This is my blog about the day to day lives of my little flock of pet chickens. They're a happy little flock, although they're totally crackers! If you want a laugh, they'll gladly give you one.


For the ebook version, just click the link on the right.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Just to let you all know that my doctor has banned me from typing for at least 2 weeks as I've developed carpal tunnel syndrome. See you all after my "holiday" xxx

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Getting Fizzicle

I've been a bit quiet about Fizz lately, but that doesn't mean he's been peaceful and relaxed of late.

Fizz assessing his chances with Punk

Last week he spotted Punk on the other side of the lawn, which she was mowing with great enthusiasm.   Usually, when Fizz decides to get amorous, she doesn't take much notice.  He does his cockerel duty and she keeps right on eating, not even blinking in surprise.   Things were so different this time, that even Punk took time out to stop munching and give Fizz a look of astonishment.

That came about because he was in such a hurry that he tried to mount her sideways!   He got part way through his leap onto her, when he realised his mistake.  He shook himself, as if trying to convince us all that he'd not noticed Punk at all and had simply bumped into her.  Then he ambled off.

However, ten minutes later he mis-timed things again.   Maggie was minding her own business, checking the lawn for grubs.   With her head down and therefore with her vent in a very inviting position, Fizz just couldn't help himself.   He rushed over, slipped on the grass and ended up by accidentally kicking Maggie up the bum!

She squawked in surprised, leapt and did a 180 degree turn to face her attacker, whom she then chased off.   This was not the conclusion Fizz had in mind when he started that little undertaking.

This afternoon, Tu-Tu was the object of his amorous attention.   She put up with the whole procedure, but when he'd finished, she shook her feathers back into place and then bit him.

I really think his romantic technique requires a bit of attention.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Age is just a number

Titian having a snooze by the summerhouse

Tu-Tu is our oldest chicken - she must be, because she laid eggs from the day she arrived in our chicken coop;  it was quite some time before the others joined in.  But I suspect that Titian is much older - well mentally anyway.

She still looks just as beautiful as she ever did.  She's a lovely rich reddish-brown colour (if you ignore the white feather near her bum) and her feathers are glossy and sleek.  So what if the odd little bunch of feathers stick out at peculiar angles and who is going to notice the occasional light brown one dotted about here and there.

And this girl has a mind of her own.   Last year she remembered that Rhode Island Reds are dual-purpose birds, being both meat and egg producers.   So although she had laid gorgeous big brown eggs in her first year, last year she didn't bother much.   I don't think she actually intended that we should stuff her with lemons and stick her in the oven.   I suspect she was just making a point, in her own inimitable fashion.

She's returned to prolific egg laying again now.   These days her eggs are still brown, but that's where the similarity with her early eggs stops.  Her current products are half the size they were before and each of them has a cute pointy top.  The shells are paper-thin too.   It doesn't matter what we feed her to try and thicken them up a bit, they remain stubbornly fragile.

Maybe she's just decided to make sure we don't eat too much fried stuff. If you break her eggs into a frying pan you discover that although the yolks are nice and big, there's not much white and what there is, is watery and sticks tenaciously to the pan.   We've learned to scramble all Titian's eggs.   For one thing it's safer breaking them over a bowl.   You may end up with bits of shell in there too, but at least Titian's eggs aren't draped across the kitchen counter and dripping onto the floor that's just been washed.

She's only three, so in real terms she's a middle-aged Rhode Island Red, not an old girl at all.   But just as some people are old at 25, I rather imagine the same applies to other creatures too.   Maybe Titian falls into that category.

Monday, 16 July 2012

This and that

There can't be too many people who've been nagged by a wild pheasant, but it happened to me last week.

I was sitting in the garden with the chickens when I heard a soft muttering, which definitely wasn't coming from the chickens.   I looked up and there was Mrs Pheasant on my garden wall, glaring at me.

Our lovely neighbourhood female pheasant

She's usually around at mid-afternoon and if I'm out too, I drop a few handfuls of corn into the field for her.  When she sees me, she comes running over, knowing there's food to be had.   Evidently she wanted her afternoon tea now and what was I doing?  Chatting to chickens, that's what!

She graciously posed for No. 1 Son, while I sorted her food out.   She's a lovely bird and no photograph could possibly do justice to the subtle shading and patterns of her feathers. 

Moving on ......

A couple of weeks ago the floor of the spare coop fell down into the cage below.   Both Titian and Pom-Pom like to lay their eggs on the cage floor, so it was fortunate that neither of them were there when the floor nose-dived.

A couple of days later, I was having a headcount and realised Titian was missing.  I looked everywhere!  I went back and forth between the garden and the run, looking in places that even tinyTu-Tu couldn't have squeezed into.   I was beginning to get frantic when I had a brainwave.  I opened up the side door of the spare coop and there was Titian, comfortably settled in the nest box.  She gave me a look that clearly said, "Do you mind?  I could do with a little privacy here."   With no floor, all she'd had to do was hop up into this new inner sanctum - much more secluded than the cage below.  Evidently Rebecca has found this hidy hole too, because one of her eggs was in there today.

Pom-Pom, on the other hand, isn't bothered about privacy one little bit.   No. 1 Son had cut a hedge and piled the clippings in the garden to await being chopped up and put on the compost heap.   Pom-Pom spotted this neat heap of twigs and leaves, decided it would make a good nest, and started stomping around to flatten it down a bit.

Pom-Pom starts organising a nest suitable for a high-class hen like her

It mattered not one iota that the pile was large and she was small.  This is one determined little hen.  It took her a while, but eventually she had flattened a nice-sized area.   Then she looked around, decided there was something not quite right about it and laid her egg near the dustbath.

And finally we come to one of the Three Musketeers a.k.a. Fizz.   You'll need to remember what his headgear looks like - droopy these days, so here's a reminder:

He managed to get someone else's fluffy, downy white feather attached to his own hairdo.  It drooped elegantly down from near the top of his head at a decidedly rakish angle.   He reminded me so much of the impetuous, reckless young D'Artagnon.  It could only happen to him!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Titian has a cantankerous day

It was a lovely, hazy morning when I went down to open up the chickens this morning.  The sun (which has now disappeared yet again) was busy burning off the mist that lingered lazily over the field at the back of the garden.  Two Canada geese and their three teenaged youngsters had dropped by to inspect the lake which has formed there again - thanks to all the recent rain. There was a calm, peaceful air about the place.

