Friday, 25 December 2009

Festive Greetings

Firstly a very Happy Christmas to one and all.
...and Happy Christmas from Harriet as well.

I have been a complete slacker of late on the blog however I was half way through a huge piece about Nepal then all of a sudden it was the festive season! Somehow I need to get it finished off and posted as Nepal really is the most amazing place.
It has been an incredible year really with some big ups and downs. Poor little Lottie died early in the year while Cybil and Margot went to a new life in rural Bedfordshire which left us with Ruby and Harriet. We then went and got eggs from Sue in Cheshire and the girls hatched out six chicks, all of whom survived and they spent a very happy summer trashing the garden. With the arrival of autumn we had to move some of the chicks on so the speckled Sussex, the blue silkies and Eggnog the black Orpington bantam went to new owners and we remain with Ruby, Harriet and Stella the buff Orpington bantam.
It's been great fun rearing the chicks though my husband's stress rate did go up somewhat at times and I'm glad to say that we couldn't have had nicer people have the birds when we moved them on (thank you Ros and Annie). Not sure if we will do it all again in 2010 though we probably will, I'm very much in love with Orpington bantams and hubbie wants at least another silkie to keep Harriet company.

Doris in the snow at her new home

Both Ruby and Harriet went through a major moult after going broody. Harriet is now back in almost normal feather however poor Ruby looks half plucked, not the best look in all this highly seasonal but cold weather. Stella has grown into a beautiful chicken however she is still very stand-offish but slowly getting the idea that we aren't that bad. Needless to say we are getting NO eggs, it's very odd having to buy them and even the organic free-range eggs are poor in comparison.

Girls in the winter garden

Christmas Day and the first day the lawn hasn't been covered in snow for a while so the girls were out and having a good feed on the grass (what remains of it) and also dined on treats such as fresh sweetcorn, mealworms, finely chopped apple and a little bit of wholemeal bread - I think they enjoyed the day.

Well this is the last blog of the year (unless I get the Nepal one finished off) as France beckons for the New Year so to you all - a very happy and prosperous New Year

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Damn good and damn bad

Good bits and not such good bits.

Very best news - Stella laid for the first time, bless her so three eggs in skylon this evening. Full scale egg production swings in - but then..........Harriet "Pigsy" McEllis has decided that she wants to go broody!

Went down the garden this evening only to find Harriet not in the shed roosting on the perch with Stella and Ruby but happily sitting outside in skylon on the three eggs. For the record she was unceremoniously removed and put back into the shed and on the perch. Needless to say any more of this broodiness nonsense and she will not be making us happy.

Let's see what the weekend brings

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn and more chickens departed

And back to three chickens again.

The adventures of summer are now over, after an amazing Indian summer some proper autumn weather returned with blustery skies and the occasional heavy rain shower. As also reported in the last update the winter run has gone up for the girls and Eggnog but also came crunch time as Eggnog and the Borg had to go due to our winter carrying capacity so we were delighted that they have a wonderful new home in Dorset with Tim and Annie, friends of our lovely mate Tracey. We took all three down to Annie and Tim's last weekend, with Eggnog in the back of the car having a chat to us all the way down.
Below - Tim, me and Annie
Bit of a shock for Eggnog when he got there are although all girls in the run there were definitely some right bruisers in there (i.e. full size chickens). The Borg were really funny as all of a sudden they were Eggnog's best friend. In fact a few incursions happened though that's inevitable and its going to be interesting to see how young Eggnog takes over the flock (as he should do). Messages from Annie say that all is going well, still the occasional scuffle but all settling in fine.

After the departure of Sebastian who was number 1 gardening chicken, the loss of Eggnog who was number 2 has made cleaning up in the garden a bit of a lonely old task. Its very quiet when tidying up the borders with nobody at your side removing all the earth you just replaced and trying to dig out any newly added plant. Saying that its been a great experience hatching all the chicks out and watching them grow into lovely birds and we really will be doing it again though I think we will just stick to one or two breeds instead of the mixture we had this year.

