Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

If the chickens are laying, Spring must be here

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February 1st our chickens produced their first egg – we’re not actually sure which one did it – and there is still some confusion over who is a chicken and who is not – we had some Welsummer crosses which we raised from young chicks and we also had 6 birds from Curly Boy’s school. Every year they have an incubator with eggs, to show the children how chickens hatch and grow. Last year they asked us if we would like the chicks once they had served their time in the school – so we inherited 4 brown hens and 2 white cocks. One of those cocks has been donated as a pet to a friend’s grandson and the other as it turns out, is doing very well at what cockerels should do – crowing, seeing to the girls etc. All in all we have 13 birds at the allotment now, we think 8 girls and 5 boys – could be 7 girls and 6 boys – only time will tell. We are supposed to dispatch the boys and eat them, but they are so beautiful we’re not sure we can! Not so very self-sufficient as yet. Today I went up – Wednesday being my writing day, therefore I tend to do anything but writing – just to make sure the water was ice free and see how they are doing and there were two more eggs for me. So that’s 7 since Feb 1st.

So if the chickens are laying after the long dormant Winter months, I think I should start producing too, writing that is – I shall turn my back on the laundry, the dishes, the piles of stuff to go upstairs and the piles of stuff to go downstairs, the piles of stuff to be sorted, or posted, or put away – and I shall write. I won’t even have lunch in front of the telly – which was my old habit on a Wednesday. Trouble with that is that I end up watching Loose Women and they make me shout at them – not conducive to a productive afternoon.

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Is it a battle?

Many thanks to all of you who have sent comments about yesterday’s post. We are still reeling from what happened to the poor birds. His bee hive also got kicked over – but the bees seem to have survived. I’ve just been up to the allotment to see for myself and walk around – I must say the soul has gone out of the place for me – no noisy greeting as I arrived, nobody to talk to, or squabbles to sort out, no-one to feed out of my hand – just feathers everywhere. Laurie and Charlie (our allotment neighbour) did their best to clear as much as possible but those birds lost a lot of feathers. The police seem to consider that this was carried out by youths on drugs – most of the crime in these parts at the moment is due to the effects of drug taking and the need to get money for the next hit. I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that the violence we have been affected by was suffered by our birds and not our family members – but Laurie and I sat there last night very tempted to pack our bags for some foreign place where we could escape this kind of occurrence – Daily Mail phrases flashing through our heads. I realise how much violence I have absorbed from TV and movies as I imagine what acts I would carry out, faced with those responsible – me the fair minded liberal.

The local news last night had an item about a young man who has been jailed for stabbing another man at a bus stop. He had been seen on CCTV cycling through the streets, on the pavement, through the shopping centre (covered pedestrian centre) and out the other side. Just as he approached a bus stop, a man stepped backwards to read the bus timetable more clearly and they collided – the bus stop man shouted at the young cyclist, who promptly pulled a knife (£2 from Tesco Metro) and stabbed him to death. When asked why he had been carrying a kitchen knife he said that he was afraid of being attacked and carried it for his protection. Each morning I drive Curly Boy to school, then park the car at the bottom of the hill where I meet Al and we walk into work – I take the same route as the cyclist, through the estate where he lives, across the road, through the same shopping centre – Al and I often have to pull up short for hooded lads on push bikes and neither she nor I are afraid if pointing out our displeasure at almost being knocked down – so the man at the bus stop could very well be me, or her, or any of the people I know who go about their business day to day. We’re not playing by the same rule book anymore, codes of conduct no longer apply. This morning’s news is of ‘internal trafficking’ of girls as young as ten (the trafficking of British girls within the UK for prostitution).  

Our allotment is a small space for us to escape all of the stuff that goes on outside, but now I wonder how we will feel if the buildings get trashed, or burned, or Curly Boy’s summer house damaged, or the trees we have planted uprooted. Laurie is determined that we will carry on regardless and replace the chickens – put a lock on the enclosure gate and a padlock on the hen-house door (he and Charlie have already put 6″ nails across the top of the entrance gates to prevent someone from climbing over that way) – but I am still not sure. How can we know they won’t come back again? Did they come to bother the chickens? Did they come to steal? Did they know the chickens were there or was it a spur of the moment thing? If I could fathom the ‘why’ I might be able to know how to carry on with it all, but I don’t think there is a why in this case.

