Third hen comes into lay

Early this morning, when I let the ladies out of their safe little house, I discovered an egg on the roosting perch. Surprising, because both Mary and Agda have been using the nesting box, and have never laid anywhere else. My best guess was that Elin had come into lay in the night, and been either too dozey, or too surprised by the whole proceedure to go looking for a more secluded nesting spot.

This afternoon there were three perfectly formed eggs in the nesting box. So that settles it, all three darlings are now doing their chickenly duty. A celebration was held, involving spring greens. Daft name that, spring greens, for something you can buy in Asda in late October, grown in the UK too, according to the lable.

I've been having fun this afternoon. Rented a little Vauxhall Corsa automatic for the day, to try it out before deciding if it would be suitable for transporting the hens to Hampshire next month. Did I mention that I'm going to be almost-grown-up-sitting the nieces for a week while their mum flies off to New Orleans for wedding anniversary celebrations? Couldn't get a hen sitter, so instead they are going to pay the car rental, and I'm driving down in finest hill billy style, with a car full of chickens (in cat boxes) with their roosting perch wrapped in black plastic sacks, so that they have somewhere familiar to sleep once safely tucked away into Liz's empty greenhouse?

I've never driven an automatic before, but it was dead easy, no stalling at roundabouts cos I've accidentally put it in third, no accidental opening of the window because I wasn't concentrating and my right hand still insists it should be doing the gear changes - even in right hand drive cars. Only one small problem, after I brought it home and played about backing it onto the hard standing, I went for a cup of tea, and afterwards I couldn't get it to start again. Had to accost a group of neighbours, and have them remind me about pushing in the button that hides on the front of the gear stick. It doesn't have all the lovely cubby holes that the megane grand scenic had, or the wonderful digital display, but it makes up for that by being automatic and so nifty to park.

It's fun having a car again, and I don't have to bring it back until half past two tomorrow. Hope I can get up reasonably early tomorrow and have another good play with it.

Organic layers and bean-sprouts

I'm delighted to report that the chickens quite obviously prefer the organic layers pellets to the pellets they had with them when they arrived.

Anyone know how to make a side menu with links in? All I could find was the instructions for adding a link to a journal entry.

So here goes.

bean-sprouts One family's search for the good life

and, on a non chicken related front, but I think I'm in love with this wench

I Blame The Patriarchy. The patriarchy-blaming blog that never misses dinner

Read them both.

Eggs glorious eggs

The little black hen is laying an egg most days now. The eggs are so big that I worry about her, and if she eats enough to compensate for dropping such a large proprotion of her body weight in nutrients each day.

The bigger eggs, which come after a delay of 36 hours or more tend to have two yolks inside. So I guess the first yolk got delayed, or the second yolk hurried down in time for them both to end up inside the same shell.

Not having a car can be annoying at times. I had to pay a tenner to get the local feed shop to deliver the bales of straw and wood shavings. So I was delighted to find an online shop that sells layers pellets. I've ordered a bag of organic pellets, in the hope the hens will like them a bit better than the ordinary layers pellets. I got a sack of pellets from the bloke who sold me the birds, so that they would have the kind of food they were used to, but they don't really like them much at all.

Second egg

Found another egg this afternoon. A bit bigger than the last one, and still warm from the chicken. May have to go and buy tomatoes and mushrooms tomorrow so I can enliven this daft diet with a breakfast fry up.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Great joy is mine! The first egg has been laid. Isn't she a beauty? Couldn't you just sit and admire her all night long?

At long last. I was starting to wonder what on earth I was doing wrong. Should I be force feeding them with layers pellets? Did they have any intention of coming into lay before next Easter? Ethel and Minna are coming to stay on 9th October, and I was hoping to have a steady supply of breakfast eggs, and souffle fixings by then.

Agnes and Elin are still quite obviously going through a gawky teenage phase, so I didn't expect anything from them yet. They are going to be quite a bit bigger than little Mary by the time they are full grown. Mary has been a respectably mature looking young henny matron for weeks, with dangly wattles and a large floppy comb all in a glorious bright red that contrasts so prettily with her lovely black-green plumage.

Since they arrived Mary has been top hen, but recently the other two have taken less notice of her bossy ways. Last night, when I went to shut them in, I discovered Agnes and Elin sitting next to each other, with Mary crouched crossly on top of their backs. As top hen she always managed to insist on getting the warmest space, the middle chicken of three. Agnes was in her usual space next to the wall, but Elin was obviously staking a claim to be top hen, by snuggling close and refusing to budge, even after Mary perched on top of her. Perched and pooped of course, like chickens do, but Elin wasn't going to move, and all they seemed to have gone to sleep like that. I lifted sleepy Mary, and put her on the perch next to Elin, and she hardly woke at all. Ah the dramas of the hen coop, why would anybody ever want to watch any other soap opera?

