Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Four and a Half eggs!

December 28, 2010

This is what the hens produced today. Does it mean that one of them has run out of egg producing material?

Apart from that, all five hens seem to be getting used to living in Arctic  conditions. They have even begun to venture further from their ‘paths’ between the henhouse and the shelters and investigate the far reaches of the garden.

I’ve tried to vary their diet and make sure they have extra protein to make up for the lack of insectiverous treats as well as providing extra rations of grain mix but they are fussy little things. They turn up their beaks at vegetable peelings now and even shunned warm  porridge recently. They don’t even appreciate bread soaked in warm water as much as they used to but they LOVE raw beef, yoghurt and custard!

The Christmas festivities went well – a Franglais Reveillon,  a late Christmas day lunch with turkey but Buche instead of pudding as this gorgeous concoction is much lighter after a large main course. We saved the pud for Sunday when we invited our friends from the next village. They were a bit anxious about travelling but braved the icey conditions even though they dare not stay too late.

After a quiet and lazy day yesterday fate conspired to pay us back  today.

As soon as I got up and went to prepare the hens’ breakfast I heard an ominous dripping in the ‘summer kitchen’ and found a wet floor and water in my store cupboard, coming from the ceiling.

CC and Jay were dragged out of bed and we formed a chain to empty the supplies before they were completely ruined. There was less damage than I’d feared as it was mostly a case of cardboard packaging being soaked while the contents remained dry.

It seems the tap for the well water in the garden shed above was the culprit.  I had turned off the water and left the tap open but ‘water finds it’s own level’  and as the hose goes up a steep incline to the vegetable patch the slight thaw must have sent water back down to the shed. Anyway, the floor was awash!

I put a large container under the tap and disconnected the hosepipe. Hopefully it will dry up eventually.

Then it was   Bear’s turn to cause chaos.  He backed the car out of the garage and couldn’t get it back in.  There is no more salt to be found in any of the shops so I had put sawdust on the path to the door and down the drive but it wasn’t working.

Eventually Jay and I had to tip a large quantity of  ash down to make a ‘path’ for the wheels and – what a relief – he made it into the garage at last.

But what a mess it has made. I had only just finished washing the floor when the nurse came and, having walked through the ash, trod it all over the house once more. . . .

This evening we are having a birthday meal for Whale who is 79 today.  The lovely new induction hob caused so many problems with the electricity
that we have now installed a new gas hob which arrived just in time for Christmas.

Everyone is much relieved.

The kitchen makeover?  Well, it’s almost finished. The tiling is done but there is one wall that needs to be stripped and painted and a few places where wood needs varnishing.

 

 

Poor Hens

December 5, 2010

I thought we had escaped the bad weather   for too long and today it has caught up with us – well and truly.

Jay and I walked to the bakers this morning and really enjoyed crunching over the (almost) virgin white snow but the cats and chickens are not so happy.

The cats usually queue up to dash out of the window as soon as it’s light but this morning only two braved the ice cold draught but went put of the window and then straight to the door to come in. They are all curled up happily in the warm now.

Not so the hens.  They have two shelters – with the open side facing in opposite directions but they are decidedly miserable.

The snow is getting deeper and they don’t like walking over it. Even at bedtime I have to lift some of them into their house for the night.  Hilda, the Sussex hen, is the only one who puts herself to bed before I get there and sometimes Susie joins her but the others are usually making sad little  noises from underneath the tarpaulin and scratching fruitlessly at the bare earth before having a last drink of water as a ‘nightcap’.

They are all still laying an egg a day despite seeming less interested in food. Apart from their grain, which they peck at eagerly, they show little interest in many of the other treats I take them such as cabbage or lettuce,  and bread soaked in warm water. However, they greedily gobble chips, bacon or fish if I can offer them any such leftovers.

Their water needs checking regularly as, even under cover,  it can freeze.

If any experienced poultry keepers can give me some hints on keeping them happy over Winter I’d be very grateful. Thanks.

One thing about this weather is that it puts me in the mood for Christmas and we took advantage of the local Garden Centre having a 15% discount day to buy our tree.

CC decorated it yesterday and we got the season off to a good start with mince pies and mulled wine while playing Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas album: all a bit earlier than usual but, never mind, eh!

Bye bye cockerels

November 10, 2010

It’s no good, I couldn’t face the execution process all over again and, besides, the end result was far from successful so I’ve given the rest of the boys away.

