Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Take a running jump...

The chicks have discovered the top of the Electric Hen (EH).  They are now spending their time taking running jumps to try and get up there.  Some of them manage it with apparent ease.  Others misjudge it completely.

As they try and get up, the force pushes the EH out. It then swings back. The leaping off and on keeps it moving, making it even more of a challenge for the inexperienced chicks.

It'll be time to put some other boredom busting things in the playpen soon.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Over the Top

On Sunday we went to the 02 Arena. Not to see a show, but to climb over it.

The weather was perfect. Sunny, dry, very little wind at ground level, breeze at the top. Visibility was fantastic.

The Climb was easier than I expected. The view from the the top was outstanding.

Did you know that the design of the 02 is such that:

  • The circumference  is 365 metres (=days per year)
  • There are twelve supports (=months in the year, hours)
  • It's 52m high (=weeks in the year)

Definitely recommend doing it if you get the chance.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Everybody out!

Yesterday we moved the 11 chicks into the brooder in the shed.  

Last year we hatched much later, and the chicks were in the outside brooder at 3 days old.  This year it's much colder outside (although of course the temperature in the brooder is just the same) so we delayed until the chicks were a week old. 

There's plenty of room in the brooder for them, and they have both the heatlamp and the electric hen. I really like the Electric hen, it's much better than the lamp, imitates nature a bit more.

In previous years we've used some hardboard to make a brooding ring.  It's worked really well, but it was getting harder to clean and disinfect.  This year we bought a plastic brooding ring, which will be easier to clean and disinfect, and collapses to a smaller storage size than our previous home made one.

The chooks seem happy enough.
DH set up the camera agin so we can keep an eye on things from the house.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


Lotti, our Exchequer Leghorn, has been behving even more erratically than usual.

She hasn't laid for a couple of weeks.   Well, there haven't been any of her eggs in the nestbox.  Florence, our Australorp, is broody,  and I had caught her egg eating one day so I did wonder if she was eating Lotti's eggs. 

After a week of no Lotti eggs, I walked round the penned area to see if I could find a secret nest. After 10 days, I did it more carefully. I couldn't find any.

Lotti and Poppy both fly out of the penned area to come to the door for corn.  This is despite having a wing clipped.    Usually they arrive,  and either try and get into Tilda's kitchen apartment, or fly onto my arm for corn.     For the last few days, Lotti has run away and I've only managed to catch her by (a) extracting her from the TildaLarder as she's stealing the food, (b) going outside with corn and throwing some into the main run (and she runs in after it), or (c) waiting until she crouches and then scooping her up quickly.

This morning, she wasn't having any of it.  I chased her round the garden, a bit too close to the cats exit-to-the-front for my own comfort.  And then she disappeared. At first, I thought she was hiding between a small shrub and the wall, but she wasn't there.  And then I saw the white of an egg shell.

And then I saw the black and white of her feathering.  Underneath a wall climbing plant, between the climber and the wall.  I moved it slightly, and then I moved her. And there was a mountain of eggs.

 I decided that I'd move her and the eggs into the cube, to try and get her back into the habit of laying there.   I thought I'd do it after breakfast.

Of course, having a Leghorn's fast metabolism is somewhat incompatible with being a broody.  After 30 mins of exquisite silence,  she was in the kitchen trying to raid the Tilda Larder.  Sadly for her, DH had closed the door to Tilda's apartment when he was accessing a cupboard, and he'd fogotten to open it again. (Tilda wasn't in there, of course).  She then let me lead her back into the main run so she could eat there, and she now seems to have forgotten about the eggs. Until tomorrow. 

Maybe I'll shut her in the Cube for a few minutes with some of her eggs when I let the others out tomorrow morning. Or something.  Anyway, I was able to get a pic of the eggs (above), but not one with Lotti sitting on them.

Friday, 24 May 2013


At last, it's piggy time again.  We ran out of sausages a month (or more) ago, diced pork a couple of weeks ago,and we're just about to run out of mince.

