Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Another holiday?

Tilda decided to go to bed with the Big Girls last night.

I'd popped out earlier on and told her that she could come in if she wanted to.   She ignored me.  I carried on anyway, telling her that if she didn't want to go to bed with them, all she had to do was wait in the run when they went up, and I would come and get her.  

And for those of you who think I am mad,   this is exactly the arrangement I've had in the past with Tilda,  and she has waited in the run for me to get her.

Anyway, back to last night.

I watched on the camera.  The three Big Girls - Custard (Tilda's sister, and chief bully), Florence (Australorp) and Roobarb (Welsh Black) - farted around, making a really big deal out of going to bed.  Poppy was sat tight on the nest box anyway,  Lotti kept out of the way.

Roobarb and Custard eventually went up, although Custard reappeared shortly afterwards.  I thought that Tilda was going to wait for me...but then events took a strange turn.

Florence, who had been ignoring Tilda all day,  marched over to her and pecked Tilda on the head.  Tilda wooshed out of the way, and ran to the bottom of the stairs. She stood at the bottom of the ladder - Custard and Roobarb had decided to have a late snack in the dust bath.

Time passed.  Then Florence and Custard both appeared behind Tilda, and lunged for her, and suddenly she was up that ladder in one jump.   Eventually Custard and Tilda followed.  A bit later on, I went out and helped Lotti move from the veranda into the Cube. The Big Girls didn't take any notice of her, so either they are stopping her getting in when I', not loking, or she's just so used to being pecked that she can't bring herself to try without Mummy backup.

This morning, everything was fine.  Tilda was stuck at the top of the ladder, so I encouraaged her into the nestbox and helped her down from there.

Both DH and I had to be out at the same time this morning,  and I left Tilda shut in with the others. She was fine. 

So, is this another holiday, or is she looking at emigrating?  


Henry was the cockerel we decided to keep from last year's hatch.

He is a gorgeous boy. He's not in any way aggressive towards us (unlike the horrible Spike in the next door pen!),  and he is very courteous towards his Ladies.   He rarely eats any of the treats, instead he calls his Girls over so they can enjoy them.

He has amazing black eyes, and a really wonderful double comb. I think it's a pea comb, but it's almost buttercup type.

Here's the lovely lad.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Like anyone else who grows them, we're enjoying a bumper harvest of courgettes.

I've been having lots of fried courgettes with salad.  I've fried them cut into circles, i've done lengthways slices. I've used oil,  I've dry fried.

When my dehydrator arrived,  I set about using it.

The first load of courgettes that I attempted to dry, were actually a bit too thinly cu (I used the 2mm blade on the processor) . They ended up like chewy rice paper.  I ate them all anyway.

The second load of courgettes were cut more thickly, I used the 4mm blade.  These came out much better. I ate some, and put some in an airtight glass  jar. Not kilner, what's the one with the rubber ring called?  Slipped my mind for now.  Anyway, despite being airtight, the quality of the courgettes deteriorated, and so I decided the next lot would be dried to a crisp.

I got distracted into drying some sage leaves, which took forever.  Eventually the dehydrator was free, so I loaded up some sliced bananas,   estimating that these would take 24 hours to dry to a crisp.    The three nearly-over-ripe bananas only took up a tray,  so I hand sliced some courgettes for another tray.  And then, because I had some leftover, I put mushrooms on a third tray.  To see what would happen, I left the mushrooms whole.

The mushrooms were dry after about 15 hours.   The courgettes and bananas are still going.

So, I decided to make a courgette and lemon drizzle cake.   300g of courgette sounded like a lot, but was actually only one very large courgette.    I found a recipe online. I read the feedback both good and bad, and I made some adaptations.  I made the cake.

It was lovely.

Even DH, who doesn't eat vegetables,  ate it and commented favourably.  He's not known for saying things just to be polite,  so I was very pleased.  I've typed up the recipe including my alterations,  and put it in my recipe folder.

Here's the recipe - I used a mixer, so it was very easy. 

For the Cake                      
200g butter, at room temp   
3 eggs

300g coarsely grated courgettes
(squeeze out as much  water  as possible. I spread on a clean teatowel, roll up, squeeze hard)
1 tablespoon lemon juice                                                                                        
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp poppy seed (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

100g self raising flour
100g plain wholemeal flour
1stp baking powder             
1/4 tspn salt                                                                          

For the Drizzle          
25g Icing sugar
1 tblspn lemon juice

For the Frosting
60g Icing sugar
50g butter
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbslpns lemon juice
250g Full Fat cream cheese (Philadelphia is perfect)

A few poppy seeds to decorate
Lemon zest to decorate

Grease and line 2 x 7inch sandwich tins
Preheat oven to 180 degrees (160 Fan), Gas Mark 4