This was in complete contrast to  a few days ago, when there was complete mayhem!

Earlier in the day, when the coop had been opened up, Titian and Fizz had had a glaring match.  Necks were stretched forward, beaks were mere inches apart and they glowered at each other.   Neither was prepared to look away first.   At least not until Fizz forgot why he was glowering and took himself off for breakfast.

All was fine until that afternoon when the chickens and I went into the garden.   Titian and Fizz found themselves on the lawn, about a yard apart.   Fizz was wondering which girl to bonk next;  Punk was handy, but Tu-Tu was looking rather tempting.   So it came as a complete surprise when Titian fluffed up her chest feathers and charged at him.  

The force of her onslaught sent him staggering into the temporary chickenwire fence.   Deciding that a getaway was his best defence, he tried to escape.   But Titian employed some fancy footwork (for a heavyweight) and walloped him just as he reached the hen run gate.

He took off again and managed to get as far as the smoking shelter when Titian caught up with him and hostilities continued.   And this time, she had reinforcements.   Rebecca came galloping in and jumped on Fizz's back.  I could almost hear the thought rushing through her little brain, "Now you know what I have to put up with!"

I was about to intervene when Fizz managed to fly up onto the smoking shelter roof and from there into the upper part of the run.   Titian decided she'd done enough to teach him a lesson and wandered back into the garden.   Rebecca, looking hugely disappointed, followed her out.

There was no obvious reason for either the morning scowls or the afternoon fracas.   Maybe Titian was irritated because Fizz has been bullying Irene (see my last post).  Or maybe it was something else entirely.   You can never tell with chickens, can you.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Apologies and news update

First, profound apologies for the long silence.  I had to meet a publishing deadline for a new book (not chicken-related) to be published later this year, so everything else had to be put on hold.

Right then, chicken run news.

Well it goes without saying that Fizz features in the headlines, doesn't it.   And not everything he's been doing is amusing.

For some reason best known to himself, he has started bullying Irene!  Whether he's getting his own back for all the times in the past that she's sorted him out, I really don't know.  So when I'm down there with them I sit with my mister full of water and squirt him with it when he attacks her.  I'm not terribly sure how much good that's doing though.   His head feather arrangement seems to act like a rainhat and the water just runs off his back.  When he's been squirted, he stands looking vaguely confused.  I suspect he's trying to work out whether he felt something, or if it was just in his imagination.

Then we come to Maggie

She's gone broody and I'm having a battle royal trying to stop her.  We simply don't have room for any more chickens, much as I'd love some.   The coop is certainly big enough for 2 or 3 more, but I don't want to overcrowd the run.   So every morning I let 7 chickens out of the coop.  Then I have to go round, open the nestbox up and remove Maggie.  Then, much to everyone's annoyance, I close up the pop-hole until late afternoon.   I keep hoping that Maggie's hot, sweaty breast will have time to cool down and that her hormones will think twice too.  But no.  As soon as she realises that the nestbox is accessible, she gallops back up the ramp and settles down.

Oddly enough, Tu-Tu hasn't joined her.  She thought a bit about getting broody earlier in the year, but decided against it.   Previously, she's joined Maggie in the nestbox, but not this time.

The other girls go and lay their eggs on the floor in the far corner of the cage under the spare coop.  But not Tu-Tu, that's way below her dignity.  She just clenches her vent and hangs on until she can get access to a proper nestbox.  It's where she's always laid her eggs and she's too long in the tooth to change now.

Finally - a big, big thankyou to everyone who has bought the Mucky Cluckers ebook.  I'm hoping to bring out a paperback version before too long and will announce it on here.

More news next time - and I promise not to leave it so long.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Communal bathing

It was such a lovely warm day that Maggie decided it would be good to have a bath.  There's plenty of places to have one, but by the potato bag seems to be the favourite spot, so that's where she settled.

Irene popped over for a quick chat, but couldn't stop.  She had places to go, things to do;  pity she couldn't remember what they were.  But it would come to her.

Tu-Tu decided to join Maggie.  Trouble was, she wanted the best spot and Maggie was already occupying it.   Maybe if she stuck her head under the Orpington, Maggie would find it so uncomfortable that she'd move.   Worth a try.

That didn't work - in fact Pom-Pom came over to see what on earth was going on!   She's not a dustbathing fan herself, more of a sun worshipper if the truth be known.   She's happy stretching out (preferably on someone's lap), eyes closed and with one wing and one leg extended, catching a few rays.  Bliss!


It was a different kettle of fish altogether when Titian popped over from the other side of the garden.

Did she just want to say "hello" and share a bit of gossip?  Was she content to have a quick chat with Pom-Pom and share the day's experiences so far?   I think not ....

If you think Tu-Tu was put out at being shifted over to the tree, you can imagine how exasperated Maggie was.   She'd been robbed of the very best bathing spot.   She's not one for picking fights though.  She has a more subtle approach.

I think the idea was that if she made Titian uncomfortable enough, she'd leave.  Then Maggie could move back.

But then the last straw arrived .......

..... in the shape of Fizz.   He enjoys mixed bathing.

Unfortunately, the girls don't and, as one, they all got up and left.

PS   Sorry the photographs are not up to the usual good standard, but No. 1 Son wasn't at home, so I took them myself.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Let battle commence!


The annual battle of wills between Tu-Tu and I has begun.   It goes something like this.

I open the gate to let everyone enjoy the pleasures of completely obliterating my garden.   I count them as they come out, only to discover that there are only 7 chickens.   There should be 8.   That's OK, one of them is probably laying an egg, even though it's a bit on the late side.

