Monday, March 28, 2011

Building Hutches and Coops + Egg Candling

Chicken Man got a lot of work done on the new rabbit hutch over the last weekend.

We're going to have to separate the little bunnies soon, plus at some point there will be kits (baby rabbits), so its fantastic that the structure can hold four cages. Covering the entire surface of the cages in 1/2 inch hardware cloth is an essential part of the project to prevent rats from chewing away the plywood. The wood is being recycled from old pallets.

Rabbit hutch in the morning, a little brunch of sourdough and coffee, then we went to visit some friends and help out building a chicken coop. Or rather, Chicken Man helped build it, and I pulled a few nails out of old boards and then spent time at the Boone St. garden. Stay tuned for a post about Week #2 at the garden!

Here's the foundation of the coop:

And there's more backyard livestock breaking news: we have recently acquired six fertilized duck eggs. That's right.

This was Chicken-Man's idea, of course. One of the Orpingtons (the big white birds in the photo below)has gotten what's called "broody." Which means she won't leave the nest, she just keeps sitting on the laid eggs trying to hatch them.

The eggs will never hatch of course, since we don't have a rooster and they aren't fertilized. When this happened with another chicken, we segregated her in a small cage until she calmed down, which took about a week.

Of course, we don't have an extra cage anymore since we got the little rabbits. I'm sure we could have sequestered the Orpington anyway, but Chicken-Man decided to make use of the situation and get fertilized eggs for her to hatch. More poultry, why not!

Luckily we have about three weeks until the eggs hatch, and then they can stay in a little area of the chicken coop for a while when they are still tiny. This is going to be so adorable, but we're definitely going to have to expand the coop space!

Sunday evening we had a fun science lesson with the eggs.

A new friend of ours works at the Baltimore Zoo with the exotic birds, and she got very excited about the fertilized duck eggs. She showed us how to tell if the fertilized eggs are healthy or no longer viable by shining a dulled flashlight onto the eggs. This is called "candling."

Her hand is held in front of the flashlight bean to dull it, then she shines it on the egg and looks for a few clues.

The main clues she was looking for were that the egg was warm to the touch, and a horizontal line somewhere around the tip of the egg which indicated the small sac of air that is held there.

Turns out only one of the eggs was no longer viable, and two eggs may be slighter younger than the others, but in about a month we may have six baby ducklings!

In sadder Baltimore backyard livestock hobbyist news, Sunday night Cheryl and I saw a pigeon coop being taken away by the city.

Image taken from this link to Current's footage of Baltimore pigeon racing (the video wouldn't load for me but maybe it will for you?):

I wish I took some photos before the coop was taken. Pigeon keeping is such a uniquely urban hobby, and I was excited to have the as a neighbor to the Boone St. garden.

As I learned a few weeks ago by visiting the coop's owner, pigeons are mainly kept for flying. The tipplers fly extremely high, rollers perform somersaults in the air, and the better-know racing homer are released and timed on their homeward flight. They are specially bred pigeons, not captured from from the street (which I had always wondered about.)

I hope to be able to do something to remedy the problem, and have to do more investigation about why the coop was taken away and what the best avenue would be for replacing it.

Not sure what the city was going to do with the pigeons they hauled away with the coop.

If you have any experience/advice for working with the city on this, I'm happy to hear from you!

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