Chickens

Update on the New Hens

Chrissie 25th Feb 09

The new girls appear to be settling in quite nicely. After blitzing them for lice and worms (which they had) they are looking so much brighter. They are getting stronger each day too and quite mischievous, which I like to see.

Shazzy and Auntie Marge went to the vet on Thursday evening. Shazzy is very rattly and Auntie Marge had a bit of a water bum on rescue day which concerned me. It has reduced in size considerably, but seeing as I was taking Shazzy to the vet anyway it made sense to take Auntie Marge for a quick check over. She was perfect company for Shazzy too to reduce stress. Auntie Marge is OK, the vet was happy with her and does not feel that her bottom is anything to worry about. She is laying and seems quite a perky little hen and she certainly knows how to fill her crop. To the point of bursting! Shazzy however needed a course of baytril, as expected, for a nasty respiratory infection.

Brenda, Auntie Marge and Chrissie so far have laid perfecto eggs. Shazzy is passing broken soft shell little numbers. I know when one is on the way because she looks ever so sorry for herself for a while, then, once she passes it, she is fine. She is receiving all she should to help with strong shells, so, along with her meds, her system hopefully will recover soon. All in all I am happy with their progress so far. Their diet also includes more protein for feather growth, which is working as a few of them have little spikes in a few places. Awwww.

Chickens

Hens First Day of Freedom

auntie marge

Yesterday was the new hens first full day of freedom. How did they spend it? Why, eating of course!  They certainly have an appetite and are looking a little better than they did on Sunday. We are keeping an eye on Chrissie at the moment. She bolted like a bullet from the coop this morning straight to the drinker and drank very excessively, making her crop swell like a balloon.  She seems OK at the moment, we shall see how she is tomorrow. Auntie Marge has a swollen balloon bottom, again being kept under close observation. I have a vets appointment on stand by for Thursday with an exotics specialist (chickens are classed as exotics) just in case.

brenda, shazzy & chrissie

Excuse the awful blue tarpaulin, its a temporary screen to keep next doors super models quiet. Yes, you guessed it, they are not happy. Oh no. Hand bags at the ready plus plenty of lip gloss. Witches.

shazzy & brenda

Another perfect egg in the nestbox this morning, not sure who is laying (quite frankly I am surprised that they are) but Shazzy claimed it as her own, announcing to the world that she is now a proper chicken. As you can see they are skeletal. Heartbreaking isn’t it? This is what intensive farming for cheap sh*tty eggs does to them. Disgusting!

Chickens

Introducing the New Hens

Our precious cargo of ex battery hens, heading for their new life

Yesterday we collected another 4 ex battery hens from Free At Last hen rescue. They are extremely thin and very bald but we hope with some TLC  they will all blossom into beautiful brown hens,  just like our other 6 have.

This morning I found a soft shelled tangled mess in the coop, but hey ho that’s to be expected. What I didn’t expect to find on opening the nestbox was a perfect egg tucked safely in the straw. Brenda then went inside the coop and laid an egg, bit of a ropey looking thing it was but she cannot be blamed for that. These hens are truly wonderful.

They are eating and drinking well and scratching the ground. So far so good. They have been named after members of the family, left to right from the photo above we have: Chrissie, Shazzy, Brenda and Auntie Marge. 

Free At Last will be doing another rescue this Saturday 28th February. If you would like to rehome some hens please visit their website for more details http://free-at-last.org.uk/

Wildlife

First Butterfly Sighting of the Year

Due to being so busy yesterday with the hen housing preparations I did not get around to updating the blog until now. Yesterday the weather was very sunny and that can only mean one thing. Butterflies!

I am totally nuts about butterflies. I spend a lot of time reading about them, identifying them, learning about their prefered host plants and flight times. I think you get the picture. My name is Karen and I am a butterfly geek. There, I feel better.

Anyhoo, yesterday during all the glorious rays of sunshine, I spotted the first butterfly of the year, a Brimstone in flight. It was just so beautiful and  magical as it danced its butterfly dance around my head. I smiled and drifted off into a dream like state. …..

Then Rich shouted at me to pass him his drill. Urrghh.

Chickens

Preparations for the New Hens

new-chicken-enclosure

Its here! Today is the day we collect another 4 hens. They will be among 140 hens being rescued by Free At Last hen rescue.