The joy of an allotment is that it is a piece of land right in the heart of a city, but unlike privately owned land, the very nature of it draws attention of the worst kind. There will always be moochers and thieves and vandals where there are allotments, greenhouses will always be smashed and sheds broken into. So why bother? Laurie says we must bother so that ‘they’ don’t win. But I don’t think it’s a battle, they just do it because it’s there.

and then there were none

Somebody broke into our allotment on Sunday night (we think) and broke the necks of our ten chickens and our one remaining cockerel. I’m so upset and angry that I can’t tell anybody, so I thought I’d tell you lot. Poor Laurie went up there today to check their water and food to find them strewn about the place. Those poor battery babies had only a brief spell of freedom and the cockerel had only just plucked up the courage to boss the girls around. Mummy hen and her original chicks have been with me for nearly four years.

And then there was one…

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Sarah O sent me this lovely picture today – it is the view from her back door in Australia – a far cry from my cold wintery day. I’ve tried to persuade her to blog – that way I could keep up with what she’s doing better. Shame she’s not in England very often – but some friends are all the better for absence – then we have a concentrated spell of each other when we are close by.  

Back in wintry Nottingham – I headed up to the allotment this morning only to discover many feathers outside the chicken run and one cockerel missing. Laurie had mentioned that a couple of times when he checked the chickens, one of the boys had managed to get out (probably by flapping from floor to roof of house, to roof of adjacent building) – I can only presume that this chap had been caught outside the run by a fox – the feathers were right next to the door – perhaps he had been running to get back in. Trouble is once the fox has had a feed he’ll be back. Coops and runs are never completely fox proof and we kept meaning to roof the whole area in netting to keep the foxes out and the chickens in – now I feel guilty as hell that we haven’t done it – seems like bolting the door after etc etc.

My next stop was at the garage to get two new front tyres for the car- I’ve been ‘meaning to do’ that too – and the result of not doing that might be a little more extreme than losing a chicken. Now to get some other jobs done that have been on the invisible list for far too long.

A cock that crows.

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Look how our boys have grown and this morning I heard them try to crow – at least the most dominant one was trying. Photographs don’t do justice to the colours of his feathers either – it’s no wonder women used to crave hats with feathers – his tail is the darkest greeny black you have ever seen with dappled grey at the base.

I dropped Curly Boy at school this morning and then nipped up to the allotment for a good forty minutes just gazing at my feathered boys as they strutted round. The lone hen is beautiful too, her chest has a rosy hue to it. The battery chickens are shabby as ever, but great company (nice but dim I suppose). Our original hens seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they have to share their quarters with this new bunch. Each faction keeps to their own space – and have the odd peck at each other when I feed them. I would love to stay up there all day but it’s just too cold at the moment.

One of the Sarahs came to stay for a few days last week ( I have many Sarahs: Sarah B (aslo known as Bakes), Sexy Sarah, Sarah from Crete and Sarah O (from Oz), then there’s Westy – there have been others too – must have been the most popular girl’s name for the early 60s although O is older). This was a visit from Bakes – her favourite part of the visit was our allotment. She lives in an old town house in Kensington  and they have a home in Devon too, a cottage with a view of the sea from the garden and a well in the sitting room – and yet she envies our poor old allotment. Funny how we are all striving for a litle piece of countryside – each accrding to our pocket.

She and her husband and their neighbours have just bought two cows in calf (one of the cows is named Sarah peculiarly!)  and intend to supply themselves with beef from now on courtesy of the calves. The neighbours have a large field to house them in. We are trying to persuade her to keep bees too – which she could do in London or Devon really. We have managed to harvest some of our honey but still have a load to do (slow going without the proper equipment) and it tastes wonderful. It’s such a full time occupation keeping on top of it all, work and bees and chickens and house and sanity. I might give in on the sanity for a while, then none of it will matter so much!

Everything’s coming in twos

Not a good start to the day – the postal strike over my letter box was bursting this morning – and in the pile of letters, two in my own hand writing – you know what that means? Two rejections from agents. Oh well – plenty more to send to and I did start with the big names first. No feedback, just polite negative response.

Then on up to the allotment to check on the birds – and there I discovered that two of the boys are missing. No signs of death or destruction, breaking or entering. One of the cockerels does seem to be more assertive as the days go by, so I wonder if he has seen off two of his rivals. Laurie said just at the weekend that one had managed to get himself up on top of the coop – from where he could make his way onto the roof of the building adjacent I suppose and so make an escape. I had clipped their wings, but today when I looked they have all but grown back again – time for a round-up and mass clipping.

