Two Male Peregrine Falcons, a Juvenile and an Adult

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Just wanted to share some shots of two birds I worked with today. Above you can see a superb little male peregrine falcon, who is still young and sporting his rusty brown juvenile plumage.

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Compare him to this adult male peregrine, with his much different creamy beige and pale blue plumage. Stunning, isn’t he?

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Two undeniably gorgeous boys.

Rat’s Nest and Cooper’s Hawk

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Yesterday while I was working outside, my dog was also hard at work. We have a couple of rats that have dug some burrows near the chicken coop, and she has been diligently trying to excavate them. She was extra intense about her task yesterday and it wasn’t long before I heard the telltale squeaks of baby rats. I went over to see that she had uncovered a rat’s nest containing seven baby rats, about a week or two old.

She pulled them out one by one, dispatched them each with a quick bite, and continued her search for the adults. I am very pleased that there are now seven less potential rats living here and I hope mom and dad rat have been reminded yet again that this is not a safe place to set up house.

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The baby rats were tossed onto the compost pile, and the next morning I awoke to see what I think is a large female Cooper’s hawk perched on the edge of the bin. She is a young (passage) bird as you can tell by her juvenile plumage. This is the first time I’ve seen a hawk of any kind in my yard and I quickly grabbed my camera and got the best shots I could, which are unfortunately not very good. I’ve definitely been spoiled by being able to photograph raptors up close at the Raptor Centre. Anyway, at least I have some evidence of her visit!

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When I went outside a little bit later I noticed that all seven baby rats were gone from the pile and I assume she ate them. I’m glad she was able to get such a good meal here and I’m once again happy I do not use poison as rodent control.

If you’d like a more up-close shot of a passage female Cooper’s hawk, I just happen to have one here for you:

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Introducing: Champagne d’Argents

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We have a new breed here at Abernathy’s!

This lovely young pair of Champagne d’Argents were dropped off today by a very reputable breeder operating out of Victoria. I met her last summer at the Vancouver Island Exhibition, and have been waiting for a suitable pair to become available ever since.

There was a lot of interest in these bunnies so I was very lucky to snatch them up. The buck has even won a grand champion leg already, and of course they are fully papered and pedigreed.

The Champagne d’Argent is an old breed that originated in France almost 400 years ago. Along with the Creme d’Argent, they were initially bred for their fur, but are now bred mainly for meat. They have been called the “black angus” of rabbits and are purported to have a tenderness and flavor that is superior to other breeds, as well as an excellent grow out rate.

They are also great mothers, very calm and sweet rabbits and of course they are beautiful. They do very well on forage which is a big plus for me since I offer a lot of wild greens in the warmer months. This pair do not have names yet, but are already settled into their freshly scrubbed new cages and seem quite content.

I’m now at maximum capacity here and I’ll need to build some new cages soon. I may sell my Californians. They are excellent rabbits with very good personalities, but they were supposed to come with pedigrees and the breeder never provided them. There’s now no way for me to get their papers and unfortunately I only want to deal with fully papered rabbits at this point. We’ll see what happens.

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First Raised Bed Filled

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I took a couple of hours today in the sunshine to fill up the first raised bed I built. I need this bed filled before I can start on the other beds, because there are a few things that need transplanting when I clear the area, like my leeks.

The entire top half of this bed was filled with earth taken from my chicken pen floor. A little over a year ago my lovely boyfriend dug out the pen about a foot deep and we filled it in with wood chips. These did a really good job of keeping the mud down and providing the chickens a loose surface to scratch. It also mixed with the droppings and broke down over time into beautiful, rich black earth.

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It’s time to dig it out again and put in another load of wood chips, and luckily I had the bed ready to be filled. I probably transferred about 20 wheelbarrow loads out of there, and there’s easily another 20 to go which is good because I’ll have another two huge beds to fill soon.  The chickens were beside themselves with joy at the layer of worms and fresh earth I uncovered for them.

I loaded it right to the brim as it will settle with time. I also plan to top dress it with some finished fish compost that I have left over from last spring. I can’t wait to get planting!

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Peregrine Falcon on the Glove

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I wanted to share some shots of one of our female peregrine falcons being manned while hooded. The hood works because in most birds, their instinct when it gets dark is to become quiet and still. This is also where the term “hoodwinked” comes from. This little girl is so serious, she’ll sometimes try to fly while hooded! Not good.

She may be naughty sometimes but she sure is pretty.

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First Big Chicken Hatch – Day 1

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Last year I incubated a dozen blue-green eggs I bought from the poultry swap. I had to turn them manually because my turner couldn’t accommodate both quail and chicken egg sized racks at the same time (boo!). Only three hatched, two were roos, and I was left with a single Ameraucana hen who is now the White Chicken.

This time we are doing things properly and using the egg turner. Somehow, I have coordinated three types of fertile eggs for this hatch, and we have a completely full tray of 42 eggs.

First I have black Old English Game bantams which are the small white eggs. There are ten of these and they were from the same person who I got Tiny Chicken from. They were free, but there will be trades happening in return for them later on. Considering the size of the birds these eggs came from, they’re pretty big! We all know how much I love Tiny Chicken and I wouldn’t mind a couple more like her. She is small enough to be allowed to free range without damaging plants,  and she has an awesome personality.

Then we have the light brown eggs, which are from a mixed flock of Cochin and Light Brahma that I met at the farm I was getting my new Standard Rex breeders from. They were $10 per dozen and I’m only setting 20 of them because of space constraints. They are a beautiful mix of colors and should be interesting birds. Cochins are the large breed from China that spurred “Hen Fever”, the chicken fad that swept across America and Britain in the 1850’s, inspired by Queen Victoria’s own aviaries.

The gorgeous dark brown eggs in the middle are Welsummer or Welsumer eggs. They were purchased from a nearby breeder and cost $30 per dozen. Yes I know. The eggs are rather small and from young birds, so that may be an issue. When I was picking them up the seller also mentioned that her birds are quite small, and I’m not sure if that’s standard for the breed. The Welsummers that I had last year seemed around the same size as my other large fowl, so we’ll see how it turns out. I do like those dark brown eggs!

Of course, there’s no way I can keep all these chickens. My plan is to sell or trade off almost all of them and only keep a few of the nicest hens to refresh my stock. The Welsummers can be sexed by color and I’m hoping to successfully feather sex the Cochins at hatch. The females should have longer wing and tail feathers than the males. This may work with the bantams too, I’m not sure. I’m also not sure what I’ll do with all the males. I’ll have to keep some for at least a little while to know if my feather-sexing technique has worked. Nobody will want to buy them, that’s for sure. And if they start to crow, they have to go.

I did try to find more Ameraucana hatching eggs, but the only person who responded to my ad was selling them for $40 per dozen. For that, I can buy a pair of ready to lay Ameraucana pullets at the poultry swap. No thanks.