Saturday, March 21, 2009

Replacement Hen House

I have been thinking for some considerable time that my hen house is going to have to be replaced. The floor boards are soggy and have a disturbing 'bounce' to them when I have to go inside to get eggs and clean up. The hen house is quite old. We have had it for about 15 years and it wasn't new when it arrived. I have replaced the roofing felt (tar paper for you North American people) a couple of times. Although it has had a coating of wood preserver a couple of times and it really needed a new coat a few years ago, I've not done it.This is a hen house that has been sitting in the farmyard next door to us for a number of years. I remember when it was built, so it isn't as old as the one I am currently using. My lovely neighbours have given it to me and have said that they'll deliver it this weekend using the front end loader on the tractor

The green colour is alarming, but really don't judge it just yet. Though the boards are green and a little damp, they're not rotten. It does need some work, but I think that over all it requires the same amount of titivation that the current coop requires.Both need a good clean out and and new roofing felt nailed on securely. Easy jobs. The door on both hen houses need to be rehung. In order to rehang the door of this model, a new board has to be nailed in place so the hinge can be attached to a good, solid piece of wood. The other hen house needs a whole new hinge!

The window glass needs to be replaced. I suspect it is a standard greenhouse sized pane. It also quite obviously needs a good scrub and lathe tacked on to plug the gaps between the boards. After all of that, I predict a coat or two of exterior house paint.

This hen house is larger, has a removable dropping board AND nest boxes that allow the eggs to be harvested without having to go inside the coop!! One only has to unlatch the little hatch and grab 'em! Pure luxury!

So, if this thing shows up tomorrow, I'll have my Sunday all planned out. In the meantime, I have started tidying up the greenhouses in preparation for the new growing season.

There were only two panes of greenhouse glass to replace this year and I had two panes already on site. I think I replaced about eight last year. I'm glad the re-glazing wasn't a big job because I really hate those "W" shaped glazing clips that are used to hold the glass in place. My personal name for the glazing clips is "those bastard pinging things". I have to take my gloves off when trying to get them installed or they will ping off and fly through the air instead of securing the greenhouse glass.

On a final note: This guy was discovered crawling up the kitchen wall on Friday morning. Since I flung him outside, we have found all sorts of silvery slug trails near the kitchen door. it looks like he had been having a grand old time sliming his way around the place. Eww!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Frogs and a Hedge

Last week I was prompted by a posting of a frog photo by Dean on his excellent blog Mostlymacro to go and check the pond in our front garden. Sure enough there were a couple of frogs in there laying eggs. I just knew that if there were frogs in our little garden pond, the large duck ponds up the road will be heaving with frogs. I was looking forward to getting the dog up to the ponds and see for myself.

The days are getting longer now. It isn't dark when I get home from work and I can once again, walk the dog in the evening. George came with me tonight as I made my way up into the woods with our dog Polly. The side road we turn onto to go up to the ponds has had some improvement since I was last on it. Someone is laying the hedge.
It is a skill to lay a hedge properly. One of our neighbours does this for a living and as this is the very road that leads to his house, I suspect that this could quite possibly be his handiwork. You can see that the hedge shrubs have been cut but not sliced all the way through and woven horizontally. The fact that the shrubs were not cut all the way through means that they will not die and they'll grow and make a thick and impervious hedge along that roadside. I remember being told that when the shrubs that make a hedge are cut and being laid down, they must always be laid straight across or uphill. If laid downhill, the plants will die. The frogs were very busy doing mummy and daddy things all over the place! We had to watch where we walked for fear of stepping on copulating frogs! They were in the grass, on the paths and in the road. There were frogs in the puddles as well as in the big ponds.
This water in this part of the pond has been almost completely displaced by frog spawn! George and I heard far away noises that I initially thought were geese flying north, but then we discovered that it was in fact the frogs singing! They're not the loudest frogs I've ever heard, but they do make some noise.
video

In the above clip you can only hear me bashing around and Polly splashing in the water. You can only hear the frogs if you turn the speakers way up. George, who is very observant, came upon what looked to be a ball of copulating frogs. A froggy orgy if you will. The faint frog calls are much easier to hear on this clip.
video
In nature, when there is a mass spawning of animals like this, the predators will be out in force as well. We made a couple of large pterodactyl sized herons fly off when we arrived at the ponds and I saw many prints that look like this:and this:
These are not fox paw prints. They are either badger or otter. Otters have been seen in the water near us for a number of months now. I'd love to see one!

So, spring is is here! Yipee!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sending Out the Love

I'm in particularly good mood.

I hope everybody is having a good day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Longtown Poultry Auction

A sale of poultry and poultry equipment is put up for auction a couple of times each year at the Longtown Auction. There was one such auction this morning. My pal Isobel and I had made plans to attend today's auction. Isobel (Izzy) picked me up just at 9.00 this morning and she drove us the 12 miles or so to Longtown and the famous auction mart.
Izzy was glad to have a little break from the sheep as sheep farmers are in the middle of lambing season at the moment. Izzy and her husband have been up to their elbows in sheep at all hours during the past few weeks ensuring that the latest crop of lambs come into the world safely.

I have only ever been to one other poultry auction here and that was over 10 years ago. I must say that these auctions are certainly growing in popularity! It was very crowded!
All the poultry enthusiasts come down from the hills!
There are signs requiring people to wash their footwear. This is for foot and mouth disease prevention.
Here are the pens that hold larger animals (sheep and cattle) during other auctions on other days.

Izzy and I got there just before the auction was to start and we found that we couldn't get inside to view the pens very easily. I'm glad we were not there to bid on anything because in addition to the crowds viewing the stock, there was a huge queue to register for an auction number and to buy a catalogue.

There were two auction rings used today for selling. One smaller auction ring was selling caged birds (canaries, budgies etc.) and poultry supplies while the main ring was being used to auction off eggs for hatching and the hundreds of ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, peacocks, turkeys and of course chickens!

We began our visit by looking at the equipment - not so crowded in this area -
I got some ideas for nest boxes I realize that I didn't get any photos of the huge crowds. Judging by my photos of the empty livestock pens, the place looks positively deserted. The mart was actually heaving with people. We had to walk sideways (excuse me . . . .pardon me . . . . can I slip by . . . ) the entire time we were in the big hall.

Here are some examples of the fine poultry up for auction today:Buff SussexSpeckled Sussex - these were gorgeous and my photo doesn't do them justice -Maran - lay beautiful dark brown eggsBuff OrpingtonQuailGolden Pheasant

The following video clip from my camera gives you some idea of the noise levels we experienced today.

video

Though neither Isobel or I bought anything, it was great fun to look, people watch and foster outlandish and impractical ideas about raising more poultry than either of us need. If we bought an incubator and more wire mesh . . . .

The few chickens that I keep at the moment keep us well supplied with enough eggs for our family and a few surplus for our neighbours. I like my hybrid layers. They do a spectacular job. The three pure breed hens are nice as well and they lay beautiful dark brown designer eggs when they feel like it. In my opinion these eggs do not show up often enough to justify the hens' space in my coop. I toy with the idea of turning these less productive chickens into soup, but the thought of all that plucking and cleaning keeps the poor layers from the chopping block. A more industrious and frugal poultry owner would have done away with them a long time ago but my idleness and (if I'm honest) mild sentimentality allows them to live on.

Perhaps this summer, I will get my act together with regard to these chickens. The non-productive ones could be culled and fresh birds will be brought in. I could then justify the expense of some fancy nest boxes . . . I could get nest boxes at the next poultry auction.