Friday, 30 November 2007

The Brummies come up trumps!

Tracking down this wood from B&Q has been a bit of a challenge. Many of their stores don't "range" it, and most of those that do are "our of stock". Their on line stock checker is a great idea, but not necessarily reliable. My local store shows as "in stock", but it isn't.

We were going to the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham, so I used the B&Q website to look for B&Q stores both "near" there & and en route home. The online stock checker showed only two stores having the product "in stock". The two stores were in opposite directions, and going to either of them would add about 45 mins to our journey home.

We thought about just turning up at one of the shops to see if they had it, but (a) we needed 20 pieces and (b)what if they didn't? We'd spend hours driving round Birmingham on spec.

So, as we were leaving the Good Food Show I phoned the first store (Halesowen). B&Q is one of those shops which automatically answers the call within so many rings, then you wait and wait and wait, all the time being charged for the call, until a real person picks up the phone. The Operator then tried to put me through to Gardening, but after about four minutes no one had picked up, so she asked me to call back later.

The second store was Wednesdbury. This was a very long call. They were quick to pick up, but they couldn't find my product when the lady went to look for it on the shelves. Didn't want the barcode, said they didn't do that product. She put me through to Building, and I went through it again. The chap did take the barcode, and confirmed they stocked it... and he went to look for it. Eventually he came back and said they had it in stock, lots of it, but it needed to be got down by Fork Lift truck, and they aren't allowed to do that during opening hours. He could have it for me for the next day. At this point, I wanted to cry.

If we hadn't already built the first two panels, I wouldn't have bothered, we would have used something else. No one other than B&Q had this sort of product in this sort of size. I explained to the guy that we were only in the area today, and had come a long way. Then, brilliantly, he said he would sort it out, and we could come and collect it in 45 mins.

And he did! We didn't get to meet him, he didn't give me his name (when I asked, he said just to go to the Building department), and I can't thank him enough. I wish more people had his customer service attitude. I doubt he'll ever read this, but if he does, he knows who he is...Thank you.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Out of stock.

The frames for two panels are now complete, only four more to go. We went back to B&Q yesterday, but they had run out of wood.

Today we tried Reading B&Q. None. At home, I phoned around a few, and glot very frustrated with being told it wasn't possible to get treated and planed wood. I quoted the bar code each time, but it turns out it's only stocked at a limited number of B&Qs.

I used their web stock checker to try all B&Qs in a 100 mile radius. Those that "ranged" it (=stock it), are all out of stock. Except my local one, which shows as being "in stock". Which it isn't.

Apparently they get deliveries all the time, but no one knows what's going to be on the lorry. Must be kind of exciting for the Warehouse, a bit like Christmas. Opening that lorry door and not knowing what's going to be inside. "Phone on Wednesday" was the only advice available.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Work's started...

My DH knows me quite well, so he's designing the chicken run in such a way that we can rearrange it later. I'm sure that after a couple of weeks in use, we'll be finding that "this would be better here" and "that would be better there".

So, he's decided to use the Shed principle, and is going to build individual panels, which he will then put together to form the Run in the agreed orientation/shape. It will therefore be possible to dismantle (all or part of) said run, should we wish to relocate it, or change its shape, or change where the Chicken Coop connects into it etc.

The other day he came home with a load of paving from Wickes, as we're having the Run sited on paving so that Mr Fox can't dig under it, and also to provide a buffer between the Run and the garden. Part of this is now laid out in the garden, but I'm not allowed to post a photo, as they are just there so we can guage and check sizes, they aren't level or anything.

Then he came home with wood from B&Q, enough to create 2x2metre panels to test out the design, plus some spare. We've gone for 44mm square posts, which are pre treated - so we don't have to do it, and are planed to give a more pleasant finish. Planed posts are more expensive than the sawn posts, but the difference is relatively small given the overall cost of all the materials.

The Run shape will be a bit like a greenhouse (or small apex roofed shed). To try and avoid it dominating the garden (well, any more than it has to!), we're building it with 5 foot high sides and an apex roof. This led to a discussion about the door.

Originally it was going to be the same height as the panels, so it could be sited anywhere around the run (excellent planning, DH!) . Trouble is, being only 5 foot high, it means we would have to duck under the "lintel" (sorry, dont know what its called in a shed) to get in each time. I am renowned for my clumsiness, and I could see what would happen.

We're now planning to build it into the apex of one of the end panels. This would mean we could site it at either end, but that would be all the flexibility we would have. I think that's the way we'll go... but I don't have to decide until the end panels get built.

