Sunday, 30 June 2013

Tilda update

I watched on the RunCam.  The Others stopped and stared through the bars at Tilda.  She stared back. She went and got something to eat, and then resumed her position.

At 8.30pm, I went out to see if she wanted to come in. She ignored me.

At 9.00pm, the Others had started to go to bed, so I went out to see if she wanted to come in.  She ignored me.

At 9,15pm, she had her back to the Others, and was chattering to herself.  The Others were having a squabble.  Poppy, who is broody, had been ejected from the orange Cube and was in a huff.  She stood by the (closed) ex-entrance to the run where the go is, and was a bit agitated.  She'd shown no interest in the Go or the Run when it had been available to her,  and no interest when it was closed off. It's only because Tilda is in there that she's suddenly interested..   That and the fact that she's fed up of being ejected each evening.

And then at 9.25, I checked the camera, and I couldn't see Tilda.  She'd left, and was wobbling down the path to the house.

So she's now in her kitchen apartment.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Tilda, our house hen, may have elected to stay outside tonight.

She was out all day, as usual, sitting under the pampas grass.  Then, this evening - after the Big Girls had been shut in their run for the night - she went and sat towards their run.   I was a little puzzled.  She sometimes goes over there during the day, in which case I lift her in with them.    I explained to her that the Others were shut in and, being a chicken and not speaking English, she ignored me.

And then I had an idea.   I lifted her up and put her in the closed-off bit of the run, where the Go is.   She walked into the Go and out again, and sat on the ground.  I went and got some of her coop cups, and gave her some Garvo, some layers pellets and some water. And a tomato.  She started eating straight away.  And then I shut the side run door, and walked away.

The Big Girls took umbrage to this intruder, and started squawking. Eventually, the stopped.

After about 10 minutes, I went back. Tilda seemed quite happy, sitting watching the Others through the safety of some weldmesh.  I opened the side door to her run, and then opened the gate to the garden.... so that she could come out and come down to the house if she wanted to.

So far, she hasn't wanted to. 

I feel rather sad. I'm surprised at how I feel.

But, I've made plans.  

If she decides to stay out, we'll do it this way for a few nights and see how she feels when the weather is less clement.  And if she carries on, we'll put the Go's own run back on, and put it alongside the main run.  She can then have the run of the garden, away from the Others, but have a secure run next to them for the evenings and mornings.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


So, we had swapped the Green Cube for the Go.  The Chicks now have a lovely green cube, with an electric hen in the back,  and a huge free ranging area.   The Big Girls have their orange cube and the Go.

In the lead up to the swap, I checked the two cubes each night to try and determine who was sleeping where.  Every night was different;  the only sleeping-arrangement-constant was the ever-broody Poppy, who permanently occupied one of the orange cube's nest boxes.  The other constant was that Lotti was laying in the green cube.

Since the swap,  everyone except Lotti sleeps in the orange Cube,  and Lotti sleeps on the veranda (you may remember that DH made a veranda for the orange cube some time ago).   Everyone was interested  in the Go.... they go in, the come out.    Lotti has started to lay in the orange cube.

So, today, I closed off the run that houses the Go.   We would love to get them all in the one Cube: it's unlikely, as Milly's history shows that she only accepts newbies when there are no oldies left. Still,  this is a chance to try.     

I should perhaps also mention that Milly is on a final warning again.   I can hear the "yes we've heard that before" mutterings and those of you muttering are right.  So what's different this time?   This time I caught Milly attacking Poppy (who had ventured off the nest to have a poo, something to eat and drink, and a quick dust bath),  leaping on her and attacking her with her spurs. It would have been (relatively) easy to grab Milly and cull her there and then, and I was very close to doing it.  Two things stopped me.  Firstly,  a long time ago I realised that I should never  make that decision whilst angry;  and secondly,  I really wanted DH to help me do it, to make sure that I did it right.  It's been a long time since I've had to cull a chook.    

Milly did it a second time the next day, and  I told DH that I think I might really have to do it this time.   know that it will be horrible and I will feel appalled at myself.  I also know that once it's done,  it will be a relief and I will wonder why we didn't do it earlier.    

