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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Oh Baby Its Cold Outside January 22, 2012

Well it appears winter has arrived, with the signs of a hard frost not cleared by the dusk of the day drawing in and the first frozen drinker of the year.

This morning was a bit of a palaver, everyone keen and eager to rise and then one feel of the bitter chill in the air the girls were less than impressed. On discovery of the frozen water trough I headed up the garden to get the replacement bought earlier in the year in anticipation. At which point the girls duly squawked and followed, with tiny little quick footsteps as if to say I don’t like this but I know you’ve got corn so gimmie. They endured for as long as they could and it was straight back to Coop, they all snuggled up in the far corner which is sealed on both sides, at which point they had fresh food and water so I retired back to bed to warm my hands and toes.

As I suffer with Raynauds which is likened to being allergic to the cold more specifically a change in temperature I am very aware of how miserable it is to be cold. Are the Chickens likely to be cold? There is a little part of me that thinks the answer is yes but in reality you don’t need to worry about your hens being cold, they’ll be fine!

When I looked at preparation for the winter months earlier in the year, I looked at the possibility of a day light bulb to increase egg production but decided against it on the basis of a more natural approach but I also looked at heat pads to underneath the drinkers, the big problem I found is that those available on the market are round and our drinker is a oblong trough. They’re relatively simple and ensure chickens have fresh running water at all times; it may be a vital move if the weather continues to descend.

Coop has been inspected for drafts and the ventilation option changed over to winter at the rear of coop, as the sun came up the girls warmed up and came out to play, dust bathing and playing with their treat dispensing ball filled with meal worms and corn for some essential before bed fat.

We are lucky have chosen hardy and sturdy birds more by luck than judgement and our only immediate cold weather defence is Vaseline. Any bird with a large wattle or comb could benefit with an application to help prevent frostbite on exposed and sensitive areas, a little hat and gloves if you please.

Some chicken breeds will require more attention in the cold some of the more ornate breeds… anything with some exposed flesh or light feather. So glad I didn’t acquire the three frizzles on sale at the last Open Farm Sunday at my friend’s farm they would need a heat pad and a blanket. Although that said, our hen house is quite large and my birds are but three, seems like a rather good excuse to acquire one or two more. Or perhaps just a heat lamp!

 

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?

 

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.

 

Worms, Worms, Worms December 31, 2011

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.

 

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.