Friday, 30 April 2010

Noise And Palaces

Since my last post, I have been contacted by my chook palace provider to give me a delivery date of next wednesday. Woo hoo! The patio was completed last week, and I am eager now to get the girls moved in to their new residence (not least of all because my lawn is suffering. Badly). They have christened the patio copiously, and I am frantically scooping the poop before the ever tolerant husband has an aneurism.

Last night, I forgot to shut the pop hole. I paid dearly for this oversight. Margot let rip at 6am, and I blearily found my way in to my dressing gown before blundering down the stairs. Seeing that all was well, I'm ashamed to say that I rather lost my temper with the gobby alarm-hen. Taking two slices of bread with me, I stalked across the lawn hissing at her to shut up. Naturally, she ignored me. In fact, Doris took this as encouragement to join in. I bad temperedly lobbed the bread at the two of them. Margot got it square in the face, shrieked indignantly at me, then began scoffing. I missed Doris, who watched me thoughtfully.

This was bad chicken-keeping practice. Rewarding bad behaviour is the road to ruin. Tonight, they will once again be locked in. It has left me with a rather thorny problem, though. We are planning on a holiday in the summer, and my chicken keeper pal will be looking after the girls. Normally, I would leave the pop hole open, but I can't risk the horrendous din. It would be deeply unfair on my lovely neighbours.

A solution must be found.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Operation Blackout

No one wants to be woken up at 5.30 on a sunday morning. No one. Unfortunately, Margot doesn't seem to understand this. So, yesterday morning, at this ungodly hour, she decided to go off on a mad bokking session. Just for a laugh, Doris and Kiki joined in. The ever tolerant husband and I shot up the bed, looked at each other and both said 'Birds!'. Much scrambling around for dressing gowns followed, all the while the decidedly shrill dawn chorus continued. Thundering down the stairs, I tried to prepare myself for foxy carnage. Having the coop on grass is not conductive to peace of mind, and I am paranoid.

I managed to unlock the door, and flew outside with my heart in my mouth. There was no fox. Or any sign of digging. What there was, were three extremely pleased with themselves gobby hens. They stopped 'singing' and lined up by the run door. I glared at them. They stared back. I turned my back on the little madams and went back to bed.

However, I couldn't get back to sleep. I lay there cringing, waiting for them to start up their unholy warbling again. All day, I half expected a furious hammering on the front door where I would find an extremely unhappy neighbour. I wouldn't blame them. Strangely, the day passed without interruption. This didn't make me complacent.

Hens gently bokking is a lovely sound, but squawking, gobby, banshee hens are not music to the ears. With a resigned sigh, I covered the 'window' in to the convent with a bin bag and resolved to close the pop hole until a reasonable time. At 7.30 last night, the chooks put themselves to bed. At 8pm, I locked them in.

I spent an anxious night, hoping and praying that they would stay quiet in the dark coop. At 7.15 this morning, I let them out. They ambled blearily in to the light and tucked in to their breakfast. The first bok wasn't heard until 9.30. So, from now on, my girls are under house arrest until a decent time of day.

And yes, I do feel guilty.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Foundation Stage

Today the ever tolerant husband and I had to get the garden ready for the new patio. Luckily, the weather was glorious and we spent a few blissful hours hoiking pots from one end of the garden to the other while the chooks did their best to trip us up. We couldn't put it off forever, though, and in the end we had to tackle moving the coop.

Our eldest made himself very useful by clearing out the run (a task much easier for a small person) while our youngest was followed around by an eager crowd of greedy hens being fed freshly unearthed worms. The ever tolerant husband and I ummed and aahed for a bit as to the best way to move the extended Convent, and in the end settled for stripping it down as much as possible and then just going for it in the hope that it wouldn't disintegrate.

As I gripped one end, the ever tolerant husband got in to the run, flipped back the hinged roof of the extended 'conservatory' area and stood up clutching both sides. With an agreed signal, we shuffle-walked the coop down the garden. The chooks watched this bizarre procession silently. Landing the Convent near the greenhouse, I set about putting it back together while the ever tolerant husband set about moving the compost bin.

The girls tentatively approached their home in its new location. A fair bit of chuntering ensued, as they explored this odd turn of events. They embarked on a tour of the accomodation, making sure that everything was as it should be, albeit eight foot further down the garden than they were used to. Deciding that this wasn't too bad a circumstance, they resumed sunbathing.