Did Mary decide to finally part with this first egg in a bid to regain her top chook status? Or were my threatening mumbles about sage and onion stuffing finally getting to her?

So, what to do with the first egg? Photograph it, naturally, but then what? Blow the contents for scrambled eggs, and hang the shell in pride of place somewhere indoors?

Old George nextdoor had his shed broken into last night. I noticed the back gate was open and phoned to ask if he'd like me to go and close it. Turned out whoever it was who left the gate open also left the shed door open, with the padlock still in place, but the hasp hanging loose. George says they're welcome to anything they might have found in there, he hasn't been able to walk that far for years, so he can't even remember what was in there, probably some ancient garden tools that had seen many decades of wear. I just hope we don't have any chicken rustlers in the area.

Plenty of shady characters though. A gaggle of worried looking Lidl personnel stopped me at the till, saying something about my bags. I thought they suspected me of shoplifting, and handed over the empty bags willingly. Which caused even more concern. "It's missing. He took it. I knew he took something!" Finally I cottoned to the fact that they thought my purse had been nicked. A dodgy looking bloke that security was keeping an eye on had dived into the shopping bag I'd left hanging from the trolley, and then scarpered when he realised he had been spotted by a member of staff. They all presumed he had made off with my purse, but luckily it was in my trouser pocket, safe and sound. Even I am not often daft enough to leave my purse in a bag hanging from a shopping trolley, and then wander off and forget it, not that it never happens mind....

Neglect and guilt

I'm a bad, bad, bad mother hen. Yesterday afternoon I revarnished the chicken coop. This meant removing the gangplank, and closing the pophole.

The chickens were allowed out into the garden, since they refused to pay the slightest attention to my admonishments about not eating the drips of varnish that fell down inside the run.

They had a jolly time, digging deep holes in the blueberry bed, scritching the expensive ericacious compost down on to the lawn. Nipping off the last few strands of cherished and tender flame creeper that had managed to survive the summer, and biting the heads off most of the polyanthus seedlings.

Round about then I finished the varnishing, and noticed what they had been doing. So I bribed them to leave the plants alone by offering them some corn. Mr Nextdoor recommended feeding them from the palm of your hand, he did this with his pigeons to make them very tame and easy to handle. I can recommend not doing this with hens, especially if the hens in question have very sharp beaks and no inhibitions. The hardy calloused hands of gardeners might just survive relatively undamaged, but children and the tender handed are unlikely to enjoy the experience.

With corn it was easy to lure them back inside the run. Leaving me free to go back indoors and back to the work of revamping the lezziegardens website. Joomla template making, easy for some.

Time flew. Around 7 pm I stopped to get a mug of tea, thought about the chickens, and thought "they can go up and roost on their own, it doesn't matter if I'm a bit late closing the pophole one night". Anyone spotted the glaring fault in this line of reasoning?

At 9 o'clock, at least 45 minutes after roosting time, I remembered the chickens again. Only this time I also remembered that I'd taken their gangplank and shut the pophole door when I was varnishing the front of the coop. Oh guilt. Oh shame. Oh wickedness.

Grabbed a torch and scuttled out down the dark garden, lamenting fluently. Found all three pullets sleeping soundly in the bit of run that goes under the coop. Mary had snared the top of the drinker, as being the only perch-able object, Agda and Elin were snuggled up together on the grass. My opening the side door to the run, and lifting the hinged lid of the coop produced no more than a gentle murmur of clucking from the poor neglected sleepers. It wasn't until I grabbed Agda that there was any protest at all, and that was all in the form of frightened fluttering from her. Once her feet felt the reassurance of the well known wooden perch beneath them she got the point, grabbed hold, and sat clucking in a mixture of annoyance and content.

Meanwhile, Mary is still roosting on top of the galvanised drinker, her scaly feet wrapped round the cold flat metal of the carrying handle. Getting her off is no easy task. I lift a chicken, and find myself holding a chicken who is in turn holding a heavy metal drinker, containing a couple of litres of water. Oh the extra guilt! Manage to wedge chicken into armpit, and use other hand to wheedle chicken feet off handle of drinker. Get well deserved scratched arm from angry flapping chicken. Mary's a fighter when provoked, and even when she does realise that she has the wooden perch under her feet she is still cross. Stretching her neck, squawking angrily, hopping from the perch to the edge of the open roof of the coop, and threatening to fly off again. I have to push her back onto the perch and almost close the lid of the coop roof before she decides there is no current threat and starts to settle down.

