Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Sorry I haven't posted for a while,  work took over for a while.

The Taffos have reached puberty.   They had been growing rapidly - more rapidly than normal - for about a week before it happened.   I noticed this because I could see from one night to the next how they were filling up more and more of their little coop.    We also needed to change the rings  for 5 of them to 16mm rings. At 9 weeks, they are now wearing a bigger size than the 13 week old Sassos are.   Must be their Game Bird heritage - big sturdy legs like their mums.

Then we noticed that one of them suddenly had an even more prominent green sheen to his tail feathers;  then we spotted some brown flecks appearing around the hackles of some birds;  and then, without warning,  one morning they all seemed to have extra glossy plumage with a gorgeous blue and green sheen to it.  They are stunning.

The next indicator was hearing a sound a bit like a kazoo, which was one of them trying out their voice.   Less than 9 weeks old and trying to crow!

We've got a new coop for them now, much bigger,  as they will be here for a bit longer until one of the runs on the allotment is free.  This will either be when the two Welsh ladies are fully fit and we're able to reunite them with Roo and Mrs,   or when the older chicks have been despatched.    I couldn't face dispatching one set of chicks just so another set could move in - it's hard enough dispatching them at the right time!  So , a replacement coop was necessary.

This morning, we let them out and Red (=the one with the red ring on) was running up and down the top of the Run cockadoodling.   Fortunately it was  a starangled kazoo sound at the moment. 

I don't have any pictures of them at their current stage, but here's one of them roosting together about a week ago

Friday, 23 July 2010

Everyone is still here

We decided to wait until the Blue Ring Sasso starts to try and crow before we dispatch him.  Ideally we'd like to dispatch all 3 boys together, and the others are a bit smaller and haven't turned into cockerels yet.

Since making that decision, Bue has managed to get into a bit of a kerfuffle with Roo.  Not sure if it was an accident, or deliberate.    We've now run a second line of fencing between the two pens, creating a "No Mans Land".

I suspect Monday will be "The Day". He will be nearly 13 weeks old then, and the other boys will be 12 weeks old.

This means it is now decision time about the Girls.  We had planned that the Australorp would come and live with my Garden Girls (along with another pullet , different breed, from another breeder);  the Welsh Black and one of the Sassos would join the Breeding Flock,   and the other Sasso girl would be a dinner girl.

I haven't been able to get hold of the breeder,  so we've decided to change plans.  I'll bring one of the Sasso girls home along with the Australorp.  

Even if the other breeder gets in touch now, I'll have to decline the pullet I was planning to buy.  Now that we've decided to keep both Sassos,  getting another bird would mean a death sentence doe one of the Sassos, and that doesn't feel right.

Meanwhile, Rose and Ruby are healing well.  Took Rose to the Vet for a checkup yesterday as it's been 3 weeks since we last went.  Very pleased with how it is healing.  We're stopping  the antibiotics now, but continuing with the yoghurt, Avipro and Nettex Poultry Drops.

It'll still be a few weeks before they are completely healed and able to be reunited with Roo and Mrs.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Cockerelles and Cockerels on the cusp.

Just got back from the Allotment.    Although we (DH&I and Other Chap) take it in turns to go down and do the daily feeding and watering,  I still go down every day to administer the antibiotics to Rose and Ruby.

Both girls' wounds are healing well,  but it's still too soon to put them back in with Roo and Mrs, although we can tell from R&R's behaviours that they want to go back in now.

Their poo has been very mushy whilst on antibiotics. For the last couple of weeks I have been giving them a dollop of yoghurt with some AviPro mixed in,; for the last week  I've been sprinkling Poultry Spice on their pellets; and for the last four days I've given each girl one single drop of Nettex Poultry Drops.    I have been skipping out their poo every day so that I can check what is happening. Today, one of them had almost formed a proper poo shape.  

At least it's progress.

But none of this has anything to do with the title of today's post.

As usual, I visited all four pens and said hello to each bird.   Over in the Laydees pen, 4 of them are broody and Norman has switched to Cockerel mode. Or Cockerelle mode, perhaps.

As usual, she pecked me on my shoe as soon as I entered her pen. That's her way of asking for corn.  I bent down to give her some corn, and she did that little Cockerel dance, the one they do when they are getting ready to fight.   Then her hackles were up, and then she tried to HongKongPhooey me.  She's a tiny bird so she didn't reach very high, and I saw it coming so I moved.

