Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Hardest Cut of All - RIP Isla Chicken

Today didn't have a good start. My oldest hen Isla (a White Leghorn) who had been a brilliant layer in her younger days was slowing down. She had been in retirement for the past year but still retained her status as top hen. She had not come through her moult very easily this year but she managed it and she had the best feather condition of her life, she looked beautiful. The last couple of days had seen a marked change in her behaviour until finally, her comb was shriveled and pink, her face looked drained, her eyes looked tired, her body was hunched with a downward pointing tail rather than her usual jaunty looking tail. I had been monitoring her for a few days and although she was eating and drinking and occasionally telling the others off she was definitely ill. Her abdomen was distended and the skin was taut, it felt like a balloon. All the other things I had tried had not worked and she was looking unsteady on her feet now and had taken to sleeping on the floor of the coop instead of her usual top perch as befitted her top hen status. She had not laid for over a year and I strongly suspected egg yolk peritonitis. So it was with a heavy heart that I decided today that the kindest thing I could do for her was to put her out of her suffering.

In order to find out exactly what was causing her suffering I decided on a post-mortem. I discovered that her bloated abdomen was filled with about a litre of green watery liquid. Her bowel was also somewhat solidified too. She also had a large solid egg sized, yolk-like mass and various other marble sized yolk coloured solid masses floating loose within her abdominal cavity which confirmed my suspicions that it was indeed egg yolk peritonitis and that I had chosen the right path for her.

Tonight she will travel on curling wisps of smoke up to the sky as we sit and remember her until the embers die down. RIP Isla Chicken. The spirit of her lives on in some of my other girls who are lucky to share her genes.

Isla up to her usual mischief before she earned
the right to become head chicken

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Christmas Recipe with a twist

You are going to love this recipe. I have copied if from a Facebook forum and written by Kelly Nijhuis
not strictly poultry related.. but its cake related so hope it's ok Rosemary Davies!
Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Vodka Christmas Cake recipe so here goes. Please keep in your files as I am beginning to get tired of typing this up every year! (Made mine this morning!!!!) 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 cup water, 1 tsp. salt , 1 cup brown sugar, Lemon juice, 4 large eggs, Nuts, 1......bottle Vodka, 2 cups dried fruit.
Sample a cup of Vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality then Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point, it is best to make sure the Vodka is still OK. Try another cup just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the fruit up off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver Sample the Vodka to test for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the Vodka. Now shit shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the Vodka and wipe the counter with the hen.

Thanks to Kelly for this

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Heartwarming kindness by Police to a mother duckie

This is a lovely video I found. It shows a frantic mother duck who was quacking around a drainage gutter because her ducklings had fallen into it and couldnt get out. It shows a policewoman undoing the drainage cover and rescuing the ducklings. Happy ending and a very happy mummy duck. Lovely.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Hen Project

If any of you are in any doubt about how wonderful hens are to keep, then this video will show you how it is being used in the North East for a group of pensioners. The hens make them feel useful, it gives them a focus and it helps form bonds within their communities as more people realise the joys of keeping chickens. This is a lovely piece of film from the Hen Project - Henpower

Thanks to lottery funding they are spreading the chicken love to Birmingham, a place where many of them have never been.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Naked Gardening Day- Whatever next (Its quite tasteful but funny)

I was just looking for some information on Phygelius plants to find out if they are attractive to slugs when I found this video it is worth a watch. Dont worry it is not something you will be ashamed of watching. It is in aid of World Naked Gardening Day which was apparently some time in May. I didnt actually join in because unfortunately I missed it. Otherwise I might have been frolicking in the potatoes with the best of em. Plus the fact that the neighbours probably think I am mad enough. Enjoy
If anyone knows if Phygelius is tasty to slugs I would love to know as my slugs have had the most expensive diet known to man (or woman) I have treated them to about £30 worth of new plants this year, all are now dead. I want to grow something pretty, long flowering and I think the slugs have had quite enough.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Broodyville - What on earth is that!!

One of our lovely customers contacted us today to say  """I was wondering if you’d be able to help. One of the chickens seems to be suffering a little. She has been sitting on her eggs waiting for them to hatch and is not wanting to walk around at all, resulting in her eating very little and loosing feathers. She has also stopped laying eggs which I believe is very serious. I am not sure what to do, should get a vet out to look at her?"""

