Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A day in the life...

Our chickens have quickly adapted to a routine that makes them nice and easy to care for. An average day goes something like this:

7.30 Open up the coop
Our girls don't do lie ins. If we're a little later than this they start to get grumpy. As we open up the coop door all four come tumbling down the ramp, normally led by Fizzy, and charge across the run to see what the day holds.

They then have some breakfast and will take turns at the feeder and water dispenser before rummaging through the ground for additional treats. This also seems to be the best time of day to go berserk.   They prance and flap, jump and twist, chase each other a bit and generally lark around. Maybe I should try it one day.

The majority of the day
They seem to spend most of the day engaged in a few typical activities. To name but a few: scratching the earth looking for bugs, pecking at whatever they can find, sitting in the sun, rain, or whatever the heavens have in store for us that day, wallowing in dry dusty bits of earth, eating, drinking and flapping at each other. Its a hard life.

17.00 Corn time
We always try and spend time with them when we finish work (how long this lasts is probably weather dependant), and in an attempt to tame them we generally bribe them with handfuls of mixed corn which they go mad for. The consequence of this is whenever we're in sight they'll come running over to see what we're up to, whether we're heading their way or not - just in case there's some corn to be had!

18.30 Bed time
A little bit more scratching around and then its bed time. Once the day starts to turn a bit gloomy they all check the perimeter of the run for possible roosts and then hop into the coop and snuggle down for the night. How civilised!

18.35 More corn?
Once we've spotted that they've all gone to bed one of us will pop out to shut the coop door. Fizzy, in her infinite wisdom, hears us coming and is straight out of the coop again to see what we're up to and check if there is anything tasty on offer. Sometimes this is followed by a mass exodus and we suddenly have a run full of chickens again. Typical.

18.40 Bed time. Again. 
We go back inside, and a couple of minutes later they've all gone to bed. This time we creep out and successfully shut the coop door.

And that's about all there is to it. Simple!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

An egg, an egg, my kingdom for an egg!

I'm sure you are all wondering why I have yet to mention eggs on this blog. A little unusual for a blog about keeping chickens I'll grant you. The girls are now 24 weeks old. They could have started laying at anything from 20 weeks old. Could.

This means that for the last month we have been watching and waiting for our first egg. Every sign of unusual behaviour has had us hoping. There was the night when Pepper decided that instead of going to bed she was going to walk round in circles clucking. Surely that is a sign of a hen about to lay her first egg? Apparently not. All our waiting and hoping has been in vain, and to date we have had no eggs. You heard me; no eggs.

Instead they have decided to moult. This in itself is confusing. An adult bird will moult fully once a year during the autumn - but not in its first year, so ours shouldn't be doing that this time. The other option is that this is the last of the partial moults they are supposed to do before they reach adulthood. They should be too old for this but it seems to be more likely than the first option as none of them have lost large quantities of feathers on this pass.

Whatever the reason for the moult, no hen will lay while she is trying to regrow feathers so it seems we'll have to wait a little longer. We have one more problem though; most hens will reduce laying a lot over the winter months with some stopping all together. Our hopes for eggs before spring are therefore seeming more and more far-fetched.

Pepper seems to have finished moulting for now, having regrown all of her beautiful tail feathers so maybe she will soon grace us with an egg or two. Or maybe she'll decide that the weather has been too miserable and she can't be bothered... we'll have to wait and see!

To the chicken keepers among you... has anyone else had a spring chicken not lay before its first winter? 

Monday, 8 October 2012

The rain, rain, rain, came down, down down...

Autumn has come, summer has gone;
the wind howls and the rain pours.
Still the hens sit outside.

It's dark, it's gloomy,
the ground has turned to mud.
Still the hens sit outside.

Bedraggled and wet,
feathers ruffled in every direction.
Still the hens sit outside.

We watch from a distance,
from the warmth of the house.
And still the hens sit outside.

Anyone else wonder at animals that can spend the day in a torrential downpour and act as if nothing has happened?

Monday, 1 October 2012

Clearing the Deck

When we got our chickens we had not long moved house. Our new place has a good-sized garden which had once had some shape, but had been neglected. We have lots of ideas for this space, some easy, others less so. For the time being we've made a hit list of areas we want to give life to sooner rather than later. One of these is a space that was once used as a child's play area; time and inattention however, meant that when we moved in we nicknamed it The Meadow.

A meadow is a lovely place I'm sure, but it went straight to the top of our list for working on. A series of beds we thought, some for flowers, some for vegetables. Perfect. First, however we needed to remove the grass and weeds. This is where the chickens come in.

We pulled up what remained of the membrane that had once held back the greenery and then set the girls loose on half of the area. They've loved it. In a matter of a month they have reduced it to some bare earth and a few dry stalks. Chickens: 1; meadow: 0. Once they were starting to look bored we moved them to the other half of the area and watched them tuck in with gusto to the delights of grass and dandelion leaves. I don't think that section is going to last long either.

Then came our turn to put in some hard work, marking out the first two beds, digging them up and filling them with earth.

Now all that's left is to decide what to plant. What are your favourites? Any pretty flower or tasty vegetable suggestions welcome!