Sunday, 19 December 2010
So what a year really. Little did I realise that shortly after my last blog my darling Mum would become ill and our time now together is both short and precious. It has also precluded somewhat "normal" life and the latter half of the year seems to have been spent travelling up and down motorways and dealing with the NHS. Now being cared for at home I just hope Mum's remaining time is spent in warmth and comfort with no pain and surrounded with the love of the family.
The downside of all this time away has been minimal input into the allotment, poor old chickens get a clean out, fed and watered with the occasional egg collected and that's been about it and I have had the dogs with me in Cheshire. 2011 is definitely going to be catch-up time that's for sure.
This time last year the allotment had been cleared and I had already got broad beans, red and white onions, shallots and garlic planted. To my own shame I still have potatoes in the ground which will of course now be ruined and a bed of brassicas including calvo nero that I am sure are in need of a good harvest. I would say that with the early arrival of winter it really has stopped anything happening now as if there is a spare weekend day the ground is so frozen you can't do anything anyway!
The chickens have been somewhat eclipsed as well by the arrival this year of Max and Millie in that the dogs do take up time that I had previously spent with the chooks. Not that it means that the girls are being ignored, just time and organisation and its still a pleasure to watch them scratching around in the garden. Since the last blog the only real changes have been poor Ruby plagued with scaly leg on two occasions. I had used proprietary creams to clear it up but for some reason they made Ruby's lags very raw and sore and she was in some discomfort. I then resorted to Ivomectin which very quickly cleared up the problem. She does seem to be prone to it after she finishes a broody session and is starting to moult. It also takes her such a long time to get over her moult, bless her. Egg production was great until end of October when Harriet decided to go broody and everybody else decided to stop laying so even now, some 8 weeks on only Tallulah is laying the occasional egg. With all the cold weather the girls are getting far too many treats and I can't help myself buying the occasional corn on the cobs for them if there is a special offer on!
So what else of 2010? With no chicks being reared this year it was a little quiet in truth. Depending on time constraints it would be really good to hatch a few off in 2011. There is a good chance that we will be getting a Silkie cock sometime in the spring so hopefully chicks from Harriet and Tallulah. Then see if we can get some fertile eggs for Ruby and Nigella - lets see what happens. After our adventures last year I really do think that even bantam Orpingtons are to large for the garden so will probably stick with more bantam Sussex. Shame really as I love the chocolate Orpingtons however this year I saw for the first time Coronation Sussex and they really are very high on my "I want" list, lovely, lovely birds.
So that's it really - a cold and snowy end to 2010 and although still a fortnight away my resolution for 2011 is more frequent updates so for now have a very happy Christmas.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Monday, 14 June 2010
Just waiting for eggs to start again..............
Thursday, 10 June 2010
With the departure of Stella life soon settled down to something bordering normality with Harriet taking over the mantle of head bird, not that Ruby bothered as she just runs the flock. Nigella is no doubt at the bottom of the pecking order but it all changes in that Harriet beats up on Tallulah,Tallulah beats up on Nigella and Ruby just gets on with them all until somebody (Harriet mostly) steps out of accepted hen behaviour then they get a smack in the head. And despite this Harriet still think she rules the roost!
Finally this very evening we just got news from Ros about Doris but more of that over the weekend as photos have been promised.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
This week I watched "The Edible Garden" on BBC2 for the first time.
It's great - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s1lc8
The presenter Alys Fowler has also written a book to go with the series - I just ordered it to see if its as good as the television programmes.
Allotment is very busy at the moment, we have lots of trays filled with seedlings and working hard to get the beds ready for planting out. We also still have the mini polytunnel which we need to get erected soon as cucumber, tomato and melon seeds have already germinated and growing well!
I love Crocus http://www.crocus.co.uk/home/ (plant nursery and online store but not open to the public)they do great plants and put together some really good planting plans. I'm always inspired when the seasonal catalogue arrives so when we saw Crocus were having an open day we leapt at the chance and it was well worth the journey. Got some fantastic alliums, Cardiocrinum giganteum and a stunning dark red Dicentra however I really do need to stop mucking about with the pretty things and get on with the allotment and grow some veg to go with all the eggs.
