gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

    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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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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You are radiant with charm

Were you ever aware of the Victorian language of flowers? Lilies symbolised beauty. Roses represented love. If your suitor gave you red roses you knew he was mad about you, if they were pink you could be assured of his affection, if yellow roses arrived he was only interested in friendship. And black or dark roses – well, make sure you put your affairs in order as someone wanted you dead. Flowers were used to say what could not be said in those more formal times. A bouquet given to you upright sent a positive message, and beware if you were given flowers facing the opposite direction. Mind you nowadays if you get a bunch of Bonnie Jeans from the garage from your gentleman caller I would maybe encourage him to try a little harder!

Anyway, while on a recent holiday in France I was entranced by these beautiful flowers in a restaurant.

  

These are ranculus asiaticus, a cousin of our buttercup. A Victorian maiden would blush with pleasure at being told, without words, that she was “radiant with charm” should she have been presented with these. Whereas Mrs G headed straight for Amazon.co.uk and ordered a delivery of ranunculus asiaticus bulbs in an attempt to cultivate these very special pretty paper-like blooms in time for the summer.

When the bulbs arrived they looked anything but charming 

Actually they reminded me of the hens favourite snack of meal worms. They had to be planted with these little “fingers” pointing down. I worked very hard, filling pots with soil,  planting bulbs and watering.  Only to discover that Naughty Lucas had jumped into a big pot and dug out and scattered its entire contents when I was tidying up the tools.  The Victorians would suggest he should give me a purple hyacinth to ask for forgiveness.

For now, here’s hoping by the summer I will be posting pictures like this 

there are no words for such beauty 

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Total Eclipse of the Coop

Last Friday morning here in our small damp little island and for just over an hour we all enjoyed a rare an unusual spectacle – the sun shone. Even rarer than that, we had a solar eclipse. It wasn’t a total eclipse, but at 95% it was still spectacular. We were all quietly enjoying a bright sunny morning.  Spring was in the air.

 

my beautiful Mother’s Day daffodils

  

naughty Lucas up on the table catching a few warm rays

  

the Gillybirds busy in the coop loving the brightness

Gradually the moon’s shadow moved over the sun and by 9.30 am the sky was still bright blue, but it was really dark.  The bird’s were singing their twilight song, it was most peculiar. How scarey it must have been for people centuries ago who didn’t know what was going on. It must have really freaked them out. Fortunately by around 10.30 the sky was back to normal and the moon had moved on.

We had all been well warned to not look directly at the sun during this event. Back in 1999 I observed our last eclipse through a pin hole made in a shoe box. For me, eclipse fashion hadn’t moved on much so I once more donned the shoe box on my head and it worked very well.  The youngest Gillyboy was provided with welding goggles in school. They also projected the sun’s image through a colander onto white paper to get multiple images. 

all the best dressed eclipse watchers wear shoe boxes!

I watched the hens closely to see if they would head off to bed due to the failing light, but they just carried on scratching and pecking as is their usual morning routine. Not fazed by the solar event at all. 

  

  If you want to check when an eclipse will be coming your way this NASA solar eclipse calendar is really helpful.Looks like Antarctica is the place to go if you want to make it a regular experience. 

Local BBC coverage has some great photos too. 

I didn’t capture any images worth sharing. Social media was a busy place to be on Friday morning and it was fun to watch the event as others were witnessing it (or not, if it was cloudy where they were).

I wonder what we will at be like when the solar eclipse next comes to these shores in 11 years time. Older and hopefully wiser. 

Gillyboy number 3 celebrates his 17th birthday today. Next time he will be 29! 

And my dear friend CC told me, in 11 years time she won’t even be as old as I am now.  That’s friends for you😛🌒

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Fit Birds

long time readers of this blog may well recall the post about the Great British Baker Richard and his Eclair Stair/chicken ladder. Feeling inspired and doing a garden tidy up, I squeezed a rather long old wooden ladder through the coop door, leant it against the hen house and encouraged the Gillybirds to ascend the ladder by lifting them onto each rung until they reached the top, then flew tentatively down.

It has been a big success! Hens can get fat and bored in winter with nothing much to do and this isn’t good for them.  Every day the Gillybirds take it in turns to climb the ladder and jump/flap down. A little encouragment is made by placing treats on the hen house roof – meal worms or raisins. I think they enjoy it very much.



Its very hard to get decent photos so I have taken these rather dark shots from the kitchen window. I wish you could see them smiling! 

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Boogaloo and Graham

Whoever said never work with animals or children clearly was missing out on a lot of fun. This week a short film from Belfast, home of the Gillybirds,  was nominated for an Academy award, having already won a BAFTA award (British Academy of Television and Film Awards). The Oscar was awarded to “the Phone Call”.

Set in the 1970’s – the period of my childhood, in my strife torn city, the years of violence known as the Troubles are a slight presence in the background, but this is a story about families, the facts of life and two urban chickens called, you guessed it, Boogaloo and Graham given to the boys by their father. It’s a genuine “chick flick”. The boys quickly fall in love with their unusual pets though their mother isn’t so impressed with the “smelly birds”.

The boys carry the hens around on their shoulders like they were parrots.  I’ve never tried this. Given the sharp claws and strong grip of a hen’s foot I hope the boys had extra padding under their shirts. Well done boys! From experience of trying to take still photos with hens I know how uncooperative those feathered girls can be. Well done to the patient director Michael Lennox too.

This is a short comedic film, though the subject matter is not for younger viewers. You can find out more about the film here.

This interview is with a Local farmer who was the “hen handler” on set of the 14 minute movie. 

And I’ve got the names for my next two hens already chosen! 

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