Posts Tagged ‘eglu’

Another stunning day

Like the rest of Britain, I barely ventured indoors yesterday, choosing instead to bask in the glorious sunshine. B and I scrubbed out the Eglu and Cube in the morning, thoroughly dusting them with Red Mite powder. Buffy, one of the Buff Orpington hens, has managed to get herself a little infestation, so we gave her a good dusting as well. The others seem clean, so we saved them the indignity, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on them all, just in case.

By the time we’d finished, Jennie and her clan arrived and that marked the beginning of a truly wonderful afternoon. Nothing special happened, it was just one of those days where everything goes the way you want it to. The pigs, dogs and children all behaved themselves (more or less) and we just chilled. Perfect!

Unfortunately, there was a dark cloud looming.

As I turned out of the farm lane to go home, I saw a 4×4 approaching, following a ewe and her lamb. I started to drive off and then remembered the vegetable garden. The unfenced vegetable garden.

The “rule” with loose livestock is that you push them down the nearest entrance to get them off the road. But, if you are told that the animal doesn’t belong at that farm, it’s generally considered polite to help get them off the property, not stand there gawping while someone runs back down the lane in the baking heat, does some shepherding, and then runs back down the lane after the sheep, especially when they ask not once, not twice but three times for help! If that does happen, please expect the very hot, sweaty and tired runner/shepherd to be extremely pissed off. Do not, under any circumstances, make matters worse by lying (“I didn’t push them down your lane”) and then shout “why don’t you come over here and we’ll sort it out now”. Funnily enough, I declined the invitation to have a stand up fight in the middle of the road, especially given the running I’d just done, and instead got back in the car and drove off, much to the relief of the many cars who were at a standstill due to my bad parking.

Ho hum, I fumed all the way home, but the day was still too glorious to be cross, and a cool shower washed away my bad feelings along with the dirt and grime.

The day finished on a high note: dinner and not one but two bowls of chocolate ice cream at Jennie’s that evening. Hurrah!

She’s broody, broody, broody, broody!

On Saturday morning, B said she thought Mama Silkie was going broody again as she had settled herself into the Eglu nest box, even though there were no eggs under her. However when I fed in the afternoon, she was out and about with the others. This pattern continued until Tuesday when she simply stayed in the nest box! Not bad for a hen who hatched some chicks in November and has been laying quite happily in the past month!

Broody Mama Silkie - 11 March 2009

Broody Mama Silkie - 11 March 2009

Her timing was, however, terrible as I was in a hurry to get everything finished so I could meet Jennie for our night out at the cinema and a curry but I managed to get the broody ark ready for her. I wish I could afford another Eglu as the broody ark is a shambles. It leaks like a sieve, so needs to be covered with a tarpaulin, it’s falling apart, and although the house part is lovely and big, the run is tiny. I loved having her and her chicks in the Eglu over the winter but unless I can find homes for the three chicks in the next couple of weeks so I can put the remaining Bantams and Silly Silkie in with the big chickens, they’ll have to keep the Eglu and Mama will just have to cope. Maybe I can build an extension for the run. Or … the others can have the wooden ark as they’ll be out and about during the day and the chicks can be safely shut up in the Eglu and its 1m run until they’re big enough to go out with the adults and stop looking like a tasty treat to our resident crows and magpies.

Does anyone want a couple of Silkie x Pekin Bantam pullets (1M, 1F) and a pure Pekin (F)? I’ll happily swap the lot for a couple of bantam pullets! I’ve also got a Buff x pullet who hatched in July and is laying quite happily that I’d love to swap for a dual purpose pullet of the same age…!

More fun in the snow!

Monday’s snow gave way to the “proper stuff” yesterday.

It was short-lived but wonderful while it lasted.

(Any chance we can just skip the thaw?!)

Midge used to hate the snow (being both wet AND cold) but her new t-shirt seems to have given her courage. Look at her go for it with Fab!

Midge used to hate the snow (being both wet AND cold) but her new t-shirt seems to have given her courage. Look at her go for it with Fab!

