Monday, 26 December 2011

On the third day of Christmas...

...three French Hens.

Ok, they might not be French...


...but these are!


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas x

Wishing all my blogging friends and their animal friends,  a very Merry Christmas


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Three Days Before Christmas!

Brick decided this was the optimum time to require veterinary treatment...THREE days!  I don't expect there's a lot of poultry heading in the direction of the vets for remedial treatment three days before Christmas.

Pippin was most obliging in lending Brick his basket to go to the vets...
...I suspect fowl play.

Brick had sounded like an old squeezebox the day before and I suspected a respiratory infection.  Typically, it was nowhere near as bad this morning but with the vets closed for a few days over Christmas, I wasn't going to risk it.

We were going to drop by the open surgery in the morning but one hour before we were due to set off, Brick decided it was egg laying time.  Two hours later, when she finally emerged, it was too late to go and so a proper, official appointment had to be made.  Our appointment was for 2.50pm.

At 2.30pm Brick decided it was time for a dust bath.  At 2.35pm I was chasing her round the garden.  At 2.40pm we were all in the car.

As always, Brick's name caused confusion.  On the phone to the vet, there was a pause and I was asked to repeat, and spell said name.  At the vets the veterinary nurse just eyed me over a pair of glasses.

Once in, the usual checks took place; the temperature-taking was less fraught than it has been in the past.  I guess once you've laid a few eggs, a thermometer is a walk in the park.

Any way, two injections and thirty pounds lighter, we're on our way home and somewhat amused by the lady in the waiting room who asked if my cat was ok because it didn't sound very well at all... 


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The 9th of December 2011.

The day my chickens FINALLY laid their first egg!!!!!!!!!

Well, actually one of my chickens.  Brick, my Pekin x Silkie, the youngest of my hens...the other two are a pair of slackers!

Home grown, very fresh, free range eggs get a big thumbs up in our house!


Friday, 4 November 2011

Apologies for the distinct lack of blogging.

I have been spending all my time searching for George.  He has disappeared from the garden.
I know my summer pursuit of ridding the garden of weeds was not looked upon favourably by my chelonian friend but I didn't think he'd take it to such an extreme.

In all honesty, I am incredibly upset.  I thought he would be with my family into the 22nd Century and that in itself is really quite an odd thing to consider.

We have spent a lot of time searching the surrounding gardens.  I had thought our garden escape proof and it had been for the last three years.  I have doubts that the small gap I did find, behind the drainpipe from the conservatory, was big enough for his not inconsiderable shelled frame but it is the only one there is.

Posters have been stuck in local and not so local shops.  Petshops, vets, rehoming centres, UK Tortoise Missing have all been rang.  Notices have been posted on various tortoise-related parts of the internet. 

All my effort has not totally been in vain.  It had been suggested to me, by more than one person, that it is quite possible that George has dug down into the soil to hibernate.  I am very much hoping this is true and that in March, I'll be happily able to report that he has re-appeared at the back door requesting strawberries.

The chickens are indifferent to the loss of their garden companion, he did use to chase them and made for a few ruffled feathers.  The rabbit on the other hand, was more sympathetic and sat patiently while I told him the news and stroked his ears.

I am hoping the spring will herald the return of our moving stone.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

World Egg Day!

Today is World Egg Day.

I thought maybe, possibly, hopefully my chickens might help celebrate this day with their first egg.

But no.

Not a chance.

It ain't happening.

Non-egg laying sit-in protest

I do believe I own the rare and elusive non-egg laying chickens.
Happy World Egg Day to everyone, especially those whose chickens do actually lay eggs!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Egg Song

Mabel has started singing her egg song.

This is the noise they are supposed to make AFTER they've laid an egg.  

So, which came first, the egg song or the egg?  Mabel clearly has her own thoughts on this.


To try and take my mind off Reg's departure, I've been thinking about my girls laying their first eggs.  According to their ages, Betty should be first up, although I'm not entirely sure Betty shares my opinion on this.

I was obviously looking wistful as Paul asked me what I was thinking about.  I shared my musings with him.  He paused for a brief moment and then mused back:

"Betty looks too small and feeble to lay any eggs ever.  Brick's insane and any egg she lays will probably be cube-shaped and as for the lolling headed, blind one in there (Mabel) - she looks like she'd have trouble walking in a straight line, let alone lay an egg".

A slight pause and a quick look at my face and he continued:

"But I could be wrong.  You could be sat out front at your table, with your little sign, selling boxes upon boxes of eggs".

I get the feeling he's been considering the egg situation for longer than I have...


