Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Integration Update

I've given up scooshing the littlees out of the nest box on to the roosting bars.

Custard, who now lays a teeny weeny egg most days,  seems to be allowed on to the roosting bars with the Big Girls.  So, I've decided to leave things as they are  and see if coming into lay affords then roosting bar privileges.

Out and about, the Littlees still get chased away, but mostly things are OK. We can't decide whether poor little Roobarb (the Welsh Black) is bottom, or the disabled Matilda is bottom.

We've been trying to pick each hen up for a few seconds each day. Easier than it sounds.  Custard is fine, she crouches as soon as I get near her.  Florence, Matilda and Roobarb are much harder to get hold of.  As are Milly and Delilah, the Big Girls.  Lily and Daisy continue to be very cooperative.

I don't worry too much about having to leave them all shut in, but we do still have feeding and water stations everywhere.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Egg Custard

After a couple of practice attempts, Custard has laid her first "proper" egg.

It's tiny. It's beautiful.

Clever girl!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Top Cat

This morning I needed to go to a local shop to buy celery and carrot (to make chicken stock), bagels for breakfast, and I needed to pay the paper bill.   So I decided to walk kto the paper shop, which also has a convenience store attached.  This is in one direction from my house.

When I got there, there was no celery. And no bagels.  But I was able to pay my paper bil.   I then had to go to the Village's other convenience shop,  which was in the opposite direction.  Annoyingly, I have to walk all the way back and past my house to get there.

As I came around the corner, our lovely ginger cat, Wash, was coming out of a neighbours garden and was walking across the road in my direction. He stopped dead in the middle of the road when he saw me. I stopped.  We looked at each other.  

I decided the best option was to ignore him and continued.  It didn't work.  He ran after me, and followed me.

I wondered if he would get bored and go home.  This didn't seem likely.

I pictured me having to pick him up and carry him into the CoOp.  That would not end well.  Even if it did, I didn't really want to introduce him to an even wider ranging territory than he already patrolled.  There was nothing for it.  I turned round and walked home.

We had a pleasant stroll together.  Both our cats love to be outside with us, and having Mum for company on patrol seemed to be an especial treat. We reached our drive, and Wash went bombing up it, stopping at the front door.

I opened the door, let him in....then I shut the door and made a run for it.

Chicken for dinner

Since we started on this raising chickens for the table malarkey, we've found it very difficult to buy chicken - even free range, organic.    I think we've bought chicken breasts twice this year.    So, this means that we don't have chicken for dinner very often.

And when it's one of ours, we do our best to not waste anything.  

This week was the first time we had culled one of the new cross (Sasso x Welsh Black). We had high hopes for this, because the Welsh Black mums are half Indian Game, and Indian Game was said to make for a very good table cross.

It really did.  

The flavour was very strong without being at all gamey.   He was 15 weeks old and dressed out at 4 pounds 3 oz.   Looking at him prepped for the oven, I thought about all the farmed chickens who are that size at only 5 weeks old.  It made me shudder, and went a bit towards making me feel less miserable at  eating a bird I had known personally. 

We had roast chicken on Wednesday, and had only one breast betweeen us.   The flavour was sfabukous, and we really didn't need anymore.

On Thursday, we used the leg meat to make some gorgeous Fajitas.  They were much more delicious than I expected them to be. I've made delicious fajitas with chicken breast before, I was just a bit dubious about using leg meat.  This will definitely be my preferred choice for Chicken Day 2 in the future.  We were very greedy, and we ate far more than we needed to. This could easily have spread into another pair of meals.

On Friday, I was out, and DH ate the whole of the other chicken breast.

We picked over the remains today while preparing to make stock, and have enough meat to make a chicken pasta bake for dinner tonight.   

I'm using the pressure cooker.  I haven't made stock in a pressure cooker before, but I have high hopes of a rich stock in only 30 minutes, without making the house smell of chicken soup.