At this stage in the proceedings, the best course of action is to pick her up and give her a cuddle.   She wouldn't let me near her today. 

Oh well.

Next visit was the Littlee pen. They all crowded round to eat corn from my hand, and I spottend that one of the boys is on the cusp of changing.  We already know which are the cockerels but, this  morning ,"Blue Ring",  has cockerel shaped tail feathers and they are green.  And his stance has changed slightly.  He's about to burst out as a proper little Man now... and it means we need to take action in the next day or two before we start having Man trouble.

We initially thought it would be 14 weeks, but when we saw how big they were and how quick,  we thought it might be 12 weeks.    We didn't expect it to be 11.5 weeks.   I know there isn't a lot of difference between 11.5 and 12,  but when I say 12 what I had in mind was anything up to 12 weeks 6 days. 

I'm not sure what it means for the other 2 boys yet.

And it'll be decision time about the Girls.    More about that in a later post;  life is often more complicated than one hopes.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Red wine and skipping rope not a combination to be recommended.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago,  I bought a skipping rope to help me build up fitness.

Not quite such a long time ago, I hung the skipping rope on a hook in the kitchen and then quietly forgot about.

A while ago, about last Tuesday, I remembered the skipping rope, and thought what a good idea it would be to get it out again. I then quietly forgot about it again.

Today, after consuming double the normal amount of wine with my dinner - it was a rather lovely Pinotage from South Africa, and I'm talking about 350ml instead of my normal 175ml - I remembered said skipping rope.  And it was cool outside for a change, and not raining.  So I went out into the garden to skip.

Let's just say it wasn't very successful. And leave it there.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Chicky Stand Offs

The 8 chicks are trying to sort out the pecking order, literally.  

We have a series of face-offs.  White and Yellow, for example, will have a Blink contest. They stand like chicky statues for what seems like forever, then suddenly one of them will have hackles risen and will attack the other. There's then a bit of a boxing match (the stance is similar, but obviously they fight with beaks rather than gloves), and the one of them runs off and starts the process with someone else.

Sometimes one of the TopChicks will do a round of the others,  just pecking them on the head to remind them Whos In Charge.

It's funny and horrible at the same time.

Monday, 12 July 2010


The bumper harvest of sour cherries continues.

We'be already put a load in to create cherry vodka (which actually tastes of Christmas),  and we cooked and bottled loads with Kirsch (three month wait to see what they taste like).

Yesterday DH made a sour cherry sauce to have with some duck breasts.  It was lovely.    The sort of thing that would aslo go well with Yoghurt, and cakes, and desserts, especially as I don't like things too sweet.

So today he agreed to pick yet more cherries and make a big batch of the sauce which we can freeze in individual portions.  mmmmmmmmmm

The birds are taking loads of cherries as well, which I really don't mind.   The smaller species grab a whole cherry and fly off with kt.    I'm not quite so keen on the parakeets and pigeons,  who tend to nibble the cherry on the tree, and when they get part way through the cherry falls off and splats on the pathway.  Such a waste of fruit.


Friday, 9 July 2010

Cool for Cats

The Cats are also struggling with the heat, flopping around listlessly everywhere. Often across the kitchen floor, which is a bit inconvenient.

This evening, I had a thought about soaking a  cloth, and stroking the cat with it.   I reasoned that this would cool the cat down, and rehydrate her as she washed herself after my attentions.  

I found an old microfibre cloth, soaked it under the tap, and went off in search of Isabelle who, being very hairy, is feeling the heat the most,

I found her under the trailer.  I started to stroke her with the wet cloth. All was going well.  Cloth was getting a bit grubby (she had just been dustbathing) and somewhat hairy, but I decided I could just put it in the "dirty jobs" box when it had been washed.   

One half of Izzy was nicely dampened, and I moved to her head and ears.  At this point, she must have realised that the cloth was wet (presumably her thick coat prevented her from noticing this earlier), and she rubbed her face in the cloth.   So far so good.

Then, unfortunately for both of us,  she decided to lick the cloth.

Did I mention that I was using a Microfibre cloth?  My Microfibre cloths are washed in a tiny amount of detergent, on the hottest wash possible,  and with absolutely no fabric conditioner.  FabCon clogs up the fibres, and stops them working properly.

Microfibre cloths work by having standy-uppy microfibres, which wrap round and ease off dirt.    It would appear they also wrap themselves around a cats scratchy tongue.

