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.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

New Betty

We loved Betty and she loved us.  But our other chickens? She wasn't sure about them...and the feeling appeared to be mutual.

There was a lot of peering at each other through wire during the first day.  On the second day, it was through the hydrangea.  Betty is her own hen, she can take or leave stuff.  Reggie and Brick are not.  Their outlook on life is entirely different and it involves sticking their beaks in places they should probably not...

The chickens didn't actually come to blows until later the second day, when Brick decided the best route to get past a dust-bathing Betty was walking over her.  A good, hard peck and the removal of a few tail feathers would ensure Brick remembered to walk around should there be a next time.  There had been tussles, which was when we realised a slightly older and larger Betty had been a very good, if accidental, decision when faced with two peeved and established residents.

Later that evening, Reggie had strolled over to see Betty, with teenage rooster swagger engaged.  He was somewhat taken aback to be faced with a fluffed up and irritated hen who had every intention of giving him a good clucking to should he dare to advance any further than the plant pot she was standing behind.

It is fairly safe to say that Betty's first week with us was probably below her expectations.  She didn't appear to be on top form when we bought her.  This meant she had had to go the vets four days in a row during that first week.  On each of these days she'd had an injection. (You'd have thought they would've had that bottle of chicken antibiotics out and ready after Brick's visit!).


....She'd also had her temperature taken.  

On day one she clucked her immense disapproval and plotted revenge. On day two she put her plan into action.  On day three she had the timing nailed.  By day four the vet didn't want to take her temperature anymore.  

We were sent home in disgrace with a bottle of antibiotics.

New hen day!

The hunt for a new hen was on. 

An evening spent trawling the local bit of the World Wide Web heralded a breeder of Pekins less than an hour away.  A chat with the breeder confirmed she had a selection of birds that would suit our needs. Pekins, six weeks old, friendly & most importantly, hens!

We arranged to go the next day.  Between the times of finding the advert and actually getting in the car, a lot of discussion went on about what colour we were going to choose.  This debate continued as my youngest daughter and I drove, and didn't stop until we arrived.   I brought the controversial debate to a close by making the decision that the chicken that was the friendliest would be the one, regardless of colour.  This was agreeable to both parties, so in we went.

The run that we were guided to had an assortment of chicks and chickens of various ages.  At that point, I was rather pleased with the decision to choose the friendliest chick...we'd have been there rather a long time otherwise!

Bending down heralded the arrival of cheeping fluffiness. Empty, food-less hands heralded the departure of cheeping fluffiness. Apart from one.

She stayed for a stroke and enjoyed being petted.  She was slightly older at 10 weeks but that was immediately overlooked. She was very pretty and very friendly, we were instantly smitten...but she wasn't for sale!

She was only available as a pair with a cockerel (cockerels are difficult to re-home, so selling them with an adorable hen is a smart move) but the last thing I needed was another cockerel and I wanted that hen!  Ok, I'll admit I pleaded...a bit (my daughter is likely to give you an entirely different account of how much) and eventually secured our new hen...without the addition of a new cockerel.

She had her name on the car journey home, she was our new Betty.

Betty,  in her box,  homeward bound.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


A series of events took place in the short time I was waiting for my coop to arrive.  We discovered 'Betty' wasn't a 'Betty' at all, rather more of a 'Bertram'.

In the days leading up to this undeniable event, I had rather began to suspect fowl play...sorry, I couldn't resist. Betty's comb and wattle were larger and considerably redder than Brick's and she'd been acting in a distinctly un-hen-like manner.  Running up and bumping chests with Brick, crouching down and jumping in the air in mock cockerel moves.  It was like watching a chicken version of 'The Karate Kid'.

I checked out this sudden interest in chicken martial arts on the web and it seems that both cockerels and hens can display this behaviour.  Hens do it to establish a pecking order, cockerels do it because they are male.  But the unwavering proof was soon to come.  The mysterious sound of a rusty squeezebox coming from the depths of the house was eventually tracked down.  And there HE was, in the lounge, stood on his tiptoes, tail (well, tuft) aloft, neck straining into the air...crowing!

Cockerel in hen's clothing.

It did actually confirm something I'd read on a chicken forum, 'You know for certain when they either crow, or lay an egg'.  Don't think I'll be getting any eggs there then!

But it did leave me thinking about the ratio of one hen to one cockerel, which, after a brief check on the net, wasn't ideal as the cockerel might overbreed the hen.  So another hen was in order....seeing as 'Betty' was actually a 'Reggie'.

Incidently, you may have noticed that Reggie has the distinct look of a well worn feather duster about him.  Yes, he is actually meant to look like that, and no I haven't use him to get to the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.  I discovered he is a Frizzle.  Frizzles have feathers that do not lie flat against the body as is the norm but curl up and away in a distinctly un-waterproof way.  
Chicken umbrellas?  Anyone?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


I knew I had to choose one but there were so many to choose from.  I hate choosing, I take so long at it.

To help narrow down the choice a little, I wandered up the garden armed with a tape measure and surveyed the area I wanted to put the coop in.  The identified spot was currently occupied by a broken compost bin, a very broken wheel barrow and some old plant pots.  Looking past those little obstacles, the site was good.  It was protected from the sun and rain by trees and up against a wall; stopping the wind and acting as extra protection from any up-to-no-good animals!