All was not lost – I had arranged to meet an old friend from the MA (she graduated last year) at Bromley House Library. We had a chat, some coffee and biscuits, made to an ancient recipe (the librarian is writing a book on recipes from the 17th and 18th Centuries and is trialing all the recipes on the members – the result is rather like something the kids would cook though I’m afraid!) Later I took Curly Boy to the allotment and we had a good hunt round for the missing boys, without success.

Back home, spag bol and cups of tea, when another MA buddy called to say that she had received an email with her results – distinction. I rushed to the computer to check my emails – I am over the moon because I passed with distinction too -well done us! I felt quite weepy for a moment.

I must say I couldn’t have done it without My Lovely J (unofficial unpaid babysitter) or Zannee(official unpaid babysitter) and all those long suffering readers (you know who you are) or Middle Sis who coughed up for second year fees until the Access to Learning Fund provided a nice contribution and I could pay her back.  Not forgetting Big Sis (and Middle Sis actually) who did a degree late in life and inspired me to do the same.

I would urge anyone to have a crack at it if they fancy it – I managed to get through a degree and an MA whilst working and raising a family (including the untimely birth of Curly Boy in my final year of the degree) and I’m not alone either, many fellow students were in the same boat – it seems to me the more you take on the more you are able to achieve. For me it allowed my brain breathing space from the daily grind and I think it has also showed my daughter what it is possible to achieve at any stage of life. I recently attended a reading of a paper by a lady from the Open University who cites that in single parent families in the UK boys exceed their parent educationally but girls do not – horrendous! Let’s hope that by watching me My Lovely J will be inspired to go as far as her heart takes her.

Chickens in the house…

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Here’s one of the new girls making like a bush. This particualr hen spends a lot of time just standing here. Now I know you can’t expect miracles, but I thought that they would have got the hang of it by now. The new hens have learned to walk and stand and eat, they even dust bathe and preen themselves a bit. I was over the moon when after only two days they seemed to have grasped the concept of putting themselves away at night. The first few nights we helped them (lifted them in actually) but slowly they seem to have twigged that inside is the safest place to be at night, they leave it a little late for my liking, but they did seem to be going inside. Each night I count them, peering through the pop-hole or through the nesting box hatch. A couple of nights one of them had managed to find herself a spot outside under one of the trees and I would carefully lift her up and stick her in the hen house instead. Tonight there were only four of them inside and I was forced to tippy toe around the garden in the dark with a torch looking for dark brown hens in the dark brown undergrowth – I found them behind a stack of bricks which are waiting to be built into a new porch for the front of the house (as the old one is in danger of falling down with every slam of the door). I know I have to be patient and keep at it and eventually they will learn the way to behave to keep themselves out of trouble. I do wish the same were true of Tall Boy. Admittedly he is in no danger of being eaten, but I have to say if he continues to misunderstand the every day ways of domestic living he may well be in danger of having his head bitten off. My latest tactic is to let him be. God it’s hard! I shall concentrate on training my chicks and leave the young male to his own devices for a while. Wonder how that’ll pan out?

Old girls, new girls…

Too much this weekend – my school reunion with the old girls and the collection of the new girls (battery hens).  I was torn. The very day that I am due to travel to Bath to meet with the girls from school an emergency batch of battery hens were being rescued from a farm in Shropshire, the lovely BHWT called to ask if I would like some. Of course I would! That would mean that Laurie would have to pick them up without me and I’d miss out on the fun.

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This poor old girl hangs around by the fence all on her own. Her bum is pretty bald and she seems quieter than the rest. I called Laurie on Saturday night to find out how the collection had gone. He told me that there were 200 hens in all and he, Curly Boy and Un-Wicked Step-Daughter were third in line for choosing. “We chose six of the best ones!” He proudly announced. I was secretly afraid that he had left some poor shabby girls behind, who were far more deserving of a new home, in favour of strapping chickens. As you can see that is clearly not the case! If our six new girls are the pick of the bunch, goodness only knows what the worst ones are like!

They had no idea how to walk at first and also seem to drop off to sleep every now and then. They have begun to scratch and eat and drink and have even flapped their wings a bit. One of them only has one eye, “didn’t notice that!” Says Laurie. I am secretly pleased, what’s the point of having rescued hens if they don’t look the part? Although I’m not one for naming hens, I quite fancy calling her Bette (eye patch? The Anniversary?)

