THE MARSHALL'S CHICKENS...


Well after reading another blog about Chickens (see my links)
We decided that it was most certainly acceptable to keep chickens as a hobby.
Despite one or two of our neighbours moaning behind our backs and behind closed doors we went ahead and welcomed into our garden four hens..
Harriet - Sapphire - Speckle - Amber
Sometimes you just have to accept that you can please some of the people some of the time and for the rest of it ... well, get a life...
GET A CHICKEN!!

Having now moved out into the countryside we have no neighbours so have 13 hens and 2 very nosey cockerals!!



HERE IS MY OWN DIARY OF A CHICKEN LOVER...

Firstly a huge " THANK YOU" to JUDE SCOTT at
COTWOLD CHICKENS - This lady was really helpful and gave us loads of time, useful and advice and support.

I would recommend going to visit JUDE AT COTSWOLD CHICKENS HAWTHORN STUD SOUTH NEWINGTON BANBURY
If you too like us feel the need to expand your knowledge and desire for the good life!

MEET THE MARSHALL HENS..

BOVAN GOLDLINES
AMBER STARS

BLACK STARS
SPECKLED STAR
BLUEBELL

Thursday, 15 November 2007

EGGS, EGGS & MORE EGGS!

Well on Monday when I went to collect the eggs after the boys had left for school there was 5 in the nest... um I thought who forgot to collect yesterday? But then on Wednesday and Thursday (today) I checked and cleaned out the chickens at 9.30 and there there none - but at 10.45 there were 7!!
YES NUMERO 7 !!
I was amazed.. I telephoned Jude Scott to check that this was normal and she said "normal but quite rare!"
They must be very happy chickens with a great diet she added, keep hold of them!
None of them appear to be getting ready to moult and November 5th didn't have any impact on their laying (unlike another lady at the local pet shop who had asked my advice because hers were looking a bit tatty and had stopped laying.)
So we are very lucky as now we can both swap eggs for Pheasants (thanks Chris over the road) and meet demand for cakes, omelette's, eggy bread, dippy egg, scrambled egg and chocolate mousse!

Thursday, 18 October 2007


Turf update...

I thought I'd take some pictures of our beautiful green grass and then I realised we didn't have any!
The turf looked beautiful in September and now it looks like this!




We have had to section of a smaller part of the garden for the chickens to allow rotation of the grass, this is what the chicken free grass looks like!

I have to say in their defence that the wet weather has not helped at all, and as they like to scratch up the ground for worms its been really hard for the grass to hang in there!
Hopefully as nature takes its course it will reproduce and re-emerge through their poop!

This is what the divide looks like... you can see just how far they manage to get their heads through..

Our lawn has never really been a lawn.. with the dogs the boys , the pool and then the trampoline its always had a real hard life so I am not too bothered.

If you have a bowling green for a lawn don't keep chickens!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Wet Chickens

I was under the impression that although chickens enjoyed the joys of what rain brings - (worms and more worms with puddles of mud to scratch around in)) they didn't really like getting really wet?
Our hens were absolutely soaked yesterday and despite having every opportunity to shelter from the pouring rain they didn't.
I also read that if they were caught out in the rain then it could effect egg production? This doesn't happen with our hens either!
I did however round then up and put them into their covered run because they looked so pathetic and wet.
They protested with quite a lot of noise for the 1st ten minutes and then realised that I wasn't going to come back out in the rain because I DO NOT enjoy getting soaked.
The new turf that I laid at the beginning of September no longer really exists, there is a really funny cropped line about 4 inches from the fence where they can get their heads through and peck the good grass that is left!
I am hoping that once it starts to get a bit dryer and the ground isn't so soggy and scratchable then it may recover to some extent - we can all have dreams!
Eggs production is still 4 a day and I can say that 50% are double yokers' the yokes are so bright even Harrison's cookery teacher commented.
We have regular orders from friends now and I have even started to design our own egg boxes!
When the design is complete I will post the results...

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A VISITOR FOR THE HENS....

GREEN GRASS!!!
Today the girls had a visitor - & I would assume that this was their 1st encounter with the small prickly kind? They all took turns in having a peck and following it around the garden and then lost interest really quickly.








