Monday, 30 August 2010


Delilah doesn't want to go in with the Big Girls.

Every time I shut them up (whether it is because I am popping out, or because it is bed time), she refuses to go in.  I end up having to corner her, catch her, and put her in.

Yesterday evening, she strolled in with the Little Girls but, as it was bedtime and they weren't very happy about it, I caught her and put her with the BGs.

This morning I had to go out, and she refused to go in the run. She strolled into the LG run.   Today I just shut her in.

I'm not sure whether its 
(a) because she's now bottom of the BG pecking order. and would rather be top of the LGs, or
(b) because the LGs are in the Walk in Run and she doesn't see why she should be relocated.

I'm really not sure which it is.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


We grow quite a lot of basil,  as I love home-made basil pesto.   It freezes well, so I usually try and make a couple of batches to see me through winter. Well, Autumn - it doesn' t often reach winter.

I usually eat it with penne, because it sticks to the ridges. I have been known to spread it on bread, eat it as a dip, have it on fish;  on chicken it's a dream....

This recipe has lemons in, which really freshens and lifts everything:

100g basil, stalks removed
Juice of 2 lemons
100g pine nuts (lightly toasted in a hot dry frying pan, until they are just coloured)
small amount of salt (1/4 teaspoon)
4 cloves of garlic
150ml Olive oil
100g finely grated parmesan
black pepper

I normally used a food processor, but you can do it by hand if necessary.

Put the basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, garlic and oil into a food processor bowl, and pulse until you get the texture you like.  I like mine to look like couscous, but I've also made it smoother.  

Scrape everything out of the processor bowl, and stir in the parmesan, along with a few grinds of black pepper.

Keep (airtight) for a week or so in the fridge. If yu are going to freeze,  freeze immediately in useable portion sizes.


I was watching Gardeners' World on Friday, and Alys Fowler (is it Fowler?  I knew an Alice Fowler at school, maybe I'm getting the name confused) was Doing Something With Basil.  I thought she was going to make pesto...but no,  she chopped up the basil, stirred in a smidgeon of olive oil, and then put it into an ice cube tray to freeze.

That looked like a really great idea,  so I've done that this morning.    It always takes a surprising amount of basil to create relatively few chopped leaves....  I didn't use an ice cube tray,  I had some fantatic lidded baby food/puree pots in the cupboard, which we use when we are storing cheese culture and/or rennet in the freezer. I was going to link to them on the Lakeland website,  but it seems they don't make them any more.

I might try Alys's method with some mint....

Saturday, 28 August 2010


It's the weekend, so it's time to poo pick/clean out the allotment coops.

I started by filling the feeders, and checking over the birds.  Then I snapped on my latex gloves,  and started.

Coop 1 - The Breeding Group (Roo, Mrs Roo, Rose and Ruby) didn't take very long.  Someone is sleeping in the nestbox though.

Coop 3 - The Laydees (Mrs Flint, Norman, NotNorman, Pogo and Siouxie Sioux) - quick and easy, although I discovered some water ingress in the back left hand corner.  I cleaned out the whole thing, and left the front off so it could dry out while I did Everything Else.

Coop 2 - The Dinner Chickens (Boys: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, White, Oddbod; Girls: Orange and LimeGreen). What a mess!     They are obviously filling out the large coop now, and I can see from the poo that some of them are facing the back of the coop.  I had to give their coop a really thorough clean, and I tried to think of options for sorting it out a bit.   Then I remembered that we had had another set of roosting bars and a poo tray, ages ago.    I eventually found it in the shed, in the sort of "cupboard" which has a pop hole to make an emergency small-ish coop.  It was covered in dry poo.

Nothing for it. I set to work with a scraper,  then a packet of Virkon, some water and a brush.    One whole packet of Virkon later, and the bars were clean.  I put them in the sun to dry, and went round sorting out everyone else.

A bit of Stalosan in the Laydees coop, then fresh Aubiose, and everything back.  DH will need to find and fix the source of the ingress when he gets back.

Tidied up the shed.

Scrubbed the drinkers.

Found some Grit for the Dinner Chicks.

And eventually the roosting bars were dry enough to be coated first with Stalosan, to help dry them out, and secondly with Diatom.  Then we had new Aubiose, and the roosting bars fitted perfectly.  (DH designed them to fit over garden centre trays, so all our roosting bars are the same width. More or less.)

The whole thing took forever today.   Normally on clean out day there are two of us. I do the poo,  and DH does the feeders and drinkers.

Never mind, all done and tidy.  Next time, weather permitting,  I'll need to empty them out and spray them with Poultry Shield. Just in Case.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Yellow peril

Milly is going a bit yellow.

She's a Cream Legbar, and has been "off lay" for some time. She was a bit under the weather some time ago, like a softee was on its way, and then she perked up. But no eggs.

She was looking a bit bedraggled for the last couple of days, so today I decided to catch her and see if I could spot anything amiss.    She was very difficut to catch. She has always been a bit of a drama queen,   and this has got to the point where there is little - or no - pleasure in picking her up.  I managed to catch her today because she ran away, shrieking, up the ladder into the Cube.    I shut the door, opened the back, and picked her up.  She was not happy.

I gave her a quick look over, and saw that her vent area was a bit messy.  She was moulting a lot - I knew that anyway, from the volume of feathers in their run - and had some new feathers growing.   There was some white-ish stuff on the skin,  looked like urates.  I brought her in, gave her some cat food (for protein, and to take her mind off things), while I cleaned her with cotton wool and warm water.   

As I did so, I realised that her skin is very, very yellow.  It reminded me of the "Corn Fed Chicken" that I used to see in supermarkets.      Her legs are also very yellow,  Rhode-Isalnd-Red yellow, in fact.  

