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Tuesday 4 October 2011

Wow, it’s been an age again since I’ve sat down and updated this page. I’m sitting here looking out of the large corner window in the office: the sun is shining (for a pleasant change), the currawongs are chuntering to each other in the swamp gums, Handles and Seb are lying down communing, the pear tree is shedding blossom like snow, the swallows are swooping low over the ground (and clanging about on the roof) and I can see the birds scratching happily in their pens. The four new goslings have been taken for a walk by mum & dad – who are fiercely protective. I tried to retrieve the unhatched eggs but the adults became so upset I decided to leave them. Arthur ran at me & looked as if he might leap up and attack.

Pear tree and little crab apple before they started shedding blossom

I’ve just taken three of the four new-born chicks out to the brooder in the garage – of the 14 hens’ eggs in the small incubator, 10 proved to be infertile when I candled them. I don’t know what Nigel the Australorp rooster is playing at. Even his girlfriend Nigella’s eggs (also an Australorp) were infertile, whereas last season they were always reliable. I am having even less success with the turkey eggs. I’ve got 44 eggs in the big borrowed incubator now & when I candled the first 16 all were infertile! William, who is so fearsome when one goes into the run (particularly to Luke) is clearly not doing his job. I’ve racked my brains to think of other problems but don’t think I’ve been doing anything particularly wrong – I’ve collected the eggs promptly, minimised handling and kept them in a clean, cool area. At least the dud eggs are not wasted, I either feed them back to the birds, or give them to the pigs and dogs.

Now the turkeys are all going broody and it requires constant vigilance to break them out of this state. Turkeys are not like hens, they will not lay eggs constantly. They lay a batch of say 15 and then sit on them – or sit on the empty nest if you’ve removed the eggs, they don’t appear to differentiate. And they’ll sit for weeks on end, while all this time of course they are not laying eggs. So my latest tactic is to hurl any broody ones over the fence into a barren pen (currently recovering from the ravages of the piglets) and leaving them there for a few days. One that I returned seems not to have gone back to being broody. Whatever I do, they will not lay another batch of eggs for some time. The season for turkeys is short too, from around September to April – sometimes continuing for a further month or two for a good turkey in fine weather. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the remainder of the eggs (I replaced the 16 I candled, but am running out of ones in store).

In contrast to the turkey eggs we are utterly awash with hens eggs. I have been trying a variety of egg recipes such as orange curd with pancakes (pretty scrummy but you can’t eat much at a time), Spanish omelette etc. However, I’ve still ended up feeding a dozen now and again back to the birds or other animals or simply giving them away. Luke and I have been relentlessly eating them for breakfast, but we can’t keep up. If the turkey eggs in the incubator are a dead loss, then I’ll fill it with hens’ eggs – at least I know some will be fertile.