Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The End, well sort of....

I've been debating a lot over the last few months whether to combine Bottom of the Pecking Order with The Urban Cottage. There are pros and cons to both and I've found myself writing this final post several times, only to decide that I will keep the two blogs separate and delete it again.

We've now had our hens for 1 year, and this blog has been running for almost as long. The plan was always to tell you about the learning curve involved with keeping livestock in the garden for the first time and I hope you've enjoyed the journey.

My decision has finally been made though. From now on news of our four hens will appear on The Urban Cottage along with all the other posts about patchwork, potatoes and puddings. I'm going to start a regular feature all about the mischievous chickens which I'm sure lovers of this blog will enjoy.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

She Lays!

Yes, it's the answer to that question, the one you've all been asking for months. Fizzy, our 14 month old hen, has finally laid her first egg. I must admit we're a little disbelieving but the evidence is all there. The trouble is that Frog and Fizzy eggs turn out to be remarkably similar. Tuesdays egg was put down to Frog on an off day. It was incredibly small, but Frog has been a little off colour recently laying lots of thin shelled eggs so this didn't surprise us.

We believe these are Fizzy's first two eggs (L)
with a Pepper egg for scale (R)
Wednesday however, four eggs were laid. One Pepper, one Lemon, one small egg that was too thin and smashed, and one small egg that survived. To further compound the evidence when Joe got home from work he collected the two large eggs and dealt with the thin egg and discovered Fizzy keen to spend time in the coop. He had to go out again for 30 mins, and on returning home a second time discovered the fourth egg. On reflection we think that this was probably Fizzys second egg, with Tuesdays tiny egg being the first.

So well done Fizzy for finally figuring out how this egg thing works, and here's to lots more "four egg" days!

The girl herself

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Double Yolker

In all three hundred odd eggs that our hens have so far laid we've been treated to two double yolks, both laid by Pepper.

I had always assumed that a double yolked egg would be indistinguishable from its counterparts until cracked - but so far this has not been the case. On both occasions Pepper has laid eggs that are decidedly bigger than her normal ones. Let me show you what I mean:

I know I've shown you pictures that look like this before, and they've been one bantam, one regular egg - so for a sense of scale lets bring one of Frog's eggs into the picture too:

Are you starting to get a sense of scale yet - these eggs are pretty big! Inside they look a little like this:

A great topping to pizza for two - shame about the broken yolk.


Monday, 20 May 2013

The Broody Hen

It was inevitable really. Some breeds of hen are better know for being broody than others, and our four all fit into this category. None more so than our two Orpington's and Lemon has decided that it is definitely time to live up to this stereotype.

I got home from work on Wednesday to find that we only had three hens wandering around the run. Lemon was settled in the nest box. I lifted her up to fetch any eggs that had been laid to discover that she wasn't trying to lay - but was sitting on three eggs (including one of her own). Both her tummy and the three eggs were surprisingly warm. Alarm bells went off inside my head.

From this point we started a little battle. I would take her out of the nest box and encourage her to join the others in exploring the garden. She would wander round outside for a bit and then disappear back inside again. On Thursday afternoon I shut her out of the nest box for a few hours. She didn't seem phased by this at all, but returned to her dark corner within minutes of me opening the pop hole.

So it came to drastic action. We decided to try and break her of this bout of broodiness. A hens determination to sit on some eggs can often lead to illness from refusing to leave the nest to eat or drink and we didn't want it to go this far.

As far as I can tell there are a few methods of doing this and all centre on cooling the hen down. Her hormones will raise her temperature to help keep the eggs toasty, so by cooling her down you trigger the end of this process - as if she'd left the nest of her own accord.

A popular method is to put them in a separate cage (like the sort of thing used during puppy training) and raise it off the ground so that there's a cool air flow all around. You'll probably need to do this for a week or so. We don't have such a cage, so skipped that one and moved onto an easier option.

We planted ice cubes in the next box. I'd love to have seen her reaction when she first discovered them. As far as we can tell she probably sat on them for most of the day, she was certainly still there that evening. The nest box was a soggy mess and we were all ready for a repeat the next day.

However, to our relief she showed no signs at all of wanting to spend the following day sitting on eggs and all was back to normal. Ice 1: Lemon 0. I hope we don't have to repeat this too many times over the summer.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.

This is becoming a regular sight this summer. They seem to quite enjoy sitting on the doorstep watching us. Often they sit so close to the door that they knock against it as they preen, making me jump on more than one occasion. Tap, tap, tap.

Joe has taken to taunting them by placing different objects on our side of the glass. They found a mirror mildly confusing, but go nuts over the sight of a tin of corn that they can't reach!

I'm now waiting for the day this summer when we leave the door open and suddenly discover a chicken wandering around the kitchen. This does of course assume that the weather is sunny enough for such things....

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Urban Cottage

[Warning! One shameless plug coming right up!]

Have you enjoyed reading details of our lives with hens, but wondered what it is we're growing in our veg patch? Have you ever looked at the Egg Log but wondered what it is we use all those eggs for?

Have you ever wondered what our door bell looks like?

Then look no further than The Urban Cottage. Joe and I have started a new blog all about our garden, kitchen and crafting experiments, and if you want to know more, then it's the place to be. Maybe I'll see you over there?

Yet if all you want to know is which chicken was first in the race to get out of the coop this morning; then Bottom of the Pecking Order is still here to tell you just that!

p.s. This morning it was Frog.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Chickens and seedlings don't mix!

As much as we've loved having the hens loose in the garden, we do have one complaint. They seem completely incapable of distinguishing between an empty vegetable plot, and one covered in new plants. They scratch and dig their way through both, and given the time would happily dust bath in either. We've lost a few plants to their worm-hunting efforts, and have got rather fed up with chasing them away from certain areas of the garden. Unfortunately where one goes the rest promptly follow and the four of them can do a lot of damage in a remarkably short period of time!

Since we're starting to plant out salad crops we decided that this needing dealing with - and quickly. So I built a fence. The vegetable plots are now a completely separate, (hopefully) chicken proof part of the garden.