I was a little alarmed at this.  I don't remember her having particularly yellow legs. (Or particularly yellow skin, for that matter).

Do chickens get jaundice? 

I gave them quite a lot fo Garvo treats over two days a couple of days ago (maybe including yesterday, I can't remember).   I vaguely remember reading somewhere - on a Garvo related site I think - that they add something to their feed designed to enhance eggs,   and that they have had to introduce a special mix for white-legged birds so that their legs aren't affected.

How bizarre is that?!  I'll keep them off the Garvo completely and see what she looks like in a couple of days.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wet hens

For goodness sake!

Today started of dry, then we had some light rain, and then the light rain quickly got rather pelty.  I looked out of an upstairs window to see that the Big Girls (BGs) had spread themselves into both runs, and the poor little Girls (LGs) weren't able to get into either run.  

So. I put a jumper on. I don't know why, jumpers aren't exactly renowned for their water proof capabilities.  It just seemed the thing to do at the time. Anyway, I went out with some mealworms, to see if I could shut the BGs away, to give the LGs a bit of space.  

I managed to get 3 BGs in the LG run.  Then I got 3 LGs in the BGs run.  We were joined by Milly who, completely outnumbered and with me there, suddenly lost her desire to be a bit of chickeny monster.

The 3 LGs gobbled mealworms from my hand. Milly stood away, so I put some on the ground for her.   Roobarb ran up and down outside, unable to compute how to get to the mealworms.    In her panic, she rushed past the open door. She did pause, but saw Milly and carried on.

Many mealworms later, the BGs were creating a bit of fuss, mainly because they felt left out.   I stepped outside, followed by Milly,  and put some in the run for them.. Milly wouldn't come in. I shut her out, and we went back to the the other run.

I ran out of treats in the end, and I've left Milly in with the LGs.

I think I might try putting them all together tonight.  I wasn't going to do it this soon, but I can see that the free range area is just too big.  The LGs are trying to stay out of the BGs way,  and I can't see the situation getting resolved until they are together in slightly less space.

Butter my Bagel

I bought 6 litres of cream on Monday, planning to make butter yesterday. I didn't get round to it.

This morning, I regretted putting it off:  I only just had enough butter left to thinly butter my bagel.  I've become addicted to bagels, since I tried my Pumpkin & Maple spread on one.  I can't motivate myself to make bagels at the moment; they aren't difficult, so I don't really know why!

Anyway. I made the butter this morning. 6 Litres of cream resulted in 9 pounds of butter and a load of buttermilk.   That's a bit more butter than I should have got, so either I didn't get all the buttermilk out when I washed it,  or I didn't drain it properly and theres a bit of water emulsified in there.  I'll find out when we defrost the butter.

My new pressure cooker arrived yesterday.  Actually, I wanted to buy a 23 quart pressure canner from the US, but the cost (with duty&vat on price+shipping) is rather a lot, so I thought I'd try small scale pressure canning in a pressure cooker to see whether it works.

Did you know that most pressure cookers in this country aren't suitable to use for pressure cannning?  I contacted a whole load of manufacturers, and the only one who said their pressure cooker was suitable, was Kuhn Rikon.  That was quite fortunate, as it was their pressure cooker that had caught my eye.

I can't believe I'm writing about my new pressure cooker. I'm not sure which is worse.  Writing about it, or the fact that I am looking forward to trying it. 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Well, I swapped them over.

Despite my reservations.

It was on a bit of a whim, which isn't how I usually take chicken related decisions.

My patience ran out last night, with three Big Girls (BGs) occupying the Little Girls' (LGs) run.  So I shut them in there.  I then shut the LGs in the BG run.  And eventually got Milly into the LG run as well.

Of course, it mean I had to take out the huge flowerpot and nestbox blocker from the LG coop.   I had to go and get some Aubiose (by which I mean walk to the shed and fill up a trug), and put it in the nestbox.  I had to swap over all the feeders.  I found some dummy eggs and put them in the nestbox, to help the BGs in the morning.

The BGs took themselves to bed.  The LGs didn't.   Tilly had an explore of the CUbe, folowed by Custard, but neither of them stayed.  In the end we had to catch them all and put them in.

I checked on them later, and they were all on the roosting bars, no one had snuck into the nestbox.. Good girls.

So, do I leave them this way round for a while?  


Monday, 23 August 2010

Grrr! Chickens!!!!

I've just had my second soaking in two days.

I need to pop out.  DH isn't here, so I have to get the chickens shut away (even if we pop down the road to the shop, the chooks get shut in).  

Two Big Girls (BG) were occupying the Little Girls' Cube (LGC).  Four Little Girls (LGs) and 2 BGs were in the Big Girls Cube and Rub (BGCR) (4LGs at one end,  2BGs at the other) 

So, I thought the easiest thing would be to get the 2BGs from the BGCR into the LGC. 

Ha ha ha.

Yes, they went in.  Delilah stayed in. Milly ran out.

Meanwhile, all 3 LGs  ran out of the BGCR.

I then spent the next ten minutes in increasingly heavy rain trying to get the LGs into the BGCR; and Milly into the LGC,  without letting the others escape.  I managed to catch Tilly,  and I managed to herd Roobarb and much later Custard into the BGCR.    I couldn't do anything with Florence.

I went round, and round, and round, trying to corner her.  I tried reverse psychology, trying to keep her away.  She's read the book though, so it didn't work.  I gave up and tried Milly.

I could feel myself getting cross, so I came in and left them out in the rain.  A few minutes later, I went out with corn and tried again.

Florence went into the LGC by mistake, and came charging out when she realised.   I managed to get her in to the BGCR.