Kind soul that I am, I went out in this to do the chickens and feed the pigs

Kind soul that I am, I went out in this to do the chickens and feed the pigs

They stayed indoors for several hours after I opened the door until the sun came out!

They stayed indoors for several hours after I opened the door until the sun came out!

They look cosy!

They look cosy!

The Snowball Fight!

The Snowball Fight!

What a difference a few hours makes in the weather!

What a difference a few hours makes in the weather!

Sunset

Sunset

Words fail me, they really do. Daft dog!

Words fail me, they really do. Daft dog!

Snipe

Snipe

Snow fun!

It doesn’t look as though the snow will be hanging around for very long so I thought I’d bombard you with some of my favourite photos from yesterday. The snow wasn’t very deep but we’re meant to be getting some more today.

Snipe was enjoying the snow, though not when the flakes landed on her nose!

Snipe was enjoying the snow, though not when the flakes landed on her nose!

Tia and Scrumpy spent the day asleep. Bailey and Brini, however, were more interested in getting back to their native New Zealand as fast as possible...

Tia and Scrumpy spent the day asleep. Bailey and Brini, however, were more interested in getting back to their native New Zealand as fast as possible...

I don't think the white powder falling from the sky is actually snow...

I don't think the white powder falling from the sky is actually snow...

Scrumpy and Tia woke up just in time for their tea. Not snow-pigs!

Scrumpy and Tia woke up just in time for their tea. Not snow-pigs!

Snow at sunset

Snow at sunset

Midge hunting for mice

Midge hunting for mice

The shower curtain on the Eglu worked a treat!

The shower curtain on the Eglu worked a treat!

Waterproofing the Eglu run!

For months and months, I have been meaning to get arse down to Ikea to buy one of their 90p transparent shower curtains to put over the Eglu run to stop the chickens from getting soaking wet every time it rains (no jokes about it being Wales, thank you!).

On Tuesday, I finally did the deed and lost my Ikea-virginity. And my, oh my! What a large store! I got lost too many times to mention and spent most of my time muttering “how much?” under my breath – mainly because everything seemed to be either ridiculously cheap (such as my shower curtain, down to 87p!) or ridiculously over-priced.

Still, it was an experience, and I think British developers could learn a thing or two from the store’s ground level car park, protected from the rain by the two shopping levels above it. Genius!

Yesterday, I attached the curtain to the run and today I will find out how things worked out (yesterday being cloudy but not rainy).

Eglu and its new shower curtain run! 28 January 2009

Eglu and its new shower curtain run! 28 January 2009

Attaching the curtain was dead easy. I put the end with the proper holes at the house end of the run and attached it using the ties that come with freezer bags. I put the house back over and no rain can leak in above the door! I put the shade that comes with the Eglu over the curtain to hold it in place at that end and used a bungee cord to hold the top of the shade in place (if you have an Eglu, you’ll know what I mean. Apologies for the terrible description.).

I made some small holes at the base of the curtain on both sides and used the sandwich bag ties to attach it to the run, hopefully leaving enough slack that it doesn’t come free in the wind. Like I said, hopefully…

It’s not great, but the Cube offers protection from the rain in its run but the chooks in the Eglu have always been drenched so this should do the trick. I’m not after perfection, just chickens that don’t look like drowned rats!

I’ll keep you posted on how this works out 🙂

Getting stuff done

Despite a slow start thanks to the below zero temperatures on Saturday night which came hot on the heels of a torrential downpour on Friday night, resulting in a thick layer of ice everywhere (i.e. I had to break the ice on the pigs’ water bowls and then make three trips with three buckets of water to refill said water bowls, not to mention providing the chickens with water), I actually managed to get a lot done yesterday, which made up for Saturday’s sofa-hugging.

