WELCOME TO THE HEN GARDEN

IMG_3594This is the continuing story of our adventures keeping hens in our urban back garden.

Hens come and go, but our current hens are ex-batts Mandy, Betsy, Babs and Bertha, five Pekin Bantams known as The Moppets (who have names but as we can never tell which is which we don’t really bother) and ‘The Famous Five’, Connie, Camilla, Charlie, Clare and Carey .. all different breeds who came to us at POL in March, 2014.

Keeping hens is always an adventure … I hope you enjoy following our story  :)

In the undergrowth

I moved some fencing around today, to give the hens access to some plantlife …

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They are alongside the Moppet House, but have paid no attention at all to the diminutive birds. Too busy exploring!

It’s not pretty …

… but hopefully it will do the trick …

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A length of washing line, some cable ties and pegs, and a roll of wind netting. Hopefully it won’t put too much tension on the fruit cage/Hen Run.

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There’s the culprit on the far left! There are still ways she could fly out, and I expect she will eventually find them … but for now, I trust she’s staying put.

Roaming free

Now Charlie has the taste for the good life, she flies out of the Hen Garden and Moppet Pen whenever she wants … short of replacing the fencing, what can we do?!

When she’s in the Hen Garden, she simply flies over the fence. When in the Moppet Pen, she has a two-stage strategy … this morning, we watched her fly up onto the Moppet House and then out over the fence. We tried putting her back and she did it again. We put her back again, and then watched from the dining room window as she patiently climbed the climbing frame and jumped over the fence from there! Not only two stages, but two different two-stage routes … she is an intelligent hen who knows what she wants and knows how to get it!

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The Moppets don’t seem to notice her once she’s in the air -
they clearly have no interest in copying her.

Charlie … again

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Charlie continues to fly the Hen Garden … though she rarely ventures far (she’s never made it into the house for example, even though the back door is often left open) and is easily recaptured. More than once we have not returned her to the Hen Garden but simply dropped her in with the Moppets where she seems content there on the grass, although she will also fly out of there too from time to time. She’s slept with the the Moppets more than once (it’s more bother than it’s worth to separate them) but always on her own in the larger nest box, with all five Moppets stuffed into the smaller one. And in the morning, she is desperate to return to ‘her’ coop to lay …

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We’re all a bit confused by it .. look at that question mark of a tail on the cat!

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Double Yolkers

DD2 had a surprise while baking a cake at the weekend …

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… since then, I’ve used at least three eggs with double yolks and I’m certain there are a couple more in the egg rack!

It is said that,

(Double yolkers) are common in young, laying hens, especially from hens that are from highly productive strains. A double yolk egg is formed when two ovulations take place almost at the same time and go down the oviduct together and both get encased in shell. (see here)

I have no way of knowing which hen is laying them … although I am sure they are all from the same hen. They are lightly tinted, not white (so neither of the Sussex hens) but other than that I don’t have a clue … especially since the Maran eggs are light in colour, rather than the dark brown I’d hoped for. I don’t think it’s one of the ex-batts from the shell.

So we may never know, but I do hope they continue for a while yet … as long as they don’t cause their hen any trouble, that is!

Thanks to DD2 for the photo!

Rats and foxes …

… both on the one day!

5am this morning, DD2 woke us up with a shout … FoxWe were up out of bed in no time … but of course, by the time we arrived in the garden it had long gone … her shout had probably scared it off and woken half the street! Her bedroom overlooks the garden and she heard the hens’ alarm calls … it had already been light for over an hour by then so they were well into their daily routines.

They were still jittery when we got up (again) a couple of hours later. I spent some time in the garden (see below) and they settled … but we’re all rather nervous today.

While I was out there, I moved out the decrepit Moppet Coop and moved the Moppet House around …

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It gives us easier access, and the bantams more grass, and we have the flexibility to move it around the open space from time to time, although up against the back wall it has some shelter on one side.

But I was down the garden taking some pictures when two of the Moppets, who were exploring the base of the back wall for bugs, leapt into the air and started squawking, creating a flurry of alarm calls from all five (the hens didn’t appear to pay much attention to their diminutive cousins). And from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of grey, scurrying along the wall to the raised area on the right … a rat!