So it was just Milly.  Who just would not get to the end where the door is.  I can't go all the way round the LGC at the moment, as it backs into a shrub. Milly was getting frantic at not being able to get the corn that was inside the run. But she wouldn't come round.  I couldn't leave the door open, because the others would probably come out.

I found myself telling Milly that I was going out, and she could stay out for all I cared. And if a fox got her it was her own stupid fault.  (I didn't mean any of this,  I was just very, very wet  and very, very fed up).  I came in the house.

I went out again, the attraction of going out was waning rapidly by this time,  but I had managed to get 7 of them away and I didn't want it to be all in vain.   So we had another go.

Milly is such a cantankerous little madam. Honestly. I wouldn't mind, but she just whinges all the time, she's started picking on Delilah,  she makes a racket in the morning.... (did I mention that I was very very very wet?).

And then suddenly she made a dash for it.  I chose the reverse psychology option and tried to stop her going in,  and she went for it.

Hurrah!!!  Twenty five minutes after deciding to put them away,  they were put away.

Never rains, but it pours

Last night I went down to the Allotment (for the second time that day) to check over Ruby and Rose. I also wanted to confirm that Roo & Mrs had vacated their temporary accommodation,  and to move the fencing.  I should have moved the fencing in the morning, but I didn't take any cable ties with me, and I didn't take the rubber mallet.

So.  I arrived,  unlocked everything,  checked that the temporary coop was empty.  I moved the fence.  The idea was to create a bigger "no man's land" between Roo and the young boys.   DH had asked me to give the "chicks" some more room at the same time, so I then moved their fencing as well.

Rose was still up and about when I arrived.  By the time I had moved the first fence,  Roo and Mrs Roo had come out to join the party.   By the time I had moved the second fence, they had got bored and gone back to bed.

Next, I opened up their coop and had a look at Rose.  (She's a nightmare to catch, so it seemed sensible to wait until she'd put herself away). She was fine.  Ruby was still broody in the nesting box, she was fine too.

I looked at my handiwork and decided that, because I had moved both fences, there wasn't really enough of a gap now.  So I undid the first fence, and moved it again.  I had to fiddle around to get it taut.

By this stage, I had taken quite a bit of the temporary run area,  and I realised that if I removed the old pond, it would give Roo a bit of space back.  So, I did a check by eye and I could see that the pond would now fit in the enlarged no mans land (NML)

So, I took the fence down,  and spent a few minutes huffing and puffing, getting the pond moved.  It was full of crappy water.  I put the fence back up.

Everything looked fine, so I locked the shed,  locked the access to the allotment, turned the Electric Fence back on,  used my car keys to help me join the fencing without getting a shock, and prepared to leave.

I had a sudden thought.  What if the chicks managed to get under the fence (I hadn't been able to test it) into NML.  What if they jumped into the pond through nosiness. They might drown.  It had a bit of water in, their feathers would get waterlogged.  I couldn't stand it.  I unlocked the access, went back in,  and looked at the pond.

I wasn't sure if the water just looked unpleasant or whether it was stagnant, so I didn't want to risk just tipping it up. Besides, I tried to lift it up and it was too heavy.  I couldn't face unlocking the shed to get a bucket, so I used the trug that I skip out with.  I pulled some water out, and dumped it on the edge of the allotment.  And some more. And some more.  This became a bit waterlogged, so I went to the other side of the allotment.     This too became waterlogged.  The water didn't smell bad,  so I used some on the allotment itself, on edge of NML.  And so on. And so on. It took ages.

Eventually, I decided to tip the pond up to empty the rest out.  I hadn't really been paying enough attention, and to my horror some of it swilled on to the Chicks area.  I was tired. It won't matter, I told myself.  But I couldn't leave it.

So, I moved the chicks fence - again - to skirt around the water.

It was dusk now, and I was ready to go.  I picked up the mallet from the water butts (the only place to put things), locked up, picked up my stuff, and reached for my car keys.  No car keys.

I was puzzled.  I didn't remember taking them into the area with me. Surely I would have seen them when I picked up the mallet?  Maybe I put them on one of the coops?  Maybe they were in the shed - but they couldn't be: I'd used them to help me close the fence, and I hadn't been in the shed since.

I looked around the ground. I couldn't see them.  I looked at whether I could get in to the allotment.  I couldn't. Even if I could, what if my keys weren't there? I'd be trapped inside.  What to do?

Phone DH?  No. He would be rather cross, and he wouldn't be able to come out as he was having a drink when I left home.  Phone Other Chap (OC).  Hmm. Could do.   Get a taxi home, and get DH to bring me back in the morning? Could do, but didn't really want to leave my keys around.

In the end, I decided to phone OC. Fortunately he was in, and he had keys. I said I'd be round to collect them.  It started to rain.

I was quite warm from all my exertions, so the rain was something of a relief.  I walked along, thinking it wasn't too bad.  Just as I thought that,  it started to rain harder.   I started to giggle.  OC was going to think I was a complete idiot for not getting him to bring the keys over.  I got very wet.    I was dressed for a hot day, so it didn't take long.  I didn't mind.

I arrived at OC's house.   I explained that I had been quite enjoying the gentle shower,  and that by the time it had started to pelt down it hadn't seemed worth phoning him.  I was jolly grateful that he offered to drive me back.

It was very dark by this time, and we hadn't got a torch.   I said I'd go and check in the shed - although I knew the keys wouldn't be there - so I made my way back to the gate.  And then I trod on my keys. 

In the grass. Outside the gate.

Silly woman.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

More than twice as long?

I was emptying the poo trays in both Cubes today.  How come it took me more than twice as long as when I only have 1 to do?

It started with Delilah occupying the Big Girls nestbox.  This was a surprise, as Delilah went through the henopause some time ago and hasn't laid for months.  So, I left her to it and went to do the Little Girls Cube (LGC).

