Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas Hens!

Happy Christmas Honey, Dopey, Ginger and Speckeldy Selina. We celebrated Christmas with eggs on toast for breakfast, laid yesterday. What a luxury!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

It is so hard taking pictures!

I find it very hard to take photographs of the chickens - they just don't seem to want to pose for me! But here are a few from last week. Honey looks VERY fat on her pictures - they are taken in the afternoon when she has a bulging crop - it really does swing from side to side! But it goes down overnight. Speckeldy Selina is the 'queen of the chickens' according to my son - she is definitely the grandest chicken!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Eggs anyone?

I have too many eggs! The girls have been laying and laying and laying! I think I need to find some new ways of using eggs in baking. I want to try making ice cream if I can find a good recipe that doesn't require an ice cream maker, and also mayonnaise would be good. I've been doing lots more baking, and giving eggs away - I gave 18 away today, and still have a good number in the fridge!

The chickens are all happy and healthy - no problems to report which is always good news!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Competition for something tasty!

Our hens are normally the best of friends, with very little pecking or bullying. But today I looked out of the window, and saw a full scale chase - Ginger had something in her mouth (I suspect a slug) and the other three were very energetically chasing her round the run. I think Honey actually managed to steal it off her, after a fairly violent assault. Sometimes they are so mean!

We are still getting lots and lots of eggs. Strangely, the colour of them seems to be stabilising as a darker brown - one chicken (I think Ginger) lays very pale eggs, but the other three are almost indistinguishable. They are all definitely laying as we often get 4 egg days now.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Bedraggled hens

It has been very wet here over the last few days, and the poor chickens have been looking very soggy. Honey and Dopey, the Goldlines, seem to really hate the rain - their feathers seem to absorb the water more. Ginger doesn't seem to mind the rain - she has thicker feathers and seems a bit more 'waterproof'. Speckeldy Selina doesn't mind it much either. Their run is a bit of a mud bath now.

Eggs - we have lots! Generally 3 or 4 a day. They are a little less reliable about laying in the nest box - Ginger in particular often lays in the house or even the run - perhaps this is when the nest box is engaged and she just can't hang onto her egg any longer!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

4 eggs again today

We finally seem to have reached capacity production! The chickens are eating a vast amount at the moment, and producing lots of eggs. I think the fine weather is helping - May-July was just so wet that I think they 'laid off' the eggs. But so far September has been lovely, which must be nicer for them. I've been able to give a fair number of eggs away, which I always find a nice thing to do as people just love the taste of freshly laid free(ish) range eggs from very happy hens.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Today is the day we have been waiting for!!!

Today is a special day in the chronicles of the Alsop chickens! The hens have been very greedy over the last few days, demolishing a whole feeder full each day. And today, Speckeldy Selina and Ginger (I think) laid eggs this morning, followed by Honey and Dopey this afternoon. Which makes today officially our first four-egg day!

Congratulations hens!!!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Ouch! That's got to have hurt!

Egg production has settled into a more reliable routine. We are getting between 0 and 3 eggs in a day, but averaging 2-3. Still no 4 egg days, although I'm fairly sure all the hens are laying again. Honey and Dopey have both readopted the squatting position which seems to signal when they are in lay, and we are certainly getting more than one light brown egg most days, which shows at least one of the Goldlines must be laying (the other light brown egg coming from Ginger the Black Rock).

Last Thursday I was surprised to find not only 3 eggs, but one of the eggs was HUGE!!! On weighing it, it proved to be a whopping 75g. We haven't opened it yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a double yolker. It is definitely a Speckeldy Selina egg, because it is the lovely deep brown colour of her eggs.

This picture shows some of their eggs - the two on the left are either Black Rock or Bovan Goldline eggs - I haven't yet worked out a way to distinguish them. Sometimes the light brown eggs have speckles on them, sometimes they are very uniform in colour. The two eggs on the right are both Speckeldy eggs - the far right egg is a normal sized egg, and the one in the middle is her huge offering! She did squawk a bit after laying that - I can't say I'm surprised really!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Three eggs in one day

On Saturday I was away most of the day, and returned home to find THREE eggs in the nest box!! One was definitely Speckeldy's, and I think one was Ginger's, but of the other two I have no idea who it was. They are still a little bit subdued, but I think the worming medicine has helped a bit. I have just got the various powders and potions from the Domestic Fowl Trust, so I will try and give them a dusting this evening, and also put some in their dust bath. The first four egg day will definitely be one for celebration!