How do you know if your chicken is broody? This is classic broody behaviour. She will be flattened, fluffed up, she will squeal if you go near her, she may even turn into chickzilla and try to peck you. She will go mental if you remove her from the nest box and making a "clocking" noise. The other previously mild mannered coop mates will turn on her especially if she is not a high ranking chicken. She apparently has ideas above her station. A Broody hen is to be cherished and you can see from the pictures here our India who is an Improved Indian Game is a perfect Broody, she had a brood of 20 (mostly duped her into adoptees) which she devotedly looked after day and night for 6 weeks until we gave her the time off. Normally a broody will carry on for about 8 weeks when all of a sudden she will say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH - PACK YOUR BAGS AND FIND YOUR OWN FOOD" she will then have nothing more to do with them. Not very different from what we do but we have to wait 18 LONG years to get to do that.

We took these pictures of India last time she was broody and she managed to cram them all into such a tiny space which was really funny to see. She thought she was safest in there and she insisted that they all join her. When they were hatchlings she had plenty of room, but they gain weight quickly and at 3 weeks as in these pictures they cram in like sardines. We put her in her own proper coop after this so she could get some "me" space.

This is what happens when you let your broody follow what Mother Nature has planned for her. The alternative is what? What if you don't have the room? She wont be laying any eggs and is upsetting the harmony of the coop and pinching the others eggs so she can sit on them.

The term here is to "break" the broody or break the broody cycle. She will lay a load of eggs and then stop and sit. She has an incredible urge to sit and will sit on anything including golf balls and similar egg sized balls. She will not like to be taken off the nest, but moved she must be. The easiest and "almost" kindest way of doing it is to prevent her getting access to anywhere she can sit in comfort or make a nest. This includes preventing her getting her in the coop, or anywhere she can make a scrape to nest in. If she cant get into her normal nest she will seek out an alternative. She will go nuts trying to find her way back in and she will pace up and down trying every weak spot she can find. She may be diverted with a bit of bribery for a while but she will resume the pacing soon after. She may do this for 2 days and then she may just be broken. She can go into the coop at night for safety unless you have somewhere else she can go but you have to turf her out in the morning. Very determined broodies sometimes take an extra day. You can test her to see if she goes straight back on the nest. If she doesn't return to her broody behaviour she can rejoin her coop mates. I normally shut my broodies out of the run. They can see the others but cannot nest.

I have tried all the other "methods" such as dunking them in cold water, and hoping they will give up naturally. Take it from me they wont give up until they have lost loads of condition and dunking actually quite awful. It is a real shock to them and it doesn't work. You can also put them in a dog crate to make them uncomfortable which does work but is worse than my method. They cant run around and is more like entrapment. Either way depriving a broody of her nesting instinct is like trying to plait fog - its impossible.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bananas a go go

I have just looked at the fruit bowl. I know fruit is good for you and we all have to have our 5 or is it 7 a day or whatever these days so we can be good to ourselves, but I have just noticed that my bananas (not my mental condition - my fruit) have started to slither off the worktop by themselves. I have been promising myself that I will save that browning banana for a banana and walnut loaf cake. Tomorrow I will try to make that loaf before it finally hits the floor having undressed itself of its skin. The race is on folks.

Men versus Women - in chicken terms that is

Further evidence of bonkers chicken lady. Hattie has just had a bath
During my time as a chicken breeder, I always ask my lovely customers, do you know how to pick up a chicken as I like to send everyone away with a way of picking their birds up so they don't cause them stress or injury. I have been very surprised at the result. The answer is usually a no. Even people who have had chickens for ages usually say no, so I am making a point of putting them right. It's my duty for the care of the chicken right? I then explain the intricacies of how you hold your hands, and where the bird goes and how you get the bird from the floor to your hands without scaring them half to death. This is following by some cooing and stroking. During these training sessions I have been pleased to note that although the men are braver initially in picking the chicken up, it is the women who know what to do with their hands. While I am doing this, I treat my customers to some chicken talk which obviously makes me sound completely nuts but is not too way off the mark actually. But before they go, they see how effective it is and they start talking chicken themselves. I then feel happy that not only have I converted a previously sane person, into one who quite naturally wants to talk chicken to relax their birds. I have created a human flock for the newly adopted chicken to live happily with. Every one's a winner.

