Wednesday 26 November 2008

Milly's first egg (beautiful shade of blue!)

At last!

Milly laid her first egg today. A perfect 57g egg, and the shell is an exquisite bluey green colour. DH found it and phoned me to let me know. And when I got home and saw it, I did the egg dance around the kitchen and went straight round to show C (my lovely next door neigbour).

We've been eggless since early October (Delilah stopped laying when she started moulting, and she hasn't finished yet.), so it was exciting to get an egg at all, never mind a FIRST egg, never mind a BLUE egg.

It's put my thoughts of new hens into complete confusion. I've been debating whether to stick with my three girls, or whether to go and buy a couple of new girlies from Southmead in January. I know I want a white egg layer (so that'll be a White Star), and I'd quite like a Reverse Sussex because they are gorgeous. But the Amber Stars are meant to be really friendly little girls, so I was tempted by one of those (as well? I was trying to work out how to spring three newbies on my DH, especially as it would mean increasing the Run somehow). Although tempted by a Columbine ( a hybrid version of Milly) I had ruled one out as I liked the fact that Milly was Unique. But seeing that pastel coloured egg.....

Fortunately, Tracy doesn't have any of the hens I am considering at the moment, so I can't do anything til Mid Jan (earliest) anyway.

Chicken Keeping

One of my virtual friends, Christian, was on his local TV recently, talking about keeping chickens. I didn't see the original programme as I'm not in that area, but fortunately, it's been posted on YouTube.

His Girls are so lovely, and he talks about chicken keeping with such warmth (without going all OTT).

You can see it here, if you're interested

Monday 17 November 2008

Roast Chicken

You may remember that we went on a course and learned how to dispatch and dress chickens. You may further remember that one chicken ended up in the freezer. I've been referring to this chicken (to myself) as Charlie.

We're having a Goose 3 bird roast for Christmas, and it's coming tomorrow so we needed some freezer space. Time to defrost and eat Charlie.

So. Saturday morning, Charlie comes out out the freezer in his ziplock bag, and is placed in the fridge to defrost. Sunday morning, he hasn't defrosted thoroughly, so we put him in a sink of cold water. He finishes deforsting nicely.

Sunday afternoon..... This is the first time I've prepared a whole bird for...well, probably since before I started keeping chickens. (Remember the last one from the Course was boned and rolled, so he didn't look like a chicken anymore).

This one, sitting on my worktop, looks like one of my Girls, especially when they are moulting and are a bit bald. In fact, now he's defrosted, he feels like one of my girls. Except they are warm and he's cold.


Weigh him to calculate cooking times. 1.4kilos, 3lb. And he was only 9 weeks old. Milly was 11 weeks old when I got her, and she only weighed 500g.


Well. Am I an omnivore or a vegetarian? Make my mind up time. Omnivore. But I still give Charlie to my DH to put an onion in, and to put butter under the breast skin. Charlie goes in the oven.

Dinner time. Now he's cooked, Charlie looks like a roast chicken, and doesn't resemble one of my Girls. DH carves. We try to get three pairs of meals out of a chicken, starting with breast meat with the roast. Breast meat is very dark. I eat some roast potato, some roast veg, working my way around Charlie. Then I try some. A bit dry, we overcooked him really, but really packed with flavour. Very strong chicken flavour. Finished dinner.

Now the rest of him is sitting on the side, waiting to be turned into meals 2 and 3. 2 will probably be a curry; 3 might be risotto.

Slight Wobble. More of a Wob that a Wobble.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Chicken Hunter

Now that winter is here and the grass isn't growing anymore, I've been letting the Girls range freely in the whole of the back garden, in the vain hope that they won't stay in one place long enough to destroy the grass.

The Cats are not too impressed by this, as it means they keep bumping into chickens. My ginger cat, Washburn, often gives me that "Good Grief Charlie Brown!" look, when he has to stop to let a chicken cross the path. Wash and Milly have faced up to each other a number of times now.

The other day I looked out of my bedroom window to see Milly and Wash together. Wash was peering intently into one of the flower beds in the middle of the garden, and Milly was standing next to him, also peering intently. The other two Girls were milling around, not taking much notice. I realised that they must be watching a mouse or something.

Nothing happened for a while, and I decided to get my camera. Of course, by the time I got back things had moved on. I saw Milly running into the Run, with Wash chasing. Wash wouldn't go into the Run. Milly dropped the mouse, for that's what they were after, and the mouse scampered around the run, hiding under a log.

I went outside at this point, and found Wash running around the outside of the Run but not going in. I called him, and we went into the Run together. He settled into a crouch position by the log, waiting for the mouse to appear. Milly settled beside him, also watching the log. The other Girls were running around bokking loudly, obvisouly trying to make me aware that there was a strange Cat in the Run.

