Monday 31 August 2015


I'm soaking in a bath at the moment,  my leg is bit swollen - and a little painful  - from where I landed on the ladder.  

We have some oak trees on the allotment. One of them has a branch which reaches over the Heras fencing a bit,  and I realised on Saturday that it wouldn't be long before it provided an easy access point for a hungry fox.  I decided I'd deal with it next time I came down,  which was today. 

So I packed my car with  a step ladder,  a pruning saw,  and a pair of loppers. We have an electric chainsaw, but of course that's no help on the allotment. In the light of subsequent events - or event - that's probably just as well!

It was drizzling. I put on my padded coat. I inspected the tree and decided where to cut.  I decided I might as well cut the thick branch, if I did the smaller ones I'd run out of steam too soon.   To my surprise,  my folding pruning saw  made quite a lot of headway, quite quickly.  The branch must have been dead or dying. It wasn't long before I heard a small crack, so I knew it wouldn't be long.

I moved round and cut from the other side, and from underneath.

I moved back to my starting point and moved up the ladder to cut some more.  The ladder slipped, I fell.
My first reaction was to get up, but  I made myself stay put while I checked out everything. My leg hurt a bit, but I could wiggle my toes.  Everything else was in working order.

I got up and picked up the poor  ladder. I was a bit shocked at the state of it (see previous post) and I realise my leg must have landed on it.

I looked at the branch and realised I had to finish.  It was leaning heavily,  and the easy access  would be irresistible to even an aged fox. The ladder was out of commission, but I found a chair to use.  I also realised that I needed to lop off all the smaller branches, otherwise it would get stuck coming down.

That took forever. There were so many of them.   Then I got back up and sawed and sawed and sawed. The branch finally fell off on to the heras panel.

Round the other side of the fence,  I couldn't move it. It weighed a tonne, and the "fingers" of  smaller branches kept getting stuck in the ground.  I lopped. I sawed.  And each time Ihad to drag the branches well away to make sure they couldn't be used as a ladder by Foxy.

After what seemed like several hours (but wasn't, I was only there for an hour and a quarter in total),   I finally managed to get the branch away,  and I was able to put the fence back up.  My leg was hurting by now and I was very thirsty.

I finished off seeing to the hens, put everything back in the car, came home and ran a bath.

And I cant remember if  I switched on the fence, so I am going to have to go back.

Oh well. The tree looks better.


I am so lucky.

today it was drizzling so I wore a padded coat.

I didn't put keys in my pocket.

Nor my phone.

I put my bag of stuff in the shed rather than on the ground.

The chickens were eager to get out an eat grass rather than hanging around me to see what I was doing.

It had been raining a lot,  so the ground was soft.

I wasn't using a chainsaw.

The ladder wasn't so lucky.

Friday 28 August 2015

Goodbye Sasha

Sasha, my lovely araucana cockerel, is a very lucky boy.

As soon as we suspected he might be a boy, I had started to look for a possible new home for him.  The other alternatives were to take him to the allotment and put him with the rest of the dinner birds,  where he would be seen as a new invader and bue bullied by all of them for the rest of their lives,  or to dead him.
I would not, under any circumstances, offer him on selling pages as "free to good home".  If I did,  he'd most likely either end up in the pot or, more likely,  he would be collected up by a perfectly respectable looking person but would actually be used as training fodder in illegal cock fighting.   It's a horrible world sometimes.

I had found 4 places (not counting rescue places) that looked like they might take him, with the intention of keeping him. .  The nearest was an hour and a half away,  the others were two to three hours away.

When we had irrefutable evidence that he was, indeed, a h - he was standing on the back of the bench, crowing his lungs out -   I contacted the first person on my list.  The lady I spoke to sounded OK. We chatted.   I then had an unplanned trip to Devon come up,  and I realised that I could deliver him en route.  We messaged, and it was all set up.

So today I caught Sasha and popped him into a cat carrier, along with some icenerg lettuce.  I put his suitcase in the boot, and set off.    He was quiet and calm for most of the journey, but he did get a bit chatty tomwards the end.  I gave him a few mealworms every 10  minutes for the last half hour.

