Tag Archives: chickens


The seasons have slide their way smoothly from one to the next here; the mornings have a chill to them and I had began leaving for work in the dawn light before the clock change. The harvest moon bought with it heavy rain and winds to bring down the first swirls of bright yellow, orange and red coloured leaves and since Samhain some of the dark evenings have held the promise of bright frosty mornings but as yet first light has only revealed rain soaked grounds or views hidden beneath a layer of mist.

Changing forest; October 2013

Changing forest; October 2013

The sheep have busied themselves searching out acorns before the wild boar begin to creep closer to the village edge in search of easier foraging and trips out with the goats have been spent underneath the sweet chestnut tree searching out the larger nuts before the goats snaffles them up. Sweet chestnuts are my old nanny’s favourite autumn treat.


At the end of September I spent some time reorganising my front garden to make it more of a usable space instead of an ‘unfinished projects’ staging area. I cleared the spreading mass of alpine strawberries, cut back bushes and removed a compost bin from the only area of soil and found space for two raised beds. These were filled with home made compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure from the patio’s potato buckets and now boast a mixture of cauliflowers, purple sprouting and leeks. On the table in the kitchen there are paper bags of onion sets to fill in the gaps.

After more alpine strawberry clearing I have managed to turn the rest of the ground I have between the steps and the patio into two separate-but-connected areas; one has been planted with kale (which I hope will recover from the caterpillar attack) mixed with wallflowers and I shall add garlic to the area. The other patch is defined by being between a winter flowering heather and the new raised beds; this area I have added spring bulbs to borage and self-seeded feverfew amongst a few paving stones I have added for access. In the spring I plan to sow poppies, sweetpeas and sunflowers and hope some of them survive the slugs.


During the summer we have downsized on the number of goats we have and thankfully have managed to find lovely homes for the three ‘rescue pet’ goats we had. We now have our six breeding females and a meat wether. It’s so nice to be able to spend time out on the greens with them without having to arrange for two people to be there. The reduced feed cost has also meant that we have been able to think more carefully about the feed we use and have changed to a goat mix that has no GMO ingredients; something we are trying more and more to be aware of in all areas of our purchases.

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when with had some sun: August 2013

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when we had some sun: August 2013

Earlier in the year we had scab in our flock of sheep, the better summer we have had has helped them recover but it has meant that none of the fleeces have been suitable for sending off to be tamed and so we are keeping everyone on for this winter. (Fingers crossed it will be mild and they won’t need too much extra feed.)

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

During some time off work in September I also got myself some chickens for the garden at my house. I had been toying with the idea of getting myself some hens for a while, there is nothing like collecting your own eggs from your own garden. Me and mother had gone to collect some hens for her and in amongst the barn of fowl to be rehomed were three small black chicks. I wanted them as soon as I saw them and so they also came back with us.

They have already grown a lot since I first got them and are much more use to people, where they came from was an amazing place where the chickens were safe to just run free (seemingly no fox problem there) and in the spring a lot of the hens had gone off to nest and returned with their chicks in tow a few weeks later. The fourth hen I have I don’t think has anything to do with the  chicks but they were quick to follow her lead and she is very pretty.

Hatching eggs

The eggs in my incubator are due to hatch on Friday, there are 12 Silver Dorking eggs from ebay, and 6 Maran eggs from a friend.

Hatching eggs - 28th February 2011

Hatching eggs - 28th February 2011

It is still early in the year so I am not expecting anywhere near a 100% hatch rate and I also haven’t candled them but love checking them each day and feeling the weight change as (I hope) the chick developes in its shell.

The Silver Dorking chicks are for my mother who got two young hens just before Richard Dorking died, always the way… It had been my plan to keep Silver Dorkings and breed my own chicks from Richard and Mrs. Dorking, who came from a freecycle member who was no longer able to keep their rare breed chickens, and I did hatch a few chicks but they were always weak possibly because Mrs. Dorking was so old and since she died during the bad snow the winter before last I have sort of given up of breeding pure breeds since then.

I would still like my ‘own’ breed though, I just don’t know what I want it to be! I got the Maran eggs as they are the very dark chocolately ones but I don’t really feel drawn to Marans as a breed as I love the old farmyard looking hens but who knows they might shin through when I have my own little flock of them

Hen tea party - 9th January 2011

Hen tea party - 9th January 2011

Everything feels a little crazy right now. I am still not into a routine after moving and I seem to be starting one of those busy times at work were at least one of my weekend days is taken up with something extra.

One of the tyres on our trailer has gone; which has called a halt to our mass clean out. Not a big problem shouldn’t be that hard to sort out and get going again… If only it were that simple. After trying one garage without the tyre and not getting very far I took the whole wheel into another tyre place to get a replacement. It turns out that our trailer has been made out of a base of an original original Mini and a replacement tyre will cost at least £50, each.

