New arrivals <3

Welcome to The Roost little ones!!

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We had a naming session at a family barbecue over the weekend – the only stipulation being that they had to fit in with my ‘famous’ theme.

Meet (Left to Right);
Morgan Freenhen
Jimmy Hendrix
Cluck Noris
MariHen Monroe
and
Jeremy Cluckson

My current girls are Rita, Sue and Bob2, as well as Rhihenna, Henifer Lopez and Henny Kravitz so the names will work well.

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They are fitting in well and have already escaped their chick-pen 3 times in 24 hours. Unfortunately I don’t think they realise that the big chickens will be mean to them until they grow up a little!

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They are Pekins and have beautiful fluffy feet… they’re gorgeous and make the cutest little tweet noise.

Hopefully the integration in to the flock will go well in a few weeks time!

 

What do you call a chicken with a piece of lettuce in it’s eye? A: Chicken Caeser Salad

Chickens eat everything.

Except, apparently, their own food when it has touched the floor.

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Mine drop food EVERYWHERE and with us having the abandoned plot next to us, rodents are eating more than they do when they’ve dropped it everywhere.

They were being fed using pet-shop feeders similar to the one below. They are great if you have a few hens and they are store inside the coop, but mine walked all over them and they ended up full of straw and chicken poo!

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So I decided I needed to find a way of being able to securely store enough food for my hens without the pests or rain getting to it. I also needed to be able to allow the chickens to eat but not drop food everywhere.

I did an internet search and found many versions of the same thing – PVC pipe feeders.

Many people used clear plastic tubs like those used to store things in the attic with pvc elbows glued in like this one here – http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/

I wanted something on a larger scale though for my 12 hens in the hope that I may be able to use a whole bag of feed at a time and reduce the tips to the storage shed.

So I got myself a big plastic water butt on a free site. It came with a lid, but also had taps on the bottom so I will remove these and plug up the holes… or maybe just leave them against the fence as a good “attachment point” to stop it falling over.
I also went to Screwfix and got some 55mm PVC elbows when I went to sort out my automatic drinker system. I had hoped for larger sized ones but apparently they are hard to come by at regular shops! I also saved some old thick card and shaped it in to a cone to direct the feed pellets.
Tool wise I needed a 60mm hole bore for MrT’s drill, and squishy tube of sealant. Job done.

It was a pretty simple task really. Lay out where you would like the openings and mark them, then drill the holes. I did mine all around the edge, but you can always use one or two on each side if it will sit in a corner. Make sure they are high enough up that you chickens don’t have to bend too much, but also low enough that they can peck at the food after the 90 degree bend.

Put your arm inside the barrel and poke the elbows through from the inside, leaving about 1.5cm outside the barrel. This will give the food protection from rain running down the barrel if I have to move it outside at any point.

Then use the sealant to secure the pipe from the inside and let this set. Then do the same on the outside! You can try and do them both at the same time but if you knock the pipe at any point you’ll end up with it everywhere. Not a good look.

Then use the thick cardboard to make a cone that fits in the middle of you barrel to direct the food towards the pipes. This isn’t desperately needed as the weight of the food above will push enough of it down, but it means that you don’t end up with food sat in the middle of the barrel between all of the pipes which goes stale having not been eaten.

Et, Voila!

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It takes a while for the girls to figure out that food is inside that little hole, but they get there eventually!

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No more messy floors and having to fill up tiny feeders in the shed every day…

Bliss.

Cluckingham Place gets new plumbing

I love my chickens, I really do, but they eat and drink you out of house and home.

Every day I am down there filling up the food and water troughs (twice in the summer!) and every day I end up covered in chicken poo and overspray from the enthusiastic hose attachment.

I needed to find a better way of doing things.

I searched everywhere online for different ways of watering my chickens using rainwater collected from their coop, and nowhere could I find a suitable solution.

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I looked in to using chicken nipples or drinkers, but these are either very expensive (over £5 each on Ebay!) or have very bad longevity reviews. Plus my chickens are stupid. They would NEVER figure out those little knobly bits held water.

