Monday, October 26, 2009

Itty bitty kitties

As of a few days ago, we have four little foster kittens - Gibbs, Ziva, Abby and Duckie. They are quite possibly the most adorable kittens to ever exist. While we don't have an exact age on them, I'm guessing they're probably around 5 weeks. They'll stay here for a few weeks until they're old enough to go to their forever homes after they're microchipped, vaxed and spayed or neutered to ensure they don't continue the cycle of overpopulation. While they're lucky and were saved from their initial fate of being put to sleep, many kittens just like them are not so lucky and end their brief lives after the pounds and shelters have to euthanize them every 'kitten season'.

Gibbs is the most outgoing, the one into everything and a bit of a talker. He's happy for a cuddle but too interested in exploring everything to stay still for long. He's the first one our resident kitty Jasper has decided is fun to play with.

Ziva like Gibbs is a very adventurous little one. She's a champion climber and out wrestles her brothers frequently and even plays spitfire to the dogs, hissing and arching her back while they fail to notice her. LOL

Abby is a sweetie, quite cuddly but she also loves to explore all the nooks and crannies. She is an absolute sweetie and one of La's favorites to nab for pats.

And then there's Duckie... last but certainly not least, just the hardest to get a good photo of as he is lap fungus... LOL He's blissed out and purring here, straight in the middle of my lap as I'm trying to take photos and hold Lily.

Having them here as well as being privy to another rescue a few days before theirs has been such a blessing, it's lovely to remember that amid all of the sad occurrences, sometimes things go right despite the odds and there are happy endings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My little orange girl

From the time Laurent was little he has been the "green child", which started out when he was a baby and would kick off any pair of socks you put on him regardless of brand or fabric, unless they were green. He also would swipe at green objects as we carried him around in a store. The colour suits him well and has stuck as a firm and fast favorite.

When I was pregnant with Lily I had a feeling she was going to be an orange girl. Sure enough it seemed to fit her well. She does look good in reds, some greens, blues and chocolates but orange suits her best. A bit odd as orange was never a favorite colour of mine previous - it's flamboyant, bouncy, zesty, somewhat riotous colour and I'm not any of those things. I'm finding myself a convert though!

Little Miss 6.5 Months

Of course once the camera comes out, everyone wants in on the action...

including not-so-little Bunny Lala's

and our self-appointed nanny. For such a wiggly, hyper bowling ball of a dog Sierra is remarkably gentle with my little people. She flops down near Lily to be on her level and allows patting that comes with clumsy baby grasping and exuberant arm waving with gentle forbearing.

I also was able to upload a couple of videos shot on my mobile phone...
the first is of Lilypillie growling... that's right, my darling 4 year old has taught the baby to growl like a dog. (Although I call it a tiger as she's my Tigerlily and she'll growl back at me anytime I call her that now. LOL) I took this at a cafe we were at for La's birthday.

The second is of Laurent attempting to pronounce his name... poor kid can't pronounce it to save his life which cracks us up nonstop and he's happy to ham it up!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pics from yesterday - Lily, Hopie, Matilda and lambs

My Lilypillie at 6 months...

Cheeky baby!

Hopie leaning in on the action for a cuddle with Lily

Lilypillie and Dada

Little miss chatterbox

Hope and Si

One of those cute little oops shots! I caught her winking. LOL

Please note the NAUGHTY muzzie where she shouldn't be... Honey has taught Matilda her wicked ways! LOL

Twins Stella and Luna (above and below)

The lamb races! (This is what happens if you shake the food bucket!)

EL ewe and her EL/Corrie ram lamb (for sale)

Astra and either Luna or Stella... it can be hard to tell anymore!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Parenting Fail - Lily's first solid food

That's right... my beautiful "we're delaying solids" 6 month old, the child we avoid chemicals, artificial colouring, scents, preservatives with. The one whose parents try to stick with organic local or homegrown and healthy foods...

just HAD to swipe a piece of her brothers birthday cake for her very first solid food!!!!!

I was holding her and my piece when she nabbed it and quickly mashed it into her face with loud lip smacking enthusiasm! I'm consoling myself it'll be a good story to embarrass her with later in life.

