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.  Ginger 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.

My 12 days of New Year Today’s Treasures

Special moments to treasure every day #mentalhealthin2018

Day 1:  A free range egg for breakfast from #happy #hens #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 2:  Herbal tea made with fresh #herbs – camomile, mint, hyssop, thyme, sage will all grow in windowsill pots #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 3:  Watching the wild #birds eating the food I have put out for them #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 4:  Eating fresh fruit #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 5:  Walking in the #sunshine – even if it’s not sunny – fresh air helps clear your mind #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 6:  A vase of wild #flowers or winter berries on the kitchen windowsill I can look at whilst washing up #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 7:  A smile – smiling makes you feel better, sharing a #smile makes two people feel better #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 8:  Listening to the birds #singing especially the robin – beautiful, mellow, liquid notes #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 9:  #hugs – everyone needs hugs – if you don’t believe me just try it with an open #mind #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 10:  #music – but especially sharing live music #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 11:  #sunset watching the sun go down #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 12:  Writing helpful happy #tweets and posting pretty pictures on #twitter #happiness #mentalhealthin2018

Is eating no meat actually doing more harm than good?

Is eating no meat actually doing more harm than good?

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“People are trying to eat more sustainably but my worry is that they are turning to diets such as veganism that are not necessarily as sustainable, nor as healthy as they imagine.”

I have always believed that, to be truly sustainable, crop rotation should include a fallow field grazed with animals – and the ideal diet should include some meat.  To me, it makes much more sense to use animals to manure grassland.  If you drink milk, then, on average, for every calf born there is a male calf that is killed at birth – how much more sensible would it be to raise these calves for meat?  Try and buy veal from a butcher’s shop in Britain and you will find it’s practically impossible – although you can buy rosé veal online from Shropshire based www.alternativemeats.co.uk  This is, I am told, because we believe it is cruel to raise calves for white veal – but rosé veal is from calves that are raised and killed humanely.

So I was very pleased to read this guest post on the Farmdrop website from Patrick Holden, Dairy Farmer and Founding Director of the Sustainable Food Trust which works to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food and farming systems.

He says:  “I am growing increasingly concerned about the large number of people turning to diets that may not necessarily be either healthy or sustainable.

“A healthy diet should work backwards from the most sustainable way to farm, and that ideally means eating the foods produced by mixed farms using crop rotations which include a fertility building phase, usually of grass and clover grazed by cows and sheep, but also pastured pigs and poultry.”

https://www.foodandfarmingfutures.co.uk/Library/content/Detail.aspx?ctID=ZWVhNzBlY2QtZWJjNi00YWZiLWE1MTAtNWExOTFiMjJjOWU1&rID=MTM1MjI=&sID=MQ==&bckToL=VHJ1ZQ==&qcf=&ph=VHJ1ZQ==

Some years ago, I went to a talk by Charlotte Hollins at Fordhall Organic Farm www.fordhallfarm.com  – and she was asked a question about the higher price of organic meat.   Her answer has stayed with me.  She said:  “Organic meat is better for you – and it also tastes so much better.”  She suggested that replacing some meat with vegetables at each meal, and having a vegetarian meal once a week would even out the cost, so for the same budget you could include organic meat.  So that’s what we do – I now have a selection of dried and tinned beans which I add to dishes like spaghetti bolognese  and lasagne, replacing some of the meat – and, amazingly, the family are quite happy with the result – and it’s better for us.

My crop rotation doesn’t include sheep, pigs, cows or goats but it does include hens, ducks and rabbits – and the manure they produce enriches my compost bin, replenishes my soil with nutrients, and grows wonderful pumpkins.  This year I have allocated a fallow patch for clover – which the rabbits love to eat –and I am leaving some to flower for the bees when I dig the rest in ready to plant cabbages.

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Liquid Gold Sunset

Liquid Gold

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Sunset over Shropshire as the last rays of the setting sun shine on the flood waters spreading across the fields

Managed to spend sometime in the garden last weekend, tidying up, muck spreading in the polytunnel – digging in rabbit manure and some lime. Rabbit droppings are quite acid and tomatoes suffer from blight (yellowing and wilting of the leaves and the tomatoes rot) if the soil is too acid.

Just finishing off and I was leaning on the fence in my favourite spot, the sun was setting and a flock of starlings were making patterns in the sky. This isn’t a lake it’s a waterlogged field, we’ve had so much rain this winter; I’ve had to move the hens from the front lawn as they were paddling in mud. Now there’s Spring in the air and we wake to frosty mornings.  The Candlemas Day rhyme was right – it was fair and bright and winter is having another flight although this year it’s more like it’s first fling, this morning’s frost felt like the coldest so far this winter!

 

 

 

The Nuthatch

Nuthatches like sunflower seeds as well as peanuts.

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Our neighbour works wonders with bits of old iron and he made this very innovative bird feeder which all the birds love and the cat hasn’t found out how to get onto yet.  We get visits from a pair of nuthatches, they usually pick up a peanut and fly off to eat it but this one stayed long enough to be photographed.

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I have also seen nuthatches eating melon seeds but they prefer peanuts.  The hens like melon seeds too.

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.

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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:

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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?

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A Squirrel in the Hen House

A Squirrel in the Hen House

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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?

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Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the Air

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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.