WARNING....chicken keeping is addictive and likely to make you talk funny......but only in the privacy of the chicken run!!!!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Gordon has gone

This should be a sad message judging by the title, but it isnt. Gordon has flown the coop onto pastures new. He has been adopted by a lovely family in Tarporley in Cheshire to keep her garden girls company and in good order. Anyone who thinks that a cock bird is aggressive has not been near to a hand reared bird. Soft as a brush he was. We will miss him I think and my own gang of garden girls are having to find their own goodies. We dont hear the excited calling of Gordon now as he announces that he has found some tasty morsel for the girls to eat. I think it was part of his wooing tactics, "look what I have found girls" then WHAM "you werent expecting that now were you?". A bit crude, but I think the girls fell for it most of the time. I think he was more of a pie and pint sort of bird rather than a crooning latin lover. So efficient was he at finding the worms etc, that he ate very little himself. He took his job as "provider" very seriously indeed. He was not head chicken, that accolade was earned by Isla who was a bit too quick for Gordon in the wooing department. Gordon was quite low down the pecking order as we had a hard time trying to encourage him to eat. He always looked away when the girls were feeding which is exactly what a lowly chicken will do when faced with a heirarchy of high ranking hens. When we brought him in overnight (to spare the neighbours) his crop was virtually empty so he had a good feed up of his favourite grapes and corn and pellets so at least he could keep his strength up for the long round of servicing of his harem which he was absolutely dedicated to. Every 10 minutes, now that takes some doing. Not many males can claim that sort of prowess I think. I really hope Gordon is enjoying his newfound harem and is appreciating a semi retirement.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Mountain of jobs the sequel

Despite what the long suffering one says about adding more to the list than we are ticking off I feel like we are making a little progress. The list reduced to 30 at one stage from the 50 originally. However it has crept back up. Those little jobs keep raising their ugly heads. Nothing done seems to stay done. I managed to clear out the living room so I could see the fireplace and it looked lovely for a day. Then my sister decided she would unload a lot of stuff she thought I might find useful. And to be truthful I probably will find it useful, but now we look like a tip again as I have to rearrange my storage to fit it in. Oh joy.

The eggs are rumbling away in the incubator ready for our next hatch on the 24th and I did some candling last night. We have 16 out of 194 not fertile which after a few ways of calculating it I have decided is 92% fertility. Gordon is doing his bit too for my Ausbar crosses, although the White Leghorn hen Isla is a bit too fast for him and those eggs weren't fertile. She obviously has a strategy to dodge him as I can see him trying his best to catch her. I think motoring up the netting like she's on a speedway track is a good tactic. It is keeping him fit anyway. Shame as I wanted the chicks from that crossing as they are lovely looking birds. He does manage to catch her sometimes but not enough for my liking. He managed to catch all of the others as they were all fertile. Good boy Gordon. Like some men, he needs a bit of finesse rather than gung-ho to make himself more alluring to Isla.

I bought a "temporary" incubator which I am now using as a permanent incubator. One of those hexagonal ones that you need to manually turn the eggs in. On my last batch of eggs I had a brainwave. Taking the lid off and twisting all those eggs (over 40) every hour or two was doing my head in. Apart from the losing heat and humidity every time I did it. The time element didnt help either. I wedged all the eggs in and decided to tip the whole incubator 45% one way then the opposite way every couple of hours on a book instead. It worked like a charm. I only got 4 eggs out of 40 not hatching. This time I wedged it full to bursting so I dont have to wedge with cardboard and polystyrene and it means I can do more eggs and less turning. RESULT!!!! All bar 2 non-fertile eggs are growing nicely out of 66.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Mountain of Jobs

Why is it that we always put off the niggling little jobs. Because we always have something more interesting to do I expect. Or we dont want to root round in the garage for that particular tool which is the only one that can do that job. It takes longer to find the tool than it actually takes to complete the job.