Paul does attempt, after his initial input of constructing the coop, to keep his involvement with my hens to a minimum.  The same doesn't apply to him commenting on my chicken activities.  

Recently I bought some leg rings for my girls.  I like the thought that they have something on them that indicates they belong to someone and with my phone number written on them I hope, that if they ever were lost, some kind soul would return them to me.

I showed Paul the rings, he stared at them for a while and then asked:

"Is that so you can tell them apart...?"


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The silence is deafening.

Well, I managed it. It took a while but I did it.  I found Reggie a new home.

It wasn't easy and it involved a 150 mile round trip to drive him there and check his new home was ok.

He now lives at a stud farm, which is probably somewhat appropriate.  This one is for horses.  At his new home he has a large amount of new Pekin wives and is allowed to free range over the farm.  It is a brilliant outcome - I'd like to live on that farm, never mind Reg!

But at home it is quiet.

And I am sad.


Sunday, 18 September 2011


Mabel is my 'special needs' chicken.  She has no vision in her right eye and on our arrival home I discovered she had the start of a respitatory infection. You know the saying 'The best laid schemes of hens and men, go oft awry'...?

It had all started when I had been considering the size of my flock.  Once I'd found Reggie a new home, I'd have not so much a brood of hens, or even some hens, more like...two.  Two chickens aren't quite enough, it needs to be at least three.  Don't ask me why, as I couldn't tell you.

So this was my plan. To relocate Reggie to his new home and have the new hen arriving on the same day.  Sometimes my level of expectation is way off the mark.

I was pretty particular about the new hen I wanted.  A Pekin, roughly 15 weeks old and a Milliefleur.  I thought, given my fastidious requirements, that my search would take at least as long as the hunt for Reggie's new home.

But no.

Two days, TWO!  What was that I meant about the best laid schemes. 

So Mabel was duly collected the following weekend, with Reg still in residence.  I swear, when I was collecting her and even on the drive home their was no noise, nothing untoward about her.  But, the moment I turned the car off, 'quark'.  Quark?  QUARK?

I went inside and opened the box to show my gathering family the new arrival. 


The family just stood & stared.

Ok, I'll admit that wasn't a normal chicken noise and she would be going to the vets first thing on Monday.  

My husband then enquired as to why I insisted on buying broken chickens.


Our quarantine run doesn't have a coop attached to it, so Mabel has to sleep in our house.  And just as Betty had done before her, Mabel took to this very well.

If not a little too well...

It was during this indoor time that we noticed her rather odd and exaggerated head movements.  Craning her head left and right and banging it on anything that was in the way.  She was also quite jumpy.  Some frantic waving of hands on her right side produced no reaction, nor did holding titbits there.  But if it was held in front of her or to her left she ate it, usually second go after pecking at thin air.  If you look at the top picture of her, you can see there's a slight unevenness about her eyes.  

So, not only did she have a suspected chest infection, she was also blind in one eye.  I certainly do know how to pick 'em.

The visit to the vets confirmed my suspicions - an upper-chest infection.  The vet listened to her chest, took her temperature (always entertaining, though probably more so for me rather than the vet or patient) & weighed her.  Nothing too serious was declared as there were no accompanying snotty nostrils, unsightly discharge, watery eyes or fluffed up feathers.  She was active, eating and drinking.  We'd caught it early, phew!  One long-acting antibiotic injection later and we were on our way back home.

Back in her pen, it was rather a good job she was a safe distance from the other chickens. Reggie wandered up to see the new arrival and not with his usual 'Hellooo, I want to marry you and raise beautiful chicks together' swagger, oh no.  This was his 'I'm going to kick your butt and then I'm going to kick it some more' routine.  

Mabel was duly terrified.  Her lack of vision means that she panics much more than is usual and began running into the sides of the run.  It didn't help that the ever impressionable Brick, picked up on Reggie's behaviour and joined in.  I shooed them away but I knew they would eventually have to sort this out between themselves.  Though hopefully, when the time came for Mabel to leave the quarantine pen, Reg would be in his new home.

In the meantime, Mabel would carry on spending the evenings re-cooperating in the house.  And continue her most favourite activity...

...harassing my husband.

I think I can safely say, he is well and truly hen-pecked!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The cockerel dilema.

Reggie and I are having a bit of a power struggle at the moment.  He thinks Betty & Brick are his hens, whereas I know they are mine.  I know he also belongs to me but he's certainly not having any of that.  He imagines himself king of the garden.  Unfortunately, for this feathered, power-hungry, diminutive dictator, his plans for garden domination are somewhat thwarted by the rabbit.  Pippin IS king of the garden, Reg might not like it but he's knows it's the truth.

