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Cooped up

Everyone was full of beans yesterday…not literally but the extra ration of meal worms in the meal worm hunt had resulted in a group of feisty ducks and chickens.

Mr Chicken led the hunt and as per usual showed off for the benefit of the camera and the girls. Now for clarity these girls are not all Mr Universes girls, they are Ronnie’s and Napoleons. However back in 2017 when he was rescued, the Rhodies were Mr Chickens flock, but he is huge in comparison and to be honest in amorous moments the girls would literally be squashed flat under his big feet! So there was a separation. He still gets visiting rights and behaves but the girls sleep with Ronnie and he seems ok about the arrangement. With his amputated toe issue and a little wobbly, he allows Mr Chicken to cover outdoor pursuits whilst he snuggles up in the coop most days with Sweetie, our Cou-Nou naked neck who has a limp…what a motley crew!

Show off.
Rooster booster Ronnie.
Laura what are you doing in here?

Laura our Maran decided Ronnie’s coop was nicer than hers. Napoleon, worried, followed. That upset Ronnie as he doesn’t like other roosters in his territory. After a lot of bokabok noises I managed to persuade Laura to potter off to the meal worm hunt. Napoleon followed and peace returned…well only slightly.

Next up, Penquin and Heff our two Pekins.  Penquin nags Heff. Heff isn’t the brightest or bravest duck. He easily forgets things like directions to water, bed and treats.  All day long Penquin bends his ear, nodding her head onto his tail, duck fashion when annoyed, and shoving him to the next mud spot. Sometimes he retaliates with a shouting session but its wasted on Penquin. She stomps off quacking and disappears for hours leaving Heff lost, confused and upset. My job then is to find her, carry the repentant Heff and wait while she gives him a really firm scold, before they waddle off silently to start the whole process off again!

You know Heff she isn’t listening.

With the meal worm hunt in progress I can tackle the duck section of the coop. With my accidental purchase of six cockerels last year, they have the official duck house. Its not ideal but with squabbling boys I needed space. Poor Penquin and Heff therefore headed to the chicken coop where its warm but not so duck friendly. Ducks poop alot and make a mess with their food and water. After a week the whole floor is soggy and muggins here must carry it all out. Heavy work as the door is smaller, the access tighter. I now have Popeye biceps.

The chickens help distribute the mess into our compost area. Meal worms are repayment and the girls happily level everything for those, plus a chicken cannot abide humps, piles, untidiness. Everything must be flat. Leave a pile of hay, manure, sand and in an hour its spirit level flat. I often start digging in the compost to future planting areas, very roughly so the girls can worm hunt and turn the soil at the same time. It saves me hours of work and they love it.

Before.
In progress.
Lovely. Fresh hemp and home grown hay.

Last year we cut our own hay. The intense August heat created the perfect sweet tasting grass and we managed to get the hay cart full to bursting from just a twentieth if the field. It’s a large cart conveniently left by previous owners. About four metres long by two metres wide. My next task is to make a box hay baler as the shop bakes are too large and wasteful. Chickens peck and poop on them and over a year they break down into a dusty mess.  I want small, tightly roped bales that are easy to handle and stack. I have enough old pallet timbers from the local timber yard and once the box is made I can tightly pack hay in and then secure with string. From what I have left I can likely make about forty.

I like using hemp for bedding as it’s a brown for compost, unlike hay, which is a green and rots quick and hemp doesn’t smell when it rots. Straw stinks and within its tubular structure harbours bacterior as it rarely dries quick enough. The result can be a dangerous bacterial soup for birds to peck at. Hemp is actually very good for the soil with a slightly sterilising compounds.cost effective too as easy to spread a thin insulating layer over cement or earth. Outside even now, the hemp dries within an hour of rain leaving a relatively clean and comfy area for the geese who like an afternoon doze, beak snug in wing feathers.

Heff and Penquin approve of the cleaning. Penquin squeaks when she approoves of anything. Heff tries to show interest by pottering around arranging they hey into nest shapes. Penquin ignores him and makes her own best in the far corner. Never mind Heff. I serve peas, their favorite and as it’s now late afternoon and sun set, the girls are arriving to settle in. There are a few packs and shuffling of perching positions but all in all it’s a quiet bedtime.

Mr Chicken now sleeps with the guineas and he doesn’t seem to mind their silly snoring and panic attacks over nothing in particular…its a guinea thing and uncontrollable. We adopted two Marans, Copper and Frodo and a grey lilac Limousin called Blue from a friend and they snuggle in with Mr Chicken too. It’s a funny gang but they all get on. My pecking orders were dismantled ages ago and bullies were not tolerated. Now chickens swap coops and potter off with new friends as and when. On a cold wet day I actually think they enjoy being cooped up altogether. Peace reigns.

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