Make the Cakes:
1. Beat/ butter and sugar together until smooth
2. Lightly beat eggs, then add a bit at a time to the beaten butter/sugar mixture, beating in between. Too much too quickly, will curdle
3. Add (squeezed) courgettes, poppy seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest  to mixture and beat in
4. Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into the mixture, stir to incorporate.
5. Spoon mixture into prepared cake tins. Level.  Cook until browned and a skewer comes out clean (min 25 mins, mine took 40 mins)
6. Remove from oven and leave in tins for 15 mins.
Meanwhile, make the drizzle
7. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together.    
8. Turn the cakes out of the tins, prick all over with a cocktail stick or large skewer, and spread the drizzle over.
9. Leave cakes to cool completely
Make the Frosting
1.   Sift icing sugar into a bowl, add butter, and cream well.
2.   Add the lemon zest and juice, and beat briefly
3.   Add the soft cheese and beat until combined and fluffy. Do not overbeat - if you do the mixture will split and go runny
Sandwiching the Cakes and Frosting
1.   When the cakes are cold, put one layer of cake on a serving plate. Spread with half (or just under) of the frosting
2.   Put the second sandwich on, and spread the remainder of the frosting over the top.
3.   Sprinkle a few poppy seeds and/or lemon zest to decorate

 What do you do with your courgettes?


Tilda is approaching her 8th month annversary of being a house hen. 

She did try to go back and live with the others a couple of weeks ago,  managing 3 days and 2 nights with them.  She was attacked, quite nastily,in the end by Poppy. Poppy had been (and still is) broody for some weeks and hadn't been out to see that Tilda had become a regular day visitor to their enclosure.  In an attempt to break Poppy of her broodiness, I'd shut her out of the nestbox. She wasn't happy.

The attack shook Tilda a bit. She not only resumed overnighting in the kitchen, but she stopped wanting to go in with the Big Girls during the day.  Instead, she went back to sitting under the Pampas.

We had planned to eventually put her out in the garden in the Go with her own run, but the extra-hot weather put paid to that idea.  Last weekend, as we were clearing out the sheds, we acknowledged that Tilda was unlikely to be going to live outside at all, so we dismantled the Go run, and packed it all away.

Yesterday morning, DH remarked at the amount of poo  (or "Tildy-bombs" ) that Tilda had produced.  He doesn't often do the morning Tildy-bomb disposal run,   so I thought he just wasn't used to it.   Up to now, she has pooed with a chicken's normal frequency,  but the amount produced each time has been tiny.   

This morning,  I saw what he meant.

There were quite a lot of bombs.   Not only that, they were normal chicken sized poos. All normal chicken poo texture.  Does this mean she's getting properly well, rather than just "doing well considering that she's a bit under the weather"?    Could I put up with this for long?    

And then a thought struck me.  Thank heavens, for all of us, there weren't any normal caecal poos.  

That's the critical thing, isn't it?  "Yet."

I need to work out my emergency Caecal-Poo strategy because, believe you me,  the first appearance of one of those buggers,  and Tildy will be ejected from the kitchen, and will not be allowed back in.

I've got several outline options. 

  1. remantle (or whatever the opposite of dismantle is) the Go, and find somewhere to put it
  2. Put Tilda in the purple cube run, she did manage the orange cube ladder for two nights after all
  3. Put the Go, minus it's run, in the purple cube run.  If we take the ladder off the Cube, it should just about fit
  4. Put that big egg shaped cat bed in the Cube run, Tilda could sleep in that (Lotti did for a while, which is why we removed it from their run).
Option 1 - most hassle, both immediately and on an ongoing basis.  Will keep as a fallback.
Option 2 - easiest option, but would TIlda manage it?  Probably need DH to build yet another wooden ladder (or I could re-deploy the other one).  Best option if it works.
Option 3 - easy-ish option,  but doesn't give Tilda much space. 
Option 4 - second easiest option - would be OK for the summer but not for the winter.


I think my emergency plan will be a combination of Option 4 and 2.  That way, Tilda could choose where she wants to sleep.  If she doesn't want to manage the ladder, she can use the Ovum thing.     

If she continues to not use the Cube, and the weather worsens,  then I can implement option 3 or 1.

Yes, that sounds like a Plan.  I feel better now I have a plan in place.

Meanwhile, I made Tilda go outside, even though it's raining.  She can sit in the Pampas and keep dry.  She sat under the barbeque table for a while,  before deciding she wanted to go in the walk in run with the Big Girls. 

I let her in, saw Poppy's hackles go up,  so I quickly opened the pop hole so Poppy could go back on the nest.    In the scheme of things, breaking Poppy's broodiness has to take a back seat to getting Tilda access to the others (even if it's only a day pass).

