Sandy found Betty ‘asleep’ in the coop this morning. She was a feisty one – I’ve seen her chase pheasants out of the garden, not to mention the cats and dogs too.
It was June 2015 that we brought Betty, Rose and Marge, all Cream Legbars, back from Culzean. Sadly we lost Marge in fox attack in 2016, along with Ivy and Etta but Betty and Rose. She seemed pretty happy yesterday so can only assume it’s natural causes – not sure how long they’re supposed to live but am guessing 5 years isn’t too bad.
Lockdown put a halt to plans to get some more hens but now poor Rose is all alone we’ll have to see what we can do – don’t want her getting all lonely.
The girls are finally laying again now after their ‘Winter’ break – it’s been a good 6 months this time. They are getting on a bit now and their egg production had certainly slowed down significantly toward the end of the Summer last year. Continue reading We’re Back in Business!→
Just as we were starting to get excited about the brief whiff of Spring we had, the snow returned – whilst it looks beautiful here when the white stuff comes down, it does rather dampen the enthusiasm a little.
Our new heated propagator has arrived – after much deliberation, I finally decided on one with six smaller trays as it seemed the best value for the most space (it was £40 from Thompson & Morgan), along with a load of seeds that I’ve optimistically ordered – our season is so short here that growing from seed is a risky business so hopefully the propagator should help things along.
I’m especially excited about some of the tomato seeds we’ve got – Indigo Cherry Drops, a dark purply colour that will go nicely with a mixture of other yellows and reds in a variety of sizes. We also bought some companion plants to help control pests – marigolds, calendula and cosmos – time will tell if this works but at east things will look pretty as well. It’s all about biodiversity this year…
The Avian Flu restrictions that were in place have now been lifted in Scotland, a low-risk zone, meaning that as long as extra biosecurity measures have been taken (removing bird feeders etc) that our birds are allowed back outside. I was very excited although with fresh snow on the ground they had to be coaxed with mealworms initially. Now we just need them to start laying again – another effect of them being cooped up for 3 months.
Yesterday we had an update on the Avian Flu restrictions – good news and bad, the Prevention Zone covering Scotland will now be extended until the end of April, however, as it’s deemed a low-risk zone we will be allowed to let our hens out on the 28th February as long as we have enhanced biosecurity to minimise the risk of infection from wild birds.
It doesn’t state what these enhanced biosecurity measures are so it looks like that’s up to us, so, as we’re interpreting this – as long as we’ve done the little things that we can, like remove bird feeders from the garden, we should be set to give the girls back their freedom.
It seems like an awfully long time since the restrictions first came in at the start of December – can’t wait to see them back out foraging round the garden and hopefully they’ll laying eggs again!
It’s exceptionally mild today and my thoughts can’t help but look toward Spring. Despite the freezing temperatures for a large part of the Winter, we’ve had very little snow in comparison to previous years. I haven’t forgotten the heavy snow at the end of April 2016 that brought the chicken run down though.
The rhubarb is bursting out of the ground just now and our seed potatoes have arrived – this year I’ve gone for Epicure (had to be really :o), Mayan Gold, a favourite with top chefs, Salad Blue – they’re actually blue all the way through and some Pink Fir Apples because I liked the name. This year I won’t make the same mistake I did last year – I put them out too early and a few late frosts meant we didn’t get great yields in comparison with the year before.
None of the Spring bulbs seem to be coming up – they were from two years ago and I replanted them using a multilayering method last year, guess they didn’t like it as they’re not playing ball. I have however ordered a load of summer bulbs for the front garden.
The hens are still incarcerated because of the avian flu restrictions – with an increasing number of outbreaks being confirmed down South the past couple of weeks I’m not sure they’ll have their sentences commuted on the 28th February either. I guess time will tell…
This morning we lost Marge to a fox. Our fault entirely for forgetting to shut them up in their coop last night.
Thankfully neighbours were woken by the noise and came to alert us at about 5.30am, they shoo-d the fox away leaving Marge dead by our back door, Rose missing (last seen in the fox’s mouth being taken down the garden) and Betty, alive but very frightened.
There were feathers EVERYWHERE all around the garden!
A few searches, after hearing a chicken down the bottom of the garden, and we found Rose, alive and well if a little ruffled behind our shed, she must’ve managed to get away -I can’t tell you the relief. Clever girl.
It could have been SO much worse, if it’d been dark and they’d been in their coop we’d have lost the lot and likewise, if the neighbours hadn’t heard and scared the fox off, the same result.
Clearly, we’re feeling pretty rubbish but we did bury Marge in a nice spot by the river and hopefully Rose and Betty will settle down (and grow their feathers back) soon.
We’re just back from a lovely trip around the Highlands and sadly lost our two new girls to a fox while we were away.
These things happen, but it does go to show that we really need to get the roof of the chicken run sorted, it collapsed under the heavy snow we had at the end of April and as the chickens are shut in a coop at night, we hadn’t quite gotten around to fixing it back up properly.
I saw this gorgeous one in a gardening magazine a couple of weeks back but at £800 it’s a serious investment. Think I’ll need to hop onto Pinterest and see what else is around. In the meantime, we’ll have to make sure that both S and Cosmo are peeing in the garden to keep the fox away. Yes, it is true that male human urine is an excellent fox deterrent.
Since getting Ivy and Etta who both seem to have a penchant for self-seasoning themselves in the herb garden, the other girls have also suddenly taken an interest and we no longer have a herb garden at all – totally decimated!
Think I’ll need to re-plant everything and then stick spikes/bamboo around the edge to stop them getting into it the little monkeys. The right-hand side of the rockery is also in need of some attention after they tore everything up to make a dust bath there as well.
At least they’re all ‘playing nicely’ now – the flock integration was pretty wretched to watch – who knew hens could be so vicious!
In other news, after a (very) brief visit from Spring we’re back to Winter – snow and freezing temperatures mean that our conservatory is still full of plants from our recent garden centre excursions that it’s still too cold to plant out.
Meet the latest additions to our Pentland Garden – Ivy and Etta.
They are Maran chickens, Ivy is a Copper Blue Maran and Etta is a Copper Black with lovely iridescent feathers. They lay a dark brown coloured egg and they’d even thoughtfully laid one for us en-route. (We thought it’d be a nice complement to the blue eggs we get from our Cream Legbars, Betty, Marge & Rose).
Still being newbie backyard chicken-keepers we had a lot to learn very quickly when we discovered they were being delivered a few days earlier than expected. A mad dash saw a neighbour kindly bring us over an old dog box and run as we tried to cobble together a separate area for them from random materials lying around and about.
There was certainly a lot of noise from all of the girls to start with – there’s also been a lot of squaring up and pecking through the fence, hopefully it won’t last too long and they get used to each other quickly. Marans are a more docile breed so I’m assuming our girls, who are quite territorial, will stay top of the pecking order but we’ll see.
We had one escapee moment (I’ve now ordered a big fishing net for future chicken catching shenanigans) as well as raising the divider even higher. Have a feeling these two will be just as entertaining but in very different ways and who knows these ones might even be a bit more cuddly – would love a proper chicken cuddle (like in this cutest video below).
Keen & willing (if slightly clueless) and gardening at 1000 ft – life in & around our Scottish Pentlands garden