We looked at each other, for just a moment. I was wide eyed in disbelief; Izzy was wide eyed in horror at this thing stuck to her tongue.   I did manage to pull it off as Izzy made a run for it.  It was a bit like separating velcro.

For some reason she wouldn't settle down after that. Every time I approached her with my soothing blue cloth, she got up and "slunked" away.

Can't imagine why.

Too Hot to handle

It's too hot.

My house is cool inside, and so I like to stay in, in the kitchen, if possible. 

The poor hens have been finding it too hot as well.  Lots of panting, and sitting with their wings open, as if they had sweaty armpits. (Wingpits?)

The Garden Girls are very fortunate to have lots of hedging to hide under,  and also a couple of large shady shrubs and a tree. They are still finding it uncomfortable.  I let them into the fruit cage today,  and they explored enthusiastucally for a while, but they returned ot sitting under something.  I gave them some hunks of water melon this afternoon,  and that seemed very welcome.

With the chicks it's a bit harder.  We have a shade on their run, but with this heat it's not very effective.  We put up a tablecloth over the netting, to provide a shaded area, and they congregate under it quite a lot.   They try and land on the tablecloth, and then abseil down it.    They don't really learn from their experiences either,  and they always have a surprised look on their faces as they sliiiiiiiiide down the fabric for the umpteenth time. 

They also have obviously not read about Shared Bodily Warmth,  and don't understand that you should only huddle together when you are cold.  There is usually a heap of chicks, I'm sure I can see a heat haze rising over them.  

They didn't even try the watermelon.

We extended their netted area even further now so that they have a flower bed and fence. This gives them more opportunities to dustbathe, and the fence provides further protection from the sun.  I'm going to  soak the tablecloth shade n water as well, so that will provide extra relief.

Thank goodness that all the allotment pens have access to trees, so the birds can shelter in dappled shade.  I'll be taking the rest of the watermelon down to them tomorrow morning.

The grass is in a dreadful state.  Not specifically because of the chickens,  I can see that my neighbours back gardens are similarly parched.

Hope it rains soon!

Monday, 5 July 2010


These used to remind me of Triffids, and I didn't like them much.  However, we had quite a few in the garden when we moved in here and they've self seeded somewhat.  We now have an incredible range of pink/red colours, one which is dark blackish burgundy, and one which is almost black.  

I really like them now.

Here's a few of the different colours we have (each one is different, I'm not sure whether the camera picks that up):

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Clean run

Just emptied the flooring out of the Garden Girls' run.  I rake it up, Stalosan it, and put it back down once a week, and I usually empty it completely every 8 weeks.   It's been a lot longer than that this time.  I was going to wait until Delilah finishe moulting, but it really did need doing.

I think it looks a bit...anaemic..when it's got fresh Aubiose down. When I had horses, I loved a fresh Aubiose bed.  With chooks I feel a bit sad. Nothing for them to find when they rook around.

Still. It won't take long to get back to normal.

Feeling fruity!

And the fruit preserving continues.

Last night I made Gooseberry Fool, using home-made custard from my Girls' eggs. I love home made custard.  Seemed a bit of a shame to "waste" it in a Fool... but the Fool came out well. Even DH (who eats very few vegetables and even fewer fruits) liked it.

This morning it was a bit cooler, so I picked all the remaining blackcurrants, pureed them, and I'm leaving them in a bowl for 24 hours.  I can't quite see how this cold extraction method is going to work, but I'll try anything once.

And I moved on to the next step in the blackcurrant vodka.  It's a bit of a tedious process this one. Step 2 involves straining the blackcurrants from the alchohol,   adding water and more sugar to the sieved pulp and keeping both this and the strained liquid for another four days before step 3.

We haven't had as many blackcurrants as normal. I didn't put any Growmore around the fruit in March, nor any compost in May.  And the floor of the fruit cage is a bit choked with weedy plants.  We're going to take up the weed control fabric as soon as the Tayberries have finished,  give it all a good going over (with the help of the Girls),  a layer of rotted manure and hopefully next year will be better.

