Sunday, 27 July 2008

Lousy news

The summer house new bed is looking a treat now, all the sweet peas have climbed almost to the top of the obelisk and the lavenders are in full bloom. I am regretting putting in the large leaved Inula now but will haul them out at the end of the season and replace with something more fitting in blue or pink, must have been having a blonde day when I thought Inula Giganticas in orange would fit in well with lavenders and pinks.

Daisy has been off colour for a while now and has stopped laying eggs and so I decided to take a close look at her with my glasses on. She may have stopped laying eggs but some buggers had not and she was infested with Poultry Biting Lice and their eggs. It was positively foul ( excuse the pun ) seeing her crawling with parasites. It is all a bit like when the kids used to come home with 'little visitors', nothing to be ashamed about and I have heard that Poultry Lice only like clean feathers. Ha Ha! Anyway I right away inspected the rest, that was no easy matter. Poppy was fine and Trinny and Susannah calm down nicely when caught but the Veras revert to Hezbollah and Hammas mode when cornered. In the end Trinny had a few, none on Susannah and a few on Poppy and none on the Veras, would they dare! Well, like when one of the boys got nits in the long distant past, one gets treated so do the rest. This has consisted of all of them being liberally doused in louse powder, the house being deep cleaned and then all the hens being sprayed with mite and louse spray. I was told that the easiest way to delouse a chicken was to fill an old pillowcase with said powder, put the hen in up to its neck and then hold it tight around its neck while massaging all its bits with powder. Easier said than done again! I chose to do Daisy first as she was definitely the worst affected but by the end I was covered in louse powder as the weave on the pillow case allowed a lot of leakage and worse I had crawlers on me to and in my hair, having just shelled out £89 to have my highlights and a cut I was none too happy at having to wash all the hours of professional blow drying out but like a trooper I did. It was a little later that I read on the Omlet Forum that these lice are host specific and would have got bored with me after a while and dropped off. Better safe than sorry I say. I decided to take another tack with the rest of the flock and I caught them one at a time and deposited them into a sand pit which contained about 50/50 sand and louse powder, it was much easier to massage it into the right bits and some of them seemed to enjoy it. Not either of the Veras though who protested long and hard, I am surprised none of the neighbours called the SSPCA. After the girls were done it was time to deep clean the house, this was scrubbed, pressure washed and liberally doused with something called Poultry Shield which kills all known bugs, creepy crawlies and other nasties. Then I sprayed the house with another type of louse killer for good measure.

This morning as the girls got up and left the house I could be seen at the door of the hen house spray in hand, giving each of them ,as the exited another spray for good measure. I will repeat all the aforementioned next weekend again and hopefully we will have rid ourselves of them for the time being.

The doves are being very well behaved and I have no idea if they have lice or not , I can get to the doocote when they are on it to replenish their feed and water but handling them is some way off yet. For good measure the cote got a spray of poultry shield and light dusting of mite powder, can't be too careful.

Now Herb has built a bridge he is starting on a wonderful lean to shed of mammoth proportions in the cattle court. It will be for storing logs and straw and may even contain a manger or two. It is going to be magnificent.

Everything else in the garden is rosy. We sat on our new bridge one sunny evening and christened it the Five O'clock Bridge with a glass of bubbly or two, or three but certainly no binge drinking.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


After a week we decided that the new girls should get acquainted more intimately with their new hen coop mates so we took the dividing wire down and let them in and at each other. Anyone expecting a fight would have been very disappointed, there were a few minor skirmishes but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly nothing like when the Veras met Poppy and Daisy for the first time. The first night we put the Auracanas into the temporary house but the next night they all went in together in the new house and last night when it came time to shoo them into bed they were all already in. In fact five of the six were squashed into the nesting box for two!

There are still a few well aimed pecks but Trinny and Susannah are adept at swerving to avoid the worst of them , all in all it has been very successful. They still seem to troop around in matching pairs but they do all look good together, like a palette of hens.