It was however really nice to see that hedgehogs are also present in our urban garden.






Tuesday, 25 September 2007

RE:Landscaping...




Well Roger went off to France last Friday to watch the Rugby World Cup and promised on his return to get the garden finished with me.


Last Thursday I dug up the whole lawn area to a depth of about 6 inches and then wondered what on earth I had done!


The chickens loved it. Regularly they manged to get their tiny little necks placed between the prongs of the fork in a bid to get the worm they had spied. I couldn't use the spade because it would of been like a gulitine! Roger thinks they are all stupid - I prefer trusting...


I gave them Friday, Saturday and Sunday a.m to sieve, level and break down any large lumps. They did me proud! It would of taken me forever to sieve the soil into manageable levelling consistency but they did a grand job all in three days. I still had to remove the larger rocks and fill in several large holes that they had made to dust bath in but was still impressed none the less.
Laying the turf was a different matter. A little pep talk about NOT scratching it up was in order and they seemed to take it on board or... were just more interested in the corn in my hand?

I have laid the turf and soaked it well and Monday morning was awoken at 6.50 by the chickens making a commotion. They could see the rich green grass though the hatch (its clear perspex) and seemed desperate to get out. I came down and let them out... Don't want to upset the neighbours!!


Monday, and Tuesday (today) we have had the biggest eggs yet! Now that's either a rich diet of worms and lush grass that I am being rewarded with or...? Well that's all I can think of.

The landscaping is now nearly complete and with the new "Hot tub" in place we can relax in the warm 40 degree bubbles watching the chickens, kittens, dogs and other wildlife....

The new trellis appears to be chicken proof so we wont be getting any poach chickens by default.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Landscaping

We have had a major change around in our garden and it has involved lots of digging of holes which are very quickly filled with chickens.

Roger was left to erect four posts for some new trellis and when I come home hadn't got as far as I had hoped. He said it wasn't the Cider but the chickens that had held him up?
"Every time I dig a hole a chicken fills it up!"

I did suggest shutting them in the run but he said that he enjoyed them "helping" and "worm fest" made him laugh!

We have now however manged to nearly get the job finished and are awaiting our new toy? More details later....

Having decided that now the pool has gone and the ground resembles nothing like grass (thanks again Harriet, Amber,Sapphire & Speckle!) we (Roger) are going to turf the lawn, as apparently its the right time of year to do it?

I have extended the small boarder into a bigger boarder in the hope that the chickens will be happy digging up that area of the garden and NOT the new turf.
I suggested keeping them in the run for a couple of weeks but Roger was horrified! So I'll publish his edited comments when the turf has been laid and the chickens have left it alone.. (ha ha)

Finally I think I would be right in assuming that if a person brings you an empty egg box with a smile then they are asking for a refill?? Word has got out and those that have tried our eggs are coming back for more.

We have even discovered that if they are taken to the rugby club on a Sunday that they can be exchanged for BEER! Not a bad result considering all the girls are laying an egg daily so supply is out waying demand here at the moment.

I still cannot believe the difference these eggs make in cakes and cooking in general! You have to experience it to really appreciate it.


Sunday, 9 September 2007

BEAUTIFUL...


DOGS AND CHICKENS ....


Thought I'd post some pictures of my dogs with our chickens living in harmony now, as this apparently seemed to be the biggest concern for our neighbours.

They are now living all happily together after the initial eventful meeting.. but I will stress for all those concerned we still .....
DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALL ALONE TOGETHER!


Sunday, 2 September 2007

SPECKLE CAUGHT IN THE ACT..

SPECKLE CAUGHT IN THE ACT..

Yes its official we now have NUMERO FOUR (4) laying hens (no turtle doves or a partridge due to a lack of pear tree!)
Speckle was caught laying an egg.. It was a slight panic as all three others were present in the garden turning over the newly dug soil from where we had removed the boys pool..and then we noticed no Speckle - she was sat quietly, unlike Harriet laying what we think is her 1st egg.


Continued with the garden today - removing all that has been picked. plucked, sat on or scratched up by the "girls"

At one point I thought that I was going to have to put them into the run or spear one with a fork! I cannot believe how cheeky they all are!