I've been keeping an eye on things both by looking out of the kitchen window and by looking at the RunCam.   The Girls are leaving her alone,  which is a good start.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Shedding stuff

The main shed, the one with the power, is referred to as DH's shed ("your shed", when I talk to him). The other one is referred to as mine ("my shed", when I talk to him.).

I have a large item belonging to him in my shed.  He has chicken stuff in his shed.   I suggested a swap.

I realised that in order to get to the offending item in my shed, we'd need to take some stuff out. Yesterday we ended up having a bit of a clear out,  making final decisions on a number of accumulated stuff.  We ended up with a big pile for the "tip".   I took a large pile of electric fence posts to a local horse rescue centre (which I've been meaning to do for about 2 years now).   I've got some items to freecycle.

"My shed" is tidy, and organised. I can get to anything.

It took half a day.

Wonder how long it will last.....

Friday, 26 July 2013

Decisions made in the heat of the moment, part 2

The next decision made in the heat of the moment took me by surprise.

The garden is busy delivering vegetables and fruit.    I made the cherries into vodka.  I ate the strawberries as they ripened.   

The rasperries and tayberries have been a disappointment,  the lack of rain means that the fruits have been very small.  I've eaten quite a lot, and given the past-best stuff to the Girls.    I thought I might make some raspberry jam, but it's been too hot.   Then I thought I'd dry some.  I needed to get the Dehydrator out anyway, as the pear tree is having a rare bountiful year, and we'll soon be inundated.

I had a look online for some inspiration.

Instead of being inspired by recipes, I found myself looking at new dehydrators.

If I was going to buy a replacement dehydrator, then it needed to be significantly better than the one I had, otherwise there wasn't any point.    I read the mixed reviews of L'equip.  Hmm, probably not one of those then.    My eye was caught by the Excaliburs.    Yes, I could see that horizontal drying would be even better than my current dehydrator.   It looked like a neat little unit.  The user reviews were positive.
I read the comparison charts.  Yep, the Excalibur looked great.  It wasn't extendable, so I might as well go for the 9 tray version.  

 I did some price comparisons.  I looked on Ebay. 

I found a competitive supplier who was also on Quidco.    As my finger hovered over the "add to basked" button, I stopped.  What was I doing?  I don't use the dehydrator anywhere near enough to warrant spending the money.

Step away from the keyboard!

I stepped away.  

I did some other stuff. Made bread,  looked at the growing pile of courgettes. I've made courgette bread. I've fried courgettes and had them in my salad.  I've eaten them raw (not great frankly),  I've fed  some to the chickens.

I thought about dehydrating. Would I really eat "courgette crisps"?  I got some apple leather, made last year, out of the cupboard and munched away.    

Back on the puter. I looked at Excalibur again.  I looked at the comparison chart again.  I noticed  a different make on the chart this time.  I googled it.  I watched a video which directly compared both machines, out of the box. What a great video!  I saw how enormous both machines were.   But the new machine beat the Excalibur hands down. 

I measured where I keep the current dehydrator and the transformer (it's a 110 volt machine so I run it via a transformer).   Hmm, not a lot of difference really (in that way that when you want something, there are no real obstacles).    The Sedona is designed to be used all the time, and you can fit it into a microwave cavity.    Micro processor for accurate temperature (just been reaing about that actually).    Can use half the oven.   Glass door.  Folds down.  Controls on the front.  Quiet.  Timer.       Yep, if I was going to get one - which I wasn't as I didn't need anything that big - it'd be the Sedona. 

As I prepared dinner, I looked at my microwave.   The two dehydraters were no bigger than that.  And how often do I use the microwave?    Once every couple of weeks to reheat frozen rice? And a few times a year to make microwave popcorn?  Why,  I could buy a teeny microwave to do that, and put the dehydrator in its place. And if the dehydrator was there on the worktop I'd be more likely to use it. Wouldn't I?

I downloaded some samples of new dehydrator books on to my kindle.  I read the info, which sadly stopped before any recipes.   I got out my old dehydrator book. I looked online.  
Many of the books are about dehydrating food which is then later reconstituted.  I'm not really interested in that, I'm more interested in drying food to eat dried.

I decided I'd order one.  And I'd order the Excalibur, which was slightly smaller and probably better value.  They are tried and trusted, and well regarded.   If it didn't work out, I could always easily sell it again on Ebay.    

So, remembering to go through Quidco, I went back on to the site.  And I ordered the Sedona!  

Super service, it arrived the following day (Wednesday). It spent Wednesday blocking the hallway while I looked at the enormous box and wondered what on earth had possessed me.  I debated with myself whether to open it or to send it back without opening it. 

I opened it.  DH helped me rearrange the worktop. It fits on there and looks OK.  There was no recipe book, only instructions on how to operate the machine.   I decided to wait until my new dehydrator recipe book arrived before attempting anything.

