Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rained Off

So, today it rained. A lot.  Absolutely no chance of the chicks going out.

So, we rearranged everything in the shed.  We removed the round brooder,  DH rigged up some "sides" using various leftover bits of Cube run,  and the dismantled run from the Go.  We had some spare matting, and so the chicks inside area has now more than doubled.  At the same time, we switched the feeders so they are now using the oldest style Grubs. These are difficult for them to poo in: even if they stand on top, the poo can't get into the food.

They seem quite happy for now.  Hopefully tomorrow will be drier, and we can let them out again.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Growth Spurt

The Chickywicks have had a growth spurt.   They still have downy fur on their backs and heads and chests,  but their wings are now huge.    We put them out when the dew had mostly gone from the grass this morning (about 10am), and I put them away at 6pm.

In the meantime, I put a plank raised onto two pairs of bricks across the run.  This gives them something to jump up on to, and off from, without hurting their feet. It also gives them something to walk under, to sit under, to run under.     I'll shortly introduce them to the ladder that we will be using on the Cube (DH built a wooden chick-ladder to go over the standard one last year), but they are too small at the moment.

I also removed the side panel (with a door in - we have doors everywhere) from the Big Girls cube run and swapped it with a normal side panel from the chicks' run.  I'll swap it back when the Chicks move to the Allotment. The Girls were rather alarmed at the sight of me dismantling their run, and they came over to help/hinder/complain.

I spent quite a bit of time today with the run door open, and feeding Garvo Alfamix chicks to the boldest of them.  Four in the end, who were happy to be stroked while eating,  who now run up to the door when I appear carrying the cup.  I've had to upgrade to a large coop cup to accomodate 4 beaks at once.  One of the little blighters keeps getting into the cup though - hisher scratch reflex is so strong, heshe just can't help themselves.

I sprinkled Alfamix on the run for everyone else, and they all loved it, especially the Exchequers.  They are proving an absolute nightmare to catch, so I'm hoping that I can tame them with food.

We're going to have to put netting across the top of the shed brooder.   One of the Exchequers got so excited that heshe managed to jump out onto the side.
Cleaning out the brooder is a daily requirement now, even though they are only in it for the evening and overnight.    I guess we could leave it a couple of days really, but it's much better for them to have a clean floor each night... and it won't be too long before they don't need the brooder at all.

It won't be long now until we introduce the Cube to the chicks.  They need to be a little bit bigger before we do so, but as they are already 3.5 weeks old, it won't be too long.  We have a second Electric Hen which we will put in the back,  and that means that the chicks can stay even if the weather is a bit cooler (although not cold).  Eventually, of course, it means they will be able to stay out overnight, but they need to be more fully feathered before we think about that.

We've also got out our chick netting.  DH has staked it round the garden se could see the state of it.  Some of it needs redoing.  We've got a few days before the chicks are big enough to be allowed out of the Cube run.    Last year we didn't have such a big Run available (I bought two 1xmetre extensions second hand ready for this year) so we let them "out" earlier.  This year they are in 3metres already, and they'll have another 2 metres when we attach the Cube.  Lucky chooks.

As soon as I put them away, I dragged the Cube run to fresh grass, then raked the used grass.  I also sprayed it with water to help the remaining poo break down.  

Thank goodness it's only for a few weeks a year.   But it's worth it.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Rained Off

This morning was lovely, but the forecast said thundery showers.    So, we decided ot put the chicks out early-ish so we could put them away when the rain was due.

DH popped out. No sooner had he gone, than I heard the rumble of thunder.  I rushed straight outside and  crawled into the run to start catching the chicks.  As fast as I got them into the big tub trug, they would be trying to escape.  I'm not nimble enough to keep crawling in and out of the run, so in the end I caught them and popped them into the Go, shutting the door each time.   My thinking was that they would be in the dry if it started to rain,  and I could get to the back of the Go to get them out.

