What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Annapolis Backyard Hens

Mr Gillybirds travels far and wide very regularly. I’m more of a home bird, preferring the comfort and familiarity of my nest of children, dogs and hens. Last week however I boarded a plane and headed across the Atlantic Ocean, touching down firstly in the quaint city of Annapolis. It was a packed schedule of meetings, dinners, breakfasts and general busyness, but being me, I got time to (a) visit a craft megastore and (b) find a blog post of hen related interest.

The City of Annapolis is old by USA standards, the harbour surrounded by mostly original wooden buildings from the 17th century, marks the place where Kunta Kinte of Roots fame was sold as a slave. Annapolis has the first treasury of the United States. It also is home to the elegant Naval College where we attended a service in the Naval Chapel with its most beautiful stained glass windows. It is very pretty even in the depths of winter. Homes have plenty of space round them. I mentioned to our lovely hosts that I was a hen keeper and was informed that hen keeping has become a popular hobby since legislation was passed in 2012 permitting home owners to keep them. The laws are very clear. Before getting your hens you are required to build a coop to a regulated size which has to be inspected and approved, to have your neighbours confirm they are happy with the prospect of feathered neighbours, you are encouraged to adopt rescue hens rather than buy hens, you are committed to taking good care by providing clean food and water, to visiting the vet in times of sickness and interestingly not to use them for human consumption, except for religious purposes.

It’s all very official compared to round our way. Looking out at our hosts spacious back yard, bordered by trees and an iced over majestic river, it seemed the ideal spot for a happy home for hens. I encouraged her to give it some consideration.

She mentioned that the city itself has embraced the idea of hen keeping, and twenty five and a half foot hen “blanks” had been given to various schools, businesses and art groups to decorate and place around the city to celebrate hens! Sadly I didn’t get time to jump out of a car and take photos. I did spot a Mona Lisa hen, but thanks to the joys of the Internet I’ve been able to find some just for you.

My favourite is the “sax and the city” hen, with me being both a hen keeper and saxophone player.

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It’s porridge, but not as we know it

In our house you need to be very careful in the mornings which pot you take your porridge from.
Those with two legs and no feathers get fruity, nutty porridge to keep them going for the day. We love it.
Those with two legs and feathers get porridge with pasta, raisins, sunflower seeds, meal worms, left overs of rice, potatoes, vegetables, bread crusts….
They love it!
In this cold weather, with so little sun light, we need to keep tummies full and warm to keep those yummy eggs coming.

The day starts at around 7.30 am when light is just showing in the sky, and the ladies usually retire for the evening around 4.15pm, earlier if it is very dark and wet. I love peeking in at them all snuggled up in their feathered duvets. I wonder what the chat is about?

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Weather bombed!

Happily here on our damp green little island stories in the media relating to bombs are much less frequent than they used to be.
This week we were hit by a “weather bomb”, not a meteorological term I have ever heard before, but the sound of it was quite terrifying! Explosive cyclogenesis is the official term for a weather situation where a storm intensifies as air pressure drops at its core dramatically (over 24 millibars in 24 hours).
We had very high winds, hail, rain, sleet, black skies, very low temperatures and on the coast the waves were huge. This colourful picture shows the estimated wave height, the black area is the highest waves. Surfs up!


This photo shows one of our favourite family holiday spots being completely battered by HUGE waves!
Here at the coop, it was business as usual thanks to our sturdy structure and covered area. Egg production is back on track, the girls are full feathered again and looking well.
Due to the low temperatures we’ve been having a hot breakfast to kick start the day


The yard has been safely enclosed so on days where the weather is kind the Gillybirds get out for a rummage around the bins where there are always lots of critters to munch on



Apollo is photo bombed by Colonel Saunders in this one!
We don’t much like bombs here, weather ones or any other type. But we’ve survived. There is snow in the air, and Christmas is coming.

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The Eclair Stair

It seems remiss of me not to have mentioned series five of the Great British Bake Off yet, since we have just had the quarter final! No spoilers for those still to catch up, but I couldn’t let another day go past without referring to Richard’s Eclair Stair, which he constructed for his choux pastry yummies.
Richard is a builder, a family man, and a most excellent baker! and it would appear, a hen keeper!
“I was bored” said Richard, when quizzed about his home made mini wooden staircase, ” we can use it as a chicken ladder when all this is over”.
Chicken ladder? Really?
When I imagine a chicken ladder these images come to mind –




I’d love to see the a Gillybirds faces if I presented them with this beautiful, practical, delicious stairway to choux pastry heaven!



And the flavours?
Lavender and Blueberry, Rose and Raspberry. Yum! What more could a hen ask for.


Photos from BBC website, Daily Mail and Hello Magazine website

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Living the Good Life

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

We are a small community of peace loving sisters. We have one purpose In life, a daily task to be fulfilled regardless of the weather, rising in the early dawn light and retiring as the sun’s last rays sink below the hills. What we produce is taken and used to improve the lives of others. This work takes a toll on our bodies, though had we been born in different circumstances, we may have spent our entire short life in cramped dark conditions and been disposed of once we had outlived our productivity.
We spend a considerable amount of our day eking out an existence from what nature and our generous benefactor provides. Our fare is plain and simple, mostly vegetarian. We drink nothing but water.
If any of us gets ideas above her station she is reprimanded with speed and severity. Strict order is observed at all times. Our conversation in general is quiet and respectful, our voices rising in a joyous song only when our task is completed.
A recent move finds us in much improved accommodation. Our boundaries have been extended, we have new territory to explore and navigate, rather than the limited area we occupied since we first joined the community. From the confines of our private space we enjoy watching the comings and goings of those around us, who often stop to encourage us with their chat. There is shelter from inclement weather, we are protected from those who would wish to harm us.
It is a good life here in the coop.


