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Internet Connection

We are now in our new home, the move went smoothly which was amazing really seeing as we had so many animals to transport! Getting back online has proved tricky though but hey ho it seems to be working now. We will have to play catch up for a bit but hopefully it wont take too long, lots to do and blog about and so many great blogs we have missed reading I see we have been tagged too by Little Slice Of Life

Apologies for not completing your tag yet, we will try and do it as soon as we can, thankyou for thinking of us.

Chickens, Uncategorized

The Hardworking Gardeners

cleaning-up 

The packing is now almost done, just the last few essentials remain. Its all very exciting and scary at the same time, but we are all looking forward to getting settled into our new home in time for Christmas.

Yesterday we spent some time in the garden generally cleaning and tidying around. A few pots of finished plants and veg needed tending to and the hens decided they would like to help ‘clean up’ the woodlice that ran out from under the plant pots, they mostly made a mess but they throughly enjoyed helping us out. After all their hardwork they were treated to a bowl of lettuce, dried mealworms, sweetcorn and grain.

Well, its hungry work this gardening lark!

Chickens

Tough Old Birds, The Morning After Bonfire Night

six-eggs

I spent most of last night worrying myself sick about the hens while the fireworks were whizzing and crashing around, and im sure I was not alone. Our dog does not bat an eyelid at fireworks, in fact he seems to rather like them. I have always said he was wasted on us and should have been a working dog. Our rabbits have seen it all before, if the fireworks get too loud they happily hop into their bedroom department of their hutches and sit it out, but the hens I was very worried for.

I let the girls out earlier than usual this morning, purely because I was fretting about what I would find. All sorts of scary images flashed through my mind, I took a deep breath and opened the pop hole…..my worry was all in vain! They all barged their way eagerly out of the coop like they always do and started eating and scratching around in an instant.

Its amazing really how tough ex battery hens are, but then again I guess they have to be considering their past lives. I did expect their egg production to be down or of poor quality due to the trauma of the fireworks today but again I was wrong, all six hens laid and not one soft shelled egg amongst them.

They truly are tough old birds!

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Exchange Of Contracts, Finally!

The news we have waited so long to hear is finally ringing in our ears, to say we are over the moon is an understatement. This year has been a long and hard road to follow and now we are a step closer to our dream of the good life. Moving day is just around the corner.

Pets

Daft Rabbit and Defender Of Chooks

As we have mentioned before, we have two pet rabbits here. One is a black and white Dutch called Niki, my (Karen) favourite breed of rabbit for their lovely nature, and an agouti Dwarf Lop called Edge who is a daft as a brush, whatever that means. Edge is our daughters pet and she looks after him very well ensuring all his daily needs are met. We feel this is a great way for children to learn the responsibility of owning and caring for an animal.

We have kept numerous rabbits here for many years and can honestly say have never had a rabbit quite like Edge before, he is truely unique. Not only does this rabbit think he is a cat, or human or both, he actually adores our daughter in the sense that he follows her everywhere, loves to be cuddled, handled, brushed and stroked, never once has he displayed any type of aggression or distress. Of course our daughter is very responsible and looks after him well, but even so the bond between them is magical. Edge has no fear either of our rather large German Shepherd dog who roams the garden smallholding. Edge would rather lick our dog on the nose than run away, he really is that daft!

Onto our German Shepherd dog. He is 3 years old now and he has been a part of our family since he was a tiny puppy. Looking back at his puppy photos its hard to believe he was once so small! We have nicknamed him ‘Defender Of Chooks’ because he chased a fox away that crept out of some shrubs in daylight to get a closer look at our hens. It was a pure heart-in-your-mouth moment that was over in seconds, our dog saw to that and we have not had another daylight visit since. Clever fox.

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Witches and Ghouls

Our two children having fun dressing up tonight. Better get on with the packing, lots to do and so little time!

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Blogging and Packing

At the moment we are in the middle of packing, not to go on holiday (although somewhere nice and hot would be lovely right now) but to move house – a relocation move. This should explain the lack of substance in our most recent posts, we did not see the point of starting new projects or planning for early crops due to the impending move, so it left little to blog about. This has been rather frustrating at times as there are so many things that we want to do and be getting stuck into.

I did mention to Stiggy over at One Man And His Chickens blog a while ago that I would not blog about this particular ‘touchy’ subject, but the excitement has got the better of me. You see the past year has been awful, very stressful and full of disappointments. This time last year we were in a very similar situation, all set to move and get on with our new lives and plans but through no fault of our own the chain collapsed and we lost not only our buyers but the house we wanted too. Then very early this year we sold again only to have yet more problems within the chain which ended with us losing out once more.

Since late summer this year we have been keeping our fingers tightly crossed and silently hoping that the new chain goes through to completion this time. However, we are not completely out of the woods just yet. Due to an admin error (groan) on our mortgage offer, it has delayed exchange of contracts now for a week, hopefully this will be rectified very shortly. We did not want to be packing up before an exchange had happened, it kind of feels like we are tempting fate and that something will go wrong, lets face it everything that could go wrong previously did and this does knock your confidence eventually.