So who is missing?   There's Irene eating some corn, with Rebecca as close as she can get without actually touching her.  Pom-Pom is standing on my foot, Fizz is showing Punk where there's a nice piece of ...... what on earth is that!   Titian is filling me in on the latest news, while Maggie is mowing the lawn as fast as she can get the green stuff into her beak.

So that just leaves Tu-Tu;  I might have guessed.

I know exactly where to find her, so off I go to the chicken coop and open up the lid of the nestbox area.   A pretty little lavender face looks up.   If it's possible for a chicken to give you a sweet, innocent smile, this wily old Pekin does just that.

She knows perfectly well that she's sitting on some eggs that the other girls have kindly laid for her.  The trouble is, I know it too.   I reach under her and, sure enough, there are indeed eggs - three of them to be precise.  I manage to curl my fingers round two of them, the third rolling out from beneath Tu-Tu's hot little chest.   Tu-Tu rolls the wayward egg straight back underneath her.   I finally retrieve the third egg and put all of them safely in my little plastic box.

Next, it's Tu-Tu's turn to be retrieved.   I lift her out of the nestbox, request the pleasure of her company in the garden and put her down.   She looks grumpy, right until the moment she spots that there's corn to be had;  then she takes off like a bat out of hell and gets stuck into it.

So today, my plan has worked.   But Tu-Tu and I went through all this palaver last Spring and the Summer before that.   In truth, I know as well as she does that she'll win in the end.   The time will come when, no matter what treats I tempt her with, she will go straight back to the nestbox.

The first year it happened, we got fertile Araucana eggs for her.  Last year we rather hoped that Fizz had done his duty and so we allowed her to sit on some of her friends' eggs.   Even though Maggie joined in and 'helped', not one egg hatched.

Tu-Tu is the oldest of our chickens.  We're not sure just how old she is, but she started laying eggs the day after we got her.  So she's no spring chicken (pun definitely intended).

So the question I have is this.  Do chickens go through menopause and, if they do, I wonder how long it will be before Tu-Tu goes through hers and loses interest in being broody.

Tu-Tu with her Araucana babies

Monday, 14 May 2012

Some very special visitors

The field behind our garden and its "lake"

The field behind our garden has a spring beneath it.  This often causes it to flood during the Winter months, but this year the excessive amount of rain has caused the spring to overflow and flood the field now, too.   It's shallow enough for the sheep and lambs to slosh through if they have to.  But it has been deep enough to attract a few visitors too.

We had a little Sandpiper skirting round the edges looking for insects - haven't seen one of those in the field before.   A Canada Goose and a couple of Greylags dropped in for a moment or two, but quickly left when the water didn't come much above their ankles.   But best of all, we've had ducks!   Wooohooo!   Take a look at this lot.

The first to arrive

Picture by:  Rror

Yes, OK, it's just a Mallard and you see them all over the place.   They're common as muck really.  They come across to us for a visit if there's just the smallest puddle in the middle of the field.  But if, like me, you'd dearly love to have ducks but haven't the room, any and all ducks are welcome.

Aha, but look what arrived next.

A visitor from foreign parts

Picture by:   Yoki

Mandarins!   Hows that for a bit more exotic then.   Although they breed in the UK, I've never seen them cavorting  round among our sheep before.   The Mrs. decided it really wasn't her kind of drop-in, but he liked it in these parts and has visited every day.   He floats around having a think, then paddles over to the dead oak to see what there is to see.  When he gets fed up with that, he settles down on one of the little islands and thinks some more.   He's so lovely, I could eat him!   Oops, didn't mean that literally.

And then ........... d-daaaaa

Fancied a trip to the country
Picture by:   Arpingstone

Wooohoo - two Shelducks arrived!   I would love to get me some of these for my longed-for duck pond.   They stayed all afternoon, presumably to give me time to wallow in their beauty.   Then they decided enough was enough.   They hadn't been able to find a single shellfish of any kind and there wasn't much else in our little lake to tickle their palate.   So off they went.

So I'm off to ask the farmer if he could put a plug in his field.   That way, the lake would become a permanent feature and who knows what else would find its way here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Seeing red

Do not get between Pom-Pom and a tomato!   If you try to, you will discover that she's not quite the classy little lady we all thought she was.

Pom-Pom looking down her nose at us - as usual

I had three cherry tomatoes and an ordinary size one, all of which had got softer than I like them to be.  So I threw them down into the run and waited for the entertainment to begin.  As usual, everyone went rushing over to see what type of manna had appeared from above.

Normally when Pom-Pom runs, she gallops straight into things.   Her bouffant hairstyle acts like a skid lid and prevents any damage to her skull.  But where tomatoes are concerned though, it's different.  She moves like greased lightning, making a bee-line straight for said tomato, grabs it and runs.

Now as Tu-Tu knows from extensive past experience, if you get to a treat first and run off with it, the rest of the mob will chase after you.   Doesn't matter that there's enough treats for everyone.  They all want your bit.   But somehow nobody seems to notice when Pom-Pom is the one with the treat in her beak. 

It could be that they are used to her being the last one to locate a treat and so missing out on most of it.  Maybe they just can't credit her with being the one to swoop in and nick it.   Personally, I think she's simply donned Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility.

But for Pom-Pom it doesn't end there.   She then finds a corner where she can put the tomato down, while shielding it with her body.   That way she can eat it at her leisure and not have someone else pinch it from her and run off with it.  They simply won't be able to get at it.   Today's convenient location was the angle made by the fence and the compost bin.   Punk had a go at getting it, quickly realised she couldn't and rushed off to pinch someone else's.

Once all the cherry tomatoes had been eaten, one by one they turned their attention to the big fruit.  But that was going to take a bit more effort to break into, so they gave up fairly rapidly.   Pom-Pom, however, did not.   This was, after all, more of that delicious red stuff that she loves so much.   So she pecked and pecked, grabbed it and shook it, took it for a walk and eventually managed to break the skin and get to the good bit.

That was when the rest of the flock took a renewed interest and came over to "help".   Pom-Pom was surrounded!  But did that bother her?   No it did not.   She simply pecked various heads as their owners' beaks came withing licking distance of her tomato.   It didn't matter who the beak belonged to, it wasn't getting any more than a brief encounter with this particular treat.

