and humanure composting. So if there is a type of composting that you have always wanted to know about and or try, its in here! But its not a technical read... Its a romp and a rant about composting in one book!

David has been gardening for thirty odd years and has tried everything. His views and opinions on composting come from hard core experience and he backs up what he says with anecdotes on what he did and how it went. (That's my kind of book!)

The basic premise of the book is to throw all your compostable materials on the ground and let Mother Nature take it from there! If you are into neater and tidier gardens, you can put your compostables into holes, into piles, under mulch, into wormeries or under plants. It will all sort it self out and the plants will grow and thrive.

Since reading the book we have started composting things that we wouldn't normally such as left over bits of fish, prawn shells and meat (burying them deeply) We have been piling up leaves and other rakings straight under the trees and letting them do their thing as both compost and mulch. We have used shredded paper mixed with chicken manure and other "messy" composts and you know what? He's right, some of it may take a while to rot down but it takes no effort from us other than to build the pile or dig the hole to make the fertility of our soil even better.

Our new policy is to not let anything that could be returned to the soil and composted to leave the property now!

If composting is you thing - have a look at this book and give some of his ideas a bit of space in your mind and let them mull over a bit until every where you look you can see compostable things that should be rotting away in your garden not being thrown into landfill! (and it doesn't take long) Our composting method of piling things up hasn't changed so much but we do put a lot more straight onto the garden and more unusual things into the heap. And it seems to work.

This book is really interesting if you have a permaculture/greeny/reduce waste type outlook on life and if you're into gardening in any way - its worth a look. Its easy to read and much less a technical do it like this book than a really good read that leaves you with all sorts of new ideas about composting!

David also has a great website called The Survival Gardener which is also worth a visit!

Give extreme composting a go and let me know what you thought!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for learning how to compost extremely!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for getting out of the library but 5/5 for supporting the little guy and for increasing your knowledge!
Time cost: Depends how fast you read - but you wont put it down once you start it!
Skill level: Composting is easy and should be done by everyone!!
Fun-ness: Great fun to see the look on peoples faces when you tell them that you did some extreme composting in the weekend!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Home made freezer lables - find what you need easily!

Its the beginning of the year and I'm trying to have a sort out of things, clean and to organise the house - why I choose summer to this is due only to New Years coinciding with summer holidays and the time to do it. I'm sure sorting out the house is better done in Winter - but I digress!

I have an upright drawer freezer which I love much more than my wee chest freezer (that sadly went to the great icebox in the sky a year or so ago) but I have a small issue with it - I spend a lot of time looking for things, opening and closing drawers and cursing the people who put the ice cream away in a different drawer each time they get it out!

In a fit of organising last week - I decided to label the drawers and solve a few dilemmas at once!

Here's what I did...

I went to the freezer and did an inventory of what I store in my freezer - then used a computer to print labels out on a sheet of A4. I made doubles of things like bread and meat (and misc!)

I made two columns on the A4 portrait page and used a 48 point font. Have a play with it. Different fonts are different sizes I discovered!

Then I cut the page up with a pair of scissors into the words.

Then I used the wide clear tape that you can use on packing boxes and sandwiched the cut out word in between two pieces (sticky side in) and then cut the ends of the tape off to even it up - cheapskates laminating!

Then I simply used a piece of blu-tac to fix it to the freezer (after I rearranged it for once and for all!)
I wiped the drawers with a cloth to dry them before sticking the blu-tac on, and so far, each label has stayed there with no problems at all.

Its not the fanciest system in the world but I'm into simple at the moment and this is working a treat!

Something I didn't appreciate was that when the husband was putting away groceries for me he was packing it all into the top drawers as he is tall. This means anything he puts away is in the emptiest top drawers regardless of what it is and I simply have to hunt for it. Since I did this he has been following the instructions to the letter and gets a bit put out when the kids put the ice cream is in the wrong place!

It works a treat and save my sanity and me from getting cold feet while I search all the drawers to see where the mince went.

I can now open a drawer and have all the bread in one place, all the meat in one place - as for the ice cream - well , its a work in progress still!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for doing something that saves electricity! 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only costing  a sheet of A4 and a few bits of tape
Time cost: About 10 minutes
Skill level: Cutting and pasting - One of my favourite techniques!
Fun-ness: Much more fun than the frustration of searching the whole freezer each time you open it!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Telling mobile chargers apart!

