Whenever one thinks of a country cottage or farm, they picture a clear blue sky, trees, laden with shimmering green leaves stand tall. Poppies and hollyhocks tumble over onto a winding pathway. A mother hen is scratching in the soil along with her babies, and the cockerel stands tall and proud, watching over them. This may sound blissful - but is this always the case. Will adding a cockerel to the flock complete your own version of this blissful scene, or will he become a nightmare. From someone who has owned multiple cockerels over the time that I have had chickens, I think that I am in a good position to weigh up the pros and cons of keeping a cockerel...
Mulching your garden does far more than just please the eye, it is assisting the gardener in many forms: stopping weeds, saving water, adding to the soil and more...
So, you want to get yourself some lil' fuzzballs to be your next generation of full-time feathered poopers? I don't blame you. How many times have I been in agonies as to whether I choose the Marans or the light sussex peeping, downy, blob of adorable! Despite mini chickens being perhaps the cutest thing EVER, you do need to know what you need to have ready for your spring chicks...!
This weekend was beautiful. Warm, sunny, just blissful. We had hardly left the garden. We were lucky enough to have time on our hands, and of course, if you are me then that can only mean one thing - visit a local chicken breeder! I was very excited for the visit, as I'd been looking forward to meeting someone who shared my passion for chickens. Our mission took us to a breeder who kept a wide variety of breeds. She had bantam Silkies, in blue, black and splash, buff, blue, splash, lavender, black and lavender cuckoo Orpingtons, light, blue light, lemon pyle and partridge Brahmas, the stunning Ayam cemani, speckled Sussex, light Sussex, buff Sussex, Cream legbars, Welsummers and Pekin bantams, as well as runner ducks and itty bitty call ducks. It was a beautiful setting, perched on the top of a hill, it was surrounded on all sides by rolling hills and unspoilt countryside the breeder herself was wonderful, she had a true passion for what she did, and the birds' health and happiness was front of mind, always. She was a wonderful demonstration of why I think that if at all possible, go for a local breeder. They care deeply for their hens and customers, and believe in providing nothing but the best.
When you visit somewhere like that, the temptation for bringing home some new flockers is nearly impossible to resist, to date, I have never come home empty handed from a sweet shop of they chicken world! Luckily for me, availability was low, otherwise I would have happily arrived home with a car full of chookies. Although birds were thin on the ground, I managed to get two girlies - both of breeds I have been desperate to get my hands on. Firstly, a 20 week old Welsummer. She seems such a sweetie and I can tell she will be quite the poser! It is always advised to introduce at least two new hens to an established flock at a time, and with that in mind, I set out to find her a mate. Welsummer girl was in a mixed group when I saw her, and as I watched I noticed that she spent a lot of time with one buff Sussex in particular. Having decided on the welly, I wanted to find another hen of equal beauty - here was one, a body of golden, orangey feathers, and a collar of shafted black, the tail-feathers echoing those of the hackle - in dark black. She was the one.
I was so chuffed with my purchase! They were both such cute hens, and at decent ages, 20 weeks for the welsummer and the buff sussex just topping that at 21. All in all it was a pretty wonderful weekend. Neither of the girls are named yet, but we are nearly their!
Chocolate buttercream Method
And voilà, there you some simple, effective, delicious gluten free cipcakes anyone can enjoy!
This week seemed to symbolize hope, as long forgotten plants emerge from the surface and dormant shoots burst into life. The pre - spring buzz I call it, when the garden and nature wakes and gets ready for a brand new year of growth and rejuvenation. Take a peek...
It is that time of the year again, when it's time to start sowing seeds. It is so exciting, after waiting all through winter to get the next year's garden going. Often the first sowings are the most vital, if not the garden but your spirits. Here are my top tips for successful sowings for all plants, all year.
Collecting the first eggs of the season is always SO exciting, especially if from your first ever hens, and even the first egg of the year from a veteran hen is really fun. But often, you don't know when they are going to start laying. It is often helpful to have a rough idea of when those beautiful little gems are gonna start appearing in the nest box!
On average, pullets, or juvenile hens, start laying eggs at about 6 months of age, depending on the breed. The heavier breeds such as orpingtons or marans generally start later than the lighter breeds like leghorns or hybrid types.