I emptied the poo trays into a carrier bag, wiped the roosting bars,  and went into the house to get some newspaper.  When I came back, I found that the Cube was occupied...

He looked very comfortable, in spite of having a Lily roaming around underneath him, so I left him to it.

Back in the Big Girls Cube (BGC) I was able to empty the poo trays, as Delilah had wandered off.  She wandered back again before I had started to line them, so I left her to it.

I sat in the garden trying to take pics of the hens. They didn't want to be snapped.   So, I raked the ground where the LGC cube had been,  and moved the fencing so that it could stay moved.  As some of the fence posts had been hammered in, this took a while.

Delilah came out, so I rushed back to the BGC to line the poo trays, and to move the old nest box Aubiose to line them. I scooped the rest into a bucket to use in the LGC, in the hope that the smells would mingle a bit.   New Aubiose in the BGC,  and a quick snap of some photos of the LIttlees, who had congregated underneath. Underneath the Cube there are rubber chippings, which seem to work OK there.  Wouldn't want them in the whole of the run though.

I added Louse Powder to the BGC nestbox,  then went to see what the status of the LGC was.    Wash was enjoying himself, and posed for a few photos:

He showed no signs of getting bored, so I sat at the other end of the run trying to get some decent pics of Lily and Delilah, which I could cut out and use to frame my blog.

It didn't work.

Wash is a bit of a camera monkey though, so he came out....

..and then proceeded to sit on my lap (not recommended when on hard ground. Numb b*m!!) and be very cute.

I might post some more pics later.

In the end, he got off, got on to the Cube run and continued to own it.

I quickly finished doing the poo trays, put the back on,  and then went and picked some corn on the cob for my lunch. it's under the grill as I type.(Tastes at least as good as barbecued corn on the cob, and a lot less mess).


What to do for the best?

I had forgotten quite how stressful trying to integrate chickens can be.  It's stressful because I so much want to do what's best and least stressful for them,  and it's very difficult to balance the needs of the differing "flocks".

In the garden I've got my established flock of 4 girls.  Geriatric (but still gorgeous) Delilah;  loopy Milly,  who has decided to stop laying despite only being a couple of years old;  and the hyperactive Lily and Daisy, who are about 18 months old but because they've been bred to lay, they are likely to have a fairly short life.  There was a lot of trouble when Lily and Daisy joined the flock, as they were rather impervious to manners and etiquette.

In the other Cube I've got 4 girls that we hatched this year.  Two of them are planned to be long term garden residents,  the other 2 will join the breeding flock at the allotment.  These four girls have grown up together and so have established a pecking order without any real hassle.

After much discussion and debate, I decided to combine all four newbies with the oldies, even though 2 of them would be moving on later.   The deciding factors for this were that four to four was a better introduction rate,   and I felt that going through the experience here would equip the two breeding girls to cope with the rigours of being introduced to their new flock better.   Tehy would also be older, possibly laying, and so not be as nervous.

So. I started by moving the Newbies run and coop close to the Oldies.  For some time, we ran them in adjacent pens, separated by netting.    We put Delilah in with them occasionally whilst free ranging,   as she was least likely to be able to terrorise them, but would at least give them some experience.  Then we let Milly and Delilah in with them occasionally.

Eventually we removed the partitions, and opened all the doors on both coops and runs so that there was no where for a scared bird to get cornered.      It's been like this for a few days.  The two flocks ahve mostly been keeping to themselves,  when the paths cross, the Newbies move rapidly out of the way.

Yesterday afternoon I had to go out, and DH wasn't here, so I had to put everyone away.  What a blinking palaver.  It took forever.

The Oldies have been hogging the Newbies food area (the Newbies are still on Growers and will be for another couple of weeks).  I couldn't get Milly and Delilah out from underneath the coop.

Of course I managed eventually.  We had a similar situation in the evening.  I decided to shut the Oldies away, so that the Newbies could enjoy the whole outside area without any interference.   Lily and Daisy went in easily. Milly and Delilah didn't.   In the end, I shut them in the Newbies Cube run.

A bit later, I managed to get Milly into her own run, but Delilah wasn't having any of it.  So I left her to it.

Much later,  she deigned to come round to one of the Run doors so she could go to bed.  The LIttlees stayed up for another half an hour or so.

So the next decision

I read somewhere that it can be a good idea to completely swap houses and runs before trying to integrate chickens.    I can see the positives of this - in theory - the Oldies are not on their home turf;  the Newbies can get a feel for their new house and feel a bit of ownership.   I can see that it might hep the Newbies, rather than taking the drastic step of moving them into the new bed at night.   But what about the stress on the Oldies?   Is it fair to stress them out?  What about when they want to lay?  And would they really forget that their old home was their home?  I don't think so.   

Roo and Mrs have been in temporary accomodation for several months while Rose and Ruby have been healing.  Yet they've settled back into their old house, as if theyve never been away.     I don't think they forget.

So does it mean that I will be stressing everyone (including the Newbies) for no real reason?

But is it kinder than just shoving the Newbies in one night?

Oh, I don't know. 

And then I've been wondering what the heck I am going to do when it comes to taking Roobarb and Custard down to the Allotment!   I'll share that with you later.

"Chicks" at 12 weeks old

The boys are already crowing.  They are all very solid little birds, but still very active. They are perfect crosses of their mums and their dad.

Here they are waiting for corn...

And here's one of them a bit closer up...

And here is their Dad, the gorgeous good natured Roo

Friday, 20 August 2010

Putting the pieces back together

So. Down on the Allotment we checked over Rose and Ruby and decided they were ready to be re-saddled.    Fitted lovely saddles (from - adjustable!). and watched the girs run about for a bit while we got on with skipping out.