Well I was in a right paddy. Things never seemed to get done and just another little job was added to that list which now seemed never ending. I know my life would be so much easier (and more organised) if I could get to grips with this LIST. Well I made a list, and put all these fiddling little jobs on it. It mounted to some 50 items, YES FIFTY. No wonder I was feeling fed up I reckoned. This list has been in existence now for just over a week and the long suffering one (husband) has picked a few items off it and I have been making a concerted effort to bag at least one every day. The list is down to 30 items. It would have been less but we forgot to add a few more jobs which we needed to add as a consequence of finishing others. Isnt that just the way.

Its quite satisfying ticking them off and seeing the list shrink. It is making me more organised too I think. Before I would do a butterfly thing and half finish loads of stuff feeling very busy all day, but not actually achieving my objective. Now I am tacking one to the very end before starting another even though my mind wants to multi-task. This is definitely the way to get things done!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Wormfest weather

I dont know about you but I am really fed up with the constant rain. Summer seems such a long way off and the garden girls are in and out of the coop constantly dodging the showers. The water table is so high that even in my run which is raised higher than the surroundings is getting rather squelchy in places as the water rises underneath.  I keep a garden fork in the tarpaulin covered run so I can dig a few forkfulls over (and get a little useful exercise into the bargain) to get some air into the soil to improve the drainage. The girls get really excited when I pick up the fork and there is a feathery mass at my feet as they pounce on any poor unsuspecting worm who has the misfortune to wander anywhere underneath. It would seem the wetter the ground gets the more the worms congregate. Its like a writhing pink wormfest with each forkfull. I thank heavens for the tarpaulin but have had my fingers crossed that the high winds didn't turn it into a chicken kite.

My thoughts have to go out to those people who are suffering due to the flooding in parts of the country and thank my lucky stars that we have been spared so far. For once its not so "grim up north"

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Worming Time

As the weather is getting better (what planet am I on?) and the ladies have finished moulting and are at their finest, I have decided it is time for a good old purge. I have spent a while mixing some Flubenvet into a 20 kilo bag of layers pellets. I would much rather buy it ready mixed but getting hold of feed with Flubenvet in is like find a mouth full of hens teeth. I have to travel over 30 miles which is silly. Very few people stock it, and I dont see why. You need to be suitably qualified to "dispense" it. If the wormer is already incorporated into a feed which presumably is done in a properly controlled fashion then this has to be safer than me mixing just 24 grams (just about 5 teaspoons) into a 20 kilo sack. As it is, I have to put it into a drum and with my finest washing machine action to churn it backwards and forwards in my efforts to make sure it is dispersed evenly into the feed. Flubenvet is my wormer of choice as a) it kills all known worms - dead and b) you dont have to do it very often. I do it about twice a year. I herbal worm my older chicks as I think that is kinder to their systems and they all get a top dressing of horsey garlic flakes about once a week. Garlic is a good vermifuge (wormer to you and me) and all round good tonic. You can tell they have been eating it when you go into the run cos they all get garlic breath. Lovely!!!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

RIP Lopsided Lulu

A really sad day. Lulu who has already escaped death earlier in the week was found in the pond today....drowned. As she could not fly she could not jump over with enough force to clear the obstacle. I found her floating and this time she was beyond recovery. Poor girl. I imagine she was chased there by a duck and was maybe cornered so she had no option but to risk the pond. Ever since she was hatched I have had a soft spot for her. Although she was not suitable to sell, she would have had a good life with my own laying flock I think. I am devastated. Poor poor Lulu. I can take comfort in the fact that it was good she was one of mine, she would have been culled by any other breeder I would think. Chickens and ponds definitely do not mix.

On a high note, I got 5 eggs today from my laying girls, the most since late October. They obviously know that spring is on the way. I am looking forward to the weather becoming less damp soon, all the rain is getting me down and I have plans for the garden this summer. I am going to hang sails from the pergola as sun shades so I have a nice big area to sit in so I don't get burned. The lobster look is not for me from now on. Once the Jasmine and Kiwi vine is really intertwined in the pergola I can sit out and smell its gorgeous perfume lingering in the air. Bliss.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Yay Lulu

Good News
Fearing that Lulu was overcome by her emergency episode last night I thought that I might come downstairs this morning to find her dead in the cat carrier. However, joy, I went shuffling in the kitchen in my slippers and dressing gown and peered expectantly into the carrier on the floor and she squeeked at me. Yay.

