15 November 2015

What to grow for your chickens

In urban gardens, it’s hard to let chickens free range, although obviously that’s what they’d prefer and is better for them. But to compensate, we can grow a few easy, hardy plants that they love and are great for their health.

I don't feel guilty about this arrangement. Our vegetable garden is an extension of our fridge and pantry, and chickens cannot range through a vegetable garden that is also productive. Our chickens' lives are much happier than their counterparts in battery cages or even commercial free range flocks.

Plants they can reach

Every winter we sow oats (and other manure crops) in unused parts of our garden. We don't leave them in long enough to actually turn into oats, but the tall, grass-like leaves are sweet, even to human taste. Chickens love them.

The oat leaves are most easily seen to the right of the photo.

The ones planted near the chicken run get a thorough gnawing by our birds, because the plastic mesh of their fence is big enough for them to poke their heads through. They can reach leaves that wave close to their fence, but they can’t dig up and destroy those plants. The same goes for silverbeet and broccoli that sometimes grows there.

Last month we moved their fence a bit so the oats were growing inside their run. It was short-lived pleasure for them: the next day the plants were completely destroyed.

New access to oats!

The next day: all gone.

Plants to throw them

Most days when I wander through the garden, I tear off some oat leaves and throw them into the run. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, because I tear them into smallish pieces (5 cm long or so). Very long bits of grassy stuff can occasionally cause blockages in their crops. (This is not a problem when they are able to tear bits off plants rooted into the ground, because they can tear off whatever size they like.)

Silverbeet and lettuce leaves are soft enough that chickens can tear off mouthful-sized portions even from loose leaves.

You can also throw them anything that has done its dash in the garden. At the moment ours have been feasting on bolted kale, broccoli, lettuce and carrot tops. (We don't rip everything out as soon as it bolts, though - it's good to leave some to flower for the bees, and to set seed and therefore turn into free self-seeded plants in the future.)


At the moment there's a clear strip of soil outside the chicken run where the fence was moved inwards a bit. Once it rains (tonight, I hope - the garden is so dry!) I plan to transplant a small bunch of self-seeded baby silverbeet plants into that strip, and to scatter some oat seeds. I might have to think of a way to protect them from hungry beaks until the plants are big enough to cope with gnawing.

The lazy way

All this might sound like too much work, but it's easy. Oats and silverbeet grow like weeds and take no tending at all, apart from a bit of moisture to get them started. 


Best of all, what's good for your chickens is good for you. Lots of greens and insects delight your birds, plus make their eggs richer in healthy fats. 

For everybody

Oat leaves may be sweet, but they probably won't make their way into your salad any time soon. However, there is another creature who might be delighted at what you've grown. Our cat eats oat leaves every day! It's funny watching his carnivore teeth trying to chew a leaf. He manages, though.

Other treats

Remember that chickens are not vegetarians. I often notice that when they escape into our vegetable garden their first priority is tossing aside the mulch to get to the tiny beasties that live underneath. Give them some wild flesh by tossing them snails, worms and insects whenever you can can get your hands on them.

Four happy hens ignoring the oat leaves for a start, while
they concentrate on the soil organisms they've uncovered
in the newly-accessed ground.

13 October 2015

How to introduce new chickens to your home

No matter how carefully you choose your first batch of chickens - the right number, the breed that suits you - one day you'll find yourself wanting new ones, probably because you long for that first youthful year when you had so many eggs that you were giving them away.

This is the position I found myself in recently, with these two old hens that rarely laid, and having to buy eggs. Horrors! What did I do?


There are two ways to go about the upgrade. Firstly, you could get rid of all your chickens, and start afresh. There are people who say this is the best way to go because it reduces disease transmission between old and new birds. This assumes you have a disease problem, though! I don't, and never have, I think because of the way I keep my birds. (I did have a little clean up before the new ones arrived, though.)

Sometimes there are advantages to keeping one or more of the old flock. I took this second approach: keep the goodies, ditch the duds and bring in some new blood.

In the past I've held on to good layers or a beauty who has stolen a place in my heart. But this time it was pure practicality: new birds learn from the existing birds how to use a Grandpa's feeder (a hopper-style feeder where they stand on a platform to open the lid to the food). They pick it up very fast when they see it done. Otherwise, training them is a plain nuisance.