Harriet, not the cleanest of silkies at the best of times with her wanton desire for mud bathing however of late she has got a bit of a mucky bum. She's not managed to completely clean up herself so it was time to intervene. Harriet is no stranger to the sink and a bath so madam got dunked! Of course only Harriet could sit there having her bum washed while she stuffed out on mealworms...... And sat on the towel while she had the hair dryer treatment (hair dryer especially purchased for the purpose as the two of us hardly have any hair left to blow dry!) At least she had a clean bum now even is she did go straight out and have a flap in the mud.
So back to three birds for winter. Harriet, Ruby and Stella (name changes failed and she is still Stella). The old birds are still laying well and Stella should be coming on line soon. She, Stella, is still a nutcase and terrified of most things however she is slowly coming around but its going to be a long haul I think. She does have the deepest and most lovely cluck and her colour is wonderful, just waiting for the tail to fill out a little for a prize winning hen :)

And finally, had a really busy day at the allotment. Managed to clear out three beds and planted up one with onions, shallots and garlic - aching bones but enjoying a glass of wine on the sofa after having had a good soak.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Autumnal musings

The departure of Sebastian and Doris did leave a big hole in the flock personality wise however we did realise that Sebastian was the major scoffer of food (food bill has definitely gone down). Working in the garden this weekend I really did miss Daddies Little Helper getting in the way and being a complete pain in the arse, and nobody to leap on my knee and try to scoff my bacon sandwich.

The weather has been generally very good however a couple of very heavy downpours have turned to remains of the lawn into a mud slide. The borders have really stood up well to full scale chicken attack however with 8 of them being out their for most of the summer has taken its toll. Departure of the speckled Sussex have given a little relief but as the autumn gathers pace the garden is really showing the strain.

The light is also disappearing far to fast - dark when I leave for work and only light until just after 6pm so the birds out in the garden during the day really isn't an option now so at the weekend we erected the winter run on the garden deck.

Now the chooks have a wonderful big run to play in all day. Lots of new wood chips and treats, Skylon nestbox back which the girls love and lay eggs in every day we don't have to worry about the girls (and Eggnoggin the Nog) in the dark now. I just can't believe how quickly the nights are drawing in!

Harriet and Ruby are both in top form and currently both laying and we are getting 11 eggs per week at the moment. Ruby as ever talks to you all the time and Harriet, well Harriet is Harriet. On the occasions that they have been out, even if only for 20 minutes when we get home if there is enough light, Harriet is straight into the soil under the bananas and has a good old mud bath! For some reason she has a soiled bum so I think this coming weekend she will be getting a shower and blowdry (I promise to have some photos to post if we do it).

We do still need to get rid of the blue silkie hens and of course Eggnog. Since the departure of Sebastian he has become a proper little man and he is now getting the idea of being able to crow, not something conducive for hens in the city that's for sure. This evening I have put a blackout on the sleeping quarters so hopefully he won't start until we let him out into the run in the morning. Most importantly we need to find a home for Eggnog as he is a stunning bird.

Husband is not happy with Stella being called Stella - she doesn't seem like a Stella so I think that we need to come up with something else. Personally I'd call her "Ginger" because she is! Anyway poor girl is the shyest of all the birds as she is bottom of the pecking order, even the blue silkies give her grief and Eggnog chases her away from the treats. Oddly in the run its no so much of a problem as it is when they have full run of the garden.

Stella - what should we call you?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Somewhat late update and sad departure

How, how, how busy has life been!

Apologies (Mother) for not updating for a while but been away (work), very busy (work) very busy (chickens and repairing garden after chickens) and have also been lacking on allotment maintenance.

We also took the decision to sell some of the birds which I have to say was sad but realisation that a small garden cannot cope with eight chickens and the volume of chicken poo. Saying that the fertilisation the garden has received must have been a contributory factor to banana flowers so not all bad.