In our house there are a couple of favoured charging points for phones - one inside and one outside on the patio where we spend a lot of time!

Occasionally some one will pinch a cord to download onto their computer or because they don't know what happened to their cord and its quicker to "borrow" one than to look for their own.

It drives me insane not to be able to charge my phone because I cant find the cord and so last week I decided that enough was enough and I was going to put an end to the cable "borrowing" for once and for all!

Here's what I did...

All I did was cut a piece of purple ribbon and tape it to the end of the charging cable where is goes into the charger.

And another around the end that goes into the phone... 

And since I was on a roll I popped some ribbon around a bread tag and attached it to the cord.
(This is also great for plug boards where you aren't sure what's attached to what cord)
I defy my family to tell me they didn't know that the cord they borrowed was mine now!
Sometimes the simplest solution is the one that works and makes life easy for everyone. I had considered marking the ends with a permanent marker but thought it wouldn't be quite as permanent once it had been handled a few times.
Since I did this, my cord has stayed happily in its place and I haven't had to wander about the house checking laptops and computers and wall pugs to see who has "borrowed" my cord this time and forgotten to return it. You could do different colours for each person or maybe different animals, shapes, flowers, numbers - the choice is endless! :) Have fun with it. I did mine to match my phone cover.
Let me know if you have tried this or how you have solved your wandering cord problem in your house in the comment section below!

Score card:
Green-ness: ?/5 Hmmm, don't know about being green - but I know its reduced my stress levels!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 A bit of ribbon, a bit of tape - cost was nothing really!
Time cost: About a minute!
Skill level: Cut and paste - my favourite!
Fun-ness: Fun to see people looking for their own walkabout cord instead of pinching mine!!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Photo Friday - Movement!


Water sprays off our dog after a late afternoon swim one afternoon down at the dam!


 Contribution to Photo Friday. Click on the link and see what others have posted!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Green and Gold Nomia - Interesting Australian Native Bees!

While walking the dog down at the dam a few months ago I saw all these insects, that I thought were possibly bees, clambering all over a couple of stems of grass. I had nothing to capture images of this spectacle with me except my phone (and that couldn't focus on small insects on grasses that were waving in the wind!) so a week or so ago when I saw it again and had my camera on me, I took a few million photos and bought them home hoping to identify them.

I decided they were bees - they looked like a blue banded bee but different...

I ended up sending a few pictures to Nick at Australian Native Bees  and asking him what he
A. thought they were and
B. what he thought they were doing!

He said they were likely to be drones waiting for the mating flight of a queen in a nest somewhere - sort of a bee bucks party!

 He mailed me back a few hours later and said that a bee mate of his had identified them as Green and Gold Nomia's (Lipotriches Australica) - an Australian Native bee!

With both pieces of information I was able to search the net and find that even though I've only seen it twice, its a reasonably common occurrence.

From the Australian Museum website:
"Nomia bees live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath. Most species nest in the ground and a number of females use the entrance and main shaft but dig their own tunnel off to the side.

During the day male Nomia bees forage for nectar but at night hundreds of them gather together, clinging onto grass stems. Nobody really knows why they do this but it is a behaviour that some other bees, including blue-banded bees, also show.

The behaviour of the females is slightly better understood. Up to three share a nest burrowed into the soil. They take turns guarding the entrance, blocking it with their face during the day and their abdomen at night. Inside the nest the Nomia bees make urn-shaped cells containing a disc of nectar and pollen and a single egg. Each nest may be reused by several generations."

  For some more Nomia photos and information have a look at Robert Ashdowns blog... and read his story about finding a similar wriggling mass of bees on some grass here in Brisbane - click on a few of the links, the macro photos of insects is worth the side trip at the bottom of the post!

Nomia's seem to be quite a common bee across the globe and all seem to exhibit this bachelor party behaviour I found referances to this on sites across the globe! I spotted them here in Brisbane, both times in the late afternoon and even though I've kept an eye out for them every time I've been in the area since, I haven't seen them again. There must be more to this behaviour than just a sleeping place - or maybe they find a new place to sleep each afternoon....!

This is the grass clump that they were on. There are plenty of them around of the same grass species but they were all on this clump. I could kid myself that this was the same clump I saw them on last time as well. If not it was certainly in this area.

