Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Duck ponds

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

With the building of a duck house, there had to be a duck pond to go with it. or, as it happened, two duck ponds.

In addition to being ponds for ducks, these ponds also form part of the general water-retention strategy for the quinta. The aim is to slow the passage of water through this steep land and spread it as far as possible from the stream, allowing it to infiltrate and hydrate the soils. This promotes the growth of the vegetation which is so essential in improving the soils here. Vegetation decomposes to provide soil carbon. Without soil carbon, these thin soils haven’t a hope of holding onto moisture (or much of their biota) through the hot dry summer months. Irrigation becomes necessary. But build up soil carbon levels enough and eventually irrigation needs are minimal, even zero. So in order to make irrigation unnecessary, it’s initially necessary (at least if any kind of speed is required).

Back to the duck ponds. Or maybe duck puddles would be more accurate. They’re barely large enough to be worthy of the word pond, though they’re more than adequate to keep a couple of ducks happy.

Inlet for the second duck pond

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Poultry rethink and a duck house

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

As those who’ve followed us on Facebook for a while will know, our 4 hens were massacred in July 2014 by ‘free range’ local dogs. Although the hens were kept in a secure compound which not even the foxes had managed to get into, these dogs succeeded in opening the fastening on the gate, broke it down and got in. I found the bodies of two of the hens. The other two were taken. They were only 2½ years old and at the peak of their laying. It was a sad loss.

Quinta hens

It was all the more upsetting considering the effort put into building a really secure compound for them. I’d catered for large ‘free range’ dogs in building the compound, but not ones with door-opening skills. This forced a major rethink on how I was to keep and protect poultry going forward. It came back again to the initial conundrum I’d faced.

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Crook chooks

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

It suddenly turned into summer a week ago and with it came summer’s heat. After a day’s work in the garden, I was concerned to find the largest of our four hens, a Cochin-Pescoço pelado crossbreed, down on her haunches and unable to support her own weight. Thinking it was likely the effects of the sudden heat, I made sure she took a good drink of water and put her to bed.

Collapsed hen

Collapsed hen

This particular bird had also produced similar, though less severe symptoms during the coldest winter mornings. Letting her out of the coop in the mornings, there were several occasions when she was unable to walk properly, though in all cases she recovered within 15 minutes or so, so I was anticipating a similar recovery this time.

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Easter egg

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The first of the chickens laid her first egg today!

Our first egg

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Chicken compound

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Chicken suite complete.

Chicken compound

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Geodesic dome chicken tractor

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The next stage in the construction of our suite of deluxe chicken accommodation is to provide them with some outdoor space. The chickens have arrived, but they’re not ready yet for free-ranging as it will take them a little while to get imprinted on coop = ‘home’.

Hens

Our hens! The two in the background are crossbreeds between Cochins and the local Portuguese pescoço pelado or bare-necked hens. The two in the foreground are Green legs.

While they’re getting to know their coop, we’ve made a start on both a permanent pen surrounding the coop and on ‘tractor’ accommodation for putting them to work round the quinta.

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Chicken quarters

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

It’s been the plan from day one to keep chickens, though it’s taken rather more days than that to get around to it. Keeping chickens is one thing. Exactly how to keep them is another. Free range? Tractor? Permanent pen? All have their fans among the chicken-keeping world and all for persuasive reasons. I thought I had it sorted in my head many times, but then I’d come across an advocate of another method or someone’s bad experience with the method I’d decided on and it would send me off back to the drawing board again.

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