This time I kept one older bird purely to show the others how to use the feeder. After two or three weeks she too went to my Fiji-Indian friend, a renowned cook who upcycles her into a curry. The downside was that she was distressed that her friend disappeared before she did, and, as predicted, she became a bully.


The urge to attack new birds is deeply ingrained in chickens' nature. It can be a shock to see this if your existing birds have always been peaceful!

The attacks are more of a problem in urban situations like mine where chickens are likely to be enclosed rather than free-ranging, because the victims can't escape as easily. But even then they are unlikely to result in serious injury.

A big advantage to the old-out/new-in approach is that it avoids older birds brutalising new birds. A group of completely new birds is likely to dwell in peace from the start.

I'd always try to get new ones all the same age though: if some are sexually mature and some aren't, there may still be a bit of bullying from older to younger. Very young birds are definitely vulnerable to more serious attack from mature ones if they can't escape. (

This time I bought an Orpington cross who had already been laying a month, and three brown shaver pullets about 18 weeks old but decidedly immature. The Orpington has been an imperious queen from the start, the young madam - she even declared herself equal to the old brown shaver from day one. The now-lonely old one immediately accepted the newcomer as a substitute buddy, which surprised me greatly.

On the first day the old brown shaver accepted this
bolshy young Orpington cross.

It helps to make sure that food is ample and spread out widely during the troubled time. I flung scraps left, right and centre. That way even the victims get enough to eat, and nobody's irritable with hunger. For a few days my new brown shavers stood huddled together and unmoving to avoid the bullies, so I put some containers of food and water near their safe spot under the shrubs. It was hard to believe it would ever happen, the poor terrified things, but they soon grew brave.

Eventually I could lure the three young brown shavers out
from their hidey hole under the trees, but it took a few days.

The unsettling scene seems to be better when the newcomers are in the majority, so I try to keep just one or two older birds and get three or more new ones.

No matter how brutal the bullying seems, or how petrified the new birds are, it usually settles down in a couple of weeks. By then the under-hens have learnt to submit to the stronger ones, and the strong ones feel assured of their power. Sometimes it settles down so completely that they all seem to be good friends. Other times there might be some persistent but mild acts of dominance - as per Queen Orpington, in my case - but mostly they'll be confident and content.

The imperious Queen, who has one heck of a beak.

Good perching habits

I'm a big fan of chickens sleeping on their perch, so their nest boxes stay clean and they don't suffer the health effects of sleeping in their own excrement. 

Sometimes new chickens need to be encouraged onto their perch. From the first day of arrival you can go out after dark with a perch and do a head count. If anyone's missing from the perch, find them and lift them onto the perch, making sure they're stable before removing your hands. 

Mine were keen to perch from day one - in fact every chicken I've ever had has been - but the young brown shavers were too scared to go inside next to the older birds. Instead they perched on some precarious sticks outside. When I put them on the proper perch, the old brown shaver knocked them off! So I put the generous figure of Queen Orpington, who was never quite so rough, between them and her. By the fourth night at dusk they were all getting up on the perch by themselves. Phew.

Shutting them in

If your set-up is such that your birds could escape to Neverland, then it's wise to shut a new batch of birds in their coop during day and night for a few days (not with bullies, of course). When they are used to where they sleep and feed - and lay eggs, if they're old enough to lay - then they can be allowed to roam, and they probably won't go far.

Once a friend of mine got chickens for the first time, failed to shut them in, and from then on only saw them in the distance as they roamed wild forever more over the surrounding lifestyle blocks!


Some people feel it's wrong to get rid of old birds just because they don't lay well. I feel that as long as it's done gently and as humanely as possible, it's really worth the inevitable disruption. 

This is what greets me most days again now - wonderful. 

18 September 2015

The true gift of chickens

When it comes to keeping chickens, there are so many how-tos, and that's what this blog is usually about. But what I really want to shout about right now is how fascinating and lovely these birds are!

It's spring at the moment, and as the season warms many people are getting chickens for the first time. They're keen enough to do the required legwork before bringing them home, but the truth is that most of them are going to be surprised at how much they love having them.

Not only are these birds physically lovely, with their fabulous feathers and colourful combs, but they are fascinating, moving from activity to activity, and often get passionate about what they're doing. They are intent on scratching up litter to find treats, grooming their gorgeous feathers and jostling for space on the perch. They are rapturous as they dust bathe. And because it is written in the ancestral chicken rule book that these birds are bound to follow, their behaviours are done in unison with their pals. Chickens are intensely social creatures.

