Button Quail Hatching Eggs & Fixing Broken Eggs

DSC_0010Not to count my eggs before they hatch, but I have just put 36 Button Quail eggs into the incubator. These cute and tiny little eggs were shipped to me from P & L Gamebirds, along with three dozen Coturnix Quail eggs, which are to hopefully refresh the genetics in my line. I used to think Coturnix eggs were small, but Buttons are about the size of Cadbury Mini Eggs. I can just imagine how adorable the newborn chicks will be.

DSC_0011

Button Quail eggs compared to Coturnix Quail egg

It’s always a toss-up with shipped eggs, you never know what kind of hatch to expect, so I’ll be happy if any hatch at all. A 50% hatch rate would be considered excellent, but 25% or less is more likely. Two of the Button eggs were broken on arrival, you can see the broken spot on one of them in the top photo, bottom right corner. I was going to toss them to the dog, as I would normally do with broken eggs, but since I have nothing to lose I decided to try to fix them. I took a beeswax candle and dripped a small amount of wax just so it covered the broken areas completely. We’ll find out the results in about 16 days!

DSC_0016

Repaired eggs

DSC_0012Since I was incubating anyway, I filled up all the leftover slots with Coturnix quail eggs from my own birds. These cute little guys sell out so fast I figured I might as well. It was nice to see that my own eggs were consistently larger than the ones I received in the mail. Must be doing something right!

Rex/Creme Hybrid Kits 10 Week Weigh-In

DSC_0004You’ll know from my past posts about hybrid kits that they consistently outperform my purebred kits as far as grow-out speed. Well, this litter of Creme d’Argent/Standard Rex kits are the biggest bunnies yet.

I wondered out loud not long ago if there was anyone achieving 5lb live weight rabbit fryers at 10 weeks of age. Back then, this seemed like an impossibility and all my kits needed at least 12-16 weeks to get anywhere near that. Well, today I’ve seen that it can be done.

The hybrid kits are one day shy of ten weeks old today. Two of the does have been sold but the two I have left are HUGE. The boys are also large but I have never seen does this big before. I weighed them today and they came in at 2063g and 2226g. That means the heaviest doe is already 4.9lbs. That is mind boggling.

DSC_0001I also weighed the largest of my purebred Californian does, who are one day older than the hybrid kits. She weighed in at a measly 1500g. Tell me how Californians were specially bred as meat rabbits again??

DSC_0006I think I’m going to have to hang on to the largest agouti doe as a breeder. Her and her sister are the sweetest rabbits, so easy to handle and loving. The other day they were giving me kisses for almost an hour. I’d love to find a good home for the one I can’t keep, it would be a shame to have to butcher her. She’d make an awesome breeding doe for someone’s meat program.

Better, Cheaper Rabbit Pellets

DSC_0004There’s just one thing I like better than finding cheaper alternatives to necessary purchases, and that’s finding BETTER quality products for cheaper!

While picking up little MR16 last week, the topic of rabbit pellets came up and I was informed of a source of locally-made pellets that were non-gmo, animal product free, 1% higher in protein than my current brand, and $2 cheaper per 20kg bag. The breeder told me that her rabbit herd had made a dramatic change when she switched to these pellets; they were having larger litters, growing out faster and had better immunity. I was sold.

Today I checked it out. This magical place is Top Shelf Feeds in Duncan BC. Boy, what a fantastic store! It might be a 40 minute drive away, but this is definitely where I’m going to be buying all my livestock feed from now on. I was told they work closely with rabbit breeders to formulate their rabbit pellets, and almost everything they sell is a little, if not a lot cheaper than in Nanaimo.

For instance, for Coturnix Quail rations I normally buy 26% Gamebird Starter from Share-Kare, a shop near me, for $22.50 a bag. Compare that to 26% Quail Diet from Top Shelf at $14.50 a bag! Just one bag pretty much pays for the whole trip. I can also buy their original non-gmo layer pellets for about $0.75 more per bag, which is a very good deal. I may even switch to their organic layer pellets since I’ll be saving so much money on everything else.

They also have cool, real farmer stuff like replacement tattoo clamp numbers, stethoscopes (I bought one), scalpels, bulk bins of milk replacement powder, 20kg bags of baking soda, vials of medication that say for veterinary use only… As well as blocks of exotic frozen raw pet foods.

