Back in November 2016 the Ladies had it all. They could roam wherever they fancied which occasionally included my kitchen, if they managed to sneak in. They especially enjoyed unsuspecting guests dining alfresco during warmer times.
Then on the 6th December, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the news about Avian Influenza (bird flu). You could see it was going to happen. I’d been following stories and new it wouldn’t be long before we’d have to lock all poultry indoors. Now it was here initially until 6th January 2017.
Avian influenza – DEFRA UK
We only have half a dozen hens at present so I can’t complain. I felt for those who have larger numbers especially those who raise them for commercial purposes. It doesn’t matter whether you have 2 or 1000 poultry, they all need to be housed with no roaming outside. Pens need to be covered to stop other wild fowl from depositing their possible contaminated droppings into the pens. Also appropriate disinfectants should be used on footwear before entering the pen.
Signs to look out for are:-
- swollen head
- blue discolouration of neck and throat
- loss of appetite
- respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- fewer eggs laid
- increased mortality
More can be found on the website DEFRA
To begin with the Ladies were quite content but slowly over the weeks some are becoming quite bored. I’ve introduced logs with grubs, a couple of structures for different heights to stand on, even a traffic cone as they supposedly like florescent strips to peck at. Two of the hens rarely go into their covered outdoor pen and they all go to roost earlier than ever despite the daylight hours increasing. They’re just bored.
Today I threw a load of straw for them to sort out and scattered a little mixed grain on top. I don’t want to encourage rats so I didn’t scatter too much. My partner suggested mealworms – what a great idea! They were delighted with the new treat; “Thanks Hun.”
At present the deadline is February 2017 but it’s soon to change again. I don’t want to tempt fait but in our area it maybe being lifted as a temporary measure but this has yet to be announced.
The old and the new Ladies are here together in one place but wow what a week of turmoil it’s been! It’s like having a load of hormonal teenagers at home – I’m laughing to myself.
The first couple of weeks with the three new Ladies went well. Everyone went to bed where they were supposed to and slowly the group has begun to merge at times during the day. It felt like progress until Tuesday evening.
I always check that all the Ladies are accounted for each evening. There were only two of the new Ladies in their house. So I set about trying find her at dusk. I failed but at 6am the following morning, there was Lucy at my kitchen patio doors. She was demanding breakfast! I grabbed my wellies and a jacket, picked her up and took her back to her house.
That evening at dusk, I watched the trio wonder across the garden towards our Hampshire gate heading for home. All of a sudden Lucy stops and doubles back. What’s she up to? I thought to myself. She must have heard me in the kitchen as she looked straight at me. It must have looked like a real comedy as I spent the next few minutes ducking every few seconds as I watched to see what she was up to.
Opposite the kitchen is very narrow hedge. Lucy was looking up and down at it. At one point I thought she was going to fly up at the windows of the old barn but she ducked inside the bush. I waited a few minutes to see if she’d remerge but she didn’t. The bush was so condensed I ended up having to ask one of our holiday guests to hold the hedge back whilst I pulled her out. Lucy wasn’t amused as I took her home.
Next I discovered Spangle was missing! I found her fairly quickly fortunately, she was broody and clucking away in an outside nestbox. I returned her to the house and shut the door. However, I noticed a dead rat on the floor in the pen! Tried as I might I couldn’t remove despite telling myself out loud that it was dead. I walked next door to borrow a neighbour. So the rat was dealt with but Spangle had escaped again. She was just nestling down in the outside nestbox looking very proud of herself. I picked her up and let her fly up to her 10ft high perch, she’s the only one who likes to sleep way up there.
The kids/Ladies were in bed finally – I needed a cup of tea! 😉
Ok so the Ladies are our hens but they have such characters you’d almost think they were humans.
Friends of my neighbours asked if I would like to have their hens as they’re having to travel quite a lot at the moment. Could we manage another 3 I thought to myself. Well two hens were getting quite old and not laying any more so I said yes.
We now have 10 hens!
I’d planned on nestling all 3 on their roosting place at dusk with the others but that didn’t happen. They arrived fairly early in the morning following an hour and a half journey. I couldn’t leave them in a box so put them in the spare run and shut the dividing door off. They had a good sized outdoor area fenced off and a hen house to themselves.
The other Ladies came to see what all the commotion was about. They were running up and down outside the pen. I treated them all to some mealworms which was something new to mine. I left them to it for a couple of hours and as the others were still hanging around outside I thought I’d try to let them all into the unfenced area.
Big mistake – all three of the new hens flew at the older ones. Two of them stood up to the new ones but little Speckle (bantom) was completely mesmerised by this attack. She stood there startled and in shock. Time to separate them. In fact I left them apart until Saturday when I could be around to keep an eye on things.
Lucy (new) immediately rose up and bumped chests with Marmalade and that was it. Nothing more from anyone. They’ve been keeping with their own two groups still but in time I’m sure that’ll change. Spangle is not exactly impressed still and makes the strangest of noises the second she feels someone is encroaching her space.
All was quiet, in fact too quiet so I went to investigate. The older group became rebels and crossed the farmyard, gone under the gate, walked up next doors gravel drive, through their garden up to the back of their place. Why? Oh well they discovered they had a bird feeder. Each time a bird ate food they were there underneath to catch the remnants. Crafty little ladies aren’t they.
So I’m going to do a rain dance – the Ladies won’t venture over there in the pouring rain. Batten down the hatches guys let the dance commence. 😉
I had a message from a friend asking if we wanted some new chickens. Often people refer to chickens as male and female but I wanted to ensure straight away that I wasn’t after a rooster/cockerel.
