23 November, 2010

Introducing Narcissa

I've noticed that most of the photos are of Bella, so I set myself a task of trying to snap a proper photo of the elusive Cissy. Here it is! Doesn't she look lovely?

She's still quite skittish, but luckily she can be bribed with corn and will eat out of my hand, although somewhat warily. Her beak is very sharp and that's why I haven't been really enjoying hand feeding her. I've found that a feeding glove offers a solution to this problem, since with the glove protecting my palm I can keep trying to buy Miss Beaky's affections with no pain. I hope she'll start crouching soon as otherwise we've got no chance of catching, or let's face it, even touching the panicky little madam.

Who's the boss?

When we first got the chooks, I thought Cissy, although shy, was going to be the top hen as she kept pecking Bella. After observing them for over a month now, I can quite safely say that Bella is definitely the boss. She rules gently but firmly, never pecks but has other ways of showing that she's in charge.

When it's treat time, she shuffles her fluffy knickers to block Cissy from getting to the bowl until she's had what she's after. As soon as Cissy moves to her other side to quickly snatch a few mealworms Bella shifts and blocks her again. It's funny to watch, but I do feel sorry for the little one as she won't get as many treats. Bella's one tough chook.

22 November, 2010

Special breakfast

I would have been quite happy just to have a collection of beautiful eggs to admire and be able to continue my studies on the differences between the shells and sizes of eggs, but I think they'd begin to rot eventually. So, today I decided to boil Bella's first egg and have a little taste. It was lovely! The yolk was very orangy yellow and it tasted fab (although you can't really see it from the picture as you can just see the top of the yolk).

Hound got a tiny piece as well for being good and sitting on the garden bench while the girls were last free ranging. Admittedly, Hound was on the lead, being cuddled and munching on dog biscuits, but I'd rather take things slow than risk any of my pets getting hurt. The chickens took no notice of Hound and had a fab time destroying the sorrel while I had my hands busy. Cheeky chooks!

20 November, 2010

Planning escape

The grass is definitely greener on the other side and the chooks know it. They can't wait to get their claws on the neighbour's lushious lawn and are as fed up as I am with the mud field we call our garden. I think they've established that they can't get over the hedge so now they're doing the digging dance (flick flick step step) by the border and trying to slip under the mesh.

Who said chickens are stupid?

19 November, 2010

Simple supper #3

Here's another take on butternut squash soup, only this one's got a bit of heat, so it's perfect for those chilly evenings. I found this recipe in one of the Cook Yourself Thin cook books and it's quick, easy and healthy, which is just how I like my recipes. I think I've found a new favourite! 

Spicy thai butternut squash soup

olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 chillies, deseeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cm piece of root ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 lemongrass stalks (mine came out of a jar)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
400ml can of reduced fat coconut milk
1 vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
juice of 1 lime

Fry the onion, chilli, garlic, ginger and lemongrass in oil until the onion starts to soften. Add the squash, coconut milk, stock cube, nam pla and some boiling water to cover the squash. Bring to the boil, covered and simmer for 20 mins or until the squash is soft. Blend the soup until smooth, add the lime juice and enjoy!

18 November, 2010


There can be no Christmas without gingerbread, so I thought I'd better crack on and make some. I've never made them from scratch before, so I had to hunt down a recipe and try to find all the ingredients. This recipe makes enough dough for lots and lots of biscuits, so I can give some away as presents. I had to hide them all before Hubby, also known as the Gingerbread Monster, had a chance to find them.


300g butter
1 dl sugar
2 dl soft brown sugar
2 big tablespoon scoops black treacle

3 tsp powdered Seville orange peel *
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ginger

2 eggs
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1,4 litres plain flour

Melt the butter in a pan, and add the sugars, treacle and spices. Mix it well and let it cool down. Add the eggs one by one. Then add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt (you can leave a little bit of the flour for later to stop the dough sticking to the table). Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge. Take a little bit of the dough (leave the rest in the fridge until you need it, otherwise it'll be a nightmare to work with) and roll it out into a sheet (not too thin as it will tear easily) and cut it into shapes with cookie cutters. Line an oven tray with baking paper, lift the biscuits on top and bake 225°C/until lovely and brown (small ones will cook in about 4-5 mins, but keep an eye on them, they burn easily.). Let them cool down and decorate.  

They are a bit of a faff to make, especially if you're trying to get spindly legged animal shapes onto the oven tray in one piece. They taste lovely though, so I'll be using the same recipe again. I'll just be making stumpy legged pigs, much less hassle!

