The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Soft Eggs, Rubber Chickens? May 28, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 10:41 am
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Yesterday I couldn’t have been more excited and I was very nearly late for work. It started out with a missing hen, our Flo…I thought maybe she had just had enough and didn’t want to play with the girls that morning but I had to check she was okay. I slowly opened the door and had a peek to find her on the nest box! The nest box, our Flo putting some serious consideration into laying an egg. I hurried to work and thought I’ll run home at lunch time and run back to work, I thought better of it. But I’ve never been so pleased to get home and look in the next box, a tiny bantam sized pale egg like none we have ever seen before. I’ve never felt so proud.

Needless to say they all got spoilt, I was so pleased Flo was happy! They got to snuffle around the garden, they were fed copious amounts of corn from my favourite perch on the back door and we all had a lovely evening.

Today I’ve paid for my indulgence. As it’s the weekend I was a little less keen to get out of bed and I wanted an extra chapter of my book so the start to the day was delayed, I could hear the normal clucking and cooing & thought all would be forgiven. I opened the hen house and they appeared one by one the garden was theirs to stretch their legs while I gave Coop a once over. I opened the external door to the hen house and to my delight, an egg! A lovely pale small egg. I wanted to see if it was warm, I reached my hand in and it was soft.

A soft egg.

I don’t have rubber chickwans so why am I getting rubber eggs?

A little investigation and I could see a yolk hiding between the wood shavings. I start to panic, all the hens seem in good spirits chasing each other around, generally get in the way, no one looks sickly. Everyone is eating and drinking as part of the routine. I get some corn out and we sit by the back step and I give them all a thorough inspection just to satisfy my confuddled mind that they aren’t rubber.

It turns out that it is in fact quote common for hens to lay the odd soft shelled egg. I immediately thought lack of calcium but they have good grit available whenever they need. Glen placed the egg gently in my hands…weird. Pale, almost translucent and the skin is oddly like a balloon, you can manipulate the egg between you fingers and it really does feel very rubbery and powdery, like someone rolled it in flour.

Its likely to have happened for a number of reasons, because we found one complete egg and one clearly split egg with only the yolk remaining in tact its likely someone by sheer magic had two eggs on the go, it didn’t turn into a double yolker and in doing so there wasn’t enough energy and nutrients to ensure two hard shelled eggs so we had two soft shelled eggs fall out as it were in the night as they were under the favoured perch.

Still its possible someone in our flock is defunct in something. I think someone’s lacking protein…in the week of mixed corn being heavily on the menu and a lack of sunshine on their backs, protein will have been lacking with only about 10% protein in mixed corn with 18% available in the layers pellets we keep them on. But whose is going to eat layers pellets when they know if they fuss around my feet my heart will melt and they’ll get corn if they so much as look at me with the cute tilty head thing.

I’m confident that no ones unwell, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for anymore and wouldn’t think twice and booking an appointment with a poultry proficient veterinarian. So we’ll keep them on pellets only for a week with a once a week treat of corn, find other ways of having fun together and watch this space.


The P Word & Essential Maintenance May 22, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 8:14 am
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Its time to talk about poo, as much as I’d love to tell you my chickwans wear top hats, scarves and waistcoats and take their baskets to town every day, these aren’t chickens from a Beatrix Potter book…They live in Coop in my back garden.

They eat, sleep and drink where they poo and they poo where they eat, sleep and drink! Chickens aren’t naturally clean animals, they go where the fancy takes them, quite literally. But this aside Chickens really are a most rewarding pet for very little maintenance.

A daily and weekly routine is essential but very workable into daily life. It starts when it times to get up, they’re normally very ready to come out of the house and have a snuffle around the garden, all the doors are opened and Coop gets a good airing. A general poo pick is done from the run, the hen house and nest box. Real life chickens do not discriminate in their excrement and it is essential to remove them as a means of stopping any disease in the flock spreading or eggs fouling. Because the Chickwans eat what they want when they want the droppings and chippings are very suitable for adding to your compost and improving your soil quality.

I put the feeder on the lawn to keep them amused and away from the coop a while. Its also a good means of keeping me associated in their minds with food and allows for a good ‘pet’ of the more social hens. I have a brush of the nooks and crannies in the hen house keeping and eye out of chicken mites…which will come, no matter how proficient you are with chicken husbandry. So far, so good for Coop and the Gang but I’m not going to be lazy about it. The feeder and fresh water are placed strategically in the Coop so they’re protected should the weather turn and with sufficient room for the girls to get around.