Two chicks escaped out of the front of the run.  I did a quick cat-check, and couldn't see them, so I left them to it while I continued catching the other slippery little monkeys.

Then the rain started.  I managed to catch the two escapees and put them back in the shed.  I hadn't cleaned out the brooder yet (sorry chicks),  and I paused to move the (electric) Hen back to its normal position. It had been moved up and out of the way so that we could clean out the brooder.

I then started to unload the Go from the back, a few at a time.  One of the Exchequers ran past me and out... I couldn't catch her, so I went back to the others.

Eventually it was just the Exchequer left.  I couldn't catch her.  She ran under the rosemary.  She ran to the trellis which separates one part of the garden from another. If she got through there, she'd be under the shed and I'd never get her out.  It was very wet by this time. She made a bolt for it, I managed to catch her.

I popped her under my tee shirt and carried her to the shed.  She looks fine, we'll need to keep an eye on her to make sure no harm was done.  If she'd been with a broody she might have got a bit damp running to her mum for cover, so hopefully it will be OK.

I was very wet, and my trousers were, of course, covered in smears of chick poo. Mmm, lovely. Still, the rain will make my hair even more curly than usual.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Extension - Day 22/23

Day 22 (or 23 for some of them).
Another fine day. We tested the grass at 8.30 and it was a bit damp.   We had a discussion about what to do, and decided that we'd extend their run (it's now 3m x 1m) and put the Go in, complete with a hotbot.

At 10.30, we put the chicks out and they had a whale of a time. Fresh dirt in the dustbath, and they seemed very happy.  I'll reheat the hotbot in a hour or so.... they are unlikely to need it, but it means that they have something to snuggle with if they want to.

A couple of them are now very tame, and happy to eat from my hand while being stroked.  The Exchequers are now showing more loopy tendencies,  so I'll need to concentrate on getting them more hand tame now.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Chickywicks Day 21

At about 2 weeks old, chicks start to get interested in things.  Their surroundings,  each other, us.  From then on, they get very active, and spend their time jumping on and off the feeders, the electric hen, etc;  they try and fly a bit.     

This is the point where we like to let them out on the grass for a few minutes a day, under close supervision.   This hasn't been possible at all because it's been so wet. Even when it hasn't been raining, the ground has been damp and cold.  

The rain finally took a break last Friday. The sun shone.   the ground was still too damp to risk putting the chicks on it.  By Sunday, the ground was dry enough and warm enough for us to let the chicks have their first taste of "outside".

We made up a temporary pen 1m x 1m with bits of Cube run,  and ferried them out.  I also put a seed tray containing earth in with them, as I'd seen a couple of them trying to dustbathe in the Aubiose in their brooder pen.

They had a whale of a time.  We sat outside watching them, making sure they were OK.  We brought them in after half an hour, as we didn't want to overload them on their first day.  

On Monday and Tuesday, DH put them out for an hour each afternoon.. As he couldn't stay with them, and I was away, he increased the size of the pen to 2m x 1m, and put a shade at one end.

Yesterday, we let them out for about 4 hours.  I'm so pleased that the weather has stayed so hot and dry and that this is possible. It's so much more fun for the chicks, and it really helps them develop.

Having them outside makes it easier to clean out the brooder, which needs doing every two days. 

Last night we left the lamp off overnight. We'd been checking the evening temperatures, and last night was the first time we were happy to do that.  The chicks still had the electric hen, so could stay warm.

 In the mornings, we are now opening the shed door and blocking the entrance wth close-boarded trellis.  This lets extra light (there is a window as well)  and air in to the shed, and helps the chicks get acclimatised to outside noise. 

Chicks are like Hens in that they learn the habits that suit them very quickly.  Now, when we go into the shed, the chicks get very excited, presumably expecting that they will be scooped up and taken outside.  It reminds me of Toy Story, with the aliens in the toy-grabber machine. 

