Saturday, 25 April 2009

Pain in the back and the ear

Old age - catches up with all of us at some stage. I've just spent the last few days off work with lumbago - I know, its one of those problems you associate with old folk "oh I've had a touch of lumbago luv, must be the weather", you know how it goes. Well did I get a shock. Lumbago is defined as mild to severe pain or discomfort in the area of the lower back. The pain can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic if it has lasted more than three months. Lumbago often occurs in younger people whose work involves physical effort and is not uncommon in people of retirement age.

Well it hit me quite impressively and a visit to the doctor got me prescribed with tranquillisers to relax the spasming muscle in my back and pain-killer and the instructions to not move and not to drive (the pill combination was chilling :) This did however give ample time for chicken watching.

1. I now fully understand the chicken screeching worries of my partner - Cybil and Margot can really let it rip and quite truthfully it was somewhat noisier than I was overly happy with. Not so much volume for any length of time and perfectly in tune with the countryside but the suburbs of south London? (I do appreciate that being on medication for the back may well have contributed to low noise tolerance)

2. Again Cybil and Margot are a right pair of destructive little buggers. Where as Ruby and Harriet gently scratch amongst the plants and on the lawn Cyb and Madge are right in there, border being showered all over the lawn or deck, the small tunnel they are digging under the birch tree seems to be a constant provider of treats and the two of them both trying to get whatever goodie they have unearthed at the same time is highly amusing.

3. If any of the chickens find a snail it turns into a Benny Hillesque chase sequence. I couldn't watch as the laughter made my back and sides hurt. Basically whoever gets the snail promptly starts running around the lawn instead of discreetly eating it. This in turn has the other three in hot pursuit and snail steal all around - eventually they all end up with a small piece of shell and all seem happy until it all starts again. And note here, excellent snail and slug removal units the girls are turning out to be.

4. Back to the squawking. It seems as previously mentioned to egg laying. Not only do the girls have access to the two nestboxes in the run but there is also skylon (nestbox in the sky) and if we are home we open the shed door and they love laying in their carrying box. Major conflict seems to happen when one of the girls is laying in either skylon or the shed and either Cybil or Margot want to lay in there. Why they just don't go and nest in an empty nest box I have no idea but if the nest box of choice is not available well just stand outside and screech your lungs out. As Cybil is easy to catch (its not catching really, she just waits for you to pick her up) one morning I grabbed her as she was screaming up a storm standing outside skylon while Ruby was patiently trying to lay an egg. I put her in the carrying box in the shed and shut the door. Lo and behold, not only silence but within 5 minutes an egg. Cybil sat there, pleased as punch with herself until I let her out and she reverted to perfect chicken mode (well almost)

So what to do? We do have the offer for a perfect country home for the girls, the noise (of which I have to say we have not had a single complaint or murmur of discontent) seems to be our perception more than the real noise though there is no doubt that Cybil can inspire you to gently wring her neck at time when she does hit the screech note!

Our prospective chicken foster father and mother are currently on holiday so there is a small window of reprieve - lets see how things pan out.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Springtime - lets hope it stays sunny

Taking it easy in the Cornish Easter sunshine

So Easter has passed, for us it was spent in Cornwall with some of our dearest friends and god children. Wonderful weather, wonderful company and wonderful children (even if the god daughter did have chicken pox!)

The girls enjoying Spring and getting to the lawn

We are really behind on the allotment this year and need a couple of concerted evenings and weekends to get it back on track however a slightly later start should ensure a more even arrival of fruit and vegetables instead of our normal glut!

Ruby in "skylon" adding to the egg mountain

The girls are doing really well. As I mentioned in the last blog entry, we do have a problem with both Cybil and Margot being somewhat noisier in the morning that may be acceptable in a suburban situation. Not sure what sets them off but boy can they make a din. It's only short lived however it does tend to occur somewhat early in the morning, usually between 6am and 9am. Once eggs have been laid normal behaviour returns. It's not every day either AND selection of nestboxes does seem to be crucial. I am stumped in what to do however plan B is to send them off to a more rural setting however we are going to trial some changes in nestbox availability and reducing the run size again as the girls have access to the garden in the evenings again as well as all weekend. 
We are on full production at the moment with 4 eggs most days and generally 22 - 24 eggs per week. We were astounded when we compared our little bantam eggs to normal sized organic eggs. The yolk size on the bantam eggs was substantially larger than that of the regular sized egg, the colour deeper and the taste - well not that I'm at all bias however our eggs won on every front!

Springtime and the joys of a good dust bath

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Back home

Back from my travels its good to see that Spring really does seem to have arrived.

Harriet in now on top form again and all four hens are laying - lots of production mean that we are also able to provide the neighbours with eggs as well as having as many as we can cope with.

Margot got a bit of a "mucky" bum so she was hugely indignant when she got caught up, a little cosmetic trimming and a good bath. She is now a sparkly clean chicken and oddly not quite as noisy.

I think the one downside of the "girls" is that they are nothing if not a little noisy in the early morning, it seems to be pre-laying. Once that egg has passed all seems to settle down.

Ringleader of noisiness is no doubt Margot. It's not a lovely clucking noise but more easily likened to high pitched strangulation at decibels that although in the countryside would hardly be heard a small city garden its hugely intrusive.

Anyway - a somewhat abbreviated version but glad to be back home.