Friday, 12 February 2016

Extending the nursery run part 2

Yesterday I would have told you about finishing the chicken run, but I was side-tracked by the enormous egg that Jack laid, but finish it we did, or at least almost.

We herded the young birds into their house for a few minutes while we removed the back of their existing run and added new side lengths and a cross brace to support the old roof.

One of the reasons that Mr J and I get along so well is that we share a sense of humour and laugh a lot together. While we were fixing the side panels on to the old run I dropped one of the essential screws, as I went to look for it I muttered 'Never mind a needle in a haystack, this is like looking for a screw in a hay sack', which had us both giggling.
Then we reattached the back panel to our new side sections and let the girls out to explore their new space. I forgot to do a grand opening or even to say 'You all ready to see your Fixer Upper?'  We have doubled the amount of room that they have to scratch about in, which should be enough for them until we have finished making the chicken condo predator proof.
Disappointingly the birds didn't look ecstatic at suddenly having so much more space to explore. I don't know what I had expected them to do, it's not like they were going to do cartwheels and let off fireworks, but I just thought that they would look more, well, impressed.
But it didn't take them long to mix the next wood shavings with the old and make it look like they had always had this much space. While they were busy scratching about in their extended run and kicking the wood shavings all over their food dish, Mr J and I went back to the work bench. We constructed a roof section which we covered in thick polythene and attached that to the run keeping the little girls contained.
Finally I will cover the roof with chicken wire over the polythene which will give the hens a rain shelter when the run gets moved outdoors in a few weeks.


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Have you heard the one about the egg?

As I started to write this post, I imagined all those awful puns that include the word egg (Oh no, I hear you eggsclaim!) and have tried to put them out of my head for the next few minutes.

Jack and Diesel are our two pet chickens, they can roam our smallholding as they please, at dusk they go to bed and are locked safely into their henhouse each evening, but otherwise they have just under an acre in which to wander, scratch, dig up good things for chickens to eat and dust bathe. They have what many would consider a charmed and lovely life. Recently the egg laying has become a little less reliable with 3 eggs being laid in 2 days, so one or the other of them often has a day off. That's fair enough, it's been cold and wet (it is winter after all) and it must be pretty miserable if you have to stay in the stables to play rather than running around outside.

Anyway, the girls laid two lovely eggs yesterday, one of which I had at breakfast and the other was put on the egg rack ready for today. Diesel lays medium size mid brown eggs, usually weighing between 55g - 65g, while Jack lays paler large eggs usually weighing around 73g - 83g. We date the eggs to make sure that we eat them in order of freshness and that one doesn't sit around for too many days and we weigh them out of curiosity. We use a chalk pencil to gently write the date and weight on each egg.

This morning I went to let the girls out of their cosy henhouse and Jack was making a lot of noise, I was a few minutes later than usual but really only a few. She was less than impressed and ran out into the garden muttering not-so-quietly to herself.

I let the new Cream Legbars out of their henhouse into their run (as they don't get to roam yet) and cleaned out their house before moving on to clean Jack and Diesel's house. I removed the chicken poop and soiled woodshavings and straw and then collected the egg that Jack had laid. I have no words for what I found, so here are the photos.

No wonder Jack had so much to say this morning!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sunshine after the storm

What a difference a day makes. Storm Imogen blew fiercely across our little smallholding on Monday, so we did the sensible thing and stayed indoors for most of the day. Then yesterday it all got a lot calmer outside, we had a good walk around and checked for any damage done and other than losing a couple of panes of glass from the greenhouse, nothing was damaged.  Inside our home, we tidied and sorted and put up a curtain rail in the bedroom (after all we've only lived here for two months!). During the afternoon, I rested (and possibly snoozed) on the sofa while Mr J worked in his study.

Today the sun came out again which meant that I headed outdoors for the best part of the day. Nowadays everything takes me so much longer than it did before I became unwell, so what I used to achieve in a couple of hours can now take me most of the day, however I'm happy that I am still able do as much as I do and with Mr J's help I can achieve most of what I'd like to.

The girls, Jack and Diesel were delighted that it was a dry day and raced off to the back of the piggeries to catch the morning sun and then moved towards the side of the house as the sun moved around the sky. They have a favoured place between the greenhouse and a fence where it is sheltered from the breeze that comes across from the estuary but still gets plenty of sunshine.
The Cream Legbar chickens are very well settled into their new home with us and are growing rapidly. We felt it was time to increase the amount of space that they have access to. They will be moved out into an enclosed pen in the paddock when they are bigger and weather warms up a little, but in the meantime they could really do with a larger run in which to scratch about.
So I measured and cut some 2 by 1 and found a 4 by 1 length of wood to use while Mr J went to the local town to do a few errands. When he came back, he helped me screw the battens together to make end frames for the run extension.
Then I fixed some chicken wire to the frame to keep the little hens securely inside their improved run. Tomorrow we will make a roof panel and then attach all of it to the existing run to double the floor space that they have.