If you have seen Nomia bees - leave comments and links in the comments section - Id love to see your Nomia boys partying hard!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Photo Friday - Winter colours

Winter Colours

Whilst here in the sub-tropics it doesn't get cold per say, its nice to sit by a fire on a winters evening and enjoy the ambience and maybe a tipple to keep my toes warm!


 Contribution to Photo Friday. Click on the link and see what others have posted!

Roasting, grinding and drinking your own home grown coffee beans!

I got a coffee tree for a birthday a few years ago and after letting it languish in a pot for too many moons, we moved it into the garden whereby it did decide to live and grew really well. I harvested the cherries, extracted the beans and got them to the "green bean" stage (link to this post here) From there, all I have to do is roast the beans, grind them and turn them into coffee - That's what this post is about!

Here's what I did...

I ended up doing all this at a café owned by a friend under the watchful eye of her Barista as I'm not a coffee drinker and don't have a clue how its all meant to end up! We decided to roast the beans on the stove top as it was easier to control and we could see (and photograph) and control every step of the way.

With the pot on a gas cook top set to a medium heat, we constantly stirred the beans to make sure we were getting an as even roast as possible.

It took a surprisingly long time for the beans to colour up. May be an hour all up - we chose not to hurry as there was such a small quantity of beans we would have nothing if we burnt them! When you hear the "crack" you have reached the stage of the lightest roasts. If you continue to roast through to a second "crack" you are in the dark stages of the roast and the bean flavour may be taken over by roast flavours - not a bad thing, just personal preference as to how you like your coffee!

After we had reached a roast we were happy with - which was by no means anything like the dark black colour of a commercial roast - we left them to cool. We were worried that we might burn them and felt a lighter roast would be better than burnt beans for our first attempt. (The above picture is at about the half way mark.)

"Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing the green coffee beans to change in taste. Unroasted beans contain similar if not higher levels of acids, protein, sugars, and caffeine as those that have been roasted, but lack the taste of roasted coffee beans due to the Maillard and other chemical reactions that occur during roasting." Wikipedia 2016

This is when I discovered that I hadn't got the husk off that I thought I had. This meant that there was a lot of fuzzy skin starting to float around in amongst the beans. The Barista, having never seen this before, decided it was a bad thing and he then sat and peeled every last bean for me in between making coffees for other people ( I was not so popular at this point... :(  )

So in the last post where I advocated that you might want to hull them or take off the skins (but I didn't) - turns out to be that its probably not really an optional step - and its very time consuming as I discovered!!

So now we had a much lighter roast, my Barista reckoned it was a "blond" or very light roast and it would have more caffeine in it than a darker roast. I found this great roasting chart on Wikipedia (below) along with other really good information for those who like this sort of information. Based on this chart I reckon mine is a Cinnamon or light roast.

75 degrees green coffee.png

22 °C (72 °F) Green Beans
Green coffee as it arrives at the dock. They can be stored for approximately 12-18 months in a climate controlled environment before quality loss is noticeable.
330 degrees drying coffee.png

165 °C (329 °F) Drying Phase
During the drying phase the beans are undergoing an endothermic process until their moisture content is evaporated, signifying first crack.
Light roast
385 degrees cinnamon roast coffee.png

196 °C (385 °F) Cinnamon Roast
A very light roast level which is immediately at first crack. Sweetness is underdeveloped, with prominent toasted grain, grassy flavors, and sharp acidity prominent.
400 degrees new england roast coffee.png

205 °C (401 °F) Light Roast
Moderate light brown, but still mottled in appearance. A preferred roast for some specialty roasters, highlights origin characteristics as well as complex acidity.
Medium roast
410 degrees american roast coffee.png

210 °C (410 °F) American Roast
Medium light brown, developed during first crack. Acidity is slightly muted, but origin character is still preserved.
425 degrees city roast coffee.png

219 °C (426 °F) City Roast
Medium brown, common for most specialty coffee. Good for tasting origin character, although roast character is noticeable.
Dark roast
440 degrees full city roast coffee.png

225 °C (437 °F) Full City Roast
Medium dark brown with occasional oil sheen, roast character is prominent. At the beginning of second crack.
450 degrees vienna roast coffee.png

