Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Making Vodka while the sun isn't shining

I took advantage of the break in the weather to rush out to the fruit cage. I harvested *all* the raspberries (cutting down the canes as I did so, saves a job later in the year),  and collecting a large amount of Tayberries as well.

Back out to collect a load of Blackcurrants.

I then spent a considerable amount of time picking over and preparing the fruits to be converted into Vodka.  The Rasp= and Tay-berry version is relatively simple. the Blackcurrant version is a lot more fiddly.  They produce very different styles of drink, both have their place and both are (or will be) delicious.   The various concoctions are steeping at the moment,  and need to be shaken twice a day for the next few days.

I noticed that the gooseberries are looking ripe.  My darling step daughter  (DSD) bought me what she had been told were "langley gage", a fabulous dessert variety which taste better than grapes. (I'm not a gooseberry fan at all. I was persuaded to try Langley Gage by Bob Flowerdew, and he made a convert of me. DSD bought me two additional bushes as I was going on about them so much, but they are something else entirely.  Anyway, they aren't the same at all... but i will try and do something sensible with them this year.

And soon the cherries will be ripe: more vodka.

I used to make jam.  I still make a small amount, but I find the vodka more rewarding.  And it seems to make a more acceptable present for some reason.

Paving fun

Some time ago I bought some paving via Ebay.  Then Bradstone delisted the product, so we had to try and buy what we needed quickly.  DH went to a not-very-local Bradstone preferred supplier, and picked up eveything they had. And I ordered te  from Simply Paving. 

It's been sitting in piles for some time now.

First, we just couldn't be bothered. 

The we were too busy to be bothered. 

Then it was too hot to be bothered.

Then I cut down one of our huge shrubs, a lovely Mexican Orange which was in a totaly inappropriate place.  It was cool and raining today, briefly, so DH laid out some of the pieces so we could get an idea of pattern.

He relaid it later.

Then he added to it.

It's now looking lovely, if a little uneven as it is laid over an assortment of slabs, paving, lawn and flowerbed.

It's hot again now, so I'm not sure how much further we'll get in the short term.  But I'm not complaining. Usually I'm moving stuff with him, and sharing the heavy work. But Ihave to be careful since the Incident with The Go.

Bolshy little blighters

The Taffos always make me laugh.  They are such boshy little chicks: whatever we try and get them to do, they do the opposite.

I ordered an extra door panel for the Eglu Go, which arrived today.  We moved the Eglu to a new piece of ground today, cleaned it out, put in the roosting bars (the chicks are a bit young, but they are currenty roosting on *anything* including the run door), and fitted the new door.   We used the now-spare run panel as a "baffle" to help prevent the chicks flying on to the top of the Eglu run.

It was only partially successful.

We fitted an old tablecloth as a bit of a sail for both shade and as a bit of a baffle. it was fine on the first point, on the second it was only partially successful.

We've pegged down the netting to try and prevent "accidental" roll-unders. It was only partially successful.

They certainly keep us on our toes.  

Today we noticed that their black feathering has an unusual petrol-blue sheen.  They don't have their mothers' eyes.  Yet.  Both mums have yellow backgrounds with black pupils.  Currently the chicks are showing either Australorp eyes (all black), or a sort of grey-green background with black pupils.

I'll have to take a look at Roo tomorrow and see what his colouring is.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Mountaineering Chicks

I've just witnessed something really odd, and I can't believe what I saw.

The Littlees  (no longer need to call them Tinies, as we now have just "Big Girls" and "Littlees" in the garden) are like al young chicks.  They love to escape. Sometimes they do it deliberately, seeking out the weakness in the netting; sometimes by accident, by creating a crater when dusbathing and rolling underneath the netting.

We hear the tell-tale cheeping of the non escapees which warn us that someone has managed to get out.  We go out catch the little rascals and pop them back in (trying to find and secure the breach).

Yesterday I caught Oddjob,  the yellow chicken that we mistakenly thought was a rogue Sasso.  I scooped him up just outside the Eglu run, and his little feet gripped the Eglu bars as I picked him up.

And then he walked himself up the side of the Eglu run to the top.

It was like watching Wallace in "The Wrong Trousers", when the Trousers scale the wall of the building with a sleeping Wallace inside them.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Daft babies

So two days ago we took the 8 week olds down to their new home on the allotment.  Shut them in the coop for an hour, let them out, they were very happy little chicks.

Went back at 9pm. Everyone else had gone to bed.  The 7 chicks were huddled together by a fence. They saw (or heard) us, and came running over en masse cheeping; "mummy! daddy!!".  We caught them one by one and posted them into the coop. the last bird to be caught got the idea, and climbed the ladder  himself.  Shut the coop pop hole.

Yesterday DH got up very early, went to the allotment to let them out.  Last night at about 9.15, we went down to the allotment to make sure they had been able to take themselves to bed.  Nope. All sitting under the coop waiting for us.   We left the pop hole open (their run is surrounded by Arris fencing and electrified fencing), and stood in the next run along to make sure they didn't come out again.

Today, DH skipped out the coop. Four of them had to climb the ladder and investigate what he had done.