Collected out half pig this morning, and spent the afternoon butchering, mixing sausagemeat, starting the bacon curing,  and tidying up.

The porker this time came up quite a bit smaller than last time, so the yield wasn't as big.  I think I also wasn't as scrupulous at getting every last bit of meat off as I normally am.

MAY 2013

1.5kg lean mince
1.5kg diced pork
2.0 kg for sausages (which will make more than 3kg of sausages)
968g back bacon
920g back bacon, for smoking
745g streaky bacon
1 x to be weighed  (bone out) ham
1x1.Kg Belly joint
1x800g Belly joint
1x2.5Kg Hand joint
1x2.3Kg Shoulder joint
1x1.9Kg Shoulder joint
1x hockjoint (unweighed) 
2 trotters 
home rendered lard (still rendering, so not sure of volume yet).

"Next time" Notes for myself:
  • DH to do the leg first,  so I can be processing it while he works on one of the other quarters.
  • I can be separating the fat on the belly while he does the leg.
  • Need new sausage casings next time. 
  • Allocate some shoulder to try home made luncheon meat

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Poo v Feathers

Matilda, our house chicken, has started to moult.

At the moment we are getting only a few, small, feathers floating around her end of the kitchen.  

To my surprise, they are more of a nuisance and more of a pain to clear up than her poo.

Goodness knows what it is going to be like if she progresses to a full moult.  I can foresee her being forced to spend her days outside, instead of having the choice that she has now.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

All done

We ended up with 11 chicks.   There was one egg left in the Incubator, but it hadn't started pipping by Day 23, so we decided to close it down.

The weather forecast is grim, so we're going to delay moving the chicks to the brooder in the shed. Last year, when we had 19 of them, we moved them on Day 3. 

They're all gorgeous little chicks.  Spike's offspring are already behaving like their Dad.  One of Henry's chicks has a red head. Absolutely gorgeous.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ups and Downs

The chicks continued to arrive through yesterday (and last night, and this morning).   None of the have been stuck or in need of help hatching, which is fantastic.

We did have one sad thing happen. One of the hatchlings had some very bloody gunk stuck to to him. We weren't sure whether it was egg sac contents, or whether he'd been injured somehow.  We removed the then 5 other chicks into the temporary brooder, so they wouldn't be tempted to peck at him.  We couldn't risk taking him out to inspect, so we waited for a hour for him to dry out. During that time, another chick hatched. 

The injured chick had moved around, so we left him another 20 minutes.  By this time, the second chick was a bit more active, so we had to risk taking number one out to look.  It wasn't good news, and poor DH had to cull him. 

The evening was a bit flat after that, and the arrival of another chick didn't lift our spirits as it normally would.  

This morning, things felt better. There were 4 chicks in the incubator, so they were moved to the brooder as well.

And we've had 3 more this morning.  There is just one egg left. It doesn't seem to have pipped, but it's still relatively early.  This morning's trio will stay in the incubator until this evening anyway.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

They're here

We've been hatching chicks for years now,  but the joy of it never diminishes.
The first two chicks were yellow...hmmm, not what I expected.  They must be Spike's offspring (Spike is Exchequer Leghorn, and is Lotti's brother).

The third chick is definitely Henry's.
You can see himher hatching here (I had to upload this to YouTube, Blogger wouldn't let me upload it)....

....with the final burst here.....

They're coming!

So we now have 14 eggs in the incubator.  Yesterday afternoon I noted that two of them had pipped. In the evening, a couple more.

This morning when I went in at 7am to check on progress, we had one live chick and several more pipped.  At 8.30 I caught the end of another one hatching (one I hadn't even noted down as having pipped, so maybe it pipped on the underside).

At the moment I've left the discarded shells in the incubator.  The hatchlings need to dry and fluff up, and if I open the lid to remove the shells I'll just let a blast of dry air in... not good for them, and not good for the pipping chicks who need the air to remain humid.

I have turned on the table top brooder to warm up, so I can transfer some chicks tonight (if it's safe to do so).