Elaine was lovely.  We met at her brother's house. We chatted about hens in general, smallholdings, mealworms, Sasha's circumstances.  I swapped him into the dog crate she had ready,  I gave her the contents of the suitcase - pellets, so that he could transition to whatever she fed;  more lettuce for the journey ; a peckablock for the journey;, and a small pot of mealworms.  We continued to chat, talking about araucanas and what she had planned for him.

And then he escaped.

We hadnt realised that the dog crate was upside down, and the bars that are meant to be on the bottom are actually wider spaced than the rest. He managed to squeexe through and ran down the lane.

I grabbed the mealworms and walked after him, throwing a couple to get his attention. He stopped, ate one, and eyed up a field through a fence.

I told myself that, if it ended this way, he'd still had a good life.

I flopped to my knees, and threw some more mealworms.  I held one in my fingers and he stretched to eat it.  I shuffed forward on my knees, and put some more mealworms down, making sure both my hands were in front of me.

I put the pot down, and waited, still with my arms in front.  He shuffled forward, darted for the pot, and grabbed a mealworm.  I waited. He came forward again and started to eat a few more; I moved my hand and manged to get his back firmly enough that he couldn't run away.

I picked him up, gave him some mealworms, and popped him back in the righted crate.


He's going to have a harem of 6 leghorns.  The female offspring will lay blue eggs, and will lay more eggs than an araucana would.

He's a very lucky boy.

Tuesday 25 August 2015


It's tha Araucana.

After a couple of weeks of nothing, and lulled into a false belief that it wasn't so,  it was. 

Yesterday and the day before, we had morning crowing, but couldn't see who it was.  This morning, DH thought it was the Aruacana.   I can now confirm this, as he's been crowing, standing on the back of a mini-bench, for the last 10 minutes.

Of course he stopped by te time I had got my phone out to take a pic.  But I did get some nice snaps of the 4 of them at once,

  He'll have to go, so there won't be many more pics of them together. Gosh, that thought brings a lump to my throat.

Tuesday 18 August 2015


Introducing 2x8 week olds to my remaining 2 x8 week old "girls" was straightforward.  No fighting (that will come when they are introduced to the 2 older girls later).  However, it did mean that the 2 established girls forgot all about being hand tame.

It's taken a lot of concentrated and consistent effort to get 3 of them to accept (and actually sput themselves forward for) picking up.   Every day, at least once a day, whatever the weather, I play "picky uppy" with them.

This involves taking something irresistable (like mealworms, or corn on the cob) out to them. They then get gently picked up, are fed a reward, and are put straight back down.  Sasha, the ladyboy araucana, was the quickest to catch on.   Fleur, the new maran,  took a while, but she understands too.   Larna, the appenzeller,  forgets every day, but remembers again after the first successful pickup.    I haven't been able to pick up Fay, the new fayoumi, at all.  The most I can do - and this is some achievement - is get her to eat from my hand.   I need to try and spend some time concentrating on her,  but she really does not like that sort of thing.

While I am at it I've been trying to remind Gloria and Poppy how to fly up on to my outstretched arm.  Both are refusing to be caugt at the moment, so this is the best I can manage. I can understand Poppy's reluctance to be caught and picked up - she's well into moult and probably feeling a bit fragile. Gloria is just being awkward I think.    I've had a lot of success with the arm landings, but they'll ONLY do it when they can see the food in my other hand.  If it's on a nearby shelf, they won't cooperate.

At the allotment, the young evacuees seem really happy.  We have to be extra vigilant  this year because we have 6 boys and only 2 girls. We're going to have to go for an early call just to be on the safe side I think. 


With the garclic safely harvested, dried, and hung up, the gluts of everything else has started.

A couple of weeks ago DH made his first tomato  passata batch of  the year. It yielded 3x500ml jars, and it wasn't worth pasteurising  such a small amount.  A bit later he made another 3 jars.   We've been using quite a lot of it.

About a week ago, he made a batch which yielded 5x500ml jars, so we got preston (our pressure canner) out of the utility room, and canned those.   The next batch was 9x500ml jars.

I've also been enjoying tomato sandwiches - only ever worth making with home grown tomatoes that heave never seen the inside of a chiller.

