The flock and the festivities

James officially declared war on vermin at the weekend by plugging the gap under the gate that leads to the hen run with coping stones. Digging out the soil beneath the entrance and carefully installing the concrete blocks, leaving virtually no gap for a certain variety of pest to get in, he’s hoping that now the rats that were resident, and who’ve been taking the poison, are the last of their kind.

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The flock can’t resist a bit of fresh earth being turned over and The Hen That Never Grew Up was typically bold and shadowed James as he unearthed more worms and bugs for her to feast on, not remotely bothered by his spade darting back and forth. She really is a delight – far friendlier than the other hybrids and, as her name suggests, so small in comparison that she looks like she stopped growing early.

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While she foraged in the soil, the rest of the flock sheltered in the dust-bathing station which James and I made a couple of years ago but had seen being used on only a handful of occasions. Puffing up their feathers, they huddled together for shared warmth.

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Rhodie looks on as the White Stars huddle together

On the subject of heat, we’ve been trying the method of deep-littering the coop  – ie not scraping out and composting the girls’ droppings, but adding a fresh new layer of wood shavings or straw on top to generate  a higher temperature and keep the edge of the cold in the henhouse.

As well as chilly,  at times, it’s been pretty wet and we noticed a leak which has made the place a bit damp around the edges. Checking the roof felt, nothing seemed amiss, but on closer inspection, the coop needed another coat of paint as the original had worn away, so James and I brushed a new one on last Saturday afternoon in next-to-no-time – amazing what you can get done in a couple of hours. This did mean that we didn’t have time to go and choose our Christmas tree – or decorate our own house for that matter – so we postponed these enjoyable tasks until tomorrow. We’ll use off-cuts from the fir tree to decorate the chickens’ abode, too, some sprigs of holly and perhaps some tinsel, too.

Happy Christmas, henkeepers!

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