I'll post some pics or video later.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Definitely no more bees

DH has decided that he doesn't want to get replacement bees.  I'm sad about that, but I understand.  

The one positive thing about this is that, being a final decision rather than an interim "not this year" one,  we might as well go ahead and sell all the equipment.    It all takes up a lot of space, which is OK if there was a chance we might get bees again... but it's space we could usefully use if not.

I just need to psyche myself up for a long and involved photography and listing session.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


DH candled the eggs last night.  2 were clear, so we removed them, and 1 was suspect but we left it in for now. The others look OK.

It's a bit of a relief.  Henry, our gorgeous gentle boy, doesn't seem that active with his Ladies,  and he has 6 to take care of which is rather a lot. I was worried that we would have more clears. 

We're keeping them on breeder pellets until the eggs hatch. 

Just in case.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Mezzanine living

Inspired by the post of a fellow Omleteer, who had built a wooden verandah for her chooks in her Cube run, I asked DH if we could look at having something similar for our girls.  I was thinking it would be good in the summer if they wanted to sleep outside, but still be off the ground.

He started building it today, and then I had a brainwave about using a spare set of Cube roosting bars (which are plastic) instead of wood - might be a easier to clean, and less susceptible to red mite.

And that's what DH did.

I took the shades off for these pics:

I bet the little madams refuse to use it!

And I bet it causes some consternation.

We'll see.

Rare occurrence

Side by side (albeit with netting in between), Superb*tch Milly and the hen she hates with a passion, Tilda.

Must be the heat.


I ran out of tarragon vinegar some months ago, and I really really miss it.  It is de-licious, and I love it most when I make hollandaise sauce.  (ooh, hollandaise sauce. I lurve hollandaise.

The tarragon in the garden is starting to grow. Even though I know there isn't enough yet (even though I sneaked in an extra bought plant a few days ago), I decided to take a quick peek in my favourite preserving book to just to check the quantity.

The book has many pages stuck together from my efforts at various recipes.  I unstuck the pages, and reminisced about the many delights I'd made.   I'm still waiting for the pickled eggs I made the other week, using one of their recipes, to mature.  As I was unsticking,  a couple of untried recipes caught my eye, and before I knew where I was I'd been bookmarking lots of them for trying AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Kimchee.  I've tried that before, from a different book, and it was a disaster.  However, Johnny and Nick haven't let me down so far,  I know Kimchee is excellent for aiding digestion,  so I'm goign to try again.

Smoked beef, smoked eggs, smoked custard tart.  Well,we bought an economy cold smoker last year and haven't used it yet.  The recipes here have inspired me, it's time to get it out and give it a go.

Taplow sausage.  We're getting half a pig sometime this month, so maybe we'll give his sausage recipe a go.

And so on.   The list is rather long.   I'm itching to get started.

Another broody?

So.  This morning I put Poppy back in the broody cage (along with some live mealworms as an apology).  My plan was to leave her in there until the others had all laid, at which time I would close the pop holes and let her out.

No one seemed to show any sign of laying, so I shut access to the Cubes and let Poppy out.

She ran round the garden shrieking like a banshee, took a dustbath, and then stomped back off to try and get in the Cube.  She couldn't, and we had a bit of a hissy fit while she made her displeasure known.

Meanwhile, I cut up grapes in the kitchen, dipping the quarters in carefully measured Flubenvet.  We're on day 4 (of 7).

It was easy enough to give 5 of the girls their two quarters. Poppy was stomping around being angry at the time,  so she missed out.  I went into the Run, shut the door, and offered her the grapes. She refused to eat anything from her...her...her..jailer.  I left them on a brick in the run, and left her shut in. Two seconds later, they had disappeared.

I was puzzled about Florence.  Then I realised she must be in one of the Cubes, and must have been in there when I shut the access to the Run.  I opened the egg port and a big, black, angry chicken screamed at me.   I put the grapes in, shut the door, and retreated.