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The Mousetrap Mystery

In the evenings we are often entertained by the movements of a very small mouse running around at the background of the house.
The gillybirds also stop what they are doing to watch this “mini” mouse (sorry for the pun) though I think should it stray into the coop they would have it pulled apart between them if it didn’t run fast enough.
Early one morning I was opening the coop door when the mouse hopped over my bare feet. I’m not the squealing kind, but it fairly woke me up!
At the local hardware store I was chatting to the shop assistant about how many homes have mice just now when lo and behold a mouse popped out from under a shelf and ran the length of the pest control aisle right in front of us. I’m sure I could hear it saying ” nah na na nah na! Can’t catch me!”
Apparently a local Pest Control officer calls every morning to the shop to remove the mice caught during the night. They have a serious problem and as a result are having to stop selling bird seed which the mice are gorging themselves on.
Undaunted, I purchased two traps, loaded them with Nutella and set them up where neither curious hen nor dog could get caught.
The next morning the bait was taken, but no mice caught.
Mouse 1 Mrs Gillybirds 0
I switched from Nutella to peanut butter.
Now this morning I awoke to discover that one of the traps is completely gone. Disappeared. Vanished. Missing.
Is there a mouse with a trap stuck to its tail lying injured somewhere?
Or did the mouse get caught and then mouse, trap and all were taken by an opportunistic fox?
I wish I knew.
It’s a mousetrap mystery.

I previously wrote about an encounter with mice in blog post called of mice and hens

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Blogging 101

For the next few weeks I am taking part in a blogging 101 course hosted by the Daily Post.
Today is Day One.
Allow me to introduce myself…on this blog I refer to myself as Mrs Gillybirds, a play on my actual name, and the fact that I am an urban hen keeper.
I live in Ireland, with my husband, Mr Gillybirds, my four sons, the Gillyboys, two dogs – Mr Buttons and Naughty Lucas, and my three hens – Apollo, Darling and Colonel Saunders.
The Daily Post suggests I address you, the unsuspecting first time reader, on the matter of the following questions
Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
What topics do you think you’ll write about?
Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning know that I have actually been blogging since April 2012. The hen keeping was a completely new interest and blogging seemed to be a good forum, as I could not only keep a diary of my efforts, and also seek on line free guidance and encouragement from more experienced chicken keepers.
Apart from that, I can be a bit of a show-off and love an audience.
Keeping a hand written diary in a beautiful moleskin book would never get “likes” on social media. It would just get chewed by Naughty Lucas.
My blogging topics started out primarily about the Hens, or the Gillybirds as I refer to them, but this blog has morphed into a more random account of our family, dogs, my heros, my new found compulsion to run, holidays, cooking, lack of eggs being laid, and life in 2014.
My other keen interests are crochet and card making, and I have blogs specifically geared towards them – Crocheticipation and Angillcards. Also in 2012 Mr Gillybirds cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and I kept a blog of his epic journey to keep his poor worried mother up-to date with his progress.
Through all three blogs I enjoy responses from family and friends near and far, hen keepers, crocheters, card makers, crafters, anyone who stumbles upon my ramblings by accident. I have made genuine friends through my blogging.
We live busy lives and if someone gets a laugh, learns something new, is challenged to try something different, finds a new recipe or book to read, brill!
Thanks for taking the time to stay on my page. I’m honoured. Of all my followers, the crocheters are by far the most responsive. Thanks ladies!
Blogging over these past years has been a wonderful way of sitting down, taking stock, cataloguing highs and lows, good days and bad, all the changes that occur as part of life in all it’s richness and fullness. Of course, it’s very easy to self edit and paint a rosy picture (or not) and I have to bear in mind that Grandma and Grandpa Gillybirds are keen blog readers and some of our crazy family stuff is best left unwritten
Having a small soft voice in the blogosphere, writing hopefully wholesome, happy things (most of the time), bringing positivity when there is so much darkness, sadness and destruction online, on TV, beyond my front door. I’m not Pollyanna, nor am I the Great Oracle.
To misquote Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill”….I’m just a girl, writing in a blog, asking you to read me

IMG_0107.PNG Read the rest of this entry »

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Cocktail Hour

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

Whereas in reality it is more like this

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!

Mr and Mrs Gillybirds- the Love Birds

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Hen sitting thanks

At the end of the summer I should pay online tribute to my hen sitters while we have taken some holiday time away. Special thanks for their early morning coop opening, treat providers, egg collection, health and well-being monitoring, coop closing and being all round good neighbours and friends to P and L, Grandma Gillybirds and to Miss CC (no stranger to mentions on this blog) and also to our neighbour L’s mum who came especially to visit the hens over the course of one of the weeks we were away as she had grown up on a farm and was eager to see hens up close for the first time in years 🙂 awww
Our garden builders who carried on working in our absence also gave them lots of attention and probably too much of their own lunches, and finished their awesome looking very secure huge coop.


All our hensitters heartily enjoyed their responsibilities (together with a long list of instructions from yours truely) and despite not being blessed with an abundance of eggs they loved spending time getting to know our feathered ladies better.
Thanks one and all!
There is actually a chicken hotel in England you can book your hens into check this out- but ssshh, don’t tell the Gillybirds!

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Giant Green Cabbage


It isn’t every Sunday morning I come home from church with a giant green cabbage. But today I did.
And what a whopper! Those are my favourite pair of summer shoes (UK size 6) beside this beauty, grown by “Pip” who gave us a talk on having faith the size of a mustard (or in this case cabbage) seed.
We will be enjoying the heart of the cabbage, the Gillybirds are tucking into the first few outer leaves, which came complete with a dessert of slugs.




I hope the Gillyboys eat their cabbage with as much enthusiasm as the hens did!



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