Once I’d fed the pigs and finished carting buckets of water everywhere (not easy when you’re not sure if she mud is frozen over or if appearances are deceptive), adjusted the boundaries of the weaners’ and Bailey and Brini’s enclosures to give them some new ground to keep them occupied, and braved the very cold water to clean their feed bowls out, I had a quick coffee and then cleaned the Cube and Eglu out. The chickens tend to leave me to it when I’m scraping out their poop trays but Mama Silkie and her chicks were not happy with me interfering with their sleeping arrangements and clucked and cheeped furiously at me from the other end of the Eglu run!

All the muck then made its way to the lasagne garden, as did several sacks of dirty hay and muck that I’ve been meaning to put on their for weeks but somehow never got round to it. It had rotted down quite nicely in the sacks so I hope it will continue to do so on the lasagne garden. In fact, I hope the lasagne garden as a whole actually works – I know I’m not doing it properly but I don’t enough enough compost to make it work in layers so one area has a layer of cardboard topped by a layer of food waste and then grass cuttings, topped by another layer of cardboard and finally covered by a large tarpaulin.

The rest, however, is a bit more skinny than that. Cardboard, then food waste, then cardboard. And that’s it. Another section now has cardboard, the hay and muck from yesterday and then cardboard. I’m not at all sure how this will turn out but gardening is a whole new learning curve for me and, if I’m honest, my objective was simply to have a dig-free patch so I’ll be happy if this is the only result!

I then, at long last, got round to putting the various doors and planks I’ve been collecting to good use – specifically, using them to stop me ruining any more of the field by poaching it up as I walk. Because there’s no set path, I just walk without paying any attention to where I’m going and inevitably end up “avoiding the mud”, thereby creating even more. So I’ve taken action and have laid the doors and planks over the worst parts so that the areas I’ve poached can have a break and recover from my thoughtlessness. Other areas have been topped with the dirty straw from the pig arks, which has made quite a difference. I’ve got lots more to do but am now paying attention to where I walk!

Once that was finished, I headed back indoors for some more coffee (yes, my blood is in fact a medium Gold Roast) and some soup before heading back out to prepare the pigs’ food, then feeding them and the chickens and making yet another couple of trips with water to refill the weaners’ bowl – and Tia and Scrumpy’s who, I was not amused to notice, had managed to fill theirs with mud. And, thanks to T and A, the field gate is now hanging quite happily on its hinges, so I no longer have to worry about the pigs making a real bid for freedom the next time they get out of their enclosures!

Once the animals were done, the dogs and I headed for home, picking B up from work on the way. And then, finally, our reward for working so hard recently: roast dinner at Jennie’s who, as always, didn’t just meet but beat all expectations by serving up a delicious roast beef (with yummy yorkies!), a mince pie/crumble/cake concoction that was served with the largest amount of whipped cream I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring (which I did, gladly), followed by home made mince pies…

The waistband on my jeans was complaining by the time I got home but my taste buds were utterly delighted. What a great end to the day, especially as we got to watch Mamma Mia!, something I’ve been wanting to see for ages.

Cheers Jennie – much appreciated by B and I 🙂

And many thanks for the cards. Brilliant!

Moving the chickens

About a fortnight after I probably should have shifted them onto new ground, I finally got round to moving the chooks and their Eglu and Cube yesterday.

Spot the difference between old and new! 25 November 2008

Spot the difference between old and new! 25 November 2008

It’s harder than you might think. At mum’s, the hen house was attached to the side of her old aviaries which meant that they could come and and out of the house as they pleased but at night were restricted to a fully enclosed concrete run measuring about 15′ x 12′. So, whenever we rotated them onto fresh ground, they had to stay in the run until we were done. As this was a simple matter of opening one gate and closing another, it took a matter of seconds.