Looks like Florence is also broody. Bother.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Musical roosting bars

So tonight's arrangement was:
- Roobarb and Milly (Superb*tch 1) in the Orange Cube
- Poppy (youngster) had decamped to the nestbox in the Green Cube
- Custard (Superb*tch 2) and Florence in the Green Cube/

I persevered and put Lotti in the Orange Cube in the nestbox.  She didn't stay there. However, when she got to the top of the ladder, it was too dark for her to try going down it.

Sin Bin

I found a cracked egg on the roosting bars where Custard (yes, Superbitch number 2) had obviously not managed to get in to the nest box to lay (Why she didn't just go in the other Cube I don't know. Too stubborn probably). 

And I found a Lotti egg in the Pampas. 

Poppy's broodiness is starting to cause the other girls some problems.

So, I did a quick trawl of dog crates on Ebay and found one nearby at a reasonable price. I bought it, collected it, and I've set it up with Poppy in it.

The idea is to try and let air circulate around her in the hope is that she will stop being broody as she cools down.  Some people recommend plunging the bird in cold water, but I feel that something like that would be a bit of a dramatic shock to her system,  more of a punishment than anything.  She hasn't done anything wrong, she's just doing what nature tells her to do.  Normally I'd let the broodiness take its course, as long as she was eating, pooing, and looking after herself.  She's doing all those things... she's just being a damn nuisance to the other Girls trying to lay.

So, she's up off the groud in a dog crate where the air can circulate. She can see the other Girls, she has access to her own supply of food and water.

I hate it.

I'm sure she does too.


Two nights ago I changed the opaque white winter tarp, which covers top and both sides of the cube run, for a couple of shades. These are green, let the air through, and cover the top and one side.  I only had enough to do one run, so I did that of the orange cube.

I went out to transfer Lotti, who was sleeping in the egg underneath the orange cube, into the orange cube.  A quick inspection revealed that all the Old Girls were in the green cube and only Poppy was in the orange cube nestbox. Ha. Perfect.


Last night I went out to transfer Lotti, and a quick torchless inspection revealed that the green cube was full of the old girls. A torchless inspection of the orange cube revealed that the green cube wasn't in fact full of the old girls as one of them, I think it was Roobarb, was in the orange cube.  Poppy was in the orange cuve nestbox.     I posted Lotti and shut the door.

This morning I found a Lotti egg in the Pampas.  I don't quite know why Lotti was unable to lay in the nestbox. I know Poppy is occupying one part, but the other part is free. And the green cube nestbox (where Lotti has laid occasionally) was empty.

I can't put Poppy in a broody box, as the dog crate that I use for that purpose is in use in the kitchen - it's Tilda's pied a terre

I might have to look for another one. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Best laid plans

Well, the new ladder didn't work.

I don't know if it was the ladder, or if it was poppy going broody and leaving Lotti on her own, or a combination of things,  but Lotti has now taken to sleeping in the egg underneath the Cube.  My attempts at ushering her up the ladder fail.  She waits until I am back in the house, then comes out again.

I tried taking Florence out of the picture, leaving only Roobarb to deal with,... no luck.

So, yesterday, I started on a new plan of attack.

At shutting-in time,  I shut them all in the run, but did not separate-off the Bullies.  I decided I'd let them sleep where they wanted. I expected everyone apart from Lotti to sleep in the orange cube.   I'm not too worried about Lotti sleeping in the Egg, because the weather is OK. However, I don't rally want it to become a habit.

At 5am I was woken up by Lotti squawking.  Fearing that my neighbours would also be woken up,  I went out to see what was up. I found her sitting on one of the perches, screeching her lungs out. No obvious stimulus - everyone else was still in bed. I did wonder if she had wanted to lay, but as she didn't actually lay until about 4pm today, I think this was not the case.

 In my semi-sleep-walking state, I noted that the Bullies had still gone into the Green Cube, presumably out of habit.
Tonight, I'm going to leave them to it again.  When it's dark, I'll go out an put Lotti in the nest box of the orange cube.  I'll do that for a few days, then I'll (probably) remove the Egg.  

And then we'll carry on from there.