Parsley is a delightful savoury treat – for humans, guinea pigs and even for chickens. The girls had been proudly presenting me and my family with freshly laid eggs so it was my turn to treat them. I bought three reasonably priced parsley plants in a supermarket and planted them in the side garden, otherwise known as Hen Garden.
The ladies headed straight for the herbs. In the space of less than two hours, the parsley was no longer to be seen. It had been eaten, trampled on, demolished and vandalised.
(I call them ladies but that sort of behaviour is not very ladylike really. Is it Dottie?).
And it did make me think, my back garden is pretty much green with many plants (unfortunately many weeds and unidentifiable ones too) – Hen Corner in contrast is brown and barren except for a few lonely specimens such as an apple tree.
It wasn’t always such a forlorn desert.
Where has all the greenery gone?
Then I spotted Mabel gobbling up yet another leaf from one of the lucky plants still standing.
I often have neighbours popping into Cosy Cottage Garden Cafe. It is a self-service restaurant where customers can just help themselves to the regularly replenished supplies.
Fat balls are supplied, a delicacy favoured by the tits. The long-tailed tits come as a large close-knit family, the blue tits and great tits venture in by themselves or in pairs.
Robin is a regular, a nosy fellow, he likes to keep an eye on any gardening being done. Unfortunately, he is a jealous loner too, and doesn’t like to see others in his café.
There’s plenty of room for you all, I say, keeping the peace as cafe proprietor.
But he ignores me and shouts abuse at a larger blue tit.
Luckily, when the argumentative Robin flies on to another cafe, my customers come back. But despite his bad behaviour to other clients, he is a favourite regular and is always welcome here.
Blackbird prefers the ground seating to upstairs. As well as scatterings from the bird table, he may be lucky enough to catch a juicy worm for dessert. He too comes by himself, but is happy enough to share the edibles with the other birds.
Pigeon too, is a regular customer, sometimes he brings his mate and they munch on tasty leftovers, dropped by messy eaters from above.
Fat balls aren’t the only item on offer. There are coconut feeders and an array of healthier seed is also available, although the fat balls are the most popular. A drinking area with water is also set aside for my clients.
As well as regulars, there are the more flamboyant visitors. A bullfinch and his mate have hovered in the nearby trees, a nuthatch paid a visit on a couple of occasions, sampling the goods, and a Jay has also been a colourful client, staying a short while. Sparrows, starlings, a coal tit and a shy little dunnock, who prefers not to be noticed, have all sampled the delights of Cosy Cottage café.
It is a pleasure to serve such a diversity of characters. Do you have a ‘cafe’ in your garden?
Facts of the Day
1. The tail of the long-tailed tit is more than half the bird’s total length.
2. The great tit is the largest member of the tit family in Britain. More than 50 distinct calls and songs have been identified.
3. Coal tits are the smallest tit in Britain. Its favourite habitat is coniferous woodland.
How easy is it to be green? I think it’s about being organised and consuming less and being more aware of what we buy.
I’m not a militant green who has forgone all unethical goods. I’m just me, who can only do a little at a time. Maybe it’s not enough. It probably isn’t. And maybe I’ll get judged for still doing this or that or the other.
But surely it’s better to do something, no matter how small?
Every year I come up with new year resolutions, usually broken by the middle of the year. But what if this year, 2019, was different? What if that was the year in which I kept my environmental resolution?
So here goes, five green resolutions.
1. Check for palm oil in ingredients. Making palm oil as commonplace as it is these days has unfortunately come at a high cost to the rainforests – and to animals such as orangutans who live there.
2. Cut down on plastic. This may mean buying fewer bottles of water and Irn-Bru. One thing I did this year was drink water from a cup at work, rather than getting plastic cups from the water machine. There is so much plastic in our seas that the less we use the better for the planet.
3. Drive less. Get the bus, train or walk. Might do my waistline some good too!
4. Renew my membership of The Woodland Trust. They create and maintain woodland habitats for wildlife, vitally important at a time when we humans are destroying their places to live at an increasingly rapid place.
Poor Jemima! All summer she had the broody affliction which meant she didn’t want to leave her nest box in case her invisible (actually non-existent) eggs hatched. And when she finally snapped out of that, she started losing her feathers and became bedraggled and tatty looking. A poor specimen of her former, proud, snow-white plumage-covered glory.
And then Florence started copying off her, losing her thick, soft plumage and becoming scrawny in appearance.
(If you remember, Florence copied Jemima when she started brooding in the summer too. Is Jemima Florence’s role model?)
But panic not. It’s all part of the normal annual moulting process.
It’s in late summer/early autumn when birds begin to shed their feathers and grow new ones. Dottie went through her moult earlier this year, in September. Jemima and Florence are shedding their feathers in November. I don’t know when Mabel and Ava will go through the process for their first time.
For all hens, no eggs (or certainly very few) will be laid during this time – even from good layers such as hybrids.
The advice for hen keepers is to make sure they have plenty of food as they will need good nutrition and protein to enable them to grow new feathers for the cold months ahead.
I pour a little apple cider vinegar into their water as a pick-me-up tonic as I saw it suggested in a book.
Thankfully, nature has kindly given hens a helping hand during this process – the feathers are replaced slowly and this means chickens won’t lose too many feathers at once. A handy thing as it means they will still be able to fly out of danger (unless they’re a bantam, in which case it might be more a case of run out of danger!)
Facts of the Day
1. Young birds moult twice during their first six months of life.
2. A partial moult sometimes also occurs in the early part of the year, often just affecting the neck.
3. A young hen will take around 6 weeks to finish the process, it may be double that for older birds.
From Choosing & Raising Chickens, Jeremy Hobs on & Celia Lewis