The book didn't arrive. The mountain of courgettes was getting bigger.

I looked online for courgette recipes.     I made courgette crisps, and I used only the top half of the oven. I seasoned each tray with something different.   I cut up some tomatoes for the last tray. I set it running at 7.30pm, on a 12 hour timer.  Before I went to bed, I switched it to "night time mode" so the fan was even quieter.  It was great.

This morning, I tried some of the crisps.  A bit too thin, like eating rice paper, but they tasted quite good.  Actually, they must have tasted OK because I've eaten all of them now.  And the tomatoes....were really really delicious.  I've saved some to have on my salad.

And I'll be setting another tray of (thicker cut) courgettes this evening.

I've kept the box. And the packaging.  Just in case.


We have quite a few of these gorgeous flowers in the garden, and they are really attractive to bees. 

Yesterday evening I noticed that each head had multiple bees at work -  some had 5 or 6 bees on.

We have a couple of bee hotels by the shed, and I guess that's where the bees are living.  We also found one solitary bee making a nest in the screw hole of the wall mounted hose reel.

Decisions made in the heat of the moment, part 1.

It's been unbearably hot for a while now.  Too hot to do anything, and for the first time in 7 years I found myself missing "going into the Office".  Or, specifically, I found myself missing the air conditioning.

DH and I had talked idly, some time ago, about whether we could put a ceiling fan in the kitchen.  It was only idle chat, and we hadn't really come to any conclusion.

I used to think ceiling fans were useless.  Noisy, wobbly,  ineffective, nasty things.   Many years ago on holiday in New Zealand,  we stayed in a motel which had ceiling fans in the rooms.  I was amazed to find that the ceiling fan (a) worked really well, (b) wasn't noisy, and (c) didn't wobble.    When we returned to the UK,  we bought one for the living room.  And, sometime later,  an enormous one for the bedroom.   The bedroom one, particularly, has been fantastic. (Sorry, I couldn't put off using that word any longer)

So.   The first (and literally) heat of the moment decision was to buy a mahoosive fan for the kitchen ceiling.   Ordered it Monday night, it arrived Wednesday morning and was fitted by Wednesday late afternoon.   We had to remove the "chandelier" from above the worktop, so I ordered one with a light (which I don't normally like).  I'm sorry to see the chandelier go, as it was very handy to hang things from.   Maybe I can relocate it to the other part of the kitchen later.

Fortunately for such a rash decision, the fan works really well. Fan technology has moved on quickly,  and the new one is lower energy,  has six speeds, can take an LED bulb (and is still dimmable) .

I'm wondering whether to upgrade the living room one now....

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

They'll learn. Won't they?

5.30 a.m. I was woken by Roobarb.   Stupid stupid chickens!  I was tired. I was a bit disappointed. 

We'd spent time yesterday (in addition to the time I blogged about)  making sure everyone was OK going in and out of the new opening.  They managed to get themselves in to the Run in the evening.

We'd set the door to open at 5 a.m.   Maybe it hadn't opened?  I got up and  peered out of the bedroom window.  I went and got my specs, and tried again.   I could see that the door had opened.  Stupid chickens.  One night's sleep, and they had forgotten all about it. 

I went downstairs,  avoided the Tilda-bombs (I didn't miss those while she was on holiday!), found the keys and opened the kitchen door.  By the time I got outside, the Girls had magically discovered the open door, and were out munching grass.  

They looked up quizzically as I reached them.  

Butter wouldn't melt in those little beaks.

Monday, 22 July 2013

On Guard!

On Friday, I ordered a ChickenGuard from FlyteSoFancy.

ChickenGuard is one of the two main makes of automatic pop hole opener (the other is VSB). Of course we don't need  to have the pop hole opened: the Cube is attached to a fox-proof walk-in run, so we leave the pop hole open most of the year.

We needed it because Roobarb learned to imitate one of the cockerel chicks, and has taken to crowing at 5am to be let out of the walk-in run, into the garden.    We decided we could fit this device to the walk-in run so it would open automatically in the morning, allowing them to go into the garden without needing to wake us (and our neighbours) up to do so.

Before ordering it, we debated exactly where we would put it.   Our run has a door at each end,  and we vary which one we use depending on which part of the garden we are giving the Girls access to.    I was so fed up of getting up at 5am that I was willing to buy two if necessary, one for each end.    However, that wasn't necessary as we found a spot - just big enough - where we could put it and it would be suitable irrespective of which part of the garden we were giving them access to.

Our walk in run has two Cubes-with-runs attached, next to each other and at right angles to the main run.  There is a narrow corridor between the two Cube runs.    We decided we could put the mechanism inside the run at that point.  This way, it would be easy to operate, we could see from the house whether or not the door was down.