La's Fourth Birthday Party

For his fourth birthday party La had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted: he wanted "kids and people to enjoy themselves", he wanted a brachiosarus cake, he wanted balloons with dinosaurs on them and he wanted bubbles. We'd also planned to get him a trampoline and a bike as well. (Pics of the bike if it ever stops raining...) The trampoline was definitely a good choice for wearing off some of La's ever abundant energy!!!

He had Nic's cousin Nina out, Jayne, Liam, Sienna, Roanna, Dan, Darcy, Spencer and Evie out. It's a good thing we'd ended up having a relatively small party as I managed to throw my back out the day before and hadn't been able to get enough stuff done so all my plans had to be quickly readjusted for a pizza and ice cream party! After emergency trip to the chiro the morning as it happens my chiro, who is also a photographer needed a location for her camera club to shoot their 'spring' theme and remembered we'd had chicks and had lambs, so she wondered if we would mind them coming out just before the party for a shoot. Hey why not... so La had some extra people to run around with. :)

La had originally requested a brachiosarus cut out cake but Nic untinned the cakes while they were still warm and cracked one of them, I had to do some on the spot adjustments to the plan. (NB This is why chefs should stick to cooking! I did tell him to leave it be... hrmph! LOL) After a last minute dash to procure plastic dinosaurs and much mental groaning over using plastic decorations and M&Ms (Cake Wrecks anyone?) on a cake he told me when the colouring was 'just right and perfect' and and pronounced it a "powerful strong awesome dinosaur cake" so I dealt. ;-)

A few pics from the whacking of the pinata... that is a 'dinosaur food tree' by the way. Or so I am told by my son. *G*

He didn't quite get the concept of pinata though and when it burst grabbed about four lollies and sat down munching them contentedly while everyone else continued looking for more.

And one of Nic and Lilypillie, whose decidedly unimpressed look is demonstrating why I'm shockingly light on birthday photographs - she is in the "I want to be in MUM'S ARMS" stage atm! My camera is way too heavy to shoot one handed and not come out blurry!

He made off very well, besides the trampoline and bike he also scored a heap of stuff he's loving including a slinky, stickerbook, bubbles, a gardening set (which in his mind is a 'gemstone digging kit' - too much discovery channel here methinks!), more bubbles, a dino quilt and wall sticker set, more bubbles and an 'dino dig' kit that lets kids excavate their own 'fossil' dino from a block of clay-dirt stuff.

Last one for the moment, the green child doing what he does best - blowing bubbles, running and making noise!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Birthday chickie-babies...

as Laurent likes to call them! Our first batch of chicks run through the hexabator incubator have arrived. They were quite obliging and hatched the evening before and day of his birthday party which he was quite excited about as well!

Of the 12 Australorp eggs that were set and one Wyandotte egg 3 Australorp eggs candled clear at 8 days. The shells all showed a heavy amount of light spots, which is the likely reason and the hens may need some more calcium grit or have been laying heavily? (These were purchased eggs so I've no way of knowing.) When checked these eggs showed no development whatsoever so the embryos never started maturing or they were infertile to begin with.

Of the remaining eggs, at 17 days one of the Australorp eggs cracked while I was rotating them courtesy of tornado child hugging my legs at an inopportune time making me drop it! Usually you'd discard a cracked egg as a matter of course as it's a virtual death certificate and will go rotten in very short order. Exploding rotten eggs in an incubator are a bad thing! However every time I checked this egg, the chick was still bopping about in there so I kept leaving it 'one more day'. When it hit 21 days, we were rewarded with a bunch of peeping and looked in to discover one had hatched and one was on it's way...

All 9 Australorps and 1 Wyandotte from that setting hatched successfully... including the cracked egg! One of them was even kind enough to hatch in my hand during La's party.
Here's La with his "chickie-babies"...

Most of these little guys are for sale, so if anyone near me is looking for some Australorps, chicks are $5 ea unsexed atm.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


When we first moved in, it didn't take very long at all before we'd added a 'few chooks, just for eggs' to our family. It didn't take long to discover what amazing and social creatures they are, each with their unique personality and my 'few chooks' quickly discovered the importance of heritage breeds in poultry, many of which are now endangered and many genetically valuable lines have died out as most people get their eggs from the grocery or else keep commercial hybrid layers like the IsaBrowns. It was love at first sight when I saw standard partridge coloured Wyandottes. It took me some months and several hours drive to track them down but they're strikingly beautiful, friendly, docile and good layers and mothers. It wasn't long after that we ventured into ducks with the beautiful Aylesbury and Brown Chinese and Embden geese.

