Sheep Jumping Ship!

After purchasing the land we were delighted to see stretches of new fencing along the tracks; however once we started putting sheep in the fields it was like a leaking ship. Actually it was more like the Mary Rose at points with not just agile lambs, but lame ewes escaping.

It transpired that shortly before the sale the previous owner decided to start putting in some new fencing, but before they could finish the job the land sale went through so some fields wen’t livestock proof. The crafty ewes had not only found their way onto the main track, but got under a second fence into a second field, broke through a third fence back onto the same initial track but on the other side of the gate and then into a third field. Confused? Welcome to herding sheep.

We have a complex contract; in that we are in charge of maintaining the land, including fences. Trevor, who rents the land, hasn’t said anything, but he’s too nice. So I decided to go and try to fix the fence.

Previously I’ve only seen 2 or 3 ewes in the escaped fields, but as I arrived to fix the fence I was confronted by dozens of ewes! Crap.

After fixing the gap under the fencing with a couple of old wooden gates and rocks I began to herd the old girls back in through the gates. As I calmly guided them with a readable amount of directional pressure they all made their way nice and calmly into the field. Boom, job done. I closed the gate and felt quite elated. But I’d missed one. Bugger. Sheep have a herding instinct, when they get scared the mass together and follow a leader. So 100 sheep can be easier to move than 1.

The dumb ewe kept trying to get through a gap I’d boarded up, but one that was under shrubs so I just couldn’t get close to grab her. In the end she bolted into the 3rd field. As I approached I saw another ewe in there; no problem I can grab the two of them, job done. But once in the field I could see was a whole flock in there. That was it, towel thrown in, time for the experts on 4 legs. There’s no human match to a good working collie, so i called Trevor in with his dog Roy.

While pissed I missed the one ewe there was great self satisfaction in fixing the fence and moving the majority in a fairly calm chilled movement.

The fence fixes were only temporary, once I’ve got over a recent bug I’ll have to get down and do something more permanent. I’ll keep you posted.

The Dodgy Syringe and the Lamb

Back in early March we noticed 12 Herdwicks had escaped from the far fields (which used to be Low Nest land) into the Hogget field (ours). I did briefly attempt to herd them back into the field, but without a dog and a large expanse of area it’s just too hard. So had to leave them. I later heard that these escapees totally disappeared, no sight or sound has been spotted of them!

Sadly; they’d escaped through a gap in a bit of fence we have responsibility for. The whole stretch is knackered and needs replacing. I’m happy to do internal fencing, but we prefer to get any boundary fencing done by a professional, just because their fencing is generally stronger.

The local lads for the job are the Birkett brothers, but we hadn’t met them yet. A couple of days ago Johnny popped over to give a quote for the new fence.

We took his pickup down to the job and chatted as we went about the work he’d done on the land previously and about his families farm on the other side of the rigg in St Johns in the Vale. They’ve also got the contract to rebuild all the walls from the United Utility pipelne work.

On our way back up, and after I got in the van having just shut a gate Johnny was laughing and holding a very obviously agricultural syringe he said:

“Ha ha ha, just realised how odd it must look with all these syringes around.”

“Nah, that’s not bad. The dead lamb in your boot’s a bit odd mind!” I replied.

We laughed, but that is life at this time of year.

Plastic waste in the field?

As we walked through Big Mead field I noticed something shimmering on the grass. As we drew closer I started to question how a plastic bag, or something like that, could have found itself in the middle of the field? It got me a little bit angry. Then I saw it was a helium balloon, which could have been let off deliberately, and I got really mad. But then I read what was written on it. All over the now deflated balloon we messages of love and memoriam to a grandmother.

We grabbed the ballon and carried on walking to the old barn. As we sat and enjoyed the warming suns rays we got to discussing the balloon. Over the last couple of years there has been a shift in public mood around releasing balloons, primarily led by farmers who are concerned about livestock eating them. But livestock are famously picky eaters, no sheep went anywhere near this one. The case of them littering the countryside and polluting the oceans is much stronger. However, and maybe we’re too compassionate, for some people writing a message of love to a recently deceased family member and watching it saw into the heavens can be a release and comfort them when they really need it.

Sky lanterns are a whole different thing. Even the paper ones that won’t be digested by livestock are dangerous. We realised that if one of those was to land in the Bottoms field with it’s brittle dry reeds then we’d have a fairly large fire on our hands. When we were in the lifeboat we were constantly called out to people mistaking a sky lantern for a flare!

We really don’t want it to be a regular occurrence, but don’t feel too bad if somebody in your family wants to write on a balloon and release it. Just try and get one the biodegradable ones and lets not make it a common thing!

