Chickens in the Garden

It’s been a while since I posted some photos of the hybrid hens, these were taken last month. Emily and Poppy, the old ex-battery hens make an appearance too.

Our Speckledy hen lays dark brown eggs. She’s lovely and very placid unlike the white Coral hen, she’s a lunatic!

Myrtle the Bluebell hen loves hanging out in the herb patch, it’s her favourite place to have a dust bath.

Emily, our old ex-battery hen has taken quite a shine to our Coral hen, Fleur. As you can see, Emily is a big old bird!

Hermione and her fabulous ‘hair’!

Myrtle hanging out in the herb patch again, we gave her the correct name!

Each hen lays a different coloured egg which makes it really easy to tell who laid each morning, this can be useful sometimes. I was hoping our Skyline hen would lay blue or green eggs, turns out she lays pastel colours instead but they’re still pretty!

Opposite Sides of the Bed

I’ve not had much luck growing carrots this year (thanks slugs), the last time I counted I had six carrot seedlings to show for my efforts. The larger seedlings may even end up on a plate but I won’t hold my breath. I tend to grow carrots on one side of a very long raised bed with parsnip on the other side, as pathetic as my carrots may look, my parsnip are doing great.

Are you doing any better growing carrots this year?

Jobs for July

  • If you haven’t done so already, plant out or sow runner beans, French beans and courgettes
  • Plant out Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli for a crop next spring
  • Keep feeding tomatoes weekly, pinch out side shoots on cordon varieties
  • Snap off onion and garlic scape (flower spikes) as they appear
  • Keep the hoe and watering can busy!
  • If you have the space, keep sowing beetroot, kohl rabi, radish, spring onions, lettuce, peas and carrots
  • Keep picking soft fruits such as strawberries, currants, raspberries, hybrid berries and gooseberries
  • Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans once the pods start to form to discourage black fly
  • Begin harvesting main crop potatoes
  • Cut sweet pea flowers to bring indoors, remove seed pods to encourage more flowers
  • Tie in Runner Beans and sunflowers as they grow
  • Ventilate the greenhouse
  • Transplant or ‘dib in’ leek seedlings once they’re the width of a pencil
  • Begin harvesting garlic and onions if ready, lay garlic bulbs out to dry on racks in a well ventilated greenhouse or shed, lay onions on the ground in the sun (or the greenhouse if the weather is bad)
  • Prevent heads of white cauliflowers turning yellow in the sun by pulling the nearest large leaves over and snapping into place
  • Begin propagating strawberries using runners
  • Harvest crops when ready and enjoy!

Let’s just pretend the weather is how is should be for July and that we can actually get on with most of the jobs on this list !!!

Big Butterfly Count 2012

As you look upon your soggy vegetable beds with pity, spare a thought for our struggling butterflies and moths too. I’m sure you didn’t need me to point out the distinct lack of them this year, it’s a real concern, our native species are already in trouble. With your input the charity Butterfly Conservation can keep a really close eye on how our butterflies and moths are faring this year.

Pop over to the Big Butterfly Count to find out how you can help: http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/about

A Rare Moment of Sunshine

The sun came out yesterday, just briefly, but long enough to let the new rescue hens out in a run, allowing them to feel the warm sunshine on their skin for the very first time in their lives.

Thanks for all your lovely comments for Willow and Grace!

New Hens from Little Hen Rescue

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of sweet little hens, meet Willow and Grace. They were rescued yesterday by a hen rescue organisation called Little Hen Rescue (along with 300 others) from a farm operating the new enriched cages. A couple of the hen rescuers happen to be friends of mine and live locally to me.

I arrived at my friend’s place with my pet carrier packed with soft straw and a bowl of crumb. I was met with pale but pretty little faces and tired thin bodies, instantly my eyes were drawn to Grace. My friend scooped Willow up and handed her to me, painfully thin with a floppy comb I loved her instantly. In she went, into my pet carrier along with Grace and away we went. I’m keeping them in a very large dog crate inside my warm garage for now, just until they find their feet and put a bit of weight on their bones. The last thing they need is to be chased away from the feeders by my larger and fitter hens. They’re free to roam my large empty garage during the day, there’s plenty of natural ventilation and natural daylight. I can see them at all times to ensure they’re safe from predators and tend to their every need.

The enriched cage that my hens came from superseded the now banned barren cage, ‘enriched’ meaning to allow the hens that occupy these cages for 15 – 18 months before slaughter to carry out natural instinctive behaviour. The cages are supposed to give them a little more space, a scratch pad, nesting material and a perch. I will allow you to form your own opinion from these photos, but for me, I’d say a cage is a cage. Who’s to oversee how many hens are being kept per enriched cage? If you imagine barns of say, 20,000 hens, perhaps 2-3 per farm, you’re talking a lot of foot and paper work. I doubt it happens, in fact I’d go as far to say it probably doesn’t.

After a busy day of building a nest fit for a swan (Willow was a tad over enthusiastic) and dust baths in the ex batt crumb food, they’re settling down for the night in a thick bed of straw, safe from the slaughter man.

http://littlehenrescue.co.uk

Pretty Purple Peas

Here we are, early July and I’ve only just started to harvest peas. They were a non-starter at the end of March and into April, a mixture of mice digging up the seed, a population boom for slugs and snails, plus cold, wet soil, creating less than ideal growing conditions. Yes, I’m blaming our ‘lovely’ weather again!

The flowers of Shiraz mangetout are a special treat, they’re larger than the normal white flowers of green pea varieties but that’s not the main attraction. The mixed pink-coloured flowers are absolutely beautiful, even as they start to fade, turning blue and lilac with a vivid purple band before fading again to a papery pale lilac, revealing a small purple pea pod from within. The flowers create a stunning visual display, many shades of pink, purple, lilac and blue, merging together. The velvety purple of the long pea pods against the green foliage makes harvesting them really easy.

Not all of my Shiraz mangetout pods were purple. I spotted these striped and pure green pods emerging the other day. Interesting!

Purple mangetout are worth growing for the flowers alone, they’re far more showy than the sweet pea at the moment. It’s a shame the purple pods lose their vivid colour when cooked, they don’t exactly turn green though, more of a grey/green I’d say, which isn’t very attractive if I’m honest. Still, the flavour is lovely.

Mangetout freshly picked from your garden or allotment tastes so much better than those flown over in plastic trays. Shop bought mangetout are often soft in my experience, lacking that ‘crunch’ that fresh peas have. I will always grow them, the purple variety have earned their place on my seed list next year.

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