Saturday, 29 December 2012


So. A few nights ago, I stopped checking that the Littlees had gone in OK. 

Two nights ago, I watched the chickencam as bed time approached, and saw the usual long drawn out routine.    Florence went in.   After much messing about, Lotti went in...then Poppy started up the steps.  Then, Lotti came fkying out, and Poppy leapt off the steps. Roobarb went up.  Lotti and Poppy were running around in some distress.  Eventually I saw Lotti go into the Egg under the Cube, and I went outside to see what was going on.

I opened the Cube, put a torch in, and made encouraging noises. I pished Florence, who was hogging the entrance, to one side... and Roobarb went down the ladder.  Eventually Lotti rushed in, made for the nest box, and pursued by Poppy. I could see blood.

I ran into the house to get the purple spray.  She had a lot of blood on her oversized comb, and I realised that she must have caught a sharp peck on her way in which is why she ran out so suddenly.  I sprayed her carefully,  which meant that only her and my hand and a bit of the Cube got purpled.


Yesterday, I went out to check, and everyone was in OK.


In the meantime, Tilda has been staying in the Pampas at closing time, and I retrive her each evening and bring her to the kitchen door. She then hops up the step and goes to her pen.

DH and I have had discussions about whether Tilda actully likes to come in the kitchen at night.  She makes no effort to go to the Run when I go out with corn, so I am assuming she has chosen to come in.    We don't like it that she's on her own,  but is it worse than being wit the others and being picked on?  She spends her days mostly apart from them anyway.

This evening, unusually, Tilda was in the Run at closing time.  I left her in there, hiding under a bench (Tilda was doing the hiding, not me).  I watched the Hencam to make sure that nothing untoward happened.

Everyone else went to bed.  So, I went and let myself into the Run and was greeted with a cheerful burble.  I called her, and she waddled out from underneath the bench and headed towards me.  I took this as a sign that she wanted B&B again, and brought her in.


In the Henitentary (which now has had it's outdoor free ranging area extended even further so is rather palatial),   the inmates seem fine.  Milly and Custard toddle off to bed very happily.


This could take some time to resolve.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Festive fare

So the Christmas cake and puddings made for friends have been delivered or collected. I didn't take photos this year, I'm kicking myself.

I've been busy in the kitchen all morning,  getting ready for tomorrow.  The kitchen smells lovely. 

The goose is unwrapped and under a protective net cloche, finishing off its defrosting. It's been out of the freezer but in the fridge ofor 24 hours,  and it needs a bit more defrosting, then 15 hours out of the fridge before stuffing.  

I've made the pear, cranberry and pecan stuffing for the goose. It's in the fridge. NOTE TO SELF: TAKE STUFFING OUT OF FRIDGE BEFORE BEDTIME.  .   I managed to find my onion goggles eventually, after I'd peeled two onions for the stuffing and couldn't see what I was doing for the tears.

The goose stock gravy is bubbling away gently on the hob. 

I've got a huuuuge vat of  red cabbage in the oven:   We only have a small amount over Christmas, I  freeze most of it  in small portions to use over the coming months.

DH and I braved the rain to go and harvest our sad brussels sprouts crop. The crop was very poor, the sprouts  - those that the pigeons had rejected - were like marble, sand we weren't going to bother.  I decided I'd just order sprouts in my Ocado delivery. 

I had a rare misunderstanding with my Ocado delivery.

One of the offers was 3 packs of prepared vegetables for £2.50.  I rarely buy prepped vegetables, but this seemed a good idea.  I picked a bag of spinach,  a bag of sprouts, and a bag of tenderstem broccoli.   The delivery arrived and I started to unpack. I found a bag of sprouts, I did a double take....I searched through the bags.....and when I found the broccoli, I realised what had happened.

They were one-serving sized bags.

Never mind.  We have lots of different vegetables, and only need a taste of each one really.  And DH won't eat them anyway.  And I won't make that mistake again.

The kitchen looks like the proverbial bomb has hit it.  It's the one time of year when using the Magimix is definitely quicker, and I seem to have used four of the discs, two of the 3 bowls, and one blade.  Actually,  I might make the swede and carrot mash now.  It's another thing which reheats really well, and I can use the already-dirty disc to do the cutting.
Then I'll clear up  and then make some of Nigella's cranberry mincemeat.  I just fancy a glass of chilled Alvada and a mince pie.

As usual I bought a pack of mince pies to supplement the home made ones.   I like to make some, but I find that some of the shops make very good ones.   I especially like M&S puff pastry ones, and I liked Heston's Waitrose ones last year.   This year I bought Heston's Waitrose ones, but I don't like them very much. I had to eat 2 to make sure,  and I'm sure.   

I expect my DB1 (Darling Brother, eldest) will be happy to finish them off.

Well, back to the chopping board.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Operation Separation continues

Milly (Cream Legbar and very spiteful chicken) and her sidekick, Custard (Sasso, Tilda's full sister and a big bully) continue to enjoy their new quarters, fenced off from the rest of the flock.   I gave them a paddock area,  which I enlarged today so it encompassed a big shrub. it was pouring with rain, I had on my dressing gown and big coat,  and I had to wrestle a holly bush to get the netting through. I have holly-weals all round my calves,  serves me right for not waiting until I had got dressed.

Anyway. They seem OK in there. They are eating , drinking, and are going to bed without any trouble.  Florence and Roobarb stop by th netting to chat every so often;  the two Littlees and Tilda steer clear.

Tilda is exploring more of the garden now, presumably she is aware that she is safe from the two bullies.  She's still coming in to the kitchen on a B& B basis, and she came in for a quick snack when I had a mass break out yesterday.   I had decided to carry on like this for a few days,   so that the two Littlees can get comfortable going up to bed in the Big Girls Cube. The plan was to wait until they went up to bed withot any messing around,  and then I'd start introducing Tilda back into the Cube.   

That was the plan.  

I may have to rethink my strategy.  I discovered this morning that  Tilda is clearly eating properly now..... my goodness, my nose told me this as soon as I walked into the kitchen. 

The Littlees are still too timid to march into the BG Cube at night, despite there only being Florence (Australorp) in there.  Roobarb (Welsh Black, and very kind) pretends to be busy elsewhre in the Run so that they can get in, but they just can't seem to do it without a lot of dithering.  I'm hoping things improve.  I'm hoping things improve quickly.

I have no plans to reintroduce the two bullies in the short term.  I will have to do it at some point, but not yet.
Oh, I noticed that Lotti's comb has started to fold over.  She looks like a proper Leghorn now.   She was still escaping regularly, by just flying over the netting.  Yesterday I rearranged things so that the taller (non electrifiable) netting was across the small area of grass we used to call a lawn. I don't think she can fly over that.   I do hop it works, otherwise I'll have to clip her wing.  And if I clip her wing, she won't be able to fly up on to my arm - and I would miss that.

Fun and games.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Changing rooms

Well, I didn't do it.

Ot at least, I haven't done it yet.

Yesterday I tried to catch Milly to do the deed, and she ran into the Littlees cube (LC) run. The whole arrangement is rot of F shaped, with the two horizontal strokes representing the two Cubes and their runs, which attach to a covered walk-in run.

