gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

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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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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Strata

 I’m always on the lookout for new ways to cook eggs, and while staying a few nights with our hosts in Annapolis, Maryland, we were served a warm dish called Strata. We actually had it for dinner and for breakfast again the next morning. 

To me, having studied geology in school “strata ” is different layers of rock, not a food. Our host described it as “Southern food”, and as she was preparing it I was intrigued by the box of pure white eggs, since here our hens produce brown eggs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen white eggs before. I explained that egg shell colour is determined by the colour of a hen’s ears. I don’t think our host believed me. She told me she would have to pay more money to buy brown shelled eggs, they were considered to be something rare and quite unusual! 

Anyway, Strata reminded me of a cross between cheese fondue and a pastry-less quiche. Definitely winter food. 

I found this recipe online. I will be trying this at home, with my own rather special brown shelled eggs.

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The Secret of Long Life

Sadly this week in Ireland our oldest resident passed away. Luke Dolan,a farmer from Strokestown Co Roscommon died aged 108. Asked the secret of Long Life (his sister lived to be 106) he said it was eating a boiled egg every day and a spoonful of sugar in his tea.

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When I think of the long long life Luke had – born in 1906- how the world has so completely changed – it’s mind blowing!
What’s also interesting that the title of Ireland’s oldest living resident now passes on to Michael Lambert, aged 107, whom lives only 20 miles away from Mr Dolan’s farm! I wonder if he eats an egg a day too?

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World Egg Day. It’s today!

The International Egg Commission tells us-
“World Egg Day is a unique opportunity to help raise awareness of the benefits of eggs and is celebrated in countries all around the world.
World Egg Day was established at the IEC Vienna 1996 conference when it was decided to celebrate World Egg Day on the second Friday in October each year.
For centuries, eggs have played a major role in feeding families around the globe. They are an unbeatable package when it comes to versatility and top-quality protein at a very affordable price. And they are also an excellent source of choline, essential in memory and brain development. When you factor in convenience and terrific taste, there is just no competition.

Eggs are one of nature’s highest quality sources of protein, and indeed contain many of the key ingredients for life. The proteins contained within eggs are highly important in the development of the brain and muscles, have a key role to play in disease prevention and contribute to well being in latter life, particularly in relation to eyesight (avoiding macular degeneration).”
the IEC press release is available here

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This ad for the Irish Bord Bia claims to deter in your personality type by how you like your eggs in the morning.
Personally I like mine with a kiss!

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Happy World Egg Day!

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Cocktail Hour

If I told you the hens have been drinking pink cocktails you would probably imagine something like this

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Whereas in reality it is more like this

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Not a high heel or false eyelash in sight.
And they aren’t necking it straight from the bottle, it is diluted in their water! The Gillybirds are classy girls.
Egg production is very low. For now the coop move is being blamed, but every morning there are quite a few feathers floating free, so moulting is happening too, which would also lead to poor laying.
So, as Grandma Gillybirds would say, the girls are getting a good tonic drink to perk them up.
The Poultry Drink contains “a selection of 5 minerals in a high energy sugar syrup base to support all round condition and health in Poultry”
The minerals are “iron, phosphorus,potassium, manganese and copper -this product is particularly of benefit to recovering birds” it turns the water a very pretty pink colour, with no need for a cherry or a paper umbrella. And they seem to like it.
They are also still enjoying the giant cabbage. I feel it may well put them off cabbage for life. I’m not sure I would like to eat cabbage every day for 5 days either.
The weather is fabulous. A real Indian Summer. The trees are turning. There is a nip in the air in the mornings. The Gillybirds are tucked up in bed by 8.30pm.
On Monday Mr G and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary.
An excuse for a few cocktails!

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Mr and Mrs Gillybirds- the Love Birds

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Chicken Run – how Mrs Gillybirds got off the couch and across the 10km finish line