So, having looked at both types of opener,  we chose the ChickenGuard and I bought an aluminium door for it as well.  Over the weekend, DH built a wooden board to put it all on, so that it would stay secure and not weaken the weldmesh. He even painted it to match the wood of the run.

At 8.30 this morning, ChickenGuard and door arrived. DH fitted it to the board, and then fitted the board to the run.
From inside
From outside

We shut the Girls in the run, then opened the new door. While it sloooooowly opened, I went outside, and called them out, offering mealworms as an incentive.   No hesitation on their part (although it took a couple of them a while to find the opening).

When they were all out, I threw mealworms through the opening into the run, to get them to go back in.  Again, no hesitation.

We've shut the main door now, so the only access is via this new opening.  So far so good. 

I suspect that it will take them some time to remember where it is, though.

Let's see what happens.

Back from hols

Tilda spent two nights out with the others.  On the second evening, I saw her eject Lotti from the Cube.. I put Lotti back in, and we ended up with Tilda and Poppy squashed together in one of the nestboxes, and Lotti in the other.

On the third morning it looked as though Tilda wasn't coming back,so I removed all the coop cups out of Tilda's apartment, and put fresh paper down (no Aubiose). I didn't dismantle the cage...just in case.

On the third evening, we had a problem.

I saw Poppy having a telepathic conversation with Custard (big fat ginger chicken, Milly's lieutenant).  It was a bit weird.  Custard normally pecks Poppy (and Lotti) whenever they get in range.    They were standing at an angle to each other. Poppy had her head lowered (not in that "don't peck me" pose) and was nibbling stuff from Custard's front, or her wattles, I couldn't quite see.     There was definitely some telepathy going on, and I wondered what they were talking about.

Then, suddenly, Poppy ran and jumped on Tilda. She did a flying-fling, Hong Kong Phooey style,  a bit like Milly used to do, and landed on top of Tilda. Fortunately, unlike Milly, Poppy doesn't have spurs.  There was a roll of feathers as Tilda tried to respond, and then Poppy was running and Tilda had Poppy's wing clamped in her beak.   Poppy pulled free, and Tilda stood there breathing heavily.

If Tilda had been in better condition, I might have let it play out. I know they have to sort out the pecking order.   However, I could see that Tilda wouldn't be able to fend off another attack - the stress might even collapse again -  so I opened the run door and called her.   She came out.

She spent the next hour sitting under the cherry tree by the back door, nibbling the grass.  While she did so, I made up her apartment for her.  Then she came in and went straight to it.
I've got really mixed feelings about this.

I was a little sad when I thought that Tilda had gone back to the flock permanently. I was going to miss having a house hen (although not miss the clearing up), but I realised that it was better for her overall. 

And yesterday when she came back in, I found I was very sad that she was back -  that it hadn't worked out.

I can't believe that Poppy - my lovely, gentle Poppy - carried out such a horrible attack. It doesn't bode well for future integrations, and I'm a little annoyed with myself for letting Milly influence them for so long.  I had foreseen that once we'd culled Milly and the guilt of doing it had passed, I would wish we'd done it sooner - but it doesn't make it any better.  

This morning, I gave Tilda her breakfast at 5.30am after I'd let the Big Girls out.  At 9am, I picked her up and put her in the Paddock with the Big Girls.

I'll see what happens tonight.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The morning after

I got up this morning to let the Girls out of their run.  

Tilda wasn't with them.

I could hear her breathing, so I went to the Cube to see if she was inside - but she wasn't. She was standing on the verandah.   I assumed she couldn't make it down the ladder, so I opened the side door (which I put in the other day, did I mention that? ), picked her up, and lifted her down.   She ambled into the run to have something to eat.  

I looked carefully, and couldn't see any wounds.  I asked her if she wanted to come out, but she had her head in the feeder and ignored me, so I left her there.

Much later, Florence and Custard were moaning about something, and I went out to see what was up. I couldn't find anything.  I thought they might be complaining about Poppy hogging the nestbox with her extended broodiness, so I took Poppy out and put her in the run so she could have a drink and something to eat.   The others continued complaining.

Then I saw Tilda, in the cul de sac between the two Cube runs.  A god place to be because it was fairly shaded, but a bad place to be when you are the bottom of the pecking order.  No where to run, and too narrow to run past a chicken that is attacking you.  She looked OK - her tail was up. 

Florence walked down there and pecked her on the head, then walked off. 

Eventually Tilda shuffled out. Maybe she wanted rescuing?  I offered her a way out (I opened the side gate) but she shuffled past.

Is this it then?  Has she rejoined the flock?

Is that what the others are moaning about?