I put some mesh over the opening so she couldn't get out, and then I made sure she had food and water.   Because our Girls free range most of the time, there is still lots of grass in the Littlees run, so I thought she'd be OK for a while.

As I came back to the house to get the shed keys (to find a suitable broomstick) I saw Custard jump on Tilda.  So, I put Custard in with Milly.  I wasn't ready to despatch both Girls at once,  and I saw an opportunity to try an alternative.... well, for now, anyway.

With the two out of the way, Tilda was happy going into the run, grubbing around, dustbathing etc.  She ate out of the feeders, which I haven't seen her do for some time.

Evening came.  There was a lot of confusion.  Milly (who normally goes to bed first) was running around in the Little Girls run.    Florence was in the other Cube run, waiting for Milly.  The Littlees couldn't get in to their run at all.

It got darker.

Eventually, Florence went up the stairs to the BG Cube.   Milly went upstairs into the LG cube, Custard ran around in confusion.   Roobarb stood with her back to the BG ladder, whistling, pretending not to notice that Lotti was trying to get on to the ladder, Eventually Lotti got on to the ladder and spent ages at the top, apparently unable to go in.  I wondered what Tilda and Florence were doing that was preventing her.  After what seemed like an hour, but was probably three minutes,  she popped in.    Poppy came and eyed up the ladder. Roobarb walked past the bottom of the ladder, and Poppy ran away.   Roob, rather kindly,  walked away and then stood looking out of the Cube in a very obvious  I-can't-see-the-ladder kind of way.  Poppy bobbed up and down and eventually took the leap.  She hesitated at the top, and went in.

Over on the other side, Custard zoomed up the ladder and straight in.

Roobarb calmly went up the ladder. in the BG run.

Fifteen minutes later, when it was properly dark, I went to check on everyone.  I checked that Milly and Custard were actually in the Cube - OK.  I went in to the walk in run, just to check. And I found Tilda sitting under one of the garden benches.

Not sure whether she didn't want to go into the Cube, or whether her recent B&B status had confused her ans she was expecting to come inside.  I decided to bring her into the kitchen for the night.

I think I'll repeat this for a couple of nights until the Littlees are happily going in to the Big Girls Cube of their own accord.  Then I'll start moving Milly back in when it's dark... unless she takes matters into her own claws of course.

This morning I fenced off a bit of outside for Milly and Custard so they can get out of the run of they want to, but are still separated from the others.  Fortunately we put doors in the Cube  run sections on the side and at the bac, gives us a lot of flexibility.

Not sure how long this will carry on. We'll see.  

On the up-side,  we were going to have to remove access to  the Little Girls run at some point, as we'll need the Cube in the spring for next year's hatch.  I guess this is a step on that path.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Third Strike

Milly went beserk at Tilda today, not once but twice.  The second time, I pulled Milly off Tilda and put her in Tilda's pen in the kitchen.   I had to go out, so I put the rest of the girls, including Tilda, in the Run.

When I got back about two hours later, I realised as soon as I walked in the door that there was a problem with this arrangement. Milly isn't ill, so she poos like a regular chicken.  I had to stand the pen outside, covered it in towels, while I thought about what to do.

I didn't want to do the deed without talking to DH first.  However, DH was working. When he eventually finished, and I told him what I was planning to do, he wasn't OK with it (I think he didn't think I meant it when I talked about it the other day).   I explained that I wasn't asking him to do it, I though I should do it...but I couldn't do it if he didn't support me.   DH couldn't decide what to do for the best, so we agreed that tomorrow we would put Milly in the Pen (outside) while Tilda was in the garden, and then we'd talk about it again.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Goodbye boys

It's time to reduce the numbers. 
The Boys on the allotment have, naturally, started to fight a bit.  We're been really lucky this year,  23 weeks of happy chooks before there was a "problem".   It's not really a serious problem, but it will be soon and we'd rather take action now than wait and wish we hadn't waited.

On Saturday we identified the 4 boys that are going. 

In some respects, it was easier than in previous years,  as we have a large number of Boys and we have already identified several possible keepers.  For the rest, it's just a matter of time,  so in some respects it made the choice easier.

And the Boys that are going have had a fabulous (and, relatively, long) life.  I know that. I repeat it like a mantra.  

It's still hard. 

Which, I suppose, is a good thing really.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Three strikes warning

Our bed&breakfast chicken, Tilda, went out first thing this morning to join her chums for the day.   After about an hour, I couldn't see her anywhere: I went out into the garden and looked for her, calling her.  Eventually she waddled round from wherever she'd been hiding.  I picked her up to check she was oK, and then put her back down.  I started to walk back and I caught Milly launching a really savage attack on her.

It wasn't the normal run-and-chase-you-away,  or peck-on-the-head-because-I-can type thing. It was really vicious.  Milly, a cream legbar hen with the most spectacular spurs, launched at Tilda, landed on her back, grabbed her by the comb, and forced her to fall over. 

I spun round and actually smacked Milly off Tilda.  Milly ran away and I controlled my rage and stopped myself chasing after her.  Tilda was OK.

I came in, and told DH that if Milly had another stroke (she had heat stroke earlier this year and I nursed her back to health) I wouldn't bother trying to save her, she was such a spiteful b****.   

DH and I had just been discussing this years cockerels, and how difficult the choice was going to be because they were all good natured gentle things this year...  and it suddenly occurred to me that if Milly was a cockerel, I wouldn't put up with her behaviour.

I said this to DH, and then (to my own surprise, actually) found myself  adding "Three strikes and she's out.  She's just had strike 1".

I'm more shocked that I actually meant it.  I've realised it is the right attitude for us.  We have limited space in our garden.  I fully understand about the pecking order and the way hens are.... but I've seen the pecking order work in a non-bullying and non-spiteful way and I know that Milly (and, to a lesser extent, Custard) are being the henny equivalent of spiteful rather than assertive.]

(Milly hasn't just been like this since Tilda has been under the weather, she's been like it for a looooong it isn't a case ofhnature trying to deal with a weak flock member..)

I wouldn't tolerate that behaviour from a cockerel, and I will not tolerate it in my hens.

Let's hope Milly doesn't put me to the test.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A little blue

Milly laid an egg!

Milly, our cream legbar, our oldest hen and most spiteful girl ever, visited the nest box and gave us an egg.   She hardly ever lays and, actually, I thought she'd given up for good some time last year. We know its her, because it ias a gorgeous pale blue.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Too COld

The cold snap has put a bit of a spanner in the Tilda rehabilition plans.

She was out with her chums all day yesterday, although she spent the entire day under the rosemary bush.  The others spent most of the day under the same bush (it is a rather large shrub), but they ventured out for a nibble of grass here,  a drink there (I put some water down near to where they ere sheltering),  or a perambulation back to the run for a little smackerel; Tilda didn't do much.

I gave them a small aount of porridge during the day, making sure that the bowls were in one part of the garden, away from the rosemary, so Tilda could have some to herself.  A bit or food later.  And so on.

At going-in time, the Girls ran excitedly to their Run. Tilda didn't. She also didn't come in when I called.   I picked her up and lifted her over the fence, then shepherded her to the back door. She hopped up, and went into her personal pen.

It was too cold last night to risk putting her out with the others.