Many people don't consider the benefits of keeping a few chickens in their backyard - something that is legal even in many suburban areas. Chickens actually make excellent pets as well as being useful - they produce lots of fresh, tasty and healthy free range eggs. They also clean up virtually any kitchen scraps minimizing waste, scratch in the backyard and provide 'fertilizer' and compost (used bedding) as well. The eggshells can be dried and crushed and put back into the garden or given to the birds for calcium. Having your own layers will help reduce your carbon footprint as all that money isn't spent in producing and managing a large scale chicken farm or transporting the eggs from farm to factory to stores.

In addition, most eggs are produced in a manner that most people would find highly objectionable. Heidi of Operation Gloria, covers some of the conditions of battery cage hens with her rescued girls. Commercial hens are burnt out after a season of laying and disposed of rather than the expense of reconditioning them being paid when they will not be able to lay the same maximum number of eggs for minimum amount of cost input as they do their first year.

However even the supposed 'free range' eggs are not terribly humane in most cases as the requirements for being able to be labeled free range are nothing like the idyllic farm most people imagine when they picture it. In Australia, other than the Qld's basic protection laws there is no legal definition of what free range is. Some companies adhere to the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia or RSPCA's standards, where the requirements are no more than 7 birds per square meter and no more than 1000 birds per shed or per FREPAA 10 birds per sq metre up to 1000. The 'pasture' these birds have access to is to be shared by the whole lot of birds in the shed. While it is required to have shade, shelter and palatable vegetation, the maximum range density is 750 birds per hectare at 25 DSE [300/acre at 10 DSE].

THIS is a free range system that is being introduced into the EU. This has been rejected in NSW as being 'too liberal' in space. Compare that to the average backyard chicken who is free to engage in the full range of behaviours natural to a healthy chicken and in many cases is only locked up in a shed at night to protect them from foxes. (Who are a real danger even in inner suburban backyards.)

Here are some of my eggs from today... the rear ones are duck eggs, the middle pale brown ones are 1-2 year old Wyandotte eggs and the dark one on the right is from Tiger, a 3 year old little silkieX who is one of my best mums. These eggs are fertile (well, we hope!) and going to be set in the incubator to produce chicks and ducklings.

I began breeding and planned to set up a larger shedding and pens (you can see one a few posts back) for my birds and got an incubator to hatch out more chicks than the mother birds can do by themselves. My incubator is a fairly small, fairly basic one which will take 60 hen eggs at a time. The eggs are set in a batch every week, after which they must be turned several times a day to prevent the embryos from being able to turn. Just like a human baby must turn in the mothers womb to get out, chickens must turn around in the shell in order to pip, tie off their 'umbilical' cord and hatch.

Here are some of the current eggs in the incubator. Below the grate is a little well filled with water to provide the correct humidity for the eggs. The shells are porous and breathe, allowing the exchange of oxygen and water in the form of humidity. The embryos must loose a particular percentage of their weight from day 1 by the end of hatch, which is determined by the humidity and porosity of the eggs. The wrong amount will hinder the embryos from being able to pip and hatch correctly. EG The air cell size is affected, too small an air cell can prevent the chick from being able to inflate it's lungs once it's punctured into the air cell.

The lines you'll notice on them are pencil marks to tell me which side to turn them to. They go from line up to line down and around again. When I collect the eggs from the nests I write the date of collection on the rear (fertility declines in eggs older than 7 days) and on the side where the lines are I write the date they were set. About 8 days into the setting, the eggs are candled - which means they're held up against a bright torch (flashlight) to see if there is any development or if it's clear. At 8 days you can see a little embryo developing and a bit older than that you can see the embryo move around. Clear eggs are removed as they can go bad and explode in the incubator... NOT very nice!

Here is the whole incubator with the lid set back on. The temperature is a bit low here as it's just been set back on after turning the eggs which temporarily lowers the temperature. The eggs require a temperature of 37.7C and 21 days, longer with ducks.

And speaking of ducks, this is our most recent addition - Honey aka Dini (as in Houdini), a little bronze and white muscovy duck who found her way to rescue and then to me. She is a cheeky little thing and an escape artist!