230 °C (446 °F) Vienna Roast
Moderate dark brown with light surface oil, more bittersweet, caramel flavor, acidity muted. In the middle of second crack. Any origin characteristics have become eclipsed by roast at this level.
460 degrees french roast coffee.png

240 °C (464 °F) French Roast
Dark brown, shiny with oil, burnt undertones, acidity diminished. At the end of second crack. Roast character is dominant, none of the inherent aroma or flavors of the coffee remain.[7]
470 degrees italian roast coffee.png

245 °C (473 °F) Italian Roast
Nearly black and shiny, burnt tones become more distinct, acidity nearly eliminated, thin body.[8]

After the roasting - the next step is the grinding. I'm lucky that I know some one who owns a café and was happy for me to hijack her barista and equipment for a few hours in the afternoon... If you are not so lucky, make friends with a small café owner who loves their coffee and ask them how they would feel about using their grinder to put a batch of your coffee through. If that's not an option for you, I'm guessing there is plenty of grinders available in the retail world (or even in your own cupboard if you are a coffee gourmand already!)

We emptied out the grinder of the usual Aussie grown café coffee and popped in my paltry bean quantity.  Then we hit the grind button and, presto! out came my freshly ground coffee!!!

Great fun! - Now we needed to make a cup of coffee from it and this is where its good to have an expert (and all that fancy equipment!)

So there it is - about to go into the machine. Its much, much lighter than a commercial roast and looks totally different.

Here is comes! The first brewing of my first coffee crop!

It held the crema well and made a light brew, as expected.
The coffee drinkers all had a sip and decreed it quite good, light but good (did I detect a note of surprise??) I wasn't so chuffed, but then I'm not a coffee drinker so that wasn't a surprise!

Once it was mixed in with some frothed milk (and a lot of sugar) I enjoyed my very own home grown, hand picked, home processed, café roasted and ground cup of coffee flavoured warm sweet milk to the amusement of the "real coffee" drinkers! (I'm so never gonna make a good barista!)

There turned out to be about 150gm of ground coffee after all that hard work and so I have packaged it into a tin and sent it to the one person in the world who will appreciate all that hard work and dedication - My Mother! Happy Birthday Mom!!

 After all that work, I fully intend to do all this again next season and learn from the lessons of this year. I will work on the hulling step after I have dried the beans and I think I'll go for a darker roast next time just to see what that's like. Its probably not going to make any difference to the fact I don't like the bitterness of coffee but as long as that tree is producing I can bombard my poor long suffering mother with tins of home made coffee for years to come!

The roasting can be easily done at home in a thick bottomed frying pan or roasting dish in the oven. I also heard about using a popcorn machine but haven't tried it!

If you don't have a grinder you will need to buy one or chat up the local café staff to get it ground, after that you keep it air tight and in the fridge until you use it as per normal coffee.

So far it seems as if coffee processing is open to a lot of experimentation. I have read about putting butter and sugar on the beans before roasting them for additional flavour, you can add spices to coffee after its ground to make flavoured coffee (eg cinnamon, cloves, cardamom) and I have since discovered there are special coffee flavourings you can add to the ground coffee make more exotic concoctions like Mocha, vanilla or hazelnut coffees. I'm beginning to think the sky is the limit in the coffee world!

Let me know what you think!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for knowing exactly where your coffee is coming from
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for growing your own food! Once you have paid for the tree, it really just your labour...
Time cost: 1 year to grow the cherries, 1/2 an hour to pick, 3-4 days to process, 1 hour to roast, 10 seconds to grind, 30 seconds to brew, 15 minutes to drink - ahh... time well spent!
Skill level: Fairly basic - I think a love of coffee would help though!
Fun-ness: Really quite a lot of fun to see how much work goes into a single cup of coffee!!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Baby Chicks - our first four weeks!

We have never raised chicks before and after setting twelve fertile eggs under one of our broody hens seven weeks ago, we had no idea what to expect. Its been a learning curve...

If you are considering hatching fertile eggs under a broody hen as a backyarder, have a look at this post and see what you will be in for. Lots of really cute ""Awwww" moments, worry, frustration, fun and heartache - and that's just our first four weeks!

Here's what it was like...

We got our eggs from Dancing Bee Poultry - The more local the eggs, the more chances of hatching them. If they have to travel from interstate, they will have a rougher trip and you might not be able to see the internal damage and they have less chance of hatching. Our first attempt had eggs from interstate and we didn't hatch a single one. So my advice is to get local ones if you can source them.

