Incubators, Ottoman History, and the ethics of chicken rearing

incubator setupA few weeks ago I got a royalty check from a book published last year The Renaissance and the Ottoman World, ed. Anna Contadini and Claire Norton. This is a rare occurrence – I normally don’t get royalties for the work I publish, or at least not this quickly. I think sales were helped by Brian Sewell, just before Christmas, listing the book in his essential art books of 2013 in the Evening Standard.

eggsAnyway, I decided to make good use of the money and buy a brand new incubator. The second-hand one we bought is erratic in terms of temperature and humidity. Unfortunately, I think this unreliability does not bode well for the rhea eggs I am incubating. I have candled them and as far as I can tell – which is not far as my knowledge of ratites and incubating eggs in general is very limited – the embryos are dead or the eggs were infertile or both. Anyway, to be on the safe side I am leaving them in another week or so – just in case.

eggs2I also managed to find a supplier of day-old table bird chicks that raise their hens free range: Barling Poultry. I have wanted to raise meat birds for a while, but needed to find a suitable source. It seemed to contradict what we do here to buy day-old chicks from hens held in inhumane conditions. Anyway, it turned out that Barling Poultry didn’t have any day-old table (meat) chicks available, but they did have some fertile Ixworth eggs. Ixworths are a dual purpose bird, that is they produce a reasonable number of eggs, but are also bigger and so can be used as a meat bird. They are a rare breed and originate in Suffolk so they are local!  See here for some great pictures and a very good site all about chicken breeds

Importantly for me, they have not been bred solely for meat which means that they can act more like chickens. Some breeds of meat bird need to be killed  by 14-16 weeks at the latest because they get too big and can’t move around. Just for the record, commercial battery-style meat birds are killed at 6 weeks and by then they have grown so abnormally fast that they often have broken bones or damaged legs. They also have burns on their legs as the bedding isn’t changed! I change the newspaper on my turkey chicks every two-days and they spend some of the day outside and have much more room than commercial birds. The turkeys are still inside especially during bad weather and at night because they are very young and still need heat. In a few weeks they will be out with the rest of the ever growing turkey family!

full incubatorAnyway I digress, the folks at Barling Poultry sent me 8 Ixworth eggs and 4 green eggs and I have popped them in the incubator – start date 8th August so I expect hatching to occur on the 29th or so. I am very excited about this as it could mean a new strand to the smallholding. I would love to be able to replenish our own laying stock and also produce very ethical chicken for people. By using dual purpose birds no chicks get killed at birth (there is no waste), the chickens grow slowly and naturally, and live a free and happy life.  We would also apply to get a licence to kill them here using our very humane stunner so there would be no trauma of transportation – see here and here for more about how we kill our poultry. We wouldn’t get as many eggs as with commercial egg layers and the meat birds wouldn’t be as big and would take longer to grow so it would be more expensive, but we think it is worth it – this is what the smallholding is all about.

small photo copyN.B. All royaltties that I receive from the Renaissance book will go towards the establishment of “poultry world” here at the small holding (everyone needs a back up plan). Just think, if you buy a copy I can buy some more Ixworth eggs. You can then visit and hug a chick – everyone is happy!

9 responses to “Incubators, Ottoman History, and the ethics of chicken rearing

  1. Ottoman history and poultry: if I weren’t already a reader of your blog, that combo in the title certainly would have reeled me in! I know what you mean about royalties. a book I wrote on local government web services a few years back still earns me scraps of royalties. Any way to get Brian Sewell interested to pump them up?
    Good luck with the new technology….

    • Thank you. Ottoman history, working dogs, epistemology, poultry and cake seem to sum up much of my life I think – oh yes and camping too. I was similarly entranced by your combination of bees and Latin
      – that is very cool. I struggle on with my bees – two small hives – a result of an artificial swarm in June (?). One seems OK, but one seems weaker and possibly with chalk brood – not sure. I am debating whether to unite the two or keep them separate – any thoughts?

      Isn’t it lovely when an old publication brings in some cash?

      • The chalk brood could be down to weather conditions-humidity, rain. How much chalk brood do you think you have? If it’s only a few cells, then with some drier weather (!), they might work it out themselves in a month’s time. Right in time for looking at combining them. If you think one has a serious case of chalk brood, then obviously you can’t combine. And it depends what you mean by weak: I have had hives going into winter with a full brood box and not much more that have come out of winter ok (with feeding). As you can see on my blog post, one of my hives isn’t even at the full brood box stage. does your weak hive look as lightweight as that?

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and help. It is more than a few cells of possible chalk brood and there are fossilized mummies on the floor tray that I put in to check for varroa – no sign of varroa, but then I am not an expert adn could be missing the obvious.

    Both my hives are not at the status of a full brood box. I started with a nucleus of 6 frames that I had to split – artificial swarm – and which swarmed anyway so I now have tow new Queens in tiny hives – if that makes sense. They each have about 4 or 5 frames of non-drawn out comb. I think in one there are 5 frames of brood and in the other less – maybe 3. One has quite a bit of honey around the brood, the other is very light on honey – neither have supers on. I will try and upload some photos and more detailed notes in a bit.

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