Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

I can’t believe the last post I wrote on Sow The Seed was about how hot and dry it was in west Wales. Since then we’ve had to contend with torrential rain and winds bought by the likes of Storm Callum. The weather is now beginning to turn wintery with cold nights and frosty mornings, but some beautiful sunny days; hopefully a taste of the winter to come!

Old and new girls – Mavis and Edna

I also wrote back in July that we had lost the first of our rescue hens, and recently we lost the last two – we were never sure how old they were, so we can only assume they had come to the end of their natural lives. We also lost one of our Speckledy hens, so we were down to only one chicken. Luckily this only lasted a few days as we had already decided to get a couple of new girls from a local breeder. The new hens are Rhode Rocks and are said to be hardy and good egg layers. We’ve named them Mavis and Edna (those familiar with children’s cartoon Willo the Wisp will know the characters). In the meantime, our old hen has now decided to go into moult (just in time for the cold snap), and is looking very bedraggled and sorry for herself; nevertheless she continues to exert her authority and keep the new girls in their place, and Mavis has come into lay so we aren’t without eggs.

Goats keeping a watchful eye!

The goats are back in their winter field, enjoying the hedgerow and any grass that is still growing. We’ve also been giving them some of our windfall apples (in small doses) as even after storing and juicing as much as we can, we have plenty to spare.

The ducks, taking it easy for winter!

The ducks are now free-loading for the rest of the winter (we haven’t had an egg from them since September), but to be fair they are now old girls; one of them is over five years old.

I’m slowly putting the garden to bed for the winter, clearing out the polytunnel and covering all the beds with manure and compost for the worms to work in. It’s been quite a good growing year, helped by installing the rabbit-proof fence, and the dry spell meant that the slugs weren’t as bad as previous years. We’re now slowly eating our way through the huge amounts of squashes and sweet potatoes that grew so well in the hot weather, and enjoying the last few tomatoes and cucumbers before the winter veg gets into full swing.


We’ve been down to two chickens for a while, and having also recently lost a duck, it was about time that we added to our collection of poultry. Because of the Avian Flu lockdown, we had found it hard to find anywhere offering hens for sale, as there are various biosecurity measures in place to restrict the movement of poultry during this time. However a friend suggested we try a local animal rescue centre, as they often have rescue hens available which are looking for new homes.

Last weekend we set off into the wilds of Pembrokeshire to Greenacres Rescue, west of Haverfordwest, and a few hours later came back with three brown hens. They are typical ex-commercial brown hens, bred for egg laying. We’ve had these breed of hens before, but at point-of-lay, rather than a few years old as these girls are. We’ve always found them to be friendly and inquisitive (perhaps too inquisitive), and these appear to be just the same. We don’t know their background, however, all commercial businesses will still get a new stock of hens every year, so it is just as likely that they came from a commercial free range business as a battery/caged business..

They have settled in nicely into their new home, scratching, dustbathing, lazing about in the sun, and already giving us eggs. We’ve kept them separate from the other two hens for the time being until they get used to each other and we are sure they don’t have any health issues. But in a couple of weeks they’ll all go in the same run and house, and find their pecking order, and hopefully everyone will get on.

Our three new hens – Pickle, Chutney and Cottontail



It seems I’m always writing about dying chickens, and today is no exception. This morning we had to cull Cream, one of our Cream Legbar chickens. She seemed to have lost her balance, particularly when standing still, and kept on having to put her wing out to stabilise herself. We suspect she may have had a minor stroke, as everything else seemed fine, and other than her balance, she seemed quite perky, and doing everything that chickens usually do, including being a good egg layer (which is more than can be said for her sister Coffee). This morning, however, she could barely stand, and although her head and tail were still up, the final straw came when she couldn’t drink properly without falling over. So Simon did the deed. We’d had her exactly three years – it isn’t a bad lifespan, and it’s the longest we’ve had any of our chickens.




Settling in nicely!

Settling in nicely!