How old are they? Why were they getting rid of them? These are the questions that went through my mind.
They look as though they have healthy crops and their feathers look good.
They’re from a couple whose dogs I’ve walked a few times. They want them to go to a good home and knew we kept hens.
So why do they want to get rid of them? Basically they travel quite a bit and sorting hens and dogs out was proving quite tricky.
So I’ve said yes. Before they arrive I will have to pressure wash and disinfect our Ladies houses down, their perches and put new bedding in the nest box areas. I’ve had new hens joining the group before and found it’s actually easier to put the new hens in at night next to the existing ones on their perches. This way they all wake up together.
Years ago I used to separate them and put them in pens so they could all see each other and then after a few days I’d let them in together. Then a breeder suggested doing the other method I mentioned above – I’ve not reverted back since.
Our current Ladies have begun laying properly again so we’re getting about 4 or 5 eggs a day now. Even Marmalade, one of the older ones has! The two bantams haven’t started yet but I’m suspecting it’ll be February.
I’ll be able to start selling eggs again.
In one hour minor mishaps seem to have occurred two of them down to Storm Frank.
Whilst hundreds in the Uk are suffering terribly with floods in and around their homes I feel I’m lucky not to have had this ordeal. My heart goes out to you guys but I did suffer a little drama.
I popped outside to shut the Ladies (hens) in for the night only to discover in the barn just outside their pen a ladder was strawn across the floor. Whilst my head was getting around this I noticed the metal wheelbarrow with chicken muck in, was upside down too.
There are two giant windows about 2m x 1.5m with a metal grid covered in plastic preventing the barn from most of the outside elements from coming in. As the frame is only attached at the top it acted like a hinge I suppose and knocked things flying. I’ve not known it to happen before.
My dad had been in there (he told me later) and moved an old wheelie bin (refuse bin on wheels) to prevent the frame from lifting. This in turn had caused havoc with the pecking order for the Ladies. Spangle likes to perch on the 14 foot high panel rather than sitting with the others at night. Moving the bin prevented her from reaching her post. She was running up and down inside the pen not knowing where to sleep. Sophie was squawking at her and Queenie appeared to be telling everyone off. The next minute Spangle flew to the perch everyone was on, sat on a few Ladies until eventually settling down next to Lacey. Humours chaos…
Back indoors I’d already started making a Passion Cake from a new recipe using bananas and pineapple. It was a little fiddly but I managed to get it into the Aga (oven) before going out to see to the Ladies. I took a peak at the cake on my return, it was partially burnt. I was surprised as cooking time was 60 – 70 minutes, this was 20 minutes into the cooking time! Slightly disheartened I moved it to the cooler oven as it wasn’t cooked through yet.
By now the rain was lashing at the kitchen windows and the wind was howling. It was pitch black outside. Then I noticed a large puddle of water on the work surface, where had this come from I wondered. I looked up at the window to see water seeping in from behind the closed air vents. There was a constant trickle of water coming in and not much I could do about it apart from mop up the puddles.
The rain subsided, the cake was cooked and the Ladies had all settled. Now all that was left to do was start making the dinner. Would I make the cake again? It tasted ok but not special, I’m tempted to bin it to be honest. I haven’t take a photo of it (pride got in the way) as it looks a complete mess.
Frankly I’m relieved Storm Frank has fragmented. 🙂
The moment just had to be captured! 😉
The ladies (hens) never come in the house although Queenie has been known to occasionally. I’d opened the door as it is so mild outside at the moment the kitchen needed some fresh air. Then casually Marmalade wonders in followed by Penny and Spangle.
My daughter loved the moment too. Though we won’t be encouraging it as Marmalade took great delight in flicking mud everywhere she went.
You just have to laugh!
“Oops I think we’ve been rumbled.”
Half past six and the alarm on my phone goes off – well it is the holidays. I’d given myself half an hours lie-in, I’d heard the wind howling for most of the night. Talk about gusty!
The kitchen wasn’t as snug as normal as I’d had to turn it off last night. A chap is coming over this afternoon to look at it as it’s not keeping it’s usual temperature. We’ve a contract with the company so it doesn’t cost any extra. I’ve decided that my daughter jinxes the Aga, whenever she comes home for a few days (weeks in this case) from University the Aga plays up.
(An Aga is a cooker that stays on all day and night, it heats the room up too.)
I flick the switch of the electric kettle and grab my hat, coat and wellington boots. The torch shines brightly with it’s new batteries and I trudge over the farm yard to the Ladies house (hens).
“Morning Ladies, how are we all today?” I call cheerily. I like to let them know I’m on my way so as not to startle them. I shine my torch up the 14 foot panel too see Spangles eyes lighting up in the torches beam. She’s taken to sitting up there on her own. She seems to be bottom of the pecking order but quite happy. The others are all inside on the perch with the occasional morning chatter. Queenie stands up and stretches her wings. |t almost sounds like a muffled crinkle of a fresh paper bag being opened.
I unbolt the door and instantly aware of Lacey pacing up and down in the pen. “What’s up Lacey?” I inquire but with that she’s bolted out of the door. I’ve never seen her do that before. I swing round trying to spot her with the beam of the torch but she’s already out of site. I walk quickly back outside – where on earth has she gone I wonder. I’m shining my torch up and down the farmyard looking for her. Then I spot her…
I quietly walk around the side of the tractor and there she is in their makeshift nest box. It’s almost pitch black, just before 7am and Lacey was desperate to lay her egg! You can’t help but smile sometimes.