Dealing with awkward moments in the garden,
by suddenly discovering
your feathers need urgent attention.

Ever since we discovered Reggie was a cockerel, I'll admit I was a quietly disappointed.  He was a wonderfully friendly chick.  A fluffy, yellow bundle of extreme cuteness.  I had hoped he would be a hen but we had chicks and so it was a case of crossing our fingers.  That didn't quite work I tried not to be too down about it.  He was happy, healthy and friendly and his first attempts at crowing were rather amusing, I was sure he would fit in...

I had owned a cockerel before, as a child.  We had no hens, so he lacked the urge to protect, defend and reproduce.  He was my pet, he was an excellent pet.

As Reggie grew up, his cockerel tendencies started to develop.  His crowing became more accomplished, though he isn't loud at all given his small stature.  His general pecking, whilst not malicious, is considerably harder than the girls and can actually hurt quite a lot - especially if you are eight. He rules the hens with a firm but fair will; although even this irks me slightly.  When he is not there (being cuddled by children) the girls seem happier to wander as they please and not be frog-marched into the lavender at the first sign of a falling leaf.   A search on the net suggested that I do not have enough hens for one cockerel.  I believe a polite term is that they would be 'over worked'.  Eight was recommended as the lowest number and I have two. 

On the flip-side he is friendly, has a wonderful character, loves a cuddle and does his job of keeping the ladies safe should an eagle (unlikely), or threatening leaf (more likely) appear overhead.  

I pondered these pros and cons for some time and discussed them with my husband.  Eventually we felt it would be best to find him a home with less neighbours and more hens!

Once the decision had been made, I then realised the sizeable task I had just taken on.  It seems the internet is full of cockerels looking for new homes.  'Buy two hens, get a free cockerel' is a common advert. 'Please take my cockerel away' suggests they have been at it for some time.  Hens are popular, for obvious reasons.  Cockerels are not, for equally obvious reasons.  

A common method of dispatch with cockerels is to cull.  Not an avenue that I would ever venture down but a seemingly common occurance.  Some of my 'Look after your pet chicken' books show methods of culling.  Not something I've ever seen in books about guinea pigs, hamsters or budgerigars. 

This book for example, bought from 'Pets At Home', at first glance looks a most pleasant & informative read on keeping pet chickens.

Until page 198...

I certainly don't recall a recipe for grilled gerbil when buying countless books for my daughter's new pets.  Such it seems is a chicken's lowly social status in the beloved pet world and connection to the food industry is always apparent, or maybe I'm just over sensitive.

Anyway, I digress. 

So far I have placed adverts, phoned breeders, replied to wanted adverts that look like they could possibly squeeze an extra cockerel in, all to no avail.  I do have a back up plan.  There's a rather kindly gentleman that uses his farm as a re-homing centre for a variety of poultry.  A most kind and generous use of his farm and a wholly worthwhile venture.  

I will, of course, let you know when Reg finds his new home.  Just don't go holding your breath.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

No, it's not for a dog, it's for my chickens.

Whilst driving along our road, I noticed a few handmade bird tables for sale at one of the houses.  On the return journey, my eye was caught by a small dog kennel positioned just a bit farther back.

One three point turn later, I was parked outside looking at the kennel.  It was quite lovely and sized for a small dog, handmade, with good quality wood and very sweetly painted.  Ideal for a 'day house' for my chickens.  After a knock on the door and the exchange of not a lot of money, I drove home with my latest acquisition.

Once in the garden and past the mildly surprised look from my husband - I had only popped up the road for some stamps - the question was 'where to put it?'  Needless to say, it was moved many times before ending up in its final resting place.  During this time, the chickens got acquainted with their new, if somewhat TARDIS-like abode.

Initially, they all stared at the little house from a distance.  Betty eventually plucked (I know, I know) up the courage to have a look.

That delightful, if somewhat ample, fluffy bottom stayed positioned in the door way for quite some time.

And during that time, a queue built up...  


Eventually, Reggie could wait no longer and had to take matters into his own...wings?

Then followed a considerable amount of pushing and shoving as all three tried to occupy the doorway at the same time.  This was never going to be satisfactory for any of them, least of all Betty, who considered it her house.

So the end result was this:

And there it was.  Betty secured ownership of her little house and spent the rest of the day sitting in it.  And the other two?  Well, they pretended they didn't care and went off to harass any small insects they could find. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Bedtime. Or not...

