coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Warming Up For Spring March 4, 2012

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 1:00 pm
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It’s still technically winter, but there is something in the air that tells us spring is on the way, the clocks are not long due to change, the evenings and mornings are getting ligther and the garden is trying to look more spring like every time we open the curtains.

The chickens are most definitely warming up for spring; the increase in day light has made a big difference. Mave is back baby. After a long hiatus from laying since October in fact, getting over lice and an early and prolonged moult she’s back. Her comb had shrunk and become dull but she was fine spirits, bar the indignities of my insistent inspections but her comb is back to its full shape, her ears, wattle and comb are back to a beautiful vibrant red and all the girls have come back into themselves.

Although we’ve not kept chickens for very long and I still fail not to get excited with every egg in the nest boxes, Wednesday was a particular thrill, three eggs! All different in size, shape and colour.

Maves so tiny but perfectly formed but such exciting times…a full nest box!  A palatable hopefulness for the future in the air and a positive reinforcement for me that all my girls are happy and hearty. Even with this thick fog that starts the day there are tiny signs all around that spring really is on its way.

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Egg Hiding & The Signs Of Broodyness January 8, 2012

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 1:00 pm
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We’ll Coop & The Gang don’t half talk about Mave…We are a family of three after all. The only thing Mave isn’t contributing to at the moment is egg production, that’s Doris & Flos domain. Despite my belief that although our girls claim to be pure breeds, I suspect they are a motley crew. I’ve inspected enough chickens up and down the land in the last 8 months so know there are some noticable differences in our girls to the “true” breeds I’ve seen.

They provided 12 perfect eggs between them for Christmas morning scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, there would have been more had I looked a little harder. We have a hider in our midsts.

My money is on Doris, who on the night time inspection is always found resting in the nest box. She kicks all the bedding out the way and snuggles down, she’s more than happy for you to have a stroke and feel under her for the odd egg or two but left over night on them you’ll find them gone the next day.

It wasn’t till we were home late one mild night and decided to leave the girls out for the night, we are relatively predator free & lord knows the girls would give as good as they get wake me up and I am more than capable of throwing things out of the window with relative accuracy that would see most things smaller than a wild boar out of the way.

I left collecting eggs that day till the light was fading, she liked the fuss but there was nothing, she decided to take her space on the perch and with a whip of her wing she dislodged some shavings on her exist, what’s that…that looks egg coloured. Once she’d departed I started to move the shavings out of the way, I rootled in all the corners and one egg, two eggs, three eggs, four. Two a piece for Florence and D Unit.

Florence is a stealth layer, you rarely notice she’s gone to lay an egg, as soon as she’s hears some fun somewhere else she’s off and her laying and egg song isn’t the most dominant in the group. I also don’t think she spends enough time in the next box to be the hider.

I’ve considered if Doris is broody. Out of all the girls I suspect she is the truest to her breed and with that comes a higher change of becoming broody, a modern hybrid is less likely to have this desire…apparently. But despite her egg song being both loud and proud, I’m not convinced. She does tend to sit on a number of eggs at the end of the day and chickens typically won’t start to incubate until a whole clutch is laid. She seems in fine feather between legs and breast and she’s not growling at me when I pet her on the box and once they eggs are gone she will happily leave the nest box and roost on the perch. We have had one broody poo, a lovely flat glob of poo in the nest box that smelt so bad but for every egg removed she’s placing another one but she’s not nest building as such, we’ve had no added leaves, twigs of straw bought up, just most of the bedding kicked to the sides and used to hide eggs.

My next thought was predators and although chickens aren’t credited with being very smart they are always smarter than people give them credit for, we get taps on the back door when they want feeding, fuss or both and they even sit on the windowsills watching what we’re doing. We’ve never had an incident of any of the gang showing an interest in eating eggs, even when we had the two soft shells earlier in the year, I was more worried about getting them out of the way before they did. We’ve seen no signs of broken eggs so I can’t see that she’s hiding them from her fellow coop mate.

Maybe Doris is just being funny, maybe she is thinking about getting broody but doesn’t really know whats going on. We’ll keep an eye out and see how she goes. The mothership kindly picked up Coop & The Gang a rubber egg for Christmas should we need to formulate an intervention!

