gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Happy New Year from the Coop

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This was possibly my best Christmas gift from my brother. Even the hens and the dogs are included (in a way) in our family

All is well in the coop. It’s been a very wet winter so far so the coop itself floods regularly so our mummy lets us run round the yard and scratch in her plant and herb pots. We are laying lots and lots of lovely eggs.

 

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Summer Reading 3

  

Most of you will at least have seen or heard of the Oscar winning movie The Color Purple, or even read the book it was based on. As a hen keeper I find friends will give me hen related gifts ( for which I thank you kindly) and this book  “the Chicken Chronicles” was a lovely gift from KA, long time friend and fellow hen keeper.

This is the account of the novelist herself and her hen keeping experiences. Having kept hens as a child, she decided to start keeping them again in her later years. The best thing about this book were the names she gave to her hens (Gertrude Stein, Agnes of God, Hortensia to name but a few), her excellent observations of quirky hen behaviour, and her personalisation of their individual characters but unfortunately I just didn’t warm to the voice of Alice herself. Those of you who read a great deal will hopefully know just what I mean.

The best paragraph, which was sweet and sad, was when she recounts how one of her hens may have been feeling after its hen friend has disappeared, presumably taken by a predator:

The hardest part was watching Gertrude Stein day after day, wait for, and look for Bobbie who had been her special friend. They had napped side by side in the heat of the day, their bodies half- buried in dirt and straw. They had hunted insects together under the wood chips in the garden; they had roosted side by side each night on the roosting post. Gertrude’s face was wistful, sad, waiting. I wondered if she had witnessed Bobbie’s disappearance; if so, it must have shocked and frightened her. I wondered if she was still pondering “death”, as she had seen it, the unexpected nature of this encounter we must all experience, the incredible mystery.

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Summer Reading 2

Last year I blogged about “These is my Words” written by Nancy E Turner. 

I have finally got round to reading “Sarah’s Quilt”, the second instalment of the life of Sarah Agnes Prine, mother, farmer, rancher, widow, all round tough cookie of a woman living back in 1906 in the Arizona Territories who is actually the great grandmother of the author. 

Written in diary style, recounting the San Fransciso earthquake and fire, drought, a bit of romance, if you enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie, True Grit and like a strong spirited fiesty female character you will hopefully enjoy this book as much as I did, though not as much as I enjoyed the first book.

  

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    Summer Reading 1

  

 

Mr G and I spent a week in Washington DC in early February and were stunned at the lack of shopping areas in the city. We found a fancy pet shop, a chemist and Kramerbooks. A book store. A fabulous bookstore. And of course I headed for my two favourite sections – craft and urban hen keeping. And found this great book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter. 

Written in friendly, blog like style, Novella starts her urban farm in a inner city ghetto with hens, ducks and turkeys, fruit trees and vegetables and ends up rearing her own pigs for food. She experiments for a month by only eating what she grows herself. This book is funny, informative, gritty, moving and makes you think more about urban wastelan and its potential.

To this day Novella keeps us up to date with her adventures at http://www.novellcarpenter.com

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Still broody! And it’s catching

So  here we are five weeks on and Queen Mary is still hoping to be a momma. And now Queen Isabella has joined her on the Royal Nest too. So that means two hens not laying, not taking proper care of themselves, and generally being very grumpy girls if I try to move them. The weather has been warm and sunny, I’m not sure if this triggers broodiness or if it’s just a hormone thing!  

Also very popular these days are “double yoked” eggs, which look enormous beside ordinary eggs, and have two deliciously golden yolks perfect for frying and being a dip for fried potatoes!

  


 Please excuse lack of photo editing- since a WordPress update recently I have had trouble in uploading photos to this site. 

 

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Feeling Broody

  

Summer is finally here and Mary Queen of Scots has decided she wants to be a mamma hen. Yes, she’s gone broody. My dad says down the country she would be referred to as a “”clocking hen”! Apparently this is a common occurrence with her breed – marans. Sadly, since we don’t have a rooster she is sitting all day all in the nesting box on top of eggs laid by the other ladies, ruffling her feathers and making a funny growling sound if disturbed. Like all mothers she is aggressive if she thinks she is being taken away from her potential babies. For now, she is a slave to her maternal instinct and it takes courage and patience to persuade her to neglect her mothering duties. 

