Chickens: What are they?

The truth is, I have no idea!!dsc_0034Two of the eggs that hatched came from Bowie and his little gang. At the time, he was kept with the ‘new’ chickens and Ava (Light Sussex), so of those two chicks (both the brown ones below) one is a Gold Laced Orpington bantam (Bowie) crossed with a Cream Crested Legbar (chick-with-no-name) and the other is crossed between Bowie and the new black Polish, Priscilla.dsc_0039The other two eggs came from Silver (also an Orpington bantam) and his little gang of Pekin girls, plus Puffles, Charlie’s little black Silkie. We’ve had a big mix up around here with the chickens as my neighbour was kind enough to take Silver for me. He kept fighting with Bowie and even though I went to great lengths to keep them apart, they kept jumping fences etc and it was a bit of a blood bath. I’m rather soft on Bowie, even though he has respiratory problems and I don’t think will have a long life, so it broke my heart to see him repeatedly bloodied and having the chicken version of a major asthma attack.  Silver was the aggressive one, Bowie used to peg it in my direction to hide whenever Silver jumped the fence. Anyhow, Silver now lives with some new girls and we can go visit if we wish. We are so lucky, we have great neighbours.DSC_0013DSC_0008So, here is one of the dark chicks (Bowie’s)…and I’m thinking (hoping) she’s a girl.DSC_0021DSC_0015And chicken two….boy, I fear.DSC_0019DSC_0003One of the Pekin/Silver chicks….girl, I think.DSC_0024And the last little one, who was the final egg to hatch…also a girl, I think. DSC_0028Let’s face it, I was totally wrong with the last chickens, but time will tell. We’re in a good position to keep one boy as I have three smaller runs, each with its own Eglu (they would be better in one run, with a Cube, but there is no way I can afford that), as long as they can all get along when they are free ranging which is why I let them all out together daily. I’m lucky that Bowie and Sargent Bilko get along quite well (SB lives with the big brown hybrid girls).DSC_0056Indoors we are drowning in eggs at the moment as Charlie has given up his daily breakfast of egg sandwich in favour of avocado on toast. I’m frantically making quiches and creme caramels. I think it might be time for some ice cream too!DSC_0055I’m also obsessed with finding new, simple supper ideas as it’s all been getting a bit same, same around here. This stack is proving its worth, especially ‘Simple’ by Diana Henry.

Right, off to get some carrot muffins out of the oven before moving onto a batch of biscuits for the boys (holiday treat). Just waiting for the rain to come now, and save me from watering the vegetable patch!

Chickens: Oops, I did it again!

IMG_20170504_133059After ending up with three cockerels and one hen last year, when we first hatched chicks, I said I wouldn’t do it again. But I have. Pretty stupid move, really.IMG_20170504_133348Ava got broody and was being very mean to the other chickens when they wanted to lay eggs in the nest. I ignored her for ages, kicking her off regularly but in the end, I moved her into the guinea pig hutch, (still in the run), so she’d stop attacking the other chickens.DSC_0023 2I removed the eggs daily. but then got soft and let her sit on four…thinking there would be a 50% survival rate. Sadly, by that point, she’d laid her ‘clutch’ and so all the eggs under her came from other chickens laying in the same nest…what I didn’t realise was they kept laying in there so actually, at day 9, when I first went to candle the eggs there were seven!DSC_0018Some weren’t fertile and on day 23, three of the chicks hatched. DSC_0021 2Sadly, Ava abandoned the last two eggs a day or so later, as she’s clearly decided they weren’t going to happen. Luckily Audrey was now also broody, so I just stuck the last two eggs under her. One hatched (actually I ‘assisted’ it as it pipped but didn’t get any further for days, and it survived – hurrah!) and the other, sadly, didn’t make it out of the egg.DSC_0001Audrey abandoned her chick as clearly she was a bit confused about it hatching only a few days after she’d started sitting!DSC_0007So I gave it back to Ava who didn’t seem to mind and she is now happy with her little clutch of four chicks.DSC_0016They are out and about most days (as I want them well-integrated with the other chickens, so any boys have a chance of not fighting) and it’s a joy to watch them learn the ropes from ‘Mum’. I’m a little sad none are Ava’s as I’d have liked a Light Sussex cross, but we’re definitely done with chicks….for now, anyway 🙂