The two girls adjusted to their saddles surprisingly quickly,  so we decided to take down the barrier between Rose&Ruby and Roo&Mrs.  The four birds were quickly together.

We carried on with the rest of the tasks: disposing of dead rats from the traps,  topping up the feeders,  scrubbing and refilling the waterers,  skipping out, etc etc.   I caught Mrs and checked her over,  and gave her a dusting of powder under her saddle.

In the Baby pen,  three of the boys are crowing.  But they are only 12 weeks old!  They are already wearing 18mm rings, and I think we will need to change them soon.   Checked over everyone else and made a note of who needs a ring change.   I must take a camera,  they have changed so much.     2 of the 8 are definitely girls,  4 are definitely boys; not sure about the other 2. They look more like the cockerels, but I'm not sure.

We had a little bonfire to burn the rubbish (away from the chooks of course),  all the time we were keeping an eye on Roo.    He jumped on poor Rose, who didn't look very impressed.  We scooped her up immediately afterwards to check that she was OK.

And then it was time to leave.  What to do?   Separate them again?   We really want to get Roo and Mrs out of their pen, as the cockerels in the baby pen are starting to irritate him.   We could also do with the space to move the baby girls into,  in the hope that it causes less trouble between the boys.  But was it too soon?

We decided to leave the fence open.  DH has gone back now with strict instructions to catch both Rose and Ruby and inspect them.    We'll also go back this evening, to see whether they are sleeping in the same coop or whether they have gone back to their separate coops.  (Hopefully they'll be in the same coop, and we can close the other area off, providing a very large "no mans land" between Roo and the Boys. 

I hope this goes OK.

EDITED TO ADD: DH just got back, both Girls fine.  (And one of the 5 Laydees-who-lay had managed to get in with the Babies).

In the All together

This morning I let everyone out and, against my better judgement, left the two pens connected.    My BJ (Better Jugement) told me that it would be better to have them free range separately for the morning, and then join together this afternoon.  That would give everyone time to eat their own pellets and settle down, before the excitement of being able to invade someone elses area.

I was tired (didn't get to bed til past 1, 3 hours later than normal);   It had taken ages to do the Allotment crowd this morning (explanation shortly), and it was already 11.00. 

So I didn't listen to BJ, I just opened up and then went in to make some coffee and something to eat.

Result?  The Big Girls (BGs) have been monopolising the Little Girls' (LGs) Cube run.  The LGs have spent most of the time in the fruit bed,  and have done a lot of dustbathing.

Not sure what else has gone on, haven't heard too much yet. 

(Although there was a bit of a squawrk just as I typed that).

And on the allotment?  I'll do a separate post in a moment.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Plums and Pears

Today we made Pear Cider.  Not perry, as we only had our own dessert pears  We used the cider method, just used the dessert pears instead.  Not expecting it to be great,  but it might be interesting.

The skins of a lot of our pears are "blighted",  but it's really only skin deep.  It meant we had to peel the pears though as, contrary to popular belief, you don't throw manky stuff into cider (unless you want to introduce all sorts of problems).

There are still a few, as yet unripe, pears on the tree,  and I'll be converting those into Pear Vodka. If I can beat the starlings to them.

I also picked a load of plums.   I made Prunelle,  which is currently sitting in the dark of the utility room, and it'll be a month before we can bottle it.   I also ate some,  and I put some on next door's doorstep along with some eggs.

I've also got a recipe for a Chinese style plum liqueur, but it requires Plum Wine.  I mentioned this to DH and he said "Didn't we make that one year?"   He dug around in the utility room, and came out with a bottle.    We realised that we must have read the recipe some time ago, saw that it needed plum wine and decided to make some.  And then we forgot about it.

I see that the Damsons (or Bullaces, not sure which) are also nearly ripe.  Hmm.   I might try Damson Vodka as well.

I didn't expect that.

In the end I left them out together right up until bedtime.  

It was mostly OK.   After the excitement of being in the other pen waned, the Girls made their ways back into their own areas.  Tired little girls sat in a cluster in a flowerbed;   Big Girls mooched around under one of their favourite shrubs.   

I needed to pop out, so I had to go and put them all away.  3 of the Big Girls ran into their runl the Littlees obliged by going into theirs.  Delilah wouldn't budge from under the shrub.   We had a little dance around the (rather prickly, ow!) bush;   she skipped around my feet;  eventually I managed to corner her, pick her up, and put her in her run.  She wasn't happy.

And then Milly attacked her.

Not really badly.  But it was more than a gentle or accidental peck.  It was a definite attack. Peck, peck, peck on the top of the head.  Several times.   I growled at Milly. She stopped. Well, she stopped for at least as long as I was watching.

Obviously introducing the new girls has caused the pecking order of the existing four to be reviewed,  and the matronly Delilah is losing her place.

I didn't expect that.

Nature can be so horrible sometimes.

First time together

Today was the day.

Over the last few days I have occasionally let Delilah, or Delilah and Milly, into the Little Girls run with them;  and on one occasion, I swapped all the chooks over for a couple of hours.

Today I decided we'd let them free range together. 

I waited until after lunch, thinking they might be less antsy if they had had a morning's worth of eating and stuffing themselves.  Then I opened everything. I was trying to make siure there was no where that a Little could get cornered.  So, all gates were opened, the netting across the fruit cage removed,  and the two cubes had both ends opened.

The Little Girls ran into the Big Girls bit.  The Big Girls ran intothe Littlees' cube and starting scoffing, but staying in a gang.  The Littlees took it in turns to tiptoe past the Biggees.

We've had bouts of enraged squawrking,  and a number of vocal complaints.

It's too soon to tell really.