When I left, Pom-Pom and her tomato were still surrounded by the rest of the flock.  And she was definitely taking no prisoners.

Friday, 4 May 2012


I was introduced to this super little Youtube post showing a lady who had taught one of her hens to jump onto a stool, stay, then fly onto her arm.  It got me wondering how my mob might react to similar training.

Pom-Pom would bump into the stool before finding her way over to me and standing on my foot.  Another non-starter would be Titian.   She would spend a considerable length of time telling me she doesn't do running or flying.

Fizz would get half-way to the stool, spot any of the girls you care to name and rush off to ....... well, you know what he's like!

Tu-Tu would give you a long, long look and think carefully about it before wandering off to peck an Araucana.

I wouldn't even bother asking Maggie.   She would think I'd gone completely crackers to even suggest that someone of her genteel breeding might possibly contemplate behaving like some common circus performer!  Huh, the very idea! 

So that just leaves Irene, Rebecca and Punk.

I have a feeling that Punk would try to do a deal.   If I let her dig the path up, she'll perform this stunt for me.   The only problem I can see is No. 1 Son - he'd never agree to the path digging bit and that's the only deal Punk would go for.

Aha, but now we come to Irene;  she's half-way there already you see.   When we let them out into the garden, No. 1 Son won't open the gate until Irene has jumped up onto the nestbox lid.   It has become quite a routine with the pair of them.  She marches up and down in front of the gate, shouldering her way through the crowd.   He tells her she must jump on the nestbox, so she does.   Then the gate is opened and out they all come.

Well it can't be much of a leap, so to speak, from nestbox to stool to arm can it?  

The only problem I can see is that where Irene goes, Rebecca faithfully follows.   So he could end up with two chickens on his arm.  Or would Rebecca land on top of Irene and send them both toppling off?  Or, much more likely, she'd try to land between Irene's legs - after all, that's where she goes to sleep at night.  Oh no!  They would definitely fall off then!  They might break a leg or a wing or something!

That's it.  No aerial display team training for my flock, I shall insist they all stay safely grounded.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Of pheasants, lambs and leopards

Back in March, when we had such gorgeous sunny weather, we started planting stuff in the garden.

Come summer, I planned to have a wide "curtain" of sweetpeas against the fence.  No. 1 Son drilled drainage holes in half a dozen plastic storage containers.  You know the sort - you can get them in places like B&Q or Homebase.  You use them to put paperwork and stuff in that you want to save "just in case", but never look at ever again.

So, in went the compost and the boxes were placed end to end along the fence.   Then in went the bamboo poles all nicely staggered with some towards the back and others further forward.  (Any pole dancer will tell you - you can't have your poles in a straight line, it spoils the effect).  Finally, we planted lots and lots of sweet pea plantlets and protected them with a long piece of fleece which we removed during a recent 3 minute break in the rain.  If it ever stops raining, we plan to disguise the containers by putting some willow fencing along the front.  That will also serve to stop the chickens poking their beaks around in the compost, looking for worms.

Unfortunately, the pheasants discovered them before we had time to protect the young plants with netting.   They decided that our sweet peas were meant as snacks for passing wildlife and have been tucking in.

Which leads me to the point of this story.  One of this year's young male pheasants decided that a visit to the snack bar was called for.   So he flew up, intending to land on the dry stone wall which marks our garden's boundary.   However, before landing he spotted that not only were the chickens loose in the garden, so were we.  So instead of landing, he closed his wings and dropped straight back down.   All I saw was a pheasant's head for a moment, before it disappeared again.   It was just as if he was on a trampoline.

His acrobatics drew the attention of some nearby lambs who thought it would be fun to chase him.  Which they did.   So he legged it off down the field, and that drew him to the attention of his dad.

Dad had already made it crystal clear that it was time the lad found his own territory.   So he came thundering over to chase his son off.  The youngster turned tail and headed back up the field ........... doing a leopard crawl!   You know what I mean?  Belly to the ground!

It's bad enough having chickens whose behaviour is far from normal.   Now it appears they've infected the wildlife!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A very soggy drought

"More than half of Britain is now in drought, the Environment Agency has warned, as the UK faces its most severe water shortage since 1976" (quote from a national newspaper a few days ago).

Drought!  Really?  For those of you who don't live in the UK, we've experienced an awful lot of rain lately.   In my little corner of England, it hasn't stopped raining for nearly 3 weeks!

And my chickens are not happy!  When they hear me coming down the path, they rush to the gate hoping that:

a.   They are going to be let out into the garden.
b.   That it's not pouring with rain on my side of the gate.

Instead of which, all that happens is they get wet and troop dejectedly back to the covered cage area.   They still don't bother going into the smoking shelter unless I throw corn in there.   Then they gobble up the goodies and retire back to the cage!

I've let them out into the garden when it's stopped raining long enough for me to do so, but that hasn't happened very often of late.   Even Mad Irene is getting fed up with it now, and she doesn't get fed up easily.   And her pupil Rebecca can no longer truly be described as "Lavender".  She has managed to acquire a black head - probably from delving into the mud looking for drowned worms.

Deluge or no deluge, there comes a time when you have no option but to clean out the coop and put fresh new bedding in.   That point came yesterday afternoon.   I had waited, watching the sky hopefully for a let-up in the downpour, but none came.    So we sloshed our way down to the hen run and did the quickest cleaning job imaginable.  Today we shall turn our attention to the run - again.  We had put down several rolls of turf; we knew they wouldn't last long, and they haven't, but they did cover the mud for a while.  Now they are, of course, areas of mud themselves.   When No. 1 Son gets home from work this afternoon, we shall be off to buy loads of straw.   We shall cover the caged area with it and strew the rest of it round the run with gay abandon.

Most of the flock opted for an early night yesterday.   However, Rebecca (it would be, wouldn't it), lingered downstairs in the cage - she likes her little bit of "me" time in the evening.   However, her foster-mum Tu-Tu was having none of it.   She grabbed Rebecca by the feathers and hauled her towards the ramp, making it quite clear that bedtime is bedtime and there shall be no messing about! 

