What is it about animals and their drinkers? It’s as if water tastes so much better from each others’ bowls and receptacles than their own. Not only do Araucanas Mabel and Audrey take every opportunity to sip out of the ceramic dish for the dogs, as previously reported on this blog, but I’ve also caught Beau doing the same. When I was at the lovely Baileys store in Bridstow, Herefordshire, at the weekend en route to the Hay Festival (where CL staged two sell-out small business events – click here to read all about it), I decided to buy him a miniature Mason Cash version. Naturally, he isn’t remotely interested and continues to frequent the canine original.
It’s come full circle now with Megan sneaking a slurp from the hens’ drinker. There’s probably a very good reason that I shouldn’t let this continue – perhaps chickens can pass some ailment onto dogs – so I’ll discourage it in future, but I couldn’t resist snapping her in action. Does anyone else have animals that interact like this? If so, I’d love to hear about it!
I can’t resist sharing the details of Country Living‘s cracking, chicken-themed charitable project – you read it here first! In collaboration with the RHS, CL has teamed up with business Flyte so Fancy, which hand-crafts beautiful coops in rural Dorset, to commission six celebrities to decorate a henhouse, reflecting their individual personality and style. Among the famous des-res designers involved are Philippa Forrester, Sophie Conran and Kate Humble. Very soon they will each be taking delivery of a wooden Long Legged Hobby Henhouse (below) and putting their stamp on it.
You can see the results at RHS Flower Shows Hampton Court and Tatton Park (click here to buy tickets) and bid for your favourite in an online auction (details to come soon), raising money for CL’s Charity of the Year The Addington Fund, which supports British farmers and their families, and the RHS’s Campaign for School Gardening. So if you are browsing for a new chicken property, hold off until late July when a designer henhouse could be yours, plus these worthwhile causes will benefit from your bid. We’ll keep you posted with further details at www.keepbritainfarming.co.uk and why not check out Flyte so Fancy’s Facebook page and Twitter account to see the latest news on their handcrafted coops?
Aside from all that egg-citing activity, the flock at home have been up to their usual antics. If ASBOs could be given to chickens, I reckon our neighbours would have a fairly strong case for slapping one on brown Araucana Mabel, due to her increasingly near-deafening squawking. It’s no so much the clucking having laid an egg, it’s the screeching and bellowing from her run. The more those two free-range around the garden, the more they want to do so and having roamed from Saturday to Thursday last week when I was based at home, she now sees it as her and Audrey’s right to protest loudly at the gate of their run where they are kept safe during the week when both James and I are out at work. Here she is, good as gold, having got her way, drinking from the dog bowl – her and Audrey’s favourite activity.
Similarly, the hybrids at the end of the garden are not simply satisfied with wandering around the half-acre scrubby bit of land, currently quite wild with masses of comfrey, nettles and long grass, and crawling with all kinds of insects for the hens to glean, but look longingly through the gate between this and our lawn. A proverb about the grass being greener springs to mind!
It’s the time of year when James and his mates head off on a walking trip (this year in Snowdonia) so I had a long weekend, taking Monday and Tuesday off as holiday, to look after our two chocolate Labradors, Amy and Megan, and German Shepherd, Darcy, as well our 15 hens and Beau the Bengal cat, of course. We had a lovely few days together and I thought I’d take leaf out of the school show-and-tell tradition and share our mini-break here in pictures…
Henkeeping for the most part is pretty simple. You do little more than let the flock out in the morning and shut up the house at the end of the day, feed and water them, collect those all-important eggs and clean their coop at the weekend. But there are a few extra jobs to be performed once every few weeks, such as worming (easy with herbal and spice pellets from a company such as Verm-X – you mix them into their usual ration of feed) and keeping on top of red mites (all-natural Diatomaceous Earth is brilliant for this – we use one called Diatom. Simply puffed around the surfaces in the coop, it eliminates the parasites).
Then there are those more intimate, one-on-one monthly treatments which take a little more time such as applying louse powder (there’s a lovely-smelling type by Barrier) directly to each bird, around the vent area. We’ve discovered the best time to do this is at dusk when the hens have put themselves to bed and are docile enough to be handled. It’s a pretty smooth operation these days as we take the opportunity at the same time to treat scaly leg mite (this nasty pest burrows under the scales of chickens’ legs, making for some discomfort), which involves dipping their legs in surgical spirit (poured into a suitable tall container such as large yogurt pot) and then smearing them in petroleum jelly (which helps kill-off the mites)! As you can imagine – and fellow henkeepers will agree – it can get a little messy, but it’s good to blitz these tasks in one go! We managed to treat Audrey and Mabel last Monday evening and have booked in the hybrids for their monthly service next weekend.