Today DH is busy transforming some 8 or so kilos of tomatoes into passata, so it'll be 2 goes with Preston I think.

The courgettes are also starting to come through.  Some were little marrows by the time they reached the kitchen, so I blitzed them and fed them to the chooks and the chicks.  That went well.   The next few I turned into courgette bread, which was rather good.  We've had courgette bread quite a lot since then.   I made another loaf today, but I don't know what I was thinking.  I managed to leave out the yeast, so we have a very heavy lump.

My courgette repertoire is limited.  I like it in home made coleslaw; I use it in pasta sauces;  I like snall quantities thinly sliced (with a potato peeler) and dry fried;  and I have a realiable recipe for courgette lemon drizzle cake.  And the chools like it.

We're also getting a reasonable harvest of pears. The pears have some sort of scab on them, which makes them look unattractive. It's a shamwe, because it makes them hard to give away.  However, the fruit underneath is fine.   Pears typically go from rock hard and inedible to rotten within the space of a couple of days. 

 True to form the pears have been rock hard every day for the past couple of weeks; 3 days ago I found one that was edible, and I made caramelised roasted pears with a couple more;  2 days ago I picked some more that were ready (they came of when gently twisted), and I'm psyching myself up to make something with them .  The picked ones have now reached the stage where they are juicy and very ripe, but they have tht grainy pear texture which I don't like.

I've got a recipe for lemon and pear butter, which I'll try.  I'm reluctant to process them or dehydrate them, because I know we just won't eat them once that's done.  
Showing their good side

Finally, for now, we have loads and loads and loads of shiny green chillies.  We've sliced and frozen them, I can't imagine we'll get through what we have!

Friday 7 August 2015


At last, Poppy has snapped out of her broodiness.

Some hens are more prone to broodiness than others. Some breeds, Wyandottes for example, are known as being particularly broody, but it still comes down to the individuals.

Poppy is a super-broody.  Every year she goes broody at least once.  She doesn't just do the 3 weeks that a broody normally does,  she sticks like glue for 7 or 8 weeks.  In the past we've tried various methods of "breaking" her out of her broodiness, and they've all backfired.  They seem to re-set the clock, and so we've learned to just let her get on with it.

She was starting to go broody at the time of hte fox attack, when the eggs had been in the incubator for a week or so.  The fox attack temporarily suspended her broodiness.  We thought that the introduction of Gloria might stop it, but it didn't. 3 weeks ish after Gloriana joined the Garden,  Poppy went fully broody.

In the last week or so she's been off the nest box more than once a day,  and she has been hurling herselves at the chicks in a bit of a rage.    Poppy was around most of yesterday,  and came out of the est box at first light this morning.  I know this because she was complaining bitterly about the run being shut. (Beofre the fox attack, the pop hole opened at 4.30 in the morning to let them all out to free range).

Poppy is particularly angry about the invasion of new chickens.  

Glory has seen the chicks grow (wwell, OK, she's seen one set of chicks grow plus the sneaking in of two new ones) and is only bothered by them when they come close to their partition netting.  Poppy seems to think she went to bed one night and came down in the morning to find 4 usurpers, eating her grass, and being talked to by her pet human.

Now that we know it's possible to introduce chicks to each other without bloodshed,  we'll definitely let Poppy hatch some of her own next year, and they can then join with any that we hatch in the incubator.  

Assuming, of course, that the timings collide.

Wednesday 5 August 2015


No cockadiddling today. Not a peep.

Not that I'm grasping at straws or anything, but I did say out loud that maybe the cockadiddling was a girly Gloria sometimes makes.  And Roobarb used to make.

I know full well it isn't that sort of cockadiddling, but I can live in hope.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Cockup continues

We were discussing the cockup last night.

"I rhink i might be the Aruacana", said DH, "Ir's very upright".

I had wondered that myself, but when I;ve seen pics of female araucanas, that's how they look. Very upright birds.  And this one looks very different to the other one, who is definitely a boy and is now an evacuee at the allotment. (It is a boy, isn't it?  It definitely looked more like a boy, even more upright... oh gosh, this could get messy).

This morning I was making the tea, and the kazooing started. I watched. Was that the Araucana I saw with it's head up?  Of course s/he didn't do it again while I was watching.   I took the tea upstairs.

