Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Operation Harriet

How do you measure happiness? In chicken world, in fact Harriet's world to be precise, the greatest joy of all is a dust bath! The fact that the dust can be mud seems to make no difference what so ever - the main objective seems to get all your lovely white feathers as dirty as possible!
Harriet disguised as a mud slick

We are not sure quite what happened but either Harriet mistook the pond for a giant mudpool or she was trying to dabble in the mud around the pond - whatever, she fell in! Now if one thing that silkies are and that is a very good sponge! I got outside to find a very wet, bedraggled and generally feeling sorry for herself little chicken. Despite giving her a dry off and putting her inside when I checked later she was still not looking happy.

Operation Harriet into action - big towel rubdown, bit of fuss, lots of mealworms and a night spent in the kitchen in a box with lots of nice dry wood shaving and straw and the next morning she was as fit and chirpier than ever!

Lottie and Ruby on a frosty morning

It has been one of the coldest Decembers for many a year, of course the first instant benefit is no mud for Harriet (though I am dreading the thaw). We await to see how many of the garden plants get through the winter. The bananas and echiums are looking particularly sorry for themselves however the tree ferns look spectacular glistening in their frosty overcoats. The other cause of horticultural destruction is of course the girls - I think we will be wiring areas off as spring arrives just to preserve some plants!

Tree fern fronds covered in frost

It's been an amazing year - there is no doubt that five little chickens have helped in that so all that remains is for us to wish you all the most wonderful and prosperous New Year xx

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Santa's Little Helper and its Christmas Eve

Who more appropriate than the real living epitome of a poultry snowball to greet you before the big day itself, it's festive Lottie, Santa's Little Helper
A house full of people (actually a very small flat in South London!) but we are aiming to have a fantastic time as we hope you all are.

Girls are doing great - between 2 and 3 eggs a day. We have been able to give all our long suffering neighbours some eggs as a Christmas gift which I hope will at least be some compensation for Margot going into very loud clucking as she gets into egg laying.

So girls well fed and cosily roosting on not that cold a night here in London. Just checked out where Santa is at - its Christmas Eve only and he's just delivered in Mongo, Chad. Presents wrapped and after a busy day now about to chill with my lovely family.

Happy dreams and I'll post tomorrow to wish you all a Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Nothing to do with Chickens

Seriously, nothing to do with the girls - just an announcement that Mother has arrived for Christmas. Happy? Absolutely overjoyed. I love my Mum but bloody hell, how much luggage :)

Gutted that Lisa didn't win Strictly - we woz robbed!

My gorgeous Mum and me at Leeds Castle in Kent

Friday, 19 December 2008

Santa's Special Sussex Bantam - Merry Margot

The festive season is well and truly upon us now. A week of Christmas parties has left me bereft of normal liver functions, sleep and chicken contact, bless those girls they have been keeping busy without us. I do have to say that baby Jesus has lots to answer for but definitely keeps the UK bar and restaurant trade very busy for a month.

Our Christmas chick on this occasion is Margot. Please note the highly festive tree fern in the background, antipodean version of our very own festive fir.

Margot looking lovely in the garden behind a festive tree fern
We have been amazed at the increase in egg production. We have continued the lighting regime, merely an hour extra in the morning and allowing the girls to get out and scratch through the borders at every opportunity really is paying off. Last night we were away staying at the Sloane Square Hotel (and very lovely it was as well) which meant that the nestbox wasn't checked for 36 hours.

What a shock we had when we got back home. 5 eggs! which means that there have to be at least three hens laying.

Needless to say that Cybil is top layer and Harriet we are 98% positive on number 2 layer but who is number 3?
Bets on, its a difficult call however we think that it could well be our cover girl this evening, Margot.

A quick note on internet purchasing. I ordered a "pecka block" and some 4 egg egg-boxes from Flyte So Fancy Can just say that the service and goods well deserve a mention as they were ordered on a Monday evening and were with me Wednesday morning - so thank you!

And finally - HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my gorgeous fella, 39 today (old git in the making)

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Seasonal Cybil

     Okay, so even I have to admit that the photographer and image builder went a little overboard here! Still, with what looks like a clutch of festive baubles instead of eggs Cybil is still cranking out 6 eggs per week.

     Yesterday was truly grim, 24 hours of very heavy rain. The girls had to spend most of the day in the run as it seemed pointless letting them out just to get very wet and very muddy. Still, I went and cleaned out the night shed so they did have an hour but were very easy to get back in - mealworms and corn in a nice dry run or scratching around the borders and lawn in the deluge?