We are expecting ‘hand bags at dawn’ type behaviour from our existing flock, so it is sensible, we feel, to house the new hens separately for the time being. The new girls will just be too weak to cope with our other 6 very fit ex batts, pecking at their heels.

Yesterday my dad and Rich built the new enclosure and coop. Only one slight blip with putting the roof sheets on the enclosure but it all came right in the end. I’m amazed that the  swear jar remains empty. The positioning of the new housing being right next door to the main enclosure, will enable all the girls to see and interact with each other safely. This should help with introductions later on. Well that’s the plan anyway.

We are setting off in a couple of hours to collect the new girls. Yay!

Wildlife

Gardeners Friend

robin

Of all the many wild birds to visit our garden smallholding, the Robin remains one of our favourites. Since starting the hard job of clearing the plot which is to become our vegetable garden, we have had the company of a lovely little Robin, a faithful observer waiting for the opportunity to claim a fat worm.

This little Robin has become quite brave in our company.

Vegetable Garden

Clearing the Plot

Rich digging

This weekend was spent tackling the over grown plot which will eventually become our vegetable garden. Although it rained quite a bit today, all in all the weather was kind to us and we managed to get quite a lot done.

The first task was to cut back the giant mass of tangled brambles to ground level. My dad kindly lent us a set of sharp loppers which made short work of the thick gnarly bramble stems. The rose gloves that we purchased last weekend proved to be an excellent choice of hand protection. After clearing the bramble foliage away, Rich began the tough job of digging out the root clumps. By leaving at least a foot of stem visible whilst cutting the brambles, it made it easier to see where we needed to dig to remove roots.

clearing-the-plot

Rich waving a root around

It is much easier to visualise and plan the vegetable beds now that we can actually see the ground. I potted up broad beans this afternoon, feeling confident that they will be planted out in our vegetable garden very soon. Oh that feels good! 

A couple of robins took a lot of interest in our hard work, keeping close by and diving on worms that came to the surface of the soil. I’m relieved that no wildlife was disturbed by our work this weekend, all in all a productive and positive weekend.

Uncategorized

Can YOU Give Ex Battery Hens a New Life?

Lily & Mrs N June 08

Have you ever considered rehoming some ex battery hens?

Battery hens that are deemed no longer productive to farmers are slaughtered. I will spare you the gory details of the undignified end to their already miserable existence.

These hens will be aged just 18 months old and would have spent most of their short ‘life’ in a CAGE. Row upon row of cages filled with 5 (sometimes more) hens jostling to stand on a wire bottom tilted cage the size of an A4 piece of paper. They have no means of expressing or carrying out natural behaviour. They NEVER see the eggs that they lay, see natural daylight or stretch their wings. Most are bald or ‘oven ready’ due to feather pulling from other hens, an act performed out of pure frustration and understandably boredom. Many hens die in their cage, sometimes unnoticed by the farmer, especially if they are in a top tier cage.

Just because the farmer does not need them any more does not mean that their egg laying days are over, they are just not producing enough eggs to make them commercially viable. Please consider re-homing a few ex battery hens and give them a home in a better environment. They are  no harder to look after than a rabbit and will reward you with fresh eggs.

Likewise, please reconsider before buying eggs from caged hens.

Free At Last hen rescue are based in Bedfordshire. Their next rescue will be 22nd February. If you would like to re-home some hens from this rescue please visit their website for more details: http://free-at-last.org.uk/

For helpful and friendly advice regarding caring for ex battery hens, please feel free to join the Ex Battery Hens Forum:  http://s1.zetaboards.com/Ex_Battery_Hens/index/

Please, give a little brown hen a chance at life. Thank you.

Vegetable Garden

Seeds and Sets

Veg Seeds

We bought our vegetable seeds and onion sets today from our local garden centre, which is great don’t get me wrong,  but I cannot help but PANIC! Flicking my eyes over the sowing and planting out times on the packets sent my mind into a frenzied panicky whirl of brambles, weeds and snow, thick heavy snow, well, thick heavy ice actually. The recent bad weather has made it difficult to continue lopping at the new bramble shoots to ground level. Some have already been cut with the foliage left in place for now. The idea is to kill off fresh green shoots to give us a bit of a head start for when we mount a full on assault, the ‘war of the brambles’.

Anyhoo, whilst shopping I spotted some heavy duty rose gardener gloves. I felt much better as I popped a couple of pairs into our shopping basket. At least our hands will be saved from the savage bramble thorns even if every other part of our bodies are ripped to shreds. Actually I don’t relish the thought of that.

