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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

I have not had the best start to the week. We have had heavy, almost monsoon like rain every day all day so far and it is forecast to continue for the rest of the week. Now while this is brilliant news for the plants, it is not so great news for the construction of the raised bed.  Plus I have contracted some horrible stomach bug thing so am writing this whilst propped up in bed!

Still being a beginner at this, I was really worried about the fact that I had planted my lettuce seedlings so close together – I thought they would suffocate one another before they even had a chance to get outdoors, but on Gardener’s World last night I noticed that Toby Buckland had done the same with his seedlings, it seems for lettuce, because they are ‘cut and come again’ plants (pretty self explanatory, but basically that you can cut off as many leaves as you like and then return to get more another time) you can grow the leafy types fairly close together if you are going to be using the leaves frequently. So thats a big relief.

I also really want to get into the garden and start composting the garden waste that has been dumped over the fence. This is important as if we are going to get chickens then we don’t want rats or mice making nests near to them, so I need to get the compost all sorted out before the chickens arrive.

Additionally, if you do require any guidance on rats and mice posing a risk to your chickens, a great leaflet to download is the DEFRA Guide to controlling rat infestations within poultry flocks: http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/zoonoses/documents/reports/salrodent.pdf

We have had to pay particular attention to this as we live next door to a pub, so certain health and safety standards do need to be adhered to. Dont let this put you off though!

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Chicken Lingo!

I am constantly learning new things, and wanted to share some ‘decoding’ of some of the terms you may come across when considering keeping and buying chickens:

POL – Point of Lay – When the chicken gets to an age where it is ready to start laying eggs.

Wing Clipping – NOT as cruel as it sounds. You need to clip a chicken’s wings to prevent it from flying away. Chickens really arent the best fliers, but some chickens can manage to propel themselves over fences and even into trees! Clipping is where you cut off the end tips of the flight feathers on one of the chicken’s wings. This means they are slightly unbalanced but IT DOES NOT HURT THEM. For instructions on how to do this, here is a good article:

http://www.omlet.co.uk/guide/guide.php?view=Chickens&cat=Chicken%20Care&sub=wing%20clipping

If you are uneasy or unsure about doing this though, it is best to get your vet to do it. I will be clipping our chicken’s wings myself and being EXTREMELY careful when I do it!!!

Layers Pellets – Basically, chicken food!

Hybrids – Cross breeds of chickens, done to improve laying potential. A good choice if you want more eggs, cheaper than pure breeds.

Broodiness – When  a hen stops laying and is inclined to sit on a clutch of fertilised eggs to incubate them and rear chicks.

Dust Baths – It is recommended that you fill a shallow rectangular container with either fine dry sand, fine dry earth or wood ash so that the chickens can ‘bathe’ in it as it helps them to remove parasites from their feathers.

Hope these help!

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oooooh decisions decisions! After James and I had put in a bit of a timeframe for when we would have the raised bed complete and planted, the chicken run built and the chicken coop cleaned, we have decided that we will be ready to get some chickens in about two weeks’ time.

I emailed some local breeders in the area, who I have to say were SO helpful, and though they did not have any Barnevelders available, they did have lots of other breeds available. One particular breeder suggested some Speckledy chickens. I was interested as soon as I heard the name!

Speckeldy Hen!

Now the chickens that this particular breeder has on sale are Hybrids, which means that they have been crossed with another breed to give better laying potential (more eggs!).

I have contacted the breeder and asked if we can come to visit the Speckeldies in two weeks to have a look at them and also at the other breeds that he has available.

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Yeay! The chicken coop has arrived! It is currently residing at the bottom of our garden as an attempt to lift it by me and a hungover James did not go so well! It is fantastic though and Paul also gave us the two chicken feeders, some layers pellet, some grit and plenty of straw for the nesting boxes! Now all we need are the chickens! I am going to pop next door this afternoon to let our next door neighbours know that we are getting chickens, as the only issue that we have as regards when to get them is that we are going on holiday to Cyprus for a family wedding in October and we will need someone to come and feed the chickens and let them out in the morning and shut them up in the coop at night. I want to make sure that Juliette will be happy to do this before we commit to getting some. If not, we will get them when we get back from Cyprus.

