Poorly Hen, Egg Yolk Peritonitis and Other Problems

garden hen

My beautiful Speckledy hen is feeling under the weather at the moment, it’s a complicated situation not made any easier with chickens naturally hiding illness. Ginny was diagnosed with egg yolk peritonitis last summer, a condition which basically means a hen begins laying internally rather than producing eggs in the usual way. Yolks and egg matter drop into the abdominal cavity and sit there, building up. Left untreated, peritonitis can be very painful due to a build-up of fluids and yolks binding to internal organs, sadly it appears to be quite common with hybrid layers but any breed can be dealt this blow. Treatment really needs to be discussed with a vet, but this usually involves draining fluid when needed with a course of antibiotic to follow.

I noticed Ginny was slowing down and not her usual active self, her trademark dark brown eggs missing from the nest box for quite some time. On closer inspection she felt large hot and swollen underneath, my suspicion of peritonitis being the culprit was confirmed after a visit to the vet. Fluid was drained from her swollen abdomen (which immediately made her feel better) and then a course of antibiotic prescribed to help combat possible infection. On her return to the vet a hormone implant called Supreloin was used to prevent her ovaries releasing eggs, we’d discussed this in depth during her previous appointment. The implant is smaller than a grain of rice and inserted just under the skin in the breast area, Ginny was fantastic about it and hardly noticed it being done. I won’t lie, hormone treatment is very expensive, but Ginny has given me a lot of joy over the years from fresh eggs to funny antics, organic fertiliser and pest control. So I bought her some time and relief.

garden chickens

Ginny being her usual inquisitive self!!

The procedure proved to be very effective and gave her almost 6 months of running around the garden pain-free without the horrible symptoms of peritonitis and the need for draining. I should point out that the implant is not a cure for hens with peritonitis, but it does give the hen a short break from laying, managing the symptoms of the condition to give the hen concerned quality of life and perhaps a longer lifespan. However, I should also point out that the implant doesn’t work on every hen, there are no guarantees, also factors have to be taken into account for each case such as length of illness, current condition and weight. Some hens cannot be implanted full stop. I knew Ginny’s implant would need to be repeated as soon as symptoms of peritonitis returned, and they did, just before new year. Her comb began to grow and redden just as you would expect from a hen coming into lay and her abdomen began to swell and fill with fluid, a sure sign of internal laying. The day before New Years Eve I took her back to the vet to have the procedure repeated.

garden hen

Apart from being thrown into a moult (an unfortunate symptom of the implant) which naturally made her feel a bit miserable, Ginny had been fine (well, as it could be for a hen with peritonitis) up to this point. However, she started refusing food recently and now we’re battling a second bout of sour crop. She’s losing weight and with crop problems on top it’s not looking good. I’d like to think this is just a blip with her treatment for peritonitis, but deep down I believe either her treatment for peritonitis is no longer working (whether or not this can be corrected I don’t yet know), or something else is going on. I’ve seen similar behaviour/symptoms before with hens suffering with cancerous tumours, I’m starting to think this may be the problem.

speckledy hen

Ginny has an appointment booked for tomorrow morning to see the vet who knows her medical history. Please keep your fingers crossed that I’m wrong and that something can be done for her.

Gulp.

Wordless Wednesday

pretty allotment

Ah! The wonderful long hot summer of 2014

 

Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Book Review

Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

I’m a big fan of raised bed gardening, successfully using raised beds to grow vegetables, soft fruits and cut flowers in my vegetable garden and at my allotment for many years now. So when asked if I’d like to review a copy of Jeanne Grunert’s book Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden, I was happy to take a look.

Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden is an easy to follow guide, packed full of practical information on how to plan and build a simple raised bed vegetable garden. The authors knowledge and passion for the subject really shines through as she guides us through the following sections:

  • Why Build Raised Bed Gardens?
  • Planning a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
  • Design and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
  • Pathways for Raised Bed Gardens
  • Importance of Great Soil

Important factors to consider for a successful and easy to manage vegetable garden are covered, such as how much light and shade the area receives and proximity of a water supply. Other considerations are mentioned too, pathway sizes and choice of path coverings (with helpful pros and cons of each), also the many materials that can be used to make a raised bed, helping the reader to make an informed choice. The author touches upon the many advantages raised bed gardening has to offer, not only for the gardener but for crops too. There’s also a section on converting raised beds to cold frame and mini greenhouses, which is simple enough to do with a raised bed structure already in place.