This morning it was even colder.  I fed Tilda, opened her pen door and she waddled out. I shepherded her to the back door, she jumped down, and then I lifted her and put her in with hher sisters.   I gave then porridge at 9am.      At 9,30 Tilda walked part way to the run, then stopped.  

I was bringing in a log delivery at the time. It took me wuite a while to barrow the logs round to the log store, and Tilda didn't move. IN the end, I went into their enclosure and shepherded her into the Run.  She had something to eat, and tgen settled down.

I don't want her in the house today, it'll be too warm for her.  Looks like she's going to be with us on a B&B basis for a few more days.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Bleeding chicken

Tilda was in excellent form last night when we put her away for the night, and she was very sprightly this morning. She demanded breakfast, had it, and then strolled out into the kitchen.  I shepherded her to the door, she jumped down on to the paving, and  from there I picked hwer up and put her in with her sisters. She spent the morning under the rosemary bush with her sisters around her.

My brother called in.  I checked Tildy was OK, and made us (my brother, DH, and I) a pot of tea. We chatted.  I checked on Tilda. We chatted.  After 3 cups of tea (possibly a personal record), I realised I couldn't see Tilda any more.   I looked around the garden, in the Pampas grass,  all followed by the ther 6 girls. I  couldn't find her.  As I got back to the house I heard her burble, and she stepped out from the rosemary bush.. no idea where she'd been, as she wasn't there when I came out.

I could see something red and glistening on her comb.  I picked her up, it was definitely blood.  There were no obvious wounds and she didn't look too botherered... but blood is a no-no with chickens.  It doesn't look as though she's been attacked, I imagine that Milly (who is by nature a really spiteful chicken) or Custard (who is a real bully) probably gave her a don't-forget-your-place peck on the head.    [Actually, to my surprise and in Milly's defence, she didn't attack Tilda at all when I put Tilda back out.  I watched, and saw Milly even shuffle up to make space for Tilda, which is a first. ]

I whisked Tildy indoors, got out the septiclens and liberally sprayed her comb, my hand (which was shielding her face) and my floor with purple spray.

I put her back outside, scrubbed my hands, and I've yet to start trying to scrub the floor.

She's been sitting quietly under the rosemary since then, almost dozing off a couple of times.  It's very bright and sunny where she is sitting, but everywhere else is very frosty and cold.  Should I bring her back in? Should I leave her out?      I reasoned with myself that if the worst should happen, at least she will die happy and contented.  And she can't live indoors indefinitely.  So, I'm going to leave her out there for now, keeping an eye on things.

And I haven't decided what to do about tonight yet. I'll see what happens at corn time.

Monday, 10 December 2012

And in other news...

Poppy (Welsh Black x Australorp) and Lotti (Exchequer Leghorn) continue to go to bed in their Cube; and every evening, as soon as it gets properly dark, I hoik them out and put them in with the Big Girls.

Lotti is changing from a pullet into a hen. Her wattles are big, and her comb is quite big too. Very big by most hen standards, but not yet fully big by Leghorn standards.  She has rounded out, and doesn't look like a little girl anymore.  She still acts like it though,  my little cutie pie. She is also incredibly noisy.  I imagine she'll calm down a bit when she comes into lay.

Poppy continues to grow and now looks very much like Florence (Australorp). She's still a wee bit smaller,  but we can only tell that when they are side by side.  A quick glance and I sometimes can't tell them apart, so I have to check the face furniture. Poppy still doesn't have any wattles or comb.  She still manages to fly u on to my arm, if I lower it a bit.

Someone - Florence or perhaps even Poppy - has come back into lay and is laying lovely smooth brown eggs in the Littlees Cube (LGC).  We haven't seen any test eggs, so I find it hard to believe they are Poppy's eggs.   But I can't see why Florence would have taken it into her head to go and lay in the LGC. Time will tell.

Florence has finished her moult and is sporting a gorgeous set of feathers.  
Milly (Cream Legbar) is almost finished,  just her spiky head to be refeathered.
Custard  (Sasso,  Tilda's bully of a sister) is only about half way through.

Tilda spent yesterday in the garden with her sisters.  At shutting-up time, she stayed in the fruit bed while I put everyone else away.  When I called her, she came waddling over.  I picked her up and carried her back to the house, then stood her down near the kitchen.  She had no hesitation in jumping up the step into the kitchen and putting herself into her temporary pen.

This morning, she refused to go out when I stood her by the back door, but was feeling bouncy enough to go for a march around the kitchen.  I put her in with her sisters, and she's been there all day.  I'll bring her in tonight, and repeat tomorrow.  At some point, I'll bite the bullet and put her back in the Big Girls Cube (BGC) with her sisters, probably at the same time as I transplant the Littlees. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Steps forward and steps backward

Yesterday Tilda was very alert, bright and bouncy. Full of vigour.   We brought her in after her time outside and she was a very happy bunny.  She ate lots of food. She burbled happily all evening.

This morning, she was a different hen. Slightly over on one side, panting.  I watched her for a fe moments and talked to her.  I gave her some Nutridrops.   She eventually managed to roll back upright, but continued to pant.

Some minutes passed.

Then she was up and turned around and started to eat.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Absolutely gorgeous day outside today.  It's very, very cold, but the sky is very blue and the sun is very shiney.   After a couple of attempts, I finally managed to get Tilda to go outside.

She sat in the herb bed, preening.  Her sisters sat in the herb bed, on the other side of the netting, preening.  Everyone looked happy.

After about 20 minutes, I opened the back door and called Tilda. She looked at me, but didn't budge. I left the back door open.

Later, we had a bit of excitement where Poppy and Lotti had managed to dfind a gap in the netting and were running around freely. Tilda waddled over to investigate. Then she waddled back.

Later still, I lifted Tilda over the netting so that she was with her sisters.  Poppy (yes, Poppy, our youngster) pecked her on the head and ran off; Tilda waddled after her, I presume with the intention of retaliating, but gave up.  I picked her up and put her back on the house side of the netting.

A couple of times she has looked like she has dozed off.  Uncertain whether it was a contented doze or an unwell doze, I've called her each time.   Each time she woke up and started preening. 

I've called her from the back door numerous times. She hasn't attempted to come back in.

I don't want her to overdo it, so I'll bring her back in myself in a while.

Friday, 7 December 2012

House Hen, again

Tilda was very actively exploring the kitchen; it wasn't raining outside anymore, and I decided that she really was well enough to go outside for at least a few minutes.

I walked her to the door.  She didn't want to go where I wanted her to go, she kept trying to dart round my legs.   She's obviously feeling well enough to be trying to assert herself.

So, I persisted.  Eventually, I had walked her to the door.  I walked her a little bit more so she was standing on the ledge.   I walked away. She was back in the middle of the kitchen floor in moments.

So, I tried again.  This time, I walked her all the way outside (I stood behind her until she hopped off the ledge down on to the patio).

By the time I had got back to the kettle, Tilda was back inside.


I'll leave it for a couple of hours and try again later.

I filled her food dish and she's back in her pen stuffing her beak at the moment.

House hen

Today we had a bit of rain so, unlike the past couple of days, it wasn't bitterly cold outside.Tilda had been out a couple of times yesterday, with encouragement from me.  She seemed OK, but not particularly happy outside, so I didn't force it.

