November 17, 2011

I have just realised that I have left you, my faithful readers, in a state of terrible suspense over the progress of the chicken wars. I hope you’ve been managing to eat, sleep and get on with some semblance of your lives. Anyway, the truth is I felt a bit odd about writing about it because the first thing that happened was that two of the newcomers were found dead overnight and it didn’t seem quite such a suitable subject for a mildly amusing blog about country life. However, further enquiries established that the deaths happened before the two sets of birds had been mixed so, unless the old guard had been wriggling under the fence, commando style to carry out raids or (more likely) simply laying the evil eye on the new girls, the deaths were due to natural causes. And then after that things calmed down. The new birds were down to four, and the old birds started moulting which takes the edge off even the most ferocious chicken. After a couple of days a sort of apartheid situation developed with the white birds sticking to one end of the pen, with the hen house, while the brown ones sulked at the other end guarding the feeders. And there it has more or less stayed, although a couple of the bolder white ones have started to venture out into enemy territory and stage a couple of raids on the feeder.

Sadly, in all this excitement, not one of them has thought to lay an egg in the last fortnight. As the landlord has now been reduced to the humiliating position of having to buy eggs, they may find their greatest problem is not each other…


Business Opportunity

May 27, 2011

Can’t write much because I’m busy busy at the moment (put it this way – if you really want to retreat to the country for a quiet life, don’t go starting a cycling campaign and if you must start a cycling campaign don’t decide to go for a funding proposal three days before the deadline…), and also I’m being a bit discreet here, but it has come to my attention that with large numbers of townies moving to rural areas and taking up chicken keeping, and with chickens being on the whole somewhat prone to going wrong, and yet also being – when it comes right down to it – quite difficult to actually kill humanely especially if you’ve led a sheltered life up until now, that there is a gap in the market for some sort of Chicken Dignitas clinic.

And that’s all I’m saying

Salad is what Food Eats

July 29, 2010

I find it slightly disturbing that when I go to feed the landlords’ hens with some of my surplus lettuce (I knew there was an answer) I can now more or less tell them apart.

They don’t have names, they’re not those kind of hens, although they are sometimes known collectively as ‘the girls’. But I can still discern some sort of differences between them based on their behaviour. There’s brighter-than-the-average chicken, who’s the only one of five to have figured out that it’s easier to eat bits off a leaf of lettuce if you put your foot on it first. There’s ordinary chicken who is just a chicken and has no distinguising behaviour at all. Then there’s bossy chicken, who only likes to eat what the other chickens are eating and spends all her time chasing after brighter-than-the-average and ordinary trying to dominate the food supply. She’s the one who comes clucking self-importantly up to you when you go to fetch the eggs. There’s also sick chicken who sits around looking sorry for herself in the dust bath, but who has apparently always looked like that without ever actually dying or even declining much. She can usually be tempted to peck listlessly at a juicy bit of lettuce until bossy comes over to pinch it off her. And finally there’s do-I-look-like-a-rabbit chicken who disdains lettuce – and indeed chickweed – and doesn’t like to be seen with the other hens. Instead she stands aloofly in the corner, rising above it all although she will make the effort if there are marinated slugs going.

I did take some pictures to try and illustrate all this, but it turned out to be just a load of photographs of identical-looking chickens. So you’ll just have to believe me when I say they all have distinct personalities of their own. Either that, or I really do have to get out more.

Where Every Day is Easter Day

June 11, 2010

The cottage-that-sells-eggs hasn’t sold eggs for a while now, which is a bit of a shame. It was handy and made for a nice excuse for a walk, and the eggs were delicious and cheap too, which always helps. We’ve seen the woman-from-the-cottage-that-sells-eggs driving about in her van and we’ve seen the chickens-from-the-cottage-that-sells-eggs – all over the road, mostly – but we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of the box with the actual eggs. So we were excited when we were returning from our evening inspection of the ford (dry as a bone, thanks for asking) to see her hanging around at the gate at the smallholding where the vicious herd of tiny dogs live. Especially when she told us she was in the process of swapping one of her cockerels for a hen.

‘Oh good,’ I said. ‘Does that mean you’re going to start selling eggs again?’

‘Well I would,’ she said. ‘If I could ever find any eggs. I haven’t seen an egg for three months now.’ Her hens, you see – clearly brighter than the average hen, although yet to master the green cross code – had taken to hiding them in the woods. I suppose if your owners kept taking your unborn children and selling them, you’d do the same thing. Anyway, she told us we were welcome to any eggs we found, although she couldn’t guarantee their freshness. I’m not sure ‘pick your own eggs’ will catch on – although you never know. But it does suggest that there’s such a thing as too free range.

Its Own Reward

February 1, 2010

It struck me, as I walked up to the garden this morning to help feed the landlord’s chickens, that they make the perfect pets (chickens, that is, not landlords. Landlords will make a terrible mess of the carpet). I’m chicken-sitting at the moment (I did warn them that, as a family, we don’t have a great record on this…) and it was quite pleasant – a good excuse to be up in the garden first thing in the morning, plus my very own daily easter-egg hunt (hens are rubbish at hiding them though. The nest box was the first place I looked). They’ve got a low carbon footprint, they eat slugs, they’re reasonably attractive – what’s not to like? And you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding someone willing to look after them whenever you’re away. No need to find that last minute naff ‘thank you for looking after my pet’ gift at the motorway service station. Because the chickens will generally have handled that side of it for you

Now all I need is a recipe that requires two very fresh eggs.

Last Gasp of Summer

October 1, 2009

We had a cold night last night, and the wind is in the north, but the sun came out …

last rose

chicken feathers

chicken closeup

dandelion closeup


… I was supposed to be doing the weeding, but I got distracted.


May 1, 2009

Before I left for London, I could have sworn I had some leeks. Tiny little baby leeks, still straightening themselves up after germination, but leeks nonetheless. Now what I have, after less than a week’s absence, is no leeks. Or rather, I have the gnawed-off stumps of some tiny little baby leeks, and some suspiciously fat and onion-breathed slugs*. The pathetic leek remains are now under bottle cloches, and the slugs are in the neighbour’s chicken run but today it is raining again and I imagine the slugs are doing little slug victory laps around the veg patch waiting for something else to germinate so they can eat it. And I’ll be up there tonight gathering them up and pitching them over the fence to the chickens of doom. I’m not sure the chickens actually eat them – they have already reportedly killed and eaten mice and baby rabbits, so slugs may be a tame for them – but it makes me feel better, if nothing else, and it puts several yards between the slugs and my veggies, which might at least give the poor things a head start.

I’ve a feeling this is but the opening skirmish in a battle that will run and run…

*OK, OK, I didn’t actually check their breath – I mean, would you? – but what else could it be?