coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

A New Home Pt 1 October 7, 2012

A blog over two posts, two very different posts under the same title.

This first post is long overdue we moved in early June this year about 18 miles from South Oxfordshire to the North.

As a purchase it was planned but not believed, we had got as far as waiting to exchange before elsewhere. So when the call came it was a genuine surprise.

With 2 days to do it in that was it, but what about Coop & The Gang? I still worked just round the corner so a quiet week to prepare & a move the following weekend wasn’t out of the question.

My parents helped us move, Coop & The Gang were out & enjoying themselves while we packed up the van with the first load of badly loaded boxes & bags. That was soon unloaded at the other end & we’d done very well. At this point Doris has knocked an egg from the nest box & doing exactly what chickens do. I’d spotted her from a window & started wailing like a banche…this was the last thing we needed today.

Once we had tidied up we sat down & reassesed. Mostly just the garage left & some odd furniture. The bed had already gone. Well wheres the blow up so we can stay here with the girls tonight? It also dawned on us that Coop hadn’t fitted in the car to get here in the first place we’d had to use the van. Our hand was forced.

With very little prep, they’d had cider vinegar in the water & fortunately the weather has been very good that week so spirits were high.

We’d saved a big box so atleast they could all travel together & they were going with my Dad in his little truck.

We took coop apart & bar the felt roof she’d warn quiet well, surprisingly well. We counted the screws out & hoped it would go back together just as well & he’d come apart.

I sorted the bedding, the dirty from the not & bagged it up for reuse…maybe incorrectly but at least it would smell familiar.

25 minutes on the road & we’d all arrived, the girls had travelled well & seemed quite contented in a box in the truck.

We only had to botch 1 screw & added a few more for security in the deteriorating felt roof. We cleared a space & I made it as homely as I could, used bedding, cider vinegar drinking, some corn mixed in the feed & then we added the girls.

They were very happy, despite our garden having no grass. Its all decking, slabs, pebbled beds & slate.

Originally we’d ruled this house out because of no grass for the girls but one our 2nd look it was still on the market so we had a look & I stood in the garden & said I had to have this house.

The girls have never been happier, the sound of chickens running over decking is my favourite. They spend many an hour digging in the pebbles & the beds, chasing the new interesting flying bugs our new plants & trees bring. I’ve even caught Mave sat on the edge of the pond to pass the time or maybe admiring the fishes?

We have a garage with side access & an out door tap. No more chicken supplies in the living room!

We spoke to our immediate neighbours telling them of the girls & if they had any problems with the noise we would make alternative arrangements for them.

Someone else within ear shot also has chickens, sitting inside I’ve gone out a few times to see what all the fuss is about to find my girls are just snuffling in a raised bed & the hollering is the other chickens.

Its lovely, our yolks are so vibrant & they’ve never been so consistent in lay.

Happy, Happy, Happy & coop!

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It Never Rains It Pours January 1, 2012

What a December its been for weather, not the normal mizzle and drizzle for this time of year, all together quite pleasant and mild, but when the rains it blows a hoolie out there.

I don’t remember the garden being this wet last year but as I keep reminding myself I had no reason to go out into the garden this time last year & can well believe I just didn’t. Following the flooding of the garage from the rains earlier in the year we had it flushed and surprise the surprise the run off appear right in front of coop, typical.

The Chickens were the first to complain, Mave more so than her usual disapproval of the weather. They’re a funny bunch and a little rain doesn’t normally put them off but this was a storm of epic proportions, If they could save a third on their car insurance they two would have bought chest waders with the savings.

One evening I came home to three puddles in coop and the starts of a full flowing river. Eek. They were all in the hen house, mud up to their knees looking less than impressed. I’d not been doing the morning feeds as he indoors had been working from home, I was informed that three puddles and a river by torch light was much better than it looked this morning in the real day light. Right battle plan.

We head to the trade store…15 slabs, 7 bags of pea shingle and some little miniature fence later and we’ve had some idea of building a patio in the dark by torch light while the girls are asleep. We slid coop up the garden, pegged out the area with the miniature fence, filled with pea shingle and laid three slabs deep by five slabs wide & lifted Coop & The Gang back in situ within two hours, in the dark by torch light.

Considering it was in the dark and wonky as you like we were relatively impressed with our efforts even more so in the day light when it’s settled quite well and turned out not so bad.

