Saturday, November 19, 2005

Chicken news on Saturday.

The egg is smooth and very pale
It has no head, it has no tail
It has no ears, that one can see
It has no wit, no repartee

But it don't half taste nice

Eggs - Total to date:19 - Day 11

KoKKo 7 (76grms)
Adelaide 6 (71grms)
Ginger 6 (72grms)

I am doing a separate chicken page so that anyone who is just interested in allotment stuff need not read the chicken things and vice versa.

Well if you ploughed through my allotment pages yesterday you will know how busy I was and I finished by saying that I was taking home some string fencing with a view to letting the girls free range a bit around the garden until we get our fence panel fixed.

I am beginning to think that it, not getting done, or getting anyone in to do it, was a ploy by Pat to delay or prevent me getting chickens – but maybe I am just being cynical!

The girls were really happy to see me, and dived on the cabbage leaf with slugs as if they had never been fed before! Pat wasn’t home from golf, so I was able to put up all the fencing. Now this fencing is agricultural, and has posts already fixed into it, which you just push into the ground. I think that it is the type that they run electric fencing wire through, but not sure as we inherited it with the plot amongst a pile of stinging nettles. I use it up the lottie to protect my climbing beans and peas from pheasants etc and it does the trick there.

So I spent ages unravelling it; it is a real pain as it always gets caught up no matter how carefully you roll it up. I then used one roll to go right up to the wooden fence where a conifer had died and been removed, and the chickens would be able to get through the gap in the hedge and go along the fence that way – so I had got them sussed on that score. I then fenced off all the rest of that hedge right up to the gazebo in the corner – about 30 feet. Now this sounds easy, but in reality it was a real pain as there were shrubs, flower beds etc to negotiate and the string kept catching various plants. I also had to anchor it down with extra posts. The second roll of fencing I put in front of the first (having seen ‘The Birdman from Alcatraz’ many years ago!) I thought it best to double up precautions.

So I now had two layers of defence. The second one went in front of the first and then right along another hedge at right angles to the corner if you know what I mean. So it was with great confidence that I let out my girls for the first time to survey the garden.

They quite confidently stepped out of their pen, and scratched around in the fallen vine leaves on the flower beds under the pergola.

Then KoKKo took the lead and off she trotted with Adelaide in tow to check out the rest of the garden.

They walked alongside the raised flower beds stretching up to their full height to try and see over the top. I felt slightly anxious at this point, because if they flew up on top of the raised beds they might be able to fly onto the top of the conifer hedge. With its lovely soft fluffy bits of conifer on top, it is a favourite resting place with the birds!

I needn’t have worried though as they did a tour of the fish pond (glad that I have got a netted frame over it) looked through the patio door and were not very impressed with our d├ęcor, pecked at the conservatory door – haven’t a clue why as I wasn’t in was I?

Ginger followed along at a safe distance copying everything they did which was very funny. I was so fascinated that I did not take many photos unfortunately!

They looked right, as if crossing a road, and ignored the path to the garage, but went down a couple of steps which lead back to the area of the garden where their home is.

They are so funny then way they walk. They were striding out on the gravel path heads held high, like something out of a chicken cartoon! The path leads alongside another raised bed, and the same tip toe walk to see over the top, then they hung a right along the path that leads past my shed to the other back gate, kicking up leaves as they went. I expected a lot more scratching the soil and searching for insects, but no, this was an expedition.

All three disappeared behind the shed (worrying as it would have been difficult to chase them behind there), they then walked round the far side between that and the neighbour’s garage before coming back out to the front again.

At that point I thought they might head back to their pen or scratch about on the lawn.

Adelaide and Ginger did a bit of rummaging in the Sensory Garden alongside my shed, and were camouflaged amongst the leaves which they were putting their heads under and so covering themselves. KoKKo had disappeared! Thank goodness I never had triplets as children!!

With chickens the same colour and a garden full of autumn leaves it was difficult to find her. I was on hands and knees in the wet grass and spotted her walking at the back of the conifer hedge next to my neighbour at the side of us.

