Friday, November 09, 2007

Poultry brains!

Last night was a foul evening (please excuse the pun!), it was lashing down with rain and the wind was thrashing the trees around. It gets dark pretty early now too. I noticed, late afternoon, that the poor old chooks were all huddled underneath the coop, trying to stay dry. The pop-hole door (you may remember) operates on an automatic mechanism (solar powered no less!) so that it closes when it gets dark. After dark, when the rain had stopped, I popped outside to close the external door of the chicken run as usual. I was greeted by the rather pathetic site shown in the photo.

It seems 'the ladies' had missed closing time and were all huddled in a pile just outside the closed door. You might think that this is easily rectified, simply open the door and they'll all trundle in. This would, however, be ignoring the fact that it was now dark and after dark the chickens are in bed....wherever they happen to be and whatever the conditions are like! We have come across this problem before, they simply will not budge from the position that they find themselves in when the sun goes down.

Hmmmmmm. I opened the door and tried for about 10 minutes to persuade them to go through it into the nice warm coop. They stared back at me (one eye at a time) and looked thoroughly unamused. I prodded, cajoled, nudged and enticed, all to no avail. I decided to call for re-enforcements and drove to Hamble to fetch Al.

On return we decked ourselves out in thick coats and gardening gloves, expecting continued reluctance and a bit of a battle. In the event, I opened the door, prodded and nudged Leia (you can see she was first in the queue) a bit more and in she shuffled. Of course, once you've got one on side, there is no problem, they operate in a similar way to sheep, so in they all popped, making soft clucking noises as if to say "about time too!".

Friday, September 21, 2007

Training chickens?

Am wondering whether we are getting the most out of our chickens. Perhaps something like this would be worth exploring?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Trip to vet?

Was all set for trip to vet today. Having previously said that I would not take chickens to vet again as it is not economically sensible (and it's embarrassing in the waiting room!), I realised that the economics and humiliation are quite rapidly re-assessed when faced with ailing chicken. However, Kiev seemed much improved this morning and I watched her eat and drink, she didn't seem to be gasping or even breathing heavily. As the day progressed she seemed to speed up a bit too (no longer sluggish) and by the end of the day, I threw some strawberry tops into Stalag Chicken Run and she came pounding towards me like a poultry Sumo wrestler (a joy to behold!).

Kiev still poorly!

Consulted chicken gurus and administered everything advised that we could get our hands on in a hurry. I tried to establish whether or not Kiev might have an impacted crop (this meant re-finding out what a crop is, where it is and how I might be able to tell if it was impacted or not). There was a lump in general crop area, but after second opinion and discussion with Alan, we realised we had no idea if this was normal or not, but massaged lump for a while anyway, Kiev didn't seem to mind. Next, dug out left over anti-biotic liquid prescribed for Molly when I thought she was on death's door (it turned out she was about to lay her first egg and it was enormous! - see August 2006 blog entries if you've really got nothing better to do!) and added this to chook's water. Next, administered Flubenvet (wormer) via their food. Kiev had to be lifted into coop tonight, she had settled under the coop, unable/willing to go inside. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kiev sick

There's something wrong with Kiev. She's sort of breathing heavily, seems to be struggling to breath, a bit wheezey. Her whole body is heaving with the effort of breathing and she's got a lot of white poo stuck to her bottom. Have consulted chicken gurus and it sounds like a trip to the vets might be necessary for some anti-biotics. Unfortunately, chickens are particularly prone to respiratory problems and the books/gurus say it could be a cold, gape worm, heart problems etc. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Outwitting chickens

The chooks are all tucked up nicely in bed (inside the coop). The reason being that at 4pm yesterday we removed the perch from the run, which meant that when it was time for the United Poultry Front of Netley (UPFN) to congregate, they had nowhere to perch! Ah-ha! We are smarter than our chickens!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stubborn solidarity!