 

One Egg, Two Eggs, Three Eggs, Four October 30, 2011

Following some quality time with the girls yesterday, some great twitter chicken chat & some really great blogs digested through the day go me thinking. Recently I’d thought we’d become a little too boring for others to enjoy, they feed, waters & snuffle. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This mornings extra hour of awake time we all gained from the change from BST back to GMT got me thinking, the girls are still in fine egg but with the recent changes in my routine they’ve mostly been gifted on to friends in the street & colleagues at work & I really haven’t been taking time to enjoy them nor their hard work. With a perfect glut on my hands & eggs balanced here there & everywhere the mission was set.

Chickens snuffling & clucking around the garden, two recipes found & the days agenda set. A home made ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream maker made from 6 eggs, sugar, cream & vanilla extract & a lime curd from 4 eggs, 6 limes, 1 lemon, sugar & butter, om nom.

A trip out to source as much local produce as possible was a success with a new farm shop, complete with chickens & reindeer for local cream & butter & a commercial shop stop for citrus ingredients, sugar top up & an electric whisk, revolutionary.

Ice cream 6 eggs split, whites beaten until firm but not dry, slowly adding sugar, while whisking double cream till thick & beating eggs yolks & vanilla. Fold in & freeze for 8 hours, phew, the ice cream should be ready to serve at 8.10pm tonight after a short stint in the fridge. A rumour from the glass bowl is that it tasted just like melted ice cream before it went in the freezer so I think we might be on to a winner.

Now onto the curd, grate the zest of 6 limes into a bowl, juice the naked fruit & the lemon. Add A LOT of sugar, four whole eggs & cubed butter, mix & gently heat in the bowl over a rolling boil until the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring, keep stirring, keep stirring & wait till its thickened, pour into sterilised jars & seal. Lick bowl.

The ice cream as with all raw egg products isn’t advised for the elderly, pregnant or small children but we don’t fall into any of those categories, a wonderful morning in the kitchen & the perfect long lasting sweet treats we can enjoy long after egg production has slowed.

 

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!

 

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?

 

Wiggly Worms July 31, 2011

So, all quiet with Coop & the Gang. One last dusting with powder & hopefully that’s it for chicken louse for this year. It seems they’ll be back but at least next time we’ll know what to do and know the signs.

The Gang have cheered up and normally has resumed, Mave is up to her aerobatic tricks, being cheeky and generally bullying around. Doris is dust bathing daily and Flo is starting to come into her own, braving a leap to the knee for treats, but I think she knows she’ll always get a back hander from me if she doesn’t look like she wants to join in.

From Ectoparasites to Endoparasites. In our period of discomfort in the gang we noticed a lot of odd poo, chickens poo a lot but its horrific when its not quite the consistency you’re used to.We decided it was a good time to consider worming the Gang as defences with the louse were likely to be low.

There is no truer saying that prevention is always better than cure, but lets face it if there is something on the market to help you out you’d be a fool not to take it. Its important to worm poultry regularly but alongside that managing the hen house and coop alongside that goes along way. Keep things clean, dry and using your common sense can prevent the heartache of a poorly bird, worms can destroy the digestive system of a chicken and indeed in turn the chicken itself. & If your birds get worms, they’ll cost you a fortune to feed and laying may be reduced.

Oddly there is only licensed chemical wormer on the market, Flubenvet, its mixed with feed in a daft ratio, but comes with a handy scooper and whoever you purchase it from will require your name and address. There are plenty of other products out there for other animals that research on the internet has seen that Vets will offer but they’ve not been licensed for poultry and the herbal alternatives appear to only reduce worm numbers rather than remove worms completely.

As this is our first flock we’re doing the best we can first time, so a trip to the farm store and £18+Vat later I was the proud owner of Flubenvet. Now what the hell do I do? Its a white powder and feed them bulky food? Layers pellets were not the answer. So you run to the local petshop and find a suitable alternative feed, conveniently in 3Kg doses so you can mix half the scoop in and know they’re getting the right amount.

You end up with chickcrumb, designed for pullets…6-8 weeks is the latest they should be on crumb, but you’re babies are sicky and you still like to eat rusks so its okay. I lined up my three varying sized Tupperware to mix the half scoop into a small amount, mix into the next Tupperware with the larger amount and then finally into the big one for a good old shake about. I sterilised our second feeder so we started a fresh and the girls knew I meant business.