Monday, 19 April 2010
A couple of months ago I did mention that we now had a dog, Max, who is now a well established chicken hound. Despite his puppy inclinations at excitement he is and the girls get on great probably with the exception of Stella who, despite being a grown up girl now still flaps at the smallest thing. Not that we are worried, having recently having picked up Stella she is very, very solid and could probably withstand a small nuclear attack and a small puppy isn't going to do any harm whatsoever. To ensure that hens in the city doesn't become Uptown Puppy you can follow Max's adventures at http://johndentonmckenna.blogspot.com/ - link also in the side panel.
My approach to stopping the girls being broody worked! Less that two weeks later and we are already have Ruby and Stella laying - hooray. I cannot tell you how wonderful the taste of our home produced eggs are so its great that the supply has returned.
We have been been doing some reworking in the garden, moving some old border edging and replacing it with wicker hurdles. Needless to say the girls were there to help! They have over the winter months been confined to the end of the garden and as you can see from above, there isn't a lot of lawn remaining (so some returfing in a month or so me thinks) however once the plants are established again they will again have access to the entire garden.
And thank god that the girls don't eat daffodils however my new delphinium regrowth didn't last long!
Now don't ask me why but for some reason we had an idea that we should get another silkie to keep Harriet company. So it was with glee that we saw urban-chickens.com were holding a chicken auction in Essex. Off we went and were amazed at the number of chickens available for sale and how many people turned up. It was great fun in the auction itself and we became the proud owners of two new chickens.
Firstly we did indeed acquire a silkie. Duly named Tallulah she is I think partridge coloured (most appropriate considering our recent visitor) and was supposedly hatched in 2008.
On exit from her box (one of the problems with the auction was it was not easy to see into some of the boxes to completely check out your prospective purchase) she was a bit rough looking to say the least and a bald bum. Saying that she appears to be full of character and Tallulah is a bold one that's for sure.
The second purchase was a second choice. First choice was a lovely gold-laced wyandotte hen however we were firmly outbid on her. Secondly we were taken with silver Sussex hens (again) and there were a few for sale. As it happened the lotts in the catalogue didn't match the actual birds being auctioned so it was a little confusing and we ended up not buying the bird that we had originally looked! Still we have a 2009 bred silver hen named Nigella.
Bless her, she couldn't be more distant from our last silver Sussex hen Cybil. Nigella is very shy, very nervous and would you believe a pigeon-toed chicken! I do think she is going to take a while to settle in and she is most definitely at the bottom of the pecking order.
So would I get chickens from an auction again? I have to say that I probably would but would be happier if the birds were in cages that you could see the birds more fully................the biggest job ahead of us now is integrating two new girls into our resident flock of three!
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Harriet, Stella and Ruby all share a nest box
Done some work in the garden (major tree fern move about), broad beans, onions, shallots and garlic all doing well at the allotment but needs quite a bit of work over the next few weekends.
Hopefully the girls will get back into laying mode very soon and then back to laying some eggs. We need eggs.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Friday, 19 February 2010
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Nepal is a small country, money poor for the most part but rich in its lovely people, incredible landscape and generous nature.
My work there was two fold:
(1) working to assist the captive management programme saving vultures from extinction and (2) advisory work at the Central Zoo in Kathmandu
The vultures are one of the biggest man made tragedies in modern times however as they are not tigers or elephants they don't get the press or public support they need. Natures binmen they scavenged throughout Asia but due to widespread use of a simple veterinary drug Diclofenac 99% of the world population of three species of vulture have died out.
See http://www.vulturerescue.org/index.html for more information.
As a last ditch attempt to save the vultures from imminent extinction birds have been collected from the wild and being kept in aviaries in order to hold them and breed them so at some stage in the future when all chances of the drug being removed from the environment are realised, birds can be released back into their natural habitat.
Young oriental white-backed vultures at the Rescue
Captive breeding centres already exist in India and Pakistan and recently Nepal began its own programme.
My job, along with ZSL Head Vet Andrew Routh was to run a workshop on the captive management and veterinary care of vultures as well as looking at the work being done in Nepal.