I was once given a book called Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens. I understood it, straight away. A few minutes spent with your chickens is so soothing and grounding. That's when you realise that despite this plastic-coated, screen-filled world of convenience we live in, we are still thoroughly part of nature, and we need it.

That is the true gift of chickens. Plus the eggs of course.

28 August 2015

Charlie's new chooks: how he started from scratch

My friend Charlie and his wife Anne are turning their smallish backyard into a little urban homestead. To complete the picture of vegetable garden, fruit trees and compost, they just HAD to have some chickens. Good plan, I say.

Charlie and Anne's back garden, ready to go for spring.
Naturally he has already planted some silverbeet plants for his chooks.

Charlie's been working on the set up for a few weeks now, building his own coop and fencing, and re-using an old screen door as a gate. Here's what he did.


Firstly he looked at his garden to think which corner the chickens might occupy. He had an area between the back of his garage and his rear boundary fence that was unused. It has some overhanging trees for shade (although he has trimmed them back quite a lot - they will regrow though), but gets a reasonable amount of sun.

Bonus: in one corner the terrible weed Tradescantia is growing. Chickens love this weed! They can even eradicate it.

Another bonus: Charlie won't have to mow this area any more. It may even become denuded. His hens will be thrilled if he digs some of it over every now and then so they have loose material to dustbathe, peck and scratch in, or maybe he will throw in leaves, etc. to provide that vital loose material.

The coop

The coop is always a big sticking point when it comes to getting chooks. It's hard to find coops that are well designed, sturdy and come at a reasonable price. I gave Charlie a quick run down on what I think is important in a coop - briefly, a perch that is suitably thick with rounded edges, and a nest box lower than the perch.

It looks very stylish with the black stain and the
ventilation holes across the top. The dimensions
are 915 x 915 x 1220 mm.

The inside waiting to be lined with wood shavings.

Charlie built this coop in his garage. He bought the plans online from The Garden Coop for US$24.95 (his is the 'basic coop' model) and spent about $300 on the materials. He said the plans were incredibly easy to follow and you don't have to be an experienced woodworker to make it. He worked on it during weekends for a few weeks. Best of all, he really enjoyed doing it and feels pretty damn pleased with himself!

I think it looks pretty good too. A few thoughts on it:

  • I'm not sure he'll have enough perch space if he wants more birds; this coop is designed for four of them, and that's all he wants at present. 
  • Possibly the nest box is not sufficiently lower than the perch (nest boxes higher than perches encourage hens to sleep in the nest boxes), but he tells me he can move it down quite easily. 
  • It's not an easy coop to move around, but then he doesn't need to move it.
  • I like the way the drinker can hang from underneath the nestbox. That's a good use of space.
What you can't see in the photo are two little doors from the outside. One goes into the nest box for easy egg collection, and the other is a little hen-sized door. For the photo I opened the human-sized cleaning/access door.

Charlie bought a Chooketeria feeder to keep out the sparrows, but unfortunately it is too big to fit inside the coop, so he's going to situate it outside, possibly under a small shelter he's planning to build.

The fencing

Charlie is planning to eat plenty of the vegetables he grows himself. That means KEEP OUT CHICKENS. Those strong legs and beaks would decimate his garden. At 1.1 metres high, plus another 20 cm of height created by the wire running across the top, Charlie's fence should successfully protect his garden. If the chickens do jump to the top of the wire mesh, he'll run something between the mesh and the top wire to fill in the gap.

Check out the old screen door on its side, which he's repurposed as a gate. Nice recycling.

The birds

Charlie chose to go with brown shavers, which lay extremely well - he can expect frequent eggs when they start laying at about 20 weeks of age. He got them for $25 each from this trader on Trade Me. They were 15 weeks of age, and he had to drive about an hour to get them. Ideally he would have got them a few weeks older so he didn't have to wait so long to get eggs, but it's a small point.

Brown shavers are quite sprightly at getting over fences, and Charlie will probably want some fresh ones in two or three years, as they are generally worn out by then. Heavier breeds are much easier to contain and lay for longer, but may go annoyingly broody and certainly don't lay as well. Heavy heritage breeds cost more, too.

NOTE ON TRANSPORT: When Charlie returned from his chicken-collecting mission, he had the four birds squashed into a small cat cage (you can see it to the right of the photo above). I forgot to advise him to take cardboard boxes with plenty of head room, and some tape to hold them closed. Make sure there are air holes, too, and that the birds aren't left in a hot car.