The eggs need to be rested for 24 hours point down in the egg box before they go under the chicken. This is to give the eggs time to unwind and unscramble from their journey to you. Don't skip this step. The eggs can sit away from the hen for at least 12 days in a suspended animation type state - otherwise they wouldn't all hatch at once and the mama hen will be chasing 12 day old chicks as the last one is struggling to be born! I put some food and water in the nest box with Solstice as its quite hot here in Brisbane and I didn't want her to be without water and sustenance if she needed it. She seemed quite grateful for both.

You might be able to hear the "pipping" when the eggs are hatching. I saw our fist chick on the Monday but swore I heard peeping on the Sunday night as I tucked all the girls up for the night. The hatching will happen under the hen and there isn't much to see if you use a hen and not an incubator. Once the chick is hatched and dried out, it might start peeking out from under Mum to see what the world has to offer. Too much attention and they dive under Mum... and Mum gets mad at you!

The mother will sit on the nest until she is sure that all the eggs that will hatch have hatched. In our case she was off the nest with the babies in tow in about 18 hours from the first signs that the babies were thinking of hatching. In our case, Solstice, the Mama hen simply sat on the nest and wouldn't get off at all on the day before the chick were due. I had seen her off the nest quite regularly (twice a day for twenty minutes) up until the Sunday. The eggs will take 21 days from when they go under the hen to sit on, so its easy to plan the day you want them to hatch. We got ours on a Sunday and put them under Mum on the Monday morning and she hatched them on a Monday exactly 21 days later!
I took the water out of the nesting box as soon as these little ones started zooming around, I was worried that if they fell in it when I wasn't watching we would be short one chick... (they don't eat the food so don't worry about taking it out)

The first day the babies stick close to the mother and don't need to eat. They "suck" in the yolk through the umbilical cord and use the yolk as food for the first 24 hours. Mother Nature intended them to be able to go those 24 hours without food so mum can sit there and hatch the last few eggs without the babies needing anything but warmth and protection. If you can get your hand in there and pick them up, they are the tiniest scraps of life imaginable. They will peep very loudly and the mother hen will get quite agitated... Be careful!

Once the Mama hen is convinced that all the eggs that will hatch are hatched she will bustle off outside to find some food for herself in the first instance, and start teaching the chicks what to eat. Again, they stick right by her and are quite fast for their size! As you can see when I got home on Monday from work, there were four wee chicks outside with mum. I sprinkled some chick starter in the pen for them and gave the Mother some grain in a dish. The mother hen got stuck straight into the grain but kept pointing out the chick starter to the chicks. She actually picked it up and dropped it in front of them to give them the idea. They will be getting hungry after the first day - so feed 'em up. My 10 kg bag of chick stater lasted until half way through week five. I have decided not to get anymore as they are eating bugs, bacon and big bits of grain, grass and anything wiggly put in front of them by their mother and ignoring the bowl of chick starter. (The big chooks love it though!)

 Back in the nesting box I found a dead chick and four unhatched ones. (One was laid there by another chook and was never fertile!) If you are so inclined it could be quite instructive to open them and see what's inside. My personal theory is that the Mama hen knows what's what and when she is convinced that she has all the babies that she is going to get she ups and walks away. 

I then found two chicks, both alive but one quite obviously on deaths doorstep. The yellow one died about 15 minutes later. She wasn't in the nest. I don't know how she got out of the box but for what ever reason, she didn't make it. The brown one seemed very weak and small. It may have hatched after Mum left the nest...

I popped the little brown Barnevelder baby in with the others but as you can see it just sat. I took about... oooo say, 400 or so pictures (and you will too in your first 24 hours of being a proud chicken grandma!) and in practically every photo, its sitting down and not getting about like the others. I was concerned she wasn't quite right... I was really amazed at how quickly they could bumble around. I didn't want to spend a fortune on special feeders and waterers and so I filled a takeaway container with rocks and then put the water in. This stops the chicks with duck like tendencies from drowning themselves! I had to change the water at least twice a day as the big chooks threw dirt into it with their scratching.