In anticipation of dwindling chicken numbers, and the lack of eggs from our existing flock, we had been on the lookout for some replacements. Despite the trend for backyard chicken keeping it still seems quite hard (in this neck of the woods anyway) to find point-of-lay chickens. I did manage to track some down across the border in Pembrokeshire, so last weekend, armed with some cardboard boxes we took a trip, and came home with three new chickens. These are Speckledy chickens, a hybrid chicken, with French Maran traits, which means they are meant to lay darkish brown eggs with speckles. We’ve quarantined them from the existing chickens, just in case they have anything nasty, and they can get used to each other before being let loose. We haven’t named them yet, but the characters are already coming out, with one in particular being naughty. Several times we’ve found her on the wrong side of the fence, and she is always the last one to go to bed. We’ll give them another week before introducing them to the old girls!

Nora, our new arrival

Nora, our new arrival

We’ve just taken on board another chicken. Nora has come from the local farmer, who used to have a flock of ex-battery rescue hens, but one by one they died, leaving just one lonely chicken. The farmer’s wife is waiting for a new hen house to be built, so until that happens they didn’t want to replenish their stocks. And as they knew we kept a few chickens, wondered if we wanted to add another one to our small flock. Not being able to resist, we agreed to have her, and took her off their hands. We’ve named her Nora, not for any particular reason, although given the look of her legs, Nora is quite apt after Nora Batty.

We’ve quarantined her in the other run, just in case she’s carrying any nasties. But she is able to see the other chickens so they can get used to each other. We’ve given her a check over, and she’s got quite a lot of mites scuttling around her feathers, so she’s had a good dosing of mite powder to kill them off. We’ll follow this up with another dose in a few days to kill any other mites that have recently hatched and try to break the cycle. In addition we’re worming all the chickens to be on the safe side. She seems quite perky, and has settled in to her new home, but the real test will be when we let her in with the others and the new pecking order is established.

Droplets of rain on the Curly Kale

The full data for 2012 isn’t in yet, but it looks like it will be one of the wettest years on record for the UK. At the time of writing, only England had broken the previous record set in 2000. But 2012 still isn’t officially the wettest on record in Wales, with 2000 remaining the wettest ever. We weren’t in Wales at the time, but if 2012 is anything to go by, then 2000 must have been awful! Read the rest of this entry »

Delilah (back) and Matilda exploring their new home

As promised here are the new occupants of our homemade chicken house – Delilah and Matilda. We decided to go back to the place we got our original chickens from as they offer a number of different hybrid breeds of chicken, and they are relatively local. We’ve broken away from our previous rule of buying a pair of the same breed and picked out a Black Rock (Delilah) and a Warren/ISA Brown (Matilda). We were nearly tempted to get a third, but if these and the current two lay as well as they should, four chickens is plenty for our needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Trying it out for size

Another year starts and another project begins! Looking back at last year’s blog entries and thinking back to previous Januarys, this time of year always seems to herald the start of a new project. Last year it was building log stores and preparing for pigs, and 2010 had us putting up fencing for the arrival of our first animals – chickens. And the start of 2012 is no different with us preparing for more chickens, which will boost our depleted numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

Whiskey & Ginger sunbathing

It seems the fears we had that we would end up with a run full of elderly non egg-laying chickens aren’t going to materialise. In the last week or so the last two of our original four hens both flew up to chicken heaven. Read the rest of this entry »

Why are the best ones always furthest away?

The end of October is usually the time for us to harvest the apples from our one dessert apple tree. In fact this was one of the first things we did when we moved here almost three years ago, surprised to see the apples still hanging into November. We don’t know what variety the tree is (the previous owners told us their son had planted it from an apple pip), but it tastes okay and importantly they store very well. My records show we were still eating them in May! Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee (right) and Cream (left)

Our depleted chicken numbers didn’t last long – we’re now up to five. We fancied getting some chickens that lay blue eggs and the two choices are Araucanas or Cream Legbars. Cream Legbars actually have some traces of the Araucana gene in them, and as blue eggs are a dominant trait anything that crosses with it will lay a blue egg. Read the rest of this entry »

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