We all have "Chicken" shoes for the garden which are the cheap version of "Crocs" They are great because they are waterproof and washable and easy to put on to run back and forth checking egg production. The only problem is the chickens like to try and peck your toes though the little holes. Brogan has developed a whole new set of dance moves to successfully get to the shed without being pecked. When I work out how - then I will try and put a video clip on here or You Tube its well worth the giggle...


And finally the efforts of Harriet trying to help!



Sunday, 26 August 2007

SAPPHIRES WEIRD EGG

Just a quick update on Sapphires eggs - since the soft shelled egg and the strange long egg, (which had a double yoke) they now are perfectly normal looking and with hard shells.
They all look very similar but vary in size - really looking forward to seeing what Speckle produces...

IT'S OFFICIAL...

We do officially have three laying hens... Harriet is the early bird, followed closely by Sapphire and then today Amber was actually caught in the act!
Neither Sapphire or Amber make the same loud announcement as Harriet which every morning brings a smile to our faces as although its only a little loud clucking for 20/30 seconds I know it gets right up our neighbours noses - if only they were a little understanding I would give them the pleasure of tasting the delights.

Free-range chickens in our garden has opened up a whole new discussion in our house between the children about animal cruelty and factory farming.
Harrison had been looking on "You tube" at videos of chickens and they listed a lot on factory farming he watched some and had become very distressed, I did sit and explain what I could to him but I can't justify all the bad things in the world. (In fact Factory Farming really isn't justifiable at all)
Although my intention was not to turn any of them vegetarian it was a very close call. However having said that if any of the boys wanted to become vegetarian then I/we would fully support their decision. At present the decision that has been made, is that only free-range chickens can be brought and eaten now...(at three times the price I may add!) This way they feel less guilty because they have had a good natural life. It's not quite the same when you have them in your garden - we could NEVER eat our chickens even if they were all that was left!

The discussion about pigs and cows has yet to come. Hopefully unless we get one I can hold off that conversation!

(It's o.k neighbours I'm not allowed livestock in the garden!!- unfortunately)

Friday, 24 August 2007

EGGS, EGGS, EGGS......

Yesterday we had three eggs... and one was soft shelled, laid by Sapphire our Black Star (Given the choice I think that's the option I would go for!) One was from Harriet as usual and the other we think was from Speckle. I Have looked up what soft shells are all about and at the moment am not at all worried. The boys were amazed at it and to be honest so was I!(although I played it down rather, don't want them to think or know I'm a complete novice in the chicken world too!) The panic of it being something awful or alien, which is what it looked like has now subsided and Harrison has calmed down.


After checking out the Internet I discovered that its actually quite normal for a first egg to be soft. I think that I'd like to break myself in gently too given the choice.


Today however Sapphire laid again... she was squat for about twenty minutes and then produced something just as amazing as yesterday...






It's been quite a talking point with the boys and the neighbours, but reading about miss -shapen eggs I am a little more concern but only time will tell.

Every thing in their diets is spot on so I think at the moment I will put this down to the fact she's a novice like me. Although Harriet started laying perfect eggs from day one including a double yoke'r yesterday. Typical of the Marshall's to get weird eggs!!! Perhaps its the influence of this neighbourhood!! HA!




Thursday, 23 August 2007

****NEWS FLASH****

TODAY WE HAVE ANOTHER LAYER...


Didn't catch the hen in action but it wasn't Harriet as she laid at 8.00am and always lets you know.
Today though after removing Harriett's egg I replaced it with the ceramic fake egg and at 10.30 when Harrison went out he found another one in the nesting corner.

But who is the mystery layer? No real clues other than a feather that could of come from three of the four. And as one of those is Harriet it narrows it down to two.. Amber or Speckle.

Despite looking for more clues we are none the wiser and don't suppose we will be until we catch her in the act.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007



HARRISON & HARRIET...

GARDENING WITH CHICKENS...

GARDENING WITH CHICKENS... SIMPLE -YOU CANT!!

As our chickens have quickly learnt that we are an interesting and valuable source of food supply they all appear as soon as we do at the gate jostling for position so as not to miss out on anything.