Update: Juliette is very excited also at our chicken arrivals and not only is happy to come and feed them whilst we are away, they have actually been thinking about buying some chickens and a vietnamese pot bellied pig for the pub garden also!

Here are some pictures of the chicken coop delivery!

Lovely chicken coop

Arriving on the back of Paul's truck

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Next comes the decision of what breed of chicken to get. Now I was more than happy to get some straightforward brown farm chickens, nothing fancy but that were good producers of eggs. James, on the other hand, has, how shall I put it – more EXOTIC tastes. Pea Hens and Guinea fowl have both been in the running for the type of poultry that ‘we’ might consider getting!!

For the last half an hour James has had his nose buried in the chicken book picking which breed of chicken we ought to get, the main criteria being : “I dont like any breeds that have got too much red on their heads!”  I despair sometimes.

Anyway, James has finally picked two breeds that he would like to have:  The Faverolle and the Barnevelder.

Faverolles are lovely looking birds but whose egg production rate is only about 100 eggs per year. The Barnevelder is a lovely dark chocolate brown bird which produces large golden brown eggs at a rate of about 170 per year. For me, it was no contest: The Barnevelder won. Not least because they are known to be friendly, docile, hardy birds, which I would much rather have in my garden!!!

A fantastic Faverolle

So the plan is to get three female Barnevelders. I REALLY want to call them Hilda, Joyce and Nora after our Grandmothers, but not sure how keen they’ll be when they hear that!!

A beautiful Barnevelder

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I am SO excited!

For a little while now, James and I have been toying with the idea of getting some chickens. I had started to research things like how much chicken coops would cost, getting them into a basic routine, where to buy chickens from, etc and I was determined not to undertake this without giving it serious thought and with the both of us doing some extensive research on how feasible this is. I ordered a book from http://www.amazon.co.uk called ‘Raising Happy Chickens and other Poultry’ by Victoria Roberts from Amazon and have made both me and James read it so that we know what we are letting ourselves in for!

I popped in on my way home today to see my friends Annie and Paul. They had their little boy Casper in January and due to the amount of vermin that their own coop was attracting (mice etc – not due to uncleanliness, just due to the fact that this can happen in some cases) they decided that they should give away their chickens and concentrate on creating more space in their garden for Casper to play in and for growing produce. A broken hearted Paul had already taken their chickens to a local farmer who was going to re-home them in his fields but they still had their lovely chicken coop and run in the garden, which they were going to destroy. I mentioned that James and I were thinking of keeping some chickens and Paul and Annie said that we could have their old coop!

This is fantastic news as a) the coop is fantastic, if you see my earlier post featuring Annie and Paul’s garden you will see the coop in some of the photographs, b) Annie’s dad built the coop and I think Annie and Paul would have been sad to see it go to waste and c) Chicken coops are EXPENSIVE, and would have been the most costly part of our chicken ‘project’ so to cut out some of this cost would be great, especially with the recent expense of the raised bed.

So our lovely chicken coop is being delivered courtesy of Annie and Paul on saturday.

In the meantime today I have been doing some ‘chicken research’ and stumbled across the following helpful websites:

www.omlet.co.uk – brill website recommended by my friend Sam at work – who has two chickens, Jerry and Aretha!!!

www.broadwaybantams.co.uk – local supplier with lovely wooden coops.

www.happychicks.co.uk – chickens £10 each on this website and loads of helpful tips.

I have also been reading the following books:

‘Choosing and Keeping chickens’ by Chris Graham

‘Raise Happy chickens and other Poultry’ by Victoria Roberts

So I will be calling our local council tomorrow to make sure we are okay to keep chickens on our land, dropping the letting agent a quick email to let them know and doing lots more swotting up on the art of chicken keeping!

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