Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Frosty bananas, muddy hens

Late autumn slowly moves on - warm, cold, warm, cold, colder.

I suppose that I will keep saying it through the winter months but I do miss seeing the girls during the week. Weekends are so special as they spend all the time in the garden though maybe a little disappointingly they do seem to spend far to much time habituating with us and if we are in the house they sit on the back door step. Preening, pooing, just chatting to each other. Needless to say where ever we are, we have working gardeners, companions and bug killers at very close hand.

The weekend was clear and blue - somehow bananas and frost don't mix but sunshine is always enjoyed.

The best scratching place in the entire garden is under the bananas and gingers. With the big leaves I assume that the earth stays drier than the rest of the soil in the garden so its a favourite area.
Cybil inspects the garden

Harriett checking out the dodgy photographer - look at the gleaming feathers

Now if there is one thing that chickens love to do and that is dust bathe. Right, dust bathing in summer is fine - the words "dust" and "bathing" seem to make sense.
As the girls are in the run for most of the day we provided them with a lovely tray of clean dry sand that they can have a bath in. Oh so wrong - not interested at all.
What they are interested in is mud - MUD. How do you equate MUD with lovely clean dry sand? Life as a chicken is odd, however I think that if mud is what makes you happy then just think of how you feel when your prize white silkie chicken looks like this!
The happiest Harriett you will ever see!
Well this isn't all about chickens and our other creatures are a pond full of Carassius auratus. Perhaps goldfish is more recognisable as a moniker (referred to as "the children") and when we moved here we inherited a large finned specimen labelled Miss Swishy living in 2 inches of water - mud for chickens and fish may not be the best of scenarios for either!
Anyway we did a big pond makeover and got a few more goldfish (all named but that's another story) and they bred! Add plants and love, pond turned into a frog sex orgy centre (the resultant tadpoles perhaps stimulated the fish breeding?), damselflies and even newts.
But we got a leak so we needed to fix it to save our little haven.
I think the photos below show how I totally managed to mis-measure the pond and the amount of liner needed............ (have you ever seen anybody looking so mystified by the amount of black eco-pond liner wafting gently in the gale force wind)

Still, after a busy day the pond was re-lined, plants re-potted and "the children" (as the goldfish are known) returned to a larger and lovelier home. The frogs are already back, we hope the newts return soon.
And just when you thought it was all over - it snowed again!

Two snowfalls before December is just - well virtually unknown. Winter we await you.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Mid November musings and pics

After the snows of earlier this month mid-November is back to being grey, wet but surprisingly mild.

Of course the girls are only getting out into the garden at weekends now, when we are about. We are still being plagued by cats and not happy leaving the bantams out and unattended.

As you can see they really enjoy trashing the garden and I am actually wondering if anything will grow at all next year as they are doing a great job at digging everything up!

We decided to have a bit of a mid autumn clear out so moved the pen, scrubbed the deck down, added all new wood chips and removed the horrid ramp up to the night shelter and made a branch ladder in the style used by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to replace it. It looks much nicer, makes the pen seem larger and the old ramp got very dirty.

Super Ruby was the first to try it out - no problem

And to prove how easy and stylish you can look on your new designer ladder she showed the girls how to get down as well.

Chicken's eye view - the girls are looking suspiciously at the photographer here but all loving the new bark chips.

I love this photo - its so funny, they look so guilty! Chickens caught by paparazzi :)
Didn't take them long however to get back outside and start helping me move leaves!
I thought that Lottie would have been problematic about going up to the night shelter but it was Margot in the end that was having a small trauma but only took her a minute to decide she was going in after the other two Sussex went in.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Halloween and snowy times...........

Poor chickens.......

We are mere distant strangers to the girls at the moment! Once the clocks went back to GMT we now get up and go to work in the dark and get home in the dark. We get to feed and water via torch light. Still they get out in the garden at weekends and did at least celebrate Halloween - I know its not a pumpkin but a melon was as close as we could get on the day!

Margot and Cybil attacking a melon

Of course what we didn't expect was SNOW at the end of October - not just a scattering but a good old downfall of a couple of inches. Loads of damage to trees due to them still having leaves on but the views were spectacular! Needless to say we have been making sure the slide is closed on the night shelter so the girls stay warm and out of drafts.
Whipsnade Common on 29th October

When the girls are out at weekends they do have the best of times. The garden isn't particularly sunny in the winter months due to houses, fences and trees so all areas that get direct sunlight are exploited to the full. So how many chickens can you get on a bench?

Sad to say but Harriett managed to maroon herself on the back of the bench and had to go through a major trauma to get off!

During the week we try and make being in the run as much fun as possible. The purchase of the "wire treat ball" gives the opportunity to give titbits off the floor and lots of interest from the chickens. Sweetcorn cobs, veg scraps, greens and cotoneaster branches with berries are put in there and it keeps them occupied for ages.
Lottie takes the wire cage challenge - notice how much paler her skin colour is now

Anyway if there is no sun the back door step is still the favourite place just so they can see what we are doing. The croc sandal placed to stop "illegal" chicken entry into the kitchen - it works about 80% of the time (I wish)

Still, sunshine is completely prized and every opportunity is taken for sunbathing - the concrete path is favourite as I guess it warms up fastest and holds some heat. They love it - and also dries out the mud they cover themselves in by trying to dust bathe in wet soil!

However, always remember that if the sun isn't shining or we aren't getting any treats there is always a pot or two that we can go trash....And finally - winter might be here but the girls are still happy (I hope)
p.s. - I guess egg production really has finished for the year.