"I think it's the Aruacana" said DH "I'm not sure, but it looked like the Araucana was crowing".

We took turns to watch the birds for a while, but of course no kazooing occurred.

I realised that we need to be watching the Appenzeller. If we can see that the appenzeller isn't crowing when the kazooing occurs, we'll know for sure. In fact, it's the only way (unless we're right by the crowing bird when it happens).

My lovely fluffy grey monster.

I have to confess though that, if it has to be one of them, I'd rather it was the araucana.

Monday 3 August 2015


Having coffee in the kitchen this morning, DH and I were chatting.  I stopped mid sentence. "Did you hear that?", I asked


"That!", I said, as I heard the unmistakable kazoo again.

We can't tell who it is though unless we catch them doing it.  We need to get the culprit down to the allotment to be reintegrated with the Evacuees as soon as possible.

We're not sure who it is. It definitely isn't the Marans; I don't think it's the Fayoumi. It's going to be Sasha or Larna.  Larna the Appenzeller is looking like the likely culprit.  When I went out to look, she was suddently very upright.    She's back to being hen shaped now.  

 It's going to "Mrs Lumpy*" all over again.

Lumpy and Mrs Lumpy 
When we first started to raise chickens for the table, we bought in some 6 week old chicks.  They were Ross Cobb types, all white, apart from 2 of them who were a strange mottled colour.  One was a boy with a rather limpy walk, I called him Lumpy. The other was a hen called Mrs Lumpy.

I got quite attached to Lumpy,  and had considered keeping him to breed from. However, DH and Other Chap (OC) didn't want to go into breeding at that stage,  so Lumpy was culled along with the last of the other boys.

Overnight, Mrs Lumpy came out of hiding.  She suddenly sprouted a glorious multi coloured tail, huge comb and wattles, and became a boy.  She was one of those cockerels who have no interest in being top cockerel and manage to live qin harmony with a dominant cockerel because they hide their cockerelness.


Sunday 2 August 2015

And so, to bed

The four little girls fussed around at bedtime.

Sasha (Araucana) and Larna (Appenzeller) had no problems going upstairs to bed. The coop might be in a different place, but it was their Cube. and they knew exactly where Bed was.

Fleur (Marans) and Fay (Fayoumi) faffed about, unsure of where to go.

Larna and Sasha came downstairs, ran around, and went upstaurs again, presumably showing the other two how to do it.

Eventually, Fleur climbed up the ladder -  actually their ladder from the Go -  and went back down a few times.  Fay flew up on to the Grandpa Feeder and settled down.

There was a lot of to-ing anf fro-ing.  Eventually, Fay and Fleur sat on the top step. They weren't (as far as I can tell) being prevented from going in.

I went to the Allotment to check on the Evacuees.

They were all safely away.  The melon had been demolished, right down to the skin.

I checked on Everyone Else while I was there.  We'd put an extra perch in Henry's shed coop, and I was pleased to see that all the perches were full. 12 birds in total. That included NotNorman and Siouxsie (Norman's sisters),   amd Camilla (bottom of the pecking order I believe). 3 girls were noy in the shed:  1 was broody in the new coop;  1  was broody in Mrs' old coop;  and 1  was on her own on the roosting bars in Mrs' coop.

Maybe we can fit a 4th perch in. Just in case it's a capacity issue.

By the time I got back, all 4 girls were safely in the Cube.

Well done everyone

Too quiet?

So, this morning the 5 dinner chicks and the three boys were transported to their new home at our allotment.  We put up some extra heras fence panels last week, so they are secure against the existing flock. Their new "paddock" is enormous, they have fresh grass plus a lovely shaded area.   They will have a very happy free range life, coming and going as they please, not having to be confined to a small run because we are going out.

I left DH monitoring them, and I came home to sort out the Girls.   It was appallingly hot, and I struggled in the heat to do everything necessary.  I had mowed the grass this morning.  I had raked up the poo from the previous chick area.

I had to heave the Go, with Fleur (the Marans) and Fay (the Fayoumi) still "in" it, out of the way.  Then dismantle some netting.   Then I had to dig out some upright paving;  and thenI had to manouevre the Cube and it's long run into position.  The two youngsters had to be evicted as I couldn't guarantee not to run over them.  They were heady with the excitement of garden freedom.