The doves have been spending more and more time on the coop and are now venturing father away on their all too infrequent flying trips. Hindoo and Bully are doing a lot of kissing and cooing and bowing down at each other. Could romance be in the air?

Hairy Potter and Hairy Mary obviously had romance on their minds a couple of months ago as we now have one of his offspring in the garden eating all the heads off the daisies and clearing up any grain spilled from the bird feeders. He is a tiny wee fellow but not being a hare expert have no idea when they leave their mums for the first time.

Herb has almost finished the new bridge over the stream, this one should withstand all the floods and other environmental catastrophes ( Dicky) that are bound to come our way! It is going to be a great place to sit and dangle your legs as the sun goes down, watch this space for the Pooh Sticks Competition results.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

All I need to know

All I Need To Know In Life I Learned From My Chickens
by Michaele Oleson

Wake up early, stay busy

Rest when you need to, but always stay alert

Visit your favourite places every day

Scratch out a living

Routine is good Plump is good

Don't ponder your purpose in life - your brain is too small

Accept the pecking order and know your enemies

Weed your garden

Look after your children

- Sit on them if necessary-

Take them for walks, show them the little things and talk constantly

Make a nice nest - share it with friends

Brag on your accomplishments

Protect your nest egg

Test your wings once in a while

Squawk when necessary

As you age, demand respect

Leave a little something for those who care about you

Chase butterflies

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The new girls are here!

After deciding to get two more hens now we have new and upgraded housing I was pleased to see an ad in the local paper for hens of the very breed I was after. We collected the two Lavender Auracanas from a local breeder and brought them home to a hastily erected temporary home. The reason I wanted this particular type is that they lay wonderful blue eggs, they taste the same as any egg but look beautiful, if looking at eggs is what you like to do!

We put them into the little run on getting back and all too soon World War Three broke out with the Veras launching themselves at the wire and Poppy and Daisy clucking and bokking in a threatening manner. There was a lot of heads down eye contact being made and thank goodness the wire was in the way otherwise I am sure we would have had bloodshed if not a fatality or two. After a while things settled down with the two new girls retiring to bed early and the other strutting around looking bewildered! We decided to call the newest additions Trinny and Susannah as they are quite stylish in a strange sort of way. They did their duty overnight and next day we had our first blue egg. I am not sure how old they are but as they have just come into lay I can guess they are between 18 and 24 weeks.

The doves have at last and quite suddenly, realized that the doocote is where they are supposed to be, not the roof of the house. They have been spending more and more time in, on and around the cote and today have spent the whole day on it, we even have Lily back in the nest box which is where she spent her first 7 weeks at Moonzie. It is great to see them adorning the cote which is what I had envisaged when they first were released. They are getting very brave and no longer fly off when I venture out to replenish the feed hoppers.

The garden is producing some wonderful vegetables and tonight we are eating some more Cauliflower, some roast Courgettes and Patty Pan Squashes, fresh green peas and for pudding, our very own strawberries and ice cream. Yesterday we had the first of the tomatoes and a cucumber.

We plan to let the hens in and at each other at the weekend, I know it is going to be messy and noisy but hopefully they will soon all settle in and be one happy flock. No guessing who is going to be top of the pecking order. Miss Daisy can puff herself up bigger and broader than any of them so I think she will win. Watch this space for further developments and see which of the hen family is the first to get an ASBO.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Rain Rain and more rain

I would have added some pictures to my blog this week but every time I went outside to do so it rained! The garden is really benefitting from it but other than that it is awful, the track has turned into a small river yet again and the chickens are wading knee deep in mud. They don't seem to mind at all.

The doves have remained settled all week, they are so settled sometimes I think they are unconscious. They spend about 23 hours a day sitting on the roof of the house, about ten minutes flying and the rest of the time eating. They are having to contend with many other birds coming to the feeding table below the cote now, it is getting ridiculous. This week we had 7 chaffinch at one time plus numerous collared doves and wood pigeons as well as a seagull. A blackbird even had the cheek to sit in the cote sheltering from the torrential rain while the doves sat around the chimney getting soaked.