We all go about our daily lives and regroup of an evening, where during the evening stretch of the legs or after they’ve put themselves to bed I have a good sweep out of the downstairs, remove food and water for the night. Mostly so we don’t attract any other four legged friends. We have a pick out of unnecessaries in the feeder and throw the water on the veggies and the routine starts again the very next day.

Hay for the nest box, straw for the bottom of the run, chippings for the henhouse and grit are topped up whenever required and changed in the weekly clean out alongside a good once over, a brush, a spray and a deep clean of the feeder and water and takes no more than about twenty minutes, its normally a lot quicker when there isn’t someone, who shall remain nameless, shutting you in the coop or taking pictures of you while you’re buried to the waist in the hen house.

A top to toe deep clean, air and repair is to be scheduled every 6 months and we’ve started a list of things we’d like to change and improve about Coop and hope over the summer while the weather is good and the gang can snuffle around the garden to get most of these done.

The gang in the most part are grateful of your efforts and it takes them about 10 minutes to destroy all your hardwork and make it theirs again but they really do fit in around what you can do when, keep the routine and the housekeeping up and your chickens really do reward you ten fold.


7 Days Older, 7 Days Wiser? May 15, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 12:56 pm
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Well it’s been a week to the hour, I’ve counted fingers and toes, human and chickwan and we seem to have as many as we all arrived with. What a week, it seems like they’ve always been here, cooing, scratching and pooing. For a first week we’ve had it all, eggs, wing clipping and the pecking order.

I don’t know if I had forgotten or wilfully ignored the downside of forming a flock   and the business of living. So the girls are giving each other grief, necessary sorting it out while they’re young and new…but grief none the less.

Mave the Merciless is definitely the hen at the top and lent herself perfectly to a name that rhymes with Merciless. She gets to do what she want when she wants, if it looks in doubt, a short sharp peck beats everyone into submission, including me.

Our hen in the middle appears to be Doris, who is fickle as the wind…if the mood takes her she stomps around with Mave, if the wind changes she’s floating around with Flo ducking in and around Mave and if she gets bored she’ll have a nip herself.

At the bottom of the order that leaves Flo, who really is copping all the flack. There has been neck pecking, leg nibbling and comb pulling, but fortunately our little chickwan isn’t so silly and she’s getting much better at ducking out of the way. Although one night she was snuggled down with Mave in one of the nest boxes…I couldn’t quite compute whether the world had gone topsey turvey and left was now right and dark was now light or whether I’d inadvertently walked in on a hostage situation. Its still a mystery.

I’ve sat on my hands and tried not to interfere, they have to sort it out for themselves, best to do it now and things will calm down but it’s not been easy they can actually be quite mean.

We’ve shut them together for a day after coming home to find our Flo in the hen house seemingly unwilling to come down, we’ve provided an extra small bowl of food so that no scrapping needs to happen at meal times and plenty of water so that’s not a battle either. I also bought some anti peck spray from our local pet shop and after a morning of a clingly chickwan I doused her in it and needless to say she tasted less than pleasant if someone did want to take a nip & she didn’t care for me much either which meant she had to play with her own kind.

But things appear to have calmed down for the gang and someone must be happy enough to lay an egg so we can’t be doing too badly in our first week either.


Coop & The Gang May 10, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 6:29 pm
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Chicken, noun – a domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat, especially a young one.

Chickwans, noun – three domestic fowls kept for eggs, in south Oxfordshire.

You nearly stumbled your way into Cluckingham Palace, at the time we just had a coop, fortunately that name got vetoed and Coop & The Gang came to pass, but you cant have a coop without a gang.

We’ve been umm’ing chickens for a while, we’re a household at loggerheads as to a suitable family pet, he’s dogs and I am cats. For us, chickens seemed a reasonable compromise for a loving pet but also a working animal with a purpose.

We’re by no means proficient in chicken husbandry, novice is probably being generous as we’re very much learning the highs and the inevitable lows on the job of our life with Coop & The Gang

So heres the gang, scratching, pecking and strutting about

From left to right we have, Doris our light sussex formally poofeet & one of the Gang, we have Coop,  Mave our speckeldy currently Mave the Merciless and number 1 in the pecking order and top of the gang and Flo our blackrock, formally facepecker and most definitely at the bottom of the pecking order.

& me well I’ll continue to be a chicken botherer as long as they’ll let me.