Moving the compost bin proved trickier than first imagined, with the result that a good deal of half composted, er, compost, is now in a heap where the new patio is to go. Now, for us, this isn't a disaster, but it isn't a blessing either. The same could not be said from the chooks' point of view. They have enjoyed a veritable banquet of squirmy, squiggly things.

The ladies investigate the goodies available on the compost heap.
Mabel, Margot, Kiki, Doris, Maeve and Maude.

Mabel is Queen of the Castle.
Margot and Kiki.
Purdy puts her best foot forward.


Mabel, Maeve and Doris investigating their relocation.

All in all, not a bad day.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Importance Of Human Training

Next week, we are finally having a patio laid. This means that from this weekend onwards, for several days, the girls will be confined to the Convent again. Mindful of just how spoilt they are, and used to roaming the garden at will during daylight, I am trying to get them used to their limited free ranging in the future. They are not impressed with this change in regime.

This morning, I awoke to Margot shrieking her head off. Determined to brazen it out, I ignored her weird honking calls while at the same time hoping fervently that none of the neighbours would end up on my doorstep with a meat cleaver. After ten minutes or so, she fell silent. Crouching beneath the upstairs bedroom window, I cautiously peered above the window sill. All six hens were crowded against the mesh, peering back at me (I really must find a different vantage point. They expect me now. Also, I should probably look at my 'sneaking up on windows to peer at chickens' behaviour. I'm reasonably sure that if anyone else saw me doing it, they'd have me committed) We stared at each other for a moment, and then as one they all took up the 'let us out!' call. Sheepishly sloping off, I listened to the racket continue for a few minutes before silence once again fell. I imagine them having an impromptu meeting at this point, to work out which of them was most annoying. Margot won hands down, having taken this prestigious place in the pecking order from the gobby Doris. What Margot lacks in shrillness (always Doris's forte), she more than makes up for in sheer volume.

So, Margot took up the war cry. She screamed for a few minutes, then fell silent (presumably to regroup) before starting again. After twenty minutes of this torturous racket, I snapped. She was in full song as I opened the back door, then immediately fell silent. With resignation, I trudged to the run and released the baying hordes. They muttered as they filed past me, no doubt congratulating themselves on a well fought campaign.

I am left with the uneasy feeling that I have been...trained.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Desperate For A Bath

We spent a long weekend in Ireland visiting the ever tolerant husbands family and only returned yesterday. A lovely time was had by all, butIi must confess to firing off the odd sneaky text to my chicken sitting friend. Leaving the girls for more than a night makes me extremely anxious. Not because I think they miss me (Ha!), but because they are so incredibly spoiled. My ladies are used to getting up at first light, enjoying a leisurely breakfast and then being given free reign over the grounds. When I travel, the girls are confined to the Convent and run permanently for their own safety. They do not take kindly to this revoking of their free ranging rights.

My similairly chicken obsessed friend was looking after them, so I knew that they were in safe hands. We departed early on Thursday morning, but I still managed to let the girls have an hour pootling about the garden. Using corn as a lure, I secured them back in to the run just before we left. They realised their mistake just as the bolt shot home, and much offended chuntering ensued. I felt six beady eyes boring in to my back as I returned to the house.

The following morning, my chicken sitter texted to tell me that the girls were being rather, erm, raucous. She could hear them squawking before she reached the end of the road. Oh dear. Still, she collected four eggs from the nest box, so they weren't that unhappy.

The following day, I found a missed call message on my phone. In a panic, I called my friend, imagining all kinds of fox related horrors. Thankfully, she was just concerned that one of the silkies wouldn't leave the nest box and was growling ( Said friend has hybrids, so has no current experience of the hormonal psychosis that is a broody hen. Margot was happy to educate her). With relief, I told her not to worry, and to just mind her fingers when she rummaged under the daft bird for eggs.

Yesterday, we arrived home at three thirty in the afternoon. I immediately went out to see my girls, and they excitedly clamoured at the run door. I smiled to myself, thinking that they were delighted to see me, and cooed at them as I released them from their prison.

