Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Bugger - meant to post this before we went! Now back from India but this is from just before we left.

Not quite sure if spring has sprung but there is no snow, no frost and the heating isn't on continually.
The weekend was a major tidy-up in the garden. There is no doubt that the chickens are really destructive in the garden. Not so bad in the summer as the herbaceous plants are all established and everything else is big enough to stand up to hen power. At this time of year all the all the bulbs are coming up and the first shoots of spring are showing, all delightful green snacks for girls looking for end of winter treats.
Not only that but Cybil and Margot are championship scratchers - like a pair of tiny semi-domesticated velociraptors they rip the garden to shreds searching for any vegetation worthy of plundering - the better point is they also have now got over their fowl phobia of snails and slugs and devour them with relish. Saying that, Rubester is now without doubt our top mollusc muncher taking huge delight in ridding the garden of these slimy little pests.
Anyway - Harriet is STILL broody and we are off to India for a week so good luck Paul and Alex who are looking after the girls

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Catch-up time.......

It's a couple of weeks since updating the blog as lots of things going on.
Whipsnade in the snow
The great snowfall managed to bugger up London for a couple of days but nothing in comparison to Whipsnade in Bedfordshire where the snow kept falling and falling! Ten days later and London was almost snow free though we had a very wet garden.

Another visit to Rainham Marshes - nowhere near as cold as our last visit but still lots of ice about. We got some amazing "almosts". Cetti's warbler calling but not seen, a flash, glimpse and rustle in the reeds which was almost probably a water rail and a small brown avian predator that we saw on the ground which was almost probably a female merlin - I hate "almosts" :)

Seeds and potatoes arrived this week. The allotment has been sadly neglected over the winter months as its either been covered in snow or so wet that the clay makes it impossible to work there anyway. Despite that we have been planning what we will be growing this year so its always exciting when seeds and the like arrive. Swift and Maris Peer are the spuds we are growing and lots of squash of various varieties - watch this space. (We have hardly made a dent on the jerusalem artichoke harvest - is all the farting worth it?)

And on to chickens;

Our girls do not like snow.

Despite the cold we are getting 2 - 3 eggs per day as all the Sussex are laying.

I did some work on the skyline nestbox - new funky ladder. Margot and Cybil are using it.

This morning (Sunday) I could have seriously wrung the necks of Cybil and Margot and looked forward to chicken casserole this evening. 7.20a.m. and you should have heard the noise. Why do they make SO much noise before they go and lay an egg? In the interests of neighbourly relations I had put them back in the night shelter and covered the door window with a sack so they had instant night. I could still hear Cybil having a right old cluck for a couple of minutes but they all went to roost and we got an hours grace with the locals - God alone knows what will happen when dawn arrives at 4.55a.m. in summer??

The garden is a complete tip! On the good side the girls have really done a good job on wiping out the highly invasive garlic chives, the down side is that anything that looks like a garlic chive has gone as well (bye crocus!). Still, daffodils and snowdrops are doing okay and the soil has never been worked so hard through scratching and general chicken mining. I am amazed at the devastation 4 chickens can cause i.e. as fast as you brush up and put the soil/leaf compost/bark chips back on the border the little buggers throw it back again. SODS!

Harriet is still broody despite everything we do:
  • she is sitting on nothing unless Ruby lays an egg inside then Harriet will go and sit on it. I am tempted to put our ostrich egg in the nestbox as I am sure she would sit on it.

  • when I throw her out of the nestbox for the day she goes and just broods anywhere

  • when I lock her out of the run and she spends the day in the garden without any problem the second the run is open she rushes straight in and even if she can't get in a nestbox she just snuggles herself in for a good old brood on the shed floor

What will we do with her!

Thoughts of the week:

King vulture egg at London - I cannot tell you how exciting that is (4 years of hard work!)

Bloody civil ceremony doing my head in (but all in a positive way)

Blade Runner (one of my favourite all time films) was based in 2019 - only 9 years until we start getting problems with replicants and me worrying if I can get chickens to the off-world colonies.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The great snowfall of 2009

Harriet is still broody - what makes a hen want to sit on nothing? I admit that snuggled into a nest of warm straw on these cold mornings is a great idea but as there are no eggs to sit on I wonder how she keeps the inspiration.

Harriet gets down and dirty as normal

Since the arrival of the Skylon nest Cybil and Margot head for the sky to lay eggs so making them unavailable to the Harriet incubation service. Ruby has now started to lay (at last) but not on a regular basis and is using the normal nestbox so Harriet does leap onto any egg that appears but they are irregular.
We do throw Harriet out of the nestbox twice a day for toilet duties, food, water and some exercise however Saturday we kicked her out for a couple of hours while I cleaned out the shed and run. Bless her she went for her mud-bath, fertilised the lawn with the biggest, smelliest poo and then got bored that she couldn't get into her nestbox so decided to brood phantom eggs at the back of the run in the woodchip! Bonkers bird.

"Okay Dad, I don't care if you shut me out, I'll nest in the run!"

Sunday night saw a few flurries of snow. Dire warning on the television about an "Extreme Weather Event" snow, snow and more snow. Heard it all before.

So "oh bugger" when we woke up in the morning!

One look out of the bedroom windows saw that we had substantial snowfall

I am so glad that we had put on the extra plastic - psychic weather insight?

How deep is that snow at 6am in the morning?

From the photo below you can see that trying to get to work was going to be pointless. The road was the quality of a pure white skating rink, for the first time in many, many years the entire bus network in London was suspended and as you can see - no trains were running at all. I gave up trying to get to work at 10am.

So daylight arrived and we saw Honor Oak Park and south London covered in snow.

Fishpond looking like and advert for a polar bear fast food cafe

And you had to get out there and make sure there was enough food for the wild birds.

A visit to the allotment gave some amazing views over a white and quiet London.

Of course we had to let the girls out for a quick look at the snow - they were not keen that's for sure.
Harriet by this time had already been into the run for a quick feed before rushing back to the imaginary eggs leaving Cybil, Margot and Ruby to take to the snowy lawns of Honor Oak.
"ooh Margot, I'm not keen on this white stuff"
I do have to say that the girls should be hating us at the moment as for the last three days we have had to catch them all and dose them with wormer however they have been most loving as normal (apart from the aloof Ruby) and any medicine has been supplemented with mealworms to make the ordeal instantly forgettable.
Margot on the prowl and realising she's not as white as she thinks she is.

The girls looking suspiciously at snow - if you are really eagle-eyed you can see Harriet's brief outing into the snow.
So a horrible period of wetness ahead as all this snow thaws. No eggs for a week as there is a withdrawal period for the eggs as we used Panacur to work the girls.
As you may have gathered, the girls do get a few too many treats and as we are buying "basics" range from the market we pick up any cheap greens and sweetcorn and they are still getting their mealworms. I remember mixing mash with boiled veg peelings and old bread with hot water when I was a little lad, on my grandparents small holding, for the chickens. The smell was so reminiscent with childhood. Reading up I wondered if there was some worth in providing layers mash as part of the daily feed as for the chickens to bulk up on pellets would be really quick - it takes lots of time to eat the same in mash. It's a trial - they aren't impressed as all the pellet goes first but I guess it keeps them occupied and they get so many other treats.
Lets see how this week unfolds.