Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Pasha has whelped nine puppies: six girls and three boys. More information and pictures on our website http://brock-o-dale.co.uk/puppies/2014litter

The whelping was rather quicker and more convenient than I had expected. The day before her temperature dropped and she wasn't so interested in food as usual. At about 7:30 a.m. I realised she'd poo'd herself on the bedroom carpet, and then after I cleaned it up and let her out to go to the loo (and stood on cold wet squishy moss watching her do her business with a torch), and it was about 8 a.m. and she started hiding under the desk and behind an armchair in the study and scrabbling on the floor. So I let her get on with it and prepared myself for a long wait with a restless bitch, and the next minute she was under the chair and there was a funny squeaking noise, and I found her giving birth to a little boy. By midday there were 8 and she was chilling with them, but I thought I could still feel something inside her, so I took her outside to see if that might get things moving. She did a wee and just as she was finishing, a big cream boy came out, and I caught him in my hands and ripped the membrane so he could get it over his head and breathe. I had shut the door behind me to stop the other dogs coming out, and I could not open it again on account of holding a puppy and having slimy hands, so I was standing there with this pup and Pasha licking him and chewing the umbilical cord when the postman turned up. She said she'd never seen anything like it, so that was quite funny.

Several of the pups are blue, and since this colour seems to be widely misunderstood, I have included a picture of an adult blue poodle below. This poodle is actually the half-aunt of Pasha's puppies, so their colour is likely to be very similar. Blue poodles are born black, but they clear to blue after they are a year old. Blue is often described as being 'grey' and is hard to photograph, but in the flesh it has a lavender hue and really has much more warmth and depth to the colour than ordinary grey. Also worth noting is that the blue in poodles is genetically different to the 'D locus blue' in breeds that are born blue, which is associated with health problems -- there are no health problems known to be associated with normal clearing blue in poodles. :-)

Photo of Lola courtesy of her owner, Angela Gaye Mallory

Meanwhile, with the coming of the new year I am looking forward to watching the pups progress and eventually start their lives with some of the lovely people who have joined the waiting list, and the coming spring when I can finally get more eggs to hatch!


On the morning of the last day of the year, I awoke to a horrible smell. Pasha had poo'd herself on the floor in my bedroom, and is obviously not feeling very well and showing signs of early labour (squeezing under furniture, panting, and scrabbling in the whelping box and in the corners of the room). Yesterday her temperature dropped and she did not have her usual interest in food. Since this is Pasha's first litter, it is likely to be some time before any pups put in an appearance, quite likely not until tomorrow. As I was writing this, Pasha was squeezed under a chair and I suddenly heard a funny squeak and discovered she was giving birth to a black (or possibly blue) boy. Now she has also given birth to a cream girl. Updates will be posted to our facebook.

Pasha in her whelping box. I filled the box with old towels and a washable old quilt so they can go straight into the washing machine once she has finished with them. She is rearranging them to make herself a nest.

Friday 27 December 2013

Pasha: 1 week to go

Pasha is in fine fettle and due to whelp in one week's time, on the 3rd of January. You can follow her progress on our Facebook page and learn more about this breeding on the website page.

Friday 13 December 2013

Pasha appears to be pregnant, so we are hoping to have pups early in the new year. There's not much daylight to take a picture with this close to the winter solstice, but here she is having a rest.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Happy birthday Pasha

Pasha is 3 today. This year, Pasha got great results for all her health tests, became a certified therapy dog, and won awards at some shows. Yesterday, Pasha came 4th out of 5 postgraduate bitches in the International Poodle Club's open show. Pictures are from yesterday, because it has poured with rain all of today.

Happy birthday, my dear friend. :-)

Thursday 3 October 2013


The chicken eggs have hatched... well, some of the chicken eggs have hatched. Of the six Cream Legbar eggs that developed, one died part-way through incubation, and another was dead in shell before internal pip, which left four eggs that hatched, and they look to be two cockerels and two pullets (I wanted a cockerel to go with three hens I already have of this breed).

Of the maran eggs, 12 from two separate sources, the shells were so dark I found it impossible to candle them, so all of them stayed in the incubator up until hatch date. One hatched this morning, a day late, and as the others were showing no signs of pipping, I floated them and it turned out none of them were alive. Throwing them on the concrete outside the house revealed no peeps in any stage of development in any of them, and I can only conclude that they were either not fertile in the first place, or had been damaged beyond viability in the post.

Oh well, no more hatches until next spring now. :-(

Saturday 28 September 2013

Pasha, qualified therapy dog

Pasha has qualified as a therapy dog with the Pets as Therapy organisation. :-D Hopefully we will be doing some visiting soon.