Sebastian of course had to go - suburbia cannot take a boy crowing in the morning and noises were already coming from the run in the morning. Not exactly crowing but a throttled croak - young man with his voice breaking, and his clucks were getting really deep. But so friendly and lovely..........anthropomorphism and me don't do deals but Sebastian would push the limits. Converted from chicken language here are some of Sebastian's favourite sayings:

  • "I know you just kicked me out of the kitchen but I'm sure that means I can come in again"
  • "I know you look as if you are really enjoying your tea and toast and reading the paper but it will be far more fun if I come and sit on your knee and try and steal the toast"
  • "I know you are walking down the garden for some reason but if I get completely under your feet I'm sure you'll pick me up, give me a hug and give me some corn instead of those boring pellets"
  • "Daddy, give me a treat, now!"

As Sebastian and Doris got on so well we decided to sell them together even though we wanted to keep Doris. We were really happy that a lovely lady called Ros bought them and hopefully we can do an update as we are really keen to see how they turned out as they were both very lovely looking birds. Have to say it was very sad to see them go but I'm sure they are going to have a lovely life.

Stella was up for sale however there was a big shock (though not that big for me) Eggnog really is a boy - I knew those wattles were too big for a girl - so Eggnog is up for sale :( and we are keeping Stella (who is still very shy but a stunning ginger/brown). Eggnog's colour is lovely and he is getting the lovely iridescent green in the black feathering. If you are interested in a very loving and lovely young black Orpington bantam for all of a tenner check out his ad and just scroll down the page until you see him

Also for sale are the Borg. They have become two lovely girls and more friendly and now join in all chicken crowd participation events apart from the kitchen raiding. It would be nice to sell them together however happy to split them if they are going with other chickens. Again scroll down the ad to find them

Harriet and Ruby go on as ever - both now laying and thankfully Ruby over her broody moment.

The garden is well and truly trashed however it is the end of the year garden wise so not long now until the winter run goes up and the plants and lawn get chance to recover and brace themselves for next year!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

A poem for today

From John Keats' poem (1820),

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Weather and the end of summer

I have a fond affection for the Met Office (the same as you love your bonkers Auntie Doris). I'm not quite sure what they are supposed to do apart from groom young men and women for a career on television in the fiction market as the weather forecasts are nothing like the real world. The August Bank Holiday weekend and we usually have the pleasure of being in Cornwall for one last grasp of summer however due to lack of time and money we are in London having been told at the start of the week its was going to be a scorcher. Of course as the week has gone on the predictions have slowly got cloudier and gloomier until at last we get here and in truth, gloom and cloud and not even that warm! Still, it allows time to plonk about the garden.

What a shame as some lovely sunshine to slowly bring the summer to a close would have been wonderful. Autumn seems so close, I know it is but it's arrival seems to be rushing in. The evenings seem to be getting dark quite quickly and its already gloomy when I get up in the morning - I yearn to keep some of the light and warmth.

Still, Ruby seems to be getting over her broodiness (only by booting her off the nest twice a day and shutting her out of the nestbox) and Harriet is laying well. I cannot tell you the joys of having home-produced eggs again.

With the cloudy weather it's been a working in the garden afternoon and however fast I tidied the borders the chook force - the hen garden untidying service followed closely behind ensured that all soils and mulch were removed to the nearest path, physalis and lemon balm foliage eaten and fertilisation of the lawn was abundant. Saying that, the large established plants seem to do really well with the soil aeration from the scratching though small plants do need some protection from chook force. The bananas Musa basjoo pulled back really impressively after the the snows of winter and the chickens love being under them. Be it the extra fertilisation combined with the warmth and wet of summer we have a banana flower - how very cool is that! Okay, so basjoo's don't really produce banana fruit but hey......we're impressed.