Having sold the Eglu and moved the hens into the larger old fashioned wooden house I have ordered my two new girls to be picked up on Sunday. They are Lavender Auracanas, a hen from Chile that lays blue/green eggs. I was possibly a bit quick in selling the Eglu as I now have had to make a temporary pen and coop for the new girls so that the others don't bully them until they have settled in. Some degree of pecking and chasing is inevitable until the pecking order is established and it is kinder to keep them apart for a week or so to let the dust, or in this case mud, settle. The temporary coop is a bit of a Heath Robinson affair but it should work well enough for the time it is needed .

The man that made my dove cote has added me as a link on his website so if you want to take a look at his marvellous dove cotes his web site address is
His dovecotes are of exceptional quality and very good value. The aftercare is also worth mentioning and without Marks help and advice I would have been lost.

Sam is away to T in the Park this weekend, luckily with his new found wealth he has gone well equipped with wellies, waterproofs and a very good tent. Herb has had a weeks sailing around Mull in the sunshine, who says we never have good weather in Scotland?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Home Sweet Home

The doves have settled well into freedom and although still not doing very much it is great to see them on their occasional training flights in formation over the house. 4pm seems to be a good time to fly and they usually do a couple of circuits, and the odd touch and go before landing back on the roof.

Herb took the rest of the homing cage frame down and mowed under and around the cote, I am sure the grass will eventually recover from the piles of guano under the cote! He put up new perches and we started using the new feeders. After the frame was away the doves seems a little unsettled and seemed not to recognize the doo cote, they stayed away for 24 hours so that time I removed the new fouling proof feeder and replaced it with the bowl that I had originally used. This seemed to do the trick and they are now back feeding as before. They are also using the trees a lot more for perching although all seem to like to be together on the same branch often with comical consequences when the branch bends too far and they all topple off, much flapping and some feather loss before they all go and settle on another branch together or perform balancing acts on the telephone wires. There are two large wood pigeons who have also joined in lunching with us and despite my best efforts with a large stick and some choice words they seem undeterred. Maybe an air gun shot might deter them.

We had a sad day here this week, White Eye our three year old friendly blackbird with the white spot around his eye funnily enough, got into the house and flew into a plate glass window. Herb was in the house at the time and took White Eye outside but he had been fatally injured and died on the grass a few minutes later with a shudder. White Eye had appeared three summers ago with another female back bird that we called Chuffer, she had us well trained and for two years was able to attract our attention by jumping on the door handle or outside windowsill and making chuffing noises until we fed her. She also used to step into the kitchen and wait on the kitchen table for crumbs, last year she failed to appear one day and we surmised that she must have died, but this week, a few days before White Eye was killed she reappeared. It could be no other bird than Chuffer as she immediately started with the same attention getting antics, onto the milk churn by the back door then a quick hop to the door handle and once the door was open, onto the kitchen table.

We have also had another visitor the garden, we had seen evidence of him or her but had not actually seen him until a few days ago when we spotted a very large fat hedgehog ambling through the garden. He thoughtfully posed for a few snaps before heading away again. The hare is still a nightly visitor and enjoys a good wash and brush up under the willow tree before sitting and watching the world go by for an hour or so each evening.

The chickens had a welcome taste of freedom yesterday, the neighbours dog was away so we took the chance to allow them a days free ranging. It was great to see them out and so obviously enjoying being liberated. The dog is away in kennels for 3 weeks next week so I will be letting the girls out every day, much better for them and an even better egg yolk colour with all the natural weeds and stuff they can eat. The new house is very popular and at hen bedtime I no longer have to walk around the run wielding a large stick persuading them to go to bed. With all the extra space the new house has they just enjoy going in, I also shut them in at night and wake at 6.30 to let them out, that way we all get a good nights rest. Hen squabbling at first light when first light was 3am was no fun for a light sleeper like me.

At the risk of being boring I will just say that I think my vegetables could win prizes.