Of course when the moment has passed, and now that Milly is wandering around just being spiteful Milly (rather than evil Milly),  I still find myself unable to make that decision.    And on the third day that Milly encountered Poppy, when I was resolved that if it happened, I would do it - Milly ignored her.  

So, she's on a red card for now.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Changeover Day

Yesterday - or as it Sunday?, I forget now - we agreed that if we had a hot dry day I would clean and disinfect the green Cube so that we could "swap" it for the chicks' Go. 

I had considered leaving the chicks in the Go until they went to the allotment. It's only two weeks or so, and the Go would be big enough to house them for that short period of time.    Leaving then in the Go would give them one less change to deal with.... and it would save stressing Lotti out. Lotti lays her egg in the green Cube.  No one else does, and it's where she can get into safely and easily.

However, when the chicks get to the allotment, they will be in a house on legs and have to deal with a ladder... so it seems a good idea to get them used to a ladder now.

Anyway.  We awoke today to bright sunshine,  and DH was keen to make use of the good weather as the whole operation was going to be a bit tricky. It wasn't quite going to be a "swap".

While I emptied the green cube, DH separated the Cube-with-one-run-extension from the cube extension that is "permanently" fixed to the outside of our walk in run.  

He also swapped out a side door panel (we have doors in lots of places on our runs) to put on the chicks run. Finally, he manouevred the cube between the shrub and the run, to freedom.  Once again, I wished that the skirts on he Cube were hinged.

I set about power washing and then poultry shielding everything.  

Meanwhile, I emptied, dismantled and cleaned the orange cube, and poultry shielded all the bits.   Thought I might as well while I had the power washer and the disinfectant sprayer out.

Everything is currently drip drying in the sun,  and it'll all be put together later this afternoon.

DH sorted out another Cube extension to put where the Cube had been. We needed a big door at the back, as we had to be able to get in to the run to reach the back of the Go to get at any eggs.

Then he made up Heath Robinson affair to put on the front of the Cube run, using various bits of Omlet mesh that we had available.

We're hoping that the chicks can move out of the shed and into the Cube overnight soon.  Maybe at the weekend, maybe a bit before if the weather is kind.  We'll have the small electric hen in the back, so it should be OK.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Spreading out

Today was a very warm day, although cloudy, and we put the chicks out into the Go run at about 9.30am.    DH and I watched them for a while, and then agreed that today would be the day we'd put the netting out so they could run around outside the safety of the Go.

They've now got three times the area they have with just the Go run.

Every one of the black ones are different. Here are close ups of a couple of them who were happy to pose for the camera:
Yellow eyebrows; large, strong, single comb.

Lots of yellow in face; hardly any comb

Monday, 17 June 2013

True Grit

Now that the chicks are outside a bit, eating grass - and having the occasional mealworm treat - it was time to introduce them to grit.

So, I put a large coop cup in the Go, with chick sized grit in.  

They looked at it from a distance.

A couple of them mosied nonchalantly along,  although it becae more chalantly as they stared at it on their way past.

Someone came up and looked in the bowl.

Several someones came up and looked in the bowl.

Eventually, someone else stuck their head in and ate a bit.  Then another someone else did.  And then lots of them did.

When I came back, Redhead was standing in the bowl, with the others eating around his feet.

Seems grit's a hit.

(And no, that isn't a superfluous '. It's in the correct place.)

Alone again

Poppy, my gorgeous and friendly Welsh Black girl, has gone broody again.  It's only been 2? 3? weeks since she went broody before.  Between her and Florence (Australorp), I've had broodiness for weeks now.

It's particularly hard on Lotti when Poppy is broody.  Lotti and Poppy were hatched together, and keep each other company against the unfriendliness of the previously established gang.   They would have integrated by now if it wasn't for the spite of Milly (Cream Legbar) who, with her equally spiteful  lieutenant Custard (Sasso, unbelieveably Tilda's sister), keeps them shunned.

When Poppy is holed up being broody, poor old Lotti is on her own alot.  She does manage to stay close to the main flock,  but the two spiteful b*tches make sure she always feels persecuted.
Loopy and lovely Lotti
Horrible, spiteful, girls.

Four weeks old, and they are growing all the time.

They love being outside, and we put them out in the Go as often as the weather permits.  I do have some photos, but they are on DH's camera. As soon as I find the appropriate lead, I'll upload some for you to see.