Yesterday, he created the first panel. It looks wonderful, and it's really strong.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Size is everything

Freezing cold today, so of course we decided to spend time outside moving the Cube around to establish its final position. This would then help DH finish his design for the walk-in run.

It's enormous. Even though I knew the size, it's still big in reality. I had to cut down a Tayberry plant so we could manoevere it around the garden. We tried it here, we tried it there. There's really only one place it's going to fit, which is behind a large shrub. The good thing is that when the Tayberry grows back, it'll be inside the run, so the chooks will have something to jump up at and nibble!

At first I wasn't happy about the likely location because I can't see the Cube itself from the kitchen. However, I've realised that I will be able to see the whole run, and right up to the edge of the Cube entrance. The other bonus is that the Cube is in what would have been the chickens' free ranging area anyway, so that's less of the garden we've had to give up for chickens.

The back of the Cube is also now convenient for the compost bins, so emptying the poop trays each day will be a little bit easier.

I'm attaching a photo. The space is where the walk in run (WIR) will be. Iif you look closely you can just about see the Cube's ladder, which is at a right angle to the walk in run, IYSWIM. The WIR will be 2m by 4m, although we'll adjust this to make best use of the WeldMesh.

Now my DH can calculate how much WeldMesh we need, and I'm hoping we can get on and order it soon. We've had to choose a really strong weldmesh: it's not for keeping chickens in, it's for keeping foxes out. And to make it Biosecure, it needs to have fairly small mesh, to keep wild birds out. It'll also have a removable polycarobonate roof, this is for weather proofing and bio security.

Oh, and because it was so cold - clearly we couldn't have done this earlier in the week when it was warm outside! - we also measured up for new gates. Our 3 foot high gates need to be replaced by 6 foot high ones. I'll be ordering those next week.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

So empty

The Cube was looking very empty, so we decided to get some temporary chickens to put in it, until our own arrive in March next year. The cats, of course, thought it was a great game pouncing on them and knocking them over, so I'm not sure they will last the wi nter.

I've also attached a close up ...they look a bit twee in this photograph, but are actually quite pleasant little things when separated.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Building the Cube - slideshow

Hens aren't coming til March, but we (I) couldn't wait.

DH started building the Cube when we got back late last night. Fortunately we have french windows, so we were able to get the partially built cube out into the garden for completion this morning.

It's huuuuuuuge! And the cats think it's a new toy for them, of course.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Cube has arrived!

So, to add to the eggcitement of the scale model, the Cube arrived today. Our plan had been to put the pieces in the Shed, and then put it together when we build the run.

But the Plan has changed.

DH is putting the Cube part together, not the run bit though. It won't get finished today, as we're off to see "The Frost Report" being recorded at Teddington Studios.

I'll post some piccies as soon as I can.

A lovely birthday pressie

You may remember from the story so far that my DH has not been particularly keen on this whole henkeeping malarkey, but we got to the stage where he agreed to build me a walk-in run as my birthday pressie.

Well, as we won't be ready to start the run until well after my birthday, he made me a scale model so we could agree final sizes and details! A lovely birthday surprise!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Not what I'd hoped.

So, yesterday my friend S and I went chicken shopping. I had expected to be reporting today that I had decided on my 3 hens and had put in an order. Things didn't quite go according to plan.

I drove from my home in Berkshire to S's home in Oxfordshire (just under an hour) and then on to Ludlow (a further 2.5 hours). A slight diversion to visit the wonderful Ludlow Food Centre meant that we got to Wernlas at about 10.45.

The chickens at Ludlow were moulting, and so my poor Naked Necks looked really scruffy. S was definitely NOT impressed and, although her reaction in itself doesn't influence my choice of Hen, it reinforced for me the reaction that most people are likely to have upon meeting the breed.

I needed some advice about the characteristics of the breed. I'd heard and read that they are easy to tame, and very friendly birds. Unfortunately, the owners of Wernlas had just gone on holiday so I wasn't able to get the information that I needed. The lady who was looking after the place was very helpful, but the advice she gave me (with the best of intentions) when I asked about Naked Neck suitablility for beginners was..... well, it was more general advice and didn't cover suitability of any particular breed.

Still, it was good to see (and recognise) so many breeds. S was really impressed with my my knowledge - I could name every breed and colour - and then she realised that the breed and colour was labelled on each coop. In my defence though, I wasn't always reading the label, and I didn't realise that she wasn't aware the label was there.

As soon as I saw the Buff Sussex, I knew that my decision on my number 1 bird was correct.