Moved the chooks, now got to move the houses - 25 November 2008

Moved the chooks, now got to move the houses - 25 November 2008

Now, however, they’re in an orchard, enclosed in a run using 50m of electric netting. Readjusting the run by a few feet is simple – you just pull up the stakes and put them down somewhere new. But a full scale move means distracting the chickens long enough to pull up the majority of the stakes and netting and move them to roughly where you want to go (making you you don’t wrap yourself around immovable objects like ancient apple trees), make sure they can’t get out and then shoo them towards the new grass. you then get a second window to move the bits of netting that haven’t yet been moved and to untangle the inevitable knots and chaos. When it’s set up nice and tight, move the Cube and Eglu to their new sites (if you’re smart, you will have put the end stakes somewhere handy so you can open and close the “gate”. If not, you’ve got to lift up the netting so they can go under it!), replace the roof, litter trays, water bowls, feeders etc and remember to open the doors if you closed them to stop the chickens “helping” as you shifted it back and forwards to just the right place.

All done! 25 November 2008

All done! 25 November 2008

It gets a little bit more complicated if you have a hen and chicks as they need somewhere safe to go while you move them about. Luckily, the move seems to have put the second Silkie off her sitting duties (helped by the fact that her egg ended up in the run and was stone cold by the time I found it) so I decided to move Mother Hen and chicks from the old wooden ark to the Eglu. This made their move very easy – I scooped up two of the chicks and carried them over, hoping the cats weren’t in earshot, then went back for Mother Hen and the remaining two. She was furious and has decided to make her point by making their nest right in the doorway…

What a silly place to make a nest! 25 November 2008

What a silly place to make a nest! 25 November 2008

Doesn't the proper nest look warm and cosy? Daft chicken! 25 November 2008

Doesn't the proper nest look warm and cosy? Daft chicken! 25 November 2008

Still, at least the chicks will be nice and toasty as they nestle right underneath her. So much so, that you have to be careful when you pick her up as at least one will plop back down to the ground after a few seconds of being in mid air!

The remaining three eggs didn’t hatch, which I’m quite pleased about, really, as four seems like the right number going into winter. And she’s such a good mum, showing them how to peck away at the bread I gave her as well as eating the grass!

The whole thing took a lot longer than I thought so I left the farm a bit later than anticipated. Which was fine, as for once I got to enjoy sunset from terra firma instead of behind the wheel of the car:

Sunset at the farm - 25 November 2008

Sunset at the farm - 25 November 2008

Hentastic new houses

I put the chickens in their new houses the day before yesterday (bantams in the Eglu, larger chooks in the Cube) and this morning I let them out for the first time. You should have seen them rush about, flapping their wings and enjoying some real space. I’ve hated keeping them in but it’s the best way to ensure they know where to sleep and feel comfortable in their new homes. Sorry girls, but that’s it, I promise! From now on, you get to come out every morning as soon as I arrive.

Leaving the Cube for the first time in two days - 9 October 2008

Leaving the Cube for the first time in two days - 9 October 2008

Been out, explored, pecked at the grass, now want our food. So turn that camera off... 9 October 2008

Been out, explored, pecked at the grass, now want our food. So turn that camera off... 9 October 2008

Jo and the lavender bantam cockerel - 9 October 2008

Jo and the lavender bantam cockerel - 9 October 2008

I am going too do a proper review of the Eglu and Cube, including the problems I’ve had but why I’ve been won over, but right now, I need to feed the piggies and then try to persuade the chooks to go back indoors before I go home. I have a feeling that this mission is doomed to failure…

Update: Pleased to report that getting the chickens in was in fact really easy. All it took was a jug of corn for each flock / brood / peep / whatever-the-hell-the-collective noun-is, plus some tasty cucumber as an incentive. From now on, they’ll on get corn and their fruity treats when I put them back in their omlet enclosures 🙂

On another note, I’ve finally come up with a name for the lavender pekin cockerel. The way he sits on my shoulder can only lead to one name … Cap’n Flint!

The iPod of hen houses?

Back in August, when we decided to move down to south Wales, one of the (far too many!) items on the Must Buy list were two chicken houses or arks, one for B’s Silkies and one for the laying hens, plus the Buff Orpington cockerel. The inclusion of Buffs automatically ruled out the majority hen houses as he’s quite tall, but I kept getting drawn back to the idea of a plastic house.