She's never done that before, so we assume it was because she wanted the drafty pop-hole closed up.  Then she could settle down in the warmth created by a flock in an enclosed coop, dry out and dream of dustbaths in the sun.

Friday, 20 April 2012

A tale of two Polands

Do you remember how astounded I was, a couple of posts ago, about the huge changes in Pom-Pom's regime?

"Puts herself to bed in the coop," I said.

"Gets up at the same time as the others," I said.

"Lays her eggs in the nestbox," I said.

Well delete all of the above!   She waited until that story had been safely stored on my blog and read by you, then went back to her old habits.   

I do find myself wondering about a couple of things though.   You know how sometimes you get so comfortable on the settee that, much to your surprise, you wake up to find you'd nodded off without realising it.  Well perhaps that's what has happened to Pom-Pom this last day or two - the log being her equivalent of a settee.   And to be fair, we all oversleep occasionally don't we.   So that could be why Madam didn't appear at breakfast time yesterday and blinked groggily at me when I opened up the coop to check on her.   And I'm sure there's a plausible reason why she laid her egg in the furthermost corner of the spare coop yesterday too.  I just can't think of one at the moment.

And so, inevitably, we come to Fizz.   When I let everyone out yesterday, Maggie and the two Araucanas scooted to the top end of the run to hoover up the pellets they knew they'd find there.   A minute later, Fizz dashed up after them (he'd stopped for a quick bite to eat downstairs first).   He headed straight for Rebecca, his intentions being strictly dishonourable - as if we didn't know. 

Unfortunately for him, Rebecca was breakfasting right beside Maggie and Maggie does not like to be disturbed when she's eating.   Poor old Fizz found himself being chased back from whence he came.   It was just his luck that Irene was on her way up, just as he was on his rather rapid way down.  That irritated her because breakfast was being delayed..   So there he was, sandwiched between a grouchy Orpington and a tetchy Light Sussex.   His only way was up and he made a magnificent vertical leap.

The snag with his strategic withdrawal plan was that he came straight down again and found himself in the same adverse circumstances.  Before Irene and Maggie could have another go at him, he ducked under the log and legged it across the run.  Then jumped onto the smoking shelter roof and down into the lower run, coming to a halt by me.

I stroked his back and reassured him that he was still the prettiest cockerel in the run.  He seemed happier after that and went on his way.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Follow my leader

It was cold and wet here this morning, so I decided to give the chickens a choice of breakfasts.  They could get their beaks into some warm mash, or they could munch on their normal pellets.

I put most of their food in little cups which can be hung on the outside of the cage if it's good weather, or inside the cage if it looks like rain.  I also throw a few pellets around the run so they can have fun scratching around to find them.  As it was raining heavily today, all their food went inside the covered cage area.

When I opened the pop-hole, Rebecca and Punk hurtled out as usual, got to the open cage gate ....... and hesitated.   Hmmmm.  Was that rain they saw before them?   Did they like rain?   Neither of them could remember, so they dithered around, just inside the gate.

Mad Irene had no such problem!   She ran full pelt down the ramp, forced a path between the two Araucanas and raced up the steps into the top part of the run.   The two little Lavender bantams took off after her.  After all, Irene knows best.

But confusion reigned once they reached their destination.   Where were their pellets?  There were always pellets round here in the morning!  Punk did a quick recce in case I'd hidden them somewhere, discovered I hadn't and realised she was getting wet.  So she took herself back to the cage.

What made things even more confusing for Rebecca was a distinct lack of  Fizz.  By now she would normally be doing her best to avoid his amorous attentions, but he was nowhere to be seen.   He, very sensibly, had taken one look at the weather and decided that today the chicken equivalent of a Full English Breakfast was called for.

Rebecca looked hopefully at Irene; were they going back inside too?  But apparently not.  Rebecca is too young to remember the time I heard a commotion in the hen run and rushed out to the rescue in a torrential downpour.  I arrived, drenched through to my knickers, only to find it was Irene doing her Gene Kelly "Singing in the Rain" impersonation!   I was not impressed.

So Rebecca trudged round after Irene, but cast many a longing glance at the rest of the flock, all nice and dry.  It's one of the drawbacks of being an acolyte.  Where the leader goes - you must follow.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Change of tactics

Pom-Pom in her favourite place

Pom-Pom's behaviour over the past week has had us totally bewildered. 

If you remember, this is the chicken who absolutely detests laying eggs.   Her normal modus operandi has been to start grumbling (quite loudly for her size) from around 11 o'clock each morning.  She would carry on complaining, while marching round and round, until late afternoon.   Then she would rid herself of the offending egg wherever she happened to be at the time.   On one momentous occasion, she dropped her egg (literally) while she was standing on my foot!  It wasn't even too unusual for her to dispose of the distasteful item whilst still on the move!

Almost a week ago we were astonished to find one of her eggs in the nest box.  Obviously this was an oversight on her part - or so we thought.   Then blow me, we found another in the nest box two days later and a third two days after that!  And there's been no histrionics all day long, not a peep!

As if that wasn't enough of a surprise, she's changed a couple of her other habits of a lifetime too.   At bedtime, we've always had to remove her from her favoured roosting place and put her in the coop with the others.  We've found her in the tangle of honeysuckle branches or on the roof of one or other of the coops.  For some time she favoured the gate of the cage beneath the main coop.   Lately she's been nodding off on the log in the run.  But for the last three nights on the trot, we've found her inside the coop with the others, comfortably tucked up on a perch.

As if all that wasn't enough for us to contend with, she now gets up at the same time as the rest of the flock!  She may be the last one to leave the coop, but out she comes.   To be fair, she does look rather groggy as she staggers down the ramp, but there's no more of the "Don't bother me in my boudoir, it's far too early" nonsense.

We find all this somewhat disconcerting; it's not like the Pom-Pom we know and love.   Or maybe it's just that our little girl is all grown up.   Oh dear, I think I need a cup of tea while I leaf through her baby photographs.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

It's bath time!

