Sunday 29 March 2009

5 out of 5!

Yay! Daisy has laid her first egg!

It's absolutely gorgeous, a lovely mid brown shade. It weoghed in at 45g which is a good size for a first egg. I egg danced across the garden and rushed in to show DH.

Here's one from each...

Friday 27 March 2009

Noisy girls!

The Girls have been getting up - and then complaining - earlier and earlier. Thank goodness for the upcoming clock change. Shutting them in didn't work, in fact it made it worse. Covering the front of the run worked for maybe one day, then it seemed to give Delilah more to moan about. Jasmine, who I think has Goose somewhere in her parentage, likes to pick up when Delilah needs a break.

It's reassuring to know that it's probably not as bad as it seems, because we are directly in line and above where the Girls like to stand.

I guess the final option will be to just give in and let them out to free range at silly o'clock, but that is a Big Risk because of the foxes.

We'll see.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

On the cusp

Millie is going broody.

Every day for the past few days, she has spent ages in the nestbox. Each time I've gone to have a look, she's done that wonderful chicken growl that is meant to scare me away. Each time I've moved her, I've found her incubating eggs.

First day I caught her at it, she was incubating the two dummy eggs and her own. The dummy eggs (and hers of course) have been removed. Second day, she was incubating Jasmine's egg; third day, Delilah's and Lily's; today it was Delilah and Jasmine's. As with the other days, I hoiked her out and put her in the garden. As with other days, she then seemed to forget about being broody...until the next morning.

I'm thinking that if she slips into it fully this time I might just let her get on with it. I'm not sure how it will affect the other Girls though, I don't want them to end up laying their eggs in the garden. Hmmm. Have to see, I think.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Solar water heating

At last, DH has had an opportunity to fit the solar panels for the water heating!

it's been some time now since the bits arrived, and since the special cylinder was fitted; with a few consecutive days of forecast good weather (and getting fed up of moving the frame every time we wanted to get to the cupboards in the study) DH was able to hire one of thos platform thingys so he could get on to the roof in safety.

It took a couple of days in total, which included building the platform, putting up the panel, connecting it to the pipes, testing it, fitting the tubes, testing it again, changing the settings, and then dismantling the platform.

It's been very efficient at heating the water during the day, needed some tweaking to get the settings right for overnight. We'll see what happens later today when the sun has gone down.

It doesn't look too awful on the roof, either, so that's a bonus.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Wedding Cake (again)

DsD, partner & 3 kids arrived late on Friday night, so that she and I could spend Saturday decorating her wedding cake. Poor cats did a runner, as they are used to (relative) calm.

Saturday morning, after a proteracted breakfast, we managed to get started, and spent ages trying different things on two cake dummies that I had bought specifically for that purpose.

Eventually, we had a good idea of what we were going to do, so we started icing the cakes. There was a bit of a problem with the top layer, which I can't explain here as we were doing something "clever". However, we fixed it.

We iced the cake and the board, and eventually got it all smoothed down. A bit of hand-slapping and smoothing, and the top and sides were smooth and shiny. I used some royal icing to pipe around the bottom to hide the join. We then decorated the top - I can't say much more here until after the wedding.

Then it was time to tackle the bottom layer.

This was huge; not only wre we icing the top and sides, we were also icing the board at the same time. We broke the huge mound of icing into several smaller pieces, and kneaded each one individually, then combined them into one huge pile.

I had shown my DsD the importance of rolling all the way across the icing in one go, without stopping. If you stop part way, you end up with a dent. When the circle was small it was fine, but as it got bigger she found she had to use her forearms as well, and eventually she ran out of arm.

We then had an enormour circle of icing to lift without breaking, and we had to get it onto the cake first time as the cake was now glazed with sherry. We did it. Smoothing it down was OK, and as soon as we had it smooth and hand-slapped, I piped around the join.

This was the easier layer to decorate as we were using some icing lilies and some small ribbons.

We finished off the boards with some ribbon, and then had a look at the two together. We're very pleased with them.

I'll post pics after the wedding.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

A present from Daisy

being the owner of Cats, I'm used to the little pressies they like to leave. Mice, usually; some whole, sometimes just the intestines, occasionally still alive.

This afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen with the door open as DH was erecting scaffolding (more about that later) and I couldn't actually get the door shut.

The Girls decided to come in and say hello, and were shooed out. And then Daisy hopped up the step with a dead mouse in her beak. She then dropped it on the mat, and just looked at me.

I think she wanted to do a swap for some mixed corn.

Chickens, Cat and Mouse, and Benny Hill

DH just came in, chuckling. Washburn (ginger cat) had caught a mouse but had then managed to lose it. Cat was watching for Mouse by a planter, with Jasmine (our least intelligent Girl) standing the other side, also watching.

I was getting a sense of deja vu at this point, having been through something similar with Wash and Milly some months ago.

DH went out to rescue Mouse, but the poor thing bit him and got dropped.

Too late to save him, DH came in.

We then saw Delilah running past the kitchen window with the mouse in her beak, hotly pursed by Jasmine. Every time Delilah stopped to try and take a bite Jasmine tied to steal it., so Delilah had to pick it up again and run on (The mouse was definitely dead by now,otherwise we would have intervened).

Delilah hid behind a flowerpot, and I went out to take a picture.

Delilah, presumably thinking I was after her mouse, was then off again pursued relentlessly by Jasmine. They ran past Milly who had no idea what was going on but being a Chicken, decided to join in anyway.
And as Delilah passed Lily, she joined in too

And I had the wonderful spectacle of a full-on chicken chase around the garden, a la Benny Hill.

They were all moving so quickly, it was difficult to get the pictures.

Creatures of Habit

Some time ago, one of my brothers asked if he could have our old "pond". It's one of those cheap circular plastic things that you bury in the ground, we'd been using it to hold our stone fountain but it eventually sagged and needed replacing with something stronger. It was relegated to standing somewhere behind the shed.

When Darling Brother 2 (DB2) asked about it, we eventually uncovered it, cleaned it up, found the flaps, and then put it by the back door ready for him to collect.

During the winter, it filled up with rainwater. And then the chickens started to use it as theit water supply. It never ceases to amaze me that the Girls (and the Cats) like to drink from dirty puddles or other stagnant pools.

The cats drink from anywhere on it, but the Girls only ever drink from one little section. I've now found myself keeping it topped up, and emptying it, cleaning it, and refilling it for them every so often.

It's been very warm for a few days, and the level of the water in their one section has gone down considerably, to the point where they have to stick their heads deep deep deep inside. But still they insist on only using that one section.

Funny girls.

I didn't fill up their little section, and they got very vocal about it. In the end, in fear of upsetting the neighbours, I gave in and topped it up.

They rewarded me by having a Benny Hill chase with a mouse.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Marzipanning a Cake

DsD is coming atthe weekend so we can decorate her wedding cakes together. So, today, I needed to get the bottom layer marzipanned.

The cake has been fed once a week or so since it was made, so it looks very rich

I put the apricot jam on to boil...

..and set about kneading the marzipan. The cake is 10 inches in diameter, so it needed about 2 and a half pounds of marzipan.

I used a little bit of the marzipan to fill "sultana" gaps, and taround the bottom of the cake.

Next, I measured out the size of the cake including the sides, so I knew how big a circle of marzipan I need.

By this time, the jam was ready.... I covered the cake with it.

And then I rolled out the marzipan, and lifted it on to the cake.....

....then with some smoothing and cutting, it was eventually done.

Monday 16 March 2009

Getting bigger

Lily laid her second egg for us this morning. At 47g, it was more than 25% heavier than yesterday's.

Last night we tried putting a shade across the front of their Run to discourage them from standing there and squwarking so early. DH is sure it wasn't as loud as normal this morning, I'm not convinced. We'll see tomorrow.

Delilah and Lily laid at a similar time, so the Announcing of The Egg was a bit longer (and louder) than normal, so maybe that coloured my judgement. Fortunately they didn't lay until about 9am, so it's not too unreasonable.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Small but perfectly formed

Our first egg from Lily.