Feeling sorry for Kiev in her Sin Bin and on the advice of Chicken Guru II, I let Kiev back in with the others today and she seemed recovered, no heading off to nest box at all. In fact, none of them are heading off to the nest all. It is now 09.30pm and the three of them are sitting on the perch in the run (it is no coincidence that they are all facing the house I'm sure) staring defiantly (with one eye each) towards the back door of the house. I just tried to lift them from the perch into the coop (so they don't get eaten by a fox in the night) but the three of them ganged up on me and all hell broke loose in the run, three fat chickens flapping and shrieking (Molly actually went for me) and me, crouched down, shuffling around the run trying to catch them. I retreated in defeat and will leave them to their stubborn fate tonight.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Kiev in Sin Bin

So here she is in her Sin Bin, she's not very happy about it but I guess that's the idea. She was particularly unhappy when Guinness (the cat) came and had a close look, so we have banned him from visiting. Need to check how long we are supposed to confine Kiev to the Sin Bin...............

Cosy Kiev

Here is Kiev, firmly ensconced in her nest box, without intervention, she would stay in here all day and night, for weeks on we intervened....

Tough love

Yesterday we were introduced to a new friend who has become Chicken Guru II, he advised that the only way to deal with the broody Kiev was to assign her to a few days in the Sin Bin. Over the course of a BBQ we considered the various Sin Bin options available (milk crate, cat basket etc.). The idea is that the Sin Bin is not a comfortable place to be, separate from the other chickens and does not offer any possibility of roosting on a nest. One option presented itself which might be considered a little inappropriate but the size and layout offers many advantages (easy access for topping up food and water, not very comfortable floor, ventilated etc.) so this morning we have braced ourselves and put Kiev in the Sin Bin............

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Kiev still broody

Kiev is still broody, taking every opportunity to sit in the nest box (whether there is an egg there or not). Every day we take her from the nest box several time a day and encourage her outside. She stays out for about 20 minutes before heading straight back into the nest box. Yesterday at about 4pm I closed the door into the run so that she couldn't get back into the coop. After about an hour she seemed quite upset, pacing round and round the outside of the run trying to figure out how to get into the coop. This broodiness has been going on for some time now, I fear drastic measures are necessary.......

Wire protection

Alan has fixed some chicken wire on the the inside of Stalag Chicken Run, at the bottom, in attempt to stop Molly from rubbing her feathers from her neck. Fingers crossed.....

Molly's neck

Poor Molly, she pushes her head between the wooden stakes of Stalag Chicken Run to reach the fresh turf grass, unfortunately, this has led to the feathers around her neck being rubbed away, revealing the "bumpy" chicken skin beneath.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Perked up

When I produced a bunch of grapes and a slice of bread however, she soon perked up and seemed back to her old self. Inside her nextbox, where she had been sitting were two of the hottest eggs I have ever come across! (we threw them out). Kiev has still been spending a lot of time in the coop but she has at least been out a few times over the past couple of days.

Extraction of Kiev

Alan bravely donned a pair of gardening glove and some long sleeves and entered Stalag Chicken with great resolve. I went and got the camera.

We had been warned that Kiev might not be very happy about her eviction but in the event, she took it very well. Not a sound, Alan placed her on the floor and she just lay there, a bit heeled over to one side, looking not very happy. She was quite a sorry sight in fact.

Chicken Guru

We consulted our Chicken Guru concerning what to do about the indolent Kiev and her hermit like tendencies. The advice came over the telephone via a 'translator/interpreter' and as such was subject to substantial 'interference' along the lines of "you should ring her neck" and/or "drop-kick her over the fence". Eventually a more tempered response (much more in keeping with our Chicken Guru) came. We were to extract Kiev manually from the nest box...............Hmmmm, I decided to wait until Alan returned home from work!

Spring chicken, spring clean

It was time to clean the chooks out today but Kiev showed no signs of budging from her nest box. When we started to remove things from around her, Leia decided she would show some solidarity and join Kiev inside the coop (even though it was mid-day!). As you can see from the picture, Leia was perching in her preferred position. You can tell it is her preferred position by the huge pile of poo underneath where she sits!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sitting Kiev

Kiev has been sitting in the middle nest box in the coop for the past 4 or 5 days. I haven't seen her come out at all, not even to eat or drink. She's a big girl and obviously has some reserves but am starting to wonder how long she can keep this up. I have heard about birds getting broody, have no idea what sets them off but she seems determined to stay in there. She's actually quite sociable while she's in there, Abi has been stroking her and says she keeps 'burping', this is a sort of snoring noise that Kiev is making when she is stroked. She seems perfectly happy and looks fine, she's just not coming out! Must consult chicken Guru's.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leia 'scape

