Spring is on the way

March 1st, 2010 .

The last few months have been very wet. The days have been short, so I have had to muck out the chickens at lunch times, and the chicken area has turned into a bit of a swamp. Due to the poor weather, I have been spending as little time in the garden as I can get away with, which is the main reason that I have not been posting anything here.

One thing that happened this month was that the chickens decided to revert to one of their most annoying behaviours: They have once again decided that it is better to scratch their pellets into the ground rather than eat them out of the feeder. This isn’t really a problem when the ground is dry as they will still eat them, but when the weather is this wet they get scratched into the mud and are wasted.

I have come up with a solution to this problem. I had a stone hearth off the fireplace which was here when we moved in, and I have put this underneath the chicken coop where the food is. Although this does get covered in mud, it is a lot drier as you don’t get water coming up out of the ground. As well as this, I have had to wait until they have eaten all of the pellets off of the floor before refilling their feeder, otherwise they will scratch out too many pellets and they will be wasted. This means that occasionally the birds have to go half a day without any food being available, but I don’t really see any other option.

A couple of weeks ago, I got up late on a Saturday, to find that Meg and Victoria were both in the garden. This is only the second time that Meg has managed to escape, and they seemed to be having a lot of fun in the garden so I let Daisy out too and they spent the day free ranging. There was a bit of sun on that day, and it was lovely to watch them sunbathing and dustbathing, instead of wading through the mud.

Today I got home at 5:15 as usual, and it was still really bright outside. I rushed out to the garden and the chickens were still up and about, so I cleaned them out after work. I think this means that spring is on its way! This means that I can change my routine and clean them out every day, and hopefully spend a bit more time in the garden.

Hopefully I should have a bit more to write about over the next few months…

Thawing Out

January 11th, 2010 .

The temperatures are getting warmer again now, and the drinker was not frozen over this morning. All of the snow has started to melt and I am hoping that this will be the end of the cold weather.

I haven’t minded dealing with the chickens in the winter, but this last few weeks has been difficult. I don’t mind coming back on my lunch hour to deal with them before it gets dark, and I can cope with the swamp at the bottom of the garden, but the water freezing up has not been pleasant to deal with. Having to defrost their water probably doubles the amount of time it takes to do chicken related chores, and my hands are so cold that they hurt after cleaning them out.

The other day when I came back to clean the chickens Victoria was still in the nest box laying. I cleaned out the coop, and then she was finished just as I was about to go in. I looked inside the nest box and there were 3 eggs – 2 of them were still nice and warm. I walked back to the house with an egg in each hand which was a lovely way to warm my fingers up!

More Snow

January 8th, 2010 .

After the relatively warm temperatures (as in warmer than freezing) the weather has gotten cold again – infact I think it is colder than before! The reason I think this is that the blocks of ice inside the drinker are even thicker now.

After a few more days of going outside each morning to defrost the chicken’s water with the kettle, I decided that I don’t like freezing to death in the mornings and have started bringing the water in at night. This has made such a difference – I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before! The water still freezes as the temperatures are below freezing during the day too, but the ice is less thick and it is easier to open the drinker than when it has been in the cold all night. Each morning all I have to do is fill it up and take it out to them which saves me a lot of time in the mad rush before work.

After a few days of frost and freezing temperatures we have had another round of snow – but this time it is nowhere near as bad as it was last time. On the first day of the snow Daisy and Victoria fell asleep outside again, and I only realised because I decided to bring the drinker in – otherwise they would have slept under the stars. I don’t think it would have done them any harm and they seemed perfectly happy, but I put them in just incase.

One weird advantage to the cold snap has been that poo picking inside the nest box has been easier – the poos have been frozen solid and not so sticky which actually made life easier!


December 31st, 2009 .

This Christmas we went down to London to visit my girlfriend’s parents which meant that we had to leave the chickens here on their own for a few days. Initially I had intended to get some pet sitters in, but I left it too late, and instead we had to make sure that we weren’t away for longer than 2 nights in one go. The water was freezing over every night before we left, so I thought that we would end up staying in Cambridge, but the temperatures increased and on the morning of Christmas Eve their water was still liquid. This meant that we could go as long as we didn’t leave them for too long.

This Christmas there was a definite chicken theme to my Christmas presents. I got a t-shirt with a chicken on it, a book on chicken keeping, but the best chicken related gift was from my mum. My mum commissioned an artist that she knows to paint each of my chickens, so I now have 3 original paintings of my birds to put on my wall! I would have put them up already, but we only have 2 picture hooks so that will have to wait. Once I put them up I will photograph them and post the pictures on here.

Apart from that, Christmas involved a lot of driving this year (by my girlfriend). We went down to London for 2 days over Christmas, then came back for 1 night. Then we went to Buckinghamshire to visit my familly for 1 night, then back to London for 1 night, back to feed the chickens, back to London for 2 nights again and then home! Not being able to leave the chickens too long was a bit of a pain – next year I will be more organised with the pet sitters!


December 23rd, 2009 .
Where has my garden gone?

Where has my garden gone?

The last few days have been a lot less muddy and I have been getting clean eggs. The main reason for this is that the filthy mud pit at the end of my garden has been covered in a blanket of clean white snow! It had been nice to be getting eggs that aren’t covered in mud, but the cold weather has caused more problems than it has solved.

In general I think the chickens are okay in the cold – the problem is that they cannot drink their water when it is frozen.

Theres water in there somewhere...

There's water in there somewhere...

As you can see their drinker was completely snowed over. I have been having to go out in the cold every morning to defrost the drinker with a kettle. I have also been popping back home at lunch times to defrost it again – it’s difficult for me to walk home, defrost it and get back to work in an hour with all of this snow! After the first night I started putting the drinker underneath the coop which stops it from filling up with snow but it still freezes.

Apart from the freezing water, the chickens don’t seem to really like walking on snow. They have spent most of the past couple of days either standing on the roof or hiding underneath the coop. When I have been coming home I have removed them from the roof and placed them under the coop – I don’t think they were even coming down to eat (they are pretty stupid, I think if they are on top of the coop and can’t see underneath it they forget that their food is down there). The other problem with them staying on the roof is that they ended up sleeping up there a couple of times – they didn’t even want to come down to go inside at night. I had to put them in which always results in a lot of flapping.

A few times I saw Daisy pacing the edge of the roof in the way that the chickens do when they want to get down, but she was obviously looking for a dry patch to land on and gave up when she couldn’t find one. I helped her down but she didn’t seem very thankful!

Here are some more pictures of the girls in the snow:

I defrosted the drinker with a kettle of hot water

I defrosted the drinker with a kettle of hot water

The girls spent most of the time avoiding the snow (you wouldnt want to stand on snow if you had bare feet!)

The girls spent most of the time avoiding the snow (you wouldn't want to stand on snow if you had bare feet!)