You might wonder how we don't get bored, having chicken for 4 consecutive nights.    It's not difficult as all the meals are so different.   If we were going to have similar meals, I'd simply have something else in between.

Besides, we only have 2 more birds until next year's eggs are hatched, and raised (about July time, I guess)  so that makes chicken something of a luxury to be appreciated.

Friday, 17 September 2010

If it can, it will

I'm having one of those days.

It's my own fault.  I'm reading "The Girl Who Played WIth Fire", and last night I just couldn't put it down.  Hopeless really, as I knew there was no way I'd finish it, but I kept thinking "jut a bit more, just a bit more...."    

I had to be up early as I had some Work to do first thing, and then a client meeting to go to.    I took a brand new Bravissimo top out the wardrobe and cut the tag off. I pput it on, and the loops inside chafed my neck.  I cut them out.  The I realised that the top was actually too big.  Can't send it back now, best I can hope for is an Ebay sale.

Downstairs to do some Work. The initial bit of Work seemed OK, but then I found a couple of odd things...  I can't explain anymore, it's not a disaster, it's just irritating. I was still sorting them out when it was time to leave.

And then I couldn't get a parking space at the Client company, had to park on the road, and I was almost late for my meeting. 

Meeting went well, got home... well, let's just say it's been one silly thing after another.   I uploaded a data file, and I ulpploaded an old version.  Not a problem, only affects me, and all I needed to do was to upload again using the correct file.  Just a bit of a waste of time and effort.

And then there were the really silly things. Like making coffee, and putting the empty coffee brewhead onto the machine instead of the full one,  and of course using it for my DH who has sugar.   And putting the washing machine on at the wrong temperature.    And starting to sort out tonight's dinner before remembering I'm going out.   And breaking a wine glass. 

Still, on the bright side, I don't often have days like this...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hen in a Manger

I was watching the Girls through my kitchen window.

We have a large fruit bed (with raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, a jostaberry and a tayberry) and we've removed all the netting so the Girls can scratch around inside it.

Custard (LG), who is a very compact-but-heavy girl, decided that one of the leaves at the tip of a raspberry cane was irresistable.   She jumped up and caught it, bending the cane over. It sprang back as soon as she loosened her beak to get a better grip.  She tried again. And again.

Florence (LG) pootled over to see what Custard had (or, didn't have). They both tried.

Lily (BG) could see that they were having fun, and came rushing over, shooing them away from HER raspberry cane.   She wasn't interested in it, she turned her back as soon as they had gone.

Custard snuck back and was mid leap when Lily turned round.   Lily was furious, and ran at Custard, who tried to run away whilst her beak was clamped around the top of the cane.

She let go. 

I don't know who was more surprised at the rebound, Custard or Lily.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Under Pressure

A little while ago I bought a state-of-the-art Kuhn Rikon (KR) pressure cooker. The extra tall model, with short handles.

I decided that I wanted to move on to pressure canning (from hot water bath pasteurising), and I had contacted numerous pressure cooker manufacturers to find out if their cookers were suitable for this.  The only one who came back positve, was KR.

So, for the past month we've been using this. 4 Kilner jars fit in perfectly, and it is big enough to double up as a water bath for bottling.

I'd also been testing it as a pressure cooker, and it is brilliant.  Much less scary than the one my mum had, and the one I had some years ago. No more hissing spitting and jiggling.(edited to add: I was referring to the behaviour of the pressure cooker. Not me. I don't hiss and spit. Although I might jiggle from time to time, especially when stressed.)

Then our tomato harvest got serious. Almost all our large greenhouse is given over to tomato production, including the separate section at the end where DH uses hydroponic bits & pieces.   We were processing 12 bottles of passata at a go,  which was 3 goes in the KR.

So, I decided to get a pressure canner from the US.  I tried on Ebay, but the costs including shipping (and duty and VAT) were prohibitive. Then I found an excellent site which specialised in bringing stuff from the US to the UK.  The price they charged was a bit more than my KR,  but they guaranteed no extra duty or VAT to pay.  I was happy with the price, and placed my order.