Pumpkin and Maple Spread - Part 2

So, a couple of hours later, the pumpkin, maple syrup and honey mixture was apparently cooked.  In their recipe book Nick&Johnny said it was possible to store the pumpkin like this, but it was better blended.  They listed the uses ofthis marvellous confection,  so I blended it.

And then I potted it up.  All that stuff and it really did only make just over 3 pounds of product.  I was wincing as I bottled it up, thinking how sweet it smelled, and how sugary it would be (and this is from someone who occasionally as a treat eats condensed milk from a tin in the fridge).

As I bottled the last of it, I thought I had better try some. I put some on a teaspoon and braced myself.  It wasn't bad.  It was very sweet, but not at all sugary as I had feared. (Too sweet for friend Kevin though, I think).

I bet it would be even better if I used ordinary pumplin instead of Marmello.

I might try some on my toast this morning.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Pumpkin and Maple Spread

The pumpkin marmalade (from the other week) seems a me.  I'll save it for my friend K, as he doesn't like sweet things and it might suit him.  

So, for our next pumpkin, I decided to try Sandler Acton's "Pumpkin and Maple Spread".  I'm sure this is going to be too sweet, but as they also have a recipe for "Pumpkin Maple and Raspberry Tart" which uses some of this confection, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

First "problem". When they say "1.5kg orange pumpkin, peeled and diced", so they mean take 1.5kg of pumkin then peel and dice it? Or do they mean 1.5kg of prepared pumpkin?    For a pumpkin, it makes quite a difference.

I looked at the other items in the recipe. I scrutinised the pictures.  I decided to assume it was 1.5kg prepared pumkin,  as that was still only 2/3rds of one of them.

So, it's in the jam pan now, along with 600g (2 bottles) of Waitrose's Canadia Maple Syrup,  300g runny honey,  and a cinnamon stick.    I hope this works.  2 bottles of Canadian Maple Syrup makes for an expensive mistake.

I've only just put it on to start cooking, amd it's likely t be another 2 hours or so before it's ready to bottle.

In the meantime, the Girls have been gorging themselves on pumpkin middles.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Cheeky Roobarb!

Roobarb (the Welsh Black fertile egg that was laid on the way home from collecting Ruby and Rose) is a funny little thing.  She has a very red face like her mum, but she has a coat of brown and black feathers (she was black originally). She also has green legs, which makes her look like she's either gone mouldy, or has lichen growing.

She's completely doolally, which I think is part of her Indian Game heritage.  During the day, she quite likes to roost on the Cube wheels.

Today I went out with some mealworms (a very rare treat in our house),  and I found her roosting on the gate between the two paddocks.  I have no idea whether she was on her way in to the Big Girls or on her way back.

There may be trouble ahead.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Ready for bed

The cats have taken to snoozing in a stone planter in the garden.  Neither of them quite fit in, but they still manage to sleep...

Relocation, Relocation

We moved the 4 Little Girls coop and netted area yesterday afternoon. This means we have a whole section of the garden that we can rest and reseed if necessary, so that it is ready for the Winter (In Winter, the Girls have the entire garden, we just fence them out of certain areas;  the rest of the year we fence them in and move the fencing every few days to give them a fresh area to explore).

Of course the Little Girls decided to be awkward.  Matilda and Roobarb ran up the ladder into the Cube.  We managed to get Florence and Custard into the netted area so they could sit safely while we moved house.  We ended up moving the Cube with Tilly sitting in the doorway of the cube.  It looked like she was in a caravan being moved. Bless.

When they got to their new area, it took them ages to explore...and a long time to realise that the fruit cage was part of their new run.   One of the blackcurrant bushes still had some late-ripening fruit on,  and the Girls were very excited to discover this.  There was something a bit disconcerting about seeing Tilly (who is a very heavy hen) jumping up and down to snatch the currants.

The Little Girls' paddock now adjoins the Big Girls' paddock on two sides.   The Big Girls aren't really very happy about this, although they haven't really been happy about it since they first spotted the new girls.

We've tried the "sprinkling treats along the joint boundary" malarkey.   This has worked before, but it wasn't very successful this time - mainly because Lily and Daisy have incredible metabolisms, and can hoover up treats so fast that no one else gets a beak in.

We'll persevere with the boundary-treating, as it probably isn't doing any harm.

Once the LittleGirls have got familiar with their new area and feel that it is "home", we'll look at removing one of the barriers to let all 8 free range together - under supervision of course.  The two Sassos (Custard and Matilda) are 15 weeks old now,  the Welsh Black (Roobarb)  and the Australorp (Florence) are 14 and a half weeks old.  I'm thinking that we'll maybe start the joint free ranging at the weekend, see how that goes, and then make plans for full integration.  As we have two houses, we might try swapping homes for a few days before integration... it's supposed to help by adding confusion.  I'm just wondering if it also adds extra stress?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do for the best where chickens are concerned.

Let me just give you a reminder, before I explain my dilemma.  On the Allotment we currently (and temporarily) have 4 runs and 4 coops.  One Run contains the  5 Ladies-That-Lay; a second contains the 8 Taffo chicks, who are all (eventually) destined for the table; the third contains Roo and Mrs, who are in temporary accommodation while in the fourth run Rose and Ruby are convalescing.

At home, I have my 4 garden girls on one part of the garden,  and 4  14-15 week old pullets in an adjoining part of the garden.   Two of the four pullets will eventually join my garden girls, and 2 will join the breeding flock at the Allotment.

I can't take the 2 breeding pullets down to the allotment until a run is free.  (Unless I take them down and introduce them to Rose and Ruby, or Roo and Mrs in advance. Probably not a good idea).   Really I want them to live in an adjoining run for a short period before I try and introduce them.

