Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Deal with a Broody Chook

Lizzie has gone broody again. She has taken to fluffing herself up and holding her wings out, so she looks like a big clucky chestnut ball. If not pushed out, she sits in the 'nesting box' all day and growls when you get too close (yes, a growling chicken is as funny as you think). She has even pecked the Geek. Yesterday I heard a weird squawking. I think Annie had managed to lay an egg, proclaimed this feat in the usual manner, and Lizzie had immediately hopped up to boot her out!

The current nesting box is the top of a bag of sugar cane mulch.

In nature, a chook lays a clutch of eggs, then sits on them (the eggs will stay in suspended animation until she starts sitting). She will sit as long as it takes for the eggs to hatch, with only the odd trip to forage, drink and poo, neglecting her own health in the process. She won't lay during this time, either, and in due course the brood of chicks will hatch.

Humans alter this process a bit to suit themselves. If you remove your hen's eggs every day, she never gets a clutch together to sit on. Many breeds are less inclined to broodiness, because we don't need it and we prefer our hens to put their energies into laying most of the year rather than sitting.

Broodiness ought to be discouraged when there are no fertilised eggs to sit on. Hens aren't very bright, and they will sit until they get a result. They can starve themselves or attract parasites, and of course they don't lay while brooding. In our case, the weather can be very hot, and I'm worried about dehydration. You can see that Lizzie is panting in the picture; it's not even 25 C today.

The solution is to isolate the broody hen in an airy, cool spot with no nesting site or material available. In our case, it's the chook dome, as it's not in use at the moment. We've put it under a shady tree and Lizzie is sulking inside it. Poor Annie, bereft of a companion, hangs disconsolately around nearby.

Lizzie had an attack of broodiness in early December and it only took a few days to break the habit. Unfortunately, she's becoming better at getting around the shadecloth door on the dome... not a good habit for her to have!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another Man in my Life

Well, it was only a brief encounter. He joined us for dinner.

Why did the Ladybird Blush?







Monday, January 11, 2010

Picture This: Winter's Beauty

Here is my entry for the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Competition for January.

It is a bit difficult for a Sydneysider to photograph snow, frost and so forth; our winters include the occasional light frost and once we had to scrape ice off the windscreen of our car -- that's once in the last eight years! While Australia does have a couple of places to ski, I haven't visited any of them since I married, as my husband is convinced that skiing wouldn't be fun. But then The Geek's idea of fun includes kernel hacking and going to Anglican meetings.

This picture is of a flower on my Correa 'Dusky Bells'. It's a pretty little plant, which is thought to be a hybrid of two of the eleven Australian Correa species. The plant is supposed to grow slowly to about 1m high and wide. After five year, mine is only about 30cm each way. The tubular flowers are about an inch long and would attract honeyeaters if they were higher off the ground. Those tan smudges in the background are buds.

I hope the deep pink and green of this winter-flowering plant helps give a lift to those who have seen too much of the white stuff lately!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Have Foreseen It.

Right on cue, straight after Christmas...

Yes, this is a female Queensland Fruit Fly, which I swatted as she laid eggs in this quince. Yep, those are her guts hanging out. Sorry if you have just eaten.

This is a big fly, about 8mm long. She is a maroon colour with oval yellow markings, and has a wasp-waist.

Notice that she was laying the eggs into a crease in the fruit, to make the 'sting' less obvious?


I bagged about a dozen quinces in those nice white veils, but pulled off at least 20 other fruit -- the smaller and less shapely ones -- and solarised them. The remaining quinces should grow bigger -- assuming that QFF haven't already struck them!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yum Yum Yum!

I know there are better-looking tomatoes, but our first Brandywine tasted fantastic!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Eat, Drink and be Merry!

Or if you are Dandelion, just eat.

Happy New Year!