Absent For Hen Nursing Duties


Oh and a little bit of gardening.

Brenda has been very poorly lately, but now that she appears much better I am a little happier to blog about her, call it being frightened of tempting fate and all that. Yes I am highly superstitious at times. I noticed that Brenda was poorly looking one day last week, she had that classic ‘I’m not a very well hen look’  about her that I’m sure all chicken keepers dread seeing. You can spot it a mile off, if, like me, you study your hens meticulously. I’m still not entirely sure what the root of the problem was even though she was seen by a vet. Sometimes with chickens its a guessing game unless you go down the route of having X-rays and blood tests done, but because Brenda has a weak heart (a suspicion that I have had for some time now and confirmed by the vet) X-rays were not favoured at this point. With ex batts it comes with the territory to have the odd blippy poorly looking day, especially when they are fresh out of the battery farm. Usually this indicates that a soft shell egg is on route, they really can look quite miserable but once the egg is passed the hen normally brightens up.

Anyway, back to Brenda. She had been laying OK, so I knew something else was up. I kept a close eye on her and quickly realised that she was not eating or drinking and that her crop was very large and squashy to the touch. Sour crop crept into my mind and was quickly diagnosed by a vet , I was surprised that there was no bad smell about her which usually accompanies sour crop.  The vet did try and flush her crop of its contents but had no luck, so, for the next few days, she was taking nothing but water loaded with Critical Care Formula and Avipro through a syringe from me. I knew this would keep her going for a few days but she was getting weak and at one point collapsed. Because of her heart problem, her comb was very blue and I was very worried that we would lose her at any point. She started to ‘drown’  from excess build up of fluid so I immediately emptied her crop for her twice, getting some really nasty brown fluid from her. Once this was all out she really came round and was bouncing around after the other girls as if nothing had happened. So far so good and she is eating and drinking normally, her crop is emptying itself too.

Out of interest, if anyone else has experience of dealing with sour crop I would be interested to hear how you treated it and which medication you were advised to give. Hopefully Brenda will not be troubled by this again but I think it is important that I have as much information as possible to treat this condition as I can. I’m worried I wont be as lucky next time.


One Year On, Ex Battery Hens

The girls

Our original 6 ex battery hens have been free from their cage for one whole year today. Its true to say it has been an emotional journey at times, but a journey that we are glad to have taken.

Scratching around

Our first flock of  6 ex battery hens have made our first year of hen keeping very rewarding and enjoyable. Compared to other people we know, we have in fact been very lucky and had very little go wrong with the girls so far. Bumble foot has been the most annoying and stubborn ailment to clear up, resulting in Lily having to have an operation under gas to remove painful bumbles on both feet. Obviously the girls are knocking on a bit now so we shall probably be facing a few hurdles in the near future. Hopefully they will go on to enjoy their lives for another year yet, who knows.

Rose sunbathing on 20/04/09


Demolition Man

Rich demolishing the old 'shack'

Wow its all been so hectic around here lately, so much getting done at last and so many new things to do. Rich has been a busy boy removing the old remains of an outbuilding come shack (no, not the one we dug up) complete with old water pipe system. It now resides on a heap ready to be cleared. With regards to the other outbuilding, that has yet to be removed from the ground. Groan.


One half of the vegetable garden pretty much resembles a small hill of earth right now, but its nettle free whoop whoop! The plan is to use this excess soil to fill in the inevitable gaping hole that will remain once the foundations of the buried outbuilding are finally excavated, then we can begin to level off the remaining part of the vegetable garden. I have decided that we need a few more frames for vegetable beds seeing as I want to grow not only more than I had originally thought, but in larger quantities. We have recycled some wood from the old shack so we shall be putting that to good use.

Another job that needs doing and doing fast is erecting a new fence along one side and along the back boundary. We had an incident happen last week where a dog from the neighbouring garden entered ours and frightened our hens half to death. Our German Shepherd dog was behind another fence at the time and could not launch the attack on the dog that he so wanted to. I have nicknamed the dog ‘Lucky’.


Free At Last Hen Rescue – 25th April

Mrs N, one of our ex batts almost a year after rescue

Would you like to re-home some ex battery hens? Free At Last hen rescue based in the Bedfordshire area, need new homes for the next rescue which is scheduled for Saturday 25th April. If you are interested in giving some ex battery hens a new life, please please visit the Free At Last website for more details and contact information.

Kitchen Garden

It’s All Growing Well

Sprouts and cauliflower seedlings

Just a quickie update on the vegetable garden, sowing, seedlings and digging. We are still sowing like the clappers, all the seeds are germinating well so far, still waiting on the courgettes to make an appearance but so far so good.

Tomatoes and chillies have been sown and the tomatoes have already started to sprout. Runner beans will be started off in small pots this weekend, I don’t want to get caught out with a late frost or risk having the seed beans munched in the soil like last year.

The sprouts and cauliflower seedlings are doing very well outside in the mini greenhouse, some of the seedlings have their first set of true leaves. I have started off a second sowing of broad beans, the other plants are outside and doing well, even in the frost. We did lose some of the taller plants, but, I think that was my fault for allowing them to go too stringy before planting them out. We had to start the broad beans indoors because none of the vegetable beds were ready for planting.

The sweet corn seedlings are really doing well on the sunny windowsill, they will be planted out as soon as the risk of frost is over. The onion sets are coming along great as well as the garlic. No major dramas so far.

Clearing the veg plot of nettles

The vegetable garden is coming along slowly but we are getting there. We are still having a hell of a battle with nettles on the second half of the plot. Our very friendly neighbour asked us why we don’t just spray the blighter’s and be done with it, I politely answered that we want to be as organic as we can, otherwise what is the point? We may as well not bother trying to grow our own if we are going to pump the soil full with nasty stuff. He probably thinks we are barmy of course and cannot see the point in us out there, every spare hour we can grab, digging like crazy people possessed.

Anyhoo, we now have 5 lovely vegetable beds all fed with lovely well-rotted manure and organic compost, ready to nurture our seedlings and sowings. Oh, that reminds me, must get the carrots, beets, peas and parsnips in soon!