Will they take themselves to bed tonight?


Friday, 25 June 2010

Leaving Home

The 2nd hatch went to their new home on the Allotment today.

We had a lot to do there so we popped them in their new house, with a drinker, and then carried on sorting out.  I had one last coop to empty and disinfect,  and DH had to run some fine black netting alongside the normal netting as two of the Little chickens can get through the squares.  We got on with this for a while. 

Next, I sorted out the two Welsh Blacks with some antibiotic, a salt water bath, and some purple spray.

Feeders all topped up ready, and then we let the Littlees out.

Eventually one of the Sasso girls came out.  The others refused.  Normally I'd leave them to it, but we needed to check the security of the fencing.  I helped them out one by one, and they looked at home immediately.  A nibble of food,  a refreshing drink,  and a communal dustbathe in the dappled shade under a tree.

It's a lovely environment for them;  I will miss seeing them in my garden though.

When we got home I jet washed and disinfected the Eglu and everything else.  The Eglu will be parked on the patio until the Australorp comes back.   I also raked up the ground the Eglu occupied,  and emptied the shed of various cardboard boxes.   Finally I jet washed and disinfected the Big Girls' drinkers.

Just got the brooder to clean out and disinfect now.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Quick pics


 Mrs Roo, sporting her temporarily-adjusted tiny saddle (I've ordered a new one with adjustable shoulder straps from http://www.orpingtonsuk.com). It's far too hot for saddles really, but she definitely needs it while she's his one-and-only...

The Ladies-who-Lay were busy dustbathing...

And all the coop doors now sport magpie deterrents (thank you Tom on the Omlet forum for the idea..)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A lot to do at the Allotment

What a busy day. I'm shattered, it's far too hot to be doing all this messing about.

About a week ago I toool the saddle of the Welsh Black, as Roo's attentions had diminished.   Fortunately DH has been checking her each day, so when we found a cut on her back we were able to get her to the Vet quickly.    We put her in our broody pen so she could still see the others, and they her, but she was separate.  A quick check of the other Girls showed that the other Welsh Black also had a small injury.

So, this morning was spent setting up runs so that Roo and Mrs could be in one run, with their own (makeshift) coop and feeding area;  the two Welsh Blacks could be in  another run, with their own coop and feeding area, and still in sight of Roo and Mrs; the run had to be separated by very high fencing.  We  also needed to make sure the third run, complete with coop was still available and separated ready for when we take the Teens down there later in the week.

We then needed to bathe and purple-spray the wounds of the two black girls.  Mrs Roo needed a bath to finally get rid of the bits of poo that just don't come off with a cotton wall bath.

And I wanted to Poultry Shield one of the coops (DH did one the other day,  and the last one will be done on Friday).

And it was the day to scrub and disinfect all the drinkers and the feeders.

And it was the day to empty, scrub, and refill the waterbutts.

It makes sense to do these things at the same time,  as the Coop needs to dry out before we can put the roosting bars and bedding back in.  And we do the other bits while we're waiting.

And we decided that we would find a way to make a saddle fit on Mrs Roo. As she is currently Roo's one-and-only, she needs a bit of protection.  She's a really unusual shape. In the end, she had a bantam sized saddle on, and even then we had to shorten the shoulders!

Our planned hour ended up taking nearly four.

But it looks really smart now. Very neat very tidy, very cared for.

All birds inspected, everyone looks happy.

Wonder what it'll be like tomorrow?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Chickeny updates

So, where are we with our myriad of flocks?

The four Garden Girls are doing well.  Delilah, our oldest and most gorgeous hen, is definitely slowing down now. She's a Bluebelle hybrid and is at least 3 years old,  so "every day is a blessing". (Sorry to be so trite).

Our second hatch of the year (5 Sassos, 1 Welsh Black, and 1 Australorp) are coming along in leaps and bounds.  Seven week sold now, tey are growing well, and are happy little (well, not so little) chooks.    We're keeping the Eglu door shut at night because it can still be a bit chilly and they are still only occupying a 3rd of the Eglu space.   it'll be time for them to go to their permanent home soon.

We still believe the Australorp is a girl,  and so she will (eventually)  with a new friend, join my Garden Girls.  She escapes regularly is as light as a feather (despite being as big as the others) and has the most gorgeous eyes.  The Welsh Black is very interesting.  She has speckles of brown in her feathers, and we have no idea where that has come from. She also has black legs with a greenish tinge!  If she's a she, then she and one of the Sassos will (current plan) join Roo and his harem.  The Sassos  seem to be 2 girls and 3 boys.  One of the Girls is the sole offspring of Mrs Roo Too, and it looks like she's going to be as big as her mum.  Not ideal for breeding then (we think that the hen being big is why Roo couldn't get a grip)  so it probably won't be her who joins the harem.  

Our third and final hatch of the year, 3 weeks old today, started coming outside three days ago, in the Eglu Go.  We wanted to bring them out earlier but the weather was foul.   

Now, however, the weather has been kind, and so they are out all day as long as it is warm and dry. They go back in their brooder under the electric hen in the evening.     The odd one out, that we thought was a Sasso, we now think is probably a Taffo, just an odd colour.  We won't know until next year whether this will be a regular colour.