The only good thing about all this curfuffle is that Elin has been woken by it, and has fled from underneath the coop out into the main run. While I am being taught the error of my ways by Mary's claws she has already found the gangplank, and open pop hole door. She's standing outside, looking in, waiting to see if I eat the other two. As soon as I close the roof to stop Mary flying away, Elin clambers inside the coop under her own steam, a bit of fluttering and clucking later and they are all settled down, doing that sleepy clucky murmur that means they'd be fast asleep if only they could get some peace and quiet.

So there you have it. It's a jolly good job there aren't any social workers on the look out for neglectful and incompetent chicken minders. The RSPCA are kept busy by even worse monsters than myself, and the only punishment I'm likely to face is from the voice inside my head, who isn't going to let me forget in a hurry.

The moral of this story is "Before you leave the chickens to make their own way to bed, do be sure that you haven't shut them out of the bedroom."

(no subject)

Finally got the lawn mowed, for the first time since the cluckers moved in. High time it was done, but I put it off initially to avoid frightening them, and then the weather turned wet.

They didn't exactly relish the experience of having the lawn mower passing outside their run. While it was invisible round the back of the coop they tolerated the noise, clucking and scuttling around in the run in great dismay. As soon as the monstrous grass guzzling machine hove into view they were off, up the gangplank, and into the shelter of the coop. I could see beady eyes, peeking out through the ventilation netting.

It took a good long while after the noise had ceased, and the lawn mower was safely put away, before they condescended to come back out again. Very carefully. Their distrust soon vanished when they realised that I'd emptied the contents of the clippings box into the run. What joy, mounds of chopped grass to strut and scratch about in. All the grass you can eat, and more, cut into bite sized pieces, and strewn beneath your feet. Pullet heaven. First they just sucked down masses of grass, like hungry people eating spaghetti. Then they obviously started to feel a bit full, and instead of eating the grass they've been scratching it out of the way, and bending beady eyes towards the ground, in search of scurrying creepy crawlies. Bit early for that when the grass has only just been dropped, but by tomorrow it'll be colonised by yummy woodlice and earwigs.

The Great Escape

They lulled me into a false sense of security, by seeming so happy just to cluck about inside the garden. So I let them out at 5 o'clock this afternoon, and went back indoors to read a gardening magazine.
Around 7 pm there was a ring on the doorbell, and Helen from two doors down had come to tell me that one of my chickens had got into George's garden, which is next to her own.
So out I went to encourage Mary (it would be Mary) back to my side of the net fence. The daft little clucker kept sticking her head through the mesh, and then pushing really hard with her body, and getting very upset when she didn't get back through. I tried to lift the bottom of the fence up enough to make a space for her to get through. Did she thank me and scuttle back through the chicken sized gap that was costing me so much effort to hold open? Did she heckers like, she scuttled off further down the garden, avoiding my nasty human hand that was holding the wire net.
Next clever idea was to lift one of my plastic chairs over the fence, so that she could hop up onto it, and from there easily jump back into my garden. She ran under the chair several times, and kept on sticking her daft head into the netting and pushing so her feet scrabbled on the concrete path!
Time to get the trusty net-on-a-stick, and do a bit of trespassing nextdoor myself. I wonder if George noticed, and what he thought of it if he did? Thank goodness he isn't as security conscious as me, the bolt to his back gate is easy to reach from outside, so I could let myself in without having to hurdle the fence.
Helen tried to stifle her amusement at my attempts to catch the dratted hen, who was wise to the net since last time she experienced it's embrace, and dashed off clucking in terror as soon as it descended. Old George doesn't get out in his garden anymore, he can't get down the step from the back door without great risk and difficulty, so he pays a bloke to come round and weed whack it every 6 weeks or so. The result is shortish grass, and mounds of bindweed covering what used to be currant bushes and the foundations of a greenhouse. Treacherous footing for the unwary chicken chaser, I was glad to have Helen standing by in case I turned an ankle and ended up sitting on my bum amongst the greenery, with a daft chicken who would probably come and roost on me if I sat down.
Finally caught the squawking critter, and heaved her over the fence. When I returned to the garden, carrying the chickenfishingnet over my shoulder, all three pullets ran off acting as if they thought I was the grim reaper coming with a sickle to get them!
They were far too flighty to be herded back into prison, so I ended up sitting in the shed as the rain pelted the roof, waiting for it to get late enough for them to return of their own free will.
By eight o'clock they were snuggled up on their roosting perch, so I battened down the hatches and gave them a serious lecture about the dangers of leaving our garden. Then I warned them that it would be a good long while before they got out again, if they ever did, and came back indoors to get warm.