Friday, 24 August 2007

A visit from Mr Fox

We were woken this morning at about 5.45 to the sound of squawks coming from the chickens. As the weather is nice at the moment, I've been leaving their pophole open so they can enjoy the early morning, but this morning the fox came to visit. He was sitting on top of the run part of their house, and the chickens clearly do not like this! We chased him off, but Speckeldy Selina was now into squawking mode, which was rather embarassing, as at least one of neighbours had their downstairs lights on(!). Woops. We stayed in the garden with them for a while, till they calmed down, and Graham did some very early morning weeding. It reminded me of that episode of The Good Life when Margot and Jerry shout at Tom and Barbara for the noise they are making. They were revving the rotary cultivator though, not just a few chicken squawks.

I think I am going to have to shut them in overnight - it's not really fair to wake the whole street up at 5.45. And the mornings will be getting darker soon anyway.

I've also wormed them all - I got some Flubenvet from The Domestic Fowl Trust, where Speckeldy Selina and Ginger came from. The instructions said to add 120g of powder to 100kg of food. So last night I was painstakingly weighing out 2.5g to put into 2kg of food, using a Calpol medicine spoon! I hope this might perk up Honey and Dopey. I've also ordered some delousing powder and red mite powder, to put into their dustbath. Ginger and Speckeldy are laying pretty well now, but I'd like to get back up to full capacity!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Just a few pictures

I thought it was time for a few new pictures - in order, these are Speckeldy Selina foraging, a "mothers' meeting" of chickens(!), Honey looking beautiful and Ginger caught in the flash!

Still no eggs from Honey and Dopey - I'm almost convinced they're moulting - they are looking a bit bedraggled round the necks.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Ginger the hen breaks her duck!

This morning I let the hens out, and was surprised to see Ginger squatting down when I stroked her. This was a clear sign she was about to start laying, and her comb suddenly looked redder. This afternoon, sure enough, was Ginger's first egg. Speckeldy Selina is laying beautiful eggs very regularly.

Honey and Dopey have both not only stopped laying, but have stopped squatting down when I stroke them. I wonder if they are going to have a moult, as it is that time of year, and the days have been very dark and wet this year - very little in the way of sun. Hopefully they will pick up again soon.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Speckeldy lays, as Honey and Dopey go on strike!

As I thought in the last post, Speckeldy Selina is definitely laying! Her eggs are a beautiful brown chestnut colour, as she is a Maran cross. But almost as soon as she started laying, Honey and Dopey have stopped! They are not ill, full of life, eating, drinking. But no eggs! It is a mystery!

I've switched them all on to layers mash feed as they seem to prefer it to the pellets. They also like grass when free ranging, and a variety of different insects that they can catch. Their favourite food is still either corn or cat food when they get it (it is an occasional treat, unless I really can't get them to go back in their run, in which case it is a sure fire solution!!!).

Monday, 6 August 2007

Speckeldy getting ready to lay?

All four chickens escaped today, led by the ringleader Ginger, who leaped out of the nestbox when I went to collect the eggs. They are not too hard to catch now - Dopey and Honey have always been easy, and I noticed today that Speckeldy Selina has started squatting down in the same way as Dopey and Honey do when I stroke them - I suspect she is about to lay! Her comb and wattles have gone really red as well, so I hope we may get some dark brown eggs in the next few days. Ginger is still showing no signs of laying, but I have read that Black Rocks are late starters, so maybe she will take another week or so.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Settled Flock

The hens have all settled down together very happily now. No pecking or bullying at all. They are still very much in two groups of two - Speckeldy Selina and Ginger stick together, as do Honey and Dopey, but they will often curl up all together in their dust bath. Honey and Dopey are very easy to pick up, and don't seem to mind being stroked by the children, and I imagine Speckeldy and Ginger will become easier once they have started to lay - Honey and Dopey seem to squat down when we approach, whereas the other two flap off!

They really enjoy coming out into the garden - I wish it was safe to let them out all day, but the foxes are so confident round here that they would not last a day. And it does mean our garden stays relatively chicken poo free!!!