In other news, chickens are expected to hatch on Wednesday. Out of 12 Cream Legbar eggs, 6 were fertile and 5 appear to have made it to near-complete development (candling showed one had stopped growing, so I broke it to find a dead, partially formed embryo). Of the Maran eggs, I don't know how many are fertile/developed, because they are too dark to candle, so what is inside them could be anyone's guess, rather like the sex of my nephew William, which was only discovered upon his birth this morning.

Congratulations Laura and Alan.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Westbury show

Pasha won AVNSC Graduate 1st place at Westbury and District Canine Society Open Show today:

Sunday 1 September 2013

Pasha went to a Show...

I took Pasha to the Birmingham Championship show (which is in Coventry, not in Birmingham, close to the University of Warwick, which is likewise in Coventry and not in Warwick). She came 4th out of 4 in Graduate Bitch. She isn't in a proper show trim and we had not been to a big show before, so it was good experience and she seemed to enjoy herself, although she was a bit bored while we were waiting for our group to come up.

So now she has a card to commemorate the event, and she also did the Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze Award. I did take her to some local obedience classes some time ago, but it got dropped because of another commitment, so it was nice to be able to get the award at a convenient time and so quickly (when my local obedience group does it, it takes all evening).

Afterwards, I had fish and chips, and Pasha had a chip as a treat. :-)

I don't have a picture of her at the show, so here she is Before:

And here she is After:

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Bird update

The two best Cayuga ducks have now moved down to the garden area to join the drake and the Khaki Campbells. Of the remaining ducks, I have two Cayugas, a duck and a drake, both on the runty side. The duck should be going to a friend to be a pet. Of the Silver Appleyards, the colours I got from the eggs I hatched seem to have come out a bit hit and miss, although they are all good-sized ducks of good type. One is pure white, possibly a result of a recessive gene or an egg for a different breed accidentally being included ;-) and some of the others have a lot of ginger on the body. There is one large, beautifully and correctly coloured duck and a second duck of decent colour but with a few fawn smudges on the breast, so these are the two I will likely be keeping. I will be looking for a correct, unrelated drake from a different source to go with them.

The Red Bourbon turkeys are doing well and continuing to grow, although their inquisitive and slightly wild nature coupled with a delay in putting the birds away one evening led to them spending a warm night roosting up an oak tree under the stars!

Thursday 18 July 2013

Wednesday 19 June 2013


In general turkey isn't a meat I am mad keen on, and on special occasions I tend to associate it with an enormous and not terribly appetising roast with a lot of dry and fibrous breast meat, that far outlasts the novelty value of having it cold in sandwiches. I had hoped to have goose for Winter Solstice this year, however the two goslings I hatched both died from mysterious symptoms, and at the time I was concerned it might have been parvo. By the time the histology report came back that they had died as a result of vitamin E deficiency, the breeding season for the breeds I was interested in had finished (and four ducklings who had been eating the same food had started to show the same symptoms and later died despite changing the food as soon as I found out). I am still waiting to hear back from the manufacturer of the food to see if I can have any compensation for this.

As goose this year looks to be out of the question, I decided to look into rare breed turkeys in the hope of finding something that will turn out smaller and more succulent, and settled on the Bourbon Red breed as it is was developed in the USA to be more like the wild type birds there, and is supposed to have more flavour and fat and not grow so large. I acquired 14 eggs from two different sources, with the idea of hopefully keeping the best stag from one group and a couple of hens from the other on to breed. Only one egg failed to develop, and of the others, 12 have hatched over the last two days, with the 13th dead in shell.

The four with pink marks on their heads are from one source; I put nail varnish on them to tell them apart until they are large enough for leg rings.

Sunday 16 June 2013

RIP Smudge

Smudge/Splodge was one of three Old English Game peeps I bred last year. The night it hatched it managed to fall out of the nest, and when I found it, it was cold and staggering drunkenly. I warmed it in my hands and put it back under its mother Tatty Tail, and it made a full recovery. We gave Smudge to a relative who wanted a pet cockerel to look after her hens, and he became something of a local celebrity in her village. Smudge and the hens were fully free-range, and he used to escort the hens up the road to the pub every day. I was today informed that while leaving the pub, the chickens were attacked by a fox and Smudge was killed in full sight of several people. Cocks are often thought of as vain, self-centred creatures, but they absolutely aren't. When a predator attacks, the cock stands his ground even when he stands no chance, so that his hens can live, and Smudge's sacrifice of himself is typical of the noble instincts of these male birds.