When I got down to the kitchen this morning, Tilda burbled a greeting from the comfort of her nest.   I opened the back door and the garden girls came running over.  Tilda sat with her back to the door, ignoring the excited bokking from the grass.  I decided she really should go out.

I lifted her out o fher pen and stood her by the door, beak outside.  She stood there. I noticed that she had rather pooey feet, so I tried to clean them off. It wasn't easy (retch, retch),  and in desperation I stood her outside.  My thinking was that if she just walked up and down on the wet patio, her feet would be cleaned.

I flushed away the tissue I'd used, and washed &dried my hands;  by the time I got back in the kitchen, Tilda was back in the kitchen as well.

At least she has clean feet.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Her earlier surge seemed to tire her out, and tilda had spent the next half hour standing in one place, right in the middle of the kitchen floor.

I herded her to the french windows, and we stood looking out (again), but she didn't make the jump out.  Her sisters came to see what was happening (well, in truth they came to see if I had anything edible to offer them).  Still no movement from Tilda.

On the spur o fthe moment, I lifted her up and placed her outside.  She waddled around, had a drink, and waddled over to one of the beds and stood in the bed.

I checked her every two minutes for the next 10 minutes, and she didn't move much. 

What to do?

My biggest fear that she would have another stroke as a result of being outside in the cold. So, I picked her up again, and put her back inside by the french windows.  She stood watching outside, but made no move to go out.

I was working, so I lept popping back every few minutes to see how she was doing. still there.

And then she wasn't.  She had gone outside and was eating my Thyme plant.

I've left the french windows open so she can come back in, and I'm checking on her every few minutes.

Up and about?

Tilda was still with us this morning.  

She had spent all of yesterday sitting in the pen, even though we had the door open so she could explore the kitchen.  We had kitchen towel and disinfectant to hand, just in case she did.

She ate a bit, drank a bit, but wasn't interested in coming out.

This morning, she was still with us, burbling as we talked to her.  I opened the pen door, but she resolutely refused to come out.

I opened the french windows,  her sisters came to the fenceline and bokked. She ignored them.  I left the french windows open.

A little later, the window clearner came to do the windows.  He stopped at the door to chat,  and suddenly Tilda shot out of her pen and waddled furiously into the middle of the kitchen.  She then followed DH around the kitchen for a few minutes.

After the window cleaner had gone, she switched from following DH to following me.  I led her to the french windows.  She pushed past me, and stood on the threshold, watching. She looked like she was sniffing the air.   We stood there for a few moments (with me chattering away to her "would you like to go out?  You can come back in again if you change your mind? Why don't you go and try some grass?") and then she made up her mind.

She turned her back to the outside world and marched back into her pen.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Temporary house hen

Tilda stayed in her pen in the kitchen all day yesterday and yesterday night.  DH and I were discussing what was the best thing to do.

This morning she was alert and burbling.   I locked the french window open,  then lifter Tilda out of her pen and put her on the mat by the  open door.  She burbled, but no garden chickens came. She turned around and waddled into the main area of the kitchen, watching me as I unloaded the dishwasher.

I went back to her temporary pen and opened the side door.  I then tempted her back over there with some corn, and she went in the door to her pen and ate the corn. I then called the garden chickens, picked up Tilda and put her back by the back door.

She burbled at Roobarb, who burbled back. Then Tilda  turned around and waddled off.  

She's now back in her temporary pen (her choice).  The french windows are shut.   She watched me while I bustled about.

Clearly she can't stay as a house chicken indefinitely, but she can stay for a day or two while we see how she goes.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Same old, same old

The Littlees gave up and went into their own coop.

I know I could force the issue by shutting the pop hole door and forcing them into the big coop... but last time I did that there was a lot of hen pecking the following day.

I'll carry on as we are for now.


This evening, the Littlees were hanging around in  Big Girls run.  I watched them on the camera. They nonchalantly lounged around at the bottom of the ladder.  None of the BGs had gone to bed. In fact, they were all in the main run.

Roobarb started her evening ablutions.  The two Litlees had a whispered conversation, the head movements of which seemed to suggest that they were daring each other to run up the ladder.   Could this be it?  Maybe tonight they would take themselves in.

They chickened out.

They continued to scratch around at the bottom of the ladder.  They changed from noncholant to very-cholant when Millie appeared at the entrance to the run. She watched them.  They edged away to the back.

Suddenly the run was full of Big Girls,  and the Littlees panicked and fled to the main run. 

It got darker.

Millie went to bed, closely followed by Custard.  The Littlees hung around in the main run, pretending to be interested in the floor, and not at all interested in the Big Girls coop.  Florence stood guard at the bottom of the ladder, and then went up.

And then it was too dark for me to see what happened next.

Ups and Downs

This morning, Tilda was looking very bright and chirpy. She burbled happily while we bustled about. So, I lifted her out of her temporary cage and put her out on the grass with the others.  She looked well. Well, as well as Tilda looks.

A little while later, I couldn't see her.  I opened the french windows, and hens descended on me from everywhere.  Including Tilda who had been hiding in the Pampas.  Relieved, I went back in (leaving a lot of disappointed and puzzled hens watching me).

It started to rain.  All the Girls moved back into the walk in run.   I could see them from the kitchen: Poppy and lotti were sitting on the arm of the garden chair; Milly, Florence, Roobarb and Custard were scratching around; Tilda was in the far corner behind the bench.

A minute or two later, I couldn't see Tilda.  I used the webcam, and I could see Tilda - but she was obscured by other chooks.  I ran outside, and found her collapsed again.

I brough her in, cuddled her, gave her some Nutridrops.  Eventually the spasm passed and she was able to stand, so she's back in her basket (well, cage. But cage doesn't sound right does it)?

Even though she is now attacking a dish of mixed corn with some gusto, I can't see that she's going to survive.  We'll keep her in for now so that she is comfortable,  and see what happens.  I'm prepared for it, sort of.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Popped my head out of the french windows in the kitchen a couple of hours ago to check on the chooks, and was rewarded with  the horrible sight of a dead hen. Tilda had keeled over under the rosemary bush.

It wasn't a surprise -  she's not been in the best of health for some time;   but it was a shock. I ran out, starting to blub, followed by a concerned DH who had no idea what I could see.  it couldn't have long happened, as she had been standing around an hour or so before. When I bent down to pick her up, rigor mortis had not set in.

As I lifted her body up, her eyelid fluttered briefly. She was still in there.  I carried her into the kitchen, then sat on the floor with her on my lap. She was stiff, almost rigid;  not rigor mortis, but there was no movement at all. . Her eyelid continued to flutter, opening occasionally,  and I stroked her gently and told her how much I loved her and how happy she had made me.

Poor DH didn't know what to do - there isn't much you can do, is there?  I didn't want him to have to do the deed,  it looked like Tilda had had a stroke but just hadn't finally died yet.  Her comb was purple, so I assume she'd had a heart attack.

I sat stroking her, talking to her (although I'm not sure she could really make out the words between the sobs) waiting for her to go.  Although I was so very upset that she was going,  it was some comfort knowing that she wasn't going to die alone,  she would be in my arms and she would know how much she meant to me.

