Hens 2013

New year in the hen pen and there is weeding to be done around the edges (no suprises there) and the fruit trees. All of the flowers that had been planted around the trees have been dug out or eaten by the girls so I think I will have to surround the bases with chicken mesh and then replant.

Hilda is still with us and is quite perky, enjoying the sun and the grape vine.

Her favourite food is grapes and she swipes them away from Lou Lou as soon as they hit the dirt. She is not laying and I don't know if she will again so early retirement for her :)

Happenings late January
Lou Lou laid an egg! Yay! She had laid a shell-less one the day before and I was a bit worried but then this morning was a perfect little speckly egg. Maybe she liked her new bedding of fresh pine shavings with lavender, rosemary and calendulas added :)

Below are some pics of Lou Lou and Hilda.

The laceys finding shade under the trees.

Happenings February
There are tiny bugs in the bnf, I can assume they are mites of some description due to their size and the fact that there are so many! Yuck! I have just removed the bedding and wiped all around the cracks and crevices with raw garlic to hopefully repel them for the night.

Next day and it is raining this morning (finally, Jan was so dry!) so I will have to wait until tomorrow when it is forecast to be fine and do a proper clean. The debate is whether to use neem oil or ripcord after I waterblast the house out. The neem is organic which I prefer around the girls and in articles I have read appears to stop the reproductive cycle in the mites. The ripcord kills them outright but leaves a residual film which I'm not sure I like being that the bnf's nesting enclosure is small. I had a check in the big house and there doesn't appear to be any bugs in there, although I might change the pine shavings and give all the crevices a spray as a precaution. Interestingly, I have always had lots of rosemay, lavender, nasturtium and calendula in here so maybe it does help repel the little suckers. I will feed garlic more often also, I'm sure that helps but I have been slack over the last couple of months waiting for the garlic to grow (which has just been dug up). Just writing this is making me itchy. Ick!

A couple of days on and the bnf has been waterblased out. I decided to go with the neem and mixed it into a small sprayer and pumped it up. It must have been an old sprayer and made of nasty plastic as the nozzle disintegrated with the pressure and the contents poured out in a stream! Luckily it was pointing at the path. So I ended up using a powder for fleas, mites, lice and all things bugs on animals and caged birds including poultry. I sprinkled in the cracks and around the edges of the nest box and put fresh bedding with loads of lavender added. If nothing else then at least everything smells nice! I figure that should help for a few days until I get another sprayer. The next morning when letting the hens out I notice that there is a row of dead bugs along the edges where I sprinkled the powder so obviously that works :)

Happenings April
The girls are all doing well and producing lots of eggs.

I have built up the original small pen in the run with straw and compost etc, to make it a good area for the girls during wet weather. It just needs some clear sheets of polycarbonate over one end for shelter during rain and will hopefully solve the problem we have of no dry day area. Also, with the heavy rains arriving and lack of drainage the bricks in the coop run were staying damp so I've lifted them and swapped the polythene beneath for mudstop fabric, added drainage metal and relaid bricks. Hopefully this will keep things drier.

Happenings June
It's getting colder now, eggs are getting fewer. Lou Lou is laying one per day still but they are getting a bit later. Cag and Lacy lay on alternate days..

It has been raining hard off and on for the last few weeks and the run is just starting to get a bit muddy. The pavers have helped a lot although I have still to put up the permanent poly sheeting, I have got temporary clear polythene on the side where the rain comes in and the roof of the hen house pen. The girls don't seem to care either way, they still just want to get out there and scritch!

Hilda has slowed down and doesn't show much interest in racing around with Lou Lou, she enjoys her porridge with grated cheese in the mornings and then settles into a pile of wood shavings for a morning snooze. That seems to be her happy place. She still has a little chat when I go visit and is interested in anything edible that I might be bringing ;)

We have got mice looking for a warm winter hidey hole and they are finding their way into the hen house in the evenings. Darned if I know where they are getting in as I check it before dusk and then close the girls in for the night. Sadly I might have to resort to traps. I do not like traps. However, there have also been big nibbles around the poop door. This is looking like the work of a rat! Mice are cute, rats not. I will set the cage trap tonight and see if that stops it.

Happenings July
Cleaned out hen house and washed down bricks, note to do some painting during the next fine spell.

Tuesday 9 - Hilda passed away. She has been very slow the last few days, even when I took her with me into the potager she didn't show any interest in the vegetables, just sat amongst the straw. This morning I went to feed her her porridge and she was in the same place as when I checked her last night. The other girls are quiet this morning, I think they know. Bye, bye Hills.

Happenings August
While painting the potting shed I thought I would paint 'la grange du poulet' to match, the new colour will be slightly paler and a little bit creamier. I might even paint the bnf as well just to keep with the theme ;)

Bought a new pullet as a buddy for Lou Lou. She is quite cute and is a cross between, I think, a double-laced barnvelder and maybe a shaver? Those are the two most likely at the crazy hen place where I got her from but they weren't sure! The other breeds there included SLWs and araucanas, which she has no resemblence to. She is about 7 months old and they said has just started to lay. She is in her own cage in the hen pen so the others can get used to her. She will stay there for a few days before I let her in with Lou Lou. Now to find her a name ...