When Abi and I arrived home today, we were in the lounge chatting when Abi's eyes became as large as dinner plates as she looked past me into the back garden shrieking "Leia, Leia, Leia!", pointing and jumping up and down. I was quite fearful of what I might see when I turned around. It turned out to be this:

After staring stupidly, glued to the spot, I did the next sensible thing ........ grabbed the camera to take a picture (Alan doesn't believe what these pesky chickens get up to when he's not here!).

There followed a breif altercation between Leia and myself comprising Leia looking defiantly at me (one eye at a time) and seemingly choosing which bit of our beautiful new lawn she was going to land on, while I danced from toe to toe in an attempt to achieve weightlessness on our newly laid turf, while simultaneously waving a wet suit boot (it was the only thing I had to hand!) at Leia in a bid to 'encourage' her back into Stalag Chicken. I am happy to say I prevailed.......this time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Without a perch to sit on....

Having deftly put the chickens to bed, Julie (hitherto to be known as 'The Chicken Consultant') then suggested that if we removed the outside perches, this might persuade The Girls to head inside for the night. We tried this today and Hey Presto! They have all taken themselves off to bed! (thanks Julie!)

All for one....

All three chickens are now staging a 'sleep out' protest, preferring to sit on the outside perch, rather than go inside the coop at dusk. As feared, this seems to be because the dreaded Red Mites are back, they are getting bitten during the night by the Red Mites and are therefore preferring to stay outside.

At the weekend we took the coop apart and got rid of the horrible little mites but the Chooks seem to need a bit more convincing and all three now need to be carried, bodily into the coop every night.

This weekend we had a couple of friends around who kindly offered to do the business and actually made a much smoother job of putting the chickens to bed than we do (they've got a bit of prior experience with chickens).

Relations deteriorating

Since fencing off the chickens to their own half of the garden, poultry/human relations have become somewhat strained, not to say frosty! Every time I am within eyesight of Molly she lets out an end-of-the-world type screech. With the lovely weather, I have been wearing open toed shoes and flip flops and now, every time I enter Stalag Chicken Run, Molly follows me round the run pecking violently at my toes! Today I had to fend her off with a plank of wood!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Big Fat Chook

Twice during the past week, rather than take herself to bed before the door closes as it gets dark, Kiev has perched on the high perch in the run and sat there like a huge feathered lump. On both occasions I have donned a pair of gloves and long sleves and lifted her off the perch and manhandled into the coop through the side door. Abi has a theory that Kiev is too fat to get in the door at the top of the ramp but she manages to get in to lay her eggs. This evening, I see Molly has decided to join her. I think they are cross about being fenced in and have chosen tonight for both of them to stay out because Alan is out and they think it will be amusing for me to deal with them on my own. Am beginning to feel like Mr Tweedy from 'Chicken Run', "those chickens are definitely up to something!"


This morning I was greeted by the back door of our house by Leia who padded hopefully around the corner in search of tit-bits. This is not good news. Leia is a Road Island Red and the most vertically-mobile of the three chickens. It has taken her a couple of weeks but she has obviously worked out that she can jump/fly out of Stallag Chicken Run! Obviously the new grass looked very green on the other side and she decided to investigate further! Can only hope that being on the 'other side' without Molly and Kiev was not all it cracked up to be for Leia and that she will not make a habit of it (or teach the others!).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Solar Success

The Solar Panel, powering the automatic door for the hen coop has been in place for over two weeks now and all seems well. Alan checked the power in the batteries today (he had to do this in the dark with a torch which was quite amusing to watch!) and it was fine. Hooray!

Operation Grass Reclaim #8

Actually, truth be told, there was a little bit of turf left so we have put it in Stallag Chicken. Can't think that it will last too long in there! Might use the chickens' turf as an experimental sample piece, to see if the 'Worm Wee' from the wormery works well as a grass feed for it (or just kills it off!).