The chickens spent a good part of last week trying to dig up my dwarf ornamental cherry tree.  For the most part it was sunny, they had nothing better to do, so why not?

Tu-Tu quietly let them get on with it, watching their progress from the other side of the lawn.   When she judged that they'd got rid of most of the grass and had churned the earth up nicely, she acted.  

Irene, Rebecca and Punk  thought they were digging for worms.  Tu-Tu, however, needed a bath and took advantage of their hard work to get one.   She settled down in a nice little spot next to the tree and began her ablutions.

Maggie thought this was a great idea and came over to join her.  Her big mistake was choosing an area immediately behind Tu-Tu because that's where she kept finding her face.  Buried in Tu-Tu's behind.  Every time either she or Tu-Tu wriggled around in the dry earth, Maggie's face seemed to end up buried in Tu-Tu's exuberant mass of tail feathers.  She tolerated it for so long, but after the 5th or 6th time she decided that enough was enough.  So she stood up and slowly walked round Tu-Tu,  thrusting her head towards the little Pekin and glaring at her.  Then she went and settled down again -  exactly where she had been before!

This bit of action aroused the interest of some of the others, who wandered over to see what was going on.

Irene gets up close and personal, Fizz nestles down beside Tu-Tu

After a moment or two, Fizz decided to have a bath too.   But as usual, things don't turn out quite the way he intends them to.

Fizz has to do things the awkward way!

He ended up with his bum jammed against the tree and his face wedged up against the compost bags!   His antics caused Titian a great deal of concern, so she came over to check that he was all right.

Titian trying to work out what on earth Fizz is doing!

Watching chickens take dust baths is always lovely - but this time it was like going to a pantomime, it was so much fun to watch.   But it must have made Tu-Tu particularly tired this time because come bedtime, look where she chose to sleep:-

Tu-Tu nestles under Irene's wing

Monday, 26 March 2012

Shock tactics

It seems the chickens have devised a game of "let's see who can make Trish jump most". 

It began with one or other of them quietly creeping up behind me and then brushing against my leg as they walked past.  It doesn't matter that there's plenty of room for them to pass without touching me.  Oh no - that would spoil things because it would be unlikely to make me jump.

When they got fed up with doing that, they changed tactics a bit.  Sometimes I like to just sit quietly in the garden, thinking of nothing in particular.  Usually, I let the flock out to play, but now and then I just want the garden to myself.  So they gather at their gate and mutter darkly to each other about how selfish some people are, not sharing their garden.

Then Irene discovered that if she gets up on the coop roof and jumps down onto the nest box roof as hard as she can, she can make a hell of a racket.  And that racket will make me jump out of my skin!   Ha!   Another point for the chickens.

Pom-Pom very often wanders round beneath the bench, pecking away at random bits of corn that nobody else has noticed.  I'm sure the little madam pointed out to Irene that if she sneaked under the bench, she would be perfectly placed to rush out between my ankles.  That, she thought, should have a remarkable effect on my nerves.  Irene thought so too and put the plan into action, with the result that that I nearly dropped my mug of tea, I got such a surprise.

I can't work out if I've done something to upset them, or if they just like a bit of fun at my expense!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Last egg standing

I belong to a lovely Facebook page called Down The Lane.   The members are not only very knowledgeable when it comes to the care of chickens, they are also great fun.

Which is how I found myself trying to emulate what one of the ladies managed to achieve.  I couldn't.  But my son managed it - see if you can do it too.

My eggs rolled all over the place, but my son managed to make an egg stand upright

Monday, 19 March 2012

Faster than a speeding pullet

It's exceedingly rare for me to be lost for words.  But not only has it happened, the incident causing this malfunction with my mouth took place in the hen run!

It was a lovely morning.   The birds were singing and the sheep were making their way into the field with their new offspring when I went down to open up the coop.  Irene, Rebecca, Maggie and Titian had all made an appearance and were followed, as usual, by Fizz.

It goes without saying that Fizz immediately chased after Rebecca with only one thing on his mind.  And, as is always the case, Rebecca took off like a bat out of hell up the run.

The run is a triangular shape and narrows sharply at the top, which is where the little Araucana was heading, Fizz hard on her heels.   Almost too late, she realised that if she didn't do something, and do it rapidly, she was going to be cornered.   In a second or two, she'd have nowhere to go.  That would mean submission to Fizz's attentions, and she simply wasn't in the mood this morning.

Fizz was closing in rapidly, so she took evasive action in the most novel way.   She swung round and escaped by running between his legs!   

And that, dear readers, was when words failed me. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Thrilla in Manila (aka the hen run)

It's not at all unusual for me to tell you that Fizz has been chastised by one or other of the big girls - generally for his unwanted attentions.   Today though, things were a bit different.

Fizz came bouncing out of the cage, spotted his beloved Punk who spotted him and ran.  Never mind, there was his beloved Rebecca who was duly bonked before she could escape.   She'd just recovered from that when, much to her surprise, she was given a good hiding by Maggie!   She's still trying to work that one out.   We can only imagine that it was because she was much closer to Maggie than Fizz, and Maggie was too full of breakfast to chase him.  When you've got out of bed on the wrong side, it's often those closest to you who suffer your bad temper.  It's the only explanation I can think of.

Things were a bit different yesterday though.   Mad Irene was gazing off into space, trying to remember what it was she was trying to remember.   She was very, very deep in thought and not with us at all.   Fizz noticed this and, being the opportunist he is, decided to take advantage of the situation and attempt to have his way with her.   Brave boy, our Fizz.

Well for starters, being a full grown Light Sussex, she's much taller than the little bantam cockerel!  But did that deter him?  Of course it didn't!  He leapt from a standing start, managed to reach just above her wing, scrabbled to gain purchase, didn't - and fell off.

All this being totally unexpected, uncalled for and unwarranted, Irene was more than a little peeved!   She jumped in fright and turned to face her attacker.   Poor Fizz accidentally found himself almost backed into a corner between the tree stump roots and the fence.