Hugue, at the local brasserie said he’d have them and so I decided to catch the first one outof the coop  each morning and put him in a cat basket to take to Hugue. The first morning was OK apart from a lot of squawking but the next time they were mighty suspicious of me – even reluctant to come out for breakfast.

But greed got the better of them eventually and I managed to catch two and put them in cardboard boxes.

After that things deteriorated rapidly. It rained incessantly, turning the chicken run into a mudbath which smelt strongly of poo; the worst bit being the puddles right outside the coop.

I didn’t relish the idea of falling over in wet chicken poo  while trying to grab a reluctant bird so I decided to wait until it dried out a bit.

But it didn’t.

The rain set in. The chickens became  bedraggled and smattered with brown and also kept their distance even for food.

On Tuesday evening Francoise at the library said, “I hear you’ve given some chickens to Hugue and Maurice is l0oking after them for him.”

I explained about the difficulty of catching the rest and  she said she’d bring Maurice round to catch them this morning -” not too late or he’ll be tipsy”.

So at nine sharp she turned up with Maurice in tow and three cardboard boxes. I had fed the chickens  but kept them in their house this morning in the hope that it would make Maurice’s job easier.

He didn’t wait for them to emerge; he leant inside and grabbed the first one by it’s feet. There were loud protests but, between them, he and Francoise managed to shut the box.

The next one put up a fight and pecked his hand so I went to fetch some gardening gloves. Poor Maurice had quite a struggle but he managed to extricate number two and stuff him unceremoniously into the second box.

Hilda, the hen, managed to escape and ran down the garden leaving the last cockerel to make a stand. And he was very successful at holding out as long as possible.  In fact,  I almost relented and thought about keeping him but then I imagined more baby chicks growing into huge tough birds and my heart hardened. No, I did not want to go through this again.

After what seemed like an eternity Maurice got hold of Number three and tucked him securely in the box. They were stowed in the boot of Francoise’s car and off they went.

I left it a while before taking some more food up to the hens and persuading Hilda to go into the run with Susie, Peggy, Gertie and Daisy. They didn’t exactly make her welcome but they didn’t fight her. She’s bigger than they are but very timid.

I’m pleased to report that tonight, all five were happily snuggled down together in the small henhouse.

As for the cockerels, Francoise told me that Maurice had put them in a big rabbit house and they seemed quite contented  –  for the time being.

So it was with a mixture of sadness and relief that I parted with the cockerels and I’m the first one to admit that buying those eight little chicks was an expensive mistake to make.

UPDATE: HAPPY ENDING

I’ve just learned that none of them will be killed. They have all been distributed to good homes with a flock of hens each.  I’m so pleased!

The first coq au vin.

October 27, 2010

Lulu arrived at 2:15 armed with a small but very sharp knife. She had come to kill the ‘prisoner’.

First she asked me to heat up some water and have a bucket at the ready and then we went up the garden.

She waited outside the run while I went to fetch the condemned cock but he was very suspicious and wouldn’t come out.

I’m too big to get inside the enclosure and he wasn’t taken in by my invitations to come out.

Lulu entered the fray and banged with a stick on the side of the cage.

“Don’t stand too near the door” she said but that meant that when he did come out I wasn’t quick enough to catch him. Off he ran among his friends and we soon lost sight of which one he was.

We waited to see if a fight broke out but it didn’t.

“Oh well, should we go for whichever one we can catch?” sighed  Lulu.

There was general confusion among the birds but I managed to grab one eventually.

We carried him out of the run and took him behind the greenhouse.

There, Lulu asked me to hold on to his wings firmly while she dispatched him.

I have to admit I closed my eyes but didn’t feel any struggling or hear any noise. However, when we got the bucket of hot water to dip him in to make plucking easier he did appear to struggle. I’m hoping Lulu was right when she said he didn’t feel anything but that was the worst part of it as far as I was concerned.

By the time we had plucked him (and it was easy with the hot water method)  I had got used to the idea of eating one of our own birds.

Then it was a lesson in cleaning a chicken. Lulu did it all very deftly as she used to run a chicken farm in Alsace. She told me the chickens were too well fed as there was a lot of fat inside and also that the meat wouldn’t be very tender as they had been ‘running about too much’. And to add insult to injury this bird that had appeared enormous had become a small scrawny object now that he had lost his fluff and feathers.