I then looked in to a system which looked perfect. It was a tupperware tub bolted on to a tank with a bit of pipe. Hydrodynamics kept it from overflowing. However these only seemed to work with catering buckets and HAD to be airtight. Plus I don’t think it would work with such a large container as air is too stretch-able and squash-able for a good enough vacuum to be created. Overflowing and losing all the water is not good when watering 12 hens daily.

There are a few specialist products out there too; cups, drinkers, pipes, bowls… however all of these had one issue – EXPENSE.

Everything had to be cheap.

So I did some creative thinking and while I was in the bathroom one evening (TMI I know!) I had a brainwave.

I need my system to run like the toilet. A big tank full of water supplying a little bowl of water which turns off without input from opposable thumbs.

So I went to Screwfix – leading supplier of all things toilet.

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Here I picked up some PTFE tape (12 rolls for £4!), a toilet float valve, some rubber washers to fit the float and 6 55mm PVC 90degree elbows (for my next project – operation food waste). I also found a large blue barrel on Gumtree going for free. The final thing I needed was a tub that could fit the float in, but wasn’t too big for the chickens to drink from and would hopefully not fill with poo and shavings (a girl can dream).

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We have got an IBC that MrT helped me to collect, so if this goes well I will make another one. My hens will never have to worry about being a bit parched. As long as it doesn’t freeze but I will come to that in the autumn…

I could find nothing similar on the internet before so hopefully this will make sense, but if not feel free to message me you questions!

It is environmentally friendly, uses less water, wastes less time and also feeds my constant need to ‘upcycle’ and re-use

Blue Barrel

My first step was to clean out the old tank. From the smell of it (and experience of being a Chef Widow) this barrel used to contain some sort of veg oil. This is edible so it isn’t too big of a deal, but oil can quickly go gross so best to clean it now. The amount of times I have washed this from MrT’s work clothes has taught me that the best way of getting this out is the good old fashioned way.

  1. Fill the barrel with warmish water. I used a hose from the outside tap mixed with a couple of kettles just boiled!
  2. Add a really CHEAP dish soap. The expensive “moisturising” ones are rubbish for this. The good old 25 ones that make your hands feel like stones are perfect.
  3. Screw the tops on the barrel.
  4. Roll it on its side up and down the driveway for a few minutes. Good way of finding leaks too.
  5. Avoid stares from confused neighbours.
  6. Tip content of barrel away (safely!!).
  7. Stop dogs from playing in oily bubbles.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Rinse with clean cool water.

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I then drilled a hole large enough for the threads of my float valve, but not so large that it would flap about and let water leak. 20mm did it for me.

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I also did the same thing in the tub that the chickens will drink from. Plastic can be quite hard to cut through, so it is worth drilling a pilot hole and then allowing the cutter to spin and melt the plastic slightly as it cuts. Don’t force it, you’ll split the drum or stab yourself with flying plastic/drill bit. And definitely don’t touch it straight away.

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Remember physics; Friction=Hot

When (if!) I do this with the IBC, I will add some PVC connecting pipe between the tank and the float, just simply because the IBC has a tap already installed which I will use as an emergency cutoff for cleaning and if the valve fails.

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My barrel conveniently had a screw cap at the top which was the perfect size for a click-on hose adaptor, so I added this on there for when the rains don’t come (HA! We live in the UK, so not likely!). On the other side will be my downpipe for the guttering when i have fitted it, but that will be a weekend job so ill be hose-pipe filled for now.

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Next up, I screwed the float valve in to the drum. There is a nut to use on the inside, but there was no way i was getting my hand in that barrel so I just screwed it in and will use sealant to keep it watertight. Then unscrew it again when you realise you forgot the water container. I was very careful this whole time not to damage the threads but also not to strip the hole I had just drilled. This would hopefully add some extra water resistance.

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Then put it all together and pray.

The order is this; Nut (if you can get it in there), washer, barrel, washer, tub, washer, float valve. The float valve sits inside the tub where the chickens will drink. Use the float valve screw to wedge all of these parts together like a big BLT.

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Add some water and its time to test! Maybe put waterproof shoes on for this and don’t do it on your kitchen floor – you know, just in case.

