Wednesday 25 February 2009

Don't move, extend.

Yesterday the lucky Girls had a 1 metre extension added to their (already spacious) Run!

I bought it, third hand, from a fellow Omleteer some months ago, and it's been sitting in the shed waiting until we got the two newbies.

The photos don't do it justice.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

No salt peas, we're Chickens

Salt isn't good for the Girls.

For that reason, whenever I heat up some BirdsEye Petits Pois I've taken to not adding salt so that the Girlies can have the spare. Its funny how so many seem to fall in the saucepan now that I've got chickens.

It's taken a while, but I'm about used to salt-less peas now. I never added much salt anyway, as BEPP are so sweet and tender anyway. And I suppose it helps that when our own sugar snap peas are ripe I can't get them into the house before I've eaten them....and there's no salt in the garden.

I've just cooked some Pardina lentils (the only lentils I've every found I could eat) ready to add to the vegetable soup I'm making for my dinner tonight. I wonder if the Girls like lentils?

Power naps

My White Ranger, Lillibet, has started to take power naps. Should I be worried?

She's eating well, still rushing around like she has a rocket up her bottom, still perky. Earlier on when I looked through the kitchen window, she was on one of the garden chairs, all tucked up with her head under her wing. She was breathing slowly, regularly, peacefully.

Then she suddenly leapt up, and went rushing round the garden again.

A few minutes ago, I saw that she was on the arm of the chair, this time she was standing up but with her head under her wing again. She stayed like that for a while, then again leapt up and went off to eat.

How weird!

Thursday 19 February 2009

Noisy girls

The last few nights have been - relatively speaking - fairly mild. Having checked the detailed weather forecast for our area to make sure that there were no overnight freezing temperatures expected, a few nights ago we decided to leave the Cube door partially open. (The run is secure).

The Girls managed to get themselves up in the morning, much earlier than we've been letting them out, which was great. A lie in at last! Trouble is, they've been used to being let out to free range about an hour after being let out of the Cube. So, the noise started.

It's mainly Leelu (Delilah). She starts off with a bit of bokking, which progresses to a bit of a sad wail, which gets louder AND LOUDER AND LOUDER. Can't really hear the others, maybe they don't bother as Leelu is doing such a good job.

Chickens are creatures of habit. When it suits them, anyway. So I thought we might try and get them into a newhabit. A new habit of not-being-let-out-to-free-range-until-five-hours-after-they-get-up type of thing. I appreciate that it might seem a bit....extreme... making them wait 5 hours, but I know that last year the little poppets were getting themselves up at four in the morning in the summer. 4am+5 hours is 9am. It just means that right now, they aren't getting let out until 11am.

When I'm down in the kitchen I can't hear them. Not at all. Not with the doors and windows closed. But they can hear me. And my DH can hear them when he's in his study. When I grind the coffee, the get very excited. When they hear the espresso pump, they are beside themselves.

I try not to look out of the french windows when I'm having my coffee and toast. I can see them all lined up against the side of the run, staring at me. It's very much like "Chicken Run", in fact.

I'm hoping that they will just get used to it.

I've been worried about whether next-door are bothered by it. Their house is at a slight angle to ours, and their child's bedroom is at an angle whereby I'm sure the poor kid can hear them.
They took a parcel in for me today, though, and didn't say anything, so it might be that the noise isn't too bad with the fence in the way.

Cheese, again

We've been maturing the most recent brie, trying several different options.

We cut the brie into three pieces. Well, it would be fairer to say that we cut what was left of the brie into three pieces, and decided to trial different storage methods.

One piece went into one of my airtight cake carriers (it'll never be used for cake again, as that cheesey smell just won't wash out).

Another was put in the fridge in greaseproof paper.

And the third was in the fridge in clingfilm.

Piece One sat on the kitchen table. The box got a bit humid. We got a bit worried. We anticipated mouldy cheese. I mean mouldy as in bad mould , because Brie is covered in mould anyway, that's what the furry white stuff is. In fact, the cheese ripened beautifully in these conditions, we caught it running away through the plastic trivet. We decided that anymore ripeness would be too much ripeness, so we ate most of it and put the rest in the fridge.

The other two pieces stayed firm.

It was all delicious.

I can see naother trip to the supermarket for another 8 pints of milk coming up.....

And now, Beer.

Following the success of the Cider, DH has now decided to try beer. Properly. Our utility rooom is now host to a brewing keg thingummy. Bought some kit from the ever helpful Art-of-Brewing (along the road from Chessington), and decided to start with some premium ale or other. Excluding the outlay on the pressurised keg thing, it should be reasonably cheap. Bad news for the chaps at Stella Artois, if this works, as DH has assured me that he'll be drinking his home brewed bitter instead of buying Stella.