The Presto Canner, now christened Preston,  arrived yesterday.  It is ENORMOUS.   In fact, it is so big that ENORMOUS is too small a word to describe it.

We used it for the first time today, processing 12 jars in one go.  Fab, fab, fab.

I've now retired my electric pasteruriser. It's sitting in the spare bedroom, while I consider what to do with it.    It has some advantages over Preston - it's automatic, it's electric, it has a timer, it has a thermometer.  But I only have space in my kitchen for one ENORMOUS pot thing. And that has to be Preston.

You can use him as a pressure cooker as well, but I can't imagine what sized houshold would need a pressure cooker he size of him  (23 Litres).

The downside of using Preston (or the KR for that matter) is that only Kilner - or the US equivalent Mason - jars can be used. The ones with the metal lid and metal screwband.  I've purchased (and used) 36 jars so far. 

In the meantime I have an army of 500ml and 1L Le Parfait jars taking up precious cupboard space.


3 of the cockerels went yesterday.

I have their leg rings on the worktop, ready to sterilise and put away. It is so sad.  I have to make myself remember that these chickens had a really happy life, much longer than the life of most table chickens.  And that all chickens are chickens and have personalities, irrespective of whether I knew them personally or not.

I was updating our Chick Records, and realised that the blue ring belonged to the only cockerel with a pea comb.  He was the one who was the spitting image of his mum, Rose.  

This part of the cycle just doesn't get easier.  I guess it's better in some ways that it doesn't,  as it keeps me very aware of what I eat,  and determined not to waste anything.
Luckily for me, DH does the gutting.  

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sausages Again

Did I mention that when my Dad was a very young man, he worked at a Butchers?  He started to make sausages for the Butcher, and these became very, very popular.  By the time he left, he was making 1 ton of sausages a week!

We thought he might like to re-live his youth, and to make sausages with us.  So, on his 75th birthday, we lugged all our sausage making gear (everything, including rusk, the seasonings, the casings, the food mixer to do the mincing, and the vacuum sealer to seal the finished sausages) down (up?) to my parents house in Wales.

We stopped en route at a fantastic butchers shop in Llandeilo (Julian Cooper, Carmarthen Street), who specialise in sausages anyway.  We bought a large quantity of both pork shoulder and belly pork from him, and that's what we took with us to turn into sausages.
Once the meat was skinned and chopped up, it was minced, athe rusk and flavourings added (we did two different mixes) and then each mix was packed into our sausage stuffer...

 DH worked the handle, and Dad guided out the sausages....
..and then Dad turned them into Butchers Links....
We had a mountain of sausages.  I counted out some  of each for Dinner, (for Dad, Mum, Me, DH, DB2 - darling brother 2), and then some more for a snack for DB1 who would be arriving the next day. We portioned the rest up and put them in the freezer.  I made special "Mum" sized portions of the Garlic & Herb ones, as Dad wasn't sure whether he'd like them. 

I think Mum and Dad quite possiby have enough sausages to last them (and any visitors) for months.

DB1 didn't get to try the sausages. They were delicious. Dad developed quite a taste for the Garlic & Herb ones.   All but one were eaten at Dinner.  And the "but one" was given, as a special treat, to Bonny.  Mum and Dad's dog.


Feeling fruity!

The apples on our middle tree (Golden Noble,  one of the world's best cookers according to by Rosanne Sanders apple book) are ripe. 

They've been ripe for some time,  and they announce this quite loudly by falling on the roof of the chicken run and making everyone jump.

Many of them have been ruined by the parakeets, already rotten before they fall.  The Girls have been scrumping on windfalls for weeks. I normally clear the rotting ones each day.  Yesterday I caught Daisy pecking at one of the rotten ones which I had missed. I had visions of what an intoxicated chicken might get up to, and took it away from her.