So that puts paid to my hopes of home grown roast chicken for Christmas. We’re  going to be having an awful lot of coq au vin if the remaining cockerels are to be killed off before winter sets in.

 

 

First Fight

September 20, 2010

Ever since all the hens and cockerels have been together in the bottom half of the garden I’ve been thinking how lovely it was that despite seven cockerels to five hens there hadn’t been any serious battles.

Until today.

It was all started by the remains of  a pot of creme fraiche. The chickens love yoghurt so I thought this might be a little treat, however, they all scrambled to get at it and a fight broke out between two of the cockerels – a real battle, not just a bit of posturing and feather fluffing, but real pecking, jumping, no holds barred combat.

Typically the other boys went off to watch, leaving the hens to polish off the cream in peace.

But I had to intervene.

Both cocks were bleeding but the one who had ‘given in’ was being chased mercilessly by the aggressor. He dashed into the chickenhouse and I shut the door before ‘topcock’ managed to follow. This also gave me the chance to grab him and put him in a pen on his own to cool off.

Later, at teatime I fed him separately but he obviously wasn’t a happy bunny so I took pity on him and let him loose.

Big mistake: he started chasing the same cockerel all over again and this time, his victim didn’t turn round to fight back – he just ran and ran.

It wasn’t so easy to catch the culprit a second time. I had to wait until the one being chased ran past me and then pounce on his attacker. Then it was back in the cooler with him!

He will have to stay there on his own unless his behaviour improves but I fear he may have started a trend.

He was obviously the leader as at bedtime the others were a bit lost without him and needed a great deal of persuasion to go into their house to bed.  Meanwhile,  he was jumping up and down and crowing in his prison.

Is this the end of a peace in chickenland?

Long time – no blog

September 7, 2010

Well done Helen for waking me up from my blogging hibernation with a little prompt in the comments box.

So, what’s been going on here then?

My sister Wendy and her husband came to stay last week. They usually come in March but decided to wait until the end of August in the hope of avoiding the rainy season. Of course, they were greeted by rain which lasted for a couple of days but the rest of their stay was sunny. They both lead hectic lives so it made a change for them to stay later in bed and not do much – just a trip into town on the one day when the roads were gridlocked thanks to major work near the station – and a look around the hypermarket, more from curiosity than the need to buy anything.

However, Roger found a waterproof overall in a medium size (he’s very slim) but it was too tight so we had to go back and queue for ages at the Accueil where they gave him his money back. We then found the same thing in xl which fitted him.

Whale is in hospital to see if they can shed any light on the cause of his swollen and stiffening right leg.  He wasn’t looking forward to it as his last experience of  “Rheumatology” was bing squeezed into a small room with his wheelchair, walking frame and another patient.

But now the department has transferred to the new wing and he has a big room all to himself with his own toilet and shower. He has a phone by his bed so that he can call for a chat whenever he feels like it and plenty of books to read. They have already done various tests and several types of x-rays and scans including an MRI but he thinks the doctor said he would be in for another week.

The chickens are getting used to the cooler weather and soggy ground. They don’t always have the sense to go under cover when it pours with rain but they are putting themselves to bed earlier.

Last night I found the one ‘definite’ hen from the white gang had gone to bed with the black hens. Does this mean she wanted to avoid the boys’ dormitory?

There are now three cockerel voices being raised and one has mastered a clear ‘cock-a-doodle-dooooo’. The other two are making throaty rumbling sounds but it won’t be long before all seven of them are competing to show off their masculinity. Oh dear!

We are in the throes of redecorating the kitchen. CC has painted all the cupboard doors and  Pascal installed a new sink and tap together with a new worktop but we are waiting for him to come and retile the walls and fit an induction hob.

I’ll post photos when it’s all done.

A couple of  ‘funnies’  to finish:

1)Just had a phonecall from a friend whom CC was supposed to meet at the station, asking where she was.

“But you said sept heures et demie”.

Non, DIX-SEPT heures et demie.”

Guess who took the message – moi!! Oops

2) Bear during lunch:

“I want to go to thingy tomorrow as I’d like to go to whatsit as well”.

Update on the Chickens

August 14, 2010

Would you believe that those dear little chicks have grown into enormous cockerels?