And when available they sell heritage, sexed chicks for a reasonable $3 or so instead of $10-15 at my local Buckerfield’s. I also bought a 50 foot roll of 3′ wide, 1/4″ hardware cloth for about $30 cheaper than I could find anywhere else. This will be used for my new pigeon loft/aviary. A bale of straw is currently about $12.50 there, but it’s $20 in Nanaimo. These are fairly significant discrepancies, especially if you buy in quantity.

To top it all off, you get to pull into a covered loading area and they pack all your feed into your vehicle for you. Love it!

New Ducks

DSC_0028

One-eyed brown duck in the foreground

My lonely, one-eyed brown duck now has a nice little family! Recently I traded a rabbit for this nice young pair, a black barred drake and a brown barred duck. Research says that once they mature the barring will probably only be visible on their chests. I think it’s a nice feature that gives them a wild look.

Once these little friends arrived I invested in a large livestock tank for everyone to swim in, since I know they came from a home with a pond and I didn’t want them to be too disappointed in their new digs. The tank doubles as a mosquito hatchery which the ducks harvest daily.

These new ducks are very well-behaved, but all Muscovies are nice when young. It’s when the hormones kick in that the real personality comes out. My last drake needed to be culled because he became incredibly aggressive with my chickens, he was obsessed with trying to rape them and I was afraid he’d kill one before long. (He was also not the first Muscovy drake I’ve had who thought chickens were fair game.) Once he was removed, my Black Copper Maran head hen decided to get her revenge by poking out one of brown duck’s eyes. Thankfully she healed up ok and there have been no further incidents, but I think it’s absolutely time to get the ducks and chickens separated.

So, I’m in the beginning stages of figuring out where the new duck pen will go. Now that I have a very tall security fence around my property I am considering having an open top pen with 5 foot high fencing. The only thing I can imagine getting in would be a raccoon, but with six cats and two dogs on the property I doubt any raccoon would be foolish enough to try. I’d also like to set up their new tank under a downspout so they can enjoy fresh rainwater from time to time. You know, if it ever rains again, ever.

Introducing My New Rex Herd Sire

DSC_0003Up until now my Standard Rex herd sire has been Timmy. I got Timmy a year or so ago from a couple that had him as a pet rabbit and couldn’t care for him anymore. He didn’t like being handled and they wanted to concentrate on their friendlier bunnies. While he is a very nice rabbit, type-wise he is terrible. He also has no pedigree and no tattoo. Since there are only a few Rex breeders on the Island, and most of their stock came from the USA, I think it’s safe to assume that Timmy was someone’s cull and it’s easy to see why.

It was time for me to get a proper Rex herd sire. After one debacle with a disreputable local rabbit breeder (who has since had all her rabbits seized by the SPCA), I located a breeder who seemed to be doing everything right. She was extremely kind and helpful and has a herd of the most beautiful and happy rabbits.

Yesterday I drove to her little farm and picked up the most gorgeous 13 week old Broken Castor buck: Moonstruck’s MR16. Once we get to know each other a little better I’ll give him a proper name. A big thank you to Jody Mitchell and Moonstruck Meadows!

DSC_0005This little guy is just the most handsome little buck I have ever seen. He has beautiful fur and body type and a full pedigree. This means that with Tuna’s full pedigree, I am on my way to producing fully pedigreed Rexes. Since he is a broken, this also means that I can start producing broken kits, which is a very fun prospect. Timmy will be retired and probably Bluefin will be also, as she is Timmy’s daughter and not very easy to work with. Unfortunately with limited space and cages I have to trim my herd aggressively.

DSC_0007Just look at that cute little face!

Quail Chick Bonanza

DSC_0001Quail chick time again! I have lots of people interested in quail so I finally just filled the incubator to capacity with quail eggs, which is 120. Today was hatch day and 69 zippy little chicks were out and about and transferred to the brooder. Many more eggs have pipped so I won’t know the final count for a couple more days, but overall I’m very happy with the way this hatch has gone.