This helped narrow my list down, it had to be a certain width and length to fit.  I knew I wanted a combined house & run, so I could keep them locked somewhere safe when I was at work, so that narrowed it down a bit more.

So I looked at chicken tractors...

...chicken arks...

...chicken houses without runs...

...and chicken houses with runs.

I also looked at Eglus, made by a company called Omlet.  These houses seem to be very popular and would certainly brighten up a back yard.  My husband was quite interested in these (as interested as someone who was having chickens thrust upon them could be) but it wouldn't fit in my carefully measured out space with its run attached, so it was out.

The internet is full of beautiful hand-made coops and there are coops I found in America that are amazing.  Unfortunately, I didn't have room for 'amazing' but here are some that I came across: 

Gothic chickens.

New England chickens.

Country cottage chickens.

It seems you can make a chicken house out of just about anything!

Morris Traveller enthusiast chickens.

Eventually, (and I can't stress enough how long 'eventually' took) I decided on one of the first coops I looked at - of course!

According to its measurements, it would fit into the allocated space.  The house was off the floor and it had a run attached.  There was a pull out floor to the sleeping area for easy cleaning, (which has turned out to be a a brilliant bit of design), ventilation was catered for and it had a nest box.  All boxes ticked. 

I ordered and paid for it before I changed my mind, again!  Now I just had to wait for it to arrive, which as it turned out was the next working day as promised.  It's nice when that happens, especially as I was going to need it sooner than I thought.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Chickens al fresco!

As the weather was unusually good, Betty & Brick had been making regular visits to the garden since they were 2 weeks old.

Initially, they went out for short periods with constant supervision to avoid mishaps, whether predator or chick idiocy based.  They would spend most of their time under some part of me but eventually plucked (did you see what I did there) up courage to venture a little further away.

They enjoyed themselves very much, scratching at the dirt with absolutely no idea as to what they were looking for.  I would sit there tapping the ground in a 'mother hen-like' fashion, directing them to something that they might find tasty.  This had been something I'd been doing since day one.  I would tap near some food with my finger and they would trust that it was OK to eat.

As they grew used to their outdoor visits, they would run about flapping their wings and generally having a merry old time.  It was at this point that they encountered their future garden mates.  George the tortoise, who they didn't like at all and Pippin the rabbit who, despite his size (he's a French Lop & bigger than your average rabbit), didn't seem to worry them half as much. But a moving stone? I guess that's going to freak you out.

Pippin - he's very particular about where he goes to the toilet.

George - aka the moving stone.

As Betty & Brick got older and braver, I put them into Pippin's run and left them outside for longer periods.  They liked this very much and would split their time between scratching for food and sunbathing, unless I was hovering about armed with a camera.

Enjoying the sun.

Enjoying the sun and Chick Crumb

Brick couldn't resist doing something odd for the camera.

A rare two-headed chicken.

 At this point, the chicks were about five weeks old. By six weeks I let them free range for the first time.

They enjoyed themselves immensely, foraging through the flower beds and generally acting more like little chickens than chicks.  Guess I'd better hurry up and make a decision on that coop!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Brick goes to A&E.

One Saturday morning I trundled down and as normal, checked on the chicks.  Betty came hurtling over to see what delicious morsels might be on offer that morning.  Brick did not.  Brick is like a limpet - where Betty goes Brick follows.  Betty was here, Brick was not, so I knew something was definitely wrong.

She was lying on her side under the lamp.  Not unusual as they often lie spread out (remember the 'roadkill' reference from a previous blog) but they had been spending less time directly under the heat and would always come over and have a look-see.

Brick's breathing was a little laboured and she was keeping her beak slightly open, not something I'd seen her do before .  When I picked her up she was lethargic and not particularly interested in food or water.

Straight on the phone to the vet as it's been my experience that sick birds go downhill very fast.  I was relieved when my call was answered as it was a Saturday morning and I was unsure of their weekend hours.  But they were five minutes from closing and I was 10 minutes away.  A bit of panicky blabbering later and we were en route, me trying to drive calmly and Brick on a hastily grabbed tea towel in a box.  It seems my panicky blabbering was enough for them to hang on and offer me an out-of-hours emergency appointment which was a huge relief (I was blocking the cost of this appointment out of my mind at this point).

We arrived at the vets and checked in:

Nurse: What's your chicken's name?
Me: Brick
Nurse: Brick?
Me: Yes
Nurse: Brick? As in B-r-i-c-k?
Me:  Yes, Brick.

A short but inwardly frantic wait and we were in.  The vet gave Brick an all over check, could see she was unwell but was unable to give a diagnosis.  He explained that chickens are usually treated en masse, as vets usually encounter them on chicken farms in their hundreds, if not thousands.  A few chickens die of something, one is sent off for an autopsy, the diagnosis is confirmed and treatment ensues.  One anxious woman with a decidedly dodgy looking chook was not the norm.

To cover all bases, an all round poultry antibiotic injection was prescribed.  This was obtained, after a couple of minutes, from the depths of a storeroom, as the vet explained "we don't use it very often".  It was administered between my fingers as I held Brick in position.  Yes, the thought did cross my mind that I may be the recipient of the injection and that I would wake up the next day sprouting feathers and clucking.

I paid my (not too bad) bill and we headed home.  I am happy to report that by the evening Brick was a bit perkier and in a couple of days was back to her mildly annoying self.  We never did find out what was wrong with her but I am most grateful to the vets for hanging on for us.