As a homogeneous, feathery mass, they bowled past me and leapt in to the dustbath. Hens were crammed in every which way, and a confusing jumble of beaks, feet and feathers was all that I could make out as the dirt started flying. I allowed myself a wry smile as I unlocked the garage and watched the chooklets emerge, blinking, in to the sunlight.

It must be terrible when the staff take a holiday.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Chook Palace Cometh

After weeks of wrangling, comparing and agonising, the chook palace has been ordered! I am stupidly excited, and even did a little dance which left the children bewildered. My ladies will, in around four weeks, be living in five star luxury accomodation. I have ordered a Thicket, from Smiths Sectional Buildings which is being built in the mirror image of this pic:

I am having the layout reversed to allow maximum shelter from the elements for the girls (never let it be said that I haven't thought this through!). The house is 5 ft 3" by 8 ft, so masses of room for my little chooks. It also boasts four nest boxes, a removable perch block and long carry handles which can double as in run perches. The only downside is that its not quite the walk in run I envisioned, but the superior quality means that I will deal with hunching over to clear the bedding.

So, what do you think?

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Wind And The Chooklets

Having been away for a few days, I was delighted to come home to find all chooks hale and hearty. My friend who has recently aquired her own ladies was looking after them for me, and a sterling job she did. When we got in yesterday evening, the girls still had an hour of daylight left to explore the garden and I was more than happy to oblige. Over the two days I was absent, they managed eight eggs between them. A most satisfactory haul.

Its a particularly blustery day here, which is great for me as I have a washing mountain to climb. The chooks are less keen. Small, light, feathery hens tend to get buffeted by anything stronger than a moderate breeze. Lots of mad dashes in between gusts have been undertaken, from Convent to dustbath, from dustbath to border, and from border to decking. Amusing to watch even if the girls enjoy it significantly less.

The chooklets are still living in the garage, and will be until the chook palace is installed. Opening the garage door, I propped the door open with the rake as usual. Big mistake. The chooklets hopped over to the door way and then my view was obscured by the slamming garage door. I admit to feeling a little queasy at this point, and could only envisage horrors now residing behind the closed portal. Gulp.

Gingerly, I reached for the handle and simultaneously said a little prayer. The door step was empty. A quick scan of the garage revealed Purdy sitting atop the lawn mower with a startled expression on her face. No sign of Celia. Not good. A quick search revealed no silver partridge chooklet, and I began to consider the possibility that she had been totally vapourised leaving no trace. Not even a solitary feather. Of course, at this point Celia waddled out from under the wood shavings bale, cocked her head at me and sneezed at my general incompetence.

There is now a very heavy wheelie bin holding the door open.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Winter: The Sequel

As we blearily pulled back the curtains this morning, we were greeted by an alarming sight. It had snowed during the night, and two inches of the white stuff covered everything. I couldn't believe it. Usually, snow is greeted with excitement and joy, but this winter there has been so much of the stuff it made me want to weep. We are on solid clay here, and the ground is still water logged from all the snow and rain back in January. This will not help.

Even the children have lost their enthusiasm for snow. Neither of them ran about in it on the way to school, preferring to keep their feet warm and dry. Everyone looks vaguely crestfallen at this step backwards. I was planning on getting outside to pot up some seedlings today, but have had to shelve those plans. Oh, to feel the warmth from the sun!

The chooks took it badly, too. Hearing me undo the door to the run, they excitedly bowled down the ramp from the coop, scrabbling over each other in their eagerness to get out and destroy the garden. With marvellous comic timing, they all screeched to a halt at the threshold of the Convent, and muttered about the cold stuff. Margot stretched her ostrich-like neck out and pecked at it, then reeled her head in again to report on the fact that, yes, it really was that cold, wet stuff again. Much chuntering amongst themselves ensued. Kiki bravely stepped out of the door way, and hopped about a bit. The others watched with interest. Kiki stepped from one spindly leg to the other, alternately holding her foot up to her body. This quickly turned in to a hopping dance, and she legged it back on to the warm and dry aubiose.

Mabel considered all the evidence, and then regally turned and glided back up the ramp for the safety of the coop. The others watched their illustrious leader, and then followed her lead. Celia and Purdy stood on the doorstep to the garage, craning their necks down at the unfamiliar ground covering. They watched Kiki's war dance, and then the retreat of the big girls. With some pathetic bokking, they re-perched on the side of the brooder.

No one is coming out to play.