The way it SHOULD work is that when the water flows out of the barrel and in to the tub the float rises to close the valve and shuts off the water at the correct level. When the chickens drink and lower the level the valve opens again.

You may need to have a play around to try and get the water level just right. Mine is on its lowest setting, and i will cut the plastic tub into a more “easy to drink from” shape when i know it is all working properly.

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Remember that small chicks can and WILL get in the water and drown, so this should not be used for young babies. This is for my ExBatt hens for laying (about 2 years old) so if they fall in it is because they are thick.

Hopefully this will save me getting soggy shoes and poo covered hands, as well as keeping my hens hydrated in the summer months!

They love it!

I will let you know in winter how it fares with freezing, but I have a feeling that I may need to resort to some sort of heating mechanism or just fill them up daily, especially if using pipes!

Say hello to my little friend…!

So today my friend came to The Goose Roost to help out and get her little patch of land ready for her wedding flowers.

Meet Rachel!

We had to check the chicken run before doing anything else, as unfortunately two doors down lost 4 overnight to MrFox and had to dispatch another thanks to a bitten leg and foot. Luckily ours are safe, but i will pop back when MrT gets back tonight (11pm ish) and take the dogs up to wee everywhere…hopefully that’ll keep them at bay!

He has got babies living on the wasteland (the fox not MrT!) so i dont blame him for being hungry, but i do wish they would only take what they eat, not kill several!

But anyway…back to our wedding workout. The area was pretty clear. It wasn’t all that great to look at at first though!

Her little area!

Rach is having a beautiful cobalt blue and sunflower wedding, so we want to make sure that the flower heads are ready for the end of July!

What she doesn’t use of this plot will be grassed over to create a lovely seating area for the summer, and to also keep the weeds down for another year until we cultivate it.

Half way through

We arrived at about 3pm to gloom and grey clouds, but luckily the weather stayed dry for us.

We managed to get it all dug over in about 2.5 hours and ready to rake and sow grass seeds later in the week.

Done!

Shes a good grafter and we had a good natter while we did it! Even managed time to have a luke-warm cup of hot chocolate. I must remember to take mugs next time….

Sowing sunflowers

Next stop was to pull up the few weeds in the greenhouse and sow the seeds. While she did her sunflowers (several varieties and all gorgeous!) I sowed some marigold seeds. Its way too cold this year to sow them direct, plus it means that we will know what is a plant and what is a weed. Thats always a bonus.

Very technical

I heard that marigolds are good to distract nasty bugs from eating you veg, so hopefully they will be around every bed this season. I had awful problems with ‘friends’ last year.

Look at those strawberries though…

It was Rach’s first time planting anything really, so a good opportunity to sound like i know what I’m talking about. In actual fact i just pulled up weeds and filled up a watering can, but we wont tell her that will we?

All in!

How beautiful is this looking!

I can’t wait to see things staring to sprout. We saved some seeds to sow more in a week or two so hopefully at least something will have flowers on for The Big Day.

Ready to be raked

Productive afternoon to say the least!

Makes me want to paint over that red though…..

When it rains, it pours

Cold and wet day down the lottie today, but the hens were happy and the blossom is out!

Rosmary flowers

Apple blossom

Cherry blossom

Strawberry flowers

Pear blossom

Strawberrys

The hens were treated to another hay bale today to try and soak up some of the rain. The old stuff i dug out i put around my berry canes. Hopefully this will be a wonderful manure for them! I love raspberries and am hoping for my first home-grown crop this year.

Hopefully a bumper crop!

The rain them started belting down, but as i was already up there i wanted to finish up. I covered much of the top end of the bed in weed membrane as the same sun that has helped my plants grow has also helped the weeds, and i wont have time to get it all perfectly dug over like the spud bed.

Weed membrane, trying to battle nettles!

All home and clean now, but my boots have seen better days! Poor things have got so many holes in now, they definately arent waterproof any more!

Ready for a nap!

Back off up there tomorrow to get some sunflowers in for my friends wedding… lets hope its drier!

A day of good and bad… and its only 9am!