It went down a storm. Mave had her beak clipped as a chick to mark she was trouble, its still not fully regrown, its getting stronger and we’re on the right track but she does find it harder than the other two to eat, clean and drink with the disadvantage. But they loved it, no fuss at breakfast, no kicking the feeder about and no pooing in it! Hurrah.

This continued for 7 days, on Flubenvet there needs to be no withdraw from eggs which is handy as there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing good eggs go to waste, it brings a tear to the eye. The flock seem happier and I am please we tried it. Its recommended to rework in 6 months time, so I’ll make a note in the diary to do it all again then.

In the mean time, its back to pellets…and the girls aren’t overly impressed. But that’s another blog for another day.

 

Lice: A Parents Worst Nightmare July 10, 2011

Lice. Every parent’s worst nightmare. You think you’ve been unhygienic, you think you’ve been unclean. The fact is, Chickens not unlike small human baby children play with, on and near things that you don’t necessarily know what they’ve played with, on or near.

It all started with a tweet in which I requested my dearly beloved to check on our top hen Mave as she’d not laid in two days and just seem a bit sad. Turns out he ignored my tweet, I did my gym session and came home to a pretty fed up hen. She’d been off for a while and non of them were particularly speedy to roost of and evening and Mave wasn’t particularly fussed about getting up in the morning either.

A quick scoop of Mavis and an over all inspection didn’t yield much. A duff beak, wonky legs, good comb and wattle and nothing out of the normal. Then someone decided to back fluff the chicken & she was crawling. Luckily it wasn’t me or I may well have dropped her there and then.

As the hen is returned safely to the ground and the panic sets in, we look over coop, turning bedding, looking in corners, taking out the perches all the while trying to ignore the skin crawling I’ve definitely got them eww gross feeling we both had.

On inspection of coop, it wasn’t red mite, phew. But oh, what was it? I never bought the Haynes Manual for my car, but I bought it for the chicken. Quickly quickly find the page, find the page.

Ahh Menopon Gallinae, the common chicken louse. They fitted the description, small, yellowygreyish in colour and quickly scurry away from light. A quick google search on chicken lice will mean you see all you need to see, or alternatively you can come round and I can show you from baby louse or big gross louse.

Chicken Lice are not life threatening, they feed of dead skin and feather debris on a bird, they do irritate, hence the grumps in the flock and if found in big enough numbers can hamper a chickens ability to deal with day to day bothers of being a chicken. It also means they’re more reluctant to roost and get lethargic. You couldn’t have described Maves change in character more to a T.

Bums. Panic set in again, boy is already at this point removing bedding and I am just wandering around the garden at 7.40pm trying to work out what I can get from where. It took me a while to get to the answer, nothing till tomorrow. We agree there is no point changing bedding till we’ve deloused the birds and we can’t delouse the birds till tomorrow. Lets just be nice to them and go away.

Bugger. Grumpy chickwan explained. Crawling in lice. Beak clipped as a chick means she can’t keep them at bay, gah. Feel bad.

The treatment for chicken lice, is delousing powder which is as glamorous as it sounds. Our local farm and country store opens at 8am, so that was my first pit stop. Two canisters of powder and some ground sanitizer. Turns out we weren’t the only ones struggling with lice and warm damp conditions are meaning a lot of people are struggling to get rid. There is something comforting in knowing its not just you.

Everything in coop had to go, keep them on dust free wood shavings only and a through deep clean with a different cleaner. For our week to week clean and sprays we normally use Poultry Shield, a multipurpose cleaner, organic mater killer and odour neutraliser, but for this one we decided to bring out the big guns. Total Mite Kill…a multi action cleaner with added insecticides…smells like lavender.

In the rain we bagged, scraped and brushed coop. No place left to hide. Then to the birds. Have you ever tried antiquing a chicken? I defy you to succeed antiquing a wet chicken who knows your game. Doris just sulked, she stood out in the rain with her wings out and her head down.

All the tips about laying a chicken on its back and holding legs and keeping head and beak out of the way with one hand were near on impossible for coop and the gang. Plonk the gang member of the table, use all four hands and be prepared to wash your clothes.

The lice aren’t gone and we’re powdering every 3-4 days, bedding change and clean out weekly but spirits have improved and egg production is back up. Once we’re deloused we’ll powder every 6 weeks as the old sayings are the best…prevention is better than cure.