Chickens: Spring Cleaning and Legbars

I gave the chickens a full clean last weekend. Their Eglus were taken apart and power hosed down, sprayed liberally with Smite and dusted with diatomaceous earth before being put back together. I moved two of the runs onto new ground and the big walk in run floor was cleaned and disinfected.Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 14.34.59

As we live in an area this isn’t high risk, we are allowed to now let the chickens out, as long as we follow the DEFRA guidelines above, so I created a small area along the edge of the garden, with temporary Eglu fencing for the big girls to come out of their walk in run, and the little bantams (who live in their own space) were let loose in the main garden (as they are easier to put back in and they do less damage to the flower beds).DSC_0008I got sad, though, as the big hybrid hens and their cockerel, Sergeant Bilko bully Bowie and Ave (the Light Sussex bantam, above and Bowie the boy, girl, boy cockerel) and for a while they wouldn’t let them out to play. I’ve been thinking about separating Bowie off for a bit, with his own little group, so off we went to Noddy’s Pure Breeds to pick out two new chickens (should have got three, I was miscounting in my head and included Bowie as a hen, I’d intended him and four girls together, really).DSC_0013They needed to be smaller chickens, either big bantams (like Ave) or smaller ‘big breeds’ as Bowie is a Orpington Bantam and they are chunky little things. I’ve been considering adding some Cream Crested Legbars for ages so I did have these in mind, but figured we’d end up with two bantams as I wasn’t sure how Rob had them penned up and you ideally need to take them from the same pen. I was super excited, when we arrived,  to see Legbars in the bantam pen….DSC_0008only F had obsessed the whole journey about replacing his beloved Elvis (the shoulder riding Polish frizzle) and I got persuaded (quite easily, in fact) into indulging him and we got a lovely black polish (no frizzle!) hen, and for me, a Legbar.DSC_0016I have to say, I think Crested Legbars are really pretty chickens. I saw some roaming free range, last summer, at a local National Trust house and had pretty much decided then that I’d like some. We got our first little blue egg from her today! So exciting. I love having a mixed bowl of eggs. I use the bantam ones quite a lot for when I need a half egg recipe or when Charlie wants fried eggs on toast for breakfast. I also love that I know exactly which chicken has laid which egg.DSC_0007The chickens are back inside temporarily, just whilst they get de-wormed (I use pre-mixed pellets with Flubenvet already added) but I plan to shuffle them around at the weekend to make sure they all have enough run space and can get back to free-ranging on a daily basis. I have to say, Bowie and his girls settled in amazingly well with pretty much no fuss at all.

Whilst I was in the garden I spent 10 minutes picking some of the sycamore tree saplings. This is a never-ending job, but if they aren’t pulled up whilst tiny, they are nightmare to kill off later.DSC_0021I also tidied and mulched the rhubard patch and we cut some for the first recipe of the year.DSC_0022Rhubard Crumble Cake, in this case, which was a great way of using some eggs up too, now that all the chickens are all back in lay.

Just the rest of the garden to sort out now 🙂

2017 Vegetable Planting Lists…

Really, this post is for me; sorry it’s so boring.

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Here we go with the lists for 2017:

FEBRUARY

Strawberry Mount Everest

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi, Rainbow Blend (from Thompson & Morgan)

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Broad Bead Crimson Flowered

MARCH

Red Onion Red Arrow

Shallots Longor

Elephant Garlic

Spinach Bordeaux

Cucumbers Tiffany, Crystal Apple

Courgettes Zephyr

Melon Orange Sherbert

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell, Rainbow Mix (from Thompson & Morgan)

Kohl Rabi F1 Hybrid

Peas Whatever I’ve got left

Sweetcorn Lark

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Beetroot Pablo, Bolthardy, Coloured Mix (Thompson & Morgan)

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Mixed seed

Turnip Snowball

Lettuce Various varieties

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1, Potimarron, 

AUGUST &  SEPTEMBER

Pak Choi Rubi

Spinach Perpetual (Leaf Beat)