DH asked if I wanted to try Nutridrops. I didn't want to stress her out even more by forcing them into her beak,  so I just dribbled some on the tip of her beak and let it roll round to the front. From there,  it dribbled into her mouth and she swallowed it.  I did this a few more times.  

We sat there for what seemed like many minutes. I stroked her cold feet. Then her eye opened, and she lay there, looking up at me.  Her eye closed again.  Time passed.  It opened again.  DH passed me some chicken treats, and I offered her a mealworm. She ignored it.

We decided it would be best to put her in the dog crate.  DH went off to get it from the shed.  I continued stroking Tilda, and I stroked her feet again. They weren't cold now.  She was trembling a bit.  Perhaps my comforting strokes were not so comforting after all?

And then she tried to get up.

She managed to get upright, and stood on my leg, wobbling.  I offered her the bowl of mealworms. and she ate some.   DH came back with the crate, erected it, and I gently lifted her in to it.  I hooked the bowl of treats on the side, and she started to eat them.

She's sitting quietly in the crate in the kitchen now, and we'll leave her there until tomorrow and see how things go.  

Because she has always been a special needs chicken, I've always taken the time to tell Tilda how loved she is and how lucky we are to have her in our flock. Even so,  I'm grateful that I have her, sentient, for a little bit longer (even if it's just a couple of hours) so I can tell her some more.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Decluttering, yet again

Yet again, I am attempting to declutter.

I managed to find the box for my old Kindle today, so I listed it on Ebay.  And then I listed this and then I listed that. Then DH found the box for his Kobo, so I listed that as well.

I made a pile of stuff for the charity shop.  It had been in a pile before, but the pile had got submerged beneath bits of tat, boxes that could be used for Ebaying,  stuff that might be worth selling...

I realised that I was not likely to drag the lovely office chair all the way to the charity shop, so I put it on Freegle (ex Freecycle).   Not worth trying to sell on Ebay, it would be collection only and they go for peanuts.

I had a number of responses within moments of listing.  The usual range.  Blank emails.  Text speak emails.   And a few reasonable ones.    I like to wait until the Daily Digest goes out though... I find I get enough of those,  I can't imagine getting every message as soon as it's posted!

I've got a couple more items to list, and I'll get them done tomorrow.  And then I'm doing a charity shop trip.  And then maybe we will be able to get into the spare bedroom without having to shuffle everything around first. 


Too cold for sourdough

A week ago I decided to create a new sourdough starter. Shamelfully I had let my previous one (and the one before that) die of neglect, and I've been meaning to start a new one for, oh, at least a year.

I bought Dan Lepard's breadmaking book.  Actually, it started because I was tempted by a mailshot from Bakery Bits to buy a cloche thing for baking sourdough. It traps the steam in, rather than me spraying water in the overn or putting a tray of water in.  It sounded like a good idea, I was hungry at the time, and I really fancied some sourdough.

So, I ordered the cloche thing.  And they were promoting Dan Lepard's book. I've looked at his book before,  but I already have too many cookery books, and I have at least one other bread bible.   I must have been feeling low or something, because I bought it anyway.

And so I followed his recipe for a sourdough starter.  Mine isn't going as well as it should.  I know that this is (a) because I somehow managed to use precariously heaped teaspoons of flour each day, instead of the rounded teaspoons instructed; and it's a bit cold. Certainly colder than 20 degrees C.

So, I've given it a bit more water today,  and I'm leaving it for another day to see if it improves. 

Of course if Dan hadn't helpfully provided detailed pictures, I wouldn't know how ar behind my starter is.  Never mind.

I might have to make a quick-and-dirty-overnight-leaven loaf in the meantime.  I'm just tasting that crunch as I type.

Thursday, 29 November 2012


It' looks like s a gorgeous day outside, sun is shining, and standing here by my lapt it could be summer.

Outside though, it is bitter. 

I'm off to see the allotment chickens in a moment. Its so cold I think I need to wear that scarfey balaclava thing that I bought last week.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Stuck in a rut

I try to watch the Girls bedtime routine, via camera, to see what the Littlees are up against.  There is a very established bedtime routine, which is fine as long as everyone does what they are expected to do, when they are expected to do it.

Bedtime normally starts when Milly, the oldest and most spiteful hen, goes to bed.  She's followed by Custard, who spends ages on the ladder before she goes in.   Next we have Florence.   During this time, Roobarb strolls around, and then sits on the doorway into their T of their run, brushing her teeth.  She spends ages doing this.

Once the three hags have gone in,  Tilda, my special needs chook, emerges from her hiding place,  has something to eat.   Roobarb eventually says goodnight and hops up the ladder and straight in.  At this point, Tilda  brushes her teeth, and then climbs the ladder herself.  Sometimes the old witches let her in, sometimes they make her stand there at the top of the ladder,  until she can't stand it any more and rushes in. 

Since the Littlees tried to go in a week or so ago, the bedtime routine has been starting later and later and later.   Presumably the Big Girls are stringing it out so that the Littlees have to cut their losses and go in their own Cube.

Tonight was ridiculous.  Milly seemed oblivious to the falling dusk.  Custard and Florence circled round the bottom of the ladder, seemingly desperate to go to bed.  But Milly wasn't ready. And if Milly doesn't go, no one goes.

Today the Littlees went to bed, in their Cube, before  Milly.   

I suspect that was rather the point.


Tilda (my special needs chook), Florence (Australorp), Custard (Sasso, Tilda's bully of a sister) and Milly (super spiteful Cream Legbar) are all moulting.   

Tilda has been moulting for months.  Florence has been moulting for several weeks, and looks like she's wearing a moth-eaten fur coat, which has seen better days.  Milly has onluy recently joined the ranks of the deplumed, and at the moment it's mainly showing on her head.

Roobarb, sensible girl that she is, completed her moult ages ago. 

I've been feeding them all extra protein, to help with the refeathering.  I had an Ocado delivery the other da, and I let a stack of tuna in spring water fall into my  virtual trolley.. and I opened a can for the Girls today.

I split it into two bowls. One small bowl for Tilda, who has trouble in the scrum even when she is at her peak,  and the rest for the others to "share".   I don't put it on the ground, I hold it, and offer it round.  Florence, who possibly needs it more than most, has  a neck like a giraffe; she seems to be able to contort hersef so that wherever the bowl is, it's within reach of her beak.  The others aren't so flexible.

The LIttlees used to miss out a bit on these occasions, as they like to spend a moment inspecting potential food before they nibble it.  By the time they would decide to give it a go,  it would be gone.

I've noticed that in the last couple of days they tend to join in the scrum a bit more.  Poppy, who is half Australorp, gets away with it because  with a sideways glance she looks a bit like Florence.   Lotti doesn't get away with it at all,  but she still manages to get her beak in and grab a piece.

They all seemed to relish the tuna.   No surprise really.

We had some mummy cuddles today.  Lotti on one arm,  Poppymanaging to get up on the other.  Gorgeous girls.   Tilda consented to a quick cuddle.  No chance with the rest.

Progress of a sort

The Littlees are still going to bed in their Cube and, each evening when it is fully dark, I go out and transfer them into the Big Girls Cube.

They've moved out of the nestbox now and on to the roosting bars, so I guess it's progress of a sort.

