Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An undignified send off

So having found Kiev in the coop, in a condition best described as ....... dead, I determined that the appropriate course of action was to find somebody with the requisite skills and experience in the field of deceased-chicken disposal. Fortunately for me, just such a person (Mr P) had recently returned home from work. Not deterred by the fact that he was about to get into the shower, he donned a dressing-gown, grabbed a couple of carrier bags and sloped out to the chicken coop. Mindful of their delicate sensibilities, I let the two remaining chickens out into the garden to be distracted by fresh grass and plants while their erstwhile coop-mate was unceremoniously shuffled into a carrier bag and transported to the 'Bin of Death'.

Unbeknown to us all was the fact that another member of our menagerie, Mr G the cat, had left the remnants of his previous night's exploits on the lawn. This comprised half of a hapless mouse which had been severed across its waist with seeming surgical precision, leaving the back end, complete with legs, tail and insides. We were alerted to its presence when the first of the two remaining live chickens ran past at high speed with afore mentioned half-mouse dangling and swinging unceremoniously from its beak.

Mr P acted with the reflexes of a Ninja warrior to scoop up said chicken in his free arm, use of the other arm being impeded by virtue of the fact it was carrying a huge dead chicken in a carrier bag. Mr P was now in somewhat of a predicament, standing, as he was, in the back garden, wearing a dressing gown, with a dead chicken-in-a-bag in one hand and a live chicken with half-mouse dangling form beak (tail swinging from side to side) in the other. I would like to say that at this point I heroically leapt to his aid but I was hampered in my ability to do so by:

1) not being able to breathe or remain vertical as I rolled around on the floor in hysterics
2) finding myself incapable (physically or mentally) of extracting the half-mouse from the chicken’s beak

Eventually, the chicken with the half-mouse, being shaken vigorously and at length by an exasperated Mr P (who after all, just wanted a shower), was forced to drop his precious find. At this precise moment, live chicken number two appeared out of nowhere and with the skill and dexterity of an international rugby player, scooped up the half-mouse in her beak and ran the length of the garden followed by a couple of victory laps, parading the wretched half-mouse like a macabre trophy all the while.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Murder most fowl?...

It's been a very sad couple of months in Stalag Luft 112B. First, we found Molly dead in the coop one afternoon and then, a week later, Kiev. Neither chicken had shown any signs of illness, so it was quite a surprise to discover that they had woken up dead (so to speak). Looking back on the blog, I see that within a month of the two new chooks arriving, Leia died and some five months later, all three of the original flock had, quite literally, fallen off the perch. One begins to suspect fowl play!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Construction of Stalag Luft 112B

Over the last few months the ongoing battle between man and poultry (specifically, between me and our two new ladies, Pecky and Goldie) has reached new heights.

In particular, these young ladies are a lot more gymnastic than the previous incumbents. To be even more specific, it rapidly turned out that they were perfectly capable of jumping up on to the fence surrounding the chicken run, and hopping over into the garden. This meant they effectively had the run of the garden.

Now, this meant that there was chicken poo all over the place. This was the reason we had had the run built in the first place, and so it was a bit of a blow that they basically ignored it. However, it wasn't a complete disaster - it just meant that we had to expand the weekend poo patrol to cover the entire garden.

We'd sort of grudgingly accepted that they were going to escape regularly, and resigned ourselves to not walking in the garden in our bare feet again, when the chickens stepped it up a notch. They decided to push that envelope, expand their horizons, and generally irritate me. And so they started going to visit the neighbours.

The first we knew of this was when we got a phone call from our elderly neighbour, asking if we knew that one of our chickens was in her back garden. So we went to retrieve it.

We then noticed that one of them had got into the garden on the other side of us. We had to go and knock on the door and ask if we could have our chicken back.

"Right", I thought, "that's it! I'm improving security on the run, and you're never getting out again!".

And so I added some temporary mesh to raise the height of the fence. We went from this:

To this:

The chickens bided their time. They plotted. They schemed. They drew up intricate plans involving a vaulting horse. And in due course, they started escaping again. One of them made it two gardens away before being ratted-out by a neighbour. I swear one of them was taking the mickey out of the cat, who was staring with rage out of the patio door at it. But the final straw was when one evening the doorbell rang. When I answered, a bloke from down the road was there, and he said "'Ere mate, is that one of yours?". And sure enough, one of our Warrens was striding with magnificent nonchalence down the pavement outside our house.