A few signs as to when a chicken will begin to lay eggs are: the wattles enlarge and turn red, the comb becomes a deep red and enlarges, they may start to sing the I'm-about-to-lay-an-egg song a few weeks in advance, if you stand over them or if you put your hand on their back and they squat down on the ground. They do this if a cockerel is going to mate them, which indicates that they have, or are very close to reaching sexual maturity i.e. they're going to start laying!!! The most likely thing to happen of course if for you to go and collect the eggs one day and discover an extra egg in the nest box. My cream legbars have just started laying and I am so pleased!!!! Keep your eyes peeled for photos on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Growing-Pains-Parsnips-to-Poultry-987143211307918/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/Grow_Pains
Today we go to collect four new members of the ever-increasing flock; the girls are Hubbards, ex barn hens being re-homed by the BHWT http://www.bhwt.org.uk . So I thought I'd do a blog postette on travelling with chickens. People may want to transport their birds for many different reasons: perhaps they are moving house, taking hens to a market, going to a vet, showing their birds or collecting a bird from a breeder, so I hope this post will help both the inexperienced chicken traveller and others who want it to run a bit more smoothly!
There are different options for transporting chickens. The first is letting them 'free range' in the car boot, if you are moving lots, this may be the only option. Ensure that they cannot escape from their assigned area as a chicken going beserk in the car isn't the best thing for a driver trying to concentrate. Another thing to make sure you do is put down either newspaper or towels otherwise there may be scrubbing for a while. The second is putting them in a cardboard box. Cut some large slits in the sides of the box for ventilation, as chickens overheat VERY quickly in convined spaces, and with the added stress of leaving wherever they were. Add a sprinkling of shavings from her old home if you are purchasing a new hen, as it will be familiar to her, unlike all the new surroundings. What I would call the ideal way would be to have cat or dog crates to put hens in. They are easy to clean, airy, and can easily be carried without too much discomfort for the featherd passenger(s). Of course the ideal option is often not on offer, so either of the other two options I mentioned are a great alternative, and often more desirable than the cat crate idea, it all depends on the situation.
Dog towels or old towels are brilliant when transporting chickens. Placing them over a crate can immediately relax them, as they feel safer hidden from view. You can also drape them over something to protect from the inevitable chook poop. So I would say to always take an old towel with you, even if you don't think you need it.
Journeys are not usually long enough for you to consider placing food or water dishes in with your hens, but with long trips it is often good to help keep the hens cool by offering fresh water to them. There are many water dishes available on the internet, and the best I have come across seemed to be a dish that could hook to the edge of the cage. However a cheap alternative, although admittedly not quite as good, is using an old plastic pot (I have used yogurt pots in the past) with a weight at the bottom to prevent spilling. Chickens do not often eat or drink in transit, but having it available allow them to keep hydrated.
When we collect the hens today, I will be using a dog crate. Here's how I prepared it:
And that is how to travel with chickens, I hope it was helpful :)
Yes, it's true. Although frost is renowned for killing off young and tender plants, and a frost strike in April can cause devastation, leaving a gap of nothing to harvest, the 'nightmare' that is frost can be used to the gardener's advantage.
There are many diseases that affect plants which can linger in the soil for months, often whole growing seasons, waiting to strike when the plant re-appears in the bed. Many people rotate the crops in their veggie garden so that diseases don't have somewhere they can permanently live, with a steady supply of a particular plant. But with a smaller plot that is not always an option. And that's where frost can become a gardener's best friend.
If you have an empty bed during a spate of cold, frosty weather, rather than covering it up, leave it exposed to the elements. If you have a frost, it will freeze the surface, and, depending on the temperature, likely penetrate deeper into the soil. This will kill off any bad microbes or fungus within the area that the frost affected. The next day if you can, turn the soil so that deep-down earth is exposed, allowing another frost to kill any diseases left that had been protected. Exposing the bed to frost, even if it doesn't destroy all disease, should help in eliminating any problems. The great thing about it is, you need to put in little effort, and in most cases, come out of it with a positive outcome.
Hi, I'm Amy. My combined love of gardening and chicken keeping has inspired me to share my adventures with others. It took me a while to realize how important these two things are to me. I found a peace and tranquility from being in the garden, with a sun - bathing chicken stretched out beside me, and bees buzzing around the flower and vegetable beds. The satisfaction I received from just an emerging shoot was indescribable, or the head of a chick, not long hatched appearing through its mother's feathers. Something I love about gardening is the way you can enjoy it, even in the smallest garden, or window ledge you can grow mint or some basil, not much, but more than capable of lifting the spirits high above the clouds. So join me on my journey of self, chicken and garden discovery, whether you live in a sprawling country manor house or a shoe box flat.