Teeny tiny at 37g, it's small - but perfect. Next to it, for comparison, is one of Delilah's normal eggs.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Nigella's Clementine Cake

My sister-in-law and her husband are staying overnight, and I thought I'd try making Nigella Lawson's infamous Clementine Cake as a treat. I had plenty of Clementines, and plenty of eggs (the recupe requires 6). Even better, Ms Lawson says that it's best made the day before.

So, I made it yesterday. I've just tried it and.... I don't really like it. It's meant to be a "moist" cake, but I would describe it as "soggy". It's definitely cooked, the skewer came out clean. It's just a bit wet. And bitty.

I've looked online but, with one or two exceptions, everyone seems to rave over it.

Oh well. If the inlaws don't like it, the wild birds will have a feast! Just seems such a waste of 6 eggs

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Bloody chicken

Just went out to let the girls out to free range, and noticed that there was blood on Lily's head. I managed to scoop her up (fortunately, despite being very flighty, she's started crouching for me) and bundled her into the kitchen. I left her with some corn, and went to look inthe Cube to see if there was blood there too.

There wasn't any in the Cube, and there wasn't any on Lily yesterday when I picked her up, so I'm assuming that it happened this morning. I have to start by assuming that one of the other Girls is the culprit, although I'll go and check the hanging things in the Run shortly. And it could be that she caught herself while scratching.

Chickens get very excited at the sight of blood, and even if it wasn't one of the others that caused the problem, it's common for chickens to start attacking the area that is bleeding.

I was on my own, and holding a flighty chicken while trying to bathe the blood off her with wet cotton wool was not easy. The situation wasn't helped by Washburn, my ginger cat, coming to see what the fuss was about; seeing a chicken trapped in my arms, he was remarkably confident around her, but that didn't last as I let her go to re-wet the cotton wool, she flapped her wings, and Wash ran off.

Anyway. After several attempts, I managed to wash off most of the blood, and I think there is only one wound. I put on some rubber gloves and sprayed the wound with Gentian violet; I didn't realise that Gentian Violet when sprayed is a bit like blowing ink out of a fountain pen. Good job we have a solid floor that is easily cleaned. And a good job I had thought to cover Lily's eyes.

Anyway, aftet I'd GV'd her, I opened the french window and she bolted for freedom, stopping immediately outside to start eating the grass. She looks very punky at the moment.

The other side is a bit more dramatic, as the GV sort of splashed down her side a bit. I've taken a dozen photos but she just moves too quickly for me to catch it.

I've seen Milly chasing her, but I haven't seen any real attacking going on. I'll have to keep a close eye on them to make sure there aren't any problems.

Inspection of the Run shows that the Peckablock couldbe the cause. The end of the hook is quite sharp, and it's possible she caught the top of her head on it while eating the top of the Peckablock. I've bent it round, and will go out with some tape shortly.

The Chicken Roundabout - again

It really is based on true events, even down to the couple next door who hated the chickens!

I enjoyed the book so much that I left a comment on the website about it. To my surprise and delight Tom Honeywood, author, emailed me back to say:

Although the book is a fiction many aspects are inspired by real events.

Certainly the chickens pre-date the roundabout by many years, and there were chickens kept at the gate keepers cottage.

There was an eccentric old lady in the old railway gatekeepers cottage who was placed there by the council because she wouldn't settle into an old peoples home. She was known to hiss at people who walked past!

Of course the building of the bypass over the railway happened in 1983.

There are two individuals living near the roundabout who have been strongly opposed to the chickens and have been (and still are) quite unpleasant to both them and the chicken man, who did indeed appear on an animal champions telly programme.

Locals did indeed stage protests against the council's plans to have the chickens removed.
The maltings was (unsurprisingly) home to a colony of rats and I remember well as a boy being shocked at the size of them.

The maltings caught fire in 1999 and has been a ruin ever since.

There was a house fairly close by that was nearly demolished by a lorry and very close to that a turkey lorry once overturned. There was also a potato lorry that overturned and the side of the roundabout was covered in a huge pile of potatos (I so regret not taking a photo of it).

So as you see there was already the outline of great story waiting to be told!