Honey and Dopey are both laying regularly now - we usually have 2 egg days, with about a third being 1 egg days. Only 1 day with no eggs at all since they arrived. We are certainly enjoying them!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Clipping wings and a stranded hen

It's been yet another day of torrential rain - our poor chickens have been looking utterly bedraggled. Their run had also become a bit of a mudbath, so we did an emergency cleaning operation this evening. Our friend George was here, so we enlisted him to help clip Honey and Dopey's wings, to avoid any escapes into the bay tree, or worse, next door! It was actually remarkably easy, and they were very co-operative. They seemed to enjoy their first experience of free ranging in our boggy garden, and weren't too difficult to round up at the end of the evening - Speckeldy was a bit resistant to going back in, but the blue tarpaulin soon persuaded her! Here are some pictures of our 'flock' loose in the garden, including some better pictures of Honey and Dopey.

The Bovan Goldline hens can be distinguished by their neck markings - Honey has a white 'ruff' around her neck, as seen in this photo - she is on the right, with Dopey in the middle and Ginger on the left. No eggs yet from Ginger or Speckeldy, although Speckeldy is looking more mature, with a much redder comb and developing wattles.

This evening, I went out to shut their pophole at about 9pm, and Dopey came out again, so I had to leave it until 11.30, as we had friends round. When I went out I heard a very forlorn clucking from the covered end of the run - Dopey was crouched down in there. I have no idea why she hadn't gone in - I wonder if she was surprised by the dusk, as it did get dark quite quickly. We lifted her into the hen house, and she seemed happier - she stopped clucking anyway. I hope she is ok, and just got confused, rather than being ill. She has certainly seemed well all day, if a little wet!

The flock enjoying their first experience of free-ranging as a foursome!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Loopy hens!

The weather has been so wet, I thought it would be a good idea to give the hens a protein treat yesterday - they had all been looking quiet and soggy, so I gave them some hardboiled egg, catfood and some Poultry Spice, newly arrived in the post. On putting the bowl out, all four hens leapt on it, wolfed it down, then all lay down for about an hour, looking exhausted! It must be the poultry spice - they didn't react this way to the plain catfood/egg mix earlier in the week! By bedtime they were looking a bit more normal, but this morning they really shot out of the house as soon as I opened the door, and they have been quite manic today - flapping around like anything.

We have a regular visitor to the garden at the moment - Mr Fox! He leaps on top of the chicken run, but hasn't worked out a way of opening it (and hopefully won't!). The chickens don't like it, but don't seem to be intelligent enough to go into their house where he won't see him. On Saturday, the fox was sitting watching the chickens, and Graham crept out with a hosepipe and shot him! The hosepipe is now in situ waiting for an opportunity for more target practice, hopefully discouraging the fox. It has been suggested that male urine is a deterrent to foxes, but haven't been able to persuade anyone to oblige!!!

Only one egg yesterday - I think from Honey, but 2 today. Honey really squawks when she has laid - she likes to announce it to the world, but Dopey is a lot quieter about it - she is more of a lady, and sneaks out modestly, despite laying the biggest eggs at the moment.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Biggest egg yet!

We've had 2 days of 2 eggs, from Honey and Dopey each day, and I was fully expecting today to be a 2 egg day, so I was a little disappointed on checking the nest box to find only 1 45g egg, from Honey. But the best was yet to come - about lunchtime, Dopey disappeared with a squawk inside. I wondered if she was going to lay - after about half an hour I went to check on her, and she was just standing up having laid an egg, which I thought was probably the biggest we'd had - on weighing it, that proved to be the case - 60g!

I'm wondering if Ginger is gearing up to lay - she is the Black Rock - she has changed her behaviour a little and is spending some time sitting in a 'nesting' position either in or on the edge of the dust bath. They are all enjoying the dust bath, and have very vigorous baths!

Friday, 20 July 2007

egg update...

The hens obviously like the rain - back up to 2 eggs today! Hopefully that means Dopey is feeling a bit better.

