Hen home improvement

There’s something very appealing about miniature DIY projects beyond our own house, on which although mostly renovated there is still plenty to do, including a non-existent ceiling and unplastered walls in the spare room, plus flooring and decoration for the hall, stairs and landing. In contrast, the jobs in the garden and animal shelters are easily achieved in a weekend which is hugely satisfying. And we can use all the odd pieces of wood lying around, so it rarely costs us more than the occasional bolt or hook for the gates. So James and I set to work in creating a run for the new birds that we’ll be picking up tomorrow. The five cobbs aren’t layers but destined for the table, so one or two will be raised for Christmas in particular.

20130927-071721.jpg We already had the old kennel that we converted into a henhouse some years ago, which the Araucanas’ Purple Poultry Palace backs onto, but needed somewhere for them to shelter and an outside space they could stretch their legs in. Somewhat reluctant to create an entirely new set-up for which all the chicken wire would need digging under the earth (we’ve spotted a fox in these parts lately, so there was no question we would skimp on security measures) and posts would need cementing in the ground, we struck on the idea of adapting Audrey and Mabel’s luxuriously large quarters and began dividing it up accordingly.

20130927-072217.jpg Thankfully, James is pretty handy with an electric screwdriver and we both enjoy working these kinds of jobs out. In fact, even the pets get involved, as this picture of Beau, mischievous as ever, illustrates.

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We ended up with a very make-do-and-mend but pleasing solution, all ready for our new flock tomorrow. I just hope Audrey and Mabel give their new neighbours a warm welcome.

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Pig paradise

I’m wondering if I should change the name of this blog to eggs and bacon or should that be bacon and eggs? While we are still, of course, enchanted by our flocks of hens, we are also rather smitten with the Gloucestershire Old Spot piglets that we will be taking custody of on the weekend of 5-6 October!

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Not that we should form any kind of attachment, of course, lest the bond prevents us from producing pork, which is the aim. We went to visit the litter recently with James’s friend Roger, the smallholder and breeder who is supplying us with them. He keeps them in a rented field not far from his house. Surrounded by willows and bordering a river, it’s not unlike the area at the bottom of the garden where we’ll be raising our pair.

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We rather admired the strawbale shelter he has made for them to supplement their arks. The housing for our weaners is something we’ve been looking into – if anyone can recommend a company they’ve used, it would be wonderful to hear from them.

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It was a delight to watch the litter scamper about and tumble around. I love the way the two young ones below facing each other look like they’re in conference about some sort of caper.

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It was interesting to see how much variety there was in the piglets’ appearance – some were spotted all over, which is of course the distinguishing characteristic of the breed, while others had very few markings at all, which Roger explained was less desirable for a breeder.

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We also went to see the older litter, below, for whom Roger and his business partner have created a strawbale house with corrugated iron roof. When our little porkers are ready to pick up, at about eight weeks, they will be around this size. Their housing and run need sorting first, so I’m not going to wish the time away, but I am hugely looking forward to it!

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