Showing no ill effects upon release, the lovely little birds almost immediately started pecking and scratching, and looked very settled.

Charlie has to lift them onto their perch because they are sleeping in the nest box, but he's planning to block that off to force them onto the perch. They are too young to need it for its true purpose yet, anyway.

With the birds happy in their new home, all that was left for us to do was sit down near them and have a civilized cup of tea and slice of warm, home-made gingerbread. Lovely.

What Charlie thinks

"Certainly we are finding the chickens to be little characters, the way they are cantering around their run exploring. They are making serious inroads into getting rid of the Wandering Willy which gives me much pleasure.  Our 9 year old neighbour Olivia sits up on the fence and enjoys watching them, and her big brother Jack just came over to tell me he had managed to throw the basket ball into the chicken farm by mistake! Anne is enjoying ensuring they are safely in bed at night letting them out in the morning. All in all they are a entertaining and positive addition to the household - albeit not necessarily a cheap, pun intended, investment. Now they better get laying!"

Ah, you just need a bit of patience ... once those eggs start coming you'll feel that years of eggs will make up for the initial expenditure.

15 May 2015

Chicken fencing, or, Get out of my garden!

A crazy pattern has begun to emerge in our backyard. When I go away for a few days, my chickens escape! If my husband's at home I get an angry phonecall: "You have got to sort out the chickens' fencing!" I grieve my latest batch of seedlings, which has been ransacked. I long for my emerging radish seeds, scratched to bits in my hens' foraging forays.

Munched lettuce

I suppose they miss the daily supplements of greens I chuck them when I'm there, because when I'm at home they stay put. Whatever the reason, the lure of our lush vegetable garden becomes too much for them in my absence, and they squeeze out of their pen through gaps they wouldn't consider breaching when I'm at home.

I know several people who have given up on chickens because they were sick of having their silverbeet reduced to stalks and their doormat become a poo platter. What every urban chicken-keeper needs, of course, is to embrace their chickens within a Good Fence.

Home-made solutions

I'm open to suggestions, because obviously I haven't got it completely sorted. Here is what I use. The posts are a combination of bamboo, long slim pruned branches and extra-tall electric fence pigtail posts. I tie garden mesh to them. It works quite well to start with, but sags with time.

Here is my neighbour's set up, but she too has escapee problems (it's not a very high fence):

Commercial options

I've spotted some commercial offerings that tempt me greatly. One is the Omlet chicken fencing from chooks.co.nz, which at 1.25 m is a better height than the standard garden mesh at 900 mm - 1 m high.

Picture of Omlet Chicken Fencing
Omlet chicken fencing
There's also the Chickin-out fencing available here. It's only 850 mm high, but because it's got metal spikes on top, apparently even flighty breeds don't fly over it. This squares with my experience of them needing to have a little sit on top of a fence they are attempting to cross.

Move it

To me it's important that fencing can be easily moved. This is so your birds can regularly have fresh ground and don't have to forage too much in their own poo. It may seem like they don't have to forage if they have pellets constantly available in a feeder - but they do, they're chickens and it is quite simply what they do.

(One way to avoid having to move the pen is to constantly put large amount of straw, weeds, leaves etc into it, so it's a minimum of about 15 cm deep. This is sometimes called the straw yard or deep litter method. It creates an on-site compost that keeps the muck less yucky.)

Free range

I know my hens would be much happier free-ranging. However, with a smallish urban section and a commitment to growing most of our own vegetables, that just isn't an option. I believe that our eggs are still more welfare-friendly source than probably any commercially produced egg.

29 March 2015

A little operation on a messy chicken bottom

My favourite brown shaver hen lays the most enormous eggs. A couple of weeks ago she spent far too long in the nest box. By mid-afternoon I got around to investigating, and found her still in there, sitting on a foul mixture of diarrhoea and egg yolk and white. 

Reader, meet One-Wattle*, who had a troubled rear end.

At times like this, bravery is required. One must be intrepid and shoulder responsibility, even if one wants to run away from it because she has no idea what to do or what she might find.

I turned her upside down and saw a little white thing poking out of her bottom. This looked like the soft, empty shell of an egg - and indeed I'd been finding a lot of broken eggs in the nest box, and collecting eggs with very pale, fragile shells. I now understood they were hers, and that she was having trouble forming shells for her big, regular eggs. 