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I consider myself to be reasonably fit. Since getting a dog 9 years ago I have probably walked 15-20 miles per week, that’s almost 8000 miles a year and a whopping 71,000 over 9 years. If I were the family car I would be ready for trading in.
Anyway, I walk, I ski a week or two a year (with enthusiasm between hot chocolate stops) I love to swim, I enjoy cycling, I shake my bones at Zumba. But I certainly don’t run. Runners are lean, lanky, toned with sharp edges poking through their Lycra running gear. However, after a casual challenge from a school mum and the example of my pastor who has championed running in his 50s (and lost over 5 stone in weight) I downloaded the “couch to 5k” app, pulled on my ratty old trainers, waited for cover of darkness and began to run.
Not to lose weight, not to get fit, but to see if I could.
The first week the program was warm up walk of five minutes, then alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Three times in one week. It was cold, it was dark and it was very tough. My beginning to run was a complete secret. I told no one. And after the first week I acquired a full on sports bra to keep what my mamma gave me under control.
I also purchased a dog running leash. A rather scarey looking black belt with a long bungee lead to tether the dog, leaving me with hands free to run in my special hand flapping girly way that makes Mr Gillybirds laugh so much. If I was going to invest time into running then I had to incorporate this into my daily commitment of dog walking. And so Naughty Lucas and I began dog jogging. Or at least I was jogging and he was walking with a big grin on his daft doggy face, and I found my time per kilometre was greatly reduced should we suddenly sprint off after a cat or squirrel. He also learned to increase his pace when the audio signal on my app encourage me to “start running” in her annoying I’m fitter than you are voice.
After 4 weeks and shin splints I invested in a proper pair of running shoes. True to myself they are neon pink and hyacinth blue and have really helped.
By now I was jogging up to 16 minutes out of a 31 minute program.
By mid April I shuffled over the 4 km mark. Mr G had joined me over the Easter holidays and with the change to British Summer Time I was now running during the day light. Keeping my head down and not making eye contact with passing traffic. Thankfully no one was calling an ambulance and my appearance attached to a small black dog looking like a husky who had forgotten his sled was causing amusement to the school kids waiting for their bus most mornings.
By the end of April after successfully completing 5.69 km I downloaded a new app – for 10k running, and signed up for the Runher 10km run on 23rd May. Where I once ran through daffodils suddenly I was running amongst bluebells, and finding new strength in my legs. And, starting to enjoy myself!
Training sessions now lasted an hour and I was running for 15 minutes at a time with a one minute rest in between. Sometimes I wished that after 7 or so km as I headed for home, red faced and exhausted, a race car would follow behind me flashing up the distance I had already covered, just so passerby would acknowledge my efforts and not think I was a complete short distance loser.
On 17th May, 9 weeks from the couch, I ran 10km along the scenic Lagan towpath. I knew then that I would not disgrace myself at the official run.
This past week I have eaten more pasta and protein than usual, and before the event enjoyed a plate of fresh poached eggs from the Gillybirds to give me stamina.
And so last night in the cold, grey dampness of a typical Irish May evening I joined a couple of thousand other women of all shapes, sizes and running styles and ran from start to finish. It was a coastal route which I had thought would be flat and easy along a beach path but did in fact reveal some challenging but thankfully short steep hill sections.
To keep me going I had an excellent playlist on my phone, jelly babies for a sugar boost, lip gloss (never go anywhere without it) and Mr G, the 4th Gillyboy, my dear supportive friend CC and her teenage nephew, and of course, my running partner Naughty Lucas all waiting for me with smiles and cheers and clicking cameras at the finish line.
I made it.
As a family we have signed up to run the 5k Color Run in our city in August.
And I plan to find a ladies relay team for our city marathon next year.
I’m still not a runner though. Just ask my dog.

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The meal of 10km champions!

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

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The great thing about keeping hens is that when things are going well, reasonable weather, a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, the odd treat , brighter longer Spring days the hens just keep on laying. The eggy song which can be heard from quite a distance echoes around, heralding another oval masterpiece is sung daily. A fair amount of baking and a family favourite of bacon and egg sandwiches made with fresh eggs, crispy bacon and fresh white bread keeps on top of this eggy abundance.
And so dear reader, my blog has been silent. I hope you haven’t missed us too much. Consider that no news is good news as they say.
One mystery I did solve is that the layer of the elongated eggs is Colonel Saunders. They are whoppers.
The last few days someone (it can only be Apollo or Darling) has been laying ghostly pale eggs, as you can see from the picture, much whiter shells than usual. The egg inside is just the same golden yellow yolk and clear thick white thankfully.
I have consulted the chicken internet oracles and the general view is that this is due to a hen coming to the end of her egg laying season, preparing to stop laying and moult. Calcium levels in the shell are dropping. In fact today an egg was lying broken in the nesting box, showing that the shell was very weak at the time of laying. I need to remove broken eggs quickly as hens love the taste of their own eggs and I don’t want them to get into the habit of deliberately breaking them for a tasty snack.
Early readers of Mrs Gillybirds blog may recall that egg shell colour is determined mostly by the colour of the hen’s ears. Our girls have rusty brown ears and eggs are usually a nice pale brown colour, not these freaky white shells.
Over the next few weeks I will provide more oyster shell grit to increase calcium levels, and keep a close eye for the start of moulting.
Meanwhile we can all enjoy the Spring time sun as the garden comes to life after what was a mild but horribly wet winter. I look forward to being able to take a trip to the coop without the hassle of Wellington boots. And no more dirty dog paw prints on clean kitchen tiles!

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Meanwhile back at the coop

So while I was off skiing, it was very much business as usual at Gillybirds Manor. Ably looked after by my second in command, Gillyboy number one, the girls braved the persistent rain, protected by a newly added clear shower curtain and kept on laying.

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It’s amazing that even their eggs are so individual and unique. I would love to know who consistently lays the long narrow eggs, they are huge!
Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, is extra special when the pancakes are made with your own hens’ eggs.

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On my return it appears that Spring is on its way in the garden, days are longer, and the sun has been shining, giving the girls plenty of sunny spots to dust bathe around the garden.

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The have been some very pretty sunsets too.
I took these photos today. All the hens are looking really well, glossy feathers, bright eyes, nice red combs, it’s amazing how they have survived such a miserable damp mucky winter.

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And Colonel Saunders pops up to say “hello Springtime!”

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#Team Kimberley

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So excited that tonight is the final of the Great British Bake Off!
With only “style over substance”Frances, “I’m a disaster” Ruby and the cool calm and collected Kimberley left, my money has been on Kimberley since Week One.
It was our Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday and just as last year the Gillybirds little daily eggy harvest was polished and brought along for display. This year in tribute to the Bake Off I made a hopefully artistic display of the ingredients we use for baking – flour, sugar and eggs and some baking utensils etc alongside the flowers in a big rustic jug.
Go Kimberley!

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