In the meantime, I want to get my Garden Girls integrated as soon as possible.  I've been waiting until the pullets are old enough to hold their own,  and I'm planning to move on to the "free ranging together" in a few days time.

But is it fair on the two pullets who aren't staying?   I mean, it'll hep the other two as there will be 4 newbies to be picked on.   But the two who are staying will end up going through intros here, and will then have to go through intros at the Allotment as well.  Is that fair?

On the other hand, maybe going through the process here will better equip them to deal with it when they are introduced to the Allotment crowd?  I'd like to think so.    And I tell myself that it's not as if they've had to worry too much before - they've been with the same flock since hatching.

It may also be that they can't go into the "spare" run.  By the time Rose and Ruby are well enough to have Roo and Mrs back,  I might need the "spare" run to move the female dinner chicks into.  Doing this would mean we could keep the boys longer before having to cull them.

Next year, we'll hatch a large number of chicks, and do one hatch.  That will simplify things.

The questions are about merging the garden flocks, and merging the breeding fl

Friday, 6 August 2010

Pumpkin Marmalade

Each year for the past few years I have made one batch of Pumpkin Marmalade.  The first time I made it, it was a desperate attempt to use up a mountain of Butternut Squashes. It came out rather well, much to my surprise.  In fact, it was so delicious, I persuaded our friends S&K to try some.  K really, really liked it.
So, the next year I decided to try again. Except I couldn't find The Recipe.  I found lots of Recipes for Pumpkin marmalade, but none of them seemed quite right. I made some using the nearest recipe I could find,  and it was OK. (And was declared "quite nice" by K.  So, not quite right then.

The next year, I managed to erm...caramelise.... the squash.  It had been taking quite a long time to reduce to marmalade consistency, and I got bored and left it alone for a bit.  This was declared as "lovely".

This year, I tried again. We didn't grow Butternuts this year, DH planted some special squashes that are specifically designed to be jammed. 

I did vaguely remember that it took a bit longer than the recipe said to reduce down. The recipe said 30 minutes.  it's been 3 hours now.  I've only caramelised a bit, and I managed to stir it in so it wasn't obvious.

I hope it'll taste OK as we are going to have a mountain of these squashes.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lily's frustration boils over

So, the Big Girls have their own (very large) netted free range area; the Little Girls have theirs. The two areas share one boundary in the middle, and the Girls can see (and reach) each other through it.

We were having dinner this evening, with the back door open so we can see into the garden.  There was a sudden noise, like wings flapping wildy,  and then I saw Lily in the Little Girls enclosure.  She had obviously had enough of something (although we're at a loss to know what) and, in her frustration, had managed to launch herself over the barrier and into Enemy Territory.

Once there, she started squawrking loudly and chasing the Littlees;  the Littlees were doing their best to get out of her way.  I jumped up (down?) from the table, rushed outside, and tried to catch Lily. No chance.  DH had to come and help, and it was a while before we managed to catch her, calm her down, and pop her back into her own half.

We have no idea what the Littlees had done to wind Lily up so much.  It reminded me of when the children were small and would do things to each other behind out backs, so that one of them got in trouble.


We made Bockwurst sausages last week using our new, bigger, vertical sausage maker.   This week we ordered more belly and shoulder pork from the butcher, and today DH and DGS1 made 2 kilos of sausages - 1 kilo of garlic and herb, and 1 kilo of Cumberland mix.  The Garlic and Herb are lovely,  not very keen on the Cumberland.  We usually get our seasonings from Weschenfelder,  and I really like their Cumberland mix (we use it for norrmal sized sausages) but we bought some from this time.     I've ordered from Weschenfelder again now.

So, it'll be sausages for dinner.

A Salami kit fell in my basket while I was ordering from Weschenfelder today,  so we might be making Salami before long.....

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Mood indigo

When I let the Big Girls out this morning, I was slightly disconcerted to see a pile of indigo poo in their dust bath. And more indigo poos all over the run floor.

I realised, of course, that it was just something they had eaten - and then I remembered that I had been feeding them blackcurrants yesterday afternoon.

So, red cabbage turns the poo bright blue; and blackcurrants turn it dark indigo.

The Morning After (pic added)

This morning, the Garden Girls were not happy bunnies.

We knew this from very early on, long before we got out of bed.

When I went out to let them out, and to let the Little Girls out, there was a lot of complaining.   Whinge, whinge, whinge, whinge.

The Little Girls explored along the netting, doing that chickeny thing where the grass the other side must taste better.      I've set the netting up so that  one side of their "run", is actually a length of the iig Girls run. This  is so that they get used to the sight and smell of each other for a while, before we statr trying to integrate them.    Lily was most upset to see her grass being eaten by someone else.  She set about trying to gobble it all up, pecking any head that popped through.

The netting for the Little Girls hasn't been put up properly. The ground is rock hard,  and I'm waiting for DH to bring the proper length of netting back from the Allotment, so I didn't push the posts in too hard. There are gaps in some places as our lawn undulates somewhat.

Whilst having my breakfast I could hear a bit of a kerfuffle going on.   Tilly (the short fat Sasso with the dodgy wing and the huge fat legs) had got out. and the others were telling tales.  For a short fat chicken she can move surprisingly quickly.  She's very much like her mum both in looks and in surprises.   Eventually I managed to waslk her into a corner and I could catch her and put her back.    Tilly actually doesn't mind being picked up, she's been the same since she was hatched, always watching me with her beady eye. I think I must have been imprinted on her when she hatched, and she probably thinks of me as her mum.

When DH and I were at the Allotment a week or so ago, we were discussing what to do about the 2 female Sassos, and we agreed that the Orange Ring (now Custard) would be better in the breeding flock because we could see that Green Ring (now Tilly) had dodgy wings.     I remember looking at Green Ring and looking at her mother and thinking how different they looked.  Tilly was lithe and slim, and her mum was short stumpy and brick shaped. 