They are bigger than the hens but, all the same, they get pecked mercilessly and chased off by the  ladies when it’s feeding time.

Gertie, Daisy, Peggy and Susie certainly let it be known who’s in charge.  However, Susie has come over broody for the second time.

I’ve tried the ‘bottom in cold water’  treatment and isolating her in  ‘prison’ in the run (middle above) but she was so unhappy I had to let her out. None of the eggs she’s tried to sit on have been her own and I doubt any could be fertilised because, despite their size, the cockerels are not fully mature.

Anyway, I don’t think the hens would let them get near enough to have their wicked way! It’s comical to see these big birds run away squawking when a little black hen goes towards them and the ground is littered with tail feathers from the times they haven’t run quickly enough.

There is mutual curiosity between the chickens and the young bulls next door. . . . .

….. and I just missed them staring at each other but managed to get a shot of the line of bulls after the chickens had got bored and moved away.

Last night was the first time I heard two of the cockerels really trying out their voices – and what a racket! They were obviously showing off, strutting about on the roof of the chicken house but they haven’t mastered proper crowing as yet. It was more of a raucous clucking and a rumbling from their throats.

Heaven help us – and the neighbours – when they all start as I reckon there are seven cockerels and only one hen among the Sussex chickens.

Sorry, but some of them will have to be dinner!

And there was June gone!

July 7, 2010

Whatever happened to June? I remember realising that it had begun and before I knew it, here we are a week into July.

So what’s been going on? Nothing terribly exciting I’m afraid.

There was the meal with the Club de Troisieme Age with langue de boeuf as the main course so Bear refused to try it. The couple opposite us were 80 and 83 but didn’t look a day over 60. When the president gave out tokens for the Dodgem cars (it had been the Village Fete the previous weekend) they were among the ten or so ‘oldsters’ to take up the offer. As for me, I didn’t want to risk it  and was content to go outside and watch.

Then we had an end of term English cheese and beer tasting for the classes at the library. CC and Jay brought  a selection of cheese, beer and pickles back from their trip to England.

They bought stilton, cheddar and cheshire cheese and a variety of pickles incuding Branston, Piccalilli, pickled eggs and pickle onions as these are things you don’t find in France. There were several types of biscuits for cheese and Tunnocks Teacakes and Golden Syrup cake for those with a sweet tooth.

It was decided that the ‘rite of passage’ was to eat a pickled onion without spitting it out and Isabelle just about managed it.

Fortunately she likes beer and so was able to wash it down quickly.

The chickens are now all moved to the back part of the garden with a temporary fence and fingers crossed that they won’t escape again. The white ones had found a way of getting underneath so we’ve put in 40 extra staples. The ground is so uneven that they found it easy to dig underneath.

I wasn’t sure how the four adult black hens and the eight young chickens would get on but after a few stand offs they seem to have settled down. They still tend   to go round in two ‘gangs’ and I have to try to feed them seperately or else the black ones won’t allow the white ones anywhere near. They have all investigated each other’s living quarters but they go to bed in their ‘own’ houses.

It looks pretty certain that there are at least 4 cockerels among the youngsters and we are coming round to the idea that some of them may be eaten. . . . . .

The cherry trees were more productive this year. We had two handfuls from each of the ‘eating’ cherry trees but the sour cherry tree excelled itself and we now have 14 pots of (rather runny) cherry jam. There is still lots of fruit on the higher branches but I’m not sure I could face another session over a hot stove especially as Yvette let us pick her remaining redcurrants and that resulted in 8 pots of red currant jelly. It’s the first time I’ve attempted to make jelly and I’m proud of the fact that it’s beautifully clear – and set!

The heatwave looks set to continue and we have had little or no rain for ages. This is so unlike our famously rainy weather and I’m worried the well will run dry as I have to water frequently.

The good news is that we haven’t had to mow the grass for some time.

But the weeds still grow, alas!

New House.

June 5, 2010

See how they’ve grown:

which meant that their indoor cage was getting too small for them – and incredibly smelly despite being cleaned every day.

After another attempt at moving them back indoors I cheated and called on one of the boys from next door but one to climb into the pen and hand them to me so that I could take them indoors – one at a time.

After watching this long drawn out ‘game’,  Bear decided it was time to assemble the new house.

“It will only take me half an hour.” he said.

So on Friday morning he started and swore at me if I tried to help.

