coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

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.

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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.

 

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!

 

Boredom Busting Ideas July 1, 2011

It somehow seems wrong talking about fun when I think if I move I might melt to the sofa, but that was the name of the game this week.

Rightly or wrongly I feel bad for the time the gang are hulled up in Coop, all their freedoms are met and they have plenty of space, food, water, access to shade, sunlight and everything they need. But chickens are a lot smarter than I thought.

& my Chickwans are no different. They know exactly what is going on and where they need to be. Recently we have been trying to expand their routine where possible to stretch their minds and their legs and in some cases their wings.

We’ve made corn harder to reach for, seemingly impossible without a little cunning & thought. This has particularly caught the attention of top hen Mave. I so much as have to bend over to water the plants & I feel like a pirate with parrot Mave on my shoulder wanting pieces of eight. She will do anything for corn, she stamps her feet about working for it but she’ll get there.

If you google entertainment for chickens there are lots of tips and ideas, a few I decided to give a go. I swear these chickens are out to bankrupt me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. For the most part they will keep themselves amused but I want them to have more fun associated with me. Its all about me!

I tend to have a salad every day for lunch, I tend to have a lot of off cuts, lettuce, pepper, celery so I got a “Boredom Beating Food Ball” from the good people at the Eglu Omlet Shop  Its a wire ball that allows you to fill with anything you wish to keep any pet amused, it works a treat. A great way for them to get some more vitamins and minerals, handy waste disposal and it can be as challenging or not depending on where I place the ball. They like cauliflower more than me, a great share and everyone needs a good stretch in the morning.

The next investment came courtesy of typing chicken fun into ebay and seeing what came up and it turned out to be this lovely little ball from Savic entitled Chicken Fun a wonderful little plastic number with some elastic holding the two sides together for you to put treats inside, in my case meal worms and corn, the more they bat it around the more goodies fall out. I don’t know who had more fun with this, them playing with it or me watching them! Check out the video on the website.

Flo was the first the get her head around it, Doris a close second and Mave, well she point blank refused to even entertain the notion that she might have to work for treats and just kept flapping on my knee. Soon learnt her though.

It’s not a treat they get everyday but its certainly fun watching them all bat it around, trying to swipe it from each other. We’re in full egg production so they can’t be too unhappy. They catch the odd slug in the garden, much to each others great amusement whoever found it runs around the garden hotly pursued trying to find a quiet spot to nom it in peace.

Me, well I’m going to keep feeling guilty about keeping them shut away for too long, working to the pay the bills and saving for the dream of a long lush paddock where the gang can be as free range as they like with some lovely little friends.

 

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.