Poultry parenting

It’s goosegrass season again and how the hens love this sticky weed! (As do geese, presumably…?). I often pluck handfuls of the leggy plant, also known as cleavers, from the hedgerows at the end of a walk with the dogs or, during the week, as I finish jogging around the village, avoiding nettles, which always seem to grow alongside it. It’s the most popular green among the girls and I put this down to its reputation for sweetness. It must be good as they’re willing to contend with its tacky feel on their beaks. Next on their list of preferences is lettuce and last seems to be any kind of brassica.

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We’ve been spending more time with the young Ixworths this week – handling each one so we keep them tame and friendly. James even had a cuddle with what he thinks may be our only pullet (we’ll be able to tell between the males and females in another week or two). While the Araucanas (above) have beautiful feathers compared with the slightly rougher texture of the hybrids’, it’s our youngest birds who win the prize for the silkiest plumage. The fledglings are so ‘new’ and super-soft that it’s a pleasure to put them away at night, which is just as well because that is what we have to do every evening! Being home from work first, James is generally the one on bedtime duty. For some reason, the miniature flock gathers on the floor of the coop, but doesn’t quite make it to the wooden perches, which have been specially modified for the small birds. So he picks them up, one by one, and places them in their elevated positions. We had the same problem with the brood of 2010 that we hatched out and raised from chicks and can’t help wonder whether it’s down to something we’re doing wrong. If any more seasoned henkeepers out there can offer some words of wisdom on this parenting topic, I’d be much obliged…

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