At this point I went completely Basil Fawlty. I went to the local DIY shop and stocked up on wooden battens, plastic mesh, cable ties, and screws, and built this:

Since building this, there have been no escapes. But I don't trust those chickens, they're definitely up to something. I've seen 'Chicken Run', I know what they're capable of.

All of this construction work, not to mention the time involved, means that the per-unit cost of our eggs is now approaching the gross national debt of a small country in the developing world. I try not to think about this too much.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Blog revamp

A long overdue revamp of the blog due to the sad demise of Leah and the happy arrival of Goldie and Pecky (.......and an imminent rendezvous with our good friends and possibly only blog readers!).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Seed stitch?...

I've been sent this link by a friend and fellow knitter, can't think why!
A prize for anyone who can watch it without at least a small giggle!

Thanks K!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Yes, of course we're going to throw poo at him!

This morning I was cleaning out the chickens. This is standard procedure, something we do every weekend. Part of the process is lifting all the poo that the little darlings leave scattered around their run. I scoop all of the little piles into a shallow tray. At the end of proceedings this in turn gets tipped into the compost bin, where it's allowed to fester in a constructive manner.

After a few days of hot weather, such as we've just had, this is all a very straightforward job, as, not to put too fine a point on it, the objects in question dry out and are much easier to lift.

This morning all was proceeding as normal until one of our Warrens, who are quite gymnastic, jumped from the top of the fence surrounding the run down into the run. I think she thought I was digging up some lovely worms, and wanted to investigate further. However, she managed to land on the edge of the nearly-full tray of poo, catapulting the contents into the air.

At this point time slowed down, so that I could appreciate the full enormity of what was happening.

I looked up to see what had made the noise.

The incoming turds glittered in the midday sun.

The arc of their trajectory was clear, carving a beautiful parabola through the crystal-clear air.

I was covered in a shower of chicken shit.

At this point I think - I'm not sure, but I think - that I may have sworn.

Come the revolution, I know which chicken's going in the pot first.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clowning around

The chickens have had a rather exciting time over the last few weekends, as you can see!.......yes, that is a unicycle.

Scrambled eggs

Given that we'd been buying eggs recently, we were a bit miffed to find that our new chooks had obviously been laying eggs for about two weeks. We'd been checking the nest boxes regularly and all that time hadn't noticed they'd chosen alternative places to lay their eggs! It was particularly galling that we had to ditch all 27 eggs as we didn't know how long they'd been there!

Eggs galore!

Having found Goldie's stash of eggs, we went to see what was underneath Pecky.............sure enough, she'd obviously been laying for a while too! Though you can't see them all in this picture, Pecky had 15 eggs!

Goldie's Rosemary Bush #2

When we managed to extract Goldie from her Rosemary bush, we were absolutely flabbergasted to find that she had been sitting on 12 eggs!

Goldie's Rosemary Bush

When we finally found Goldie in the Rosemary busy we could see that she had made a nest for herself in there and was sitting on an egg. Actually, we could see a number of eggs.


So, the new chooks, as previously mentioned, escape the harsh treatment being dished out by the 'old girls' (only two of them now) but jumping over the fence of Stalag Chicken Run and free-ranging around the garden. The morning we found Leia dead in the coop, one of the new chooks was sitting at a rather strange angle in an odd corner of the garden, the other had gone missing. One look at the chicken in the corner and we could see that she was sitting on an egg. This was very exciting as this would be her first egg. We were quite concerned at the aparent absense of the second chicken (Goldie) and looked high and low (and next door, both sides). While peering over the fence into next door's garden, we could hear her 'singing'. It's a lovely noise she makes (reminds me of that Gizmo thing in the Gremlins movie, if anyone is old enough to remember and admit to it!). We were extremely relieved to find Goldie completely hidden right in the middle of a large, old Rosemary bush in a raised bed. You couldn't see her at all from the outside, goodness knows how she got in there.

Coup in the coop?

No, we didn't put Leia in the pot. Apart from the fact she's been a pet for the last three years and had a name, we have no idea why she dropped dead, which is another disincentive to eat her. We're still none the wiser (and presumably never will be) concerning why she died. I can't help thinking that the shock of the new arrivals might have been all too much for her. Alan suspects fowl play.

Leia off the perch

For the first time ever, the other evening I noticed that Leia was sleeping in a nest box, rather than on the perch. We've never seen her do this before. We were all out the next day so are not sure whether she was out and about or not but by the next morning she was still in the nest box and stone dead. This was quite a shock as she'd shown no signs of being ill. We're very sorry to see her go.

