Posted in Chickens

Happy Easter!

Mabel and everyone at Cosy Cottage wishes you a Happy Easter and an enjoyable weekend. She may lay an egg for Easter tomorrow (or she may not, depending on how she feels!)

Posted in Chickens, Pets

Tribute to Jemima

It is rare to find a genuinely good leader – but that is what Jemima was. Her fluffy white plumage hid a sensible, fair and assertive personality, which won her the place of Mother Hen of the pecking order.

She never became tame in the way Mabel was (always in the hope of titbits) or Florence or Dottie when in the egg laying mood. Even when she laid eggs, she disdained human contact. Saying that, she did make friends with my godson Noah, eight at the time, who, on a visit, often brought her into my house.

She arrived with Dottie and the slightly younger Florence back in September 2017. A white egg arrived the next day. I never knew who laid it, although Dottie claimed credit by proclaiming to all and sundry. But it could have been Jemima. She was a quiet girl, not chatting for the sake of it and never boasting about her achievements, even after laying an egg.

Soon after she arrived, Simon called her wise. She always had that air of knowing more than the others.

Jemima with her best friend Dottie

Jemima and Dottie became good pals but she was always respected by all the hens.

Jemima leads a meeting

Jemima took her duties seriously. She was quiet but if she thought there was danger she would alert the others with an alarm call. On these occasions, Mabel was second in command, joining in the chorus. Whether it was a cat, a sparrow hawk or a false alarm, the pair would loudly tell the others to ‘Be safe, be alert. There’s danger about’…

Broody Buddies – Jemima with Florence

Every summer was broody time, a special occasion she celebrated with Florence and Mabel. Last year, she outgrew it and focused on laying eggs. How angry she was that Mabel was still taking part! She would go over to Mabel and give her an angry peck. I had to step in and make sure it didn’t become bullying. Jemima was mostly fair but you still wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her.

Recently Jemima became ill and although she apparently got better, she went downhill again before passing away.

That day Dottie looked around her as if to say, “Where’s Jemima?”

They will miss her, as will I.

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Nature, Pets

Storm Eunice

A wintry scene

Just after telling another blogger that I haven’t seen any snow this year, along came Eunice. Or Storm Eunice to give it its full name.

Simon’s parents had to find somewhere else to stay as their Cheshire hotel had a power cut. A slate fell off my parents’ house because of the wind. Trees were blown down and people even died.

The wind did little damage to my gardens thankfully, apart from the compost bin losing its lid (it was found elsewhere in the garden). But the next day was Eunice’s encore – a sleet shower which turned into snow.

Keeping warm and dry
Dottie thinks about going back to bed
Spring is still on its way
Posted in Chickens, Pets

Chickens at the back door…

Jemima looks in

I saw a little feathered face peering in at me through the window. It was Jemima, head chicken and spokeshen for the bantams.

“Hello, we would like to come in. It’s rather chilly out here today and I remember that the last time we came in, it was nice and toasty. So, yes, we have had our morning conference and have all agreed we would like to visit your ‘Big House’ and eat mealworms, thank you very much.”

Morning conference outside my back door
Mabel investigates

Posted in Chickens, Pets

The broody season

Mabel with her friends

It’s broody time again and, like last year, Mabel is the lone candidate for ‘Mother of the Year’ at Cosy Cottage Coop.

To be fair, she deserves a rest after a hard-working spring and summer, supplying delicious eggs nearly every day.

But head girl Jemima does not approve (despite going through the same process herself a couple of years ago).

When I take Mabel out, Jemima saunters over to give her a sharp peck to tell her off or maybe it’s to try and snap her out of her grumpy dreaminess.

“Cluck, cluck, cluck,” responds Mabel.

Back in the coop, she is accompanied by Ava and Dottie, two ladies who have never felt maternal in this way. They have sympathy for her plight though.

Not so Jemima, who keeps a beady eye on proceedings. She does not want the rest of her flock to go the same way…

Jemima keeps an eye on the situation
Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets, Self-sufficiency

Chickens’ day trips to Buttercup Meadow

A day out to Buttercup Meadow

This spring the chickens have had several day trips to Buttercup Meadow, aka my back garden.

Buttercup Meadow’s main arena is fenced off to avoid escapes but that didn’t deter Dottie who kept insisting she wanted to dig for worms outside. The fact that I may not have wanted holes in that part of the lawn didn’t enter her head.

Mabel somehow managed to sneak out, the grass being greener on the other side, being her motto. In particular the goldenrod she spotted en route …

And Little Ava, a former teacher’s pet, usually so quiet and meek, was surprisingly the worst for squeezing through the hole of the fence. She didn’t like Buttercup Meadow. Oh yes, she loved the delicious food it offered, but not the confines. She was, she said, happier to be on the outside, mooching about the flower beds, nibbling away at the grass. She wouldn’t go far, she promised. And Ava being a good girl, I believed her.

Ava does her own thing

Jemima was often the last one to leave despite being leader. It must have irked her to see her usually good flock doing their own thing and not following her, as always, excellent example.

Jemima looks on

Once they sampled the delights of Buttercup Meadow on lazy hot summer days, they presumed they would be able to enter this chickens’ theme park at any time of their choosing. They would make their way confidently from their garden, through their gate, towards Buttercup Meadow.