Cat food and rain

The new chickens seem to have settled into the Alsop chicken family now - they are not being pecked apart from the odd sly peck from Ginger and Speckeldy - just to remind them who was there first! Dopey has been living up to her name - she often takes a nap in the mid afternoon, following a dust bath. Yesterday I was a little worried about her, as she seemed to be dozing off - following Sarah Jemima's pattern, yesterday would have been an 'off colour' day, followed by dying today. I phoned Cotswold Chickens where they came from, and was advised to give her some beef cat food (in jelly not gravy), hardboiled egg and Poultry Spice. After standing in the shop in front of row upon row of cat food, and finding no beef in jelly (I could have had tuna, chicken, lamb, rabbit, turkey, but no beef), I finally found a tiny packet of 'Waitrose special beef terrine' which looked like it would do. I've put that out to perk them up. This morning she seems fine, and not in any danger of imminently dying. She seems to like the wet weather more than hot - I think she maybe gets a little dehydrated, as certainly the journey back from South Newington seemed to drain her.

One egg yesterday - definitely from Honey - she took ages about positioning herself in the nest, squawking, and finally laying, followed by a deafening BRAAAAAAUUU-bock-bock-bock-bock BRAAAAAAAUUUU-bock-bock-bock-bock (not sure if that is correct spelling for chickens, I've probably just written something highly insulting in chicken language!

Some pictures of our first eggs back on Tuesday...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The story so far.

Welcome to Hens and Eggs - my blog about my henkeeping adventures! I've been wanting to keep chickens for ages, and finally decided to go for it! Graham built a henhouse, and we duly went to get our hens on June 24th - we bought a black leghorn called Sarah Jemima, a Speckeldy hen called Speckeldy Selina and a Black Rock called Ginger. Sarah Jemima was the first out of box and seemed to be making herself at home. Unfortunately, on Wednesday 27th she looked very under the weather - hunched, not eating and the other two hens were keeping away from her. On Thursday morning we took her to the vet, who thought she had an infection - unfortunately she died that morning. We took her for a Post Mortem, and they were a bit worried she might have had salmonella. After about 2 weeks of worry, and manically examing the other two for signs of ill health, the results showed she didn't have salmonella. During these two weeks, Speckeldy and Ginger had really increased in confidence, and became very tame - coming up to us when they were out in the garden. We also built a permanent site for them - slabs of concrete covered in bark chippings - to make cleaning easier. They seemed to like it.

We wanted to add another hen, but to make it easier for them to be accepted, decided to get two, which necessitated an extension to the run - Graham created an extra end section, and on Monday July 16th I purchased two Bovan Goldline hens, Honey and Dopey. Dopey was very sluggish when she came out of the box, just wanting to sleep, but after a drink of water she perked up. Tuesday was a day of open warfare, but we did get our first eggs! Both from Honey and Dopey, weighing 42g and 50g. We had poached eggs on toast for tea! Today they seem much more incorporated into the flock, and are spending more time with Speckeldy and Ginger. As of now, we have one egg today, weighing 45g.

Some more pictures

I've been out with the camera this evening to try and take some nice pictures of Honey and Dopey - they are hard to photograph, especially as I don't want to let them out yet, so they learn that the run is their home, but I think I got one that shows them nicely. Dopey is at the front, and Honey slightly behind in the shadow. They are all curled up in their house now - Honey, Speckeldy Selina and Ginger are sleeping in the nest box, and Dopey is on the floor. I ought to encourage them to roost, but none of them seem to have the slightest inclination to do so! Dopey lives up to her name and is a very sound sleeper - she has her head under her wing and barely opened her eyes when I looked in, whereas the other 3 stuck their heads out to find out what is going on. I've shut the pophole on them tonight, as a fox has been prowling - it will be interesting to see how they react when they wake up!

These photos show the coop in its new position under the bay tree, with the new extension. The blue tarpaulin is our method of catching Ginger and Speckeldy Selina at the moment - they are quite scared of it, and run back into the house. Otherwise they are impossible to catch!

Lastly, someone asked me about the way we had positioned the coop on concrete slabs - we had originally put wire on the bottom of the coop with the idea that we would move it round on the grass. After the torrential rain the weekend we got the chickens it became obvious that walking out to the coop in wet weather would quickly turn the garden into a mud bath, and their poo became trampled onto the wire, which wasn't very nice for them. They also couldn't scratch with a wire base, but I didn't want to take the wire off while it was still on the grass as a fox (of which there are many in Bristol) could easily have dug under and taken the hens. So we laid paving slabs, which the fox can't dig through, took the wire off, and put a floor of bark chippings down. They seem much happier with this arrangement, and cleaning is very easy - simply lift the coop off the slabs, shovel the bark chips out, hose it down, replace the coop, replace the bark chips and it's ready. This is a photo of the 'floor' of it.