Getting a little bit done in the garden as the weather improves, but the rain has returned for today. Hope everyone is keeping well and sane in these strange times. It is a time to be really grateful for our gardens.
1 – Some cheery crocus to start this week. Photos taken yesterday in the sunshine. These are some of my bargain buys from earlier in the year.
2 – Anemoneblanda I think – don’t seem to be as many as last year.
3 – Dandelions – where there is dandelions pollinators should not be far behind. I saw one queen bumblebee in flight yesterday and one hoverfly, but it is still pretty cool here. And looking like it will only get above 10 degrees on one day of next week.
4 – Leaves are appearing on the crab apple tree. Always one of the first to come out.
5 – Some of the tadpoles have hatched. Their hatching was followed by a morning of frost which had a layer of ice on the pond so I hope most of them survived the freezing. There is no shortage!
6 – And finally Junior. This handsome fellow has been with us for a good few years, but we found him dead in the chicken coop yesterday. He had shown no sign of being ill, was a good weight, so we think he may have had a heart attack. He will be missed as he was always a friendly cockerel. We have a couple of his sons and one will get to take over his reign. This photo was taken a few weeks ago on a cold and frosty morning.
In the west of Ireland, we have no shortage of farm animals. Among my favourite are the poultry. Especially chickens. I could watch them all day, they are such characters. This is Junior. He is very handsome.
This is Junior’s father and some of the hens. We can’t let Junior and his father be too near each other because they fight, and every morning there is a competition to see who can crow the loudest.
Just down through the fields this is our neighbour’s donkey.
The poor hens are not quite as comfortable this weather. Don’t get me wrong they have a nice house with straw to shelter in, but outside everything is wet and sodden! Still it doesn’t stop them getting out and about. However, like me, I wonder if they are perhaps dreaming of dozing off comfortably in the summer sun.
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!
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.
There is so much happening in the garden. I just love this time of year. The plum tree is full of blossoms and thankfully also full of pollinators. The most colourful of which was this Red Admiral. It’s a little bit worn, so must be one that managed to get through our winter.
Red Admiral on plum blossom
There are bees too and hoverflies, including these little ones, which I still need to identify.
Hoverflies on plum blossom
In the polytunnel, the early potatoes are finally showing through and the broad beans and the mangetout are growing well.
The chicks are getting big and my husband was busy making a little enclosurer for them that we’ve put into the polytunnel for now. Already yesterday, the smallest chick was seen eating a slug!
The Juneberry (Amelanchier) is also flowering. The flowers are so delicate. We look forward to the fruit.
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.