I have had the new shed built today so it has been rather messy in the garden. Lots of tools, chicken paraphernalia and garden fixtures not where they should be so a little chaotic. The 12 weekers spent most of the day hiding in their coop especially as the ducks had free range of the garden whilst we were coming and going. They obviously didn't want to feel the wrath of the ducks again and I don't blame them. They settled in the coop and scattered the nice clean bedding I had just done for them and they surveyed the chaos from a safe distance. We caught them having a crafty dig in the earth where we had been working to see if they could uproot a tasty worm and then when we came out again we found them back in the coop with 7 pairs of eyes peering out as if butter wouldn't melt.

Two of the 12 weekers are boys and they have been practicing their crowing. A very pathetic affair. A bit like an adolescent boy going through pubity where the voice just won't behave. They haven't got any power in the crow yet so no rush to rehome. They are a Black Legbar and a Speckled Ausbar both crested and very handsome they will be.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ah Poor Lulu

Just had a bit of a shock. It was dark, and a bit drizzly. Keith had just gone outside to make sure the chickens and ducks had all gone to bed. He shouted to me to come down quickly, he added, a duck has attacked a chicken. I ran to get my coat and met him outside to find Lopsided Lulu lying in a puddle on her back with her legs stretched out looking rather dead. I picked her up and she squeeked at me (a good sign) but she was sopping wet and cold and looked very bad. I feared the worst. I took her inside and wrapped her like a burrito in an old towel hoping to dry her out and see if I could revive her. She was breathing heavily but didn't sound like she had taken a dunk in the pond, although she was wet enough to have been in there. She lay in my arms quietly and looked sleepy. I assumed she was in shock so I quietly spoke to her in chick squeeking (I know its mad) hoping she would speak back to me. She didn't. I know when parrots get ill the best thing is to warm them up. Something to do with the heat allows their bodies to overcome what ails them. Once Lulu was warmer I treated her to some corn which she gobbled greedily. Another good sign. I then gave her the ultimate in chicken beauty treatment. A blow dry with the hairdryer. She wasn't too chuffed until she realised it was nice and warm and she allowed me to ruffle her feathers to dry her off completely. She then decided to have a wander round the kitchen squeeking as she went and we had a right old chat. She is now in the cat carrier for the night and hopefully she will join her coop-mates in the morning.

Lulu is so named because she took ages to come out the shell on hatch day and she has a droopy wing. When chicks are slow, they tend to get welded into a curled up position and things like feet or wings or even legs can be so deformed that they die. Lulu could stand and her feet were ok, but she looked like a little hunchback with her droopy side. Lopsided Lulu she became and as such I am very fond of her. She is only 12 weeks old but I wouldn't want to part with her, certainly not yet.

The ducks are not fond of the chickens when they are in duck territory but they don't normally attack. Lulu might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and maybe they did have a go at her. She is timid and at the bottom of the pecking order in her own group of 12 week olds.  I am just wondering if she will survive into adulthood and whether the other adult hens will allow her to live and let live. I do hope so.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Do I ever learn?

Just had new windows and doors fitted, which means the house is in chaos. Not content with that upset, I have then given the builders what amounts to a shopping list of jobs around the house. Keith thinks I am nuts and am sure he is worried about when I am going to say stop, and that I am finally satisfied that the house is just perfect the way it is. But the house is not perfect yet. At least not until I replace my metal ramshackle shed with a nice new wooden one. I now need the builders to shoehorn into a space which will only just accommodate it. We would normally do that sort of stuff but I know that if Keith and I try to build it, we will end up killing each other and providing the neighbours with more entertainment than they can cope with. So I feel it is safer (more healthy for our marriage) if the builders do it. To put the shed where I want it, I need the paving to be every so slightly adjusted so the base will fit. This is part of the paving that was done only last year!!  Then I need to fit shelves in it and cram all the stuff back in. The object of the exercise is to fit in a coop which has been standing on said paving and is in the way. I will now have room for it in its own space and it will give the chickens that live in that coop a patch of earth to dig in. I know they will thank me at least. When that is done, it will only leave the decoration of my new office and floorlaying, redecorate the living room and lay new flooring, and I think I will call STOP right there then. Possibly. Keith is rolling his eyeballs again. Poor man.