Phew, no worries there, as that side is secure and at the end I have the string fence in front of the gazebo and the side KoKKo was on, had trellis on it anyway ! WRONG!!!!

She suddenly had a ‘mad ‘ moment, ran hell for leather towards the gazebo, wriggled through the netting, squashed herself through one of the squares of the trellis work and was heading for the garden at the bottom (a road away).

I tried to coax her, but she wasn’t having any of it. She walked down the gazebo steps and was now two Alcatraz fences away from me and just about to go through the gap. At this point I tried to step over the fence and got my walking boot caught up in the string, so took a dive to grab her, falling flat on my face in the process.

Adelaide came to see what all the fuss was about and took a running dive through the netting and got caught up in it so was making a right noise – I was hanging onto Kokko for dear life, but flat on my face wondering how I was going to get up holding a struggling chicken with both hands; when Ginger turned up and decided to have a go.

With a firm voice and one of those withering looks that makes little children freeze with fear, I said, ‘You just dare Ginger and I’ll wring your neck!

I really do not have a clue why I said it as they probably don’t understand a word I say, and if any of my neighbours were about they would now have the evidence they needed to confirm my questionable sanity, or eccentricity.

She just stood still and looked at me with a cocked head. I had KoKKo under one arm struggling and somehow managed to extricate Adelaide before she headed out through the gap.

Needless to say I lived to tell the tale (with a few scratches and bruises). Adelaide and KoKKo were put over the chicken wire fence (5ft 6”) of their pen, and had their first flying lesson – sorry but needs must, and it was not a Freddie Flintoff winning England throw, more a gentle drop. Ginger took one look at me, and decided that she would keep her dignity and walked around the side of the pen and went in unaided.

Once safely back in the pen, I sat and had a chuckle to myself just as Pat arrived back from golf.

‘You look a bit flushed,’ he said, ‘Really cold isn’t it, my face must be a bit red too’

And to add insult to injury they didn’t even lay one single egg yesterday – but I did get three the day before so half expected as much.

I had read on the Omlet Forum that one should use Vaseline on the chickens combs and wattles in cold weather to prevent them getting frost bite – yes I know you doubting Thomases but this is true. So Pat duly bought me a jar, and I decided to tackle the task last night when they had gone to roost.

Not easy on our own, in pitch darkness with just a little torch to see by. I opened the side door and they protested loudly at the burst of cold air, but I picked one up – too dark to see which one – got a liberal helping of Vaseline on my thumb and first finger, and began to massage. She was not having any of that, and I got more on me than her, but when I did her wattles she quietened down and loved that. The same went for the others. Tonight I might try wattles first!

This morning I had intended to go up the lottie, but decided to have a less strenuous day.

It started at 7.30am when I took the girls a bowl of warm water and hot oats with freshly cooked apple skins, linseeds, and a couple of Weetabix. I was tempted to eat some myself it smelt so nice. (Joke)

KoKKo, by way of apology had laid me a big warm egg, 76grms to equal her record. A little later when I went to clean out the Eglu, Adelaide had done the same, 66grms, a big one for her. Ginger had obviously concluded that she had nothing to apologise for so declined.

After cutting up an organic chicken for lunch I took a trip up the village shed library which is open for a few hours on Saturday to get a book on small scale poultry keeping to read out of curiosity, then back home to untangle the netting fencing, and boot.

After more suggestions from the Omlet Forum, I made a transparent run cover out of two cheap shower curtains, so they will get lots of the morning sunshine now. The run covers I had before were dark green, and did a good job of keeping the run dry but made it a bit dingy on a dull day.

That took me a couple of hours to do, and what with that and other chicken related things, it was 2pm before my stomach thought my head had been chopped off, and I came in out of the cold to a warm pot roasted chicken with vegetables (River Cottage suggestion for this time of year) but don’t tell KoKKo, Adelaide or Ginger will you.

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