Sunday, 30 May 2010

Going Bananas

I read somewhere that chickens like bananas.  Skins and all.  So today, I sacrificed one of my overripe bananas (which I otherwise would have used to make a Banana, Bio Live Yoghurt and Kefir smoothie) to give the Girls a treat.

They shunned it.


It was quite a warm day, and I had thoughtfully pierced the skin so they could have easy access to the contents.   This meant that, if they didn't eat it, it would soon be a fly and ant magnet.  I picked it up and offered it to them.

They hurried away, as if I were offering them something poisonous.
I tried to persuade each of them individually that Banana was a treat.  They weren't having it. Nope. No. Not at all.

I looked at the poor banana. What a waste of that squishy banana-iness. I opened it's little jacket some more, and held it out to Delilah. She looked at me (in that sideways beady-eyed way that only a chicken can do).  She looked at the banana. She looked at me. The banana. Me. The banana.   I realised that she might not want to take it from my hand, so I laid it carefully on the floor (again) and backed away.

She looked at it.  Daisy came along and looked at it as well.  They both looked at it for ages, presumably waiting for it to do something. It didn't. Milly joined the Watch.  They burbled to each other. Still the poor banana lay there, getting warmer and mushier by the second.
And then Delilah gave it a Darned Good Peck.  She had banana fluffiness all over her beak. A bit of banana squirted out the side.   Not wanting to miss out, Daisy launched in and stole the squirty bit.  Milly rushed in and banged it on the skin, causing an enormous squirt from the gap. Milly wasn't impressed by the skin, but Lily managed to steal the squirt, and then she ran off with the whole soggy mess.

I have no idea what happened to it then.  I went back later and searched around, but there was no evidence of a banana ever being there. 

Saturday, 29 May 2010


Did  I mention that I managed to Do Something to my neck/shoulder yesterday while moving the Go?

I was at the front end, which meant I had to walk at a bit of an angle to accomodate the fox-proof skirt. I bent down at this angle to put it down, and I had a sudden shar pain sort of near my collar bone.   I didn't hear a crack or feel a wrench just a sharp searing pain.  I stayed in the just-let-go position for a while but the pain didn't go away.  My breath had (gone away) though.

I came inside and sat down. The pain didn't go.  I phoned my chiropracter, but the earliest appointment is Wednesday. I'm down for  a cancellation if one comes up.

I used an ice-pack on it all evening, and slept with an icepack.  I can now move my lower arm as long as I keep my upper arm extended and against my side.  I can't move my arm above my elbow  without a sharp pain,  and if I lean forward I get the same pain.  When I touch the base of my neck it's very tender.. but I suspect this is referred pain rather than the source.


I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, as I'm having my hearing checked out.  (Have been having trouble hearing DH. I don't think I'm selectively deaf;  he might well be mumbling, but it's best to get these things checked).   I'll ask about my neck/shoulder problem when I go.

Eglu Go

We need another temporary chick coop, as we've hatched a batch of chicks a bit too close to the previous batch;  and I might be keeping one or two of the   earlier hatch, and need somewhere for them to live until they are old enough to integrate with the Big Girls.

I already have a Cube for my Garden Girls, which I love;  and an Eglu which is our normal temporary home/hospital/isolation ward, which I like.

Another Cube would be great, but not suitable for the purpose. Another Eglu would be a good option.... but Omlet have bought out the new Go a (almost unnoticeably) cheaper version of the Eglu.  We saw it at Grand Designs and again at the Ideal Home Exhibition.  It was interesting. 

After much umming and aaing, I ordered an Eglu Go the other day.. They don't have the visual impact of  the Eglu (or my favourite, the Cube),  but it has some design features which make even better for chicks - and therefore our purpose -  than the Eglu.

Firstly, the door panel on the Run can be positioned anywhere.  It's surprisingly inconvenient having a door panel at the end of the run when you are dealing with small chicks.  Having the door in the side means I'm more likely to be able to catch them, and will certainly find it easier to herd them into the house to be shut in.

Secondly, the entire tray - including nest box - slides out for cleaning.  On the Eglu the tray and the roosting bars come out, but the nestbox is part of the base.  It's still not difficult to clean, especially if you have a power washer, but there is no doubt that having it removable means it will be even easier to clean. 

So, it arrived yesterday, and DH put it together for me.  The end result is a mixture of good and not so good.  I suspect my view is reinforced because I already have first hand experience of the Cube and the Eglu, and it was inevitable that I would be comparing the newcomer with those.

