A heap of wildlife

Eggs are, of course, the most exciting offerings from hens but there is also a wonderful byproduct: nitrogen-rich manure. You might have to set aside half an hour every weekend to clean out the coop, but add the contents to the compost heap, mix it with more brown and green matter and turn it regularly (adding air helps break it down) and you’ll be spreading top-quality soil improver on your veg patch come spring (Garden Organic offers a great video and written guide). When James lifted the tarpaulin off the heap yesterday to add the usual bucket-load, he got a bit of a shock – a vast slow-worm, around two foot long, slithered out and onto the grass.

The walking boot is for scale!

On closer inspection, he could see she had a huge swelling and was full of eggs, so in case she returns to the same spot, we’ll be adding chicken droppings and veg peelings to the other compost bay for a while – and perhaps taking a peek at the baby slow-worms in the main one (and you can also find grass snakes in heaps). The heat, which is generated as the organic materials break down, is what attracts them apparently – at its centre the heap can reach a staggering 60°C.

On the smallholding theme, despite the wet weather sadly resulting in cancellations of both the Great Yorkshire Show and CLA Game Fair, in our slightly less waterlogged part of the country, the Tendring Show near Manningtree is still on, so fingers crossed for tomorrow. I suspect that we might need waders rather than wellies, but at least it’s still on.

Anyone else heading off to country fairs this weekend?


5 thoughts on “A heap of wildlife

  1. I have just found your blog and wonder if you could help a friend of mine. She keeps hens and for some reason she keeps getting rubber eggs. Have you any idea why? They have a lot of grit, a lot of calcium and she even gave them medication, though I don’t know what. I would love to find the answer for her. The chickens are only 2 years old.

    1. Hello Hazel,

      Apologies – haven’t done my blog housekeeping for a while, so just spotted this query from you. Are your friends’ hens getting plenty of oyster shell? This helps improve the hardness of their eggs’ shells.

      Best wishes,


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