Operation Grass Reclaim #7

Ta-da! Operation Grass Reclaim is complete! Shaun has done a fantastic job and new turf was laid today (on our side of the fence - not the chickens'!).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hop-along Molly

Molly has developed a bit of a limp. Examined foot today which showed no signs of obvious damage. Have so far managed to resist temptation to rush her off to the vet (they laugh when you turn up with a chicken in a cat basket!).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Operation Grass Reclaim #6

I think the chooks are beginning to figure out what's going on.....

Operation Grass Reclaim #5

Shaun has been hard at work in the garden this week creating Stallag Chicken Run. It is a very solid construction that would contain a herd of Yaks (well, miniature ones anyway!). Alan says we're not getting any Yaks and seems quite definite about this.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Battery Hens

Here it is, a solar powered chicken coop!

The small solar panel sits on the top of the sloping roof of the nest boxes and (hopefully!)...................charges the 4 batteries fitted in the automatic door unit.

Fingers crossed that there is enough sun for the chickens to get out in the morning!


Here is Alan running the wire from the solar panel, through the run, to the automatic door operating unit. NB chickens nowhere to be seen!

Solar unit

This is what the little solar battery charger unit looked like (before it got 'altered' for the coop).

Tell-tale signs...

A few tell tale signs to prove that Alan is indeed an engineer!

Alan's Renewable Energy Project (#1)

Alan has a plan. While attempting to reduce our energy use in the house, we are experimenting with a few things (solar re-chargable batteries, solar lights, LEDs etc.). During the course of which Alan has realised that it should be possible to power the 4 AA batteries that run the automatic door of the Hen Coop using a small solar panel. [For those who don't know us, this is probably enough information to enable you to deduce that Alan is in fact an Engineer]. So, this was today's project!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

This Other Eden

In anticipation of the chickens being fenced off soon and gripped with enthusiasm for the summer, I decided (perhaps a bit prematurely) to get some new herbs for my raised herb bed in the garden. Following the chilli plant debacle (see earlier blog) I have taken precautions and created what I hope is chicken proof defence by covering upturned hangining baskets with chicken wire and placing them over the new herb plants to prevent them being eaten. The finished results reminded me of something....

Operation Grass Reclaim #3 (BEFORE)

Here are the before pics to show the state of the garden before the chickens are fenced off (hopefully in a couple of weeks time). There is practically no grass left and they poo absolutely everywhere! We are hopeing to have them fenced into their own section of garden and new turf laid on 'our' part of the garden, so that we can use the garden for usual liesure activities during the summer.

Operation Grass Reclaim #2

Right, realising we are out of our league as far as being out witted by the chickens, we have called in the professionals (or rather a professional) named Shaun who is kindly going to fence off our chickens. Shaun has about 10 chickens of his own, so knows the score. In preparation for the fencing off operation we have dug the stump and roots out from a cherry tree that passed away a couple of years ago. This was quite an operation requiring a spade, a fork and enthusiastic wielding of an axe (that was my job). Molly (the chicken) and Abi (the daughter) were very interested in the whole afair and we were very lucky to have no injuries! The result was a rather large, loosely back-filled hole in the garden which Molly and Kiev spent the whole afternoon wallowing in, they don't normally have a dust bath that is in the sunlight and obviously really enjoyed it!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Operation Grass Reclaim #1

With Summer fast approaching and the majority of our back garden scratched away to oblivion by the chickens, we are considering what we might do to reclaim a portion of garden for use during the summer (to sit and play on a bit of grass). I suspect this will be a battle of wits, cunning and determination between us and the chickens and am not at all certain of our chances of success. Round one comprised sowing grass seed on a 'trial' section of the garden. We did so this morning. The chickens thoroughly approved and can be seen heartily feasing on the seed. Fencing them off is clearly going to be the only option and I suspect they will not be too happy about this!

Laying again

One of the chickens never stopped laying, all through the winter, not sure which one but they are all back on lay now, so 1-3 eggs a day again. Have discovered how to make lemon merangue pie (thanks Sue!), this uses 7 eggs (for the curd and the merangue) and is very yummy!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Operation Grass Reclaim #4

So, first we need to get rid of the rotten apple tree (to make more room for chickens in the part of the garden that will become theirs). Shaun makes rather light work of this!