It's much more flat-packed than the Eglu as the design is simplified.   It's a sad that the iconic shape of the Eglu has gone, but the new shape is much more practical - from a manufacturing, delivery, and storage point of view. And also from a user point of view - you don't have to hoik the heavy top shell off to get to the nestbox to clean it.

The first thing we noticed as soon as we unpacked the parts, is that the  plastic isn't as good quality as the Eglu.    Once it was built, we found there were four very obvious yellow spots on each side and on the top, which are  the result of the injection moulding process.   It's a shame that they couldn't be moulded in such a way that these imperfections are on the inside, but I assume that there is a reason it has to be this way.  And once I noticed that imperfection I noticed that the bracing bars on the inside were creating a pattern on the outside. 

The up-side of the cheaper panels is that they are easily replaceable, so it's possible to change the colour. Omlet promises limited edition colours, and I had been hoping that one of these would have been imminent as the Go isn't available in orange, purple, or lilac.

The run works well. I can't see how you can extend it unless they end up selling a converter as they do with the Eglu.  We won't need to extend it though.     To take the run off, you have to dismantle the Go.. but I guess we won't need to take the run off very often except when we're putting it away for storage.  

A thoughtful feature they've put in, is two holes ready drilled marked "web cam". 

The waterer is OK,  but I really don't like the look of the feeder.  I imagine it's been designed to make it even harder for other creatures to steal the food.

And do you know what I found saddest of all?   The egg boxes.  When I bought my Cube and my Eglu,   Omlet provided 10x4egg boxes, with an Omlet logo on.  I'm not too bothered about the Omlet logo but the 4-egg boxes were perfect.  When you only have 2 or 3 hens, it's quite hard to give away 6 eggs - 4 eggs is much better.  And it was just so... right.  

What came with my Go?  10 toilet-roll-tube coloured 6-egg boxes, which looked like crap.  Now, I know that it's a tiny thing.  But it just wasn't Omlet.    I can understand that the cost of producing their own branded egg boxes is an expensive overhead,  but why didn't they buy some  blue 4-egg boxes from Flyte So Fancy and use those instead?    At least it would have been something unusual, something different,   something a bit less ordinary.

Am I happy with my purchase?  I don't know. I think so.  The revised features I mentioned should make it a better choice for our circumstances than buying an Eglu would have been.  

I'll find out more about how it works in practice when we put some chicks in it.  This will be in about 3 weeks when the latest hatch are hardy enough to have short spells out. 

Friday, 28 May 2010

Latest hatch - update

6 Chicks hatched so far.  5 are black, and one is yellow...we think we hatched a Roo x Mrs Roo egg by mistake.

Remaining two eggs have pipped, we're just waiting now...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

And here we go again


4 of the 8 eggs in our Incy have pipped this morning!

This is our third (and possibly final) batch of incubated eggs this year, and all 8 eggs were fertile when candled.   I'm very excited, I  can't wait to see what these little lovelies turn out like.  Their Mum is either Rose or Rooby, our  beautiful "Welsh Black" ladies (an Indian Game X Australorp), and their Dad is Roo,  a Sasso (so himself a hybrid).

We already know what Roo x Mrs Roo  looks like (we have 5 of them ,from our last hatch, in the garden at the moment),  and we know what a Welsh Black x Welsh Black looks like (because one of the new ladies laid a fertile egg on her way home, and the chick is in our garden with the Sassos)

I'm just disinfecting the lunar module brooder now so I can put it on to dry out and warm up ready.

I can't wait to meet them! 

EDITED: 6pm 6 out of 8 now pipped!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Rock bottom

One of my least favourite (yet curiously satisfying) chicken keeping job is "bottom cleaning".

Usually the Girls manage to keep their nether regions clean, but if they have a bit of a runny poo this can catch on their fluffy knickers and dry to a little rock... and then the next poo fails to clear the little rock and so it becomes a bigger rock and so on.

Left unsorted, this can degrade until the poor hen has a whole load of little rocks (or several large ones) hanging around her vent, which then become attractive to flies. Flies lay their eggs, the eggs hatch.... you get the picture I'm sure.

One of the allotment Girls, Mrs Roo, is very brick shaped, and seems to have a claggy bottom more often than most.  Being on the allotment, it's tricky to deal with it. I usually end up taking a flask of hot water down with me, and then sit her on my lap and attempt to clean her up.    It needs to be a warm day, as I can't use a hairdryer on her (no Electric) and I can't risk her getting a chill.