Wonder if it'll taste any good?

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Some you win..

Well, the ROsehip & Hibiscus was lovely. And it was even more delicious as the new tea bags are still in date (the old ones had a use-by of Jan 2006).

I mentioned that I bought some additional varieties while I was at it. It's been a bit mixed.

First up, Wintergenuss, which is a a Winter spiced tea. Smells of cloves, juniper, cinnamon. Tastes good. Milfords are promoting their teas for "iced tea" a lot, so I'm going to try it cold as well.

Next, Rosehip and Seabuckthorn. I have no idea what Seabuckthorn is, but I know I like Rosehip. The bags smell divine. The tea...well, it wasn't great. I'll try it as an iced tea sometime, as it might be better cold.

Thirdly, Rooibos and Lemongrass. I like Lemongrass. I liked the sound of Rooibos (Mma Ramotswe drinks it all the time). Not my cup of tea at all.

I've got two other flavours to try. A mint tea, which I'm expecting to be horrible. One of my friends, and one of my daighters-in-law like Peppermint tea; I've got some in the cupboard for them, but I don't like it. And the other is some sort of herbal-g00d-for-you blend. I think I need to work up to that one.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Tea infusions

I've tried various herbal teas and fruit infusions over the years, and I've always been disappointed. They smell tempting, but the taste just doesn't live up to the smell. I've tried various blends, numerous brands, and it's always been the same story.

A few years ago now a colleague of mine was over from Germany, and she'd brought some fruit tea with her. She offered me some and I declined, explaining what I'd found. She told me that this particular tea was different, it was really full flavoured. So, I tried it, and she was right!

I went online and ordered a load from an online German retailer, and stocked up. The shipping costs were quite high, so I bought a lot, to make it worthwhile. I found the tea invaluable when I was trying to lose weight, as I would make myself a cup every time I had a snack craving. No, it wasn't the same as eating chocolate, or cheese, or crisps, or whatever, but it gave me something to do, and gave my stomach something which my mouth liked.

I hadn't drunk it for about a year and, as I'm trying to stop snacking, I rooked around my cupboards to find them. I had a few bags in an airtight container, which taste fine. And an unopened box, which has a use by date of January 2006. These didn't smell of anything, so they've gone on the compost heap.

I've been online and ordered a fresh supply (including some other flavours), and I hope they arrive before I run out of the ones in the airtight box.

Oh, in case you are interested, they are made by an Austrian tea company, Milford, and the flavour is Hagebutte (Rosehip & Hibiscus).

Monday 9 February 2009

Poor Jasmine

My poor little girl.

Jasmine is a funny little chicken. Well, a funny large chicken. We've had her since she was 12 weeks old, same time as we got Milly. She's always been incredibly shy and prone to panic. When we finally introduced Milly and Jasmine to Scarlett and Delilah, Jasmine was immediately bottom in the pecking order.

Following the (accidental) introduction of Newbies Daisy and Lily, it seems Jasmine remains bottom of the pecking order. Daisy and Lily make her move for no reason, and I always have to find ways of making sure she gets a share of the afternoon treats.

While things have been settling down, Lily and Daisy have been sleeping in the nest box, with the 3 Oldies sleeping on the roosting bars. Last night I went out to shut the Cube door (it's still very cold at night), and was saddened to see that four girls were on the roosting bars and poor Jasmine was on her own in the nest box. I know I'm anthropomorphosising (sp?), but I felt so sorry that she has been pushed out. Poor little heart.

Of course, she might just prefer to be on her own.

Friday 6 February 2009


There have been a few squabbles, but nothing major, certainly nothing as nasty as when we introduced the Littlees.

There's been a bit of blocking the Newbies out of the Cube; Lily (newbies) has been chasing Jasmine (poor Jasmine!); Daisy (newbie) has been bullying Milly. But now I see them sharing porridge without any trouble, and they continue to spend time as a group of 5 and also in their original 3+2. I guess we'll know that peace has really broken out if and when we see them free ranging in different groups.

The snow has been melting over the last day or two. I miss seeing the chicken footprints (like convict prints) in the snow. The Cube has been incredibly warm inside, 3.9 degrees when the outside temp was 0.7. That's one of the very big positives of having extra duvets in the cube!

We've decided to put a couple more panels of clear corrugated pvc roofing down one side of the Run, replacing the Omlet shade, which will mean the whole of one side has weather protection but still lets in light. The roofing doesn't go completely top to bottom, we want to make sure the air can circulate.

All the girls ate porridge today, four of the five bowls were completely empty. I need to add some Limestone flour to the porridge for couple of days, as the last egg laid by Delilah had quite a thin shell.

