Unwanted visitors – real life on a smallholding

I thought I would give you guys a smallholding reality post.  Life isn’t as always rosy as people assume.

There’s a pandemic on and no one told the local rats.   Yes, rats.  Horrible, dirty, nasty things.  The only animal I would not waste time being upset over its loss!  I do have my reasons for such strong opinions.  Over the 4 plus years we have lived here, they have caused us untold hassle.  We have lost both feed, eggs and animals to them.  The feed can be replaced but the animals not so easily.  The critters tend to pick on the smaller animals and this time it is the quail. 

 
We’ve recently lost 8 of the quail in an overnight attack.  The quail live in the greenhouse frame that is covered in mesh.  We have secured the frame to the ground and bricked around the edges to try and prevent anything digging under it.  

The rats took on the challenge and not only buried under the greenhouse but also the bricks.  They can dig as well as any mole!

For now we have moved the quail back in to the nursery which has the high rise, “rat proof” cages until we figure out how to get around this.  We don’t like them living in there, we prefer them outside.  This Sunday we will try and secure it a little better.  Maybe mesh the floor inside the frame to prevent them coming up if they dig underneath.

  

So yes, smallholding life isn’t always easy and unexpected loss of our animals happens when you least expect it.  I hope this helps some people who may be looking to move to a smallholding or raise animals, to understand there’s the good and the bad days.  By far, the good outweigh the bad, so don’t let this post do anything other than raise awareness 🙂

Take care everyone, Tracy.

We have Quail – new additions

What’s this?  A duck egg, yes….a chicken egg, yes….. a QUAIL egg, YES!!  We have quail, and they laid an egg on day one 🙂  Only 1 but still – that’s a positive sign.

They are funny looking things, really small too.  Very flighty but lovely to watch.  We have 6 girls and a boy which we bought from a rescue centre called Wetheriggs Animal Rescue located at Thorpe Farm Centre on the A66 near Barnard Castle.  They have some Old Spot cross pigs which are due a litter in a month, so this is where we will get them from.

Grace managed to get a close up on arrival.  Pretty cute.

This is the view inside a pen, food on the left and a drink further down.  Quail have their own type of food, so won’t be on the poultry feed.  They have a mesh floor which caused us many discussions and sleepless nights, yes really.  All reseach suggested this is how to keep quail and then the muck drops through.  We were not sure about them walking on the mesh, but actually, they are just fine.

We have a dust bath for them which they love and this is where they lay their eggs!  We’re going to also put some foliage in for them to hide in, now we have them, we’re learning what we think they would like and of course we adapt as needed, as a smallholder you just have to.

We shall incubate the eggs and hope to raise more of our own this year.  Quail are quick to get up to breeding age (6-8 weeks) unlike chickens which are 22.  Also little fact, if you’re not allowed to keep poultry in your area, you can maybe keep quail as they are game, not poultry 😉

So all in all a very successful weekend with regards to quail.  We didn’t really get much else done on the smallholding as we had lots of other commitments this weekend plus we had a poorly dog and a poorly Ste!  Hopefully the latter 2 are on the mend now and we can play catch up during the week.  Time stops for no one 🙂

New ventures – poultry ideas

We are in the midst of a very exciting new venture here on the smallholding, in fact a couple of ventures! One step at a time, firstly is an idea borne out of different reasons which I won’t bother listing here.  The end result is we have decided to use one of the small barn buildings that Ste did such a great job on converting, as a nursery for our new poultry adventure!  Here’s a reminder of what he did back in August last year.
From this general purpose outbuilding

To this weather proof self contained building
So what does all this mean?  It means we will have a building dedicated to the safe housing of chicks & ducklings and also, drum roll, quail.  Exciting!!! We have decided to expand to breeding these new birds for the first time and we can’t wait.  
Ste has done a lot of research on this and is in the process of getting their new 5 star accommodation up and running as I type this blog post.
We’ve had chicken, geese and ducks for a few years now and at the back end of last year, when talking about what we’d like to achieve in the coming year, we decided that in 2020 we would expand a fair bit in a few areas, so this is the first.  Yes, that also means there’re more to come!
Inside this little building has taken on a transformation so far and it looks great already and it’s not even finished. It started off with a blank room and a sketch on the notepad.
Then ended up with a partition wall and a door, shown at the top of the pic here, which leads in to a smaller room that we use as the outside dog kennel.  Ste cut a hole in to the side of the building for the dogs to come and go, but restricting them inside from the nursery for obvious reasons.  Two uses of 1 building is maximising efficiency in my book!  

Full steam ahead then!  He is starting by making the quail pens which have to be a certain height and measurement for the quails’ own safety.  They have a tendency to jump and hurt (or worse, kill) themselves so you need a low roof to prevent this happening.  They will actually have more than the recommended walking space, as we like to offer as much as possible for a happy & healthy life.  
Quail also prefer to be in a safer, protected environment, given they are prey for everything that’s bigger than them, so research shows they don’t thrive as much in open outdoor space.  
The workshop is just next to the nursery, so Ste is making the individual pens in the workshop and then moving them to the final spot.  

Another one has been added since I took these photos, I can’t keep up with him 🙂 We’re planning on visiting a farm we have recently found, to buy quail this coming weekend.  The plan is to be up and running with them in March, even if not the end result.  More March goals to follow in another post, but for now I wanted to share with you where we are with this little project.