On Saturday, after a long-ish session outside, I put them back in their brooder pen in the shed.  One of the not-so-little whiter ones immediately flew up and perched on the side of the brooder.   Time for action.

So, while they were out in the sunshine yesterday, we took down the brooder ring, so they now have half a shed to run around in. All with insulated flooring, topped with Aubiose, of course.

I jet washed the brooder ring and then, when it was dry,  DH rolled it up to put it away.   

It was definitely a worthwhile investment.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Whip 'em out, quick!

It was dryish, and warmish. I'd put the outdoor Electric Hen on an hour earlier, just in case... and DH put the chicks out.

It got warmer. 

The chicks had a lovely couple of hours.

Meanwhile, we put the Go together, so from tomorrow they can use that while they are outside.  I've taken the floor out and put the Electric Hen in the back.

So as long as it isn't wet, and isn't cold, and isn't windy.... the Babies can have a bit more time outside.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


We've been having a lot of weather lately.  The Met office App can't seem to predict it correctly even on the day. 

It's been hopeless weather for getting the poor chicks out.  Fortunately, they hadn't got used to being outside on a daily basis,  so I guess they aren't missing what they haven't had.

The lack of outside, grass, sunshine, etc has meant that they have been slightly slower to feather up.  We're still seeing noticeable progress every (say) two days, but it is slow.

This afternoon, we've finally got some rays of sunshine, but the ground is soaking wet and the wind is rather fierce. No end in sight.

As compensation, I've given them a few mealworms each day (in their dustbath),. This has had the unintended consequence that they now come running towards me whenever I go in the shed to see them.
On a different note, Tilda has been up and down.   She's even taken herself outside, without anyone taking her to the door first.

She's had a couple of days when she insisted on going in the Big Girls "paddock";  and at one point she insisted on going into their walk in run. With them. While corn was being fed.    She took up her pre-death position, safely under one of the benches, and she seemed quite content when I got her in for the night.

Yesterday she was having a bit of breathing trouble, which passed.  A couple of days ago, she wasn't interested in mealworms, which worried me for a bit.  However, today she decided to take a walk around the bigger kitchen, and tucked in to the offered mealworms with gusto.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Smokey bacon time.

Had some of the smoked bacon for breakfast.  It was good. Really good. 
It was definitely smoked but the smoking hadn't overpowered the flavour. Sometimes with smoked stuff,  the flavour of everything else on the plate is overpowered by the flavour of the smoking.

So, we'll probably do the same next time. I think it was about 15 hours.  And, because I'll forget by the time we do it again,  3mm was probably the right thickness. 

3 weeks

Yesterday the chicks had two sessions outside, oe before we went to visit our local Fair and then again afterwards.  It was very warm, but with some breeze so I put an Electric Hen in the outside pen as well. They didn't use it very much, they were too busy running around and bosom-bumping.
I managed to get a few snaps through the bars of the run. here's a couple... 

We've extended the brooder in the shed again, it's now more oval and six people could sit in it comfortably.  The next step will be to remove those sides completely,  but it's a bit too soon.

Today's weather isn't looking promising, so not sure they'll get out today.

Friday, 7 June 2013

First one

Hurrah!  One chick has been overcome wit the urge to dust bathe .

He's currently being walked over by the others who haven't yet had that urge kick in,,, and being watched with interest by a couple of others.

It won't be long.

Seed tray

I put a seed tray filled wit some potting compost into the brooder pen a while ago.  The chicks ignored it.

I've just taken a look on the brooder cam, and they've found it... but the dust=bathing imoulse hasn't kicked in. Yet.


DH and I have been interested in the idea of smoking some of our produce for ages.  I don't mean hot smoking, which is when you cook food over woodchips; I mean cold smoking, which is where you smoke food and cook it after smoking.  There's only one thing which has prevented us..... we haven't really found much smoked food that we like. Ha ha ha.

Every time we go to a food show,  we try the smoked foods on offer.  We've had various smoked fish, smoked cheese, smoked garlic, smoked chillies... the list is endless.   Occasionally we find something which is OK, but decide we couldn't eat much of it.