DH has been apple picking for the last few days, packing the apples carefully between layers of newspaper in plastic crates.   We did have some apple boxes in the shed, but we threw them away one day in the summer when having a clearout - we associated boxes with chickens, and couldn't imagine why we had that shaped box for chooks. (One of the perils of getting middle aged.)

We will have to do some pruning this year, as some of the branches are just too far away, even with the apple picker fully extended

Anyway.  36kg of apples were stacked neatly in our kitchen, and yesterday we  started the process of turning them them into Cider.   Firstly, they were washed... 
 .. then crushed in our electric mill, then pressed to extract the juice.  The Specific Gravity of the juice was measured, so we now how much sugar to add.

We now have about 20 Litres of juice fermenting in a big fermenting barrel on the kitchen floor.

I need to pick a few more of these apples to make Dorset Apple Cake,  and I'd also like to stew some and freeze it for apple-y things in winter. I need to be in a preserving mood to do it. Maybe next week.


I've been seeing a Chiropractor for a while now.

It started when I ricked my neck moving the Eglu Go.  A few sessions sorted that out, but I had some other stiffness (the top of my neck and up into my skull), so I continued to go to see her to work on that.  That got resolved, and I haven't had migraines (from pain there) since.

I then asked her to concentrate on the stiffness across my shoulders, and she found a deep rooted problem in my other shoulder.   The problem with these things is that they came on gradually, crept up on me without me noticing.  My body adjusted itself to cope,  and in doing so created other problems elsewhere.  
I'm having acupuncture on my shoulder, which is working really well.   because so much of me feels much more flexible, I decided to introduce a daily stretching routine.  I used the stretching exercises I learned when I was a (ir)regular visitor to Curves.  Managed to find a copy on the Internet to refresh myself, and started.

The upper body ones were fine. The chiropractic treatment I had been receiving had made a big difference.

I did the first 8 exercises, which involve standing,  without hesitation. But then it came to doing the ones where I have to sit on the floor.  The floor seemed a long way away.  And it looked hard.    For the first 3 days, I kidded myself that I would do the sitting down exercises Later. In the living room on the rug.  When my body had warmed up.  In the evening while I was watching TV. Just before I go to bed.

Of course, I didn't do them.

In the end, I made myself do them in the morning.  I knew it was unlikely to be good news - all that procrastinating was my body's way of trying to protect itself.  

And they were awful.  Especially the one where I have to sit down, legs extended, and touch my toes.  I couldn't get much past my knee.  I pulled one knee up, so I had only one leg extended.  This is a bit of a cheat, but it helps to do this in the early days. I still couldn't reach my toes.  I was mortified.  I had realised I was stiff, but this was DREADFUL.   

I haven't been this bad since I first discovered I had a problem with my sacral illiac muscle/joint thing.

So, at my most recent treatment, I asked my Chiropractor to take a look at my lower back particularly.   The problem appears to be a little bit higher up than the sacral illiac joint (SIJ) -  although I suspect that the SIJ is the cause, and the immobility of the vertebrae above it is just a symptom.

So, I'm making myself do my exercise routine, AND I'm adding back in the exercises I used to help with the SIJ.
I imagine that progress will be gradual and almost unnoticeable, so I thought I'd make some notes here about how far I can stretch.  I'm not going to bore you with every exercise, I'm particularly interested in the progress of the sitting stretch.
And writing it here may "force" me to do it.

Friday, 10 September 2010

6th Night

Left the Green Cube locked shut all day, and waited to see what would happen at BedTime.

I crept out at about 7, and could see that the Big Girls were in the Orange Cube, and the Littlees were still milling about.  There were some abortive attempts to get inside.

At 7.15, it looked as though Tilda had managed to get in the Cube,

At 7.25, Roobarb was still out.  I tried to catch her, she ran away shrieking loudly, and ran up the Cube steps.  Daisy pushed her off the steps as she came out.

At 7.30, everyone seemed to be in the Cube. I opened the door to see all 4 Littlees crammed into the nestbox.  I pushed them into the main part of the Cube.

