The ‘Girls’ are growing up!

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You might remember that I few weeks ago I got some tiny little babies to join my flock, well now they are big and bold enough to join the big birds!

They’ve been hanging out in a “pen-within-a-pen” for the last few weeks and have gotten used to our bigger girls so one night last week me and Mr T spent a very tiring half hour moving all of my babies on to their big girl bed.

They LOVE it.

Although what they love even more is that they can sit on things much to small for the grown-ups, and seem o like lording it over them watching the world go by!

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Hmmm…….

I have a feeling “SHE” may be “HE” and Jimmy Hendrix is actually just ‘Jimmy’!

I suppose we will see in a few weeks time if we hear crowing!

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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.

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!

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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!

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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.

Girl, if you were a chicken you’d be impeccable.

The whole point of getting an allotment was to make something to eat. But at this stage of the game, that’s a long way off.

So if I cant grow anything, and I can’t sow anything, then maybe Mother Nature can help.

CHICKENS!

Now yet again, MrT was working. So I was going it alone. I had a very vague plan and a very big dream, with not much in the way of strength or money.

I figured that I would make a temporary run and coop, and gradually update it as and when I had more of a plan and had done a little bit more research into the best ideas. Since I couldn’t find much info on how best to keep chickens at an allotment, I just adapted what I could from all of those posh folks who have big enough houses to keep them at home (not jealous at all!!).

So my plan was to put the chickens by the front gates, in the hope that then my pigeon keeper neighbour would be able to look in on them while I was working.

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The chicken ‘area’

So this is where they are going to go. That pallet block up a space in the hedging which goes through to the abandoned waste ground next door. This plot is impossible for the council to clear so they have left it as a ‘Wildlife Area’ – also known as a dumping ground. It does mean though that the tree overhanging that corner cant be accessed from anywhere but on my plot, and what is that tree? An Elderflower! Champers here we come!

Not yet though, before drinking comes building. So onto the internet I hopped in the hope of finding a potential ‘chicken house’.

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Look what I found!

And thus, the temporary chicken hut was found. I took out the window panels and put in some chicken wire for ventilation and put up an old wooden ladder cut in half as a roost. I built a nesting box out of some scrap ply and hoped they would like it!

So next up was building my little chickys a run. This would be the ‘interesting’ part. I powered up the cordless drill and gathered up my supplies early Saturday morning in the hope of getting everything done in a day.

I began by journeying to the local DIY shop to buy myself some treated wooden posts, and soon realised that I needed to edit the size of the run so that i could fit it in my car. Not a great start.

Having managed to haul it all home, I spread out my ‘posts’ and began to build a cube. As the daughter of an engineer dad and a mother who asked for a compound mitre saw for her birthday, I knew reasonably well how to work a drill.

Having built my giant cube, I then added two beams the same height to one side to act as a door frame. I didn’t cut this down to sit flush with the walls, as I wanted to make sure that I could attach a hasp and lock to it so that I can keep it closed when I’m inside the run with them. It also means that it can only open outwards, not inwards. I thought this would be easier to stop the girls from escaping when I am going in and out. If you wanted to make it open both ways, just shorten the beams so that they sit flush with the cube sides, and shorten the gate to fit later on in the steps. If you’d like me to send you over the rough drawn napkin plans I made for both scenarios, just leave me a comment with your email.

Next up was to cover my  cube in aviary wire. We found a roll of this at the allotment during the Mass Mow and I got some more by scouring online freebie sites, but I still didn’t have enough to do the whole thing. I used the thicker aviary wire around the bottom of the run as foxes can chew through normal chicken wire! This was stapled on with a heavy duty stapler I already had at home and some galvanised staples, in the hope that they wouldn’t rust away. I didn’t cover the gate opening for obvious reasons! I made sure to leave a ‘L’ shaped overhang at the bottom of the run to stop critters from digging under the fence too.

Next step was to finish off enclosing the sides with chicken wire. I also used so scaffolding net to cover the top of the run, as I didn’t want to have to clip my hens’ wings.

Then I had a well earned brew and admired my handiwork.

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Break time.

While the kettle was boiling, I quickly made up a rectangle the same height and width as the door frame. At this point, make sure that you leave half a cm either side so that the door can swing open and closed easily, even when cold and wet and the wood has swollen. I put a brace across the middle to keep it square. Usually this would be diagonal, but I really didn’t have the brain power this late in the game to work out the angles, so this would do for now. It also aids as an extra place to add my handle/bolt.

Time for another brew.

Next up, cover the gate in the same mix of aviary wire/chicken wire as the rest of the run. This was so easy, but make sure that you wear gloves when cutting the aviary wire. It is blinking sharp and hurts when it catches you!

Now it all comes together. I used two hinges top and bottom, and a bolt to keep my girlies safe. This was where I made a boo-boo. Make sure that you lift the gate off the floor slightly with a bit of wood or a slab, as otherwise your gate will catch when you open it!

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Almost ready!

My final step was to add a nice handle either side and make sure that everything was tight and secure, then add my chickens!!

We decided to buy 6 young hens from a local breeder. They came vaccinated, well socialised and a week or two away from laying.

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Arent they adorable!

So they are now moved in and happy, but I am already planning their permanent home…just to source the parts now.

I will keep you updated when I begin the next stage!