The morning after however, no one seemed very impressed with us at all. It took Flo and Doris ten minutes to come downstairs and Mave wasn’t coming out at all. She took one look turned tail and headed straight back into the hen house. Oh no…not even some scattered corn was getting her down, I fed her in the hen house so at least she had eaten and left for work. By the end of the day she had come down and filled her tummy but she was not impressed.

Following a covering of straw and some regular corn smatterings to keep them turning the straw they seem to have come round to the idea, a nice way of keeping their nails and beaks in check, nice to be able to give them the run of the garden for earth snufflings and at least it stops me fretting when the heavens do open.

 

Going Commando December 31, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 3:00 pm
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It appears Mave is in full moult. From the odd feather here & there to a hen house scene that made me wonder if a fox or cat had got in. Had I not seen three chickens jump out with the shake of the feeder I would have started digging around in the sawdust for remains.

An alarming amount of feathers have come off Mave, a few nights she perched alone with feathers scattered around…neither part unusual for the moult, its likened to a human having the flu…don’t touch me, don’t even look at me! Pin feathers are soft and full of blood so can be very sore when ruffled or even touched. Maves always snuggled in the middle as top hen. A little worried lice were back…I wanted to wake her & bring her in. My better half persuaded me to let her sleep.

I bought her in, a guide of the house under my arm & then an inspection from my lap. Phew, no lice but a hand full of feathers so a handful of corn on the blanket & some chatter proved she was in fine spirits, good colour, clear eyes & nose. Back to Coop with a full tum.

Every morning we have a hen house full of Maves beautiful downy vent feathers . But she’s still first to the feeder & to stick her beak out of coop to inspect the forecast.

Having read some of the forums & sought some chicken club advice some extra high protein and energy treats purchased in the hope that extra protein would help Mave replenish her feathers a little quicker. We fed Mave in isolation for a week to ensure she was getting fair feed on the days I wasn’t home during the week. At the weekends three bowls, 10 minutes each, no hanging around eat it or lose it!

Mave seems to have come through the worst now, she’s a completely different colour around her neck,  her crop and wattle are still pale but she’s in fine spirits. Meanwhile Im still collecting the feathers & find myself dipping my hand in to the downy fuffly lovelyness. Maybe I’ll use them as a filling for something, waste not want not.

 

Worms, Worms, Worms

Well, I’ve been a little neglectful for the online side of Coop & the Gang in the last month and what a month. Following on from our earlier post wiggly worms…it happened.

Just as I thought we were settling down following lice & with the light change I’d hoped the girls were settling into a routine to see them through the darker days. On my return home from my mornings duties, Flo was getting the usual abuse & Doris was pecking mash off her beak & I thought I saw something funny in coop. A lot of rather odd looking spaghetti lengths loosely held together with some brown.

Little fork in hand, I enter coop & smuggle it out of the way, I let the girls snuffle around while I tidied up & found some treats. I found our wormer and mixed up a small amount with feed, corn & some meal worms for interest. At this point it was confirmed not to be Doris…she pooped on my carpet. It was however Flo or Mave who deposited some more spaghetti hoops on the back step. You can google yourself chicken poo with worms its gross, but I didnt find anything that came close to what we encountered.

Knowing full well that worms can destroy a hen we had medication in our kit and were 6 monthly dosing so I was surprised & a little dissapointed to see we had worms. They’d not let me know, maybe Maves moult was just covering the fact she looked dishevelled with dry mangled feathers? She’s always had a boney keel but she was putting weight back on & no one had muck around their vent which always gives a way internal issues.

A drop in egg production is a noticeable sign of worms, but also of winter. No one looked or felt underweight, depressed or full of worms. So, how did they get them? Well worms lay eggs, chickens pass eggs. Slugs & soil help the eggs hatch & the chicken eats the eggs or larvae and we get worms.

I sanitise the ground we keep coop on, I keep feed dry…we are unfortunate the Coop is in the boggy part of the garden where the soak away from the front ends, but coop is for the most part dry. We have many garden visitors who dont help, it only takes one unwormed animal to pass by and we are slug and wormy heavy…& my girls can snuffle out a slug or a worm at 10 paces. They’ll tear around the garden just to ensure its theirs and despite a constant supply of fresh water they do like the rain waters that gathers in oddest places I’ve never even realised I need to tip out.

Flubenvent mixed up with crumb & mash & a tiny spot of oil, smaller feeds mean the girls can’t selectively feed on non medicated food in the garden & some added nutrients in the water for seven days and no further suspicious looking passings passed, it seemed out worming routine worked and was doing exactly what it was meant to. Phew, they do like to keep me on my toes!