Banana flower and husband

I love our little garden - it's a well cool and chilled place. Planting maybe eclectic (two very differing styles and colour palates) but somehow it comes together and we love sitting on the deck with a drink, its a good way to catch up on the day. It does make me a wee bit sad that now evenings are drawing in it's going to be weekends only now until spring next year when the light evenings return.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Chick Update

Not really chicks anymore but real time small chickens and all individuals in their own right (apart from the Borg but more them later)

To recap we got 12 fertile eggs and put them under our two broody mums to be - Ruby and Harriett. Hatching wasn't maybe as good as we had wished however we did 50% and a range of birds, 2 speckled Sussex, 2 Orpington bantams (1 buff, 1 black) and two blue silkies. Here follows themselves
Speckled Sussex bantam
Jason and Sebastian - truly lovely birds.
Jason is now we believe Doris, in fact 99.9% hen. Really lovely plumage but a bit shy as Sebastian and Eggnog are so forward (not to mention Ruby and Harriett).


Sebastian - Mr Bleedin' Independent himself. No fear what so ever, he happily jumps onto you in search of a treat, sits on your arm and actually enjoys being stroked. Down point is that he does get under your feet at times and has no problem leaping straight into the mealworm tub!

Sebastian - the Sebster

Orpington bantam

Black Orpington bantam: Eggnog - the ultimate chickenette. From point of death twitching fluffy blob to androgynous (praying a hen!!) gorgeously funny, iridescently black/green chicken. She engages, she chases and she want to get hugs. I say she in the most optimistic manner as we really are hoping Eggnog is a girl, she just has big wattles though fortunately the comb is not big at all. We LOVE Eggnog.

You can't get cuter than this - Eggnog

Buff Orpington bantam: Stan - well you can't call a girl Stanella so Stan is now Stella (however still will be called Stan for ages until we get the idea). Definitely a lady chicken Stan/Stella suffers similarly to Justin/Juliette in being overly dominated by the Ruby/Harriett/Sebastian/Eggnog domination syndrome, however......


Blue silkies

Satan children of foster mother Harriett. Originally Pearl and Shirl, now renamed the Borg. A single brain cell joins them. No interaction with humans. Food is all. Pointless running around is a second all. No personality (I'm sure it will develop when they move as they look to Harriett for everything). We can't even tell them apart! and we are very sure that they are both girls

So there we are - up to date as much as we can.

  • The Borg hopefully are soon off to a new home
  • Sebastian,though a cockerel will be staying here until he starts crowing as he is so lovely
  • Stella and Doris will get more confidence
  • Eggnog will not hate me too much when she gets wormed

Best of all it's been a great experience (if not occasionally fraught) so if you do have a virgin broody hen (sometimes having a cock in the city is just not possible) ((that doesn't sound quite right! )) do try and get some fertile eggs from a recommended poultry keeper - hatching chicks is GREAT

Monday, 24 August 2009

Late August Update

Poor ignored hens, I don't think they love us anymore. We've also ignored the blog - reason below

"Married at last"
(photo courtesy of Paul Batterham)

Well we did it - civil partnership - and then away in France on honeymoon for a week and now back to the real world. Needless to say the requirements and care of the chickens (and indeed the garden) have been ably taken care of by the Loxton-Ruffs, Isobel and Rob and head of garden chicken management, Jill and Patrick. Thank you all.

Ruby actually out of the nestbox

And how much have all the kids grown AND Ruby has gone broody again (just as she started laying dammit). Harriett has now gone out of "mother" mode and has returned to her normal self and lost some of the "dimness" she acquired as a brood mother as she has now started laying - thank goodness.

Good to have Harriett eggs again

It's great that we are getting eggs again be it few. Despite buying organic and free-range eggs they don't come anywhere near as good as the home produced offerings provided by the girls. Our eggs, even though from bantams, have larger yolks than "normal" eggs and there is no competition in the taste and colour stakes. Obviously eggs produced on a diet of slugs, snails, sweetcorn and woodlice with the occasional mealworm are absolute winners.