And now, just a week or so later,  and Tilly is a MiniMe of her mum. Only  less of the Mini.  More of a Maxi. Definitely More anyway.

She's not a very well put together little chicken, but she doesn't seem to be suffering at all.  Her best chance is here in the Garden, so we'll see how she goes.  

In this picture she's actually stretching upwards so she looks rather more elegant than she does in real life.  She's got such a pretty little face.

That evening....

So, DH went back to the Allotment to see if the Taffos had managed to get back in to their coop for the night.  We had high(ish) hopes.  Firstly, they were used to climbing up a ladder to roost (as they had been living in the Cube for a while) and, secondly, we had shut them in the allotment coop for some time upon arrival & let them come out in their own time.

DH got there before dusk, so actually they were in the process of taking themselves to bed.  All went well as one of them went up the ladder.  But then there was a problem. Said chicken decided to roost in the doorway. The narrowish doorway.  In fact, he filled the doorway, making it impossibe for the second chicken to get past him.

DH intervened, and manouevred blockage chicken into the coop, and the second one was able to go in. What do you think happened next?

Yes, number 2 wedged himself in the doorway and settled doen for the night.  

At this point DH decided that the most sensible thing to do was to put them all to bed himself, and bring a saw tomorrow to widen the doorway.

Meanwhile, at home....

The four young girls were peeping sadly to themselves underneath the Cube.  I went out with a torch and shone it from inside. They looked up in wonder,  but did not climb the ladder.  I left the torch and went back to the house for a few minutes.  Went out again, still the sad peeping and no movement.

I clambered over the temporary netting, and opened the Cube run door.  All four girls came rushing forward, and I scooped up Tilly (she with the damaged wing and the very fat legs), shut the door,  clambered over the netting, went round to the Nest box, and posted her.  I then clambered over the netting, opened the cube run door, scooped up Custard (the other Sasso, who will be joining the Breeding Flock). By this time, Tilly had managed to waddle to the pop hole and stare out of the door.

Everyone looked at her.  She looked back. Then she started to climb down the ladder.    I shut the door, climbed over the netting, opened the nestbox, posted Custard, shut the nest box, cimbed over the netting, opened the door, scooped up Tilly, shut the door climbed over the netting opened the nestbox posted Tillly, shut the nestbox climbed over the netting opened the door..... and saw both Tilly and Custard looking at the steps.     Roobarb (the egg laid on the way home) and Florence (the Australorp)  looked at the ladder uncomprehendingly.    They ran to the back of the Cube.

A little exasperated, I realised there was nothing for it. I was going to have to climb in the Cube run.  DH had done this earlier, and he's a bit less supple than me.   Of course earlier, it hadn't had four chickens in pooing everywhere.

I managed to catch Roobarb and, as I did so, Florence went rushing past me and OUT.  I pushed Roobarb through the pop hole, and backed out of the Cube.  I had chicken poo all over my trousers (ew!!).  I managed to walk Florence into a corner, scoop her up, climbed over the netting, opened the nestbox, posted her, shut the nestbox.

I came round to the front and saw all 4 of them standing at the top of the steps.   I told them it was up to them.  If they came down that ladder, I would not be rescuing them.

They stayed in.

Hopefully tonight will be OK.

Monday, 2 August 2010

All change

Well, today was D-Day for the three cockerels at the allotment. I always find this very difficult.  DH and OC (Other Chap) went to the Allotment to catch the three boys and take them away to cull them.

The one good thing (if there can be a good thing) is it meant that the 8 Taffo chicks from here could go to the Allotment, where they'll have even more room.    DGS (Number 1 Grandson is staying here for a few days) went down to the Allotment with me to do all the housekeeping today.   We started by cleaning and spraying the coop,  po it could be drying whilst we did everything else.    We topped up the feeders, cleaned the waterers and put fresh water in,  poo picked the Black Ladies coop,  force fed them their vitamins and  put out some Avipro-laced yoghurt.;  Roo and Mrs had some yoghurt too.  Then we sprinkled corn in all runs to give the chooks something to forage for,    and finally set about catchig and boxing the 4 little girls.

It was surprisingly easy.  I imagine they were still a bit shell shocked from the boys disappearing an hour or so earlier.   We popped them into boxes, and brought them home.  Meanwhile, DH (having dealt with the boys) came home, and cleaned out the Cube ready for the girls.   

When I arrived, we let the girls out into a temporary netted pen,  caught the 8 Taffos and boxed them, and DH took them to the Allotment. I moved the Cube to new ground,  put the girls in, put up the temporary fencing.  I then raked over the ground where the Taffos were, and we'll soak it tonight using water from the water butts (most of which is our cold-run-off water, where we run the shower or a tap before the hot water comes through).

As soon as the two Welsh Black ladies are fully healed (which should only be a couple of weeks as the scabs are now healing rapidly) and we have reunited the breeding flock,  we'll need to plan how to introduce the orange-ringed sasso (who's mum had to be put down) and the Welsh Black from the egg that was laid on the way home from Wales).   The plan (which, let's face it, might well change due to unforeseen circumstances) is to move them back to the Allotment into Roo and Mrs Roo's empty pen.  They can then get used to the breeding flock, before we start to integrate them.

The other Sasso girls, the one with a dodgy looking wing, also has very large but stumpy legs.   She definitely won't cope in the breeding pen, so we'll keep her (along with the Australorp) toj introduce to our Garden Girls, when ghe two of them are a bit older and maybe a bit more able to deal with it. I don't honestly know if she'll cope with that either, but I'd like to give her a chance as she is a sweet natured little thing (has been right from the beginning).