We lost one of our chickens this morning… poor girlie.

We think she may have had a sour crop, but unfortunately there was nothing we could do to help her. She had been very quiet all day, sitting in the coop, but having been broody for a week or so we thought nothing of it. When I went in to feed and water though it was obvious she wasn’t very well.

We put her into the spare coop we call the ‘recovery coop’. Its bright pink and lovely and warm and quiet. We gave her lots of clean bedding and water with Apple Cider Vinegar, and ‘burped’ her as best we could. She seemed a little perkier before we left and was snuggling up into her bedding, but unfortunately she was gone by this morning.

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Itsy, Bitsy and Small…

We did have three new arrivals today!

Welcome Itsy, Bitsy and Small.

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Itsy

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Bitsy

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Small

These three ladies have come to join my current boy and two girlies. They are a bit bigger than the resident 3, even if they are a lot younger.

The resident quail came from a facebook friend who needed to get rid of them quickly. They knew I rescued my dogs and ex-batts so contacted me. They knew I wouldn’t say no, so they ended up living with us! They were very, very scared, and unfortunately 4 soon became 3. We think they are much older than we were told, but we don’t mind. They have only laid 3 eggs since we have had them, but winter was hard this year and it is only just beginning to warm up.

The new three are Jumbo Coturnix Quail, and are adorable! They are very inquisitive and active, and are already braver than my other three. The man says they have already started laying, which is brilliant for MrT’s cheffy antics!

I hope they settle in wonderfully and that they will have a lovely happy life with us.

Welcome to Cluckingham Palace

Now has come the time to move my 6 hens into their permanent home. I have been keeping an eye out for the items I need and have finally collected them all up!

  • Shed – Any size, ours is 6ftx8ft from the garden at home.
  • Herras fencing – old tatty stuff from the builders, I got 6 panels, but 4 would do.
  • Several bags of gravel. Old school folks use smashed glass, but gravel works too.
  • Postcrete or Quickset Concrete – One bag for each panel.
  • Large cable-ties.
  • Small cable-ties.
  • Soft netting for the roof – I used pea nets at first, but have now replaced this with game netting.
  • Chicken/aviary wire – enough to cover any shed windows and the bottom of the shed.
  • A gate/door – I used the one from my current run

First things first was to get our old shed from home down to the plot. Now THAT was a faff. However, when we finally got it there and up, everything is pretty easy from here.

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New chicken house

MrT used some of his wonderful man-skills to cut me a rectangular hole in the left-hand wall of the shed with the windows on. This fitted just perfectly between the two vertical supports for the wall of the shed, so that was a success.

I took the perspex out of the roof vent and out of the windows and filled this with aviary wire for ventilation. This means the hens wont cook in summer, but the windows can be put back or covered with fleece in the winter. I just used my staple gun for this, quick and simple.

I also put some aviary wire across the floor to stop the rats from chewing through from underneath, however to be honest this didn’t help much.

Next up i screwed the old wooden ladder i found in the greenhouse to the wall of the shed. I took the sawn ladder out of the current coop and used this as a ramp up to the other longer section of ladder. This would become my hen’s roost perch.

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Roost in! 

I then covered the floor in dust-free shavings to make everything nice and comfortable for them. It also means that i can just scoop this out and replace it when they have ‘messed’ everywhere.

I moved my laying boxes across into this new shed and “voila!”.

Next up was the run. This was the most time consuming part but was super satisfying when done. Remember I was doing this alone, so if i can do it, anyone can!

First step for the run was to lay out my fencing around the shed in the layout i wanted. I winged this, but here’s a rough plan of what i did. You can do any layout you like!

chicken run

I dug trenches where i wanted the panels to sit. About a foot and a half deep, and a shovel width. The corners and midway through the long side I dug down much deeper to allow room to concrete them in. This took so long!

I then put my gravel in the trenches, just a few inches deep. Make sure you leave the corners clear though! This is the first step to stop Mr Fox. If (when!) he digs under the fencing, he hits the gravel layer and doesn’t like the feeling of it so gives up. The old school Flatcaps use smashed glass, but in my view the foxes are only hungry and trying to eat, so the last thing I want to do is hurt them and make their life even harder! I just don’t want them eating my chickens!