Friday, 19 July 2013


I went out to fetch Tilda and, as is now habit, to check that Lotti had managed to get in (she doesn't always manage to run the gauntlet of the three old bags).  No sign of Lotti-hurray, she must have got in.

No sign of Tilda.

I checked again, and started to panic...until I realised that DH had brought her in without telling me.

Except he hadn't.

Gingerley I opened the egg port to see if she was in there. And she was! In the nestbox!

I shut the port and walked back to the house.  Worried.

She obviously wants to be in there- she'd managed to climb the ladder. And they'd let her in.  But would she be OK, bearing in mind they had attacked her before to the point where she died?  That had been the start of her taking up residence in the kitchen.

But she clearly wanted to be there.  Maybe she's on her way out and wants to spend her remaining time with the others?

I don't know.

But she knew what she wanted, so I left her there.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

...and then?

Tilda remained there for some time.

In the end, I went back, opened the run door,and she hopped in.  She received a sharp peck on the head from Roobarb, then she started rooking for corn.  I went and had my dinner.

As soon as i'd eaten, I went back to see how she was. She was under a bench - her usual position for keeping out of beak range. I called her. She looked at me. Did she need rescuing?  Custard was sitting behind the bench, maybe she couldn't risk moving?   I opened the run door and called her. She looked away. I shut the door and watched, she continued to ignore me.  I left her for a while.

About an hour later, DH came in and said Tilda might be ready to come in, she had been standing by the dustbath.  I put on some shoes, and DH called to cancel the suggestion.  She was busy rootling about, and the others were still up.

I decided to leave it until the others had gone to bed. We've done this a few times over the last several months, and Tilda waits under the bench for me to collect her.

Perhaps I should not have done so......

What on earth......?

Later this afternoon, Tilda decided she wanted to get into the Big Girls paddock. She has done this before,so I lifted her in and she took up residence under a spiky shrub.

Later on,the Girls were whingeing for their treat so I shut them in their run with some corn. Tilda stayed put and rejected my suggestion that she might want to come out.

Later still, the Girls were at it again. It was still hot, so I let them back out.

Even later,they started AGAIN, so they were shut away with some foraging treat. 

I tried again with Tilda. She started walking in front of me, then she halted by the spare cube - the run she was put in the other day when we went out. I explained to her that she couldn't go in there overnight as it now had a cube attached, not the bungalow Go.  I opened the side gate so she could go out into the garden,  and the little madam rushed into the cul de sac between the side gate and the cube run!

I hoiked her out and made her walk out of the paddock. She stopped by the walk-in run door. Now, we've had this conversation before.  Last time she did this, I gave in and opened the door for her and, right on cue, Custard had rushed over and pecked her so hard that Tilda's head was on the floor. I reminded Tilda of this, but she obstinately stood there.

I walked back to the house and left her.....

to be continued.....

Yet more things we do for chickens

Tilda, our house chook, has been going out (of her own volition) and sitting under the Pampas grass all day.  I put a special drinker beside her, so she could drink without moving.    Meanwhile, in the Big Girls paddock, I've put a big driker on the outside of the run so that the Girls have easy access to water from all areas.

Tilda doesn't drink much. DH uses the "beak dip" method that one uses with chicks.  After dipping her beak a couple of times, she then drinks voluntarily.    I've tried this too. I've also used a syringe.

I read a suggestion about giving the chooks crushed ice.  I was dubious about this but,  from my cocktail making splurge, I have a couple of bags of ice in the freezer, so I thought I'd give it a go.  I couldn't find a hammer,  so I decanted half a bag of ice into another bag, and banged it against the wall.  When the corner ripped, I turned the bag round and banged the other end.  It wasn't really that satisfactory.

I tipped some bashed ice in front of Tilda where she stared at it and then ignored it.

Unthinkingly, I scooped out a small handful of ice and offered her my palm.  She surveyed it, suspiciously.  My palm was freezing rapidly, and it was reaching the "this is rather painful" point.  She picked up a bit of ice and dropped it. She looked for it, but couldn't seem to see it. She took another piece. I reached my limit and dropped some on the ground for her.

I went to see the big girls.  I rummaged in the bag, and put the unbroken cubes in an empty bowl for them.  i dropped other bits on the grass where they were ignored.  I picked up a handful and offered them to Florence.  She took her time selecting from the proferred objects, but then ate a couple of pieces.  I tried Roobarb who seemed to think that I was offering her something poisonous.   The melting ice was running down my wrist,  who knew it could be this painful? I scattered ice on the grass.    I put lumps in the waterers.

Then I saw them drinking out of the bowl.  I'd run out of home-crushed ice...but I was sure I had a bag of crushed ice (ready for making Mojitos) in the shed freezer.    I found it, put my hand in to pull out a handful of ready-made chips, and then realised that I'd effectively contaminated the whole bag.