The only one regularly laying is Milly, bless her. We get lovely blue egg most days from her.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

The Day After

Up ths morning at 6.15. Filled the drinkers in my kitchen, and made chicken porridge. Outside in the dark to put everything out, then opened up the door to let them emerge.

Nothing. It was obvously a bt too early. Milly emerged eventually, and ate porridge while I shone the torch for her. No one else was budging. Investigation showed that Delilah didn't want to come out, and she wasn't letting the others out.

More torch shining, and a bit of minor cursing from me, for getting up too early. Jasmine came down the ramp.

Eventually, the Newbies popped out, but Delilah wasn't budging. She looked OK, so I went back to bed.

Got up again after half an hour, and from my bedroom window I could see that everyone was up and about, and Milly was in the nest box.

After showering and dressing, I came downstairs. Hair wet, so can't risk going outside in the snow. Still no Milly. DH offered to go and check the nestbox to make sure she was OK. She was.

Now it's 8.15. Milly still in the Cube. Others wandering around. Delilah rooking through the flooring. A bit of bossiness going on, intimidation rather than pecking. Poor Jasmine, was bottom of 3 is now going to be bottom of 5, poor thing.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Sleeping arrangements

It's been very stressful today, with them all being together unexpectedly. There was a reluctance to return to Quarters, so they all stayed down by the kitchen. There was obviously some sort of Hen-politicking going on, about who was going to go where first.

Milly and Jasmine lumbered back to the Run eventually. Then Lily. Then Daisy. Then Delilah ambled back. By the time she got to the door, Lily had come out and gone into the Eglu Run. Then Lily came back to get Daisy, and they ambled off towards the Eglu run, but were dithering. Delilah came out of the Run and started to amble back to the kitchen.

I had debated whether to shut them all in the Big Run, but decided that I'd let them choose. We had decided, however, that if the Newbies went back to the Eglu, we'd transfer them to the Cube when it was daark (getting up very early in the morning to let them out before anyone woke up).

As soon as I saw Lily and Daisy waddle off, I regretted my decision to let them choose.

I went out wth some corn, and as soon as they were all in the Big Run, I shut the door and went back into the house. Then we watched and waited, ready to go out and release the Newbies if there was any trouble.

A lot of time passed. More hen-polticking. Then Delilah went to bed. Time passed, and Jasmine followed. Then Milly. Then the Newbies were on their own. Daisy seemed quite calm, but Lily seemed a little stressed, she was walking around the Run a lot.

We discussed whether to let them out and proceed with our transfer plan. We discussed whether to move the Eglu into the Big Run. In the end I decided we'd see what the Girls did. They would (a) try and go into the Cube (b) try and roost on one of the perches or (c) not settle. If it was (b) we'd move them when it was dark; if it was (c) we'd take them to the Eglu or bring the Eglu to them.

Daisy flew up on to one of the perches and settled down.

Then Lily walked up the ladder. I helpd my breath. She got to the top. Would they let her in? (Delilah used to block the entrance so that Milly couldn't enter.

She went in. Daisy flew down from the perch and wandered around, then she climbed the ladder too, and went in!

Oh my goodness!!

This is such good news....although it doesn't mean everything is OK. We'll have to get up before it gets light tomorrow, while the Girls are still asleep, so that we can open the Cube door before they wake up and start fighting.

Chickens in the Snow

I think I might use that last one for this year's Christmas Cards.

Accidental introductions

This morning it's gorgeous outside. Bitterly cold, lots of snow, but it's very sunny. I wanted to empty the poo trays as I was concerned the frozen turds would be acting like little ice blocks in the night.

Opened up the Oldies run so they could come out and explore the snow while I did them, which they did. Did the Newbies poo tray, and then let them out. Went back to the Oldies Cube to put some extra bedding in, and suddenly I was joined by Lily, who had flown over her netting (despite her clipped wing). She landed beside me, and then started to stroll towards the Oldies.

There wasn't any point in trying to stop her, but I was very worried. Then she walked into their run. Delilah, the boss, was in the nestbox, oblivious to the invasion. Jasmine and Milly just stared, as Lily walked around the run, stuck her head in a feeder, and had a good explore. Milly and Jasmine complained, and Delilah came down to see what was happening.

She and LIly just looked at each other. Then Lily continued exploring. Delilah pecked her tail - but not particularly viciously.

Meanwhile, Daisy stayed in the Eglu run. I was concerned now that Lily would join the Oldies, and Daisy would be on her own. I spent ages trying to encourage her out. DH came and helped, still she wouldn't come out.

DH had to go. Milly and Delilah were sharing porridge, Milly had some on her comb. Lily pecked it off Milly's comb. I resisted the urge to rush in and clean Milly. Lilly carried on rooking round in the Hemcore lookng for something to eat.