At the moment we're sticking with tme out in the afternoons only.  In a day or two - weather permitting -  we'll put the Go into the Run (with a heat pad or the hen in the nestbox area) and gradually increase the length of time we let them stay out for.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Day 15

The chicks have been growing well. They ae now awake for longer than they are asleep.  They have real feather (albeit tiny ones) on their wings,  and they are starting to lose down from the rest of their bodies.

They are interested in their surroundings, and each other, and spend a lot of time jumping on and off the Electric Hen.  yesterday a couple o fthem were trying to dustbathe in the Aubiose, so I'll bemaking up a seed-tray dustbath soon for them to use. 

One of the Exchequer Leghorns has a deformed toe.  S/he seems completely oblivious to it, and is running around and jumping up and down as much as all the others.  We'll keep an eye on himher and see what how things progress. If s/he's a she, she's destined for my Garden Girls; I don't mind having a disabled chook, as long as she's not in any discomfort.

The others are all gorgeous fluffy black balls of fur.  We'll need to put leg rings on soon, so that we can tell them apart.  We try and pick them up each day. but after a while it's hard to keep track of who's been handled and who hasn't.

I love watching them. We have a camera in the shed so we can watch them at any time.  They have the heat lamp on, raised up very high now, as well as the Electric Hen. This makes sure that the area outside the Hen is warm all the time, and the light means that we can see them on the camera. 


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Day 5/6 & Getting inquisitive

The chicks have discovered that the Electric Hen isn't just something for them to sit under - they can sit on it as well.

Theyve been jumping on and off for the last half hour or so.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


There was a short break in the weather yesterday.

I rushed outside and picked Tayberries and Raspberries.  I washed them ,sorted them, and packed them into sterilised Weck flasks.  I made a sugar syrup to cover them.  All that picking, and only 3 small flasks. Who knew it took so much fruit?!

Back outside, I picked cherries.  Many cherries were split,  a result of the heavy rain. brief sun, and then more rain. The fruit is swelling to quickly and bursting its skin.  I came in, I got the cherry stoner out.  I cleaned, I stoned, I packed.  Three and a half jars. I went out again, picked some more, got to 4 full jars.

Next, I picked blackcurrants. My book says that you have to deal with blackcurrants very quickly.   I washed, I de-stalked, and started putting them in jars. After three jars (which was a  lot of blackcurrants), I had had enough. I also had to make a sweeter syrup (and. as I'm typing now, I'm thinking I should have used the sweeter syrup on the sour cherries. Bother!).

Everything in the pasteuriser, pasteuriser on.

All done.

I still have a heap of blackcurrants in the fridge.  I might make some sort of puree with it, I already have too much blackcurrant vodka. I am just not in the mood.  There are more blackcurrants outside.  There are lots of tayberries, in various stages of unripeness.  There are a few cherries left.

Cherries! I'd forgotten about the next step in the Cherry vodka.  Better go and do that now.

Saturday, 7 July 2012


We were upstairs this morning, looking at the chicks and discussing moving them, when I heard a noise from downstairs. It sounded like Something had fallen over. The cats were both upstairs, so I wasn't too bothered.

Later, I walked into the living room to see that the French Window had shattered and was, actually, still in the process of shattering.
We checked outside and saw that the outside was OK, it was just the inside pane that had gone.   No obvious cause, although we could see the point of  origin from the shatter pattern (just at the bottom of the photo above).

We rang C, the chap who worked in Double Glazing and who recently replaced one of our knackered panels on the front window. He advised that we remove the shattered glass, taping it first. He'll come and measure up.

When seal on one of the front window panels "went", a few weeks ago,  DH and I discussed  whether we should replace the double glazing rather than replacing the panel.  This was because it was the third window  where a seal had gone in one of the panes (over the course of the last few years, not all recently).  We decided that the replacement pane was relatively inexpensive, so we'd just go ahead with the replacement.  DH then made an off the cuff remark that "when one of the big panes go, that's when we'll just replace them".