A great bonus of the book is the easy-to-follow instructions to make your very own 8 x 4 foot raised bed. I’m amazed at the cost of some of the raised bed kits I’ve come across, raised bed gardening doesn’t have to be expensive – I made my own by recycling an old and untreated summer-house!

Clearly written by a gardener with a passion for growing seasonal fresh food as simply as possible, I find Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden to be an informative guide for gardeners of all abilities.

Author Jeanne Grunert is an award-winning writer, prolific blogger, and expert marketing consultant. She left a successful 20 year career as a marketing manager in the New York City area to move onto a 17-acre farm in rural Virginia where she lives, works and writes. Today, she grows a life instead of merely making a living.

Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden is available to purchase here.

Thank you Jeanne for contacting me.

 

 

Boysenberries from Mow It Sow It Grow It

mow it sow it grow it

I received two little Boysenberry plants in the post yesterday, kindly sent to me to trial from Mow It Sow It Grow It. Boysenberry is a cross between a raspberry, blackberry, dewberry and a loganberry. I’m looking forward to tasting the fruit and should expect a good crop in their first year. I’m really curious what the berries will taste like…will it be raspberry, or blackberry…or a mix of both…or…..exciting!

mowitsowitgrowit

The plants arrived in great condition, supplied in 10cm pots, so there’s no immediate rush to plant if time is precious or your garden is currently covered in snow like mine (yes, I spoke too soon!). Full planting instructions and information regarding the plants were also supplied, which is always handy.

mowitsowitgrowit3

I’ve had the pleasure of being sent other plants from this supplier in the past, yet again I’m impressed with the careful packaging (which is biodegradable) and thoughtful after sales information. I’m reliably informed of some new and exciting plants available soon from Mow It Sow It Grow It, such as a good-flavoured strawberry the size of a chicken egg and another that tastes of bubble-gum!?! Look out for them and others if you’re looking for something adventurous to grow!

boysenberry plants

My little plants are currently sitting in the conservatory until I’m ready to plant them out in the garden. I’m looking forward to picking and tasting the berries, and jam making too.

Many thanks to David Lindsay for contacting me.

If you’d like to try boysenberries for yourself, visit http://www.mowitsowitgrowit.co.uk

New Year New Garden

garden smallholding

As the new year gets underway, my mind is full of plans for the new vegetable garden. Ideas and designs have spent the best part of 2 years in a sketch pad, I really can’t wait to finally put these long and thought out plans into action. However, garden tools are now retired to the outbuilding/shed until spring arrives with drier weather. It’s been a mild winter so far and this area has missed out on any snow, but the ground is too soft to continuously walk on.

shed

I mention the outbuilding. It sits alongside the greenhouse, sharing the plot where the new vegetable garden will go, and it really needs a make over. Rendered concrete construction, 2 metal doors and a small wooden window, it currently looks tired and unloved, to be honest it’s a bit of an eyesore. But I’m sure I can bestow some magic upon this very useful storage space. A clean up, lick of paint (I’m thinking soft cream walls, white doors and window frame), window box, rustic pots and planters, perhaps a climbing rose to scramble over and a few garden accessories should make a huge difference. I might even treat it to some pretty floral bunting in summer.

In other news, I’m collecting 5 – 6 eggs a day from the hens and of course the pullets are really helping to boost the number, it’s their first winter and they’re in great condition. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a productive winter from the hen houses, I’m baking more than usual that’s for sure! The older hens appear to be doing well, although a winter moult is expected soon.

eggs

Allotment news! Garlic is growing well, and for the first time I’ve planted some elephant garlic too. I recently removed a young rhubarb crown that I planted last year, this was taken home in a large container of compost and will start off the rhubarb patch in our new vegetable garden very soon, can’t wait for that. That’s about it for now with allotment planting, I’ll sow some hardy broad beans soon (at the allotment and potted up in the greenhouse in case of failures) and then think about which tomatoes I’d like to grow. I have Charlotte seed potatoes in trays to chit in the unheated conservatory, and I’ve sorted through my seed packets.

