We have moved the chickens to a new area. My husband has been busy making them a new house, adapting a plan from “The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers“, by Harvey Ussery.
The chickens seem to like it.
New chicken house
The roof perches are high but all the chickens are using them (even the older ladies). And all eggs are being laid in the nest boxes provided.
High roof perches
Nest boxes, accessible from back
There is plenty to eat in the new area too. It’s an area we’ve grown our potatoes and onions in for last two years. It had become over run with weeds though so we thought the chickens could do a good clearing job. Meanwhile, we hope to grow this year’s potatoes in the area where the chicken’s have been for the last two years. There wasn’t much growing so it is easier to dig. We hope to get the potatoes that have been chitting in the ground this week.
Moving the hens from the old area to new one was a little challenging and involved the four of us trying to herd them. It was pretty successful with the exception of one of the black chickens who kept breaking ranks. I eventually caught her and carried her to her new quarters, much to her indignation!
You may remember a couple of months back, our duck, Jemima passed away. Well, we have a new duck, thanks to our generous neighbour.
Nelson and Jemima ii
Seeing as the new duck was so like our original one we have decided to called her Jemima the Second. She is quite shy but gradually seems to be settling into her new home. Currently she and Nelson are hard at work finding slugs in the vegetable plot. Though Nelson does seem to prefer the poultry field and duck pond!
(Apologies for quality of photo, it was taken with my phone not my camera!)
There are many animals we humans connect to – dogs, cats, and other pets that often become important parts of our lives from childhood. Similarly there are those of us that make that connection with poultry. And in my opinion, you are either a chicken person or you are not! And if you meet another person who is a chicken person you naturally form a bond – it’s what I call the chicken bond.
My relationship with chickens started in childhood. I was about eleven when my sister and I purchased some chickens to start a mini egg-selling enterprise. Most of the eggs were sold back to my mother for household use, but when egg production was high, we sold eggs to family friends too. Growing up on a small farm there were always plenty animals; but there was just something quirky about the chickens that I liked.
Moving to Murtagh’s Meadow allowed me for the first time since the 1980s to get my own chickens. We started off with just three, Maud, Bernadette and Meabh. After initially keeping them in a chicken arc, the three roamed freely around our then open garden. They were great company while digging in the garden and were always eager to get the biggest juiciest worm.
Maud, Bernadette and Meabh when they firt came
They were happy wandering anywhere and in the summer liked the shade by the front door. They soon learned not to come in, though occasionally would give it a try! Bernadette was always the fiesty one, Maud the bravest and Meabh the shyest.
Sitting by the front door
Over the years, and with losses to mink and foxes we went through various types of housing. We finally invested in a poultry electric fence which is great. It allows the chickens free roaming within limits (which has it’s advantages too as they are not digging up your flowers or vegetables). At the same time I do miss having them under my feet. You really get to know the individual characters that way. At the same time since investing in the fence we have not suffered any losses, other than through natural causes.
MInk (non native to Ireland) can desimate a whole flock
This was a particularly bold fox who seemed to have no fear
Note mesh fencing
Once you eat truly free range chicken eggs it is very hard to go back to the bought ones. So if you have the space I would thoroughly recommend our feathered friends.
Our duck Jemima was named after the wonderful Beatrix Potter character Jemima Puddle Duck, because of her habitat of trying to hide her eggs. Like all ducks she was at her happiest in the duck pond. She was a plucky little duck, not afraid to let herself be heard particularly if she was hungry.
Jemima with Nelson
Jemima with Nelson
With her mate Nelson she spent hours in the vegetable plot searching for slugs and other food.
Jemima with Nelson
We’ve had her for over six years and we will miss her.
Jemima in her early years with her sister and Nelson not quite sure what to make of the snow
Happy St Patrick’s day! We’ve had a lovely sunny and dry day which has been great for the kids taking part in the local parade. And this morning we got a little bit of time to do some gardening too.
But our most exciting event this week has been the hatching of six little chicks from the chicken eggs in the incubator. The little black one below, was first to emerge, having hatched first thing Sunday morning.
For the rest of the afternoon the kids watched the four little yellow ones hatch. It was great to see their excitement and a great education. Our seven year old, in particular, was asking lots of questions. We’d borrowed the incubator and hope to try some duck eggs next.
Today the chicks were moved out of the incubator into a homemade brood box consisting of a cardboard box and infra-red lamp to keep them warm.
They are very cute!
Finally, we have some new hens. We had hoped to get some Rhode Island or Marrams but for now, are happy to have four new hybrids.
We kept them in the ark for a couple of days till they got used to the new surroundings. Poor things had probably never seen a green field.
But now they are wandering about exploring and learning.
This is William, and he looks proud having got some new ladies to look after. They were actually pecking ever so gently at his feathers. Not sure if they were trying to preen him or just thinking he may be good enough to eat.
Even the ducks are happy, as all the rain we’ve had, has filled the pond up!
Nearly all the apples have finished blossoming, the James Grieve is the last. The photo below was taken two days ago. The butterfly is a Green-veined White. Yesterday, the weather was finally suitable for walking our butterfly and bee monitoring transect, that we signed up for over two weeks ago (see post below). I was disappointed to only get three bee species and only five bees in total. On the positive side there were six different butterflies and at least twenty nine individuals.
Green-veined white butterfly on James Grieve Apple Blossom
Meanwhile, the chickens have joined the ducks in their new home. For the last few years, we have had to keep them in a moveable ark because we lost some to foxes and mink. A mink once killed our whole flock. Even in the ark, one fox still tried his best to get them (in the middle of the day too!).
Fox eying up chickens in their ark in 2013
Now with the electric poultry fence, we hope we can keep them all the poultry safe. The chickens are certainly enjoying their new freedom and within five minutes of being released from the confines of their ark had made themselves a dust bath in some bare soil. Dust bathing helps the chickens keep their feathers in good conditions and is thought to help with ectoparasites.
A mass of feathers – chickens enjoying a dust bath
Nelson, the drake, enjoying his new pond