How did we go from 4 to 23 chickens within a year’s time?!

This chicken addiction of mine is getting slightly out of hand and although one is broody again, she is most definitely not allowed to sit on any eggs as we really do not need any more!

Chickens keep surprising me, they really do.
September 2023

Thanks to the extra land we purchased not that long ago, no hen can run away any longer and secretly sit on a hidden nest. So that’s at least something. We still have 23 big and small chickens to house though so, we reinstalled the old coop alongside “the cathedral” we built last summer. The 13 x 7 week old chicks can sleep in the old coop until the cockerels have grown up and are ready to go and the 9 hens + 1 Harvey can make their bed in “the Cathedral”. Gosh, it sounds like a mathematical equation this chicken bonanza!

And in a way it was a mathematical but mostly logistic nightmare the past 4 weeks as we had to gradually introduce the chicks to each other, move their respective mothers one-by-one over a period of several weeks back to the main flock, while keeping the ever escaping chicks inside their enclosed area.

It was like musical chairs with coops and chickens!

Then finally last week, during my week’s break, we removed part of the fencing so that the chicks could mingle with the grown ups and.... all went perfectly to plan! We were all prepared for fights and disaster but there weren’t any serious altercations and the older ones accepted the little ones immediately and Harvey was behaving like a proud father. He even showed a little one where the porridge was. How cute is that? And after this very eventful day (I think we were more worried than they were) all chickens went back to their respective coop at night all by themselves, I couldn’t believe it!

Last month I spoke about how we were lucky enough to buy a bit more land on which we want to establish a woodland and asked if anyone had any tree saplings to plant out. And, I am very pleased to say that a few customers have very kindly donated the tree saplings that they cared for and we have now started planting out these little trees in our field. It was pretty wet during August, but this also meant that I didn’t need to water the little trees every day, which was a blessing. We also planted gooseberry and currant cuttings in the chicken enclosure, so they can help themselves to fruity treats next summer and we are planning on a little herb corner for the chickens too, filled with herbs which have anti-parasitic or other health properties. Chickens can kind of self-medicate meaning they will nibble on herbs they feel they need at that moment. When we got the white ones last year they ravaged the lavender plants as lavender has a calming effect and it helped them cope with being relocated.

We are hoping to create a native woodland on most of the new land, as well as a large compost heap and perhaps in the future solar panels or a small wind turbine. But our focus for now is to plant native tree saplings, so if anyone else has little trees looking for a home, we are more than happy to plant them out. According to the Woodland Trust which by the way, has a very good ‘Woodland Creation Guide’ it is best to plant trees which germinated as local as possible (i.e. in Central Scotland) as these will be perfectly adapted to the prevailing conditions. There are several ways of creating a woodland and the best way is to leave it to nature, because the intermediate stages are important for wildlife too and it creates a more resilient ecosystem as only the survivors remain.

We are planning to do a combination of regeneration methods though: a small area planted with small native trees and about ½ acre left for natural colonisation. I can’t wait to see it all grow, but I just need to be very, very patient.

Harvesting is in full swing too, with runner beans coming out of our ears and apples! We finally have a reasonable crop of apples to pick, I think the warm June we had helped pollination and fruit set and the wet summer helped the apples to grow. The onions have also performed reasonably well with no signs of rot, so my trial of sowing them instead of planting seems to have paid off. Tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbages are all a bit late, but September can be nice and warm too, so it‘s not too late yet.

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