I did her at the weekend.

Today I noticed that Delilah, my oldest and most beautiful Garden Girl, had a bit of an, ahem, accumulation, so I decided I'd bath her undercarriage.  I cleared the area around our double sink,  filled it with warm water, and went out to get her.    She knew Something was Up, and hid under the bay tree.  Milly rushed past, and I thought I saw a bit of a pebble on her botty, so I caught her instead.

Chickens seem to quite like bathing, as long as you're calm and gentle.  I stood her in the sink, the water came up to her knees... or, rather, where her knees would be if she had any.  And then she lowered herself into the water!

She was quick and easy to do, as there wasn't much there. I probably could have dealt wit hit with a bit of damp cotton wool.  Towelled her off, and took her back outside, riding on my arm.  Quite a touching moment really, as she hasn't done that since she was 14 weeks old.

Sink emptied, rinsed, refilled. Out to get Delilah.  

Delilah also really seemed to like the warm water.  She liked the dish of corn even more.  Delilah is a big, old, bird;  she rarely lays an egg, occasionally we get a softee. She wheezes a bit, like she's out of breath. She doesn't like to be picked up or carried.  She will put up with sitting on my lap if I sit on the swing as the motion seems to settle her.    Sorry, I'm digressing.  

Delilah didn't want to get out.  Not sure if it was the soothing warm water, or the dish of corn that made my sink The Place To Be,  but The Place To Be it was.  Eventually I prised her out of the sink and onto the towel to dry her.  Then she had her cranky pants back on, and whinged all the way back to the Hen Pen.  

It was so much easier than a flask of water and a dish. down at the Allotment.  I might  find a washing up bowl and take a lot of hot water down next time and try giving Mrs R a bath that way.

Oh, and yes, of course I disinfected the sink and surrounding area afterwards.  Hmm. I wonder if I can make room for a Butler sink in my utility room....

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Oh Sheet!

It was very hot last night, so I decided to get a fresh quilt cover out of the airing cupboard and use that instead of the full quilt.

As I was laying it out on the bed I realised there was something stuck inside one of the corners.  I realised I had found DH's missing specs.

The lenses were completely opaque. I polished them with special spectacle cloth; I used some specialist spray;  the lenses improved but were still not right.  We took the glasses into the optician's today.

Of course, it would be the pair that has (or, more accurately, "had") with Reactolite lenses. It would be the pair that has (had) special ant scratch coating.  It would have been a 60 degree wash, which is the right temperature to kill of any nasty bugs (they survive at lower temperatures,  and the alternative is freezing your sheets before you wash them.  Hmm. Not sure I fancy having a bug filed superking quilt in my freezer. There's no room anyway).

We could claim on the house insurance, but the amount we'd get back after our excess we would undoubtably pay back next year when we get our renewal premium.

Still.  It was cheaper than buying a complete replacement.  And at least we now know where his glasses had been all that time.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Busy Little Bees

DH and I have been buzzy on our Bee Keeping practical course.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel being surrounded by a whole hive of bees. On the theory course I learned that each colony has about 60,000 bees and that the college has 8 colonies. That's a lot of bees.

It wasn't anywhere near as scary as I thought it would be.  Of course we were safely kitted out in college supplied bee keeper suits, which helped.     We bought our own bee suits ready for this week;  seeing someone sneeze inside the veil of their borrowed suit made that decision for me.

Last week we watched the Tutors inspect the hives and we saw evidence of likely swarming.  The bees in one of the hives weren't overly happy and came out in force to let us know.  I felt safe in my borrowed suit. 

Until one of the other attendees found she had a bee inside her veil.   We inspected her outfit (she was wearing a smock over jeans) and realised the bee had got in through the gap underneath her smock.  She should probably have worn proper bee trousers, and tucked the smock in.

I had been planning to get separates, as my top half is much bigger than my bottom half.  However, the incident with the bee inside the veil made me rethink this strategy.  The beekeeping supplies website mentioned that if you're big on top you'd best get an all-in-one, otherwise the separate top will be too long and may allow bee entry at the bottom.

So. I ordered a Large all in one.

I fits me at the chest but is far too long in the body (the crotch is between my crotch and knees) and the legs are far too long as well.  It isn't the most flattering thing I've ever worn.   I told my Auntie Joy about this, and she comforted me by saying that "at least no one will know it's you".  I love talking to my Auntie Joy, she always gets me chuckling.