August 3 - Let Lou lou and 'newby' together and to say madam Lou Lou took exception to the new arrival was like saying the weather forecasters get it wrong occassionaly! She stood twice as tall as normal and pounced on poor 'newby' (must get a name), who was just as nice as pie and obligingly tried to get out of madams way. She almost made it and only lost a couple of feathers. Now, I know I should have just let them sort it out, to a point, but I am of the 'peace not conflict' brigade and so swooped in and plucked (so to speak) little 'newby' out of harms way and consoled her while she uttered a few quiet clucks in my ear. Oh Lou Lou! You bad hen! Is that how you treat a guest? For the rest of the day they had mesh between them.

August 4 - Newby pullet still sleeping in her small cage inside 'la grange' with madam Lou Lou. So this morning I let her out while Lou Lou is there too. I have the feed bin in my hand and this produces a quandary for the stroppy one, thankfully her greed gets the upper-hand so 'newby' makes it out of the house bum feathers intact. Down into the straw-pen we go with Lou Lou leading the way, she knows there are goodies in that bin. 'Newby' follows at a distance. Lou Lou made like it was her first meal in weeks and gobbled everything as fast as she could stuff it in her beak before 'newby' could get there, so I saved a few bits for her.

Interestingly, the lacey's don't seem to mind her and this morning are having a chat through the mesh in the straw-pen while the stroppy one is in her house laying an egg.

August 8 - Newby has a name, meet Eleanor, (Ella for quick calling) so suits her and she knows it already and comes to me when I call her. Such a clever girl. She makes the strangest growling noise when she is happily scratching about in the grass, most unusual. Lou lou is still chasing her about when it crosses her mind but there are periods of calm. I am closing the straw pen gate and separating them off and on throughout the day to give them both a bit of quiet time.

August 14 - Lou Lou has settled a lot and Eleanor is much happier. The only little squabble seems to be at night when they go into the coop. Eleanor goes in first and Lou Lou follows and chases her out and jumps up onto the top roost. I go and close up the house so it is dark and then pop Eleanor on her lower roost. Funnily enough, up until now Lou Lou has always slept in the nest box. She now sleeps up on the roost. I think this is to do with being top dog, or it could be because I close the house when she is up there lording it about and then it is too dark for her to get down! Ha! Either way, it is better cos the nest does not get mucky :)

Midway through August we have just had a huge rain storm for a couple of days. The hen pen is drenched and the girls are walking in mud when they leave their house enclosures.

This is not good for their grooming as they normally have an area in each pen where the dirt has been tilled to death and they can dustbath away any critters which may have hitched a ride. At the moment these areas are muddy, water-filled holes and the girls are looking at me in only slightly disguised disgust.

I only have one shallow tray thing which I can use as a container so I fill it with compost, sand and diatomaceous earth and put it in Lou Lou and Eleanor's run. I have rummaged around and found an old fresh-water container for the Laceys, filled it with the above and popped it down by the fence in the sunshine. It is not a big container but I figured they could take turns. Lacey hopped in first. Then they squished and huffed ..... oh very comfy I'm sure!

Happenings September
There has been a lot of steady rain and things are very muddy in the hen pen. I'm planning a new enclosure for next year and it will include covering the whole house area.

On a bright note tho, Ella laid her first egg at the very end of August. It was so cute and very speckly. I found Lou Lou studying it hard when I went to clean out the nestbox! Such a suprise. She has laid one every day since then so now I am getting 4 eggs most days. The Laceys lay 3 between them over 4 days and Lou Lou has always laid an egg a day.

Happenings October
Then hen pen is still muddy in places. I have put fences up to stop the girls getting to worst of it. The grass is getting long and would turn to hay if it had a chance.

Spring always brings wild winds to the paddock and this year there has been a fair few thunderstorms as well. I have covered parts of the hen houses and runs with tarps and clear plastic sheeting to keep the worst weather out. Summer can't come soon enough!

A few sunny days into October and the hen pen is drying out rapidly. I have put the trimmer over half the grass area and removed the dividing fence which has seperated the Laceys from Lou Lou and Eleanor. They have always seen each other but through the fence. The new idea for the hen house and run area requires them to be in together so after the initial squabble they all just went about exploring each others side of the fence.

Lou Lou ran straight into the Laceys house, pecked around and scoffed anything she could eat. Ela made friends first (and got sat on for her troubles), then followed Lou Lou and checked out the other digs. They had a great time in there while the Laceys scratched and pecked in Lou Lous' favourite pozzy under the fejoa hedge.They all went back to their own houses for the bedtime grain treat though!