It was a hugely inspirational time and the people we worked with ranged from the vulture keepers to field workers to vets to park rangers - all deeply committed to saving vultures and having a real understanding of the plight of the birds.
Adult oriental white-backed vulture in the wild
I was deeply impressed with the work being done and I have to say it was a great pleasure to visit a vulture restaurant "Jataya" where the vultures are fed carcasses safe from drug contamination. The most encouraging signs were that the area where the vulture feeding place is situated is now "drug free" and that vultures are actually nesting around the area where the safe food is placed. The most incredible thing is that vultures are seen as messengers of bad tidings but the entire local community has really taken to getting behind and supporting the recovery of the vultures. The vultures still totter on the edge of extinction, lost forever but if what I saw in Nepal was anything to go by I feel hugely encouraged.
Me on elephant back
The vulture work was carried out at the Chitwan National Park where I also had the pleasure of going out early in the morning on elephant back to try and see Asian one-horned rhino. Once you get a hang of the rolling gait of the elephant you realise what an amazing platform they make for wildlife watching. I am truly happy to say that we did manage to see some of these incredible rhinos.
Asian one-horned rhino in the wild - mum and babySecondly was work at the Central Zoo in Kathmandu. It has over a million visitors a year but charges a tiny amount and urgently needs funds. The money is needed for raising the standard of life for the animals held in the zoo, to support the hard working and dedicated staff and ensure through education and interpretation (in all its forms) the Nepali people come to appreciate the incredible creatures that live in their wonderful country.
Discussing work on the rhino enclosure at the zoo - and a chance to get up close
Discussing bird husbandry with the hornbill listening as wellMost people think that Nepal is cold, snowy and tottering on the edge of the Himalaya and Everest. Think again, down in Chitwan where the vulture centre is, it's positively tropical with elephants wandering down the streets, rhinos and tiger in the Chitwan National Park and gharials (tropical fish eating crocodiles for the want of a better description). Even in Kathmandu, where the name conjure images of a snowy mountain-top hidden city, its very warm even in November and snow is as rare as hens teeth!
Friday, 29 January 2010
Out in the dark at 05.45 checking and feeding the chickens, Stella had laid below the perch (in truth probably from it) so I popped the egg into my pocket and carried on feeding and giving them clean water. I bent over to pick up some rubbish off the floor of the run and heard a gentle pop followed by a warm sensation on my leg. "Dammit".......... note to self, do NOT bend over with thin shelled egg in pocket as they break!
Joy, as the egg just didn't break in my pocket, bloody messy anyway however in the pocket was;
All I can do is apologies to those neighbours that heard a stream of expletives far too early in the morning, you may have thought it was a nightmare but it was me!
Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend http://rspb.org.uk/birdwatch so join in if you can.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Now the Big News. As predicted yesterday, Miss Harriet produced an egg this morning!
As ever it wasn't a simple process but one that took Harriet an hour to decide where to lay. In one of the carrying boxes in the shed or in skylon which had new wood shaving and straw in? Back and forth and back and forth with much clucking to ensure the entire world was aware that she wanted to lay an egg. I was eventually ejected from the run while cleaning it out so Harriet could lay..........and 30 minutes later - result!
Of course, having gone through the entire stress of laying an egg a lady, and a chicken lady at that must instantly rush to bathe, theoretically dust bathe but in this weather?
"wot are you looking at?"As ever, Harriet delights in finding mud and having a good old shake around, heaven's only knows how she ever managed to get white again but she does and after producing an egg she deserved it - well done Harriet.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
And no news - nothing really has changed. Ruby is eventually looking slightly better, lots of pin feathers now so not long until she is back to glorious normality. Saying that, in the condition she is now there is no chance of eggs from her for a while. Harriet on the other hand is fairly close to laying and I would be surprised if we didn't get an egg in the next week. She crouches as soon as she gets a hand any where near her, she is looking wonderful and lastly I would say she is eating really well but as her other name is "Pigsy" its hardly surprising, that silkie will eat anything! And Stella - still looking gorgeous and still being an orpington to the core and not laying a ruddy thing. Have to say she really is calming down a lot.
Eggnog with Shirl and Pearl in the background
Okay, that's it - hopefully next update will include the joyous news of an egg!