coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Turning Chicken Poo Into Something Useful…Hopefully! August 27, 2011

I hate to say it but the girls are struggling, the temperature has dropped and the weather is less than their favourite and Mave bless her is doing her best to sunbathe when the sun does come out but Doris and Flo are snuffling under bushes and garden furniture to dodge the showers

Sunbathing Mave

I’m glad when I’m at work they are coop bound when its raining, there is nothing more sad looking than a wet chicken who smells a bit and at least I know they are dry and have somewhere warm to gather and are more likely to gather in a small space if they need to. As hardy as they are, I can’t imagine they enjoy standing around getting wet. It doesn’t help they are positioned in the soggy part of the garden, post drain problems we now believe the soak away operates at that end and it so green and secluded and lush for a reason. Not too hot, not too cold but definitely a bit boggy en route to Coop.

There is always one thing I don’t like about wet weather and chickens and that is most definitely the smell. There is no avoiding it and maybe when the weather is nicer I just see the chickens as nothing but darling, poo aside but they really smell chickenney when its damp.

While I’m pleased our chickens fertilise that patch of the garden, there is a requirement to dig the top inches of erm…debris out of the chicken coop and there is a lot of ancillary waste from bedding, daily poo pick and general muck. We rent and pocket garden in pots so we aren’t currently in a position to fully utilise the by products we find. It gets bagged and boxed and for the most part deposited at the local tip or in our brown waste bin. Granted in the 4 months they’ve been here we’ve only made one visit.

Doris: Wheres that Slug gone?

Chicken waste is excellent fertiliser, free and plentiful even in a flock of three. There are a number of choices, you can sling it, use it and add in lime to balance the acidity which isn’t practical in the potted garden. I’ll hold my hands that we have gone with the first option, due to space and our desire to live as portably as possible so as soon as life allows we are out of here, as relatively deposit proof as possible. I already plan to move the chickens first, grass the area and turf if we have to. Funds are being saved.

However this week I’ve come to find a third option which might suit our current situation. We have somewhat of a chicken club at work, our CEO, MD, our lead tender writer, head of marketing and my good self in finance all keep hens and ducks in our  various capacities, we share articles, hints, tips and keep the office in eggs. I had posed the question of waste in a confined space and it was suggested with try Garlic Powder and Bokashi Bran an instant way of neutralising droppings by the use of micro-organisms.  It sounded weird and it sounded ideal.

A quick read around and it appears that a mixture of garlic power and Bokashi Bran may solve all our problems. The garlic powder is highly rated on the forums as a good way to help reduce the smell of chicken poo and the Bokashi while high in fibre and weird little bug things will mean I can chuck it straight on the plants and if mixed myself the Bokashi can also be added to the hen house under the perches as an added oomph…the toilet block under the seat if

Snuffling Flo

you wish

I am hopeful this will help with the smell of the hen house on damp mornings. I don’t know if the chickens know how bad they smell, but if they do I’m sure it’ll bring a smile to their faces to.

So now I am off the source some Bokashi…the garlic powder can be added to the next smallholders shop in the mean time I just have to hope the chickwans chose to eat the food rather than use it as another excuse to redecorate the floor of the coop.

Wish us luck.

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Eggs Glorious Eggs August 21, 2011

Well I’ve got one in ear on the hob listening out for the potatoes from the garden to come to the boil and the other ear on the back door in case we have an invasion of the miniature beasts of burden. The girls are out and about, pooing and sunbathing only really bothering to move about for food and water oh and some chair acrobatics. I say move about for food but really all I mean is strain the necks to grab a ripe tomato from the plant they are enjoying some dappled shade from.

But dinner consists of our own potatoes, green beans and quiche made from a lovely contribution from the girls, bacon from a local piggy, onions from the in laws and pastry made by my own fair hands on the living room floor, the only space big enough, with all local ingredients.

There isn’t a lot in this household that we won’t eat, but surprisingly we are a one egg eating household. Despite this, someone is eyeing up Doris up for Christmas…which in the true sense of pocket farming should be the ultimate goal, but she has a face and a name and I love her too much for all that.

But what do you do with so many eggs? With three a day coming in most days without fail we have set up a relatively friendly egg exchange…I’ve had rhubarb, green beans, courgettes, eggs box a plenty and the offer of money.