Of course it may be an attempt to thwart my efforts at moving them. Poppy (Australorp x Indian Game) has been trying to sit towards the front of the Cube.... which is hard to access through the roof.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Last NIght...

...the Littlees went into their own coop.

I moved them into the Big Girls coop when it was very dark.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cocky chap

I was busy checking feeders at the allotment today, when I heard a chicken outside our Aras-fenced plot.  I looked up, and saw a black and white cockerel running up and down and bokking excitedly. It was Spike (Lotti's brother, an Exchequer Leghorn).

I ran as fast as I could and shut the door, and then did a head count of the remaining youngsters. Only Spike had escaped.

Spike didn't want to come and eat corn from my hand, thank you very much.  Nor did he want to be caught. He was having far too much fun being on the outside, and shouting for his pals to come and see what he was doing.

Now, I know from experience, that there is no point in running after a Leghorn.  They are speedier than Speedy Gonzales,  run faster than Roadrunner,  and are slipperier than a snake.  So, I walked behind Spike as he circumnavigated the Allotment. 

Fortunately, he followed the fencing, rather than making a break for the expanse of other allotments. 

We eventually got back to the door, which of course I'd shut,  and he stopped.  He couldn't get in, so he started his circumnavigation again...except this time, he was on the inside of the electric fence.  I did the fencing up, do he wouldn't be able to get out - worst case would be we sent the day going round the fencing together until someone came who could walk the opposite direction for me.

I then managed to get past him, and made him turn round.... back past the door.

I then opened the door so that it blocked that route,  ran past him, turned him back,  and he happily hopped back on to the plot.   What a relief!

He was rewarded with a big peck on the head from one of the smaller females.

My own fault for letting them out on to the grass outside through the door the other day.  I normally make them go through the shed,   or carry them out, but I had been short of time....  and I had reasoned that the Boys would be in their own Cockerel Corral within a day or two, so wouldn't be able to get to the door anyway.     

The door had got caught on the electric fencing, and I hadn't checked it was closed.  Obviously I will be checking carefully from now on.

What happened next


Eventually, Milly (superb*tchy hen) went to bed, followed by Custard (superbully).  The Littlees hung around.  

Florence went up next.    Roobarb moved out of the way, and stood so her back was to the ladder, and so she was not in between the Littlees and the ladder.    She stood patiently for a long time, as though she wasn't paying attention to what was happening behind her.

Lotti ran up the ladder, which is no mean feat when you have one screwed up foot.  She tried, and tried and tried to get in, but whoever was in the doorway was having none of it.  She flew off the ladder, and Poppy tried. And failed.

I could see on the camera that the door was partially shut,  so I ran out and whipped it open.  Poppy and Lotti tried again, and were again rebuffed.  They went into their own run. 

Roobarb turned round, and went up the ladder.

The Tilda, my special needs chicken, went up the ladder. And the horrible chicken at the top (not sure who it was) wouldn't let her in either.  Then Tilda made a lunge for it and was in. 

Somehow I missed what happened next.  I got the camera to pan, but I couldn't see the Littlees.  

When it was properly dark, I went outside and had a peep in their Cube. Empty.

I opened the roof of the Big Girls (BGs) cube....and there they were. The two of them in one half of the nest box.

Wonder what will happen this evening?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chickens Revenge

So, tonight - nohen is going to bed.
It's dusk, all 5 Big Girls are hanging around at the bottom of their ladder. No one is going up.

They are blockading from the bottom.

That will teach me

Last night we had the now usual dilemma.  Lotti and Poppy hanging around at the bottom of the Big Girls (BGs) ladder...then going back to their own Cube.

However, yesterday they went up their ladder and back down again,  and hung around again at the BGs ladder.  

I crept out into the dusk, and cruelly shut their pop hole.

When they tried to get in again, it was closed.... and they had to go in with the BGs.  

Didn't they?  No.  They didn't.

They stood at the top of the ladder, trying desperately to get the door to open. They were getting stressed.

So, I went out again into the icy dusk, whipped open the BG's Cube roof, shone torch through, and called them.  The BGs weren't too happy. I leaned in, and held my arm against Florence, Roobarb and Milly to push them out of the doorway and to stop them blockading.

Custard, who had been dozing in one half of the separated nest box, started to move. I shouted for my DH to come and help.  He did, but he's a bit slow and by the time he got there, Roobarb was down the ladder and I was desperately trying to restrain two sets of hens and hold a torch.

What followed was an epic pantomime.  Milly broke free and charged down the ladder.  The Littlees, in panic, ran back to their own run. It was getting dark, and the chooks can't see very well.   My torch ran out.  I went back to the house to get a replacement.

I billed and cooed and coaxed, and eventually Lotti managed to find me, and the followed DH's torchlight up into the Cube.  Milly and Roobarb didn't know what was going on.  Poppy, now on her own, was batting desperately atthe closed coop door.  Eventually, she flew down, and then hopped up onto the Cube wheel.

DH continued to try and coax Milly and Roobarb back up the steps.  I went round to the back of the LG's cube, opened the door (thank goodness we put doors in all over the place), intending to try and coax Poppy to come to me so I could carry her back round into the main run.  She fled.  I locked the door, and ran round into the run.

Several hours later, or so it seemed,  Poppy mounted the BGs ladder, and managed to get in to the Cube. We shut everything up, and left them to it.  We re-opened the LGs pop hole, just in case there were midnight shenanigans and the littlees needed somewhere to go.


This morning, everyone was grumpy.  Lotti was chattering away to me, obviously very wound up. She followed me everywhere, chattering away loudly.    Poppy hid under a bush and wouldn't come out.  Later, I saw Milly actually peck Lotti, and then actively chase her. I haven't seen her do that with such venom for a long time.

I've decided that forcing it was a Big Mistake.   Tonight, we'll let them go to bed where they want, and then manually move them in together if they choose separate coops.   The BGs seem to understand that being airlifted in is beyond the LGs control, and does not represent them making a stab at snatching power. 

I do know they are only chickens.  But the pattern that gets set now is one that will stick, and I don't want to cause aggro where it can be avoided.

Bless 'em.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Nerves Wracked

I watched the chooks on the canera at dusk.

The big Girls queued up, doing their beauty routines, rinsing their mouths, the usual. One by one, with a gap in between, they climbed the wooden (well, pastic) stairs to Sleep Street.  As the 3rd hen, FLorence, was waiying at the top of the steps,  Poppy took herself up to bed in the other run.  Oh no!

She came out again and stood at the top of the ladder. Lotti was on the gournd and they were obviously having a discussion.  Then, she flew down, and they joined the queue.

Tilda went in, number 5. And then I couldn't see the Littlees. Either they went in very quickly after Tilda, which seems unlikely, or they snucj back round and went into their own.

I'll jabe to wait until it's properly dark to go and check.

Boys and Girls

DH mentioned that some of the boys are cock a doodling,  and one of the boys started sidling up to him on Thursday.  They were 19 weeks old on Thursday, so it isn't surprising.   

We don't want to separate the boys and girls until we have to, partly because we still aren't entirely sure about some of the chooks.  However, this strategy means that we may have to separate them in a hurry,  so I wanted to make sure that everything was ready.

