Sunday, March 29, 2009

'Fox' attack may have been a Tasmanian Devil

The 'fox' attack our hens suffered last Wednesday and Thursday nights may not have been a fox at all but a Tasmanian Devil which escaped from a local fauna park.
It was a male and was apparently on the loose for two weeks before it was run over and killed on the Bass Highway.
Altogether at least 26 of our hens were killed and the electranet fencing on the 'chosen' paddock was chewed in a few places.
It's not just the loss of the hens which has caused a problem, the others in the flock are traumatised and our overall production has dropped by almost 50 dozen eggs a week. Imagine the devastation if more of these escape and start breeding!!!! The link to the article is

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Demand for real free range eggs is still strong

I had a call yesterday from a bloke who said he owned a few restaurants in Melbourne and he wanted to source genuine free range eggs. I told him that our total weekly production was only about 400 - 450 dozen and his response was 'I only want 400 dozen each week'. It took 15 minutes or so to convince him that we couldn't possibly fill his order whilst meeting our regular committments.

His suggesstion was was that we should expand. My suggestion was ###########

We are always happy to accept new orders - but as a business philosophy we don't subscribe to the GOD 'growth' - and we won't expand our production to meet demand

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fox attack

We've just had our worst fox attack for ages. At least 10 and probably as many as 15 hens were killed by foxes last night- all in one paddock.
Their flock protector, a Maremma dog named Monte came charging out of the paddock at around 10.30 last night - obviously in pursuit of the nasty little critters but he left the rest of the flock to the ****** foxes.
I've now re-arranged the electric fences and we will give Monte some support with another Maremma in his paddock as it seems to be the most prone to predators. We have not had an attack like this since we've had our eight Maremmas - and we don't want another night like it.
It wouldn't be so bad if the foxes just killed what they needed to eat but we had headless bodies strewn around the paddock with feathers everywhere.
I don't think I'm alone in saying that I hate foxes!

Good dog Monte

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why hens stop laying

One question that we are frequently asked at Farmers' Markets by small-scale chicken owners is "Why have my hens stopped laying?"
The most common causes of decreased egg production include: lack of enough daylight, improper nutrition, disease, increasing age and stress.
Decreasing day light
Hens need around 14 hours of daylight to sustain top egg production. During winter, once daylight drops below 12 hours, production can decrease and may stop altogether – depending on location. To prevent this, some farms install lights in sheds to maintain light for 12 - 14 hours a day and trick the birds into thinking its still daytime (so they keep eating). That's not a farming practice that we think is appropriate.
Improper nutrition
Laying hens require a completely balanced ration to sustain maximum egg production. Improper nutrition can easily affect the lay rate.
This is why it's so important to give laying hens a constant supply of nutritionally balanced food containing 17% - 19% protein with good levels of energy and calcium. Avoid feeding many scraps as these can create a dietary imbalance - they dilute the essential ingredients if they form a significant part of the hens' diet.
An unbalanced diet can cause problems like prolapse. Prolapse is caused when the bird is too fat or an egg is too large and the bird's reproductive tract is expelled with the egg. Prolapse is often fatal.
Having oyster shell or another source of calcium always available is also a good idea to ensure strong egg shells. It can either be mixed in with the feed or made available to the hens in separate feeders.
A common problem is not ensuring there is a constant source of fresh water. Provide adequate watering points so the birds always have fresh water and make sure it's cool on hot days.
Disease problems can occur under the best of conditions and there are many diseases which affect laying birds. Only buy hens which are fully vaccinated against the common diseases likely in your area. Things like Egg Drop Syndrome and Infectious Bronchitis can hit your flock hard. Often one of the first signs of disease is a drop in egg production. Other symptoms of disease include dull and listless appearance, watery eyes and nostrils, coughing, molting, lameness and mortality in the flock. If you suspect a disease, contact a vet for help and get an accurate diagnosis before starting treatment.
Old Hens
Most hens lay efficiently for two laying cycles. However, after two or three years, there is likely to be a decline in productivity. This varies greatly from bird to bird. Once they start, good layers will keep laying for about 60 weeks in their first cycle and then perhaps 50 weeks in the second cycle. Between those cycles they will moult for a few weeks. As they get older the hens will moult more often and the shell quality will suffer – resulting in more breakages and wrinkled shells.
The birds don't like any change, so stresses caused by things like being moved, handled roughly, changes in environmental conditions or fright can contribute to a decline in egg production. Common stresses include:
Getting too hot, or too cold. Chickens can't handle high temperatures (over 40 degrees centigrade) or damp, cold and drafty conditions.
Handling or moving. Once the laying flock is in place, limit any unnecessary moving or handling. Introducing new birds may disrupt the pecking order and cause some temporary social stress in your flock as well as possibly introducing disease.
Parasites. Make sure you have adequate controls in place for external or internal parasites there are natural things you can use if you don't want to use chemicals.
Limit the movement of children, strange dogs, livestock and vehicles around your flock as well as loud noises which can frighten the hens.
Predators such as foxes and eagles stress the birds and create a decrease in production.
Other factors which may cause a drop in your egg numbers are:
Predators and snakes consuming the eggs.
Egg-eating by hens in the flock.
Insufficient nest boxes can cause excessive egg breakage.
Hens hiding the eggs.

There's heaps more info in my ebook which can be found at

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Rain today - hopefully this is the Autumn break

Yesterday and today have been great. Officialdom was predicting extreme fire danger but although we've had some strong winds, there have been low temperatures and RAIN .
It hasn't been a lot, but we have recorded 10mm and 15mm in the two guages on our property which is more than we've had for ages.
Hopefully the fire season is now over and we can get back to some semblance of 'normality' - whatever that is!
But we won't be putting the firefighting pumps away just yet.
I have been drafting our submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria's wildfires and I'll send it in as soon as I can find an address for the Commission!!!!