Right now our outdoor run looks like a maternity ward: we’ve got two broody hens sitting on separate nests in separate ‘broody coops’.

Chicken Maternity Ward
July 2023

One looks at you with an evil eye when you come to inspect how they are doing while the other just leisurely sits and does nothing.

The evil one seems very determined though; she is sitting in our brand-new second hand-FreeCycle-ex-rabbit hutch aka broody coop and when I check up on her, she stares at me maliciously as if saying: “Don’t you dare come near me and my nest!”, so I’ll just leave her. She is very determined and when I hadn’t seen her eating or drinking for a few days, I wanted to check if she was still breathing. It was obvious she was alive and kicking as she pecked my hand with an angry growl!
Sometimes you can be lucky and find something on Freecycle which just fits the bill; someone in Bridge of Allan was giving away an old rabbit hutch and we were looking to build a small coop with a separate enclosed area and a semi-open area, so the rabbit hutch would be perfect. It just needed a lick of paint (which we still had) and a roof (roofing felt we also still had) and there it was: the perfect, free broody coop! Reusing materials meant that nothing went to waste either.

It takes 21 days for eggs to hatch and the evil one has been sitting on 7 eggs since around 18th June, so hopefully we can welcome chicks on Sunday 9th July. I know it may look like a little prison, but don’t worry: the hen won’t move at all (only to eat and drink) for the next 3 weeks and when the eggs hatch, the chicks will only stay indoors for a couple of days before mum and babies are allowed into an outdoor run.

The evil one was sitting on 9 eggs when we moved her to her broody coop, but she decided that the nest had to be in a corner and moved 7 of the 9 eggs, so 2 were unprotected and had to be taken out. Still, we are hoping for at least 5 chicks hatching out of 7 eggs (at publishing time, we lost one more egg, so 6 left).

The other one was sitting on initially 2 eggs for a day, before we put 4 more (older) eggs under her. This is a bit of a chance we’re taking, but I think realistically we can only expect 1 or 2 to hatch successfully, mind you at the time of publishing she still had all 5 eggs.

Then there is also one chicken missing so perhaps she thought the maternity ward was full so decided to establish a nest somewhere in the shrubbery. But we have no idea where and maybe in a couple of weeks we have 12 unplanned chicks running around the place creating havoc.

All chickens decided to go broody at the same time as if they’ve gone broody bonkers!

The warm weather we’ve had certainly got things moving in the garden and we are now busy with picking strawberries, honeyberries and watering the tomato plants when we come back at night. It’s a busy time of the year but thankfully we’ll be expecting 2 new wwoofers in the first week of July who will be helping us making jam and wine. If you are interested in becoming a wwoof host or maybe want to help out on organic farms, crofts or smallholdings (there are no age restrictions!) visit: www.wwoof.net

Last year I got some barley grains from a friend who lives next to barley fields for me to sow in my garden. The autumn sowings didn’t come to anything, but because of the dry weather the spring sowings have germinated quite well. According to John Seymour’s (writer of the best self-sufficiency book) ‘you have to drop your trousers and sit on the land before drilling the barley to see if the land feels warm and dry enough’. I didn’t quite went to these lengths, but I kept a close eye on the weather and when it had been dry and sunny for over 2 weeks, I sowed the barley and yes, it germinated really well. Now we just need our hops to grow equally good and we’ll be able to make our own beer from scratch. How cool would that be?!

We’ve had a very long, dry and hot spell at the end of May running into mid-June, but thankfully it started raining again without it getting too much cooler, just the perfect 20°C. With my mind always interested in observing differences in nature, I noticed that the overgrown parts of the garden were not suffering from the drought at all, whereas the vegetable beds did get very dry and dessert like. The reason is that it is not really the amount of rain (or lack of it) what’s more important is the evaporation rate. You see, plants hold moisture in between their leaves and stems. You can see this early in the morning as dew, which will trickle down to the soil during daytime. Bare soil does not have any plants and so there is no dew and thus no moisture. Furthermore wind and sun have free access to the soil which means the soil is drying out faster. I haven’t watered this part of the garden at all and the picture was taken just before the rain came; you can tell it still looks really lush.

Circle of Good Life ‘project for the month’ is about caring for birds during the summer months. To help mine I created a small bird bath from an old frying pan with some stones in it and put it on an old tree. But anywhere where cats can’t get to is good.

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