DSC_0004I’ve hatched quite a few batches of chicks thus far, so I know a little bit more about the conditions that are right for Coturnix. This time I had the incubator set a little bit lower, about at 36.5 to 37 degrees Celcius, while normally 37.5 degrees is recommended. I’ve noticed that when it gets a bit too warm in there I get a few chicks with problems like splay legs or bulging eyes. I had read somewhere that quail do best with it a bit cooler, and this has worked amazingly well. There are no sick chicks yet in this group and everyone hatched right on time except for a handful who hatched yesterday. I’ll keep the temperature lower from now on.

DSC_0008I have a very nice assortment of colors this time. Many A&M Whites of course, since my males right now are predominantly white; but also lots of Tuxedo, Tibetan, Silver and Pharaoh. Amazingly there were only two males that I know of hatched out of my last batch a few months ago, so those were the males I had to use to fertilize these eggs.

I’m hoping to get some more males this time (never thought I would say that!) with more variety of color so I can balance things out a bit. I enjoy all the colors but I prefer the wild type/Pharaoh as they can be easily sexed by plumage color quite early on. Every other color (except Italian) can only be sexed once the males begin to crow. No way I would attempt vent sexing on such tiny birds.

DSC_0010

Empty eggshells from hatched chicks

New Mailbox

DSC_0003I moved to the Island from Vancouver a couple of years ago, and one thing that really made an impression on me here was my new mailman.

In Vancouver I had been used to only the friendliest of mail carriers, who would be guaranteed to give you a warm smile and greeting no matter where our paths crossed. My own mail carrier there varied from person to person, but no matter who it was, they were always kind, courteous and helpful.

So now I live in Nanaimo and I have the mail carrier from hell. Despite my early efforts to be friendly, he wanted nothing to do with any of that and flat-out ignored me. That was fine. When his job demanded that he interact with me, as I attempted to refuse a package from a customer that had mismarked the value for customs, his reaction was to yell and intimidate me. Then he made up a story about how I had called his supervisor demanding this package be delivered. I was dumbfounded. When I still refused the package he slammed my own door in my face and stormed off. That was not fun.

I put up a new security fence a few months ago, and it was in no small part due to the mailman. Even though I knew he’d have to enter the property to reach the mail slot in my front door, somehow it made me feel a little better knowing the fence was there. Well, it turns out my mailman didn’t like my fence as much as I did. The first day he couldn’t figure out the latch and stood outside my gate as I slept, yelling my house number at the top of his lungs and wolf-whistling. After about five minutes of this I finally woke up and stumbled outside to see what on earth was going on. A couple of my neighbors were also peering over to see what all the racket was about.

I was reprimanded about the gate and took the mail that was shoved at me. A few hours later once I was actually awake I went outside and made a more visible latch-pull for the gate. This worked for a few days. I didn’t get any mail for a few days, but anyone else who needed access had no problems.

Then it happened again. My house number being screamed out and the whistling while I was in dreamland. It seems the latch-pull had not entered the mailman’s field of vision. This time I stayed in bed and hoped he would go away. Instead I heard a loud crash at my front door. I jumped out of bed and went outside to see that he had tied up all my mail into a tight ball with elastic bands and launched it at my screen door, leaving a dent. When I opened the bundle, my new credit card was uselessly folded in half. I called his supervisor.

A few more days passed of no mail delivery. Then the screaming and whistling again. This time, quite upset, I went outside to see that he had ripped the latch right off and could therefore not open the gate. I went up to him and was told that I had a flimsy latch on my gate as he offered me the broken pieces. I told him that nobody else had had any issue with it. He gave me the look of death and pushed my parcel over the fence and into my garden. “Oh, sorry”, he said. I picked it up, looked at him and told him that I didn’t think he was sorry at all. Then I got the double look of death. “What did you say?” He growled. I repeated myself and he spun around and stormed off yelling at me to call his supervisor. I did.

Of course since Canada Post is a monopoly that is funded by taxpayers and unionized, there was no way this guy was going away, so I did the only thing I could, I had them hold my mail at the depot. For months I had to drive one place to get mail and parcel notices, then drive another place to get parcels. It was inconvenient to put it mildly.

Until a couple of days ago when I finally finished building and installing my new wire mesh mailbox! This box allows me to keep my gate locked, and my mail safely inside my property. It still needs a flap on the front opening and a roof on the top of the mesh box to keep out the rain (not an issue lately!) but other than that it is working like a charm. And keeping my yard angry mailman-free.

DSC_0002