Newsletter report from Sam Bailey
A bit about me
Hi my name is Sam Bailey I joined the company in November 2014 and I am the Verification Officer. I came from a background in the MOD environment which was challenging to say the least and have found Reaction Group a welcome and needed change in my career. I have been asked to write something about myself so have decided to write about my home life and animals I have.
My Home life and animals!
I live with my partner, Sophie and our two border collies in a 3 bed house in the middle of the Dorset countryside around 5 miles outside Dorchester which is lovely in the summer months but occasionally in the winter months it gets rather cold especially as it is an old farmhands house, good job we have an open fire, and lots of coal and wood in the outhouse to keep us going.
We also have around 50 chickens which are mostly all different in colour some of which we bred ourselves from fertile eggs. The first year we got chickens we decided that looking after a dozen was too easy so decided to go and buy some chicks, we bought four in total and reared them up to adulthood, we had two silky bantams, one female one male, and then had two small grey bantams both of which were females, the second year of having chickens we decided to go back a stage and as the male silky bantam was fertilizing the eggs decided that we would borrow an incubator off one of our neighbors and incubate our own eggs, we put 50 eggs into the incubator and waited. The gestation period of a chicken egg is only 21 days and after 7 days you can tell whether they are starting to grow and are fertile or not, you can only do this by what’s called ‘candling’, for this I needed a ‘candling’ box so decided I would make one. We found that 42 out of the 50 eggs were fertile and had started to develop, the non- fertile eggs were discarded. Then it was a waiting game until around day 21…….
Day 21, finally we had got to the three-week period and we were eagerly awaiting them hatching however it wasn’t until day 22 that things started to happen which was about typical as it was a Sunday evening, I think we must have just sat there watching for around 2 hours as they started to ‘pip’ which means they started to break the shell, one by one they emerged and we went to bed with them still slowly emerging. The next morning the incubator (still on to keep them warm) was full of little bundles of fluff, the next move was to put them in a brooder that I had already made for them to move into and bought a special heat lamp, overall we had 29 chicks which was quite an achievement from 50 eggs.
‘Chickens R us!’
The next step was to feed them up and keep them warm at least for the first few months, so they were fed chick crumb to start with then when managing to drink and eat a little better moved onto a mixture of chick crumb and grower’s pellets, then when big enough moved them onto just grower’s pellets, by this time they were getting a little big for the brooder I had made so, Sophie and I decided to make a couple of triangle runs for them. We made two runs and split them into two groups, we still didn’t know at this point whether they were boys or girls. After around 4 months we started to feed them a mixture of growers pellets, mixed corn and layers pellets this encouraged them to grow still and get used to the food they would ultimately be fed.
It is a sad fact that in breeding chickens the male chicks are not wanted and do not even sell for £1 which yes we did try, we even tried giving them away to an auction but they were not interested. So… we have a farmer as a neighbor and asked if he could do the deed of showing us how to dispose of them humanely, which he did, overall there were 13 male chicks which meant we were down to 16 female chicks out of a total of 50 eggs in the first place. We did however keep one of our male chicks as he had very interesting markings, we also gave him a name, Geoffrey, see the pic.
So all in all the breeding was a success and they have grown into good chickens, all the females and Geoffrey are still alive and doing well. It was now the second winter and the chickens had gone off laying again (SO FRUSTRATING WHEN YOU FEED THEM AND THEY DON’T LAY) so we eagerly awaited the next summer, this summer. In June of this year I had been watching some of the chickens in with our black silky bantam cockerel and noticed they had got broody, in other words they were sitting on eggs so I left them to it, and hey presto after around three weeks we ended up with two little chicks from them, we took them up to the house and checked them over and they were fine so we put them back down the bottom of the garden with the mum, we then noticed that one of the eggs in with her had already been ‘pipped’ so took the egg out and checked it, we found that for some reason the chick inside was struggling to come out. We decided to give it a helping hand and very slowly broke pieces of the shell away to give it some extra space so that hopefully it would hatch itself, this wasn’t the case and we ended up helping it out very slowly completely out, for some reason that we still don’t know the egg was filled with what can only be described as little maggots so we cleaned the chick off and warmed it up under the heat lamp, this was a little black chick, it was very weak and was struggling to get to its feet.
After a week or so the small black chick had managed to get to its feet and was chirping away and eating so we thought that would be it and it would be fine. However, nature does things for a reason as we only found out when unfortunately, one of the chicks down the bottom fell into the water bowl and drowned. Also when the little black chick had got big enough we let it out with the other chickens and thought that would be fine, another reason nature does things for a reason is called natural selection ‘survival of the fittest’ this was only too true with this one as its legs decided once fully grown to splay which means it can’t walk properly so once again it was kinder to dispose of it which was gutting after all the effort we had put in to keep it alive and well. The one surviving chick did really well and is now out in the enclosure with the rest of the chickens.
During this last summer we also found another chicken sitting on eggs so left her to it as she was underneath one of the chicken houses, she was very protective from the start so couldn’t get underneath her to see how many eggs were under her. It came to August and they hatched so it was a case of lift up the chicken house and grab the chicks, there were 11 chicks in total so we started over again although this time kept them with their mum in one of the triangle runs we made with a shallow water bowl, these chicks are all still alive and kicking and are growing big already, we are unsure of how many are males but we are hopeful for at least 6 females. Soon after this we also found another 5 chicks so they are now in the other triangle run and also doing well.
So…that is the story of our chickens so far, I won’t go into the story of our ducks this time but I hope you are all well and enjoyed hearing about part of my life!