It takes an awful lot to rouse Irene, but she was good and roused now.   Her hackles rose to their fullest extent and she leapt forward to "chest" him.   Not to be outdone, Fizz extended his magnificent, abundent hackle feathers out to their furthest limit and chested her back.  That should show her!   But it didn't.  Unfortunately when he'd leapt to chest her, he'd landed further back than before and was now well and truly cornered.

With a very cross Irene bearing down on him, still all hackled up, Fizz jumped onto the tree stump and back down into the ring - er, I mean hen run.  The pair of them danced around chesting each other, for all the world like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier when they met in the Philippines.  

In no time at all, Fizz found himself cornered again and had to return to the fracas via the tree stump.   When it happened for a third time, he decided this was b-o-r-i-n-g and wandered off.

Monday, 12 March 2012

How to stuff a chicken

It's been an interesting day or two, one way and another.

It was such a lovely day on Saturday that we went into the garden, let the chickens out of their run and sat on the bench to drink our tea.   Mad Irene had barely started mowing the lawn when she spotted that we had something she didn't.  And, of course, she wanted it - whatever it was.  So she legged it across and leapt onto my son's lap with the intention of dipping her beak into his cuppa.  Fortunately in this instance the hand was quicker than the eye, covering his drink before Irene could get at it.

A bit later on I went to throw some corn into their run and discovered that Fizz had learned to roof-bounce. It could well be that this was when Fizz also discovered he could roof-bounce.  Knowing I was about to dispense goodies, he decided to take a short cut from the far side of the run.  He ran, jumped a bit too enthusiastically onto the smoking shelter roof and found himself going "boing" into the air and onto the upper level.  He looked a bit confused for a moment, as well he might, before running over to join the others.

Then on Sunday, the sky fell on Pom-Pom.  She was absolutely appalled to find that the hated egg-laying business had started all over again.  She was furious!   She thought she'd laid more than her fair share of eggs last year, and now the damned things were appearing again.

Come bed time and there was Irene with one Araucana tucked nicely into her chest feathers, and the other nestled in somewhere near her nether regions.  Maggie was between her and the wall.  The minute we opened the side door of the coop, she tucked her head under Irene's wing.   We popped Pom-Pom onto the perch on the other side of Irene.   Pom-Pom promptly tucked her head, bouffant hairstyle and all, under Irene's other wing!

So basically, Irene was well and truly stuffed - not with sage and onion, but with half the flock.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Whisky galore!

One of the waifs and strays I've had over the years was a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo; his owner had died and the poor thing had been neglected.   By the time he got to us he looked like an oven-ready chicken, having pulled all his feathers out from sheer boredom.  He wasn't totally bald; he had feathers on his neck (obviously couldn't reach them to yank them out), but only one yellow crest feather which drooped sadly over his left eye.  He had bits of fluff on his bum, but nothing much anywhere else.

What Whisky was supposed to look like
Picture by: snowmanradio

Soon after he arrived, we let him out of his cage for a walk round the lounge.   We hadn't noticed the kitten hiding behind the curtain, but he noticed Whisky.  Assuming this was his new best friend, Dali bounced across the floor to welcome him.  Whisky was not impressed.  Wing stumps raised, head thrust forward, he shrieked "You NAUGHTY boy!"   At which point the astonished kitten hurtled off to the safety of the kitchen.

At their next encounter, the kitten displayed his utter disdain for Whisky by sitting with his back to the bird.  Big mistake.  Whisky marched up and bit his tail!

He was a prolific talker, but his language left a lot to be desired.  When I took the cover off his cage at what he felt was far, far too early one morning, he glared at me and snapped, "Bugger off".  Another time my two young children came giggling into the kitchen to tell me that he'd just told them to go away - only nothing like as politely as that!

Part of his diet advised by the vet was brown bread and butter.  Whisky would drop this into his food dish, then delicately take it back out and lick all the butter off.  Digestive biscuits were dipped into water before being eaten.  And as we ate a meal in the next room, the air would be punctuated with yells of "Is that mine?" or "What you doing?" or "You going out?".

He appeared to blame me entirely for his previous misadventures, even though it was me who cleaned and fed him.  Given even a breath of an opportunity, he would yank my hair out or take a chunk out of me.  But he adored my husband and the children.  They could play with him, he would ride on their shoulders or let them tickle his back.  But me - I was just the hired help.

He was quite old when we got him, but we enjoyed his foul-mouthed company for a few years before he died.  And he never did forgive me!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Years ago I lived out in Africa and I regularly accompanied my husband into the back of beyond, where he carried out his work.

On one of these trips he suddenly stopped the Landrover, leapt out and started scrabbling round in the undergrowth at the side of the road.  He returned holding a chicken egg which was in the process of hatching.

I was despatched to try to find the mother but couldn't even find any sign of human habitation, let alone a hen.  So the egg joined us in the cab and off we went.   A shrug, a final heave to get out of his shell, and a lovely little chick emerged.  I doubt there's another that's been born on someone's lap while being chauffered round the bush.  He was named Carruthers.

We were on our way to a nearby town to get provisions; it was a cool day and the sky was overcast.  We could hear thunder in the distance and rain threatened.  Under normal circumstances the little chick would be tucked up safe and warm under his mum, so how best could I replicate those conditions for him?

I came up with the perfect solution.  Which is how I came to be doing my shopping with a chick tucked in my bra.  Of course people didn't know I was carting a newborn piece of poultry in my cleavage.   All they could see was my bosom bouncing about in a rather unnatural manner as Carruthers shifted position to get comfy.

We got quite a few startled stares, I can tell you.  But Carruthers didn't care and to be honest, my 32A's had never had so much attention from complete strangers, so neither did I.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Pheasant company

I love where I live!   I love it anyway, but at this time of year it's a particularly exciting place to be because of all the fresh new life that keeps appearing all over the show.

The lambs will be bouncing around in the back field soon, but at the moment I'm being entranced by our friendly neighbourhood pheasants.

One of the males has been visiting us for some time, but when I went to check the chickens last week there were two of them.   When I appeared, one flew off pretty quickly.  But the other just ambled a few yards, thought "Nah" and waited for me to push off.  I threw him a handful of corn, which he tucked into with great gusto.