And to the kids, as I said, phenomenal changes. From gangly teenchicks to real small chickens. First day back at work and I'm knackered so I'll update more later this week but as a teaser below are (from the top) Jason (who needs renaming Justine), Stan (now Stella), Eggnog, thankfully ambigously named but heading to be a boy I think and finally the one we did get right, Sebastian.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

It's August already

Huge news has prompted an update - Ruby has laid an egg! Okay, it was in the middle of the lawn as she tried to find somewhere comfortable in the kitchen all morning and kept getting kicked out but great news, back to real eggs. Even though we have been buying organic free-range eggs they are still very poor quality compared with the eggs your own chickens produce. Anyway well done Ruby for getting me to write on the blog.

Okay so I admit it's been a while since the last update. Things going on (like our civil partnership in less than two weeks....eek) and when we get home on these "summer" evenings (normally grey, warm and raining) its more a case of seeing the chickens, feeding and watering them while they have a good grub about and commit various horticultural desecrations and destructions. And they really have grown so quickly.

Ruby of course now in egg laying mode has cast off the cloak of motherhood, smacks the kids about the head, dominates Harriet (who is still in full mum mode) and sod giving them tasty morsels, she scoffs the lot! Oddly for the most stand-offish hen in the history of the entire poultry world she is now Miss Confident. Ruby will not be stroked however if a mealworm is involved she will just about accept it however she is absolutely not adverse to leaping straight onto your lap if she thinks a treat is imminent.

The chicks have now passed into adolescence.

Orpington bantams
Eggnog is still a star. She, and we really hope it is a she. All the signs are however "she" is very cocky and males tend to be a hint more assertive - if we renamed that bird again it would be Hitler. Eggnog has no fear. She likes a hug and is very inquisitive and more than happy to sit on your leg watching you. She also follows you (along with Ruby and Sebastian) where ever you go so the kitchen is frequently full. The yellow on the front has now gone and Eggnog is now all black with a lovely green sheen but still baby naked gaps which will fill in I hope.

Conversely Stan is the perfect baby buff Orpington and we think and hope than Stanley is in fact Stella. Stan's plumage and colour is wonderful and is just the most amazing Orpington shape. He is also possibly the very best insect catcher ever. Downside is that Stan is not having anything to do with the humans. Oh no - chicken independent.

Speckled Sussex bantams
Wow, have the "turkeys" come on or what?
Both monster chicks have changed from the Borg to complete individuals, however still huge in comparison with the rest of the chicks.

Jason, the darker of the two is the one that has more chances of being a hen though still "big". Bless him, he still has some chick down on his neck and tries to be as butch but fails as Sebastian is the big brother.

Sebastian is Mr Snowflake. Far whiter on his front than a speckled should be, I'm sure that he will get darker as he gets older. Oh and such a boy and with the biggest feet ever! He is also Mr Confident. No problem in sitting on your knee, arm, shoulder and in fact humans are his next best friend. Watch this space......

Blue silkies
Pearl and Shirl of course are silkies - vaguely brainless and bordering on lack of personality disorder. They haven't disappointed. They fit in as part of the tribe, they don't interact with people, we love them.

Okay, there we are - update! (pics to follow)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Its's a late post!

What a difference two weeks makes!

It's been busy over the last couple of weeks so I failed to update the blog however fortunately John has been keeping up with the photos.

In the period of two weeks we have gone from heatwave with warning of the entire UK population about to meet its demise over 2 days of hot weather. As pleasant as it was (most enjoyable to feel some sunshine at last) the past week has been dominated by westerlies blowing in with some quite spectacular rain. I note the Government have not yet started giving alert level foot rot warning.

The chicks and girls have been doing very well. Unfortunately the chicks are very quick at picking up tricks and tips from the Mum's and as soon as they see us they rush to the run door and start cheeping wildly. I can virtually hear them saying "Daddy let us out, we want to go trash a flower bed!".