This was so funny. I got my camera ready, and tried (unsuccessfully) to get a picture of what happened when the mouse appeared. He scampered from the log to the underneath the Cube, purseued by a streak of ginger (Wash) and a streak of chicken (Milly). Then the mouse popped outside the Cube run, and looked at me.

At that point, I couldn't continue assisting, nor could I stand by and take pictures. So I went outside the Run, and tried to catch him. I was hampered by the flower troughs, and Ikept seeing a ginger paw poking through. Wash and Milly then realised that the mouse was outside, so they came out too.

There were now three of us trying to catch the little mousey, all staring intently at the troughs.

I realised that I couldn't catch him. As soon as I lifted a trough, Wash and Milly were there trying to grab him. So, reader, I left them to it. They didn't get him though, I think he snuck quietly through the other side of the Cube run and out to freedom.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Musical Chairs, continued

OK, so tonight they are all in the nest box.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Musical Chairs

Went out this evening to shut the Cube door, and took a peep inside the Cube to see how the Girls were arranged.

Before Scarlett died, we always had Delilah & Scarlett on the roosting bars, and Jasmine & Milly in the nest box. I wondered whether Delilah might have let the Littlees on the roosting bars, or whether she might have joined them in the nest box.


I found Milly on the roosting bars, and Delilah and Jasmine in the nest box.

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out over the coming evenings.

After Scarlett

This morning I watched the behaviour of the Girls in their Run, as I can see it from my bedroom window.

I believe that they will "miss" Scarlett for only a very short time, then they will forget. The reason I believe this is that I know if you take a chicken away and then try and reintroduce it a few days later, she is not recognised and is treated as any new chicken is treated.

Delilah will feel the loss more than the Littlees, as she no longer has anyone to range closely with. In the Run she keeps trying to be with the Littlees; if they fly onto one of the perches, she flies up there tool if they are in a corner, she wants to be in the corner too. The problem is that Delilah has taught the Littlees to Get Out Of Her Way, so now whenever she gets close to them, they move away.

I'm going to let them out to free range shortly, and it will be interesting to see how they behave.

Monday 3 November 2008

Goodbye Scarlett

Scarklett -my gorgeous,quirky, Transylvanian Naked Neck, died during the night. She was just over a year old.

Last Wednesday I found that she had an impacted crop. I started to treat her with olive oil and maggots, switching to liquid paraffin and warm water when I read that too much olive oil is hard for them to process.

The crop massaging worked well, and she was able to eat. I treated her three times on Thursday, as her crop was hardening up again during the day. Friday, I took her to the vets, although by the time the only-available-appointment time arrived, her crop was much better, smaller and softer.

The Vet gave me a liquid qhich contained antibiotic, probiotic and something else, as it was possible that my impacted crop mught develop into sour crop. Treatment continued over the weekend, with us seeing some improvement in Scarlett herself, but still a fairly full crop each morning.

Yesterday she was wandering around the garden with the others, quite happily. This morning though, when I opened up the Cube at 7am to let them all out, she was dead.

I have been going through everything wondering if I did something wrong. Maybe I got water in her lungs? Why didn't I spot the problem sooner? etc etc. I don't think I did get fluid in her lungs, I guess it's just part of my grief that it making me question everything.

I'm consoling myself by being grateful for small mercies. She had a happy day yesterday, she was scratching about in the pen with her friends before bedtime, she went to bed without any trouble, she died in her sleep rather than suffering over a few days. I took her to a chicken specialist vet, so I don't have to question whether the treatment was right. She was very much loved, and I believe she had a happy life.

I am grief stricken. I don't really have a favourite hen, as all my girls have something unique and lovely going for them; but treating a hen three times a day creates a strong bond. She was also the first chicken that I bathed and blow dried.

Goodnight little girl

Saturday 1 November 2008

Four Musketeers (at last!)

It's official. The Girls are now free ranging as a flock instead of in two pairs.

They had done this from time to time before;each time, Delilah would realise what was going on and would chase the Littlees away with a sharp peck. The other day we noticed they were all together, but thought it might be justa fluke, especially as they sleep in pairs, in separate "rooms ", in the Cube.

It's bitterly cold outside,and quite windy. I've done my weekly rake and disinfect of the pen, washed and refilled the Glugs, and cleaned out the poo trays in the Cube. The Girls have been wandering as a group round the back garden during this time, popping back to inspect my handiwork when I finished the Run.

I've just been out to check they are OK (it's too cold to have the back door open, so I know I'm taking a Fox risk), and I couldn't find them. Then I heard a gentle bokking, and found them snuggled together under a shrub. Yes.Together. All four of them.