When I say the ‘original original’ Mini what I mean is when Mini’s first came out they had one size of tyre, then a little later they changed the size to a more standard one so it isn’t even like all the original Mini’s take the same size and there are very few that take the original original size now as they were the very first Minis.

The halt on the mass clean out has resulted in a halt to covering allotment beds ready for growing later this year. I’d hoped that if I managed to get at least most of it done last month then there would be about three months for it to rot down before anything was ready to plant out. I know that doesn’t sound long enough by ‘book’ standard but we have such a good eco-system (I think that is what I mean) thing rot down mega fast.

Allotment at sun set - 30th August 2010

Allotment at sun set - 30th August 2010

I have managed to go through my seed collection and work out what I haven’t got, only parsnips, sweetcorn, beetroot and seed potatoes, and now I just have to work out how I am going to fit in all the things I want to grow into the space I have.

I can’t wait to start sowing but I decided at the start of the year not to start growing anything until the 1st of March. Which will give me time to sort out everything out and also mean I don’t lose so many seedlings to leggy-ness or frost. It is a good plan… 22 days and counting.

Last week I was given some Maran hatching eggs so I have the incubator on. It is the first time I’ve used my new one. Yesterday the Beanie Babies went to their new home, after so many false starts. But they have gone to a lovely family where they will join their other goats to provide milk for making goats cheese once they have kidded.

Snow – the start of another cold winter?

We have also had snow but gladly it has not felt like such hard work this time.

This mornings bright start - 5th December 2010

This mornings bright start - 5th December 2010

We now have one 4×4 vehicle and our feed and hay deliveries have still made it through to us.

Making the most of the corn whilsh the other hens waited by their pop hold to be re-opened after cleaning out their house - 5th December 2010

Making the most of the corn whilst the other hens waited by their pop hole to be re-opened after cleaning out their house - 5th December 2010

The animals have not been impressed and on the coldest days I have kept the chickens in.

Friday night we had our thickest fall of snow, about 2 inches in a few hours but it was wetter than the other snow we had have had and so was only really a problem when driving through it and when it froze the next evening.

Today has been the warmest and a lot of the snow has gone but any snow that is left has turned into glassy looking ice under foot and on less used roads.

28th December 2009

Cows eating hay - Christmas Eve 2009

Well, that is Christmas over with for another year, and it passed in an unremarkable but pleasant way. The snow and ice stayed around to make it a white Christmas day but then cleared on Boxing Day to give a few days rest before the four to eight inches of snow that is forecast to fall tomorrow morning reaches us. The week between Christmas and New Year feels a little like limb and seems to last longer than it really is.

Donkeys eating hay – Christmas Eve 2009

On Boxing Day I got up to find that we had had a fox attack during the night, some left dead, two injured and others fine still in their house. Unfortunately I think it was my fault as the door wasn’t done up properly. The two injured ones are in the house by the stove and doing ok.

 Other than the fox attack it has all been quite, I got some lovely presents including a jacket and a woven scarf or wrap. I got my new camera but they sent the wrong model, the one up from the one that was ordered, but it doesn’t record sound so it is going back.

Silver Dorkings

There is another Silver Dorking egg hatched in the incubator, we’ve moved the last chicks that were left in our room outside a few weeks ago.

It had become so normal to have one kind of bird or chick, quail, gosling, etc. making a noise in the room that I almost didn’t even realise  when I heard the first cheeping that is was coming from the incubator at all.

A new chick hatching has bought up the question again about whether our bigger chicks are girls or boys…

Silver Dorking chicks are ‘sex-linked’ which means that they have different markings for girls and boys when they are born. I think from the markings that they had when they were born were boys, but now that their feathers are through I’m not so sure as they look more like the hens feathers then the cockerals.

Any way, whatever the two older chicks are, the one in the incubator is the other sort!

Counting eggs

Silver Dorking chickThe oldest of the Silver Dorking chicks is looking very cockerel like, but as they are sex-linked chicks I’m not really surprised. Still it would have been nice to be wrong, if that one is a cockerel then so is the other so no hen chick for the minute. There are a few more eggs in the incubator but I’m starting to get inpatient, I only have a breeding pair so that is only one egg at a time and I don’t want to set to many eggs and have a big gap of ages in the brooder so tonight I have been looking at buying some eggs for hatching.

