Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Trials and Traumas and a Chicken for Sale

Fantastic weather - I love it and so do the girls. Five chickens, four eggs a day (even Nigella is laying albeit very small and somewhat wobbly shaped!) so lots of egg mayo sandwiches for lunch, omelettes and frittatas and no, my cholesterol won't get worse as recent papers have shown that eggs are actually very good for you (not that we didn't know that already).

It's been a bit of a sticky week for the new girls. When introducing any new birds into a new flock there is always going to be some ructions as they fit into the group structure. Firstly we increased the size of the lawn run (still no access to all of the garden until later in the year when the plants are established. Tallulah and Ruby got into the rest of the garden during the week and delighted in eating the newly emerges delphinium and hosta shoots and scratched out lots of new plants that had recently been put in). Tallulah and Nigella got exclusive use of the lawn run during the day just so they could build some confidence.

At least four girls in the run are getting along well!
Ruby has been hugely graceful and has accepted the two of them very well so she joined them during the day. Harriet was in complete princess mode and decided that they needed to be kept in there place so had to spend a few more days in the day run before getting to spend the day out on the lawn and all four a getting on really well. Stella.............well Stella!

Wanted - new home for Stella - are you interested?
As the lowest ranking chicken in the original group even though she is the biggest, Stella was determined to raise her ranking to ensure she didn't stay at the bottom of the pecking order and she has been doing it by brute force. A week after the new girls arrived and Stella still only gets mixed with them in the evening when she has a couple of hours out on the lawn with them and of course overnight but all seems to be okay then as everybody is roosting. I think that after this coming week they will all be together but we have decided to put Stella up for sale. Even though she is a bantam she is VERY solid, I picked her up the other day and now understand where all the food is going! She is also the most destructive bird in the garden. I hope we do find a new home for her as she is a stunning looking bird and laying really well at the moment (and her eggs are probably the best, for some reason Orpingtons always do produce huge yolks).

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

April musings, two new chickens and the dog!

Wonderful weather over the weekend, the added bonus being clear blue sunny skies devoid of aircraft due to the volcano in Iceland!

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

Spring, Swallows and an occasional Partridge

A few sunny days and managing to see a swallow indeed make it feel that spring is eventually here.

For us it meant time in the garden and for the ladies it meant that the mean man would be turfing them off their nests and broodiness, locked out of the nestbox and no chance to try and hatch imaginary eggs. The reality is that now back from the joys of Cornwall those girls needed to start earning their corn again and lay some eggs!

Reality was that with the sunshine and bribe of a few mealworms and no access to nestboxes Ruby and Stella were soon out of broody mode. Stubborn as ever Harriet took a further day to realise the fruitlessness of the cause so she is also back in the flock so just on countdown for some eggs now.

We did have a most amusing interlude with the brief arrival and departure of a red-legged partridge. The partridge was caught in north London, semi-tame or stunned not sure but it (for we knew not whether it was male or female) however we took him in on a temporary basis.

Partridge did not appreciate being in the run however had a very good feed and then spent the evening with the girls in the garden plodding around. Finally partridge walked down the garden, flitted up onto the fence and went into next doors garden. Although we've not seen the bird again we have heard calling so partridge is still in the area.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Belated happy Easter

Writing once a month really isn't good!

That was a long old winter in the proper sense of a winter. Spring has eventually arrived and its lovely to see some flowers in bloom, wild birds in the garden and some sunshine at last.

Of course to celebrate the arrival of longer days, ALL the girls are now broody! And they were doing so well at laying....

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.