 

Start of Life At Low Nest Blog

We’ve decided to start a blog! We’ve tried to start one on numerous occasions, but wanted to wait for a momentous occasion, or the start of a week/month. We also didn’t know what to write about, but with both of us now working at Low Nest and with the management of the land we’re finding so many funny anecdotes we want to share with you all.

It might not be daily and we might forget to keep it up to date, but we hope to share anecdotes and stories of what life is like at Low Nest.

Cheers everybody.

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs

We’re hatching chicks! The chickens have been a major focal feature for Low Nest over the last 12 months. With plenty of space we decided to get a couple more chickens, but instead of just buying point of lay 14 week old chickens we fancied a challenge; hatching and raising our own chicks!

This post is just a bit of a guide for anybody looking to follow suite and raise their own chickens from fertilised eggs.

 

What equipment is required to Hatch Chicken Eggs?

 

Egg incubator
Fertilised poultry/fowl eggs

That’s it, you really don’t need much to get started. When they hatch and grow, then you need a lot more kit!

 

 

What is an egg incubator?

 

An incubator simulates the heat and humidity of a nesting hen. A broody hen will spend 21 days sitting and meticulously tending to it’s a cluster of eggs, not going out to eat or drink. The most basic set ups only maintain temperature and humidity. However spend a bit more and you can get incubators that will also turn the eggs. Turning the eggs, so they don’t grow un even in the egg is critical. A mothering hen will naturally turn all her eggs on a regular basis. If you have a basic incubator then you will have to turn the eggs 3 times a day (more on this below).

Some people do build their own. You can do this and you can buy some really cheap ones. However you pay for what you get. In the UK the most recommended brand is Brinsea, they’re not just market leaders but really the only choice.

The key things to look for is a thermometer and ideally a hygrometer as well as an egg turning function. However ours doesn’t turn the eggs as we like to do this, it just adds to the routine for us.

 

Where to buy Fertilised Chicken Eggs

 

Where do you buy fertilised chicken eggs? No, not the shops! Without going into biological details; a rooster has to be involved, and no egg farm has a rooster on site. The best thing you can do is ask a local farmer or chicken keeper. However; you can also buy online. The big risk of online ordering is damage caused during postage.

In the wild (or back garden), a Hen wouldn’t immediately sit on a cluster of eggs. Simply because it doesn’t produce 6 eggs at once. It will build up a collection over a couple of days. So it is quite natural for eggs to sit out in freezing cold temperatures for a couple of days, even weeks, before they are sat on to be hatched. When you get your eggs don’t rush to put them into the incubator. Let them rest at room temperature with the pointy end pointing downwards.

 

 

Step 1 – Set up and adding the eggs

 

Get your incubator set up 24 hours in advance. It will get up to temperature fairly quickly, however this time allows you to check it is at the right temperature. Different poultry and fowl require different temperature:

Chickens: 37.5 – 37.6C
Pheasant: 37.6 – 37.8C
Quail: 37.6 – 37.8C
Ducks: 37.4 – 37.6C

You’re looking to maintain a humidity of around 75%. This is done on most incubators with the addition of a water well. You can generally top the water up from the outside, so as to avoid too much interference.

Before adding the eggs, mark one side of them with an “X” and the other side with an “O”. Doing this allows you to track the rotations.

 

 

Step 2 – First 7 Days

 

If you’re having to manually rotate the eggs then do so a minimum of 3 times a day and always an odd number. Doing it an odd number of times avoids the risk of one side being left facing the same way two night in a row.

 

 

Step 3 – Day 8 to 18

 

After Day 7 or 8 you can start to “Candle” the egg. This basically means you put a light up to the base of the egg and allows you to check the development of the embryo. It’s also a very cool thing to do!

You can buy specific lights, I think some incubators even have them built in. However a torch and a toilet roll to hold the egg and direct light is just as good.

 

 

Step 4 – Day 19 to 21

 

It’s now time to leave the eggs alone for the final push, no more turning.

 

Step 5 – Hatched!

 

Yay, the eggs have started to hatch! Just remember that in the wild hatching has a 75% success rate. In an incubator it can very easily be zero. So if it doesn’t work this time then try again!

But if you eggs have hatched. The head and beak will poke through first. The chick might then take 8 to 12 hours to rest an acclimatise to the fresh new world. After that it will break itself free and dry off in the warmth of the incubator.

Don’t worry about moving it over to the Brooder immediately. A chick can survive a couple of days in an incubator. But once it’s active and moving for 12 to 24 hours, move it over to the Brooder.