After initially going through the overly protective stage and either having them all in the lawn run or being outside with them to keep the chicks from possible predation by crows or cats, and keeping them on the lawn and off the borders we have now given up on all.
My attempts at keeping the borders in some form of orderliness have failed. Fortunately most of the plants are now well established enough to have the poultry version of an auto weeder scratching around without detrimental effect and with of course some natural fertilisation and snail removal. Of course dust/mud bathing is far better enjoyed in the middle of a flower bed!
Likewise, Ruby is such a great mother that I have no problems leaving them out while we are at home as;
1. she is very quick to sound the alarm even if it is a plane flying over
2. she is highly feisty and will attack anybody or anything (which unfortunately included Harriet on occasion) if she thinks the chicks are in any danger what-so-ever.
3. while I am typing this both Ruby and Harriet are trying to teach the chicks how to get into the kitchen!
So how are the chicks doing?

Eggnog Tallulah is still the smallest but one of the most independent and has a great love for getting up to the highest point she can with the mums. This morning she managed to get to the top of the bench with Ruby and looked very adventurous before she realised that she couldn't get down so just threw herself off! Still thinks of Harriet as his main mum.

Stan (still convinced that its a boy and the buff Orpington bantam) continues to be the lone explorer. Definitely is in the Ruby camp of children. His feathers are coming on well and looks okay because they are all pale.

Laverne and Shirley (the blue silkie chicks) failed as a naming option however it has evolved into Pearl and Shirley. Definitely Harriet's children (I am convinced silkies have a regional hen dialect) they rarely stray far from her. Getting lots of little feathers now but still staying small - there is a low chance that Shirl may be a boy.

The turkeys, Jason and Sebastian - which are supposed to be speckled Sussex bantams - are very large and I wonder at times if they are indeed not bantams but regular sized chickens. I am sure that both are boys, feet the size of small ostrich and looking real youths with scruffy feathers sprouting everywhere and a need for running madly everywhere in the "I want to be there first" mode.

It is amazing the change and growth rate so I will try to keep up! (and we will be needing homes for the boys at some stage)

Ruby and Harriet are now enjoying the freedom of flower border exploration again and Harriet has regained not only her skill of dust bathing in the wettest soil she can find but has got back the permanent soil staining on the front of her head. Both of them are looking particularly scruffy as are in mid moult - Ruby only has half a tail and Harriet has shed so many feathers in the run it looks like the aftermath of a pillow fight! After their "spat" they are now getting on fine again however Ruby has very successfully now made herself top hen.

Garden looking lovely with the warm, wet (indeed moist) conditions being perfect for rapid growth (bananas, cannas and gingers are going great guns) and the tree ferns have fully recovered from the winter trauma.
Allotment is now beginning to provide lots of produce - courgettes, french beans, globe artichokes, turnips and radish while the pots at home produced a small crop of peas and we are about to start harvesting pot grown carrots.

So busy times in the garden, the allotment and with the chickens, but highly enjoyable. Promise a faster update next week.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Two weeks old

What a difference a week makes!

It's been a busy old week and I have been away for some of it so the chicks seem to have been growing at a most impressive rate.

Eggnog, although still the smallest, is doing extremely well and devoted to Harriet. We are dithering on what sex it is. Although Eggnog started out a boy in our minds I get the feeling that Eggnog may in fact be Tallulah! As you can see below, that chick has been eating lots!

The buff Orpington bantam has been named Stanley, as I am convinced he is indeed a male due to already visible and fast growing comb (please tell me if I am completely wrong here). Stanley is THE most independent of all the chicks and is quite happy to go off exploring the garden without mother hens in tow.

The silkie chicks - I personally think they are a definite for being named Laverne and Shirley (for those of you who remember "The Fonz" the names should be familiar ). They do everything together, are slightly dim (I think it's a silkie thing) and so hope that they are both girls as I would hate to lose either of them. Any comments back to the blog voting for Laverne and Shirley would be deeply appreciated.

Harriet with Shirley and Laverne

And then we get to the baby turkeys. What we think are the speckled Sussex are growing at an alarming rate. They are probably twice the size of Eggnog. They are always the first to the food and I am sure that at least one is a male if not both of them.