I am fascinated by the speedy development of these birds, they are looking healthy and happy and seem to be physically changing on a daily basis. Because Jack and Diesel came to us at 18 months old, we haven't experienced pullets before and I'm really enjoying watching them change and mature.

Monday, 8 February 2016

6 reasons I feel happy today

Despite the weather being rather blustery we've achieved loads, laughed a lot and loved much.

The new chickens all made it through their first night and have learnt how to use the ramp to get them in and out of their house into the run. It won't be too long before we need to extend the run to give them more space to scratch and stretch. In a few weeks their house will be moved to the paddock into a large fenced area that will give them plenty of space to run about and live, I hope, very happily. I imagine that Jack and Diesel will continue to live in their house elsewhere in the garden, they are very much domesticated pets who run to greet us each time we walk outside and who are now used to having a free reign in the garden at the back of the house and more particularly, at the back of the piggeries. They come to us for a stroke and the occasional cuddle.
I have covered one open side of stable with a double layer of plastic sheeting which will let the light into the area but not the driving rain and howling wind. The stable will eventually become our chicken condo, a large dry light and airy space that the chickens can be in when the weather is too horrid for them to free range. I'm hoping that the ground below the opening will now start to dry out a bit so I can finish clearing it and then I can put in a deep layer of wood shavings and straw down for them to scratch and kick about. The other two sides of the chicken condo will have chicken wire on them so that plenty of fresh air can circulate but the girls will be secure.

Almost as I finished stapling the plastic sheeting into place the rain arrived and it was great to be able to stand in the stable watching the rain beat against the plastic and see none coming in. It seems that the idea had worked and hopefully it will stand up against the winds that are due to arrive with Storm Imogen (Is this naming of every storm a new thing? In the past I thought it was just called 'winter').

Just after lunchtime, my daughter and her partner arrived together with their two children. Grandson number one was keen to come and see the new chickens, so as soon as he had got out of their car, I took him to see the new arrivals which he approved of.

He'd brought with him an activity to do, so his father and he settled down on the rug in the living room. Grandson number one had used his pocket money to buy this and I was very impressed with it.
It was a plaster block that came with a small plastic hammer and what looked like a child's paint brush. The idea is to use the hammer to knock away the plaster and the brush to carefully brush it away to reveal little dinosaur bones imbedded in the plaster, which, once all the bones have been discovered, can be put together to make a dinosaur. It's not an activity to be carried out on a carpet without a protective cover. I can recommend it as a great activity.
Grandson number one is learning about dinosaurs at school and, having found his dinosaur bones will be taking the model, the unbroken plaster (which has a nice 'fossil' shape in it) and the digging tools to school this week to show his friends and teacher.
Grandson number two is now 12 weeks old and is very lovely. He's a strong, robust young chap with a winning smile and a healthy pair of lungs. When he's hungry there is no doubt about it, he can certainly get his needs heard. Both Mr J and I took turns to coo at him and received beaming smiles in return.

I relish moments like these, three generations spending time together in the cosy warmth of the house and each other's affection. There aren't very many days that my daughter and I don't speak to each other, we have a good relationship that seems to have us spending a lot of time laughing together. We share the same sense of the absurd and laugh at the same sorts of things, which is very often ourselves.

The younger generations timed their departure perfectly. There was just enough time for Mr J to make me a cup of tea and put the television on to watch the Ireland v Wales match. I had hoped it would be a close match, I'm not a fan of matches were it feels a bit one-sided and I wasn't disappointed. I was also pleased to see that the spectators behaved well because I was saddened at the booing and jeering I heard during the Scotland v England match on Saturday. There is a code of conduct that makes rugby really rather special and that sportsmanship has traditionally also applied to supporters, sadly I've noticed over the last two or three years that some yob behaviour seems to be creeping into the spectator stands.

The early evening was spent making the house as warm as possible for the night, the storm had arrived and was making the solar panels shake on the roof. Having completed the kitchen curtains first thing in the morning, it was lovely to shut the world out but still the curtains moved in the wind so I put up a second heavily lined curtain behind it, just over the section where the patio door opens and lets the draught in.  Once this storm is over we can look at adding an additional draught-proofing strip to the door to reduce the amount of draught blowing in through the patio doors.

After supper Mr J lit a fire in the lounge wood burner and we curled up on the sofa and watched Call the Midwife, I was falling asleep by half way through it and so at nine o'clock headed for bed, warm and happy. It has been a good weekend.