The Cherry Tree, on the other hand, has produced a spectacular harvest. I'm trying - somewhat unsuccessfully - to enthuse myself to go and pick more cherries to have a go at making some cherry desserty stuff. I was thinking of a sort of cherry puree, which could be used in cakes or as a topping or something.  I'm going to be using the pasteuriser tomorrow night for the blackcurrant cordial, so I could pop some jars of cherry stuff in at the same time.  However. The recipe for the cherry doodah involves going to the supermarket (our local Off Licence seems to have closed) to buy Kirsch,  and I can't face the supermarket on a Sunday.  Maybe tomorrow.

The Parakeets are back.  They land on the apple trees, nibble through an apple until it falls off the tree, then they move on to the next apple.  The half-chewed apple falls on on top of the chicken run,  which irritates the Girls.  They then complain, loudly.  As this tends to start at about 5am, it's not great.

The Pear Tree also has a bumper crop on, it's first good crop for 3 or 4 years (the last one was when we had our driveway done.  I remember that because for all the time the guys were here doing the driveway, I was preserving pears.  I'll have to check my offline diary though to see when that was).

I expect I'll try Pear vodka.Just for a change.


Saturday, 3 July 2010

What a lot of messing about!

Where to start?  Um, paving/path in front of the kitchen, I think.  All that area is now clear of junk, DH laid out proposed pattern and then we agreed size and he's marked it out.  He started to dig out some of the grass and wanted to relocate the turves (or "bits of dried grass", more accurately).   We agreed we (=he) would turf over a small and overgrown flowerbed.... which needed clearing first.  Despite the dreadful heat, he's managed to do it today.

On the preserving front...

I've just finished making one lot of Tayberry Cordial, and the full bottles have now come out of the pasteuriser.  It's very dark liquid this time.  I've saved a small bottle to sample later in the week.

I'm typing this while my Tayberry & Raspberry Vodka is straining.   I'm at "step 2", which in this recipe is the first straining out of the solids.   This vodka is fairly quick and painless to make.   It'll be ready for final racking and bottling in a week, and then it will need to mature for a month or so before being ready to drink.

Yesterday I made up a quantity of cherry vodka.  That's sitting in the utility room in the dark for a week or so before moving on to the next stage.

The fiddly-but-rewarding blackcurrant vodka is ready for it's next step, but I think I'll save that until tomorrow.

I need to pick the remaining blackcurrants to make backcurrant cordial. I'm trying a different method this year, cold extraction.   It's been too hot to pick the currants, I really need to get up early and do them. Maybe tomorrow?

I've also got some gooseberry puree in the fridge, waiting for me to make up some custard and then turn it all into goosberry fool.  Not sure about this, but we'll give it a go.

I've just placed an order for some more 250ml bottles, some replacement lids (bottles and jam jars), and a few other bits and pieces, as I don't have many left. I do stick a little label on the bottles asking people to return the bottles, but most people don't bother.

On the chicken front...
Good news about Rose from the Vet yesterday. She's pleased with how it's all healing up, and I can stop the salt water bathing.  I'm continuing with the Baytril, and purple spray if it's a bit fly-y.   I'm also continuing with Aloe Vera gel on her bald patch, plus a bit of child-safe factor 50 sun cream.

Ruby also looks OK, and both are laying.  Their poos are very sludgy though, presumably from the Baytil. I'll try giving them some natural yoghurt tomorrow to boost their good bacteria.

Mrs Roo laid an egg today, her first for a few days.  We were worried that she might be egg bound because of the heat, but the egg looks fine.

The Littlees (at the allotment) are managing to work the treadle feeder, it still has a brick on it for now.

Chickens At home...
The Tinies, now  5 weeks old, continue to be bolshy little things.   We put rings on them yesterday, and now we know it's always "Red" who escapes to join OddBod.   They continue to be into everything,  and they are definitely playing "Monkey see, Monkey do".  If one of them flies up on to the coop, then suddenly there is a line of them there.

Delilah is continuing her moult.   All of them devoured the tayberry pulp (just pulp, no sugar) which was left over from me doing the juice extraction.  It looks a bit like Pulp Fiction (pun intended) at the moment,  as they all have red stains everywhere.

We're trying to conserve water so we can water the grass without feeling guilty.   I've got a fermenting barrel in the kitchen, and I've been putting in the run-off water (when I'm waiting for the hot tap to run hot).    I'll also put the used water from the Pasteuriser in it when it's cold...and in the meantime I an using the warm water from the pasteruriser to do some cleaning. 

We're also going to put a tub trug (we don't seem to possess any buckets) into the bathroom, and we'l try catching the shower run-off water and put that on the grass too.

Every little helps.