Left to right: Fleur (Coral hen), Hermione (Columbine hen), Myrtle (Bluebelle hen) and Ginny (Speckledy hen).
A year on and the hybrid hens are all grown up, if a little scruffy looking (they’re currently going through a ‘mini moult’). Have you noticed how big their combs are now, compared to last year? Especially the Coral hen, Fleur, her comb is so large it flops over one side of her face, covering one of her eyes.
Occasionally, a gust of wind lifts her floppy comb up high into the air!
It’s taken a while for Fleur and Hermione to get used to me, I cannot pick them up yet but I can reach out and touch them without feathers flying everywhere, occasionally I get a disapproving peck on my hand. Ouch! These breeds are known to be ‘flighty’ (they certainly are timid birds), having always kept rescue hens I’ve never experienced this with chickens before, ex-caged hens are not usually nervous of people for very long which is quite surprising really.
They’re all good layers, particularly Ginny and Fleur, hardly ever missing a day. The next photos are especially for Melissa Aldana, probably Myrtle’s biggest fan! (well, apart from me of course).
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 16, 2013
There’s a hole in my potato bed, dear reader, a hole. On my arrival to the allotment on Sunday morning (yesterday) I found this:
Rabbit hole in the potato bed
It wasn’t there Saturday.
Apparently, the rabbit fencing around the allotment site has been found to have a few ‘flaws’ recently. No kidding! I checked inside the hole for signs of life and found nothing, the hole didn’t appear to lead anywhere. I was beginning to wonder if this was the work of a very large rat, until I filled in the hole using the expertly tilled soil in a mound nearby, along with little round poops, courtesy of Peter Rabbit.
I guess a rabbit-proof fence is needed around our plot very soon. Oh the joys of allotmenteering!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 12, 2013
I recently blogged about frogs in the koi pond, pleasantly surprised to see several ‘frog couples’ I quickly realised their spawning efforts would be in vain. Forty (or so) Koi most likely enjoyed frog-egg suppers and breakfasts. I did go spawn-spotting but never got the chance to save it.
The main pond
Just a few of our Koi
A few days after the frog visits we spotted a smooth newt swimming to the rocks (sadly my camera wasn’t to hand), this was very exciting indeed. Pond life activity increased on and in the koi pond during the recent warm weather, water boatmen and pond skaters have arrived too. We decided to help our amphibian visitors successfully reproduce by introducing a small wildlife pond near the main pond, with plenty of mature plants and large rocks to act as hiding places and cover, the elevated position inside the rockery will protect it to a degree from frost.
The rockery surrounds the koi pond, the wildlife pond is just inside the rockery in the photo
The wildlife pond is quite small, just a puddle in comparison to the main pond, but that doesn’t matter. We placed rotting wood logs nearby and planted grasses, foliage and creeping plants such as Ivy around the pond edge. Inside the pond there’s floating oxygenating plants, floating and potted water cress, water forget-me-not, a submerged lily and marsh marigold. Gradually the plants will mature and provide extra cover around the pond edge, the corners have shallow levels to make it easier for wildlife to climb in and out.
Happy frog in the new wildlife pond
Already a frog is visiting the new pond daily, every evening a pair of sparkling golden eyes blink back at me from the water. We realise it’s probably too late for spawning frogs now, but it’s there, ready and waiting to welcome pond life throughout the year.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 10, 2013
Do you have room in your chicken coop and space in your garden? Can you offer a retirement home to ex-caged laying hens? Yes? Little Hen Rescue would love to hear from you!
Another rescue is scheduled for June 15th with the majority of lucky ladies going to Little Hen Rescue’s base in Norfolk, the rest to Cambridgeshire with collection points in Manea and Haddenham (small amount near Grafham Water).
Reserve your hens today via Little Hen Rescue’s website, choose where you’d like to collect your hens and email the appropriate area (Norfolk or Cambs).
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 9, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 8, 2013
Our garden is a visual and audible treat at the moment, even though spring arrived a little late this year everything appears to be catching up. The huge pine trees are a nursery to many garden birds right now, twiggy nests can be seen in branches.
Blackbirds are nesting inside the rockery conifers surrounding the pond, occasionally I hear the ’peep peep’ sound of hungry chicks throughout the day, eagerly awaiting the return of their parents with food. At dusk we are treated to an aerial display of bats hunting, if we listen really carefully we can just make out the distinct clicking-sound. Another nocturnal visitor to our garden and a favourite of mine is the hedgehog, they can be heard snuffling around the lawn at night, on a clear moon-lit evening we might catch a glimpse of one, scurrying off into bushes.
I’ve noticed squirrels digging in the lawn, taking off for the pine trees when I approach. I love watching them leap from tree to tree with the grace and skill of a gymnast. Some of the fruit trees are ablaze with blossom, attracting bumblebees in their numbers, daffodils are just finishing now and Forget-me-nots are taking centre stage, creating a pretty blue haze.
I saw my first ladybird of the year yesterday and a number of butterflies on the wing are passing through the garden too, mainly Peacock. Here’s a great website for those unfamiliar with UK butterfly species: http://www.britishbutterflies.co.uk/index.asp
I love nature, especially during spring. I hope you’re enjoying watching and listening to nature/wildlife in your garden too.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 2, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 1, 2013
I’m really pleased to see flowers on my pineberry plants, I got the plants last spring and was really looking forward to tasting the fruit. However, my pineberries had other ideas and decided to go into crazy-reproduction-mode, insisting on throwing out runners at an alarming rate instead of fruiting. I tried snipping the runners off to encourage fruit to set but I couldn’t keep up, eventually I gave in and potted up runners instead.
Now I have plenty of Pineberry plants, the younger plants have flower buds forming too.
I’m looking forward to seeing the first fruits appear, they resemble a strawberry but are white in colour, rather than the usual red. They’re supposed to taste of pineapple and this is the reason I cannot wait to eat them!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 25, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 24, 2013
Old Emily hen
This is Emily. Her life as a laying hen started in a barren cage roughly the same size as an A4 piece of paper, caged with many other hens to lay cheap eggs for the consumer and food industry. I rehomed her (along with 5 other hens) via Bedfordshire based hen rescue Free At Last
on 20th April 2008. That was 5 years ago.
Emily rotavating soil in the veg garden
At 15-18 months old, Emily and many hens like her are considered ‘spent’ (meaning she was in her second year of laying and egg production tends to dip slightly), mass production units such as battery farming simply replace spent hens with younger ones. Emily would’ve been sent to slaughter if it wasn’t for the great work of hen rescues up and down the country. Barren cages have since been replaced with enrichment cages (a perch, nesting material and slightly more room) but it’s still a cage at the end of the day.
Emily quickly became part of the family
Emily with her favourite friend
Emily blowing a kiss
Emily enjoying a dust bath
Homes are always needed for hens like Emily, if you’re interested in rehoming some ex-caged hens please take a look at Ex Battery Hens – The Hen Rehoming Hub
to find your nearest hen rescue. Emily is the last of my original ex battery hens, outliving the many others that I rehomed over the years and that makes her extra special to me. Sadly, she isn’t in the best of health at the moment and I know deep down I have to do the right thing by her and let her go with the help of my superb avian vet. It’s breaking my heart into million pieces, I’m not good with these situations and it never gets any easier. I know she’s had a long life for a hen that was never bred to be a happy garden hen, but I always want more for rescue hens, for me, it’s never long enough.
Thank you for reading her story and for your interest in rehoming hens just like her.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 21, 2013