Coincidentally at around the same time, one of my Old English Game hens has gone missing. There is no evidence of a predator having taken her. I haven't checked the leg bands on the other two hens, but I suspect it is Tatty Tail, as she seems to be the expert on secret nests (she and Stabby and the daughter Stripe are pretty much indistinguishable). So perhaps there will be some more peeps in a couple of weeks' time.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Litter planned

Pasha (Princess Pasha of Wywylwynd) has this last week been mated to Harvey (Summergangs Shamrock), a lovely 8-year-old black boy from old Canen lines. Please see here for more information.

Pasha having a rest, Cally in background

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Ducks and Pasha's knickers

The duck eggs hatched last week, and we now have 8 Cayugas and 9 Silver Appleyards. Three Cayugas died between internal pip and hatch, unfortunately. Highlights below:

Cally was allowed to look at the ducks, because she is an exceptionally gentle and trustworthy dog, and it was her birthday. :-)

Pasha also came into heat yesterday evening. The stud dog I want to use on her is some distance away, and he is aging and his sperm motility is not what it used to be, so I will be using progesterone testing to pinpoint the window that will give him and Pasha the best chance of conceiving. So this takes quite a bit of organising. Pasha's first test will be on Friday. Here are some pictures of her posing with Cally in her stylish knickers. Apologies for gloomy hallway. Outdoors is very wet and no better because of bad weather which will probably last all day.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Happy Birthday Cally

You are a funny girl, such a gentle girl. Even when I give you meat, you take it so carefully and put it down, and examine it and lick it as though you'd rather resuscitate it than eat it. And the passing of every year is bittersweet, because I know however much time we get together on this earth, it will never be enough. Happy birthday, my Thistlebonce. ♥


Monday 20 May 2013

Runty's necropsy

Runty's necropsy: still awaiting histology:

Necropsy findings
General condition:
Body condition 2/5.
Weight: 0.396 kg.

External examination:

Dermal abrasions in the left alular area. NAD.

Internal examination:

Subcutaneous fat absent.

Thyroids R: 5mm, L: 3mm. Both dark red. Parathyroids: R 1mm, L 2mm.

No pericardial effusion. Pericardial fat present. Heart red color. Systole. No cardiomegaly detected. No atherosclerosis.

Mucus in the nasal cavity. Normal air sacs, lungs (floating in water), trachea, and syrinx.
Small amount of clear free fluid in the coelomic cavity.
Liver: left lobe 4.5 cm. Right 5 cm. Brown. Full gall bladder.
Spleen 1 cm pale orange.
Gonads: pair yellow structures (immature testicles).
Kidneys: Urates in the ureters. NAD
Fabricious bursa: Well developed.
Oesophagus (empty), proventriculus (greenish content and grit), ventriculus (normal koilin layer and grit), small intestine (yellow content, NAD), Caecum (filled with brown faeces). Cloaca: green faeces and urates.

Brain and eyes: NAD

-Lungs: NAD.
-Liver: Congestion.
-Spleen: NAD
-Intestine: NAD

Faecal test: No parasitic forms detected.

Samples collected:
-Bacteriology from liver and faeces.
-Histopathology samples in formalin: Major heart blood vessels, apex of the heart, parathyroids, thyroids, lung, liver, small intestine, pancreas and duodenum, large intestine, caecum, Fabricius bursa, trachea, testicles, kidney, brain, and eyes.
-Histopathology samples in spirit: Lung, liver, and intestine.

Friday 17 May 2013


The ducks are expected to hatch on Wednesday, but I have taken away the autoturner because some of the eggs are smaller than others and look rather full, and already I am beginning to see shadows moving in some of the air spaces as the ducklings inside are orienting themselves into position ready to hatch.

Three of the Cayuga eggs are an unusual green colour. Cayugas are famous for laying coal-black eggs, but usually only the first eggs of the season are coal-black, as the black colour is a 'paint' deposited by a gland in the duck's laying tract. With subsequent eggs the black colour gradually diminishes until the coating leaves just a faint grey overlay. The egg underneath can be green or white according to the Cayuga standard. My old duck laid white, and most of the other Cayuga eggs I received in this batch are also white, so the green ones are a bit of a novelty. I will try to keep track of any ducklings from the green eggs, as these were obviously laid by a different duck to the others, and if they are of good type this might be an interesting trait to breed for.