There are plenty of remedies suggested for broody hens – bathing their undercarriages in cold water, keeping them in an anti broody cage for a few days, blocking up the nesting box.  I tried the latter, only to find that poor mamma hen in her desperation had knocked over the board and was sitting  all squashed up underneath it, ignoring all discomfort and carrying on with her task. If I didn’t lift her out several times a day she wouldn’t eat or drink, or poop, just carrying on sitting keeping those (un) fertilised eggs at a just the right temperature, for about three weeks until they would be due to hatch. Sorry Mary, this isn’t going to happen. Only in your dreams. I’m sorry. 

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Lucas stands guard

The Gillybirds were already in residence when Lucas arrived as a puppy nearly three years ago,so hens have always been a constant in his life. He did cry with confusion when Apollo and Darling disappeared only to be replaced by these exotic looking newcomers. He is very curious about the hens, but would never bark at them, unlike Mr Buttons whose deep bark sends them running for safety at the very back of the coop. It’s enough to put anyone off laying!

They have all got used to each other’s presence very quickly and he is always out having a chat in the yard with the new girls, and patrolling on fox/cat alert too!  

   

Lucas and Mary deep in conversation  

Lucas checking everyone is getting enough fluids. 

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Getting acquainted 

it’s now about ten days since the new girls moved in. Initially they were extremely timid and clearly not used to human contact at all. But already three (Betty, Izzy and Mary) out of four have become less cautious, more inquisitive and have associated the click sound I make as I approach them as the promise of a tasty treat. Jane remains very much in the background, lurking in the shadows. But it’s early days, this pedigree fluffy bottomed lady will come round eventually I’m sure.

 

“Betty”

  

“Jane”

 

 

“Mary”

 

“Izzy”


These ladies are much more vocal than the previous Gillybirds. From the moment they are released from the coop  with a flurry of feathers until they reluctantly are shut away at night they cluck, bock, squawk, peep, purr, growl…on and on. The only thing I haven’t heard yet is an “egg song” like the Gillybirds used to sing as they laid an egg.

And there have been plenty of eggs too! So everyone must be feeling quite at home here at Gillybirds Manor.

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Where are the Other Two?

Yesterday CC and I took a trip to a farm selling hens and met hundreds of them. Of most colours, sizes and all very noisy! The farmer reckoned that at three years old my hens were finished laying and offered to home them for me with his hens. He pointed out some “retired ladies” clucking happily amongst his own hens. This option offered me the opportunity to buy new laying hens and avoid the difficulties of introducing them to the older girls by removing the older girls altogether. it has always been my worry how to deal with introducing new hens into a well established flock. Apollo and Darling have not laid eggs for quite some months now and this is the time of year when new hens are at the “point of lay” at 16-18 weeks. It may seem very harsh but in the end it was an economic rather than an emotional choice. I keep hens for very different reasons to why we have dogs. Hens are not really pets. They are entertaining and pretty to look at but their purpose here is to provide eggs. We have already had to deal with the loss in the deaths of both Sweet Violet and Colonel Saunders. Apollo and Darling have not been disposed of but will hopefully enjoy their time as city birds retired to the country. The old hens have gone to live in a large community of old and young hens where two extra non laying mouths to feed are not a problem. 

So this morning our girls journeyed from the Big City to start a new life with lots of new friends out in the countryside. They appeared to be settling in well by the time I left.

 
Here are some of their new sisters – 


The eldest Gillyboy took these photos yesterday in anticipation of the departure of his feathered friends. I think they sum these lovely girls and their wonderful friendship up very well. Thanks Matthew.

   
 

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Choosing Royal Names

It seemed only appropriate that the girls be given Royal names since as I collected the new team of Gillybirds the birth of a new royal princess was announced. So ahead of William and Kate’s confirmation of the name of their sweet baby, allow me to introduce my four princesses- 

  
Queen Isabella of Spain “Izzie”

  
Mary, Queens of Scots “Mary”

  
Queen Elizabeth the First “Betty”

  
Lady Jane Grey “Jane”

  

 The images are very poor but I’m anxious for the Press not to intrude too much at this time as the new girls are quite easily spooked. 
We were however delighted to discover a small pale egg lying in the coop this afternoon.

Welcome to the world Your Feathered Majesties!

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