It also turns out that the profits from the book are going to the local hospital, so it's an even better reason to get a copy!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Elderly couple face eviction over a couple of chickens

Heard about a couple in Gateshead who face being evicted because they keep two chickens (hens, not cockerels) in their garden. Very sad, the garden is plenty big enough for two chickens and they seem to be kept well. If they had a dozen birds I could understand the concern.

Here's the BBC news story (copy/paste it in your browser window)

There is a Facebook group to support the Lewises, started by Justine from the Omlet forum

And there is a petition on the No10 website to reform the law so that allows pet chickens to be classed as livestock. Please read the petition (it's not aimed at allowing cockerels or anything), and sign it if you can possibly support it

Chicken Roundabout

There is a place on the Norfolk/Suffolk border which is the home of the "Chicken Roundabout". I heard about it on the Omlet forum a few weeks ago, and dound out the story/saw the pictures on the website

I was intrigued, and I ordered the book (which is fiction, not meant to be the True History. Although having read it, it would be sooooo funny if it was).

And then last weekend I was going to Ipswich to see my lovely step daughter, and decided to go and have a look.

I went to Nowich first. I don't know what I was thinking, I don't normally brave any town centre on a Saturday, so why I thought it would be interesting to see the sights of Norwich, I have no idea. Anyway, I was hoping to get to Ditchingham around dusk, as I wanted to see the chickens roosting in the trees.

I was a bit early though, so I saw the chickens on the ground. I can't believe that they survive there. I don't mean foxes, I mean human predators. I know there is a local chappy who feeds them (he's in the book), but he can't possibly protect them.

Anyway. It's well worth a visit if you are interested in chickens and you are in the vicinity. And I started to read the book when I got back to my hotel, and I can recommend that too. A great chickeny gift. (No, I'm not on commission).

Tuesday 3 March 2009

We know it wasn't Jasmine....

Another brown egg this morning.

Then this evening, I put the Girls away and checked the nestbox, because we hadn't had an egg from Milly And I found two eggs. One blue, and one that could only be from a Welsummer...

Isn't it just the most beautiful egg since....since....since Milly's first Bluey?

Monday 2 March 2009

Gorgeous Spring Day!

Wow, what a fabulous Spring day!

The weather is warm, but with that sort of refreshing clear ozone-y feel to the air. The sun is shining, and it's a day top be Doing Things.

DH has been out in the garden, adding well rotted manure to the beds. I've been airing the house - every room has the windows W___I____D____E open to let in that fresh air. I'm doing a swish and swipe in every daily-use room, and poor Raymondo (my Roomba) is working overtime trying to keep up with me.

I'd like to get everything respectable so that I can tackle the guest bedroom. We tend to dump stuff in there (packaging and boxes to use for Ebay, items waiting to go in the loft, that sort of thing) so it gets into a real mess, and then I have to blitz it. We've got guests coming in a couple of weeks, and I don't really want to be doing it at the last minute.

Off to do some more...

Sunday 1 March 2009

Who's laying now?

Last week I found a couple of softees in the poo tray (not on the same day).

And for the last three days, we've had a small brown egg in the nest box. Pefectly formed, al ittle rough on the shell, but beautiful. We ate two of them for breakfast this morning (along with 2 of Milly's Beautiful Blues), and we aren't sure who laid them.

It's most likely to be Jasmine. She's well past the age when she should have started laying... but these eggs are quite brown but not dark brown. She's a Welsummer, so she should lay mahogany coloured eggs. Maybe they start out light brown and gradually darken? Jasmine has been crouching for me recently, which makes her the Prime Suspect.

It could be Daisy, and they are the sort of colour I would expect an Amber Star to lay. But Daisy is very young, her comb and wattles are barely there, and she's not been crouching.

Or maybe Delilah. But they are far too small for Delilah. Although she hasn't laid really since she started to moult last November, so it might be her getting back into the swing of it?

I think it's Jasmine. I hope they do get darker though, as the breeder talked me out of buying a Maran in favour of a Welsummer when I said I wanted dark eggs.

Time will tell, I suppose, I'm just not very patient!