At 7.35, 3 of them were back in the nestbox.

At 8.00 when it was dark,  3 of them were in the nestbox.  I opened the back of the cube and saw Tilda sitting quietly in one corner, minding her own business.  I removed each Littlee from the nestbox in turn, and popped them in through the back.  Roobarb went bananas, and managed to escape.  It was dark though, so she was disorientated and easy to catch.

The insertions caused a disturbance. Tilda moved, and got pecked (quite nastily) by Lily.  I leant in and pushed Lily down, gently but firmly.

I shut the back, and came in.

So, a definite step forward.  The Littlees managed to get into the Cube without assistance - even if it did mean they had to seek refuge in the nestbox. 

One step forward.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

5th Night

So today we kept the run for the Green Cube closed all day.  I cleaned out the Orange Cube, raked up the Aubiose in the main run, Stalosaned, and put itback down. I hetwashed the rubber chippings under the Cube, and Stalosaned.  Topped up the dust bath.  Jet washed the bench and log.  Hung up some more treats.  Jet washed the drinkers...

A bit before bedtime, I opened the door of the Green Cube run so that the BGs wouldh have a choice of where to sleep. Although not much of a choice really: if they chose the green cube, they would be relocated when dark anyway.   Of course everyone then had to get into the Green run,  just to have a look around,  just because they had been excluded from it all day.

Later I checked who had gone where. Daisy, Lily, Delilah were all in the Orange Cube.  Lily was in the Green.  The Littlees were milling about in the Orange run, unable to get in to the Cube.

I scooped up LIly and put her in the Orange Run so that she could go to bed.  She wasn't amused. She didn't climb the ladder.  She had a peck at one of the treat blocks.  She stood watching the Littlees.

Custard tried to get into the Cube, but was rebuffed. at the top of the  ladder.  Tilda, Florence and Roobard sat underneath the Cube.

I caught Florence, opened the back of the Cube and tried to insert her.  She didn't want to be inserted, and flew off.  Custard was again trying the ladder, so I gently nudged Milly out of the way of the door.  Milly took ubrage and went down the ladder, followed by Daisy and Delilah.

I walked back round into the run, and picked up Custard and inserted her into the Cube. Then Tilda.   Then I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch Florence.  Roobarb came up the ladder.  Eventually, Florence succumbed.  I went in the house.

Later,  everyone was in the CUbe.  When it was dark, DH went out to check, and found Custard, Roobarb and Florence in the nestbox. He pushed them back into the main run and shut the nestbox door.  A few seconds later he opened it again, to see that Custard had crept back.  He put her back onto the roosting bars.

I'll remove the Green Cube and run completely in the next day or two.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Third Morning

Woken from my sleep by a disturbance in the Cube.

I resisted the urge to leap out of bed and run downstairs.  I listened intently, and heard a few more squawrks and complaints,  and I told myself they were anticipatory ones. (you know, where you have a  reaction in anticipation of an action, rather than as a result of an action).

Woken up a bit later by more noises.  DH offered to get up and look.  In the end, he got up and had a look out of the window. Could only see some of the Big Girls, so it didn't seem to be a big deal.

The third time, I decided to get up myself and looked out of the bedroom window.  I came back to the bed, looking concerned.  "How many did you see", DH asked.  "None" I replied, picking up my specs and going back to the window.

I could see several of them.  Everywhere.   Florence, who is a rather large girl but who has no concept of this fact, was teetering on the back pf the Childrens Bench;  One of the Sassos (couldn't see from that far away) was running along one of the perches;    The Big Girls were on the ground.

There was a bit of an altercation. Lily (BG) decided to get on the Bench. Florence (LG) leapt off, unfortunately lannding close to Milly (BG) . Milly turned round and bared her teeth and growled(well, clearly she didn't as hens don't have teeth, and they don't growl, but you know what I mean) and Florence ran off shrieking a though she was being pecked to death.