So, from here, we decided to try and find Gould Poultry in Pinvin. I didn't have an address, only a phone number, and I only got the answerphone when I called. My fault, as I hadn't thought to phone in advance. Still, we set off in the direction of Pinvin and called again when we reached the town. Regrettably it turned out the place was closed for the day, but it was en route to our third place, so no problem. And thanks to Mrs Gould for phoning me back, by the way, I will be making a trip over there in the next couple of weeks.

Undeterred, we set of for our third destination, which was the Rare Breeds Trust at Honeybourne near Evesham.

Another fasacinating place, lots of the same breeds as at Wernlas, but also some hybrids. I saw some Bluebelles, which was the hybrid I was thinking of buying, but they didn't look at all how I remembered them from their pics. They were good looking birds though. We also met lots of geese, and ducks, and turkeys... and some very pretty Light Sussex Bantams, who were much prettier than their full size equivalents.

I'm really stuck.
  • I wanted to get all my chooks from one place, but I don't think there will be one place which has all three "breeds".
  • The Buff Sussex is relatively easy to obtain from a number of places, certainly from ALL the places i'm likely to buy from
  • If I want a Naked Neck then I'll need to get it from Ludlow, but they don't supply hybrids (if I want a hybrid as my 3rd bird).
  • Choosing a suitable breed isn't as easy as you may think. If I go through the process of choosing an alternative then I know I'll end up wanting the alternative AS WELL as the others, and then I'll have to decide which one to unpick.
  • Availability may also be a problem - especially as I really need to put the hens in together on the same day. And if I'm not getting them all from the same place, am I really going to be able to get them all at the same time?

And to explain why it all matters....

This is likely to be the one and only time I buy specific hens. I'm expecting that future hens will be ex-battery girls, so there won't be the chance for "Oh, I'll get a Gold Laced Wyandotte (or whatever) this time".


The lady from Pinvin left a message on my answerphone this morning. She sounded really friendly, and so I'd really like to go and see her. And I'll go and see my local breed place as well. I hadn't gone to him before as he doesn't supply Naked Necks. And I'll phone Ludlow when they are back from holiday to talk to them about Naked Necks.

In the meantime, I'll try and decide whether or not I want a Bluebelle. And what I'd get if I didn't.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Tubtrugs to match Eglu & Cube

I'm easily pleased.

Today I discovered that TubTrugs come in colours which conveniently match the Eglu and Cube.

I already have a bit of a Trug habit, and find it hard NOT to put one in my basket when I visit a particular garden centre. We have lots of them now and we never seem to have enough. Although we have a range of colours (red, purple, blue, green and yellow), we don't have orange.

I learned today (on the Omlet forum, again!) that it's possible to buy shallow Tubtrugs, and one of these will make a perfect dustbath for the chickens! The colour range of these shallow Tubtrugs is limited, and sadly Orange isn't one of them. I emailed the company to ask if there were any plans to introduce shallow Orange and I received a reply the same day - so well done to them on the customer service front.

No plans to introduce a large shallow orange, but a smaller shallow orange will be available early next year. yippee! I can get a whole set of Orange TubTrugs just for my chook related activities.

7. DH gets involved

So, several months on, we were in September and still apparent apathy from my DH.

By mid September, after much reading and research, I decided I'd really like to have a walk in run for the Girls, with the Cube on the outside. I had some ideas for how I thought it might look, and I had investigated lots of commercially made runs. These were all significant amounts of money, and always "not quite" right. What I really wanted was for my DH, who is brilliant at DIY, to make one for me. But, given his apathy to the whole project, this didn't seem likely.

In the end I mentioned to him that I was thinking of having a big run rather than just the extended Cube run, and I explained why. We looked at lots of pictures of the commercial ones, and also lots of pics of the runs that other hen keepers had made. I asked if he would make one, and he was very happy to!

So, we've been discussing designs, needs, etc. The people on the Omlet Club who had built their own runs were very helpful, as they gave lots of hints and tips. We finally got to the stage where we needed another detailed look at the Cube to see how we would fit it all together, so I arranged to go and visit Omlet.

And that takes me back to my first blog. "We've ordered a Cube".

On Saturday this week I'm going to Wernlas again, plus possibly a couple of other hen places, to see if I can make a final decision about the chooks. I'd like a Buff Sussex, some sort of hybrid (possibly a Bluebelle as they are very pretty), and.... maybe the Naked Neck. That's the reason for the visit to Wernlas, they are the only place I know that breeds Naked Necks.

I'm childishly excited!