Even so, it is looking very likely that completion will follow very shortly after exchange of contracts, and I think we are wise to make a head start on the packing even if it does feel a bit scary. Hopefully we will have the news we have waited so long to hear soon, it cannot come quickly enough as we are getting just a little fed up of disappointment and crossing fingers. Surely it cannot go wrong again?

Chickens, Uncategorized

Frosty Mornings

Another dusting of overnight frost sparkled at me this morning, the last two days have been particularly chilly here. The weatherman reported that it was going to be around -3 last night, so I spent a bit more time than usual yesterday afternoon making sure that the hens coop was well prepared with extra bedding to at least try and take the sting out of Jack Frost’s forthcoming nightshift.

After letting the hens out early this morning I was greeted with cheery bop-bop clucks from happy hens, totally oblivious to the cold it seemed. I watched them for a while, scratching around merrily in the warm barley straw that I scattered around the enclosure as I clutched my hot cup of tea, trying to keep my hands warm. I think the rest of this week is going to be pretty much the same, good job the hens can cope with the cold better than I do.

Flower Garden, Wildlife, Wildlife Gardening

Autumn Nectar

This welcome sight for hungry bees and other beneficial insects is the flower of Fatsia Japonica, an evergreen shrub that’s as tough as old boots. After the flowers are finished tiny purple/black seed heads are food for small birds. We planted this shrub around 5 years ago and now it must be well over 10 ft high by 9 ft wide, every autumn it’s teeming with hungry bees when the creamy white flowers emerge. They are very similar to the flower spikes of ivy Hedera helix  but are more than double the size. Flowering commences from the bottom of the spike which elongates as it matures, so it’s quite a spectacular plant when there are several spikes in flower.

Fatsia Japonica likes full shade or part shade, in full sun its deep glossy leaves will end up burnt and sickly looking but it will probably still cope!

Chickens, Uncategorized

Best Of Friends

Today marked 6 months of freedom for our ex battery girls. Lily decided to lay an egg outside the coop today, obviously enjoying her freedom of choice quite literally. 

This photo is one of our favourites, our daughter with her hen friend Emily.

Wildlife

Gates and Caterpillars

Caterpillars sometimes choose the most unusual places to pupate, this little fella is preparing to overwinter as a pupa on one of our gates. It is the caterpillar of the Grey Dagger moth, a vibrant coloured caterpillar with the striking hump just before the head. Due to the angle of the gate, this is the best viewpoint of which to take a photo so the hump is not clearly seen im afraid. This is one of those moments that I wish I had a macro lens and a bendy back!

Wildlife

Toads and The Old Potting Shed

Our decision to keep the rotten old potting shed that we inherited 9 years ago when buying this property was a wise decision, it serves the local toad population with somewhere safe to cool off in the summer months, and best of all somewhere safe to hibernate over winter. We hardly keep anything in there now and Ivy has creeped its way in through a gap in one of the broken windows.

Toads are always a welcome sight in our garden, they keep the slug and snail population under control which is great for us because we do not use slug pellets. Its that time of year again when toads and other forms of wildlife will be looking for somewhere to hibernate, the old potting shed will serve them well.

Chickens

Monster Egg

Another huge egg from our chicken Rose, alongside another ‘normal’ size egg for comparison. Whoa!

Chickens

Wet Weekend

Most of our time spent in the garden smallholding this weekend was finding ingenious ways of keeping the chickens dry and out of the high winds due to the lashing from the great British weather. The chicken’s enclosure is 6ft high and although it has a wire mesh roof, it does not have roofing sheets. This is one project that has had to take a back seat for the time being for one reason or another.

You would think the chickens would go inside the coop to escape the worst of the weather, but seeing as they choose not to the girls now have a makeshift shelter which is dry and draught free. It is basically a wood frame screwed together with tarpaulin over the top and 3 sides. They have soft straw down on the floor and their feed bowls are easy to get to. This works for now, but I really cannot wait to get a roof on the run!

Harvest

October Harvest

Its not much I know but very satisfying all the same, especially as I did not think we would get any runner beans this year due to my failure to sow them on time, whoops. We hope that this time next year we are harvesting a bit more produce, rather than one big bang all at once in the summer. Planning is the key, this we need to learn and fast.

The hens all layed today, the white egg belongs to Dolly. Lily’s eggs are the deepest brown so again very easy to spot, whatever she produces needs to be thrown away for the time being, which feels awful to do but totally necessary. The chillies are a tad yellow but they do ripen once brought indoors into the warmth. We used one last night and it gave off alot of heat, perfect.

Wildlife

Harlequin Ladybirds are Bad News

We love wildlife and try to encourage it into our garden smallholding as best we can. We are always looking into new projects and ideas to increase wildlife and insect activity as much as possible, in particular butterflies.