Florence and Roobarb had a nibble, but by this time my hand felt like it was no longer part of my body. I picked up a couple of bite-sized pieces, and held them out. The Girls looked at my hand, scrutinising it. The pieces, meanwhile, did what ice does. They melted. By the time Custard was ready to take a bite, there was nothing left.  I picked up bigger pieces. Custard tried straight away, then rejected the lump as too big. I gave in and piled some on the grass for them, and then gave the rest to Tilda.

They are eating a bit.... but it'll be melted before they've cottoned on.

UPDATE: they are eating the remnants off the grass. It may be that next time (as if I'd ever do this again!) they'll eat it more readily.

Too clever by half

You may remember from an earlier post that the dominant cockerel chick, Redhead, had started trying to crow and sounded like a Kazoo. You may also remember that one of the other cockerel chicks was also trying to crow but it wasn't as loud.   In addition, you may remember that we took them down to the allotment on Monday, because this dual crowing attempts early in the morning were likely to cause a nuisance?

Well. The chicks are very happy in their new environment. We've put away their garden home and netting,  I've raked up the poo, we've watered the grass and we're attempting to get our "lawn" back.   We miss the chicks, but it's quite pleasant not having Chickenopolis in the back garden any more.

But back to my original point

Turns out it wasn't one of the other cockerel chicks crowing. 

Nope.  One of our lovely ladies has picked it up as the "let us out" signal, and she's been deploying it every morning before 5 am.   We seem to get a biblical 3 "crows", then there is a short interval  while they  give us time to get up, get downstairs, unlock the kitchen door, cross the garden and let them out.  If we haven't complied within the allotted time-frame,  the rest  add their voices one by one, like a chickeny dawn chorus on steroids - i.e. with the sweet melody of birdsong replaced by harsh rasps and/or sorrowful whingeing (dependant on bird). 

It always amazes me that my chooks pick up habits that suit them immediately, yet habits that don't suit them are almost impossible to ingrain.

This morning as I rushed across the grass, trying not to wake up so that I could go back to sleep afterwards, I came up with the solution.     We're going to put an automatic door in the run.  Chicken-keepers will know that it's perfectly possible to buy devices to open the pop hole (the doorway which lets chickens out of the coop), assuming that you have  a vertically opening door.   We don't use one because we leave out pop hole open all the time (apart from heavy rain) - the coop is in a secure run.   However, we can adapt a pop hole opener to create a doorway in the run for the Girls to let themselves out in the morning.  

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

First Night

We went back to the allotment last night, just before 9pm, to see if the babies had managed to get themselves to bed.    It varies with each group - some  years they've gone in without any trouble, other years they've been unable to find their way in and have been very relieved to see us.

We stopped some way short of the allotment,  but where we could still see what was happening.   Henry and his 6 wives had gone to bed;  the Oldies had gone to bed, apart from Mrs who was still shuffling around.  I was relieved to see her go up into her coop some minutes later.

In the baby corral  the chicks were still up.  They were having a meeting at the bottom of the ladder.

After a few minutes cheeping, the meeting broke up.  Several of the chicks wandered off, and one of them wandered up the ladder.  And down again.  Then another one went up. And down.   And this went on for a little while.  Meanwhile, others were having a last-minute snack or drink;  and a few were clustered in small groups chatting quietly.

Eventually, one of them went in and stayed in.  There was then a succession of ins, until about 7 had gone in.  At this point, someone decided to take the spot by the door and wasn't budging which meant there was something of a blockage.  

Redhead paced around rounding up the other 3 chicks.  8 and 9 went in and then out again.

Part of the problem, I suspect, was that I'd put one set of roosting bars in.  At home a couple o fthem had been trying to roost on the divider between the two poo trays.  I thought that putting one set in would mean that those that wanted to roost could, those that didn't want to would still have plenty of space.

8 went in. 9 was in the doorway when 10 came up behind.  Redhead got on the ladder.   10 flew off the ladder then got on the bottom again. Then got off and flew in front of Redhead. 9 in. 10 in. Redhead in.

All done.

Clever babies! 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


5am, the Kazooing started.  It didn't stop.  Another strangled sound echoed each Kazoo crow.

"Better take them today", said DH.

I got up at 5.30a.m. when the Big Girls started whingeing. I let everyone out, and the Kazooing continued.

We had a few things to do for the morning, so it was about 2pm when we were ready to think about the chicks.  We packed the car with their feeders, the bag of feed, the ladder....  Then I put the Big Girls away, with some watermelon,  we shut up most of the house, and we set about catching 11 not-well-handled chicks.   This took some time. 

Much, much  later, the 11th chick was in the box.  We had 6 in one, and 5 in the other.  And we set off.