There is a lot said about fresh free range eggs and when you hold a fresh warm egg in your hand there is nothing more exciting than the thought of its bright orange yolk and its subtle depth of flavour oh and the tiny bit of relief when a little bedraggled chick hasn’t fallen out.

As with everything home grown you take your time and give it a little more love on the search of perfection, it’s the same with eggs, the yolks range from a beautiful sunny yellow to a deeper orange following the days they’ve snuffled around the garden and guzzled on their favourite treats. The whites are firmer and hold their shape significantly more to their shop bought counterparts.

We scramble, we fry and we boil, but the firm family favourite is pavlova… egg whites from 3 large eggs lovingly hand whisked with 6oz (175g) cast sugar, no room of fancy gadgets in our pocket kitchen, until stiff and baked in the oven for an hour on 140 then left to go stone cold in the oven. In this time we lovingly use the left over yolks with two other whole eggs, a spot of milk and a filling of your choice encased in pastry and you have a beautifully rich no left overs beautiful quiche. My favourite use of half a dozen and I am sure the girls would approve of the use of two days hard work.

How do you eat yours?

 

Food, Feeders & Fuss August 6, 2011

Food & feeders have somewhat been much subject of debate for Coop & the Gang, which considering chickens don’t have a sense of taste, only smell, tickles me. Chickens a lot like humans don’t really have a daily limit, it depends on whether they are free range or not, what time of the year it is, whether its hot or cold, how long the days are etc.

On the scale of effort required to keep a pet, chickens are low maintenance and cheap to run. In the time we have had our chickens back in May we’ve bought one set of sawdust and a bag of hay and have just started our second bag of feed. Both we get from a local small holders store vat free for just over £15.

Laying hens typically need 130-160g of Layers Pellets, 15-20g corn and access to 500ml clean water to exist. The general advice with any pet would surely be don’t get them before you know what to feed them but the world of chicken feed is quite diverse and someone always recommend something different.

There is crumb, pellets, mash, scraps, mixed corn as the more substantial meals and lots of subtle additions such as spice, vinegar, apple and grass for extra nutrients, then there is treats. Chickens have quite a complex digestive system and the one thing they require no matter what you feed them is grit. Chickens don’t have teeth so the grit is held in the gizzard to help grind the food.

As we purchased Coop and the Gang at point of lay we started them on layers pellets, which ideally should be fed about 3 weeks before your chickens start to lay roughly between 17 to 24 weeks, layers pellets are easily available from most garden centres and pet shops. They also contain a consistent amount of everything a hen requires, essential oils, acids, calcium and phosphorus squished into nice neat a tic tac sized pellet. Very easy to administer and store with the added bonus that no hen can selectively feed. Like all animals they do pick out the bits they like in favour of those that they don’t.

Layers Mash is essentially the same feed but in a different form, they can be fed from the same time, it can be fed dry or wet in cold or warm water to create a porridge. It takes longer to consume so for plucky hens it is a great distraction and ideal to keep them occupied. It also has the potentially to be messy and dusty, wet or dry!

We tried them on crumb while worming and I believe when worming I will always use crumb but this is a personal choice based on nothing more our experience it didn’t come recommended it was just a convenient vehicle to assist in worming a sad hen.

Chick crumb is a complementary feed for chicks, rich in oils and proteins with fibre and ash, a good first food source. Its typically fed between 6 to 8 weeks old at which point they should move to growers pellets.

Feed can be changed as often as you like, but it is important to do it gradually over time by mixing feeds in increasing quantities over a week or two before moving soley to the new feed. This allows the hens digestive system to catch up and get used to the new feed and for the hen to get used to the new feed, with the whole no taste buds they are reliant on size and texture as a means of knowing if it something they can eat or not but this to will come with time.

We’ve tried it all and I think with Coop and the Gang variety is key, I think I am a little over worried about our top hen Mave, she’s still not over the lice and we’re still dusting but she is cheerier and having seen her struggle with her beak I thought we should look to alternative foods to give her a fair chance. Today we got 20kg mash to give a go in a mix with pellets so that all hens have easy access disabled beak or no disabled beak!

I am looking forward to mash being on the menu for the hens over the winter as it can be mixed with warm water to help keep the chickens warm in deepest darkest winter and ssh but between me and you I am looking forward to seeing them in the snow!