We do, however, make our own bacon... and I can eat smoked bacon in moderation.    Last year, I bought an inexpensive cold smoker kit for us to use 
image from

Yes, it is what it looks like.  A very tall cardboard box, with some racks in and a smoker thing at the bottom.   It was reasonable value buying the pack as we'd have bought the smoker thing and racks anyway,  and this way we can't blame any failures on our DIY attempt.

We decided when we butchered the pig the other week that we'd try smoking some bacon.  And we did it yesterday. Hooray!

It's very lightly smoked... given that we both love smoked food so much (!), we decided to err on the side of caution.

The piece of bacon looks really good.    We'll be slicing and freezing the bacon tomorrow,  so I guess I'll find out on Sunday whether it tastes OK..

I will report back!


My Aunt emailed to ask how the chicks were doing.  I wrote a reply to share that they had had their first 5 mins outside earlier in the week, and a full hour yesterday.  I was telling her that they had been full of beans ever since... and I looked at the brooder cam to take a pic to send her.

Of course they made a liar out of me

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Day 18

The chicks are growing well.  The two white ones are feathering well, the blacks are slower.  Watching the black chicks today, we were amazed at how different each of them is - I'm going to take photos tomorrow and record the detailed differences so we can see what happens as they grow up.

The weather hasn't been great (apart from the last few days) so they haven't had much time outside yet. They can't be off heat until 6 weeks or so, but   if the weather is very warm and not too windy, and as long as the grass is bone dry, we've found it works well letting them have a few minutes outside each day from about 2 weeks.   When they are reared by their mum, they get a few 

This year, it's been far too cold.   We've had warm weather for a few days now.    They've had 5 minutes outside yesterday and the day before, while I cleaned out their pen.  They also had their first taste of live mealworms. Yum!

Today was very hot.   DH made a run up for them, just 1m x 1m,  and they we outside for about an hour.  They probably wanted to stay out, but we didn't want to push it.   We'll give them another half hour to an hour tomorrow, and I might introduce a seed tray for them to use as a dustbath.

We'll probably have to introduce the Cube in a few days, so that they can have 3m x 1m.  They are far too small to use the Cube itself, so we'll put an electric hen out on the grass as well.    

The Garden Girls have been playing musical roosting bars, a different arrangement of Girls in each Cube each night.     No doubt losing a Cube is going to cause a problem: we'll put the Go in its place, temporarily.  

Not sure yet which Cube we will use for the Chicks.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

2 Weeks

The Chicks are two weeks old now.  They are very active, but the (generally poor) weather means they are still inside the shed in their brooder.  Normally they would be having a few minutes outside in the sunshine each day, by now.

They love swinging on the Electric Hen.  I've seen six of them on it at once, making it swing quite dramatically. 

This pic is from the web cam.

Saturday, 1 June 2013


DD and her family arrived yesterday evening. Only staying one night and off  first thing this morning. We're a handy stopping point for theme parks.

Eldest grandson is 12, and comes to stay occasionally on his own so is very used to our house and foibles  (and our menagerie).  The younger two are 6 and 5, and are now at the articulate and non-shy age. It's always lovely to see them.

The house is instantly full of noise.  Isabel,cat, who doesn't do children, hides.  She sneaks out for food when the children are out, or in bed.  Wash doesn't mind children too much. He generally gives them a chance: if they behave, he stays, if they try and grab him, he hides.

DGD was very good with him, and he let her stroke him for quite a long time. 

Tilda chose to mostly stay out of the way.  She kept her beady eye on proceedings from the safety of her apartment,  but stayed out of reach.  When we were, briefly, alone yesterday night she burbled away at me, presumably telling me what she thought of it all.

The children accepted the explanation of why we have a chicken living in the kitchen without too many questions.  Lots of chicken related questions this time: how did we know the the egg we had just collected was an egg and not a chick? (because you need a cockerel to have a chick, and we don't have a cockerel here); why don't we have a cockerel? (because they are very noisy and annoy the neighbours); how did we have chicks if we didn't have a cockerel? (because we have 2 cockerels at the allotment, and the chicks are their babies). What is an allotment? What is renting? What would we do with the chickens on the allotment if we couldn't rent it any more?   and so on.  All questions properly answered, it's how children learn after all.

And as quickly as they arrived, they've gone. Immediately the house is quiet.   Isabel comes back in, and starts rolling around everywhere and mewing pathetically.