I’m ready. Roll on spring!

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds Book Giveaway

I’m kicking off the new year with a fantastic book giveaway! One lucky reader could win a copy of the following book:

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds is a personal tour of some of the UK’s most exciting and exquisite gardens, guided by the owners, their gardeners and designers, in this green and magical pocket of England.

In the golden stone villages of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, author Victoria Summerley and photographer Hugo Rittson-Thomas offer privileged access to twenty secret gardens, revealing their charm, romance, horticulture and history.

Retracing the footsteps of such luminary designers as Humphry Repton, Rosemary Verey, Isabel and Julian Bannerman and Mary Keen, we find examples of great design, compelling planting, inspired sculpture and private paradise. From the cherished snowdrop fields of the Elwes family at Colesbourne, to Antony Gormley’s statue in the garden of Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch, this book uncovers the various and intriguing ways these Cotswolds gardens inspire and enchant.

While some of these gardens open regularly to visitors, those that remain strictly private can now be savoured and enjoyed through the eyes of those who know them best.

Victoria Summerley is an award-winning garden journalist and was executive editor of the Independent newspaper in the UK. She lives in Bibury, Gloucestershire, the village once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’.

Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds officially releases on 5th February, published by Frances Lincoln www.franceslincoln.com, priced £20. If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy, let me know by leaving a comment – it’s as simple as that! Closing date 29th January, I’ll draw a name at random. Open to UK residents only (sorry!).

Best of luck!

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

RSPB big garden birdwatch 2015

I’m taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this month, it will be my 5th year of doing so and I look forward to it every year. Identify and count the number of wild birds visiting your garden for just 1 hour during 24th – 25th January (pick a day that suits you), it’s so easy to do and gives you an hour of relaxation. What if I don’t have a garden? Don’t worry, you can still take part by doing the count in your local park or green space.

Register to take part https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social+media&utm_campaign=bgbw15

Cock and Pullet

Cock and pullet barn

Cock and Pullet is a family run poultry business tucked down a country lane in the North Bedfordshire village of Sharnbrook. I started buying my chicken feed and supplies from Cock and Pullet last year, and I’m now a regular customer.

cock and pullet

You’ll find everything you need to keep your chickens happy and well fed in the barn shop, from quality Marriages feed to red mite treatments. Cock and Pullet also hand build and supply quality timber coops, designed with the poultry keeper in mind (the sliding top coop is very popular), they’re happy to accept custom build orders for those looking for specific requirements. Some of my hens live very happily in coops made by Cock and Pullet, so I can vouch for the quality and ease of use.

cock and pullet sliding top coop

Cock and Pullet also supply many breeds of poultry and waterfowl, including hatching eggs, POL hybrid chickens, bantams to large breed chickens such as Brahmas, Indian runner ducks, call ducks and geese. All their birds are well-kept and cared for, the ducks are particularly spoilt with a huge pond complete with a bridge! Holiday boarding for chickens can also be arranged.

Brahma Cockerel

James and a fine Brahma cockerel!

But what I like most about Cock and Pullet is the friendly staff. On arrival you’ll most likely be greeted with a big smile from Annie or James, they know their stuff and care about their birds. They’re happy to chat all day about all things chicken or duck related, and only too pleased to help. If you’re new to chicken keeping and have lots of questions regarding housing needs and care, pop along to Cock and Pullet for a browse around, I’m certain you’ll learn plenty!

cock and pullet

Be sure to say hello to the small flock of pet hens and lucky cockerel (saved from the pot) who roam free on the farm, they really do live the good life with their second chance home for life. As I’ve said already, the staff at Cock and Pullet really do care about their birds and this act of kindness cements it for me.