I took a sneaky photo of DH in his suit: his fits him much better than mine fits me.  At least the waist is where his waist is (rather than near the hips) and the crotch is where the crotch is (rather than towards the knee).

This week we got to do the hive inspections ourselves. This was really interesting, and we again found a colony getting ready to swarm.  This one was dealt with differently to last week's colony, as the Queen was quite old and didn't look too bright.  She's now an ex bee.

And I haven't panicked about being surrounded by bees. Yet.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

First time out

The 3 older Sassos are three weeks old now, everyone else is 2.5 weeks.  Th eweather has been very warm the last 2 days, so I popped them all in the Eglu while I cleaned out their brooder pen.

One brave soul ventured out onto the grass,  the rest stayed in the nestbox.  Eventually another body popped out, to my surprise it was the Welsh Black who is the tiniest and the most timid of all 7.

I had to come in to answer the door and do a bit of clearing up; when I popped out again, all 7 were busy round the feeder.  I've placed, a bit oprimistically perhaps, the Glug out there as well: the sooner they start using that, the better.  The Feeder they are using is OK, a big improvement on the "JamJar" style feeder we've used previously.

They are all wandering around en masse at the moment.  They are so cute. The only thing that isn't cute is that their poo smells.  It's always the same with chicks.  The Big Girls get Bokashi Bran in their feed and it really makes a difference. 

Off to do a bit more chick watching.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Musical Statues

The chicks have a really amusing defence mechanism. They play at Statues.
I  had been watching the chicks on the webcam and decided to pop out and  see them.  The shed door was open, with some netting from top to bottom to prevent the cats from entering, so that the warm-ish air could circulate and the chicks could get used to outside noise.
DH was mowing the grass at the time. As I approached the shed I could hear them scurrying around and cheeping.   
As I approached the door, I heard one of them give that sound that chicks give to alert of danger, and by the time  reached the netting and peeped in, everything was silent.  Not only that, but there were chicks all over the brooder pen, frozen still.  Just like Musical Statues.
I made that sort of clicking sound (the sort one makes when one wants a horse to move, and  one doesn't really know anything about horses) and suddenly they were all running around again. 
This morning's examination showed that thefeathering over the last few days has been dramatic.  We'd like to put them outside for a few minutes, but it not warm at all today.   Still, I've now jetwashed and disinfected the Eglu (and my jeans and glasses) so as soon as we get some realy warm weather we can put them out, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Latest Hatch - chick pics

Sorry it's taken me so long to take some pictures.

Our latest hatch are developing well and, as always are such little cuties.  I put some cauliflower leaves in their brooder pen today... they were very suspicious at first, but they eventually plucked up courage to give it a go.

The Sassos have got wonderful feather colouring, including white tips to their wings. I don't know if this is a throwback to something earlier in their heritage, or whether the white will disappear... our Welsh Black (who will be black when grown) also has white tips.

Here they are a bit later today, you can just about see all 7

The teeny weeny one on the left of the feeder is the Welsh Black, an Australorp x Indian Game. Not very black at the moment.

The black one (actually black and yellow but the yellow is now mainly underneath) towards the bottom of the pic is the Australorp.

(Note to self: 3 Sassos are 2 weeks old today; 2 Sassos/Australorp/Welsh Black are 11 days old)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Chicks on the Move

So, we had three Sassos hatch on Wed 28th;    the remaining four eggs (2 Sassos, 1 Australorp and 1 Welsh Black) weren't due to hatch until Saturday.  By Saturday, the three Sassos were already big chicks, so we moved them from the lunar module brooder into a temporary brooder made out of a cardboard box.

The new chicks arrived;  the two Sassos were big,  the other two are teeny tiny chicks, they look very frail in comparison.  We had them in the Lunar Module brooder, and were keen to introduce the two groups as soon as possible. We just needed the newest newbies to be strong enough.

Yesterday we decided that it was The Day,  and so we set up the "outside" brooder.  All 7 chicks were popped in together,  and they have been fine.  It's been much easier than trying to introduce them when they are older.

We wouldn't normally put them in the big brooder this early, but they seem to be managing well.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Lily laid an egg

A beautiful, proper, egg.

Smooth, china white shell.

After the problems with her egg laying tackle over the last few days, at the egg yolk in her vent, and then nothing  at all,  it's such a relief.

I normally only get this excited over "first eggs",  but I found myself doing the Egg Dance as I came running in from the garden.  Had to phone DH to give him the good news.

Hopefully it means she's well on the mend.

I'll carry on with the antibiotics for a couple more days, just to make sure.