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, 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 £4 a month is always the next best thing… 🐔🐔🐔

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 £4 a month? Email info@bhwt.co.uk for details.

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Pets, Self-sufficiency

A chicken’s guide to keeping warm

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The Cosy Cottage citizens are lucky in that we live in a relatively temperate climate (usually), even in the winter. But life can still get very chilly, especially for these chickens who live out in the garden coop. Thankfully, they have a lovely fluffy thick plumage so that helps. But the more heating aids, the better…

Every morning these days I scatter porridge on the ground. It used to be leftovers from the pot but the stickiness was not pleasing to my hands or the ladies’ beaks! So now I buy porridge that’s reasonably priced and scatter it from the packet. The foraging helps stop them getting bored too.

Corn is given in the afternoon, a couple of hours before bedtime (although these days, bedtime seems to be about 3pm and getting earlier and earlier). To avoid rats, it is given in the coop when the girls go in for the night.

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Plenty of straw is always needed for bedtime. Although I’m sure half of it seems to get kicked ‘downstairs’ when the ladies get ready for bed.

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Keeping an eye on the water supply is always vital. No one can drink frozen water after all!

Making adjustments to the coop to make it warmer is useful to do during these cold months.

And lastly, a tip from the ladies themselves – early bed and snuggling together helps fight against Jack Frost.

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Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Pets

The Broody Sisters

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“When are you expecting your babies?”

“Soon, I hope, Jemima. I’m expecting five, you?”

“Six, I believe. Not long to go now, Flo.”

At this point, Dottie shakes her head in impatience. It is the silly season again and there are no eggs, no chicks, no pregnancies, no potential fathers in the vicinity and yet three of her friends have, once again, gone ‘broody’, sitting around all day in the nesting area, clucking about nothing except their invisible pregnancies. 

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If you read my blog last year, you would have encountered a post called Brooding Buddies. I was hoping that situation would be a one-off but no, once again, we have a similar scenario.

For one day and one night earlier this year, Dottie was showing signs of broodiness.

Then she snapped out of it.

But Florence, after a hard-working spring, laying eggs every day, decided that she would like to become a mother.

So she sat down all day, every day – or she would do if her cruel leader of the pecking order – i.e me – didn’t keep taking her out and putting her next to water and food.

That’s the thing with broody chickens, all sense flies (pardon the pun!) out the window and they don’t eat or drink unless they’re taken out of their broody spot.

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I separated Florence, put her in a hutch for a few hours, gave her a bath – none of these worked. Closing the pophole meant she would look for somewhere else to brood – like a plant pot.

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And Florence hogged the nesting area unless I closed the pophole. Yes, there are other places to lay eggs but hens being hens, they like things just-so and just-right. That particular nesting area was for all of them and Florence’s behaviour was beginning to irk them.

Jemima started giving her little ‘I am the boss and you should behave yourself’ pecks.

Mabel started giving her dirty looks – which escalated to pecks when she came near her.

And then Jemima started ignoring Flo, and seemed to be more easy-going but actually it was only a precursor to having maternal feelings herself.

And you guessed it, the next morning she was huddled next to Florence in the nesting area.

Jemima had it bad last year so I was not surprised by this change from ‘head hen’ to ‘mother hen’.

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So instead of Florence being given a ‘behave yourself’ or ‘snap out of it’ peck by Jemima, the two of them would now comfortably nestled together under the tree (after being ousted from their broody area).

So now there were three sensible girls – Dottie, Ava and Mabel.

Mabel was still angry at Florence but, oddly, ignored Jemima, who she still respected.

And then one day, I went to the coop to let/take the bantams out and Mabel, up on the top as always, fluffed her feathers up and made an angry sound at me. She even moved her head around to see where my hand was, was Mabel going to peck me?

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Not you as well,  Mabel?

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I have resigned myself to a summer of lifting the three broodies out and keeping an eye on them to make sure they are eating and drinking. Little Ava and Dottie are, so far, behaving themselves … so far!

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/brooding-buddies/

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Self-sufficiency

The mystery of the pixie egg

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A few months ago, I came across a tiny egg. Now bantam eggs are small compared to the average hen’s egg (maybe about half the size) but this was a tinier than tiny egg. Was it laid by a quail? Or a leprechaun’s hen? Pictured above is the pixie egg next to a bantam egg. The bantam egg is half the size of a full-size egg so can you imagine how petite this one was? 

I had never seen the like.

Just to make sure no fairy chickens had infiltrated my hens’ coop  I looked for a rational explanation in my library.

And in Frances Bassom’s Chicken Breeds and Care, Frances reasoned why this may have happened.

She said, ‘When a hen is just starting out on her laying career, she occasionally lays very tiny ‘wind eggs’. They can frequently be as small as a marble and usually have no yolk’.

Why this happens is because of ‘a small leak of albumen into the oviduct’. A shell covers this albumen, thanks to the response of the ‘egg-producing mechanism’.

Once the chicken starts laying regularly, wind eggs are infrequent, concludes Frances.

So who was the culprit of this wind egg?

I reckon Ava, as, along with Mabel, she is the youngest of the girls and had previously only laid a few eggs before this cute but remarkable one appeared.

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And no, I never ate it.

 

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Self-sufficiency

One year on… After the hen party

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It’s hard for me to believe but Florence, Jemima and Dottie first came to Cosy Cottage more than a year ago, in August last year. Here’s a few highlights… And lowlights… of what happened over the year:

February – August 2017 – Building the coop

 

August 2017 – The girls arrive for the hen party!

 

September 2017 – Florence grows up

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December 2017 – The new gate equals Freedom!

 

February/March 2018 – ‘Beast from the East’ brings snow to Britain… And Cosy Cottage

 

June 2018 – A mouse in their house

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Summer 2018 – Broody girls and a hot summer

 

July 2018 – Dottie’s illness and recovery

 

Now… I hope to have many more months and years with these delightful ladies. They may be slow on the egg department but they are all charming and make me smile when I see them first thing in the morning. And mealworms make them smile!

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