Teeth gritted, I decided to leave them shut in for a bit longer today.  I could hear Lily calling, and calling, and calling.  And Delilah doingthat wavering "ooooooooohh,, ooooooohhhhh ooooooOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH", moan.

Maybe a note to the neighburs is in order?  Just to let them know that the reason for all the noise is that we are integrating.   Hmmm. I might pop a note in with their eggs this week.

In the kitchen, the minutes ticked slowly past.  I went out just before 9am to open the run door, and all 8 of them were standing in a group, all looking expectantly at me.

I think it was a fluke.

We'll see.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Third Night

The Big Girls have gone to bed in the Green Cube.

The Little Girls are milling about in the run of the Orange Cube.

Another manual transplant tonight, then.

The Second Morning

Got woken up at about 6.15 by squawrking.  Leapt out of bed (as much as "leaping" is possible at my age), grabbed my dressing gown on my way out of the bedroom and charged downstairs.

The Big Girls were all up and about.  The Little Girls were refusing to leave the Cube.  I'm guessing the fuss was the Big Girls getting out and biffing the Little Girls out of their way.  

I should probably explain that the Orange Cube and its 2.5m run join on to the Walk In Run at right angles, and in the middle a bt like this -| The orange "- " represents the CUbe and its run.

I stood outside the run for a little while, observing (hose in hand).  Tilda eventually skittered down the steps, but her sisters stayed behind.  This meant poor Tilda had no backup, and she had trouble going into the main run.

I went and stood in the Run, thinking that I might put a partition between the two sections, so that each flock could breakfast in peace and without fear of molestation.   I found the separator. I'd used it to hang feeders on, so I first had to take everything off. Then I had to try and get it out - it was wedged between the kick board and the side of the run.

This was more difficult than I anticipated, and took me ages.  By this time, the others had decided to leave the safety of the Cube and come in to the main run.  There was squabbling.

Triumphantly, I finally extracted the mesh, turned round to put it in place, to find that the 4 little girls were at one end of the main run, and the 4 big girls were at the other end.  I rolled my eyes, and stood the mesh near the entrance, so I could get it quickly when needed.

I was tempted to just open the door and let them all out.  It was about 6.45 by this time.   However, the Big Girls are very astute, and if I gave in and let them out, they would be vocalising their need to be freed at this time for the rest of the year.

I came back into the house.

When the terrified screeches started, I ran back out, picking up the hosepipe as I ran.

There is a bit of chasing going on, and the Littlees seem to screech in anticipation of being pecked.  They usually aren't pecked (mainly because they get out of the way).    I also realised that the Big Girls sometimes screech when attacking.

Screeching doesn't necessarily mean someone is being pecked to death.

I moved an extra feeder into the Cube run, so there are now  2 Grubs (double feeders) and 1 Glug (double waterer) in there;  in the main run there are 3 Grubs spread out (double feeders),  1 Glug,  and 1 superglug (4 nipples).  Everything is spaced out so that wherever anyone ends up, there is water and food available.

I came in and made tea, and took a cup up to my DH.  

Lily started That Noise.  I mean the calling noise that chickens make when they want attention.  It's a shame that chickens don't have beautiful bird voices;  ours starts with a very mournful moan,  builds up to a crescendo  of harsh, coarse, rasping.

I went down and squirted her with the hose. I hate doing that. I feel really mean. And by the time I've picked the hose up and aimed it, they are usually walking around with that ButterBeak (Butter wouldn't melt in my beak) face on.  I realised I needed a water pistol.

I found an empty (and clean) washing up bottle, and filled it up with water.

I left them to it while I had a shower and got dressed.

Should I have tried introducing just 2 of the Big Girls?


Sunday, 5 September 2010

Not straightforward

Well, that didn't work out as I thought.

Custard and Florence were not allowed in the Green Cube with the Big Girls.   Tilda, meanwhile, had taken herself off to bed in the Orange Cube, only to discover it occupied by Daisy.   Daisy did not want company, and would not let Tilda in.

