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.