 

November Bits & Bobs November 20, 2011

 

Not a groundbreaking week for Coop & The Gang but some exciting news has lead to thoughts of pastures new & a better life for my lovely little ladies. Got my sights on a grand design with a garden focused round them.

I’ve safely boxed 12 eggs for Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday next before advent where the girls will be contributing to the preparation of the families Christmas pudding.

With this in mind they’ve had some nice treats to say thank you, mixed corn, meal worms & a peanut butter mess to keep energy levels up. It seems to be working, Im happy to announce we’re lice free & have been for a few weeks. Mave has bulked back up & dusting is on the maintenace routine for every 6 to 8 weeks in a hope we can keep them at bay over the winter weeks.

 

 

 

We’ve had fun with feeders again this week, now that is a post I do need to sit down & write. Two nights I’ve come home to the top very much unattached from the bottom. What now I’ve tried them all?

With the modifications which have happened to Coop following the last clean, the ramp has been removed for health & safety reasons. The part attaching the ramp to the hen house gets a fair amount of abuse from poo as its within aiming distance of the favoured perch & very well trampled by pooey feet.

As a result when brushed with a stiff brush part of it came away! Oh no, I broke Coop, help help help! I scurried the girls away, what if they got a toe caught, or a beak….its shiney! I found a screwdriver, took a big deep breath and tried with all my might. Phew, it came off and not such  bad thing, it needed a good clean.

What will the girls do? Can I get a box, do they need some stairs. Well the answer is no, before I’d got the removable base back in Coop Doris had hoped up and said hello. As the week has gone on it appears the girls are very capable & seemingly enjoying jumping to & from the hen house. In the morning they get points for dismount and do appear to be trianing for the olympics, Flo bunny hops down as the first awake she has no one to step on, Mave takes a little back step and then gives her best jump. Doris as the last up has to take a good run up, part avoid a feeder and either Florence or Mave, we did get a little cute wing and leg kick from her this morning. Aww.

But without the ramp there is more space in Coop so we have introduced the outside feeder I was saving for pastures new but what they hey. Its up on legs with rain hat purchased from the CLA game fair this year for a steal. Its only day two but its still intact…baby steps,baby steps. But its still clean & not pooped in….rare!

Tonight  its going to end up in every possible part it comes down to & covered in poo now I’ve said this. Oh well.

 

Long Stretch To Winter October 1, 2011

Well don’t I feel a little bit of a fraud writing this on the 1st October with crop trousers and a t-shirt on with the back door open, the gang out mooching and sunbathing but this week I really thought the long stretch to winter was on its way.

The icey feel of the poop coop scooper in my hand, the morning feed at 6:40am when they didn’t get up, the 9pm get homes and they’re all ready asleep and the final blow on Thursday, no eggs. Not a single one.

I knew this day would come, at first suggestions of local neighbour thievery sprang to both our minds, following cat scarergate anything round here is possible, but after checking the house and the garage for smashed egg stains that seemed highly unlikely, if you were going to steal eggs and think you were going to get away with it you’d steal one from the three every day not all of them. Thievery a side it really is getting to that time of year

Chickens, like humans, don’t come to any harm in the cooler months unless there is long periods of sub zero temperatures and to them it’s not cold till its sub zero but winter in the coop often means a decrease in egg production and cold grumpy chickwans.

A Chickens ability to lay is down to the pineal gland, which operates based on daylight, a decrease in daylight means a limited ability to lay. To keep up egg production over the winters months then incandescent bulbs are ideal for keeping birds in lay but as eggs are not vital to the functioning of the gang in this family I think we’ll wing our first winter together and see how we get on just as we are.

It’s the keeping warm bit I’m more worried about since the outbreak…and constant louse problem with have with Mave, all straw and hay has been on ban and with the problem under control rather than gone I am reluctant to start filling the coop up.

Coop has the necessary roost space for all our birds to fluff their feathers up and have a snuggle, I am looking forward to attempting to make them warm porridge with layers mash and we have plenty of water receptacles to swap in and out should the ice bite.

We’ll put some thought to the deep litter method if we’ve moved, its essentially composting in the coop while the chickens are in there but from reading the forums does generate some heat that might just keep the wind from whistling.

We’ll see, bring it on. I may get some saddles and knit some bobble hats!

 

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.