Pine Marten on the prowl…

This morning, around 5AM Emily came into our room to say that the chickens were making a fearful row in the back garden.

Yesterday we got two new Chickens that we introduced to the hen house overnight. They often fight at first, until they have established their pecking order, but they have next to no sight in poor light, so it is very unusual for them to be active when it is still dark.

I confess I turned over and tried to sleep, while Michaela and Emily went to investigate.

They found the new pair of chickens still in the roosting box, but the two older ones out in the garden shouting their beaks off.

Then they saw a sleek shape move easily over the ground, up onto the wall where it trotted off along the lane. There is a streetlight on the lane, and so they had a good view of the animal against the light.

As far as they can see with research, it was a Pine Marten. The other options- Stoat, Polecat or Mink were all discounted by the intrepid pair as a result of being too small, too short of tail, too dark of face.

Now we have a bit of a dilemma. It is so exciting to have such a lovely wild and rare creature in the garden.

But we also know that they are perfectly capable of taking chickens. And we love our chickens.

For now, all we can do is shut them up at night (we have been letting them go to bed when they are ready and not shutting them in as we have never had any problems before.)

Shelter from the snow…

The snow is here.

It has been smothering the East of the country for the last few days, but the cold winds blowing in from the heart of Europe have found their way to the West.

It is lovely, but everything has stopped. We have a car full of rubbish for the tip that we can not move, and the snow shows no signs of stopping.

The chickens are a little freaked- this must be their first experience of snow.

I spent some time in my workshop clearing it out and blocking off some of the open side- what keeps the rain out is not as effective against drifting snow. And the chickens were keen to join me.

I did not have the heart to kick them back out into the snow.

It is still one of my favourite places to be…

The chicken fights back…

A friends showed me this earlier.

And as husband to the keeper of the best fed chickens in chickendom, I appreciated the sentiments, and was astounded by the imagination and execution-

Here is how it was described in the Tatton Park programme-

“Horrifyingly beautiful, the installation suggests a new (or perhaps ancient) and menacing presence eminating from the cast iron oven. Coiling, pluming and creeping through the kitchen, the work feels weighty, meaty. The visitor at once is taken by the gorgeousness of the piece itself – the assemblage of ‘common’ feathers presented as something completely exotic – and the shame involved in discarding objects of beauty for a perfunctory dinner.”

This fantastic piece is by artist Kate MccGwire and is made up of feathers of all the different birds that would have been cooked in this oven over the years.

They are coming to get you…

Chicken update…

It has been said (much to Audrey’s disgust!) that to be a member of Aoradh you need to keep chickens…

Not sure what that says about us all- but 4 of us now have them, or are planning to.

Our birds have settled in now, after just a couple of weeks. They started out timid and traumatised, scared of their own shadows. Then over the next few days, they explored further and further out of their coop into the garden- going a few meters extra each day.

The kids have been so involved with them- running out each morning to check for eggs, picking them up to help them get used to being handled, and reporting on their activities hour by hour.

We are getting two eggs a day at the moment- we think that one of the chickens has not started laying. The eggs really are delicious- big, with dark yellow yolks.

And despite my rather unsentimental attitude towards animals, they are very endearing creatures. They do such odd things- Today one of them had a fight with a bumble bee, and yesterday, one had a peck at a friends bum as she liked to look of a zip on her trousers.

Some tips so far in case you are considering joining in the chicken owning craze-

  • Preparation- get your garden chicken proof first- decide which areas you are happy for them to roam, and fence off as appropriate.
  • So far ours have not done too much damage- although we lost a salad crop, and we have a regular chicken poo collection- if you are happy to take the risk, then focus on your boundaries.
  • Putting them away in the coop at night is no trouble at all- they like going to bed at dusk, but try it in the middle of the day when they are mid peck, and it is a different ball game!
  • A decent coop is worth the £60 that you spend on it- being so much easier to keep clean.
  • Chickens (even battery ones) love to explore, and peck at interesting things- give them plenty to do.
  • They are great fun- the very best kind of pets- ones that put food on your table!