Whilst Betty was convalesing in the house, Reggie and Brick were getting to grips with the new coop.

They liked being outside, had test-run the garden often and liked the coop; although they were not so sure about 'upstairs'.

I would find them staring up the ramp just before bedtime, then at bedtime they would be roosting -  huddled in a corner of the run.  This meant I had to crawl into the run, through the VERY SMALL door and lift them up into the coop.

This was not ideal.

A couple of weeks into this scenario, I was browsing the internet looking for suggestions on how to make my reluctant chickens go to bed and came upon the suggestion of a light.  A night light for chickens - wonderful!

I went to B&Q and a 'stick-on LED' was duly bought and positioned in the coop.

Dusk fell, the light was on and my little troop, peered up the ramp and could see that there was nothing in there that was likely to eat them.  Safe in this knowledge, the peering continued.  It continued for quite a while.  In fact it continued to the point where I decided to go and make a cup of tea.  When I came back, obviously they were gone.

Despite previous suggestions, they do not have a TV in there.

A quick run up the garden confirmed that they had indeed ascended the ramp, on the first night of using a light!  I can't explain how pleased I was not to be crawling about trying to grab alarmed chickens in the fading light.

The next night Betty re-joined my little flock.  As the light faded she marched up to the coop, jumped up the ramp and hopped into bed.  The light wasn't even on...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A little bit of chicken shopping.

Whilst browsing in a rather lovely Devonshire shop,  I came upon this book...

...I probably won't share it with my little gang.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The house chicken.

This arrangement suited Betty very well.  She spent nearly all of her time sat on the pouffe.  Only moving when a suitable lap or shoulder became available. 

The remote controls are for me, not her.

She seemed a little under the weather after we bought her home.  I had thought her comb and wattles rather pale, hence the visit to the vet.  Nothing was pinpointed as being wrong but she did have a bit of a temperature and her poop was a bit iffy so antibiotics were prescribed.

Quarrentine from Reggie and Brick meant she moved in with us, which pleased her greatly.

To pass the time she took to reading.  

She liked this book...

...this one not so much.  

This is her favourite past time...

 ...Youtube being the most popular choice.

She likes to see what the neighbours are up to...

                                                         ...the postman is of particular interest.   

Relaxing in the conservatory often earns me this view...

...and if the petting stops, it's this...

...which (if petting is not resumed) turns to this.

Then the day came to move in with the chickens at the bottom of the garden.  
Betty was not keen.
Not keen at all.

So now this, happens a lot!

Which inevitably results in this...


Monday, 8 August 2011

Right, where's the Phillips screwdriver...?

Yes, the coop had arrived.

The postman very kindly heaved it into the hall.  I figured it could stay there 'til Paul got home.

There were two boxes...they were very large boxes - boxes that looked like the contents would take longer than half an hour to assemble.  

The boxes continued to sit in the hall for a further forty-eight hours.  They arrived on Thursday, Saturday was deemed the most suitable day for coop construction (a whole day to look for lost tools, mend split wood, or go to A&E).

Saturday arrived.  The boxes were carried to the garden and construction started.  Betty wandered over to see what was going on whilst Reggie and Brick viewed the goings on from behind the slide.

Construction under supervision

Paul wielded the screwdriver, Maddy and I held the bits together and Betty got in the way.  Between the four of us it was assembled in just under an hour.  This included chasing bubble wrap round the garden.

The coop went together very well.  It seems Cocoon are on a par with IKEA when it came to ease of assembly. We stood back and admired our work, then we stood back and looked down the garden where the coop needed to go.  We probably should have assembled it there...

Once the coop was in situ we were joined by all the chickens, who were keen to inspect their new living quarters.  

They paid absolutely no attention to the upstairs that I lovingly filled with sand after endlessly researching coop flooring.  However, they liked the downstairs and spent the rest of the day going in and out.  I did see Betty looking up the ramp and later found a little trail of footprints in the sand upstairs. Hopefully she, as the brains of the outfit, would show them where they needed to go.

That wouldn't be just yet though.  Betty was currently a house chicken and as such, had no interest in slumming it at the bottom of the garden, no matter how sparkly and new that coop might be.

As evening drew to a close, Betty wandered up to the house and I scooped up Reggie and Brick and popped them in the upstairs bit of the coop.  They were not happy.  They were not happy for a couple of hours and when eventually all was quiet; I had the feeling their mood had probably not improved.  Ah well, they'd love it soon...wouldn't they...?

And we never did find the Phillips screwdriver.