And now this.  But we aren't in the mindset of replacing the windows.  I guess we'll need to do a bit of research over the weekend, and then see what to do.

It was actually rather pretty....

Chicks away (Day 3)!

Yesterday we got the big brooder inthe shed ready for the chicks, turned on the electric hen, and also the brood lamp.  This was so that it would warm up thoroughly.

Ths morning, we moved the chicks to their new home.  They looked so tiny in the big space, but we know that they will grow really quickly.  
At the moment we have the heat lamp on as well as the hen, as the chicks need a lot of heat.  We'll move the heat lamp up gradually (and the hen too actually, as the chicks grow it needs to get taller to accomodate them) until they are using only the electric hen. 

The progress after that depends on the outside temperature.

They really are so cute, little tiny balls of black fluff. 


Thursday, 5 July 2012


Just one egg left.

We're transferring most of the chicks to the brooder now. We'll leave a couple in the Incy for a few hours, just in case the last egg hatches.

15/19 so far

Just 4 to go.

More chicks

This morning we have twelve gorgeous babies.

Both Exchequer Leghorns have hatched; lots of Welsh Blacks,  and some Welsh Black x Indian Game. I think DH (who has been removing shells) said 1 of the Welsh Black x Australorps also hatched.  

No idea if we will be able to tell them apart.

7 still to hatch, not all pipped yet.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Baby Chooks

The babies have started hatching!

So far we have one Welsh Black, and one Exchequer Leghorn.  Many others have pipped, some haven't.

More news soon.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cherry Vodka

For the last few years I've made Cherry Vodka.  ll are perfectly pleasant, but none has come close to the very first batch I made and forgot about. The one which we ration, the one which is reminiscent of Christmas Pudding.

I was pruning my cookery books, sneding a lot of them to the Charity Shop, when I re-found my Vodka Cookbook. Leafing through the pages, I found a recipe for Sour Cherry Vodka. It had cinnamon and nutmeg.  Was this the recipe I had followed all those years ago?

That's what I'm making.

Eventually  I had collected 2 pounds of ripe sour cherries.   I rinsed them, and then set up my production line, grateful once again for my impulse purchase of a cherry stoner.  When it arrived (many years ago now), it looked flimsy and inadequate.  But it wasn't. So much faster than using a manual cherry (or olive or whatever) stoner.
From the left: discarded cherry stalks,  cherries to be destalked, cherries in the hopper, stoned cherries. At the back, cherries which weren't any good, saved for the chooks.
Some of the cherries weren't as ripe as they should have been, but I was running out of time

De-stalked cherries sitting in the pitter hopper
Once I had a hopper full, I'd pound through them (note to self: wear an apron. Tee shirt covered in cherry splatter).
Some of the de-stoned cherries
Then back to destalking to fill the hopper again.

In the end, of the 244 cherries that went through the machine, I had 7 that still had stones in. Of those 7, 4 were my fault (I pushed them through the chute by mistake)  
Cherry pits 
I crushed the cherries, and added sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Now it needs to be left for 5 days before I add the vodka.
Crushed cherries, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg
Normally I use a glass Le Parfait jar for this sort of thing.  I've just bought a couple of tubs which are BPA free, so I'm trying that. 

The tub has been lavbelled (with today's date and the date the next step needs to take place), and put in a dark place.

Fingers crossed.

Bird yobs

The teenage yobs of the bird world, starlings,  have arrived.

Three days ago they started to raid our sour-cherry crop.  I don't normally mind them taking some, but this year there aren't many to start with and the starlings are very wasteful feeders. They nibble a bit of cherry then go on to the next one leaving the previous, partially eaten,  one to rot.

I picked just under a pound of ripe cherries on Sunday. Yesterday it was too wet.  Today I picked three quarters of a pound, but then rain drove me in.  I'd like to get another 1/4 pound or so, so that I can start the cherry vodka.

It's not looking hopeful for my cherries in syrup.