We have a couple of rat bait boxes down, along the run of the wall, so I am reassured they are in the right place, but with the Moppet House against the wall, it is very vulnerable to rats getting into the nest boxes and stealing eggs. So either we move the house out from the wall, or we block up the space behind the run to stop the rat run altogether.

Both foxes and rats are a worry to henkeepers, but to have them both in view within a matter of hours is rather alarming …

Charlie and the Moppets

Charlie escaped SIX TIMES yesterday … in the end I scooped her up and dropped her in with the Moppets. When I’d done the same with Clare the day before, there had been scuffles and disagreements throughout the brief time she was with them, but Charlie didn’t cause any disturbance at all. Nothing. The Moppets didn’t scold or run and when she walked over to them they let her join in without even a squawk, let alone a peck.

So I left her there. All night.

I went out after dark to check all was well. Charlie had the large plastic nest box to herself and the five bantams were all squeezed into the small one… it was very funny as they didn’t all fit and there were various bits of diminutive hen sticking out all over the place! So while they had tolerated her, they hadn’t really accepted her, and so this morning, DH put her back in with the big girls.

I wonder if she’ll stay there? !

Escaping to the countryside …

Charlie can fly.

A few days ago she escaped into the garden. As I went up the path to the compost bin, she came down the path towards me … so I scooped her up, dropped her back in to the Hen Garden and went on my way. When I went out again into the garden a few moments later with my cuppa, there she was again!

Yesterday, she escaped six times :/ I sat in the garden for a while to see how she was doing it, but she stayed resolutely in the Hen Garden all through my lunch. When I went indoors to make a cup of tea, and came out again … there she was!

So we’ve been watching from the house to see how she’s getting out. No-one else is following her, so it had to be something only she could do … and this morning, DH watched her fly over the fence while he was doing the washing up.

We’ve always known the fence is on the short side for hens, but we’ve never had an issue before. So I cornered her, picked her up and clipped a few flight feathers on one wing before returning her to the others.

Then she did it again! This time she was harder to catch, but in the world of chickens, he who has corn is king … so I caught her again, took rather more feathers out of her wing, put her back, turned my back for a moment, heard flapping, turned round and Clare was in the garden :P

Enough now!

Once I caught Clare, I dropped her in with the Moppets for a while, before clipping her wing, too. But if that doesn’t stop them, I don’t know what we’ll do … will the others all learn to fly too?!

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The path was clean before Charlie started rummaging around in the woodchip!

 

Hens are always eating …

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I replaced the nest boxes in the Moppet House today … at first, I thought I’d done the wrong thing ….

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Sorry it’s not a good photo … I only had my phone on me and it doesn’t zoom well … but four of the bantams immediately started to investigate, hopping in and out of the nest boxes and squabbling over who went where. Fortunately, they soon tired of the fun and carried on eating …

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Still broody?

Does this look like a broody hen to you?

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Three days ago, I moved the bantams out of the greenhouse and back into the Moppet House. After the first night, I closed the coop in order to try and bring the three broodies out of their trance-like state … last year, it proved to be the quickest way to shake them out of their hormone induced stupor.

Two of them appear to be sorted … but this one is being quite stubborn. At least, I think she’s still broody – it’s something about the way she spreads herself out to cover as much ground as possible! And the chatter … a broody hen has a very distinct vocabulary :)

So I’ll leave them without a nest box for another night … although the Moppet House isn’t water tight, there is space up against the wall that has remained dry during the heavy rain we’ve had on and off this week. They would rather hunker down together in a heap than roost, so I’m content that they’re warm and protected there. And it’s where I will put the plastic nest boxes, once we’ve removed the wooden coop that is no longer serviceable.

There are good reasons to break a brood if you are not going to let them raise chicks, see this post for more details

  • The Hen House Archive

    Our original hen keeping adventure came to an end in January 2013, when a fox took our entire brood of hens. But don’t let that put you off … you can find the story at The Hen House Archive where there are still lots of stories, photos, and information about keeping hens I hope you'll find useful.
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    March 27th ... the Famous Five arrive

    March 26th ... one of the Moppets passes on. We clear out the Hen Garden and lay new woodchip.

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