We discussed whether to keep the Girls in their current pen, meaning we had 3 separate pens, or whether to let the Girls merge with the Big Girls.  I had originally thought we'd have 3 pens, but I had also assumed that we would be doing the separating at 14-16 weeks, when the Little Girls would be too immature to be mixing with the Big Girls.  At 19 weeks they aren't exactly mature,  but it might be best to get all the upheaval over with.  They will keep their current coops,  we'll just remove the fence which currently divides the two flocks.   The area is big enough that everyone should be able to keep out of everyone else's way; there are at least 6 Girls (maybe more, as I said there are a couple we aren't sure about) to be introduced to our 7 existing,   so that should even out the bullying.

So, today,  DH enlarged the area that will be the cockels' pen.  While he did that, I rigged up a temporary grazing area outside our allotment,  and caught 8 chickens and put them out.  I then got on with the mucking out etc,  and then I swapped the 8 grazing for the other 8.   It was a good way to also take a look at each chook, checking it was healthy, seeing what its temperament was like.

Much later,  we turned the coop around ready,  and we started to put up some of that roll-up fencing stuff along sides which face onto the Girls pen. The idea is to provide a visual barrier between the cockerels and the hens (not great, what it really needs is blackout material).   We also created a no-hens-land with some moveable netting, to further separate things.  We need to get some very large stakes to support some of the fencing,  so we couldn't finish.

Once this was done, we were watching the Littlees, trying to see if we could sex the few we aren't sure about, and we saw one of the boys jump one of the girls.    So, that's it then.  Once one starts, they all get the idea.

Tomorrow we will finish the work and put all the definitely boys in the cockerel pen,   and take out the separation between the two Girly pens.  And then we'll keep an eye on the unsures and move them as we can.

I cried a bit on the way home,  because separating the boys means that we will soon have to start culling them.    A couple are a good weight already, but the two that are, are (currently) quite docile., soft things    Ideally we want to take out any aggressive boys first.  I reminded myself that this was the whole point, that they have had a good free range life, blah blah blah....   And if we hadn't hatched them, we wouldn't have ended up with Lotti and Poppy in the garden.      I know I'll get over it, but it is hard.

Oh dear

Last night, as soon as it was properly  dark, I went out to move the Littlees from their Cube into the Big Girls cube.  Head torch on, down the garden, louse powder in hand.

I stood behind the two cubes. Couldn't hear anything.  I opened the Littles egg port (they sleep in the nest box), and saw a lonely Poppy sitting in the corner. 

I opened the roof on the Big Girls' cuve, and slid the roof forward.  Lotti was sitting in one half of the divided nest box.  

I had noticed that Poppy tends to go to bed in front of Lotti.  She must have gone to bed expecting Lotti to follow her in..only she hadn't.   Poor Poppy.

Itransferred her into the other Cbe, pustting her in the nest box with Lotti.  I shone the torch on them for a few seconds so they could sort themselves out, but that made the Big Girls start to chunder.  I shut the roof, shut the other egg port, shutt off the torich and stood there in the pitch black listening.

A few squeaks. Then silence.  Then a really loud "ow" as I managed to get whipped across the face by a climbing rose (or it might have been a bit of the pear tree,  they are interlinked).

Let's see what tonight brings.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


We were out for most of yesterday. We left the Girls with several cabbages,  a couple o fappleas, and 4 hanging treats.  We weren't back before chooky bedtime.

As soon as we got home, we checked on the Girls, and manually moved the two LIttlees into the Big Girls (BGs) coop.

Tonight, I thought that the Littlees would try to go in by themselves, They were hanging around in the Cube run attached to the BGs coop. They hung around for a long time... but didn't try and get on the ladder.  And then Poppy just walked back into the Cube run attached to their coop, jumped on the ladder and went to bed.  Lotti followed.

So, I'll manually move them over again tonight.  Tomorrow I might try closing the pop hole to "force" them to run the gauntlet of the BGs coop.

I should probably have called this post impatience.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012



A couple of days ago, I had tried making apple sauce in the Vitamix.  I blended it on very high, and ended up with a smooth pulp that reminded me of the Heinz Apples baby food from my childhood.  I decided to make a lot more, and do a combination of canning some and turning a lot into fruit leather.

The day I decided to do it, it was a bit late to start  the dehydrator.  I the meantime I read the maual, and learned that I should only have been using a procesing speed of no more than 5. Good job I checked before going through a crate of apples.

Yesterday I was working and ran out of time. So, I started today,  Washed the first batch of apples, quartered them, cut out a small part of the core, and started to process them o a low speed, gradually oving up to 5.  I even remembered to puti a teaspoon of lemon juice.   

There was a lot of apple at the top of the container, which my tamper just wouldn't reach. I wiggled and woggled it, to no avail. Then the lid popped off.  As I wasn't delaing with liquid, I didn't suffer the cartoon-like deluge that normally happens. But I did realise that I could push the apples down now.....

...CRACK! ...

Oh s**t I've broken the blender, I thought.  But no, the blades were still whirring away.  There was chopped apple all over the workstop.  What had happened?

And then  I saw the end of the tamper. Or rather, where the end of the tamper used to be.

What a stupid woman!  

The whole design of the lid and the tamper is to prevent the tamper coming into contact with the blades.  I fished out the bog bits of tamper, but I could see that there were still bits missing.  I had to assugn the jug contents to the compost heap. What a waste.

At least I know that tampers aren't that expensive.   I went online to order one.  10-15 days delivery (seriously?  What sort of crap service is that?!).     I then thought that I could get a smaller wet jug which comes with a tamper - the tampers are, alledgedly, the same.  I had been considering getting the small jug, but it seemed such an expensive outlay. Mind you, I'm about to outlay for a tamper, so if I am going to get one, now would be the time.  I have a Lakeland fairly close by, so I could be back in business by this afternoon.    Or  I could order online and pay for next day delivery.    

Out of stock.

In the end, John Lewis had them in stock, and they do next-day-to-store delivery.  I also have a substantial John Lewis voucher, so the additional outlay isn't anywhere near as awful as it could have been.   Well, that's what I'm telling myself.

Stupid woman.

They survived

They survived the night, and this morning. When I let them out I did a quick inspection for wounds and found none.

Tilda isn't a happy bunny. She wouldn't come over to me, and sat clucking mournfully at the back of one o fthe Cube runs.  I'll get her in later and give her a treat. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Done and Dusted

I followed Sarah's suggestion, giving them all a dusting of louse powder so they all smelled the same.

I started by opening the nestbox and shaking powder over Custard who was, up to that point, dozing quietly in one side of the nestbox (we have a home made partition in our Cube nestbox).  She burbled and sneezed.

Tilda, who is bottom of the 5 Big Girls and, understandably, does not want to be bottom of 7 was perched on the other side of the nestbox with her bottom overhanging the next box and her front overhanging the roosting bars.  I dusted her next, and she complained loudly.

I wrenched open the roof - surprising how loud it is in the dark - and aimed some powder at Poppy. Lotti ran off.  I couldn't reach the others with the tub, so I poured some out into my hand (top marks for foresight, I was wearing a head torch) and then fuffled the feathers of Florence, Roobarb and Milly.  They all got up and moved to the pop hole.  I caught Lotti and dusted her.

There was a lot of squeaking and chuntering. I shut the roof quickly and turned off the light.  A bit of scrabbling.  Then silence.