Isn't he stunning
 Photo by David Croad

The wife didn't trust him out on his own, so she was there too the following day.   She flew off when I opened the back door, but he was smart enough to know I had goodies to share.  So he waited and I rewarded him with said goodies.

The Mrs must have decided I was harmless, because the day after that her six teenagers were in the garden too.   Now everyone comes every day.

My lot aren't as small as this lot
 Photo by H. Zell

I'm sure it can only be because they trust me - nothing to do with the big dish of corn I put out for them every day.  Of course not!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Love's young dream - or nightmare

A little while ago Fizz couldn't contain himself any longer and danced his little heart out for Titian (February 3 "Gentlemen may prefer blondes ......")

I said at the time, he'd forget she didn't rate him and would try his luck again.  He's such a hopeless romantic, taking a risk on another rebuff was a sure thing.  Well I hate to be smug about it, but I was right.

There he was, surrounded by girls.  None of them had a headache, he could have had his choice of any of them.  Well, perhaps not any of them, but certainly Tu-Tu (the tart!), Rebecca, Punk or Pom-Pom (providing she didn't see him coming).

But no.   He spotted the lovely Titian and nobody else would do.  So off he danced, the love light shining so brightly in his eyes, that it blinded him to the reality of the situation.   But this time he tried a new tactic.   He'd remembered from last time that she liked .......... kissing.  Well how else would you describe one chicken pecking another chicken on the beak?   As far as he was concerned, she kissed him.  He seemed to have conveniently forgotten that her next action was to box his ears from one end of the run to the other!

Deciding on a frontal assault, he danced up to her and pecked her on the beak.  All of a sudden, he realised what he'd just done and finally remembered the consequences from last time.   He was riveted to the spot, but moved his head as far back as he could and hoped he was out of range.   He wasn't.   Titian leaned forward and kissed him back not once, but half a dozen times.  

Maybe "kiss" isn't quite the right word.   She smothered his beak all right, but with hard pecks and very close to where his beak joined up with the rest of him.

At this point, he decided that the old saying about discretion being the better part of valour had a lot going for it.   So feigning a nonchalance that I suspect he didn't really feel, he strategically retreated.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

At last!

Woohoo!  It’s finally published!   After a few unexpected delays, my e-book is finally available and I'm SO excited.   It's a combination of a prequel to this blog, and some of the early blog posts that you may not have seen.

My son did all the technical stuff to turn the words and pictures into an e-book and he designed the cover.   Just as well one of us is good at that sort of thing!

It's on Kindle, but if you don't have a Kindle, you can still get to read it by downloading one of the  free Kindle Reading Apps for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android phone at

The book's blurb says:
A humorous look at chicken keeping and what they don’t tell you in the “How to” books.
From the hen who hates laying eggs, to the cockerel who would like to, this is a hen run full of quirky personalities.   You’ll meet the village gossip, a foodie and a grumpy old tart.   Then there’s Mad Irene, whose antics are counterbalanced by a bantam with a fondness for deep thinking.    
There’s the adventurous and the timid, the fights and the friendships.   And like all good comedians, the chickens throw in a bit of pathos too.  But that is sandwiched between some dreadful table manners and some truly eccentric behaviour – even for chickens!
If you decide to get a copy, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sleep walking

When Rebecca wants to settle down and sleep, she can be a very determined young lady.

Much to her relief, Irene had finally decided to make her way into the coop.   Unfortunately, what Irene couldn't decide was just where she wanted sleep this time.   So she stopped and stood in the middle of the floor to ponder her options.

Rebecca probably thought this was a bit unusual, but in her eyes Irene is never wrong.  So she started to snuggle into the big girl's feathers as normal.   But Irene hadn't made her mind up at all, and wandered across to the other side of the coop, then back again, then to a different location altogether.   Each time she stopped for a think, Rebecca began the snuggling in process.  And each time, she'd barely got started before Irene took off again.

In the end, she decided that her best course of action was to duck in between Irene's legs and settle herself in from there.   "Duck" is the operative word because now, instead of walking round the coop, Irene was forced to waddle around with a bantam beneath her tummy!

Eventually Irene, complete with her Araucana shadow, decided where she was going to spend the night.  I hope they both slept well!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A lucky escape for Punk

I can’t tell you how very proud I am of myself today.   I actually managed to retain a huge amount of self-control and refrained from grabbing Punk by her scrawny lavender neck and wringing it!

To start at the beginning.

When I went down to let the chickens out the usual suspects emerged first, followed shortly after by by Tu-Tu.   Pom-Pom deigned to make an earlier-than-usual appearance, but that was it – no sign of Punk.  I opened the coop’s side door, just to make sure she was all right.  She wasn’t.   She was stretched out in the nest box, her breathing laboured, scarcely able to move.   She lifted her head slightly, but it was so much effort that she put it back down again.

I was aghast!   What on earth was wrong with the poor thing!   I went round and lifted the nest box lid so that I could get a closer look, try to ascertain what the problem was.   Before I could check her over my brave, brave little Araucana managed to drag herself up and staggered across the coop to the pophole.   She put a foot on the top of the ramp, wobbled, looked back at me and took another unsteady step.

I needed help and I needed it fast.  If she fell into the caged area it would mean crawling in on hands and knees to get her.   I’d do that willingly, but whether I’d ever manage to back out again while holding an ill chicken safely was another matter altogether.   I’d have to fetch No. 1 Son and he was asleep in bed.

I hurried up from our sloped garden as quickly as I could, then up two flights of steep 19th century stone stairs.   I would have been puffing a bit if I was a fit 30-something.  But I’m rather more than double that and about as unfit as you can get, what with having a dicky ticker.  So I could scarcely speak when I staggered into my son’s room;  I gasped out the problem, he got dressed and down we went to the hen run.

And what did we find when we got there?   A perfectly fit, healthy chicken.   She gave me a look that said, “What?  Whaaaaat? ”

We realised that I must have woken her from a particularly deep sleep.  It was at that point, fortunately for her, that my self-control asserted itself.