This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My chickens

Run 1: My two oldest hens are Bluebelles and are about 5 years old. Until the end of October I could rely on collecting 3-4 eggs a week from their nestbox. They were never the most productive layers but they have kept going longer, if you see what I mean.  They are biggish hens and need a fair bit of space.  Mine are in a big run.  There were originally 7 in that little flock but the others are all gone now.  They are very pretty hens with lovely markings.

Run 2: These two Warrens (or similar) are the last two from a group of seven that I bought for £5 each from a poultry auction.  They have been the best layers that I've ever had but they stopped laying back in the summer and I will be surprised if they ever lay again.  One of them is looking very old and I don't really think she will last much longer. I'll be in trouble when there is just one left...

Run 3: These are my three comics. There is a little white bantam with a few scattered black speckles and a really lovely friendly and inquisitive nature.  There is a great big Buff Orpington that is really lovely.  These two were hatched at school in the summer term of 2011.  Little and large.  Living with them is a Warren from run 2.  She was dreadfully henpecked and I had to take her out.  I sectioned off a part of the run so that she was in with the others but she was out of reach.  Her name is Ovenready and I'm afraid that has stuck.  They pulled out all her feathers so that she only had some on the top of her head, her wingtips and the end tuft of her tail.  Once out of reach, her feathers grew back beautifully but a couple of shades lighter and with slightly different markings, which surprised me.  Very pretty.  I tried her back in with her flock but the others started featherpecking again so out she came again just as the two from school came home to live with us, so I put her in with them and those three live very happily together. They all lay quite reasonably but not hugely productive.  Ovenready looks much younger than her original flock mates and has been laying up until she starting moulting recently.  Perhaps being in with the younger ones has had an impact. These three line up at the edge of their run when they see me coming up the garden - usually in size order.  You know that sketch by the Two Ronnies with John Cleese - "I look down on him but look up to him......."  These three always remind me of that sketch when they line up in size order and bob up and down.

Run 4: These are 7 Warrens and are my main layers.  I seem to have started off with 7 hens quite often but it was not always planned - it just happened that way.  They are very productive but they don't seem to have as much character as all the other Warrens I've had over the years. I'm not sure why but it is so.  They are also always a bit scruffy looking and again I'm not sure why.

These layers are middle aged now but I'm a bit of a softie where my layers are concerned and they'll live out their natural lives as my pets.  Selling the surplus eggs laid by the younger ones helps pay for the food for the OAPs : ) - a bit like pensions in education.

I must admit that I generally like my Warrens.  I've had White Stars. Bluebelles, Silkies, Speckledy hens, Black Rocks, Cornish Game crosses and now a Buff Orpington too.  I find the Warrens nice-natured, friendly, inquisitive and catch-able when you need to.  Probably I will look for those when I am in the market for a new flock but that won't be for a while yet.  Four houses to clean and maintain is quite enough, thank you!

The houses are mainly from Forsham Cottage Arks.  Two were bought new and one was a bargain from ebay which was as good as new once it had been repaired by my husband.  The original ark is about 15 years old now but has been scrubbed and treated with bat friendly wood preservative each year and is in excellent condition.  I used to buy proper branded wood preservative (not paint but the stuff that soaks in) by Cuprinol but Wickes now do one that fits the bill and is vastly cheaper. Animal housing from Forsham Cottage Arks is quite pricey but is quality stuff and will last and last. The firm went bust a bit back but they are again producing a limited range of houses.  I have another house that my husband built and various runs that he made and a couple of converted large rabbit hutches for poorly hens or emergency/temporary housing.



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