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)