Speckled Sussex chick realising its got wings!

After the "confinement" the girls have undergone both incubating and the start of rearing, they have now had both a chance to spend some time in the "lawn run" and if we are about, free-range in the garden.

The "lawn run" was a quick internet purchase which in the guise of a guinea pig run seemed to suit the purposes of getting one of the mums and some of the chicks out onto grass and some peace from the other. However that proved to be impossible as Harriet and Ruby are joint mums so dividing them, never mind the chicks just didn't work.

The positive is that we can get all the birds out onto grass for a good scratch about and a hugely enjoyable dust bath (it's hysterical watching the chicks emulating Harriet and Ruby dust bathing, usually underneath the mums and getting kicked out on a regular basis, not that they minded) when we are not around.

Best of all is that when we are about we now let all the birds out into the garden. Still not quite confident enough to leave them alone as although Ruby as turned into a complete headcase if she thinks any of the brood are in peril I still feel a cat could take a chick. However if we are about they now all go out and love it.

Of course for ever positive there is a (slight) negative;

  • Newly seeded lawn trashed and reverted to a dust bowl within a few days
  • How quickly newly planted vegetation is removed in search of the occasional bug
  • Physalis (Cape gooseberries) were outrageously victimised and eaten without mercy
  • Borders instantly scratched out onto the paths

So bless them a couple of rules are now applied;

  • chicken training - they now move easily between the lawn run and home run
  • when free ranging, mums are not allowed on the borders
  • when free ranging, physalis is seen as a legitimate target so that is a sin they are allowed
  • Stanley does exactly as he pleases
  • can chicken herding be classified as alternative employment? I love it.

All in all, could life be any better?

Allotment update to follow as I ran out of time.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Back home

Well the good news is that Eggnog is doing great!

Eggnog munching out in the lawn run

We have just had the most wonderful weekend in Devon with our dear friends Bunty and David. They are wonderful hosts though I fear our livers may disagree.

Also visited Paignton Zoo and met up with my great colleague and friend, Curator of Birds Jo Gregson. As ever I was very impressed with the work Jo and her team are doing, especially with cassowaries - here is a picture of one that I hope will soon be at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Now that is an impressive bird!
We did take out time to visit Devonshire Traditional Breed Centre in Crediton where I acquired three hopefully fertile buff Orpington eggs.

I'm not a fan of Bramha chickens but this lot were great - full of personality
It's still a lovely collection, the chickens and grounds were a pleasure to see and as ever the staff were great (Thank you Tracey for rushing around and getting fresh Orpington eggs)

If only I had a really big garden it would be FULL of buff Orpingtons

Back home and it was a pleasure to see the mums and chicks. It's been good weather in London over the weekend so some of the plants were a bit saggy but nothing that a good water around the garden didn't cure. Rob and Isobel had done an excellent job with the chickens though Harriet and Ruby had done an excellent job at trashing the run with the chicks.

Ruby on guard

First we got all eight out of the home run and into the lawn run - of course Ruby kicked off big time when we moved her chicks but once they were out on the grass they loved it. Slight problem in that the silkie chicks walked straight through the wire (well the gaps were a bit big) so a rapid job with some smaller wire soon secured the pen for the mums and chicks.

Harriet and Eggnog in the lawn run

So how are the chicks doing?

Eggnog is doing brilliantly. I have NO idea why we are calling him "he", I really want Eggnog to be a girl so fingers crossed. Still staying close to Harriet, Eggnog is now far more visible and he eats with gusto and is becoming a little mister independent.

The two silkie chicks look gorgeous and are fast as hell, they have got the idea of catching flies, just like Harriet - is fly catching a silkie thing?

The buff Orpington bantam is growing really quickly and had the fullest crop.

Most impressive are the speckled Sussex. They have grown faster than anybody, you can see the flight feathers already starting to form on the wings. They scratch about just like the mums and with the size of them I wonder if they are indeed bantams!

It was lovely to be away but it's equally lovely to be home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Eggnog - it's a long story

Sometimes you wonder where your partner is coming from - seriously.

