The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

First, Second And Third May 28, 2012

It’s been a while, in this time I have spent a lot of time at home relatively speaking given the confines of a 9-5 job Monday to Friday and this has meant some real time with the girls.

While this has mostly resulted in a lot of wet play with dirty foot prints up the back step but we have celebrated their first birthday with us with some hot worms and snuggles on the back step, seeing them peck at the bowl, select the one they want, bash it on the ground and subsequently run as quickly as they can around the garden with the other two in toe.

The chance to spend time with them has made me rethink the dynamics of the group. Initially we thought Mave was in charge, her stout stature, constant squeaking and bravery to take the lead, enjoy the human contact and know what to do to get what she wanted made her the clear leader in the pack.

Doris fell second in line, keeping out of the way and moving in her own way and Flo took all the flack from Mave, comb and wattle pulling, being bumped out of the way and just getting doused in anti peck and choosing to spend her mornings with me rather than with her own kind.

When Mave fell sick with lice, which took us longer to rid of than we wished, the dynamic changed. It was nice, everything just seemed to work, everyone was eating, drinking and having fun. I’d even go as far to say everyone was sharing.

Having spent a lot of time outside with the girls and been able to sit amongst them to the point they
forget that you’re there it appears the dynamic may never have been what I thought.

There were always odd moments when we thought Doris seemed to be in charge, if the gang is at risk she’s at the helm, sounding the alarm and putting herself between the girls and danger. Originally we put this down to the size differential, for a Light Sussex she’s built like a house. If things got desperate she’s the one you’d eat.

But yesterday I was sat in coop during laying hour, I don’t know why it was hot and it was shady and cool in there. But as I was topping up the bar with cool drinks and hanging some cool treats for the girls to play with later something rather odd happened. Mave was doing her post lay squat for a while, Doris wandered in, decided she wanted Maves spot and just got herself in the same nest box and used her head to get under Mave and send her on her way and Mave just let it be.

My Mave, Mave the merciless, Mave who doesn’t take nothing from no body, yeah that Mave.

Later we had afternoon treats, three chickens two hands never works at the best of times but Mave was really pecking at Flo…In itself nothing odd but Doris was just minding her own. Which combined with the early episode in the hen house has raised some really interesting questions…

Is Mave vying with Flo for second place? Has Doris always been in charge and this always the battle for second place? Changes are a foot either with them or how I see my girls.


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.


Its All In A Name… November 6, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 1:00 pm
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The British Hen Welfare Trust have released the results of their 2011 Hensus, amonst the data collected about choice of feeds, mortality & predation rates in rescued ex bats, egg production & views to food standards including labelling is a lovely section with some wonderful comments about how hens have affected lives & finally the most popular names.

In first place, Henerietta. Tied in second place, Daisy & Ginger & in third place Rosie

Other top names included Betty, Ruby, Doris, Mabel, Matilda, Poppy, Lily, Babs, Hetty, Molly, Dolly, Millie, Lucy, Penny, Hattie, Martha & Peggy.

What a selection! Coop & the Gang has one member featured, Im sure our Doris would be pleased to know she’s not the only one.


Doris, Coop, Mave & Flo

So how did the Gang come to pass? I always liked the idea of calling one of the girls Mave…inspired partly by Willo the Wisp & Mavis Cruet, well the anti Mavis Cruet, but had she not been strutting her stuff & showing off when we approached the yard, she could just have easily been called something else, she is my little darling. I fell in love with her on sight, a lovely little waddle, good shape in the vent & a cheeky glint.

Doris was next, she was later named at home. He selected her, more by luck than judgement, so after a brief stint as poo feet as that was her most defining feature before acquiring her real name, Doris came to pass. He’s always wanted a Doris, as I had refused to be referred to as “his Doris” he got our light sussex instead.

& finally our Flo, she was a last choice which I wasn’t so enamored with at the time. The black rocks were considerably younger, lacking in weighted waddle. Once home & handled I was never concerned she’d go for my face, but somehow she became facepecker…incidentally it was Mave who karated me in the face & made me look like I was crying blood.

The more she snuffled around the garden the more she seemed a little scatty & scaredy all at once, with some abuse from Mave she felt like a Florence, there was something quite elegant but scatty about her & so Flo came to pass.

They’ve certainly lived up to the characteristics that lead to their names, Mave the Mercellous or Mavis Cruet when Im mad with her. Doris is our most chilled out girl, nothing knocks off her cool & Flo is as fickle as the wind & most definitely a Florence when she’s nibbling my potato plants.

How did you name yours?


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.


Coop du jour October 29, 2011

A funny couple of weeks for Coop & The Gang, we’ve had thick frost on the hen house, soggy feet, scratching, pecking & the odd tantrum & thats just Coop & me.

We’re still not lice free with top hen Mave still carrying, with colder nights & more snuggling she’s passing them back round the hen house nicely. No eggs on Flo & Doris, but a three day dust down routine started. A little more reading, some feathers plucked & scrapped & two handed we were through all the girls relatively quickly & pain free.

Solo chicken dusting was much less successful, thoughts of ‘you only cost me £15’, ‘you dumb bird’ & the classic Dr Cox ‘help me to help you’.  Scratched, abused & somewhat later than planned we were all having a strop & not talking to each other. More tomorrow & we’ll check the state of play.

Chicken club at work has lost a member with them on to pastures new, but promises of advice from a friend at football club may give a vitamin dosage that will help Mave keep strong & bug free through the winter months. I’m finding it useful to learn from others, we swap tips, advice, articles & CEOs wife sends him with the hen welfare magazines for me to read. His bantum is currently on eggs, his cockrel very proud. One day, this too will be mine.

We’re still in egg & fine spirits, just a missed day following my girls facing their own mortality with their ghostly appearence. I’ve treated them to some fattier treats this week including meal worms & I’ve never been so popular.

My girls have fulfilled a life long fantasy, when Im out with them they follow me around like Im mummy, they’re so funny looking but I love them.


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.