As Laurie set off to take Un-Wicked-Step-Daughter home, I rounded up the poor girls, showed them the pop-hole and shoved them inside the hen-house. Until they work out that’s where they should be after dusk I am going to have to round them up and stick them in every night – that should be fun as the nights draw in!

So the Old Girls – the Reunion? Well that was interesting and I think I need a good night’s sleep before launching into it. Last night was a late night and I spent an hour or so at the end in a hot tub, in the open air (‘daahling I know its’ chavvy but with my knees it’s the only thing that helps at the end of the day!’ My ex gymnast school chum explained – and who am I to argue?) with a nice mug of tea and a lot of swapping stories of how the day had gone!

Let’s just say that although I harbour no demons from way back then, some of the other girls do!

Some days I wish I had lovely plumage

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Ah! Inset days! What are they all about? So today – did I write anything at all? It is Wednesday after all – my designated writing day. Of course not! Today was an Inset Day at Lovely J and Tall Boy’s school – he had a friend to stay the night before – so he was happy (they planned a cinema trip for today). Lovely J and I took Curly Boy to his school and then called in to see how the chicks were doing at the allotment. The boys get more beautiful by the day. Then we spent the day trying to find a coat that would fulfil a particular remit – that is to be suitable for school, black, no logos or markings, warm, fashionable, able to fit over a blazer and within budget – a coat that would satisfy a 14 year old school girl, her mother and the Dread Deputy Head (a stickler for correct uniform). “In my day,” I found myself telling Lovely J for the sixth time, “a uniform was just that – uniform – no choice – one style – like it or lump it.” The budget lost in the end, something had to give and well, it’s only money, plenty more where that came from – who needs to MOT the car? (Ah yes I do! Note to self, tyres, windscreen wiper blades.)

School’s been on my mind a fair bit due to the reunion – emails still coming in about lunch arrangements and evening arrangements. ‘What are you going to wear?’ I keep being asked. Nothing special obviously – I’ll just throw on any old outift, casual yet stylish – same as any other day (yeah right). Which brings me to my hair. I have no problem with ageing, I’ve gone a bit grey, I’ve kept a bit of the weight since having Curly Boy (all of it), but I don’t care – I’m happy with who I am. Besides these are girls I spent my formative years with, it doesn’t matter how I look now, we’ll all just be so thrilled to see one another, won’t we? It’s just that when I last had my hair cut I decided I wasn’t going to dye it anymore, so I currently have 4″ roots – I thought I’d grow it all out to the same colour and see how it looked now it has streaks of grey in it. ‘I’ll pay for you to get your hair done’ Laurie offered a few weeks ago. “Why? There’s nothing wrong with it.” I replied. (He wants to wash the car for me too, can’t think why.) So there I was in Wilkos with Lovely J, hovering around the shampoo aisle whilst she chose between tea tree and mint or raspberry and ylang ylang, my eye fell on the ‘wash-in-wash-out’ sachets. Rich mahogany sounded good, besides if it looks awful it’ll wash out won’t it? Just for the roots really, just to give me an even colour. Here I sit, typing for you with rich mahogany lights in my hair  – but those of you who have a rudimentary understanding of colour and dyeing (hair or other wise) will have guessed, my roots are still just that, visible roots! Sometimes I wish I was a chicken.

Chickens and carrots and Curly Boy’s house

Today we put the playhouse we were gifted via Freecycle back together. We’ve put it on the far allotment which is becoming the ‘kids bit’. Now I’ve seen it rebuilt I can’t believe I ever managed to drive the car with it on top. Curly Boy can’t wait to invite his friends to play in it (although it does need a bit of remedial care, a few missing planks, new roof felt, that kind of thing.)

A new home too for the chickens. We brought the chicks up last weekend and first thing this morning I took the hens to join them. I do hope they’ll be happy up there – but the garden needs to recover from having nine of them scratching around and I intend to put the poor old battery hens (when they arrive) at the house with us so I can keep an eye on them until they are fit enough to be moved in with the rest. It’s going to be strange not having the girls outside the front door rushing towards me in the hope I’ve got some more food for them and I’ll miss tripping over them.

It felt like a winter day, crisp and sunny and Middle Sis proudly dug up some carrots (which were very carrot shaped for home grown), another sign of the change in season – no more courgettes and tomatoes, it’s all spuds and carrots from here on in!