It involved hills; it involved lifting the darn thing because it was impossible to turn it round on my own; it involved reversing and an only-just-wide-enough bit of parking. Next, I had to clean it out, ready for the new occupants.    I then had to catch Larna (the Appenzeller) and Sasha (the Aruacana), and pop them into the back of the Cube;  then I had to try and catch Fay and Fleur, who were still in the Go run but didn't want to come out.  Eventually, all 4 girls were shut in the back of the Cube.

I spent 5 minutes sorting out the feeder and drinker and the final bit of netting,  and I let them out.  Larna and Sasha, who are used to the Cube, came tumbling out;  Fay followed;  Fleur sat in the back of the Cube looking unhappy.  Eventually I caught her, and popped her in one of the run doors.

A bit later I discovered they'd made a dustbath in a bit of dodgy grass, and were all dusybathing together.  There was no fighting, no squabbling, no pecking.  Much later, I opened all the run doors so they could explore the new area.  This was new to all of them, and they have the luxury of both grass and fruit cage.

Eventually - another day - I will open up the netting and let them free range around the garden. They aren't ready to meet Gloria and Poppy yet.

We might restrict Gloria's wanderings now that the chicks are alongside her original run.  

We'll see.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Rash promises

It was my friend's 60th birthday party this afternoon.

After (almost) a bottle of lightweight pink wine, I rashly told her grandaughters that I would name my 2 chickens after them.

Excess of alcohol is not a reason to back out of one's promises, however rashly made.

So the Appenzeller will be called Larna,  and the Araucana will be called Sasha.#

It could have been much worse.


We're getting ready for the "All Change" tomorrow.

This morning I had the bright idea of relocating Fay* (the Fayoumi) and Fleur* (the cuckoo Maran)'s Go so that it runs alongside the pen of the other chicks.  I am very aware that from a biosecurity point of view this is a reckless thing to do, but as I plan to be putting Fay/Fleur in with (the as yet unnamed) Appenzeller and Araucana tomorrow, it's not going to make any difference).
(*I'm trying these names on at the moment)

I had to empty out the feeder. and then try to extricate the two girls. I managed to catch Fay and put her in the cat carrier;  Fleur did a runner, right past a shocked Gloria.  I tried to catch her but it was hopeless, so I left her to it while I moved the Go. Gloria was too surprised at the audacity of the young whippersnapper to do anything.
Chick city
When it was all set up I managed to lose Fay, so I had two scared, small, not hand tamed, chickens running around the garden.  Eventually I managed to catch Fleur (the Marans), and put her in the Go.  Then I managed to walk Fay round so that she found the open Go door and went in of her own accord.

Next, DH removed the pigeon netting from the fruit cage. We need to mow really, but I don't want to do that just yet, as we have to mow right up to where the Go now is.  Zero points to me for forward planning.

I've prepared a box to transport the 8 evacuees.  I cut little caravan windows around the sides to give them as much air flow as possible.  We can also use the cat carrier if necessary.

The current Plan is that we will move the Evacuees to the allotment,  shut them in the coop there while we do the daily tasks, then let them out.   We'll have to go back in the evening to make sure they have managed to get themselves to bed.

Then on our return home, the Cube which is currently the residence of the Araucana and the Appenzeller, who will have no doubt be wondering what on earth has happened,  will be wheeled to a new area bu the fruit cage.  We'll then shut all 4 girls in it for a short time,  then let them out.  And then we'll see what happens next.

They'll stay together in the Cube until they are old enough to withstand harassment from 2 big girls.  I don't know how bad Gloria will be,  she's top hen and she knows it; She's also got accustomed to the chicks being around, although we've never let them mix without having netting between. 

Poppy, however, has been bottom hen twice, and will want to make sure it doesn't happen again.  She's also been broody for the entire time the chicks have been in the garden, so isn't used to seeing them around. For the few minutes she spends out of the nest box each day, she lunges at any chicks who happen to stray near to the netting.  She may be take a while to get accept them.

Anyway, that's some weeks away.

One day at a time.