Today I tried to do some basic gardening - mainly repairing what the chickens had destroyed, which involve trying to spread the small pebbles back around the paving and the edge of the sheds and trying to contain some of the bark chippings back behind the small picket fence in the boarder. And removing what's left of the little delicate plants that where in the pots that they have either sat on or just pulled out for fun.

I also raked over the grass (ha ha grass!!!) to which I was mobbed and then on trying to pick up anything from 6 inches or below became attacked by Amber and Harriet who desperately wanted the buttons of the cuffs of my shirt. They have a thing about buttons - I don't know if these chickens are the full packet!!

Never the less we love em to bits... I did manage to get some good pictures of them today though, although the best one I missed. that was when sapphire decided to fly up to the window sill and have a staring competition with two Labradors and a Staffie. Who, I have to say don't take much notice of them anymore.

Our Kittens came outside for the first time today and just couldn't make them out at all. I'm not sure what the chickens made of them either but they didn't seem bothered when they cornered our neighbours cat under the patio table in a Mexican Stand-off!

HARRISON MAKES AN OMELETTE








Well the budding Gordon Ramsey of our house made himself the very first Harriet egg omelette with mushrooms cheese and ham.



We were all rather shocked at the colour as what you see here is just how it looked. But the taste was to die for!


Still we only have Harriet laying but the other three, Speckle, Amber and Sapphire have all adopted the crouch position when you approach and their combs are much larger and redder, so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY CAN MAKE!




At present Harriet is the only hen laying eggs, this is because she is the 1st hen we got and she is approximately 6 weeks older than the other 3.


The whole neighbourhood could probably tell you the 1st day she laid an egg - not because she made a noise but because our eldest son Harrison couldn't control his excitement. We actually had two eggs on the first day - I think there must of been a back log!


To be completely honest we were a little surprised at the size of Harriet's 1st egg, it was a lot smaller than the shop eggs we were used to. But didn't in any way disappoint in flavour. It was very hard trying to make it go 3 ways, so all the boys could sample the goods. The shell was so much stronger than shop eggs too.


Now the size of the eggs that Harriet lays are much more the size we expected. It still makes my eyes water never the less.


She is very proud to let us know when she has produced and calls for about 20 seconds to make sure we know and collect the goods.

SAPPHIRE






"Sapphire" is a Black Star (Bovan Nera) She has a really pretty green, black iridescent colour to her feathers.



She is happy to eat corn from your hand with the others but favours a slug far more than the others. She also enjoys grapes and corn on the cob. She's a follower and not a leader. Although she did make the decision that the highest shelf in the chicken shed was better to roost on than the two purpose built ones I had provided. It didn't take long for the others to join in the desertion of my roosting posts..

SPECKLE


"Speckle"
as you may of guessed is a Speckled Star - A Rhode Island Red crossed with a Maran.

She has settled in very well next to Harriet. She is very quiet, but first up for the pasta pickings!She is however not very popular with me at the moment as she appears to be the ringleader in the "sit on and destroy all pretty flower brigade.." She also favours spreading all the bark chippings from my boarders onto the lawn. ( I say lawn in the loosest sense - as it appears to be more like a baron desert with a few sporadic tuffs of grass!) I suppose with 3 boys, 3 dogs and 4 chickens something has to give.



It's a small price to pay for the fun and enjoyment that we all get from the activities in the garden...

Monday, 13 August 2007

AMBER



"Amber " is an Amber Star - not exactly an original name but this was left to the boys to decide.. She was very timid to begin and chased constantly by Harriet who would push, and peck her off the roosting perch.

However Amber was either thick skinned or stupid because she just kept coming back and has now been fully accepted into the crowd. She likes to flap her wings and run round the garden in little mad spells. She also is very nosey and is always the 1st to the gate to see what you have.

I think she may have some Magpie blood because she is forever trying to peck my diamond engagement ring!


PICTURES OF OUR GIRLS...











"Harriet" is a Bovan Goldline - A Rhode Island Red cross Light Sussex.


Harriet is one of the 1st chickens we got - she is definitely the head of the pack! She is laying daily and loves a treat of grapes, spaghetti , pasta and rice.. she always has the 1st pick! She tends to lay between 8 - 9 am and lets you know as soon as she has! (Mind you if I had to lay an egg the size she does I'd make a noise too!)