We gave them a dust bath tray today, and they are loving it. As the chicks always do.

Down on the allotment, the Girls are looking really happy and healthy.  All but Mrs are happy to take corn from the hand and to be picked up, inspected, cuddled.  Norman still has to have a peck or two, but it seems to be excitement rather than aggression.   Pogo is looking fantastic, very little sign of lameness now.

In the breeding Pen, following the sad death of her sole chick, Rose has given up being broody. We've shut the broody house, as we need to move it ready for the 6 week olds to move down to the allotment.    Mrs Roo is being really horrible to her.  She continues to be happy to eat from our hands.  Ruby is still being quite flighty.  I've removed her saddle, and I'll see how she goes over the next day or two before I decide whether to replace it or not.  Roo  continues to be magnificent.

We've been losing feed to rats (the Allotment Cam is fab!).  We've been putting traps down and have caught quite a few.  Traps, although not very  pleasant are a much better way of killing rats than the poison/shooting alternatives.   We bought 2 treadle feeders for the breeding pen to combat the problem. 

The Harem are fine with them, but Roo is finding it very difficult to get his face furniture in.    DH has been busy making a wooden version of a Grandpas Feeder (a much better - and more expensive - design).  We'll see how they get on with this and, if it works, we'll think about getting a proper Grandpas Feeder for them later.

Too soon to say if they areworking as they are still at the "wedged open" stage.

Sorry for the lack of pics.  I'll take some over the next few days and post soon.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Very sad news

DH checked the egg underneath the broody yesterday and there was no sign of pipping.   This morning, there was a dead chick in front of the broody hen.

It had slightly fluffed up but not a lot.  It had a lot of yolk over it.

Poor chick.  Poor broody.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Definite Difference in the Tinies

The Taffos are now 2.5 weeks old.  A few days ago DH noticed that some of them have definite tails and the others don't.  This is very exciting, as it might mean that the cross is producing sex linked chicks. 

Or it might be that they've come from different Mums.

But I guess whichever it is, it's a bonus!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Thieving Magpies

The poor broody lost another egg.   

Did I mention previously that the eggs had been disappearing, including the china ones?

We put a camera on the allotment, so we could see if it was magpies or rats doing the thieving. We now know the answer.


The Broody was in the coop at the time, which is why the magpie came out again so quickly.  And did you see the other one stealing the bird feed?!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Tinies in the Shed

A few days ago we let the Sassos stay out overnight in the Eglu.   It was warm everything was fine so the next morning we decided to keep them there.   We dismantled, scrubbed and disinfected the brooder and left it to dry.  Much later that day, everything was thoroughly dry so we put it all back together and moved the 8 Tinies into it.

They love it. Wihin hours they had discovered they could get on top of the electric hen; it's taken our other hatches a couple of weeks to work this out.
They are such gorgeous little chicks.  I still can't get over the fact that they look just like baby Australorps...yet they are at most 1/4 Australorp. as their dad is Sasso and their Mum is Welsh Black.  This makes them 1/2 Sasso, 1/4 Indian Game, 1/4 Australorp. (The yellow one is their half-sibling. Same dad, Mum is another Sasso).

We've been trying to think of a group name which reflects their Sasso/Welsh Black heritage but it's not as easy as one might think. "Wasso" came to mind, but doesn't sound very pleasant. Welso sounds like an abbreviation for Welsummer.   At the moment I'm thinking abou Taffos... I mean the term Taff in an affectionate way, I wonder how Welsh people would perceive it?

Meanwhile, the teenage chicks are having a whale of a time.  From the morning after they first stayed out we gave them a free range area to add to their run, and they love it.  

They're all at least 5 weeks old now (with the older 3 being 5.5 weeks), and we started adding Growers pellets to their feed a couple of days ago.    They weren't that interested in the Growers, which surprised me a bit: our previous hatches have relished Growers.

It just goes to show that everyone is an individual...even with Chooks.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Heaven on a hot day

The large chicks are now getting huge.  The oldest three are now 5 weeks old,  and the other four are half a week behind.  The 5 Sassos are very solid  and heavy birds, perhaps understandable given their heritage and that Sassos are normally culled for the table at 8-10 weeks.  The Australorp and the Welsh Black are very light but are a good size.

We've decided that we'll aim to cull the Sassos at about 14 weeks.  The primary driver for this is that the birds are so heavy and chunky now, that we're concerned that they will become just too big and lumbering if we keep them much beyond that.  We may need to bring it forward a bit more, if they carry on growing at this rate.

We think we have 3 boys and 2 girls, and it is likely that 1 of the 2 girls was the egg from the late Mrs Roo Too.   We won't know for sure until they are a bit older.  

It rained a lot yesterday and it was so heavy that, despite putting roofing plastic on the run, we felt the chicks had better go back to their brooder in the shed. They are nearly fully feathered but not quite. Their size makes it easy to forget how young they are.

This morning, they were very keen to go out.   I made up a dustbath in a seed tray and put it in.  They all tried to jump in together.   I made up a second bath, but they seem to prefer sharing...