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!

Advertisements
 

Noisy Birds January 15, 2012

The last few days the girls have been giving us grief or maybe my tolerance levels are running a little low but the incessant unrelenting tapping on the back door has seen me shuffling them straight back to coop with a flea in their ear.

I can’t work out if they think the paint spatters on the back step are corn they can eat or that I’ve taught them too many bad habits by always feeding them while I sit on the back door step and fussing them when they started tapping.

We live in an end terrace, built up small estate. We have screaming babies, small yelling children, irritating yappy dogs, catawalling cats and cars wheel spinning in and out of the road to visit three doors down at all hours. In spite of all this in the quiet times, our estate is quiet. Till recently.

Doris

Hens for the most part don’t make a lot of noise, they’ll alert each other to danger, squawk to reintegrate themselves into the group and announce they have laid an egg, but there is no unrelenting alarm call that comes with a cockerel.

Mave has always been a talker, well a squeaker and likes to interact with you on a you cluck I’ll cluck basis that proper soothing cluck cluck sound that really does warm your heart. Florence is always a barometer for danger, an odd cluck when she’s really had enough of being under your arm to a full on b’caw ‘b’caw when she spies the neighbours cat or a red kite apart from this you wouldn’t know Florence was around…the amount of times we’ve tripped over her as we didn’t even realise she was there.

Doris, well she was quite. Recently she has somewhat fallen in love with the sound of her own voice, not the soothing cluck cluck…the kind of chicken-a-walling that means at 7am, I can hear her through our closed double glazing. She is the only hen on top form presently, Mave is still covered in pin feathers and Flo has only two remaining tail feathers for her efforts with the moult.

This morning they were out of the hen house at first light with food and water but Doris just wanted to chat. I thought maybe we had an intruder in the garden, but a peak out of the curtain showed nothing other than Doris frog marching herself up and
down the front of Coop belting out her morning tune one b’caw after another, I hoped she’d wear herself out with all the yammering but no the only thing that settles her is seeing someone she knows outside.

Which sadly at the moment is my only option, while I would rather she didn’t realise she could summon me on a Saturday and Sunday to her our neighbours ALWAYS sleep with their window open & they’re good people who deserve a lie in. Really I do just want her to be quiet.

With Doris is doesn’t seem to matter if she’s cooped up or free range, if she wants to wail like banshee she will at the moment. Fortunately it doesn’t appear to be earlier than the permitted noise hour of 7am but still not everyone wants to be up at that hour. While tidying the garden and giving Coop and good deep clean out and while the girls were stuffing their faces on worms and slugs uncovered by the clean up we had Doris up on the table for a good look over, she’s not in pain, her skin and feathers are good, nice clean eyes, strong beak, good colouring, so why the hollering bird?

I do worry about the noise from Coop & The Gang, it’s not a “normal” noise you’d put on your urban environment list of most people so it stands out and we benefit from the laughs & the eggs and even I find it annoying sometimes!

This week we have permanently black out the windows in the hen house with blackboard paint, precision not required and I am considering lining the door once we’ve done this to act as a little insulation noise and otherwise. Any other suggestions?

 

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?

 

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!

 

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.