“I don’t tell you how to do knitting, sewing or cooking,” he spluttered.

However, progress was slow so I couldn’t resist finding out what was happening.

He had put one bolt in without attaching the side and back of the henhouse  and was scratching his head as to why the other end wouldn’t marry up.

He was about to drill another hole when I noticed the problem and pointed it out.  So, I could be useful after all and it was a bit quicker with two.

All the same, it was late afternoon before the chicks were installed in the pen which was now adjoining their new home.

I thought they would be curious and want to explore  it but they were extremely suspicious. This didn’t bode well for ‘bedtime’.

Bear, on the other hand, fell asleep, exhausted from his carpentry,

but there were still a few screws missing – such as the ones holding the roof on!

At ten o’clock when I went to put the big hens to bed they were nicely ‘tucked in’   their house but the ‘babies’ were showing no signs of  going into their  bedroom. I tried tempting them with food and even put a couple I managed to catch into the nest box, deliberately leaving the doors open so that they could see it wasn’t trap like the cat basket.

No, they began to make their little chirpings  which, to me, sound as though they are stressed. Eventually it seemed as though they were trying to escape. Some flew up to the roof of the pen, others tried pecking at the wire netting while a couple even looked as though they were attempting to  tunnel themselves out underneath the henhouse.

Fifteen minutes later they were huddled in a corner of the pen near the door – looking and sounding most upset.  From this position I was able to catch them easily. In fact I felt they were waiting in hopes of being  carried back to the conservatory.

I closed the henhouse doors and gently popped them into the nesting box, one by one.

The chirping gradually subsided  and they settled down.

This morning they seemed none the worse for their traumatic house move and jumped out into the sunshine as soon as I opened the door.

Fingers crossed they will go indoors more willingly tonight.

Moving the Chicks

May 30, 2010

The problem: how to move the chicks from their cage in the conservatory to their run outside.

The solution: Not as straightforward as you may think.

The first few times we managed by carrying the cage up the steps and onto the grass, putting food in the run and then opening the doors. The chicks would dash out as one and start pecking.

In the late afternoon it was the reverse procedure: put food in their cage, open doors and whoosh – the little gannets would be in like a shot.

However, it’s not easy to negociate a cage full of chicks up and down steps and after I twisted my knee and both Jay and CC declared that they were fed up with carting chickens about and walking in chicken poo left by the hens, I had to come up with a means of doing it by myself.

I tried a cardboard box but the ones already in made a bid for freedom when I tried to add another one. While looking for a taller box in the garage I spotted the cat baskets and chose the plastic one with a heavy lid.

I managed to get four of  them in by ‘baiting’ it with catfood and they were not averse to going into their run. Quite a lot of catfood later, all eight were happily playing outside in the run.

Then, not long after lunch, the sky turned grey and the wind got up so I thought they ought to come indoors. Now I’m too big and far from sufficiently agile to get into their run and physically put them into the cat basket, so I put some food in it, folded back the roof of the run and lowered the basket.

They made a rush for the food but were suspicious of the funny angle at which the box was tilted. (It is a bit too high for them to jump into easily so I tipped it forward, holding onto the lid).  After waiting in vain for four of them to get inside long enough for me to close the lid, I attempted to ‘catch’ two of them and amid squawks of protest I carried the first two back to their cage.

Once in the conservatory I opened the basket and both of them jumped out, going in opposite directions round the conservatory. My first thought was to shut the doors and then it wasn’t too difficult to capture them. It was very lucky the the only cat present, namely Chloe, didn’t decide to help me chase them.

After that I decided that I’d bring them back one at a time. The others were wary of the basket by now and kept their distance so I put in an upturned box with food on top. I can’t reach the ground by leaning down so that’s the only way I could get hold of them. Then each noisy little bundle was carried back to be reunited with it’s brothers and sisters.

It took a while but I managed another three using this method. The final three were not going to come anywhere near the upturned box. They all gathered at the other end of the cage making rather distressed noises. The sky was getting blacker. Rain was imminent.

I put more food in a dish and opened the door at the other end of the cage. As they approached I managed to grab one and  that left two. After a bit of gentle persuasion I caught another but the little chick left all alone was obviously most upset until I came back for it.

Whew! I didn’t actually time the exercise but it seemed to take forever. They are growing quickly. I just hope they’ll soon be old enough to live outside in their new henhouse.