So for now at least, I can get on with some indoor sowings, panic some more about the seed potatoes chitting away and have nightmare visions of bramble thorns stuck in my face.

Whoever said the good life was easy?

Vegetable Garden

Chitting Potatoes

 

I forgot to buy seed potatoes last weekend so I made a quick dash to the smallholder suppliers so we can crack on with chitting them.

It is safe to say that we are nowhere near ready with the vegetable garden plot, the whole lot needs to be cleared and dug over. We decided to make a few temporary beds elsewhere in the garden so we can get the growing season underway. Potatoes take up an awful lot of room so we will probably plant some in large containers as well, this worked very well for us last year so its worth another go.

Chickens, Uncategorized

And It Snowed, Again!

snow wig

It snowed heavily again overnight. In fact I believe last nights snowfall was heavier than Mondays. It has been so cold recently that the little bit of winter sunshine from yesterday failed to make much of an impact on Mondays snowfall. Hardly any melted at all.

The hens are again unimpressed with today’s weather but not quite as shell shocked as Monday. Not surprising really considering where they came from. Their enclosure is very sheltered, it has a roof and some temporary tarp on the sides to protect them from wind driven snow. They are well protected from whatever the weather decides to throw at us again today.

One of the difficulties since the start of this severe weather has been to prevent their water drinker from freezing during the day. Monday was particularly annoying and no doubt today will be too. A member on the ex battery hens forum has kindly given a tip to prevent this problem. She adds a glug of olive oil to the drinker, which prevents the water from freezing. I have not tried this yet so I shall see if it works today if access to their water becomes a problem for them.

Our children’s schools are shut again today, its too dangerous for the school buses to travel through the villages as hardly any of the roads have been gritted over night. Rich could not make the journey into the office either, so he is working from home today. The snow plough came through the lane which fronts our property at 6.30am, it helped a little but its still pretty treacherous out there.

So another day of being snowed in, sorry to be the fun police but I hope this is the last of it.

Uncategorized

And It Snowed….

Snowman February 2009

The biggest snowfall for 18 years hit most of the UK big styleee. It started last night and continued throughout most of today. London was worse affected, bringing the capital crashing to its knees. Now there’s a surprise. Meanwhile, here in Bedfordshire it was a peaceful winter wonderland.

Our daughters school closed half day as the weather worsened, our sons school was closed full stop much to his delight. I spent some time with our children today building a snowman. Although I was frozen solid and my hands and feet throbbed with  pain from being so cold, today brought back so many memories of my childhood during the long forgotten harsh winters.

Another day of snow filled fun awaits our children tomorrow, their schools are to remain closed. The chickens were soooo not impressed with the snow, I was quite concerned about them today. They are by large sheltered from the worst of it but they still sulked all the same, choosing to spend most of the day inside the coop. Only 1 egg today, says it all really.

On the vegetable front, I started off some garlic in small pots yesterday. Hurrah! I finally got something done, although I totally forgot to buy some seed potatoes at the weekend. Duh!

Chickens

Expanding The Flock – More Ex Battery Hens!

Mucky Beak Lily

For a long while we had been toying with the idea of getting some ducks, for one reason or another we just did not get around to getting any. Since moving here I have been thinking a lot lately about our current flock of hens. Perhaps its because I spend the most time with them, witnessing first hand the dramatic change in their appearance and behaviour. Then of course there is all this extra S P A C E !

I really enjoy the chickens company, they love to ‘help out’ in the garden, like yesterday for instance. I must have raked 8 large piles of fallen leaves from the massive oak trees only for the hens to dive in and kick all the leaves around the lawn again! I cannot be cross with them, they are only helping after all. Its moments like this that while I watch and smile at the hens doing their worst, I cannot help but cast my mind back to the early days of having them. They were so unsure and scared in their alien new world, it was heartbreaking to watch. Back then it was hard to imagine that they would ever be ‘proper’ chickens doing chickeny things. But they are.

All this thinking has made me reach a decision at last. We are going to get 3 more ex battery hens. We have plenty of room here to house more hens, plus I have some Christmas and birthday money burning a huge hole in my heart whilst looking at hen houses on the internet. I’m not entirely sure when the girls will arrive, there are a couple of rescues scheduled soon so we have a bit of time to prepare the new hens residence.