Wednesday, February 13, 2013

News from the orchard

So it would seem that our duck and chook have been sitting in vain. When the 3 week point came (the time when chooky eggs are supposed to hatch), we waited eagerly for any sign that the eggs were hatching. Nothing. After a few days I started to worry. A week after the 'due' date, I'd pretty much given up, and was starting to feel bad for the chook, who was looking a bit worse for wear - she is one determined sitter! 
4 weeks sitting on a nest will do that to a bird...
The duck was a little less determined, and there were several times we thought she'd given up on her nest of eggs, taking extended swims in the dam and generally hanging out with her duck and chook pals. The chook, on the other hand, barely left her nest, even for food. She just sat there, fluffed out over her clutch of eggs, looking wearier and more pallid with each day that passed.
Then one day we arrived home and noticed that the chook had kicked one of her eggs out. When I cracked it, it was rotten, with no sign of an embryo having ever been present. I decided to crack another, with the same outcome. Next day, I got the chook out of her nest. She'd been sitting on 10 eggs, as I'd guessed, and none of them were (nor had they ever been) fertile. Weird given the extremely high rooster to chook ratio we've got going on. Poor chook. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. All that dedication! Still, she wasn't too attached once I kicked her out, and soon joined in a scratching frenzy with her chooky pals. She seemed kind of relieved, though I may be projecting.

Next day, when the sitting duck was out and about, I inspected her nest too. Seems she'd been laying, while she was sitting, and her nest of eggs had gone from 2 to 5. But when I looked closely, they were all a yukky blue-grey colour: rotten.
She, too, seemed kind of relieved when I locked her back up in the orchard so she  couldn't get back to her nest and was very quick (like, 2 minutes) to get back into the swing of the extended chicken/duck flock.
A couple of our roosters. The one on the left is called John Howard, on account of his evil nature, cranky face, and bushy eyebrows. The one on the right is Errol Flynn.
And then I buried the eggs. It was all a bit of a disappointing climax, though I was happy to see the girls back out and about. 
So we have no babies of the avian variety in the orchard, but we do have some young guinea pigs running around the place which is... well... extremely cute.
The guinea pig in orchard came about a couple of years ago when I was reading an article by Jill Redwood. Now, I only know Jill through what I've read by/about her in magazines, but crikeys she strikes me as a totally amazing and inspiring woman. The kind of lady I want to be when I grow up. Anyways. Jill advocates having guinea pigs in the orchard for a couple of reasons. 1: they keep the grass down. Recent studies done by the owner of our local nursery (extremely lovely chap who helped us select our orchard trees so we'd have fruiting and cross pollination all year round) suggest that guinea pigs keep down about a square metre of grass per guinea pig per day. Handy! 2: guinea pigs, being small, scurrying rodents, attract birds of prey. In our case, that would be wedge-tailed eagles. While the wedgies are hanging around, so the story goes, you'll get less parrot action. Ergo, less fruit gets chomped on your tree. Hey: if it's good enough for Jill, it's good enough for me. And like I say - they're bloody cute, and not at all obtrusive and they do eat the grass down.
I was only a little bit miffed that they snubbed the very swish Frida Kahlo-inspired guinea pig house that Oski and I lovingly constructed for them, in favour of some burrows they made in the mulch around the apple tree. No worries.

Apple tree mulch burrows: Apparently far more attractive to guinea pigs than flash, Frida-coloured houses

Oski jumps at any opportunity to operate a power tool. Takes after me...

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