Bleak times and poultry pleasures

I’m rather ashamed to admit it, but this morning at 6am, as I hesitated at the back door before running through heavy rain, a biting wind and the darkness to let the Araucanas out (James takes care of the hybrids), I couldn’t help looking forward to sunny spring mornings. To be fair – not to say, rational – it rains at that time so infrequently that it’s rarely an obstacle to henkeeping duties and this November and December have been incredibly mild, but it’s the lack of light that bothers me most.

Once I’ve opened up the door to the run and hooked back to the one for pop-hole, I always shine the torch in the direction of the nesting boxes where non-perching Audrey and Mabel like to sleep. Rather naughty of them, but pretty adorable – and while they’re not laying it isn’t a problem. I just like to check they’re OK – as by the time I’m home they’ve well and truly retired for the night. Slightly dazzled by the brilliant light, they look back at me all snoozey and I leave them to rise in their own time. But this is the only chance to see them during the week.

The hybrids' run has turned to mud and needs our attention come spring

The other thing I’m not keen on during winter is that the runs barely have a chance to dry out. Both the Araucanas’ and the hybrids’ areas have become horribly muddy and re-grassing them is a top priority for 2012. Due to the waterlogged conditions, James and I ensure we worm them every three months. It’s an easy task – essentially mixing Flubenvet into their pellets, but for some reason we dread it. Last Sunday morning we took the kitchen scales down to the chicken run, along with various utensils, and weighed out the right ratio of pellets to powder medicine. The girls need the treatment for seven days so we prepared plenty for the week ahead. All done now till March when conditions will be improving and the egg count will have increased.

Just five offerings from the rabble yesterday – an all-time low from our baker’s-dozen-sized flock. Still, many have entered retirement and we again are grateful to the White Stars for their key role in fulfilling our orders, slavishly laying every day, come rain or shine. Chris, Country Living‘s Art Editor, will be receiving this odd number ‘on the (hen) house’ for his eggcelent customer loyalty this year. Ordering a box every Friday, he helps my hobby pay for itself. And I rather enjoy my role as shopkeeper – there’s something fundamentally satisfying about earning money from your own produce – just one of the many pleasures of henkeeping.


A modest gift of eggs for the Smallholdings' 'Customer of the Year'

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