Sunday, 29 August 2010

Late summer (b)ramblings

As ever summer rushes forth, actually if you can call it summer. Great June then the rest has been somewhat nondescript. 

Home life has been as busy as ever. Click on the link "The Marvellous Adventures of...." to see news of our new arrival, Millie - so now a two dog, four chicken and fourteen goldfish household. Millie is still very nervous but growing in confidence every day, not exactly helped by coming into season almost as soon as we got her. Also I don't think that she is going to be as easy as Max to mix with the chickens.

The lovely Millie

The past couple of months have been filled with broody chickens and very poor egg production. Last year we hatched chicks but this year we decided along with the dogs and lack of time not to do any. Of course that didn't stop them going broody! 

Harriet of course went first and almost lasted the longest, despite all efforts to discourage her she was having none of it and went 35 days. Ruby was next, both girls deciding they were going to use the same nest box to sit in. When they both decided to give up (after some pressure being locked out of the shed) at the same time and moulted, Ruby is looking positively oven ready and the garden looks like it just held a pillow-fighting competition. 

An almost oven-ready Ruby

Once those two were out Tallulah decided upon  broodiedom! This time we did encourage her to sit as we had a special task for her. One of the peafowl at the zoo decided to lay an egg but showed no interest in incubating it. As it was a somewhat rare species of peafowl it would be far better for the chick to be reared by another bird as opposed to being hand reared. Excitedly we get Tallulah happily sitting on the egg however her foster motherhood wasn't to be as the egg was infertile - better luck next time. 

Tallulah out of incubation mode and looking good

And of course at the end of it all Nigella wasn't to be outdone and decided that she was going broody as well. Nigella stopping laying to sit on her arse all day was the last straw so as Tallulah was no longer needed for the peafowl egg all access to the nest boxes was cut so there was no option but to take in the fresh air and no where to sit in a comfortable nest! At last all four chickens out in the garden - now just waiting for everybody to get over moulting! 

Over the course of 8 weeks we managed to produce 5 eggs a week at best, hardly the realms of self sufficiency however enough for the occasional bit of baking and fried egg butties at the weekend. 
I have to say that with the summer at least feeding costs are at an absolute minimum. If not sitting on eggs the girls have full access to the garden now that all the plants are established so they spend the entire day happily scratching away. On top of that sweetcorn on special at the shops in a super treat they all enjoy especially with the "sweetcorn swinger", hours of fun for chickens and us watching.

Of course late summer and the hedgerows are full of blackberries, even more obvious now as we are walking the dogs on a regular basis. Inspired by my latest read "The Allotment Chef" by Paul Merrett we have been taking plastic tubs with us on walks to collect the bounty - this evening we will be enjoying blackberry and apple crumble and taking on the challenge of bramble jelly if we get enough berries. Mentioning allotment, we had a fairly good year.....but that's another blog entry.