Fingers crossed.

The Littlees were in the back corner.   Hope there isn't trouble in the morning, as they won't be able to get out past the three that were fighting to sit in the pop hole doorway.

Maybe I'll get up before it gets light.  Maybe.  Good intentions, and all that.

Watch this space.

Having doubts

The Littlees didn't even try to go in the Big Girls coop today.  I felt sad for them.

When it was dark,  I went out and moved them into the Big Girls Coop.  Tilda wasn't happy, and tried to peck Lotti repeatedly.  I pushed Tilda into the nestbox, and snapped off the torch. I waited outside to see if I could hear anything.   I couldn't.

I'm now inside the house, and regretting what I've done.   I should have left them to do it in their own time.

Maybe I should go out and separate them again.

Or would that make it worse?

Wish I hadn't done anything.Will leave it for an hour and then decide what to do.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

They tried

There was a noisy kerfuffle in the hen pen this evening.  I looked at the camera and I could see that the Littlees were pacing up and down, as if they wanted to get out the front door.

A few minutes later, I checked again. It was dusk and it was hard to see, but what I could see was Lotti and Poppy on the ladder trying to get in to the Big Girls coop.  They were rebuffed.  They tried again. They were rebuffed again.

Then they gave up and went into their own coop.

I considered waiting until dark and then moving them in myself.  However, DH and I agreed that we'd wait a couple of days (weather permitting) to see if they can get in by themselves.


Bloody cats

Sorry for swearing.

We have two gorgeous cats,  boy and a girl, littermates, who are the most gorgeous, friendly, affectionate cats ever. Well, with us. With others, not so much.

Washburn, who was the runt of the litter, grew up to be a lean mean hunting machine.  Isabel, who has extra fingers and toes, grew up to be a big fat hunting machine.

They sometimes, to my sincere regret, bring home birds, but that is quite unusual.  They do catch a lot of rodents, usually mice or similar, sometimes those larger rodents that we tend to refer to as "Big Mice".

They seem to have found a new mouse nest recently, as we've had quite a few.  We've rescued many; sometimes we are too late.   We (by "we", I mean of course DH) get out of be bed in the middle of the night to rescue a victim which is causing the cats to run riot over the solid floors.  We (see above) pad out into the darkness, down to the bottom of the garden, and release the little furry creatures over the fence.   Sometimes they are back again in the morning, either beautifully presented as gifts, or  the remains discarded.

 The other morning I came down in the dark to open the back door to go out and let the chooks out. I managed to tread on and squash an offering.  I didn't see it, I hadn't turned the light on.  Thank goodness I had bothered to put my slippies on.  That was possibly the worst mouse-related incident I can recall. Until today.

I've been on a bit of a housework blitz.  The gorgeous bright weather has made me fling open the doors to air the house,  and to empty the floor space (mostly) so I can clean the floors properly.

Eventually I reached the bathroom.   Raymondo,  our robot vacuum, was nearly empty of charge, so I thought I'd finish him off in the bathroom.  He doesn't normally getto go in there as he can't get round the toilet pedestal or the sink pedestal (will design it better if we ever refurb again). However, he needed discharging and had survived everything else, so I thought the bathroom was as good a place as any.

Not too much on the floor in the bathroom.   I picked up the cats water bowl.  I picked up the bath mat. 

And I found a very flat (and of course very dead) mouse.ike a cartoon splat.   It's imprinted on the back of the mat.    Yeeeeeeeurrrrrrrrrrgh.

Bloody cats.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Les Miserables

I first went to see Les Miserables in 1987 (or possibly 1988), with my then new best friend Gilly.  I found it really moving.  I went to see it 3 more times in the next few years, dragging my DH along.  I cried at every performance and he refused to go again after I started to weep quietly the moment Jean Valjean came on stage at the 4th performance.

I read the book, twice.  I cried at that too, partly because Marius' appalling behaviour to Jean Valjean upon learning of his true identity was so awful,  something not really covered in the stage version. It made me realise that I don't weep because of Fantine (Cosette's mother), or Cosette, or Marius, or Eponine.... what moves me is Jean Valjean and the sacrifice he makes at the end of the book so that his adopted daughter can be happy.

I've seen movie versions, and they don't affect me at all, so it has to be something to do with the power of the music in relation to the story.

 Every time I hear that music, I can feel myself on alert.  When I think about poor old Jean Valjean, then the tears start.  It's a bit of a liability, frankly.

And then I heard that they were making a film version of the musical (rather than a film version of the book), and I wondered whether it would be any good.  

And today I found the trailer on John Gray's Going Gently blog. I played it. I cried.  There is no hope.

I will book tickets as soon as they are available.  I will, of course, ask DH if he would like to accompany me, but I suspect the answer will be no.  I suspect he doesn't mind the story, the music is OK,  but it's just so damned embarrassing when you're sitting next to someone who has no blub control.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

ANother step

Tilda is looking better, but still not right.  She's well enoug to actively run away from me when I try to pick her up.  Of course, when I use the description "run away", when we're talking Tilda that really means "hobble away purposefully".  I could have caught her without any difficulty, but I could see that she didn't want to be picked up, thank you,   and I decided to respect her wishes.   She did come and stand by me a bit later on in the hope of some extra corn. I obliged, of course.

We cut a hole in the galvanised wire mesh which separates the Little Girls (LGs) cube run from the main covered run.  I rigged up a "door" so I could provide separation if necessary,  and I fully intended to deploy it this evening before I shut everyone in. Except I didn't.  Actually, none of the Girls seemed to notice that a doorway had magically appeared., which was quite surprising as they certainly came to watch and make a fuss while it was being done.

DH and I discussed whether we should close it this evening, so that there wouldn't be any trouble tomorrow morning.   DH was favouring the "leave it open" route; I was favouring caution.  DH said we'd hear if there was trouble, and he  would get up and sort it out.

We've been shutting the Cube door at night as it's been quite cold,  and DH has got up most mornings to let them out. (For clarification,  when I say he has got up most mornings, I mean he has got up most mornings and I have got up the rest,  not  he has got up most mornings and the girls have only been trapped in for the rest.)

Lottie flew onto my arm today even though I didn't have any corn.  I came in to get some for her.  She's such a dainty thing.     Poppy is finding it hard work to fly up now,  I have to get closer to the ground for her to get up.

Florence (Australorp) is looking very dishevelled. Her neck has moulted and she has the hedgehoggy spines of new feather shafts showing. Her tail has disappeared, and she has a few bald patches.   I'm surreptitiously feeding her rinsed tuna,  sneaking a few pieces to the poorly Tilda at the same time.

Roobarb, who had the sense to moult a little earlier,  is looking glorious.  I can't believe how much her colouring changes with each moult.  I guess she likes to ring the changes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Nora and Batty, last years Sasso x Welsh Black girls, are moulting.  Nora has been moulting for a while and, in true hybrid fashion, decided to shed all her feathers in one go.  She spent a while looking like an oven ready,  and then time as a porcupine.

Her twin sister, Batty, started moulting in the last couple of days:

Norman and her sisters had the sense to moult a few weeks ago, before the weather changed. Norman has been proudly modelling her winter collection (she's the small, non moulting, chicken in the pic below)