Now since I was still on my lonesome, the next part was quite a juggling act. I filled up two large buckets with the amount of water recommended on the bag of concrete, and had them on standby. I opened up my bag of postcrete and had that at the ready. These fence panels have one ‘top’ which is level and smooth, and a ‘bottom’ with extended posts which usually fit into concrete bases. I lifted my first panel into place, top up, bottom down, and pushed it into the gravel as far as I could. Now these fence panels are super heavy, super broken, and super sharp, so if you are doing it PLEASE get someone to help you. I am just impatient and stubborn.

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Hard digging through weeds! 

I then held one corner, and completely left the other corner to do what it wanted. I poured in my postcrete powder, made sure it fully enclosed the end corner of my panel and poured in the water needed as per the packet. I then had about 2 minutes to make sure this corner was plumb and level before everything started to set. I was doing this on a crazily hot day, so everything was pretty hard in about 15 minutes. During this time just keep holding it firm, even if you think it is set it might not be.

Then you’ve got to lift up panel 2 and do the same thing with that panel, but marrying it up to the un-concreted corner of panel 1. Does that make sense? I used large cable-ties to keep the corners together while i concreted them in. This way the corners are concreted next door to each other, leaving no gaps between the two panels. Its just like putting up a fence at home, just without putting the posts and panels in separately.

Work your way around doing this for all of the panels.

Then have a rest. You’ve earned it, and if you haven’t crushed yourself with a Herras panel, you’ve done better than I did!

 

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Phew! 

Next up was to fill in the trenches. I had a bit of gravel left so topped this up in places, but then plonked my soil back over.

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A different view

Now how do humans get in to the run? At this point it was pretty dark, so all my hens were in the roost sleeping but just to make sure they were safe i locked them in the coop.

I took the gate off the temporary wooden run, along with the posts the gate was attached to as installed these in Panel 1 of the Herras Fencing. To do this, I basically cut down the Herras panel, cable-tied the gatepost to it for the time being, and the screwed the other gate post in the other side. These cable-ties were industrial ones my mum sourced, but you could always concrete this post in when you do Panel 1. The next day I did bolt the post to the Herras post, but i wasn’t in the mood to be drilling through metal that late in the evening!

chicken run

Gate is in! 

Just a side note here, but if you haven’t read my first chicken run post, the same tip still applies… sink a slab under the gate or lift it slightly, as otherwise it will drag on the floor on every lump and bump!

Home time!!

The next morning I went down to finish off and make sure that everything was still standing. That was the most tense walk down the allotment lane I’ve ever had!

Yay, it made it!! Although now in the daylight i can see just how damaged my second hand panels were. None were straight and they were all a little bit bent, but what is perfect in my life?

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The joys of recycling – nothing is perfect!

I removed the old run and let my hens explore.

Then I realised that they have wings and fly.
While Mr PigeonMan returned my escapee chicken, I stretched some netting across the top. This also means that it is compliant should we get another bird-flu scare.

The chickens seem to like it so that’s good!

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Proud Sue!


Sucker for a sob story

I can never say no to a creature in need. Unless its MrT, in which case he can fend for himself.

So when i got tagged in a post about ex-battery hens, I went with a clear mission to get 4. Only 4.

The mistake I made was taking my mother.

We came home with 7.

So now i had 13 chickens.

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Poor girls

They had hardly any feathers and didn’t know how to be ‘chickens’. They stood around in the rain without taking shelter. They didn’t know how to scratch, and couldn’t eat food off the floor. They didn’t know what grass was. They didn’t even move for the first hour.

How anyone can keep animals like this i don’t know.

The next day I went in to work and found this!!

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Guess what – Its not shredding.

And guess what was in the box – and it isn’t shredding…

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Meet Rhianna.

This sorry looking hen was bought in by a Director at my work. She and another hen had lived with him for many years, but unfortunately her companion had left her the day before.

So what was his first thought – I know who has chickens!

And thus, I now have 14.

Welcome to Cluckingham Palace Rhianna.