Purslane

ANYTIME

Kale Cavolo Nero & Red Russian

Herbs Parcel, Cress (Bubbles)

I placed an order with Thompson & Morgan and below is what’s new this year (already included in the lists above):

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dsc_0044Also, just for fun, I’m growing mushrooms indoors (in the utility room at the moment) as someone on the radio said one of the best things you can eat that you’ve home-grown (and see how amazingly different they are) are mushrooms….we’ll see!

dsc_0040We can’t stop eating the Chocolate Rye Brownies from Gill Meller’s ‘Gather’…..I think I’m addicted.

dsc_0035Finally, we’re sad the snow only stayed for one night :(, but the boys did manage to get sledges out and push each other around the garden, plus make a snowman (in the dark, whilst using torches!!) but I think that the chickens are happy as the poor things keep taking it in turns to molt and are almost naked. I think the warm (so far) winter has confused them.

More snow tomorrow, for an hour or so before it turns to rain? I do hope so 🙂

 

Chickens: Congratulations, she’s a boy!!!

I’ve been busy with the chickens recently; upgrading their runs, making them clean and fun for the chickens to be in, and in the case of the little chickens, longer. Whilst working away, I couldn’t help but notice that Bowie, is, in fact, a boy after all.dsc_0034Now, I get that looking at the above photo, there is no doubt, but just so you don’t think I’m a complete lunatic for ever thinking otherwise…dsc_0047here is a quick reminder of what she (doh! – he!) looked like in November.dsc_0039Not sure how clear it is on the above photo, but his brothers-from-other-mothers where looking distinctly male, at this same point.

Looking at the photo again, I guess he was showing signs of hackle feathers, but Bowie has never shown any aggression, has never shown any interest in the girls, did have pink, small wattles and combs and skinny legs (in November, that is), so I really was genuinely surprised she became a he and especially so much later than the others. Sargent Bilko and Bowie seem fine in together; I may have to get them more girls, between them, but as long as they can live in harmony, I’ll leave it that way.dsc_0028I moved Silver (who deserves a proper name, although Silver has stuck now) out a while ago to live with the other small bantams (all the Orpingtons are bantams, but Sargent Bilko is massive and Bowie not much smaller, after the recent growth spurt, so they fit better with full size girls).dsc_0023I just gave the little’s even more run (all the others are in the big, walk-in run) and a new fancy cover from Tarpaflex who I heard about on an Omlet forum. I have a similar cover on the walk-in and have discovered that not only are they a lot cheaper than Omlet, but they stay lovely and clear and are (in my opinion) much better value for money. All the other bits of the run have black bird netting over, that I use in the garden for the berry trees. Let’s hope the avian flu scare is over soon and they can go out again. I’ve rather stupidy put them where my bluebells grow so I will need to move them, but it’s good for now.
screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-07-02-13On a slight tangent, I just discovered these (now all sold!) amazing plates and furniture knobs by Holly Frean, sold through Anthropologie.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-06-57-40I’m slightly gutted I missed the chicken plates as the boys would have loved one each,screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-06-56-49but I just bought the two remaining furniture knobs with ‘Puffles’ like black silkie style chooks on for Charlie’s room (Puffles is his chicken, as you can tell by the stupid name!).

dsc_0007I don’t actually have a decent photos of Puffles…she’s back…and a silkie…and a bantam.

So, from the eggs we hatched, we ended up with 3 boys and 1 girl. Isn’t that just the way it goes. Much as I really enjoyed the whole process, I’m too much of a wuss to do it again, as I’d never have the heart to ‘get rid of’ the boys and I’m not sure it’ll be easy to re-home them as no-one ever really wants cockerels, even handsome bantam ones that are quite tame. We’re managing as we are though; I lock them in at night and so their crow is not very loud at all, but it’ll be difficult for us to go away over summer and leave them out, as that would be very unfair on the neighbours, even though they all also keep chickens and some have cockerels too.

I’m getting my planting and seed lists together for spring, which I’m quite excited about. I’d really like to have a productive garden this year and think it can really happen, as I’ve done a lot of the never-ending jobs and feel like, for once, I’m slight ahead. Here’s to a fabulous 2017!