Jemima and Dottie make their way back from Buttercup Meadow

“But ladies,” I would explain, “the grass is wet, it’s been raining, you’ll be covered with mud…”

“It’s alright, we will keep ourselves as clean as we can,” Mabel would cluck distractedly as she would veer away from Buttercup Meadow towards Goldenrod Corner, the tall plants beckoning her over each and every time.

Posted in Chickens, Gardens

Snapshots of my July garden

My title was going to be Snapshots of my June Garden – then I realised it was actually July. How quickly time flies! I bought a lot of plants earlier this year, planted them, then forgot about them. Until they decided to remind me with their presence…

Patio Corner – can you spot Dottie?
The Pond Garden
The Gravel Patch and Goldenrod Corner. The spare chicken house is essential, awkward to place elsewhere and not particularly attractive, so flowers have been planted around it
Mabel vandalises Goldenrod Corner
Roses in the Chickens’ Garden
Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Posh ladies

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I was looking back at this 2017 post, one of my first ones. The plants in the above picture are no more. My dream of a plant-filled chicken garden hasn’t come to fruition because plants and hens don’t go well together! Although I have managed to plant a few fruit trees which are still uneaten! Mabel and Little Ava have joined the group but Florence (my favourite but don’t tell the others) sadly passed away last year in 2020. And I do still want to rescue ex-battery hens one day.

I wanted to be a heroine and save three lives from certain death, and a previous hellish existence.

Imagine being locked up in tiny A4-size cages with no natural light, no pecking order companions (not unless you count fellow prisoners crammed next to you), no kindliness, no space, not even to flap your cramped wings. You are, essentially, treated and seen as a machine.

Writing the above, makes me feel a sense of guilt, even now.

You see, I didn’t adopt three ex-battery hens.

Instead, I selected three posh bantams – Jemima (white), Dottie (speckled) and Florence (brown barred).

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I dithered for two years, unable to choose between hybrids, bantams and ex-bats. Hybrids were given short shrift as, although I heard they were perfect for beginners, I deemed them too large for my garden. If I was going to have full-size chickens, I would adopt three or four, maybe five, former battery hens.

My heart would plead for me to sign up for one of the various rehoming programmes that would occur on a regular basis. Charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust would advertise, and I would be thinking, I’m sure the coop would be ready in a month’s time. Yes, I could sign up today for the rehoming date next month…

But my head would impatiently nudge my heart aside and urge me to look at the facts. Despite my rural smallholding fantasies, I had a small garden in the suburbs. The coop outside area was large enough for two or three full-size hens, just about, but the interior – the bedding quarters, nest boxes, perch – may be a tight squeeze for three.

Although they would probably class it as luxury compared to their previous miserable cell.

Perhaps most importantly, my head sternly reminded me I had zero experience of chickens. What if one was ill or died? It was more likely to happen with girls who had a traumatic beginning in life than youngsters who were born and brought up in the best circumstances. So I went for the ‘easier’ option.

I don’t regret getting the genteel pekin ladies, with their flamboyant bustles, flares and bootees.

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But I have not turned my back on the battery girls. Some time in the future, three or four will find a home at Cosy Cottage.

In the meantime, sponsoring a hen for Β£4 a month is always the next best thing… πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

Facts of the Day

1. Do you have a home for ex-battery hens? Call the British Hen Welfare Trust on 01884 860084 or visit http://www.bhwt.org.uk for information.

2. JB of boyband JLS fame has three ex-bats on his farm and the 600,000th rescue hen has found a home at Kensington Gardens no less!

3. If you can’t rehome, why not sponsor a hen for Β£4 a month? Email info@bhwt.co.uk for details.

Posted in Chickens, Pets

‘Weight Watchers’ visits Cosy Cottage

Tim on the scales

A representative from Weight Watchers (aka me) decided it was time for a weight check on the residents of Cosy Cottage. Usually I do this with a glamorous assistant – well, Simon or my dad – but today I thought I would try it myself. Not an easy task when dealing with flighty chickens who mistake the scales for a sauce pan. But I got there.

Tom on the scales

So first the hens – all a healthy weight. How much they weigh varies throughout the year and even during the day. When they moult, if they’re about to lay an egg, illness, the season, even the time of day could have an impact. So as of February 2020, their respective weights were (in grams):

Jemima: 1,000

Mabel: 1,179

Dottie: 902

Ava: 993

The guinea pigs are a simple matter in being weighed. They don’t immediately jump out or scramble out of the scales, which makes it easier to take photos too. Their weight tends to focus on how much they eat versus how much they move. Like humans really. It looked like Tom had lost a little weight and Tim had put some on but over 1,000 is a healthy weight so I was happy.

Tom: 1,343

Tim: 1,303

It’s a job I do periodically rather than regularly but it does give an idea of how healthy the animals are and whether they’ve put weight on or have lost it. The pigs seem quite nonchalant about the process but the chickens hate it. Which unfortunately means that it’s tricky to snatch a photo when they’re quite literally in a flap.

I’m sure they were having a celebration when they saw the back of the Weight Watchers rep leaving the premises while clutching the scales.

Little Ava after being weighed