Creatures of habit

Ever since the day they arrived, with the exception of a few nights, Molly, Kiev and Leia have been creatures of habit. They go to 'bed' in the same order and sleep in the same place. As can be seen in the Hen Cam picture below. Leia has always slept on the perch, Molly in the end nest box and Kiev, by the large swing-open door (like a bouncer). The Hen Cam has enabled us to watch Leia sleeping while perching on a thin perch, about 40cm above the floor. She seems to mutter and snort but somehow manages not to fall off, which seems amazing. The new girls, having summoned the courage to go into the coop at night, are chased around the coop and pecked savagely by the old girls who squawk indignantly at the injustice of having to share their coop (suitable for 6-8 chickens!) with the two new arrivals. The other evening I peaked in when closing the run and was surprised to see one of the new chooks up on the perch with Leia. Ahhh, I thought, they've buried the hatchet and decided to get along. As I was closing the door I saw Leia strike out viciously at the new chicken and realised that perhaps they had a little while to go yet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hen cam action!


We have installed a miniature wildlife camera inside the hen coop, so that we can watch the shenanigans of the chooks 'behind closed doors' (or rather door). As dusk approaches and the hens head inside for the night, the family gathers around the television to watch the intrigue and fascination of life inside the coop...........

I know, we really should get out more!

Foul fowls

Original hens continue to torment the newbies, chasing, pecking and squawking indignantly at them constantly. The newbies however, have a trick up there sleeve, there's something they can do that the 'old girls' can't (apart from lay eggs)......

They can escape Stalag Chicken Run!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hen Wars

Our original brood (the 'old girls') were not entirely happy to see the two new youngsters. It was quite fascinating to watch the social wrangling as the 'old girls' made it clear that they were in charge and of the three of them, Kiev was the boss. Leia, swiftly became 2nd in charge and behaved like Kiev's henchman (henchhen?), paving the way for sumo-Kiev by attacking the new girls (who soon learned to adopt the submissive crouching pose when anyone else, chicken or person, came near). Felt really bad for the new girls but remembering how awful the three of them were to each other when they first arrived, knew that things would eventually settle down.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


So here they are, our new girls. They're young (too young to lay yet) Warrens. They were selected by Abi and her good friends Rosie and Harvey, who duly named them Goldie (one has a band of feathers around her neck which have a definite golden shimmer to them) and Pecky (so named because as I bent down to take a closer look at Goldie, the other chicken started pecking my bottom! In actual fact the children wanted to call the second chicken Pecker.....but we eventually managed to persuade them otherwise!).

The kind man at the farm (who had dispatched more than 30 chickens to new homes already that day), clipped their wings for us and rather unceremoniously, packed them into a cardboard box for the journey home in the back of the car.

Here they are emerging in their new surroundings.

It was an accident....

We accidentally bought two new chickens!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trip to the Farm

So we went to Longdown Activity Farm at the weekend with some friends. They've got some LOVELY chickens there...........the type that lay eggs!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Message from Juh-Oh

Juh-Oh asks: "Do you think that the chooks are hanging out for you to knit them a woolly jumper?"

Wow! What fabulous jumpers, I might try one of those!

Not many eggs

For about 6 months now, our chickens have hardly laid any eggs. In the past month, Leia has started to lay the odd one. When you have 3 chickens, it REALLY, REALLY grates when you find yourself buying eggs! Drastic action is needed!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scarcity of eggs

We have been in the grip of an egg drought for about 6 months now. For 5 month none of the three chooks were laying eggs, then the aptly named Leah started again, a couple of weeks ago, but she seems to have stopped again! Have started giving them Poultry Spice in an attempt to bribe them back into laying.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Door Fixed (?)

I've re-threaded the automatic door line through the mechanism and re-tied it to the door itself. Hopefully this has fixed the problem; we'll find out this evening when the light gets low.

The Chickens Are Restless

Yesterday morning I was a little later than usual going out to let the chickens out of their run. I was greeted by a chorus of indignant squawks, the sound of a whirring motor, and no sign of their ladyships.

It turned out that the automatic door had hit a hitch. It basically consists of an electic motor with a line tied around the spindle. This line is tied to the rope attached to the door, and so physically opens and closes the door. The line had snapped, leaving the door closed and the motor free-running.

Given that we installed the door system in July 2oo6, and this is the first problem we've had with it, I consider that not bad going.

I tied the door open for the day, and will get round to fixing the line ASAP.