Chickens: My, How They’ve Grown!

So, they are big chickens now……really quite massive,  in the boys’ case.dsc_0051Sergeant Bilko is ‘King Chicken’ and has turned out to be quite magnificent. As he’s a Orpington bantam, he’s about the size of a regular hen. Gosh he’s handsome.dsc_0039His brother-from-another-mother (not named…..can’t believe we haven’t actually named them all yet) is equally big and so far they seem to be getting along quite well. I do keep an eye on them both, and if they start to fight, I could either put one of them in with the brown hybrid chicks, or try to re-home one. As long as they seem happy, I’ll just keep both.dsc_0047Bowie, the only girl Orpington is still one of my favourite chickens from the ones we hatched. I’ve spent less time recently handling them and I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve gone shy. They are happy to be around my legs, will always come running to me (in the hope of a treat) but are less likely to hop up on to my lap for a cuddle. Shame. dsc_0036I think when I last posted….ahem…in July..we had three Pekins. Sadly, I came down one morning to find the cage door open, the chickens were all out and two were missing 😦 I think Mr Fox (who drops by nightly, leaving his little calling card on the lawn) had managed to work the door open by jumping repeatedly on it (I looked at night footage once, from the security cameras in the garden and was amazed at how much the foxes jump all over the cages, trying to get in). If the door latch isn’t pushed down hard, it can work its way lose. Bogart and the chicken with no name were both munched, I assume, as there wasn’t even a trace of feather. We now only have Lana (Turner) left (middle chick in the above photo).dsc_0052As I now have quite a little flock I’ve had to be a bit inventive with my Eglu. They really need a Cube version, but I cannot afford that, so I have put the guinea pigs’ summer house (they are indoors at the moment) up against the original ‘Up and Go’ so they have more room. When I peak indoors at night, I see that they are still mostly all crammed into one coop, and weirdly, there seems to be quite a reasonable amount of room around them, so if they continue to do that, I’ll revert back to just the one (as it’s loads easier to empty the tray that way, for cleaning).

They’re still ‘free range’ during the day. After Mabel (one of my original hybrids) got eaten by a fox in the middle of a sunny Saturday, I was a bit worried about a repeat visit, but I think it’s more important that they have a nice quality of life and so as long as I’m at home (which is most days), I let them out and leave them to it.  I have to say, I do love having chickens, they do make me happy 🙂

Chickens: Little Boys or Little Girls?

We played the game of all amateur chicken keepers and played guess the gender and quite frankly, failed.DSC_0026I did try to photograph the chicks at various stages, but they aren’t very good at sitting still and often present me with a rear view.  I did get some images though, so here’s the little chickies as they were, and now.

The Orpington Bantams

Bowie – named because I was sure she was a boy, when younger.  Oops.DSC_0033DSC_0017Definitely a girl.

Silver or Birch (?!!! Must stop letting my kids name chickens!)DSC_0036DSC_0021Boy. Sadly.

Nameless Chicken (the ‘ugly’ one that I saved from near death when little)DSC_0038DSC_0020Also a boy.DSC_0034They’ve grown a lot, even since the above photos and the boys have started to square up to each other, which is interesting to watch. I’m waiting for them to feather out a bit more, so they look a little more handsome, then I’ll try to find them new homes.DSC_0027The Pekins

(Humphrey) Bogart ‘Bogie’DSC_0016DSC_0008I was positive, a boy….still am, I think…but he’s showing no characteristics of a boy and is the softest drip of a chicken, loves a sit and cuddle. He’s one of my favourites.

Chick One (yet to be named)DSC_0011DSC_0023DSC_0011 (1)Girl – hurrah!

Chick Two (also waiting to be named)DSC_0024DSC_0013Another girl.

So, three girls and three boys. The fourth Orpington died at a few weeks old, sadly.

It’s been a fun process hatching the eggs, but the dihlema of what to do with the boys is a problem. I did know it would be, so I am ready for it, but as we are now at our chicken maximum it’s not a process we’ll repeat again, at least, not for some years.