I had put the hen and her eggs into the main pen. I had the hen in the old dog kennel in a mango box with straw in it. Then I put our isolation pen (above) up against the entrance (the big mesh opens upwards as a door) so that the hen could get some peace from the other big chooks who were laying in her nest, as the big day got closer. The isolation pen also meant that even though I wasn't home when the mama hen took her babies into the world for the first time they didn't escape or get attacked by the other big chooks. I didn't know what would happen and I didn't want to find out the hard way.
I still wanted the other big chooks to see the babies and get used to them but not to be able to harm them.

With the baby barne, I tried to feed her (I hope its a her anyway - like cars and boats, baby chicks are girls until they prove otherwise in our house!) but she wasn't so keen. In hindsight, she was still living off her yolk and didn't need the extra food when I was trying to feed her.

I took the baby barne out of the pen (very easy to catch, unlike the others) and tried feeding her again the next day. I discovered that she wouldn't/couldn't walk properly... very distressing.
First things first - if your chick is having any leg trouble at all - don't put them on slippery surfaces such as newspaper, it will only exacerbate the issue.

I have some "sick" chook food that comes as a powder from the produce shop (you can pay from $11 to $30 for a kilo of this stuff - Its great though when you need it) I made some up into a fairly watery mixture and after placing the chick on an old T-shirt I tried to give her some in the lid of a container. I discovered that if you "peck" at the food with your finger and attempt to make "mother chicken" noises, she will eat for you!! You look and sound really silly sitting at the table with your morning cuppa, a baby chick and making clucking noises while tapping your finger in chick food but thems the gigs when you are a baby chick nurse/grandmother - its what we do! She did start to eat and ate a ton of food. I gave her as much sick chook porridge as she would eat and offered her crumble as well. Sometimes I mixed the crumble into the porridge and as she ate more and more I made it thicker so she could gobble big mouthfuls. I kept her in the "hospital cage" during the day so she wouldn't get bullied and walked all over and also so she got enough to eat. At night I put her back with the others under the mother hen.

It became obvious that there was something seriously wrong with her leg. She started with it sticking straight out the side, a few days later she did stand upright on it but crossed over and could only walk backwards. After a week of this we decided to try hobbles and she got all six attempts off in less ten minutes each time. However, a day later I could kid myself she was walking better... I picked her up again and tried just stretching her legs gently one by one. Have you ever seen your chickens (big and small) do a "Ballerina" or "Yoga" pose with one leg starched out behind and one wing forward? That's what I did with the leg. I decided that it wasn't splay leg but likely to be a tendon that didn't go into place after she came out of the egg and her bones were soft. I also think that Mama Chook knew it and was happy to abandon her to her fate if she couldn't keep up. I only stretched the leg three or four times over two days and with a bit of extra feeding for a fortnight she caught up - now I just hope she is a girl!

Have a read of Poultry-pedia - its a fabulous site if you think you have a sick or hurt chook.

So week one was all about fluffy yellow chicks, cute photos and hours and hours spent watching them!

In week two I let them go into the big pen with the big chooks (with Mama chook too!) and to my surprise, they babies were ignored! They managed to escape out of the isolation pen regularly but stayed close to the wire trying to get back in. They have a magnetic force field that lets them only get so far away from mum before they feel compelled to come back. This bond stretches every week further and further away!

In week two they are more and more curious about the world and certainly more adventurous!

When let the big chook out in the afternoons into the yard for the afternoon I locked the gate and let the babies and Solstice out into the main pen for a run around. This gave them the opportunity to explore safely and for mum to show them all sorts of things. They fluttered about, jumping on and off things (which has got to be good for them) and generally having a look around the big wide world under the protection of their mom!

They still want to stay close to mum though!

Its a big world for little chooks!
Can you see the proper feathers starting to come through on the wings?

In week two we are still giving them supplements and making sure that they are getting everything that they need - and Mama chook too! She needs feeding up too.

The legs are starting to colour up as well as the main plumage starting to show.

 Sticking together - like sardines, there is safety in numbers!!
In week three they were allowed into the back yard for the first time!
By this time the big chooks are completely used to the babies and don't even look at them sideways. They still put mum in her place as Solstice is quite low on the pecking order even though she is one of my biggest chooks and the babies scatter!

Solstice spends a lot of time teaching her babies how and what to eat...

The personalities start to emerge - you can start to make guesses as to who is likely to be a rooster now...

That baby barne will be the death of me - all five babies are in this picture - can you see it? I lose her in amongst those big brown leaves all the time! By week three she has caught up to the aracana babies in size. The Marans babies are by far the biggest - they have the feathers on their legs.