We first encountered the Harlequin ladybird at our garden smallholding in the summer of this year. Due to the sheer size of them ( see photos taken by Karen) we decided to learn a little more about them. We were quite shocked at our findings:

They are in fact ‘alien’ ladybirds, threatening the existence of our native ladybirds, which of course is not good news. The Harlequin ladybird is also a deadly threat to many other insects, including butterflies and lacewings. They are extremely voracious predators that easily out compete native ladybirds for food. They are so successful that while native ladybird numbers dwindle the Harlequin ladybird flourishes. When their preferred food of aphids and scale insects are not available, the Harlequin readily preys on native ladybirds and other insects such as butterfly eggs, caterpillars and lacewing larvae.

The harlequin ladybird originates from Asia and was introduced to North America in 1988 for biological control of aphids on crops. It is now the most widespread ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of northwestern Europe, and arrived in Britain during the summer of 2004.

Most commonly found on deciduous trees, such as lime, sycamore and maple, and on low growing plants such as nettles. They are also partial to sugary fruits such as pears, and nectar from flowers.

Butterflies are having a rough time of it due to the past few wet summers, butterflies cannot fly in wet weather which means they cannot feed or mate. We have planted various butterfly friendly shrubs and flowers to help them right through till the autumn, we are considering getting butterfly and insect houses ( do a google search, they do exist! ) to give butterflies and pollinating insects somewhere warm and dry to hibernate. We also leave clumps of certain weeds such as nettles for example in the borders, these are host plants needed by certain species of butterfly on which to lay their eggs so the caterpillars can feed.

We don’t know what to make of this alien invasion. Have you found any in your garden?

Chickens

Update On Lily

Lily’s blue dancing shoes are no more. They did however see her through till Monday which is not bad considering she constantly scratched around and took her regular dustbath under the bushes. After her dressings were removed I checked her feet and they already look to be healing quite nicely. Her stitches will dissolve eventually, right now she needs them wiped over each day with an iodine based antiseptic to keep nasty germs out.

All in all she is doing rather well considering, however, it is proving difficult to administer her baytril. The problem is she no longer trusts me, after all I am the nasty woman who put her in a box and took her to a place she did not know. Tempting her with favourite foods laced with baytril is fruitless, the other hens naturally want what is meant for Lily so I have to be damn quick before they snatch it, hens are as quick as lightning where food is concerned. Obviously we are not keeping or eating her eggs while she is being treated.
 We decided to replace the wood chippings that are on the floor of the hens enclosure with straw ( the grass went a long time ago! ) to help Lily cope without her dressings. The girls are all enjoying scratching around in it, and snuggling into it now the weather has turned colder.
Chicken Health, Chickens

Bumblefoot and Lily’s Blue Shoes

One of our hens has been lying down a lot more than usual during the day, prompting us to check her feet. We discovered this morning that both feet had brown scabs in the middle of each foot pad. This, along with swelling between the toes, are classic symptoms of bumblefoot. Naturally, this was the reason for her being reluctant to stand for long periods of time. It’s such a shame, Lily does not have the prettiest hen feet in town, some of her claws are missing (presumably due to the wire cage floor she endured whilst in the battery farm) and now she has bumblefoot to contend with.

Lily was seen by a vet this morning who specialises in farm animals. She was admitted to have both bumbles removed, the vet agreed that the cause was most probably from being on wire previously. We were terribly worried about her having gas as birds can easily slip away whist under. Lily is now home and doing very well considering. Fingers crossed she continues to improve, its been a worrying day.

Both her feet are in dressings now and these need to stay in place for the next few days to give her feet a chance to heal without getting dirty, mammoth task really as those who keep hens will realise.

Rose our resident clown hen never fails to make us laugh. On our return from the vets Rose noticed Lily’s blue shoes, she lifted both her feet to see if she had some on too (which of course she does not) then proceeded to protest very loudly.

Hens!

Vegetable Garden

Runners Beans!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Success with the runner beans this year. There are more beans on the plants as well as the ones that can be seen in the photo, enough for a few meals at least. Note to self, sow them earlier next year.

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That Autumnal Feeling

Its official, Autumn is upon us. I love the feel of autumn, the colours and the freshness of it. Autumn makes everything pop out at you and make you take notice, like morning dew on cobwebs for instance. I am up with the larks to let the hens out before they start shouting for me, and this morning the dew covered cobwebs put on a spectacular display, twinkling and sparkling in the morning sun.

Our vegetable garden is winding down to the point that we have nothing left to harvest, the only veg looking at all respectable are unripe chillies and runner beans, trying desperately to produce something before the frosts come. The last of the carrots have been dug up and enjoyed and I only wish that we had been a little more daring with the amount sown. I spent some time this morning casting my eyes over the veg or rather lack of and making plans in my head whilst cradling one of the bunnies. Our neighbours must think I have lost the plot.

The hens all produced today and I had to wince at the size of Rose’s egg, what a whopper. Still, at least breakfast is covered.