Update on the Spice Girls – our ex-batt Hens

Update on The Spice Girls – our ex-batt hens

The bad news is that Cinnamon didn’t make it, she was struggling to stand up and eventually just gave up.  The other three worked out how to hop out of their little pen and joined in scratching for bits in the hen house – keeping a wary eye out for the resident hens and keeping out of their way as much as possible.

Ginger has become very inquisitive and now she always hops out to meet me and follows me around, keeping close to my feet to avoid Doris and Fliss and Floss – the youngest hens.  Here she is pecking at the grass – it’s the first time she’s seen snow and she’s missing half her feathers but she’s happy to be outside when I am around.

Although the young hens don’t like the Spice Girls and peck at them if they get too close, the older hens are quite kind to them.  Ebony, the oldest, really doesn’t think a lot of Dillon and has always kept out of his way as much as possible.  She has found the little pen a refuge and spends quite a lot of time in there with the Spice Girls.

Whilst the rest of the hens perch at night, the Spice Girls all go back into their little pen.  I wonder if they will ever learn to sleep in the rafters.  In the meantime, they’ve learned how to perch on the edge of their pen in order to get out, that sunflower seeds are a treat worth running over for and grass is edible.

This is Dillon with Doris – she is the biggest bossy boots in the hen house and definitely top of the pecking order.

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

I was wondering what the Spice Girls (our newly arrived ex-battery hens) would make of Dillon – our Dorking cockerel – he’s grown into a really fine specimen.  He was a bit small when he arrived and I wasn’t sure if he would grow to full size, but, as you can see, he has.  I put an ad on www.preloved.co.uk when I lost my last cockerel and a very kind family from Kent donated him.  A friend of theirs was visiting family in Cheshire and she offered to deliver him.  We met at Audlem (which is how I came to write about Audlem for Today’s Treasures).  It was a baking hot day and she was worried he might get too hot – she was also worried that he might crow all the way there but he was really good and arrived safely.  I racked my brains of a way to say thank you – then spied the pumpkins – and thought they might be a good idea (it was September) so swapped Dillon for two pumpkins – one for Dillon’s taxi driver and one for his previous owner.

The Spice Girls have settled in – and are laying eggs!  But (as I was warned) have stayed pretty much in their little pen.  However, I went out at lunchtime to see how they were getting on and Ginger was ‘gingerly’ exploring the hen house, carefully negotiating around obstacles and looking curiously at the food trough full of corn.  Head on one side she studied everything cautiously.  Then Doris came in with Dillon to see what I was doing and if there were any titbits.  Amazingly they ignored Ginger – even Dillon – who usually jumps on everything that moves – it was like Ginger belonged to a different species – or was invisible.  Ginger ignored them too.  So I guess it will be a while before they realise they are all chickens and then there will be a bit of a scrap until they have sorted out the pecking order – and the Spice Girls will eventually find out that Dillon’s a cockerel!

Meet The Spice Girls – our Ex-battery hens

Meet the Spice Girls

We have adopted some ex-battery hens through the British Hen Welfare Trust @BHWTOfficial.

We’ve called them ‘The Spice Girls’ – there’s Cinnamon, Meg (nutmeg) Corrie (coriander) and Ginger.

As advised, I’ve kept them in a smaller pen inside the hen house.  I shut them in the little pen for the first three nights.  I’ve taken the top off today so they can see outside but (as I was told but didn’t quite believe) they have stayed in their little pen.  I wonder how long it will be before they venture out.  They probably don’t even know they can jump onto the side of the pen to get out.

My hens all perch at night – I have put perches at a sensible height (3 – 4 feet off the floor) but the younger ones fly up to the rafters as high as they can get.  They fly up in stages but come down in one big jump – of course feathers help a lot in getting them safely to the ground.  It’s a big shed so they have plenty of room to manoeuvre and navigate a flight path.  The older hens are more sensible and perch lower – and come down in stages – I put straw bales in steps so they can hop down a bit at a time.

The Spice Girls are missing a lot of feathers and their combs (the red bit on the top of their head) are pale and droopy.  To henkeepers this is a sign that a hen isn’t happy.  Hopefully they will all be feeling better soon and their combs will be bright red and perky.  Cinnamon doesn’t seem to want to stand up much so I’m keeping an eye on her.

Here are some of the other hens outside with Dillon.

Sweet tubs make great water bowls for my rabbits

Water bowls made from sweet tubs


I am a great fan of recycling – and if you can reuse something first – even better.  This is an excellent example.  Sweet tubs – the large ones everyone gets for Christmas containing a selection of chocolates – make great water bowls for my rabbits.  They are reasonably easy to clean – and you can replace them with new ones every January!