Cybil with seasonal spheres and Santa headwear

     Despite having 4 feeders in the garden we have a complete lack of garden birds visiting. In previous years we have had a good selection of birds including blue, coal and great tits, robins, hedge sparrow - you get the idea. This winter we a bereft of small birds! We have the occasional blackbird and a plucky robin but that seems to be about it! I did add some food to the bird table (we usually feed just from hanging feeders due to previous problems with squirrels) but the only birds to eat off there was a magpie and a very fat wood pigeon. Some long-tailed tits and the occasional goldcrest put in an appearance in the trees at the bottom of the garden, ring-necked parakeets and crows are also seen over the house but never visit. In the 5 years we have been here we still have to see a house sparrow! So where have they all gone? 
Great tit at a feeder - not in our garden unfortunately

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Ho Ho Harriet

Party season has now kicked off full time now - fortunately the girls have complete party outfits!

Today driving up the M1 from London to Whipsnade it was snowing and once up on the Downs there was a generally scattering of the white stuff.

In recognition of this today's photo is of the hen version of a snowball, Harriet, looking resplendent if not somewhat slightly grumpy.

Cybil laid again, currently running at 6 eggs per week. Why or what triggered mid winter laying? Answers on a postcard (actually just leave a comment)
Ho Ho Harriet in festive pose

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Festive Fowl

Okay, my lovely partner has been playing around in a festive manner so over the next week or so we'll have a few photos of the Girls in Christmas mode. I am of course useless of any kind of pun however please add comments if you can do better on a photo title (listeners to Capital FM breakfast show with Johnnie Vaughan and Lisa Snowdon should be a dab hand at this!)

In honour of David Beckham, Ruby appears in panto as "Goldenbells"

The real "Goldenballs"

Monday, 8 December 2008

Frosty mornings and a welcome to the world

Early December's cold weather continues however it does seem somewhat more seasonal now than in October.

The girls are getting very familiar with frosty mornings and although its damn cold I've no problem going down the garden to open the night shelter door at 5.45am each weekday morning.

They now have a battery (rechargeable of course) light it means that they are straight out into the run and feeding. It works better than having the light on in the evening as once they have gone to roost they are not easily encouraged to do anything where as mornings it gives them an extra half hour before sunrise. Something is obviously working as Cybil is still laying - one a day.

Margot (with Rubster in the background) inspecting a frosty lawn

The chicken house is on the deck at the bottom of the garden and most of the pathway has been covered in large echiums (Echium pininana if you are interested for pictures and for information on the plant).

I digress, the point is that as we can't walk down the path so we are churning the lawn to a slippery, slidey dirty and gunky mud bath - not desirable. So the weekend project was make a new path, consisting of lifting out a muddy stripe of lawn and filling it with woodchip (free from the council). Perfect in execution and lovely to look at, walking down to the chicken house was a pleasure on the new path. No mud all over the place and the fact you didn't need several changes of wellies and boots just to get to the house was an added joy. It took the girls approximately 5 minutes to realise that it was a brand new toy to be scratched, dug up and completely enjoyed. Chicken enrichment at its best!

Ruby wondering why frozen worms don't taste good.

Margot looking all grown up

Christmas has arrived with Harriet and Lottie heavily disguised as snowballs

Few other things of mention that have had me thinking over the past couple of days.

With the smoking ban, more tax increases on beer and people being more inclined to get a bottle of wine to drink at home we hear more and more over the demise of the British pub. Interesting then that French bars and cafe society are going down the same path as the pub - the gauloise plume that hung from every bar ceiling has disappeared, a glass of red wine replaced by a bottle of white at home. Sometimes we think that we have all the problems here in the UK, not so, and oddly another community asset/link/facility slowly disappears.

And finally - welcome to the world Ferdinand Jack, all 8lbs 3ozs, born 7th December 2008

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Perhaps we are going to have a "real" winter?

Another few days of bitterly cold weather and snow had been covering much of northern Britain and it looks as if the pattern will remain.

The girls have been getting some special attention. They have a small light in the sleeping quarters and I invested in a couple of small LED lamps for the run. They only light the pen for an hour or so each evening but it gives some extra feeding time to make sure they have plenty of food when they are ready to roost.

Most amazing was that we have had a recommencement of laying! Cybil is the prime suspect - amazing or what! And the eggs tasted wonderful :0)