One of the main problems that can lead to ill-health in chickens is their housing. People have kept chickens in wooden housing for, well, forever, and a consistent problem faced by every generation of chicken is red mite, not to mention the host of other parasites that thrive in the normal conditions found in your average hen house – moist, lots of poo, millions of crevices to hide in and breed and every night, a fresh supply of blood to feed on. Chicken poo is quite horrible and runny and they shit everywhere and anywhere. All the time. So keeping said house clean and hygienic is near-on impossible.

But the problem with plastic is that it’s too hot in summer and too cold in winter with very poor ventilation in every season. But then the good people at Omlet designed a hen house that overcame these problems. It’s something about two layers and it does work – these houses stay cool in summer but keep warm and cosy in winter.

And they’re dead easy to clean out and unlike wood, if you scrub it clean (as you should on a regular basis), you can just use a towel to dry it in a matter of minutes. So even if you do get a pest problem, you can still clean it without having to use chemicals. The bastards have nowhere to hide!

The only problem is the price. The small Eglu is £360 while the larger Eglu Cube starts at £425 for just the house and is a whopping £595 with a run.

OUCH!

Don’t get me wrong – you can spend the same amount of money on traditional wooden houses, but the advantage is that you get a lot more room for your money. And more room means more chickens. The Eglu is only suitable for 2-3 medium sized hens, or 4-5 smaller chickens, such as Silkies and bantams. The Cube is suitable for 6-10 chickens, depending on the size of run you buy and whether they’ll be in there all time or if they can go out in a larger run during the day.

But it was the health side of things that swung it for me (plus the ease of cleaning and the fact you don’t have to treat it every year), so I abandoned my financial caution and spent a grand buying both.

They eventually arrived last week and Jennie kindly came over and helped me build them. I won’t go into details about the build, as it went wrong at every stage but the end result was not what I expected for the amount of money I’ve spent.

I won’t go into this now as I’m still talking to Omlet about the problems.

But I finally installed the chooks in their new houses this morning. Apart from one Silkie who got past me and is refusing to let me near her. The last time I checked, the bantams and good Silkie were a ok, if a bit disgruntled at not being out in the big run, but it’s only for a day or two until they get used to their new home and know where to go at night. But I am worried about the others. The three chicks and the Light Sussex pullet seem quite happy (again ignoring their dismay at not being able to go out into the large run) but Fatboy, Buffy and Willow haven’t made it down yet. Trouble is, there’s nowhere inside to put food or water so I hope they come out soon. The fact that they’re the same breed worries me as I don’t know how well their big feet are coping with the floor-level roosts which cover the whole base. I might resort to removing the roosts and just putting hay in the poop dray – which just undermines the benefit of having such a tray in the first place, so that really is a last resort.

As I said, I have some major reservations, but I’m hoping that can all be addressed.

If the chooks are happy (so long as they can be safe, warm and healthy in their new houses) then I’m happy.

I’ll keep you updated!

Update @ 9pm: I went out in the afternoon and tempted Fatboy down the ladder by producing some grapes and other fruity treats. Buffy had already figured out how to get down, which just left Willow upstairs in the house. I left them to it and went to check the pigs, and by the time I got back, the lure of slightly gone-off fruit proved too much and she’d joined the others on the grass.

I also managed to catch the naughty Silkie and put her in with the others. John Wayne (the bantam cockerel) was very pleased to get his full harem back!

I stayed at the farm until dark, just to make sure that they all went to bed, especially the ones in the Cube, who had to make the return trip up the ladder. The bantams and Silkies went to bed without any problems, as did all the other chickens. Apart from Willow who quite clearly (a) hadn’t been paying any attention about how she got down the ladder in the first place, and (b) where on earth all her pals had gone and how they got there! But with some verbal encouragement from Craig and I, she eventually made it and as I left, they’d all settled in for the night.

I’m still not convinced but the chooks do seem quite happy. If all is well in the morning, then I guess it’ll do. Though there’s still some stuff that needs sorting.

But I’m feeling a lot better about the situation than I have been all week. Which is good.