Much, much later, I managed to get Daisy out of the run, and I temporarily shut the run door so she couldn't get back in. I picked her up and put her down outside the Oldies run. She had an explore in the snow, around a shrub, and worked towards the Run door. Then she was in.

They all look a bit shell shocked, and I feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for the trouble to start. I opened the door at the other end of the Run so that if there is trouble, there is an escape route. In fact, I think I'll go out and open the third door under the Cube, just to make sure it's difficult for a hen to be cornered.

Monday 2 February 2009

Let it snow!

Wish I'd taken pics before I'd cleared the snow off the Hen Pens!

Wedding cake, part 2

This morning, I made the bottom tier of my (step) daughter's wedding cake. It's in the oven, and will be for some time.

I emailed her with my progress, and I thought I'd share it here.

Equal quantities (350g each) of unsalted butter and soft dark brown sugar are creamed together. We used to go this with a hand mixer, thank goodness for my KitchenAid as this took quite a long time

While this was beating, I weighed out and sieved 350g flour, plus various spices...
..and cracked 6 eggs into a separate bowl and beat them together

Eventually, the butter sugar mixure was smooth and creamy, and had gone a very pale brown. I then started to beat in the egg mixture, a teaspoon at a time. 6 eggs, one teaspoon at a time, took forever.

Time passed.

More time passed.

Even more time passed.

Eventually, all the egg stuff was incorporated, and I could fold in the flour....

...and then the soaked fruit, treacle, lemon & orange zests, nuts...

And then into the prepared tin....
which then has a bt of extra protection, ready for it's long stint in the oven (about 5.5 hours)

Updated Tuesday morning:

I took some photos after I took it out of the oven. I left it in its tin to cool for a few hours, then turned it out.
It weighs 2.8 kilos, 6 pounds 3 oz.

Snow Way!

The Girls aren't too happy about the snow.

The Oldies stood at the top of the steps, and refused to come out; The Newbies peeped around the door, and decided to stay put.

DH went off to get a rake to clear the two Runs as, despite the rooves, there was a thick snow carpet; I made some pellet porridge. The Oldies came out to eat the porridge in the cleared run. The Newbies came out after some persuasion, but still won't eat porridge.

An hour and a half later, I went out with some mixed corn, and checked the water. The mixed corn was devoured quickly,then everyone went back to bed.

At 11.00, I went out with more porridge. Milly came down and ate lots, Jasmine came down and didn't, Delilah wouldn't come down. I sprinkled mixed corn on the Newbies porridge, hopoing to entice them to eat it.

Checked that the drinkers were still working.

At 12.30, I went out with mixed corn and a kettle of hot water. I put a little hot water in all the drinkers. Everyone wanted corn. Put some on the bird table for the wild birds as well. Girls went back to bed afterwards.

Snowing again. At about 3pm, DH and I went out and put some more clear roofing panels on the Newbies run, to give them a bit more protection. More corn.

4.15pm, went out to give everyone their final bit of corn. Will be shutting them in their respetive houses as soon as they have gone in, so that they start to warm up as early as possible. Think I need to repeat the comb protecton for Milly, and will apply some to Delilah too. Will do it after they've been shut up for the night.

Sunday 1 February 2009

First steps in freedom

Came back from dropping DH at the pub and, although windy and still freezing cold, the sky was beautiful clear blue and the sun was shining. I had about an hour before I needed to go out again, so I decided to let the Newbies out into the garden.

I started by putting a lettuce in the Oldies run, to keep them occupied. Then I let the Newbies out, and left the "gate" open in the fencing. They were soon through the gate, and exploring around the Oldies run. The Oldies suddenly spotted that the Newbies were out, and lined up along the edge of their Run, posturing. The Newbies seemed oblivious to this, and ambled around pecking here, pecking there.

I had to pop out at one pint as I lost sight of them; I coul tell where they probably were by the direction of the stares from the Oldies. The Newbies were exploring the shrubs we have in the middle of the garden.

I don't really want to make them take turns at free ranging like this, but I don't have enought netting to provide two completely safe areas. Still, it will only be for a few days.


Blimey, it's cold. The wind is vicious, and the chooks are looking very buffeted. They obviously aren't really feeling the cold though, because they are all wandering around nibbling the grass.

Changed the size of the Newbies paddock this morning, and then went out again and changed the shape to try and bring it closer to the house. There seems to be no squabbling over the corn when I put it along the paddock perimeter, which seems a bit too good to be true.

I want to let the Newbies free range for a bit, so they get used to the garden before we move to trying joint free ranging. Trouble is, it means shutting the Oldies away so they can do it. I was going to do it later today, but it really is bitter outside so I'll have to see.