Friday, 22 March 2013

What's a worm do?

Its that time again. Lots of pets need regular worming and chickens are no different. In the case of our feathered friends, they need to be wormed every 6 months. We did them when we first got them, and time has flown.

We use Flubenvet. You can buy it at places like Countrywide and then its just a case of spiking their feed with it for a week or so. Since our enormous feeder holds over a weeks food for our flock anyway its a case of taking what we'd normally put in each weekend and adding the requisite amount of drug - in this case about a scoop. Simple.

Monday, 18 March 2013

What a palaver!

Our hens are very good at laying their eggs in the next boxes. Once they get the hang of egg laying they don't lay them anywhere else - which is great for us - it means we don't end up scrabbling around trying to work out where they've put them now.

There is one exception to this good news and that is when we need to clean out the coop. This weekend we were due a lot of rain, so I decided to take advantage of a couple of sunny hours on Saturday morning to get the coop all clean and tidy and ship shape ready for another week. We let the hens loose in the garden which is usually quite enough distraction and took apart the hen house.

The coop we bought is really useful as the floor of the main coop removes completely, as do the perches, but it means that once we start cleaning the nest boxes are inaccessible. Lemon decided that this was the moment that she needed to lay an egg. Now. When Pepper or Frog is in this position they tend to hover near the coop with their legs crossed until they can get inside again. Lemon is not this subtle about life. She made a racket and a half. Initially I ignored her, egg laying is not as quick as you'd think and I wanted to get the coop sorted before the rain came. But she kept squawking and squawking and squawking. In the end we quickly sorted the nest boxes and reassembled the not-yet-clean coop to allow her access.

To be fair to her, she did pop straight inside, was quiet, and came out again a couple of minutes later. But she hadn't laid an egg. A moment later she was back inside, and then back out again, and she still hadn't laid an egg. This went on for 20 minutes. In the end it took midwife Pepper to pop in and talk her through it. Finally I thought. Except that they didn't then come back out to enjoy the grass, but decided to both sit in the same nest box on top of the egg. I really hope that this isn't the early sign of a broody hen.

In the end I chucked the two of them out, collected the egg and finally got the rest of the coop clean. What a palaver!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Most of the time of late the chicken run has been a rather squelchy affair. Our soil could sometimes pass for clay fit for sculptors to use and certainly isn't well drained. We have grand plans to change this in the near future by building them a run with several inches of wood chip flooring as this will be better all round, but for the mean time we have to put up with the mud.

Given the sort of winter we've had, I would anticipate our hens having muddy feet - and possibly even slightly muddy feathers. What I didn't realise is that they would end up caked in the stuff. Pepper has not been a pure white bird for many months, and while Frog's chocolate brown feathers can hide the full extent of the muck she too can build up a good layer.

Fizzy however, tops them all. Maybe she's not so good at preening as the others but I can only assume she regularly drags her belly through the muddiest puddles she can find - just for the fun of it.

Fizzy sporting this years fashion of "muddy tummy"

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Just one more minute. Please?

Checking that Joe's new vegetable plot is
in the right place before he starts to dig.
It's becoming a bit of a habit to let the hens loose in the garden for some time each weekend. It's great fun to see them enjoying freedom from their muddy enclosure. The first time we tried it, they barely took in how much garden was available to them but now they're much more familiar with the space and tend to go straight for the grass under the bird feeders which gets covered with seed. Yum yum yum.

Getting the girls back into their run after such an excursion isn't as hard as you'd think due to their great weakness for corn. They're well trained to come running at the rattle of the corn tin and so we can lead them across the garden like the pied piper. A few handfuls of corn thrown into the run area and they're straight inside to get their beaks on such goodies. Easy.

This Saturday however I had no such luck. They'd been loose all morning, but we wanted to go out for the afternoon. I went out armed with the tin of corn and gave it a good shake. Three chickens came running. I led them across the garden planning to round up the stray later and threw a handful of corn into the run. Two chickens went in to investigate. Typical.

So, with Lemon and Pepper busy stuffing their faces, I turned my attention to Frog. Frog seemed to have twigged that this whole corn malarkey was a trick, and much as she wanted to have her share there was no way she was going through the door to get at it! We're starting to get well practised at herding hens and the trick is to keep your arms outstretched - they will run away from both hands at once and so by bringing one hand or the other closer in you can direct them where you want to go. A couple of runs back and forth with little Frog and I finally persuaded her to join the larger two. Now, where had Fizzy got to?

Fizzy was having a bath - a dust bath to be precise - and wanted to finish it before going home if I didn't mind. I did mind. I wanted my lunch and I wasn't going to wait around for Fizzy to finish her bath. Knowing that Fizzy can be the most flighty of the flock I started to move slowly towards her hoping she'd get up and start to run away from me and towards the coop. She ignored me completely.

I got a little closer. She gave me a reproachful look and then continued her bath. This must be a really good bit of dust I thought as I took another step closer. Still she just watched me. So I picked her up to a very disgruntled squawk, carried her across the garden, popped her into the run, and shut the door quickly before they got any clever ideas of escaping again.