I tried to chaperone Roobarb, Custard and Florence into the run, to give Tilda some moral support. They didn't want to be chaperoned.  Tilda tried again, and was repelled again.

Meanwhile, Lily came down to see what the fuss was,; she crossed the grass, came into the Walkin Run,  and had a look at the stairs to the orange cube.  She ate some oyster shell, and continued to evaluate the situation.  In the end, she decided not to bother, and went back to her own Cube.

I took Daisy out of the orange cube and held her in my arms.  I called Tilda, and Roobarb came instead. She climbed into the Cube, followed by Tilda.  I went off to find Florence and Custard.

I had my arms full, literally, with Daisy,  so I was trying to persuade two bokking girls without success.  Florence finally flew up on to the run of the green Cube, which is quite an impressive feat as it's very high, and she's a big girl.

Of course, I couldn't get her down.  I didn't want to put Daisy down, as I was quite happy for her to be in the Orange Cube, and didn't want to get her confused.  I called for DH.  I called again.  I came in the house and called.  

DH wasn't really interested in Daisy's possible confusion, and I ended up posting her into the nesting box of the Green Cube.   It took the two of us quite a long time to get the two escapees into their run.  As soon as their little feet touched the Aubiose, they ran in and up the steps quite happily, honking away.

It'll be dark enough soon to hoik the Big Girls out of their Cube into the other one.    In a week or so, this will all be a distant memory.

Won't it?


I can't look!

The Big Girls took themselves to bed (in the Green cube, which is separate from the Walk-in Run) this evening.  As usual, the Little Girls stayed up later.

I've just seen Florence trying to get into the green cube, being rebuffed by whoever is guarding the door.    A moment later, i saw Custard on the steps of the Green Cube.

Poor Tilda and Roobarb are right over the other side of the garden - they have no idea what's occurring.

I can't watch. 

And I've just put all the feeders and drinkers in the Walk In Run...so if they do manage to get in the Green Cube tonight, I'm going to have to go and get them all out again.

Little Things

Went out this evening to collect eggs.

None in the orange cube;  no surprise, often don't get any eggs on a Sunday.

Opened the green cube, and I couldn't believe my eyes.  A gorgeous blue egg.  Milly has laid an egg!   It's been months since Milly last laid an egg, and I had honestly thought she'd given up.

And there it was.

Nestling between the perfect china white egg from Lily,  the lovely warm brown egg from Daisy,  and the glow of the dummy egg.

it made my day.

Big Clean

it's come around again very quickly.  Today was the day for cleaning out the Allotment Coops and spraying them with Poultry Shield.  

It's a bit of a palaver, mainly because we have to wait until the Poultry Shield has dried out before putting everything back.   DH took the opportunity to cut the grass around the allotment, and to strim the weeds in the allotment.

The whole thing took over 3 hours,  and the birds went doolally.

The bonfire (outside the allotment) didn't help.  The combination of the smoke from this, and the roar from the petrol strimmer, convinced Roo that he needed to lead his Girls to safety.  He found a smoke free corner by the shed, and led them there,  then stood on the outside of the corner protecting them.

The Banshees, sorry, Laydees,  were a bit put out that their house was in pieces.  They weren't too happy about the smioke from the bonfire,  but ytheu went beserk when the strimmer reached their end of the alltotment.   Their next door neighbours, the young dinner-chickens,  were rather upset by the noise, and started running around all over the place.

Roo, meanwhile, decided that the Source of All The Problems was the yellow cockerel that had attached itself to my arms and had been to- and fro- each coop in turn.  He ran at it and attacked it with both feet and spurs.   He didn't exactly miss,  but he missed the YellowPeril and hit me instead.

I turned around in shock, and Roo became even more agitated, repeatedly attacking YellowPeril, and occasionally hitting me.  DH helpfully told Roo to calm down,  in that voice that the owners of pampered-pooches use. The one that the pampered pooches completely ignore.

