What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Rock Chicks

Since we returned from our holiday the weather has been wonderful if you can strip down to a wee top and shorts (me) but not if you spend your day in fur or feathers (dogs and hens).
All sorts of cooling measures have been taken. Plenty of cool water to drink, providing shade with table cloths over the coop, and watermelon frozen in the freezer. The girls have been cooling themselves by digging holes and dustbathing.
Most energetic activities like dog walking and free ranging in the garden are done late in the evening. Last night we were still sitting out at 11pm enjoying the long twilight, long after the Gillybirds had hopped up into the coop to bed.
Today our neighbourhood is a-buzzing as 25,000 people are expected to attend Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, at a large open air concert just a stone’s throw from the coop. Already the noise from the sound checks is enough to put anyone off laying their eggs! From biggest Gillyboy’s bedroom you can see the stage itself provided you don’t mind getting a crick in your neck.
We are hoping to sit out in the garden, light a few candles, sip something chilled and be entertained by the Boss for free- all sound, no vision. It will probably ruffle a few feathers.

Dust bathing. The best way to cool off. If you have feathers and lack sweat glands.

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A new Summer Menu


After the success of the yoghurt, I have been giving the Gillybirds a few new food items to see what they prefer. It must be hard to get excited about eating dried meal pellets day after day. With the high temps and bright sunshine I wanted to give them fruits that had a high water content to help the hens feel cooler.
A couple of overripe nectarines were welcomed with joy. Some fairly black bananas were treated with suspicion. And melon was a huge success. As with introducing new food to small children, these were not all introduced at once, but over ten or so days. Hens poop enough without putting their little digestive systems through unnecessary trauma.
I also made them a formal dust bath from an old washing up basin filled with sand and soil. The aim of this was for them to get into and “splash” themselves to cool off. However they treated it with disdain and spent a couple of hours walking round it. So I dumped the contents into their run and they were happy enough to scratch through it.
To give them some more exercise, inspired by Gillyboy number 4’s Sports Day, getting the girls those bikini ready bodies (LOL), after raking the run I brought in some new big branches and laid them out like hurdles. It also gives them some new perches to watch all the garden activities we as a family have enjoyed on these long summer evenings. It has been still bright at 10.30pm.
I have been closing the coop door only partially as it is so warm, and the sun is up so very early. The hens can let themselves out ( their eyes can detect sunlight at least 45 minutes before ours) and start their day well before ours. However on Sunday morning I was awoken by lots of cross hen noises again and again. I sleep at the front of the house, the coop is at the far back corner of the garden so this was Very Loud indeed. I ran downstairs thinking they were being annoyed by a cat or even a fox…but no, the coop door was closed too narrowly and they couldn’t get out and were just letting the entire neighbourhood know what a lazy owner they have! A rooster could not have made any more racket. After a quick feed they had all laid within ten minutes so I guess they forgave and forgot pretty quickly.

I meant to say that the best way to ripen soft fruit so us humans can eat it is by keeping it for a day or two in a paper bag.
If things get too ripe I have an excellent banana loaf recipe that is a family favourite.
Enjoy the summer!

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Muck Magnets


Hens love to give themselves dust baths. When it is warm outside, hens will look for a new place and scratch down until they reach nice, fine dirt. They’ll flop onto their backs, close their eyes and just roll around. When people observe dust bathing for the first time, they often think their chickens are dying of some terrible disease! Dust bathing behavior looks quite odd. When chickens dust bathe, they lie down in the dirt, scratch it onto their backs, roll in it, rub their necks in it, and shuffle it under their feathers. Dust bathing activity frequently leaves hollows in the ground that look like miniature moon craters. The chickens usually have a favorite spot to dust bathe that they will come back to again and again. They get the dirt way down into their feathers until it reaches their skin. When they are done, they’ll shake it all off and feel fresh and clean.
I wish I could work out how chickens use dirt to clean themselves, when my boys play in the dirt they just get dirty! The littlest one I still refer to as a Muck Magnet 🙂
The early result of moving the coop off the lawn is that the hens have begun dust rolling in the soil. Those girls really look like they are having a pleasurable experience, all huddled up and dirty together.
In addition to cleaning the chickens, dirt naturally clogs the respiratory pores of parasites, like lice and mites. When the respiratory pores of these parasites are clogged, they can no longer breathe and they die.
Smart chickens.
There’s been a back-to-school outbreak of headlice in number four son’s class, maybe I should be dunking his head in a pot of topsoil instead of a tedious period of combing and searching every evening (no wee beasties found yet thankfully)



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