Visit the Cock and Pullet website for more details and contact information http://www.cockandpullet.net/

How to Grow Garlic

garlic

Now is the time I start planting garlic. According to the search stats finding my blog recently, the topic of how to grow garlic seems be quite popular. Planting times, growing and harvesting garlic appears to be causing confusion to some, so I thought I’d put this guide together. I’m not an expert by any means, but it might be useful to those searching the internet looking for information.

When to plant garlic:

I tend to plant garlic during November or December, but you can plant from October right up until early spring, if conditions are right. Reasonably well-drained soil is perfect for autumn planting, and this gives your garlic a longer growing season to produce bigger bulbs. If your soil tends to be too claggy for autumn planting, try starting garlic off in small pots of compost instead, leave them outside your back door or anywhere they won’t blow away! Plant your pots of sprouting garlic out in early spring once soil conditions are right.

growing garlic in a raised bed

Where to buy garlic:

Ideally you should use seed garlic for planting, and this can be bought from many places nowadays. It’s not actually little seeds that you are going to plant, but pre-grown bulbs from disease-free stock. Seed garlic usually come in packs of 2 or 3 bulbs. The usual way to purchase seed garlic would be via a seed merchant catalogue or specialist websites (more choice with varieties), but many more places offer what we need to grow our own, such as DIY chain stores (B&Q for example) and local garden centres, even supermarkets such as Waitrose are recognising the increased interest in kitchen and allotment gardening.

planting garlic

How to plant garlic:

An open sunny site with free draining soil is best. Split the seed garlic into individual cloves before planting, each one of these cloves will grow into a new bulb. I space each clove by stretching my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil, it’s a rough planting distance but it works for me. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in the holes, pointy end upper-most. Cover over with soil, the garlic tips should be hidden just below the surface.

Newly planted garlic can be disturbed by birds. To combat this problem I cover my raised beds with wire mesh frames, which simply sit on top and prevent anything from gaining access to the bed until lifted. The frames are easy to make from scraps of wood and chicken wire.

veg frames for raised beds

When to harvest garlic:

Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow, this is usually early summer, depending on planting time and variety. Lift from the ground using a garden fork. After I harvest my garlic I lay the bulbs over the side of a raised bed to allow worms to free themselves from the roots and drop back into the soil below, before dark I take them in from the garden and place somewhere dry to complete the drying process, such as a greenhouse or a shed.

drying garlic bulbs

How to store garlic:

Allow the bulbs to fully dry out before storing, when the bulbs are fully dry they’ll be papery white and rustle when touched. Now you can plait them together if you wish using the stems, or place in a net bag for storing. Trim excess roots.

garlic plait

I store my bulbs in an unheated greenhouse over winter, bringing bulbs to the house when needed. A cool, dry shed or garage would do.

Work Starts on The New Kitchen Garden

chickens in the garden

Our little gardeners

We started work on the new kitchen garden recently, mainly clearing up, cutting back and deciding where everything will eventually go kind of work. And the chickens got involved too, especially the two rescue hens who’d rather be by my side than exploring with the others. Chickens are great at scratching and turning over soil with their enthusiastic feet, and excellent pest control too.

chickens

It’s been almost 2 years since we moved house and left our productive kitchen garden behind, container gardening and our plot at the allotment providing us with seasonal produce ever since. The very bottom of our new garden was earmarked early on to be the spot where the new kitchen garden would go, and now, after watching where the sun rises and sets, identifying sunny and shaded areas throughout the seasons, we’re ready to start putting our plans into action. The section of garden we’re working with is a good-sized space and will easily accommodate a number of raised beds for vegetables and soft fruits, a bed near the compost bin has now been dug over and cleared for our new rhubarb patch.

chickens in the garden

Chickens helping to dig over the new rhubarb patch

Before winter takes a firm grip we’re concentrating on clearing perennial weeds, old woody shrubs, bramble roots and large stones from an area in front of the fencing (which will probably become a gravel path), the rest will be easier because it’s lawn, and that’s where the raised beds will go. On rainy days and when the weather turns bitterly cold I’ll gather inspiration and design ideas from my Pinterest board.

The area isn’t very interesting to look at right now, I’ll take photos once the raised beds go in, probably during spring.

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