In the end, I dropped YellowPeril on the ground so that Roo could attack it there.  He was a bit confused, as hitting the yellow plastic wasn't the same as hitting flesh.  I turned YellowPeril around, so the inside of it was towards Roo, and Roo stopped suddenly.  He walked towards the trug.  He stuck his head inside the trug.  He looked at me.  I told him he was a stupid bird and that he was attacking a yellow plastic bucket. 

He sloped away to look after his harem again.

Daft bird.

Wild Birds

Despite having bird-catching cats, we have bird feeders in our garden.   We stopped having feeders for a while, but the cats would still occasionally come back with a bird.  

We had a large sack of peanuts and a large sack of wild bird feed left, and we kept looking at options of where we could put feeders that would be out of the cats' reach.  We couldn't find anywhere.

In the end, we bought a feeder pole, and stuck it in the centre of a small bed in middle of the garden, where it was reasonably well used.  We didn't get an increase in bird shaped presents.

Then Jasmine died suddenly, and we wondered if the cause was the mound of discarded bird seed under the bird pole.  We fenced it off.  Eventually, we flattened the bed and turfed it, and DH moved the feedpole to the bed in front of the kitchen - just for somewhere to put it temporarily.

To my amazement, despite being so close to the house, it became extraordinarily popular with the local birds.  We think the close proximity to the shelter of our cherry tree helped.     The feeders became a bit gruesome after a while, and I got fed up cleaning them.     I was out browsing at a garden centre a few weeks ago, and I came across feeders by a company called Chapel Wood.   They were modular - so you bought the squirrel-proof outer (choice of 3 sizes), and then fitted in your choice of feeder (nuts, seeds, nijer seeds).   All came apart at the touch of a button for easy cleaning.  There is also something at the bottom which helps prevent that build up of soggy, stale food. I bought one to try, and it was really good.

A little while later I saw rthem online, and in a sale,  so I bought two more, so that I now had all 3.     It's been incredible.  So many little birds. Right now, there are 12 assorted tits and finches all over them.      

I rarely make impulse purchases (I go away and think about it for a few days and see if I still want whatever-it-was).  This was an impulse purchase that I haven't regretted.

I do feel a bit mean for the bigger birds (like the thrushes and blackbirds) that I would love to be able to  feed as well.  Trouble is, if we have a feeder they can use then it gets hogged by this huge gang of starlings that live nearby,  or the parakeets (who hoil most of the stuff out onto the ground),  or the pigeons.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Next Step

We've been away for a few days, and our lovely neighbour, C, has been looking after the Garden Girls.

They've been OK, apart from when they need to go back into their runs.  It took 3 people to persuade them in one night.

We arrived home this afternoon, having decided that Tonight Is the Night for putting them together.

Everyone put themselves to bed, in the right coop.  We waited until it was completely dark, and then transposed the Big Girls from their green coop into the Little Girls' orange coop.   Initially there was a bit of stunned silence.

Then there was a bit of murmuring.   I moved the Grubs and a Glug into the run, so that there would be plenty of food and water stations in the morning.  The murmuring turned into a bit of squabbling.    I opened the roof to take a look.  Everyone was (pretty much) where they had been when I had put the Big Girls in.  Everyone looked innocent.  Delilah looked particularly innocent,  in that Butter Wouldn't Melt in My Beak kind of way, which immediately aroused  my suspicions.

I noticed that one of the Girls (Tilda or Custard, probably Tilda) was definitely in a bit of a corner. The other 3 Littles were in the other corner. Lily and Daisy were looking out of the doorway, and Milly was behind Delilah.

Delilah and Milly probably have the most to lose, so they are the ones that are likely to be troublemakers.   Despite being 18 to 18.5 weeks old, the Littlees still aren't standing their ground.

I think it'll be an early morning rising tomorrow, to let the all out to free range before any trouble starts.