On arrival, we shut them in their new coop while we got everything else ready.  Drinkers cleaned, disinfected, filled;  feeders filled; etc etc.  After only about 10 mins (it was too hot to leave them an longer), we opened the pop hole and waited for them to come out.

Eventually 7 of them came out and had a looky round.  The other 4 had to be chivvied along.  They were a bit stressed (of course), so they were panting a bit with that and the heat.   They started eating the grass, and after a few minutes, they were running around quite happily.

The two existing flocks were very interested in knowing What Was Going On.    The Girls from Henry's flock tried to come in and see the new arrivals - not a good idea.  I told Henry and the Girls that these were their babies,  conveniently putting aside for a moment the likely parentage of the two brown chicks.

Once we'd seen some of them have a drink, and some of them eat from the feeders, we left them to it.  

We'll go back late this evening to make sure that they have been able to get to bed.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cock a doodle

The red headed chick, the one who has looked like a fully formed boy from the day he hatched,  is starting to crow.  

It sounds like someone making crowing noises using a kazoo, but it is rather loud.  It wouldn't matter so much, but the weather is so hot that people (by which I really mean our neighbours) have their windows open at night. And at 4.30am when he starts.

A second boy is also crowing, but not so loudly.

This morning, DH got up at 5.30 to let them out of their run (the pop hole was open so they were out in the safety of the Cube run anyway),  and Redhead jumped straight on to the back of the bench and started trying to be the Kelloggs cockerel. 

I think they will be moving to the allotment sooner rather than later.  

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Pizza Pizzaz

We've made our own pizza for a loooong time now.   In the quest for a crust as good as that made by our local Italian restaurant, some years ago I bought a pizza stone.  It worked reasonably well, especially for bread, but we still fell short of that crispness of crust on pizzas.  We tried leaving in the oven, maximum heat, for a hour before using.  We tried partially cooking the base before adding the tomato and topping.     We became adept at using a pizza peel to slide the pizza on to the stone and to scoop it off.

I knew that the problem was the temperature, I just could not get the oven hot enough.

Eventually I realised that we wouldn't get that authentic crust without a pizza oven.  I did some research.  I tried to persuade DH that a wood fired pizza oven was just what we needed, especially as I make some form of sourdough bread, by hand, three times a week.  He was not persuaded.

I looked at mobile wood fired pizza ovens.  I even researched restaurant pizza ovens.

Then the other day, as I was eating ribs cooked on the barbeque,  I realised that I should be able to use the barbeque.

So, today, we put the pizza stone in the cold gas barbeque, fired it up, and left the pizza stone to get really hot. Well,we left it 10 mis until the dial on the bbq told us that the oven was seriously hot.

While we waited, I rolled out the pizza dough , dusted the peel with cornmeal, and put the dough on it. And then we then made the pizza. Half each. Different toppings, same pizza.

I then dusted the  stone with cornmeal, and we slid the pizza on to it.  I reckoned that if it was done in 10 mins or less, then it would be fine.  It wasn't done in ten minutes.  But it was done in about 15 minutes,  and it was really rather good.

Next time, I'll leave the stone for a bit longer before using it. And I won't put cornmeal on the stone. There was enough on the peel for it to slide off.

I think we might have cracked it.  (The pizza making, I mean,  not the stone).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Roost Chickens

The Littlees are 7 and a half weeks old now. We still haven't put the roosting bars in the Cube,  as letting them roost too young is supposed to be a potential cause of breastbone problems.    The chicks, however, haven't read that book and are starting to show an interest in roosting.... on the Cube's wheels,  on the feeders,  on anything they can get their feet on.

So, I put a child's sized garden bench in their area.  They're just starting to use it now.

 Won't be long before it's full of chicks!

The things we do for our Girls....

The last few days it has been excessively hot, and DH and I have taken to sitting at the far end of the garden under the trees.  It's as cool as it's possible to be in our garden there,  and we have a cheap couples seat in place, the type that has a little table in between.

Tilda spends much of the day outside under the Pampas grass by the back door.  The last few days I have collected her and taken her down to the bottom of the garden with us.  There I attempt to get her to drink (she doesn't drink much, despite having a bowl of water placed beside her wherever she is), and she sits under one of the seats, or just on the grass near us.  

We can be seen by the Big Girls when we sit there, and they often line up along the netting and complain about not being able to get in.  (They complain even more when they see  Tilda sitting with us, but I digress).

Today I brought Tilda down and put her by the water bowl next to my seat. She ignored it and waddled into the grass and sat down.  DH joined us, and asked if Tilda had had a drink.  When I said no,  he got up,  got the bowl, and put it in front of her.  She ignored it.  So he lifted it up, and she had a little drink.  So DH stood there for several minutes while she did so. 
(I think the photo software has stitched several photos together to provide a little animation here)

The things we do for them!!