*) You can use all these spices or make your own mix with a combination of any of the following: powdered cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, Seville orange peel and/or cardamom.

One egg, two eggs, three eggs, four...

We've been getting lots more eggs from Bella, six eggs in eight days so far, brilliant! I still haven't used any of them, but will try one soon as I've just used the last of the eggs I bought from the garden hen man and made some lovely gingerbread for Christmas.

I was surprised to see that the eggs seem to be changing colour. The very first egg was definitely brown, and now that I've lined the new eggs right next to it, I can see (not sure you can tell from the picture, the two on the left are the latest ones) that they're getting more pink. No wonder people have difficulty telling who's laid what if the sneaky chooks keep laying different coloured eggs! Hopefully I'll manage to tell the eggs apart since I've only got two chooks and would like to be able to keep records of the eggs. We'll see how long I'll remember to jot down every egg on my spread sheet...

As it now stands, Bella 6 - Cissy 0.

11 November, 2010

Our first egg!

I noticed that Bella had been in the nest for quite some time this morning, but then totally forgot about it, as I was way too busy playing with my new toy, making some fruit leathers. Later on, I went to take the chooks some afternoon treats and decided to check the nest. I found a nice surprise, our first small but perfectly formed egg!

I thought Bella's eggs would be a bit lighter in colour (and would expect Cissy to lay darker speckled eggs), but this must be Bella's. I've been noticing all the tell-tale signs and more importantly, what to me must be clear proof is the bald patch that has suddenly appeared on her head. I've decided that the baldness must be egg related and there are two possible explanations. Either this egg laying business is really stressful and makes your head feathers literally fall off or the slightly more immature Blondie has been pecking Bella when she's been crouching, hard at work as if to say 'What are you doing lying there, come and play with me outside!'. I would put my money on the latter as Cissy is known to have a sharp beak and she's not afraid to use it!

Well done Bella!

05 November, 2010

Crouching Bella

I went to give the girls their afternoon snack and as I was putting the bowl in the run, Bella crouched and stayed down so that I could stroke her back. She's done this twice now and it's a very good sign (along with the before mentioned reddening head gear) that she might lay her first egg soon. I could see that she wasn't sure what was happening, she just found herself instinctively crouching and couldn't help but stay down until I pulled my hand away.

I think Cissy is slowly maturing as well, I'm sure her tiny comb and wattles look a little bit pinker every day. Still, I wouldn't expect an egg any time soon, as it seems these things can take a bit of time. Quite frankly, I'm not really bothered if the chooks are a bit younger than I originally thought or if it takes them a bit longer to lay. I'm just enjoying having them and happy to finally experience all these things first hand.

The girls will have an early night tonight. I will be following the advice of some more experienced chicken keepers and locking them in the coop a bit earlier, well before the fireworks start. That way the chooks will be sleeping and totally unaware of what's going on, I hope. I might still worry a bit.

04 November, 2010

Caught in action!

Yesterday I managed to tiptoe close enough to get a picture of Bella bathing, only this time sneaking wasn't really necessary, as she didn't bat an eye lid when I opened the run door to snap a few photos. She didn't really welcome this disturbance and kept kicking the sand in my direction as if to tell me to get lost and leave her in peace.

While I was busy trying to get a decent shot (impossible as I was snapping away with my phone), Cissy saw her opportunity and dashed out of the run. She seemed genuinely peed off that she hasn't been let out to free range for almost a week and neither an offering of pumpkin seeds nor trying to shoo her towards the run got me any closer to capturing her. It wasn't until I fetched the corn pot that she decided to give up and go back in the run.

Today it was back to normality after a miserable week of worming, and I was able to offer the girls some guilt free treats. Not sure how long it will take them to forget this unfortunate experience, but I'll win them back sooner or later. They can't stay angry for long, for I am the keeper of the mealworms!

02 November, 2010

The extended run

We collected the run extension on Sunday and had an all round fabulous day. I think it's becoming a sort of hobby of mine, finding good deals (so far chicken related) on Ebay and having a nice day out when collecting them. We drove past several nurseries, and then braked and reversed. I've trained Hubby well, as nowadays it's him spotting all the places of interest and asking if I want to stop and have a look.

On the way back home we had the car packed with the extension, a James Grieve apple tree (same pollination group as my Discovery), some garlic (French Thermidrome) which I planted yesterday in pots and a dozen free range eggs from a lovely man and his garden hens.

Here's the run with the extension, I'm sure the girls appreciate it as they haven't been allowed to free range while being wormed. Let's see how long the hemp bedding will stay nice and clean before they mix it up with soil and... other stuff!