There are some very good plus sides to buying in eggs, any chicks would be unrelated to my cockerel and hen, my hen must be getting older now so it would be nice to have some other hens ‘coming up through the ranks’ for when she retires from laying. There are a lot of breeders out there selling all kind of eggs and day olds, but not too many selling Silver Dorking eggs or chicks, I have emailed some breeders and a few breeders of other verities too…

In the brooder

Ok, I didn’t manage to keep up with my intention to keep a recorded of what eggs went into the incubator but things have been moving pretty fast. I didn’t even really manage to keep track of the dates that different eggs were put in there either so every so often there has been a nice surprise of finding a chick of some sort or a pipping egg when checking on the incubators, in spite of that though we had done pretty well on the hatching front.

There is a Muscovy duckling/chick (?) who is the oldest, as it is the first one we have hatched out I’m guessing it is a boy. There is two Silver Dorking chicks, Silver Dorkings are ‘sex linked’ chicks so they have different markings when they hatch, from the pictures that I’ve seem on the internet they are both cockerels. There is a little white chick that was hatched under an Indian Game hen, they seem to sit ok but aren’t very good with there chicks afterwards we took the chick away as she was pecking at it.

And lastly there are the goslings, who are all doing well.

Left in the incubator there is the last of the goose eggs, that I don’t think are going to do anything but I wanted to given them a chance, some other eggs that were under the Indian Game, which I also don’t think are going to do anything but again want to give them a chance. Two Call Duck eggs that are due to hatch in a week or so, and some more Silver Dorking eggs that went in yesterday.

All go

Such a lot happened this weekend, some very happy and some sad. I had already started to blog about Saturday and was just going to post after taking some photos but then Sunday arrived and I didn’t so much as get to look at the camera. I have posted up Saturdays post as it was written, and I enjoyed writing it so much and I haven’t really felt like I have the time to enjoy writing lately so there it is, below.

I bought one of the kids in over Saturday night, who is now named Ada, she was the first born and the smallest and just a little bit slower to get going than the other two. All three are having top-up bottles so as we can make sure that they are all getting feed. Ada spent all night wrapped in a towel in a box with a hot water bottle firstly on the floor by my feet whilst I wrote, and then at the end of the bed. The kids seem to be a little premature, they have very soft hooves and are, not sleepy exactly, but not as active as day old kids are.

I got very little sleep during the night as Ada spent all night talking to herself and demanded a bottle at 2am and then a few hours later. I went out and checked that the other two were doing ok as well, but by the morning it was worth it as she was fine and starting to stand better like her sisters.

When I feed the other goats Maude was being odd, more than normally I mean, she wasn’t off her food but was being very picky about which bits she was going to eat. She then went and stood in the sun and her stomach was contracting and she had a far off, crazed stare on her face. So into a goathouse she went for about the third time in a week. It must be really annoying to be kept in whilst everyone else is outside, especially when you see no reason at all for it and are then let out again later with nothing have had happened.

Me and mother went to collect some boots from a freecycle member and move some of the donkeys to a fresh field with middle-younger-sister. I was still very tired so lots of tea and something good on Iplay was in order in between checks on Maude who wasn’t doing much.  I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to beat myself up about not doing anything productive for the afternoon. I had thought that even if it was raining I would at least get some tyres up to allotment and work out where the tomato bed was going to go.

I found Maude with her two live, health looking kids at about 6pm. Yay! A very large light coloured male and a very pretty female, both good sizes, especially the male and starting to get up and look for their first feed.

Maude's boyPICT0175

When I started feeding the other goats for some reason I picked up one of Fucshia’s kids and tried to stand it up but it couldn’t stand with its front legs, there just wasn’t any strength in them. Up to the house she came for a hair dryer and a warm bottle, she didn’t drink much of the bottle but seemed to have a full tummy. I left her in the house and went to feed and milk, but when I came back in the kid had gotten very weak and just wouldn’t get warm. Mother gave her a stomach tube and a dose of antibiotics as instructed by the vet and she picked a little bit and was wrapped in a towel and put in a box with a hot water bottle at the bottom of the bed but sadly didn’t make it through the night.

Since then this week has been a repeating of feeding, work, feeding, dinner and then bed with very little time for anything else but it is so nice to stand and watch the babies. They have all started to become naughty little goat kids, learning to do things like climb in and out of each other’s houses and even out of the houses into the pen a few times.

And this evening there is another new baby in the house, my first Silver Dorking chick has hatched and is as I type cheeping away to itself in the incubator. Hopefully some more will hatch and then the goose eggs that are in the incubator too.

More meat chicks

Five weeks ago Mother ordered some more Ross Cobbs, the lady in Gloucester needed a minimum order of 50 chicks and as we’re only have 30 we were going to have to wait six weeks but she would let us know if any became available sooner.

Well she did get some sooner so me and Rhys now have 30 chicks in the brooder in our room.

The lady who sales them is in a very odd place in Gloucester, on the edge of a disused business estate, but I guess that just proves the point that you can go some way to producing your own food anywhere.