As much as they have grown, they are still tiny when they are out in the yard. They tended to stick around the entrance to the main pen for the first week they were allowed out. And Mama chook doesn't let them go far. A couple of times Solstice wanted to go further but I decided that I wasn't ready to lose them in our enormous back yard - even if she was confident!

See how the wings are totally covered in big coloured feathers now? Their markings are starting to be come apparent.
Can you see the comb starting to appear already? That one is a bit bigger than the others and a bit bossier. I've seen the two biggest ones "front up" to each other like the big chooks do when they are settling some pecking order disorder... I hope that's all it is - How many roosters do you think I've got?? At least one Id say so far...

Week Four and its all systems go! They are in the big pen full time - although still sleeping with mama chook in the original box. I still have the isolation pen in place in case I need to separate them for some reason, I can just close the door and they will be stuck in there in the morning when they wake up.

Out in the yard, the big chooks arent interested them and unless the babies get to some grain first, the big chooks don't seem to care about them at all...

Little baby Barne is doing well and has some signs that she is a girl. The stripe by her eye and the one she had down her back seem to indicate she might be a girl if you read the right websites.

This is the remaining Marans chick, the other found its way under the fence in week four and lost a round with the neighbours dog... I think this one might be a rooster - very well developed and very confident.

The lighter aracuana - smaller than the others, but has no problem keeping up in any way.
And the darker Aracuana - very scruffy this one! This one is quiet and passive and is usually found hanging out with the barne baby. They are both much quieter than the other three - oh, two... Maybe this means they are girls... I hope so.

Babies hanging out under the lemon tree watching the world go by!

 All four babies at the four week mark hanging out in the backyard together - mums just out of the picture, she wasn't far away! See how they have feathered up this week? You can tell them apart now - Its probably time to name them!
And here is the four weeks in four pictures -
Take lots of pictures, they are only very tiny for a very short time!! 

So, what have I learnt in four short weeks?

  • Number one - Baby chicks can get out of any confinement!!! But they wont stray too far from mum.
  • Baby chicks with a mother hen are really easy to look after. Mine are eating with the big chooks at four weeks and Mum is telling them what they can eat and encouraging them to eat all sorts of things I wouldn't have thought they were ready for - worms, bugs, grain, bread, bacon scraps!
  • There are so many different chook calls and noises that the Mother hen will make that you've never heard before!
  • They will grow quicker than you could imagine - take those 400 photos a week - you'll need them as proof that they were small once.
  • They can run. Fast. If you want tame chookies that will sit on your lap, don't put them with a mother chook  - get an incubator. I wanted to spend time petting mine but Mum wasn't going to let me near them and although I can usually catch the brown one if I want to, she no longer sits quietly as she did when her leg didn't work so well. The others - well, IF you can catch them they act like you are about to toss 'em into batter and then pop 'em straight into the fryer. Its not calming or meditative to stroke a freaked out baby that's calling to its mother. I think if they have bonded with mum, they will be as tame as the mother but wont be cuddling up to you willingly. If you raised them without a broody hen, you might have more success in the petting department. :)
Its certainly been an amazing thing to do - watch life appear out of the shell and then rocket around the backyard a very short time later. It has been a traumatic thing to do - burying tiny tiny baby chicks wasn't fun at all. Its been a frustrating thing to do - how they get out of boxes, cages or any other vessel other than a sealed Tupperware container (No, I didn't try that but it might just work!) is one of life's great mysteries. Its been a bonding thing to do - I have at least 10,000 photos of chicks on my phone and every wants to see them! (Don't they?) Its a worrying thing to do - Do I take the little one to the vet? Do I bend its leg, straighten its leg, let nature take its course?

And I haven't got to the "what will I do if any of the four left are Roosters" dilemma yet!!!

Would I do it again??


Put links to your favourite chick places in the comment section below!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for raising heritage breed chicks and keeping small breeders in business.
Frugal-ness: Not really a frugal thing to do - Heritage chickens aren't the cheapest - just loads of fun!
Time cost: Not much time to look after them each day but you will spend a whole lot of time watching and photographing them!!
Skill level: If you let the mama chook do all the work - its easy as!
Fun -ness: One of the most fun life experiences you will ever have!
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