We have and indeed continue to worry about the little black Orpington bantam. It, although now a "he" in our minds, has ended up with the most unusual of names.

Aforesaid chick is black with small white stripes (though these have now turned yellow) so I instantly thought, in an alcoholic sense of course, that we should call him Guinness.

So innocently asking my lover what drink name did little chick inspire...........Eggnog!

"Eggnog???" I ask?

"Yes, Eggnog, what's wrong with that? Isn't it champagne and Guinness?"

Rejoice, Eggnog we love you!

Various worries - chicks not getting the idea of running up the ramp to the hut in the evening though Harriet stayed with them in the run as Ruby went to the nestbox.

Eggnog has NOT got the idea of eating and preferring to stay in the warm feathers of Harriet instead of eating however we did see him eat and drink.

Various good bits - all the other chicks are doing great and both Harriet and Ruby are doing a great job at feeding them especially as this is their first time.

Various wonderful bits - the George clan came around this evening to take over chicken and chick rearing duties over the weekend while we are away in Devon. A huge thank you to them.

There may be an update from Rob and Isobel (that would be good) however that's it now until Sunday evening

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Day 2 - The Responsibility Begins

"The official photographer writes" So, day 2 is nearly over but alas, no more little chicks. The other six eggs have not hatched and it doesn't look like they're going to either, so we can only assume for now that they are infertile or dead in the egg. We're going to give them 24 more hours and then we'll find out what's happened to them.

The Mums

HOWEVER, the little'uns we do have are absolutely wonderful, truly marvellous!!! The Buff Orpington chick seems to be developing a very brave personality....we could have another Cybil on our hands here...God help us all!

Buff Orpington - Cybil's successor??

I came home tonight and the little Black Orpington was alone outside, both Mums were inside with the other chicks so I picked it up and put it back with Ruby, then we gave them all some mini mealworms, which they LOVED....the little Buff Orpington was whizzing around eating anything and everything it could get its tiny little beak into....wonderful to watch.

Blue Silkie with the little Black Orpington

The Mums seems to be coping very well although Harriet was sitting in the main inside area without any chicks.....Ruby had them ALL underneath her......little Madam! Ruby has really taken to this like a duck to water. Its amazing that this is their first time as Mums and yet they know exactly what to do with no help from us at all. Mother Nature is truly fascinating!

Come to me my Children

The Speckled Sussex chicks are looking good and healthy and are almost as brave and confident as the Blue Silkies and the little Buff Orpington (we're going to have to watch this one methinks!!!)

One of the cheeky little Speckled Sussex chicks

Anyway, I am loving being a new 'Dad' although all this adrenalin and worry is knackering me!!!

May the joy, stress, worry and sleepless nights continue and may our little babies grow into gorgeous, lovely little you hear me??? Girls!

Monday, 15 June 2009

18.45pm and we officially have chicks!

After the cheeping of chicks this morning there had to be some more chicks when we got home and we were not disappointed. As I walked down the garden I could hear them even over the rumbles of thunder.
Ruby's nest first as she hatched the first chick. Fairly sure that the two brown ones are buff Orpington bantams, very lively and very noisy and climbing all over mum. Not sure about the other one as the writing had rubbed off the egg but its either a black Orpington bantam or speckled Sussex bantam. We think its the Orpington.

How cute are this lot. Two blue silkies and a light Sussex bantam that hatched under Harriet. Oh and she's such a lovely mum. I have to say that Ruby has turned into Mother Warrior!

"Hello world"

Of course all said all we wanted to do was watch chicks with mums but that wasn't going to happen as both girls still had three eggs to hatch and both had newly hatched chicks. Saying that both the little Orpingtons were very happy running over Ruby and the photo above shows a cheeky chick checking out the photographer.

So amidst torrential rain and thundering above we left eggs, chicks and the girls (no longer girls but the mums) safe, dry and snug in the little shed and we'll see what the morning brings.