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...