Runty, the gosling who seemed to be recovering so well, suddenly deteriorated again on Wednesday night, and couldn't stand or walk, and this morning it unfortunately died. While goslings don't have personalities like dogs do and I don't get sentimental about them, this is incredibly frustrating, in part as it seemed to be doing so well for so long and went downhill so fast, and in another part because it was a rare breed and every individual is important to preserve the genetic diversity within the breed.
This leaves me with various quandaries. Fatty is now alone, and in need of an anserine companion, but as I strongly suspect that both Fatty and Runty have been affected by a contagious disease, acquiring another gosling carries the risk of Fatty infecting it as well, and Fatty could then die leaving exactly the same situation. Friday morning was spent driving to a specialist avian vet in Swindon with the dead goose, for a postmortem. I won't really know how to move forward on this until I get the results. Unless Fatty recovers properly and starts to thrive, there is not much point trying to keep it overwinter, and in this case it might be easier to leave any new attempt until next year and hope whatever caused this has gone from the environment by next spring. If Fatty does get better, it will be a case of overwintering it and trying to find another source of Toulouses in order to get it a mate. This will also be a case of us not having a roast for the winter...
I'm also back at square one with the West of England geese. To some degree this experience has put me off bringing in eggs from casual breeders, but on the other hand I do believe this is the best way to find unrelated stock, rather than relying on always buying goslings or eggs from bigger breeders. I will either need to find a goose and a gander from separate sources this year or try again next year with eggs.

Monday 13 May 2013

Fatty and Runty in the garden

Fatty and Runty got to go out into the garden for a few hours today while I was re-grouting the heatsink on my computer and washing the pots. Runty looks well now but still falls over occasionally and gets stuck on its back. Fatty is improving but at a slower rate, and one of its legs seems to be weaker than the other. It is at least standing with its feet underneath it instead of collapsing back onto its hocks now, even if it keeps falling over. I have still not been able to find out what caused this. I did get in touch with an avian vet, but it would have been extremely expensive just to see them and I did not feel it was worth it for only two geese that seem to be recovering. The closest I could find to the symptoms on the Internet was Derszy's disease, which seems to cause floppiness and lots of dead-in-shell goslings (these were the only two to hatch out of seven fully-developed eggs) but they have not had diarrhoea or discharge from their eyes or nostrils. I suspect whatever it is was infecting the eggs rather than being contracted after they hatched, because we moved here a few months ago and haven't got any other birds on site at the moment, unless it is something transmitted by mice or rats.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Geese again

No update for a few days because we had some lovely weather. Only a few days ago, we were eating dinner in the garden and enjoying the warm, still evening. Now the weather has turned foul and it looks like the garden has been vandalised by hooligans. The plastic garden furniture has been overturned by the wind, and the magnolia petals have all been ripped off the tree.

About a week ago, both of my geese became ill and I brought them back into the house. I do not know what is wrong with them, and the vet was not able to work it out from the symptoms. I am still awaiting faecal analysis on a poo I sent to a laboratory to try to find out what it is. The geese seem to be getting better slowly. Runty is active but can't get up if it falls over, and Fatty is alert but isn't standing and walking properly, hence it is tied to a 'safety rope in the video. I am hoping to get them back out in the shed tomorrow because the study doesn't smell very pleasant. I also hope I will get the results of the poo analysis back soon, as I don't want whatever has caused this to spread to the duck eggs in the incubator.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Goose update

The wobbly gosling recovered after a few days, and is now out in the shed and running around with the other one

Meanwhile, the duck eggs have arrived and gone into the incubator. These eggs will hopefully hatch into Cayugas and Silver Appleyards.

Tuesday 23 April 2013


The goose eggs have finished incubation, but unfortunately all but two died before they had internally pipped. The first egg to hatch was a textbook hatch of the Toulouse egg and you can watch it in the videos:

The second egg took too long between externally pipping and trying to get out and was making no progress by itself, so I ended up dismantling the shell over several hours. The gosling was glued in with what looked like jam and I think the fatal mistake I have made on this hatch is having the humidity too high during the early part of incubation so the eggs did not lose enough water. The Toulouse eggs looked older than the West of England eggs (they had larger air cells at the start of incubation) so the humidity was probably correct for the one that developed but not for the fresher West of England eggs.
The gosling is a gander and at first he was very floppy and for the first 24 hours wasn't able to sit in the normal position or hold his head upright. It is now the second morning and the gosling seems to be doing better:

He still does not seem to be able to use his legs properly, but is able to get around and sit normally, and he is drinking so eating should follow if he isn't doing it already. Hopefully soon he will be able to go out in the shed with the other one.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Goose Eggs

Goose eggs should be hatching in the next few days.