Spring plants that rabbits like

There are lots of spring plants that rabbits like and, fed in moderation, they are really good for them – too much green stuff can upset their digestion – but a few leaves of a few different plants  every day is fine – and they really enjoy them.


Comfrey leaves and flowers are a favourite – not to be confused with foxglove which has the same shape leaves.  Comfrey is very easy to distinguish at this time of year as it’s in flower and foxglove is just leaves.


Foxglove is digitalis and very poisonous so make sure you pick comfrey plants with flowers.


Rabbits like most herbs, these are chives which have a slightly onion smell.


Another spring weed in garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-hedge which has a mild garlic scent – rabbits like flowers and leaves – smaller plants are most tender.


And of course the dandelion, just leaves and again in moderation – just two or three leaves a day.

I like to give each rabbit a choice of leaves and see which they eat first – they don’t all choose the same ones first.  Dandelion likes comfrey and Fiver likes chives.

Every day I get real pleasure from picking a few choice titbits and watching the rabbits enjoy eating them – the hens like some plants too, particularly the brassicas, but their favourite is always bread and they come running when they see me carrying a basket.





One of my favourite spring flowers is coltsfoot – unusual in that the flowers appear before the leaves.

The Christian word ‘Easter’ is derived from the pagan word ‘Eastre’.  Eastre or Ostara is believed to have been the Saxon Goddess of the Dawn, hence the reason why Easter is celebrated at the time of the Spring Equinox.

The connection between Easter and the ‘egg’ symbolising new life also originates from pre-Christian times but fits perfectly with the Christian belief of the resurrection.

Although our youngest son is now 15 (and the others are 25 and 22) we still have an Easter Egg Hunt each year – but now with cryptic clues and riddles they have to solve rather than a trail of tiny Easter eggs.  Clues like:

What has to be broken before you can use it – and where can you find some?  The answer is of course – eggs – in the hen house.

Family time is so important – and often so difficult to organise with so many computer distractions – but it’s always worth it.


The days are getting longer

The days are getting longer, Spring is in the air, with the promise of summer to come, there’s a great sense of excitement in the garden, you can almost feel the grass growing and the daffodils bursting into brilliant yellow splashes of sunshine.


Here is Charlie with his foster-mum – Mrs Grey – and I’ve called the other chick Ebony – I think he (or she) is a pure  is a pure Vorwerk.  If so (s)he’ll look like one of these when (s)he grows up:


This is Captain Von Vorwerk with Violet, they are quite impressive hens and they lay little white eggs.

What Happened to Amber?

What Happened to Amber?

After the squirrel episode yesterday, when I went to let the hens out, I looked for Amber, half expecting a squirrel to be in her pen again – and all I found was a pile of feathers!  The door of the pen was open and the protective wire had been ripped off the bottom of the pen.  Amazingly Charlie chick was OK but cheeping pitifully.

I put him in with the other broody hen who has two chicks and watched with my heart in my mouth to see if she would accept him – quite often hens will not have anything to do with chicks they haven’t hatched themselves – but thankfully she let him snuggle down with the others under her feathers and he stopped cheeping.

So what had eaten Amber?  I’ve seen foxes rip open wire pens and get through really small gaps but foxes generally carry off their prey and eat it somewhere else.  A polecat maybe?  I know that I didn’t leave the door open because there’s a picture of the pen on this website that I posted yesterday – so what opened the door?


A Squirrel in the Hen House

A Squirrel in the Hen House


This morning when I went out to feed the hens, Amber was making such a commotion, so Betsy and I went over to see what all the fuss was about.  Amber is in a pen on her own as she has just hatched one chick and it’s only two days old.  I couldn’t see the chick anywhere and Amber was squawking like mad.  When I opened the door of the pen, there was a squirrel inside!  Betsy soon saw him off and shortly afterwards the chick came out of hiding and calm was restored.  But how did the squirrel get in?


Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the Air


It was a beautiful frosty morning, the sun glinting off thawing raindrops.  I love this time of year when it’s just warm enough – and hopefully dry enough – to get out in the garden but not much is growing yet, so you can catch up with clearing up the vegetable patch.

It’s a rare ‘window of opportunity’;  time to get rid of all the perennial weeds like docks, nettles, buttercups and the perennial grasses.  I give the weeds to the hens – they love scratching though them looking for worms.  By the beginning of February there’s a sort of hopefulness in the air, the birds are singing, showing off their bright spring feathers and busily looking for nesting places and the air is alive with the promise of things to come.  It’s exhilarating just getting outside and living and breathing – and becoming part of – Spring.