Also poking out was a bit of her innards - she'd been straining so hard to get rid of that irritating shell that she'd very slightly turned herself inside out, and the inside bit was a gleaming, bright red.

I began to pull out the egg shell, and noticed that this turned her inside out even more. Having given birth, I know the value of slow pushing. Give the body a bit more time, and it yields. So I just pulled a bit more slowly and gently.

The eggshell I removed

Out came the flaccid, soft, empty eggshell. Instantly the hen's bottom returned to normal, the bright pink inside-out bit returning to where it belonged, and all visible bits of the cloaca entrance returning to a normal pale pink. She must have felt hugely relieved. 

I popped her back into the cleaned-up nest box to recover. Half an hour later she was completely back to normal, running with her pals. A successful nursing mission!

I haven't had to to a lot of chicken nursing, having kept my birds fairly healthy, but you can read about another instance here (part 1) and here (the more tragic part 2).

*I call her One-Wattle, because only one of them developed into anything when she hit puberty. It's a particularly pendulous wattle, as if to make up for the other runty one.

One-Wattle's eggs are in the back row.
A giant One-Wattle egg. It looks like a double-yolker,
but always contains one yolk and excess egg white.

4 March 2015

Chicken treats: sunflower seeds and green vegetable bugs

One of the greatest things about having chickens is watching them eating your unwanted waste products and being delighted about it. Cockroaches, snails... now there is even a bright side to finding pests.

At the moment our sunflowers are stunning, and the honeybees and bumblebees are feasting. Soon the flower heads will wilt and dry out, and I'll hang the heads over the chicken run. The seeds will drop out, and the chickens will gobble them with glee.

Not all sunflowers have useful seeds, though. Our neighbours have grown 'Lion's Mane' sunflowers this year, and the seeds look normal, but they are just empty shells! I wish I could tell you which cultivars are suitable. Ours have self seeded for years, so I no longer know what they're called.

I'd feel fairly confident though, with these seeds from Koanga gardens (out of stock at the time of writing, but I think they will have more for early spring), or the Giant Russian sunflower from anywhere.

I've thought about growing them so they naturally hang over the chicken run, and this year I planted some for that purpose. Sadly my fencing wasn't secure enough, and the chickens escaped and destroyed the seedlings.

Another treat that's in season at the moment is green vegetable bugs, also called shield bugs or, in our house, stink bugs, because they squirt out a stinky substance onto your hands when you capture them. Having accidentally bitten into one years ago, I can testify that they taste as bad as they smell. Why, then, do chickens love them so much? I have no idea.

Our three hens get very excited when we are to have beans for dinner. This requires one of us to go near our runner beans, home of the stink bugs. They know that soon we'll be delivering lots of little green packages of stunk-up goodness to their greedy beaks.

Their squawky demands spur me on to collect every green stink bug I can find. This is also good for the garden, because there are far fewer bugs around than there would be otherwise. It does take a bit of time, though.

For those new to stink bug capturing, I recommend putting one hand underneath whatever the bug's on - say a tomato - and gently tapping or shaking the tomato. The stink bug survival mechanism is to drop to the ground, and your hand will intercept it.

Gardening note: Scarlet runners attract stink bugs like mad, which is a good reason not to grow them. We've grown mainly Cobra runners this year, and they are similarly prolific and even more delicious than the scarlet runners - plus the bugs don't seem to like them. However, a few scarlet runners have popped up also (they're perennial), and have become a stink bug hang-out zone, and as usual they've spread to our tomatoes and are sucking the goodness out of them. But not as much as they would be if we had no chickens egging us on to deliver them the goods.

23 February 2015

How the smartness of chickens helps us ask them what they want

Recently the Humane Society of the United States posted a video on their Facebook page showing hens (white leghorns, by the look of them) doing very clever things. Pecking a button of one colour but not another; walking a figure eight among yellow cones, but walking around the edge of the blue ones. You can see this very neat 4 minute video here.

This is called 'operant conditioning': training an animal to perform a task for a reward. Chickens are good at it, and it's one way scientists "ask" chickens what's important to them. It's been used to find out how much they want nest boxes to lay in, perches to roost on and litter to peck and scratch in.

Here's how it might work:

1. Teach a chicken to peck a key to get a food reward.

2. Deprive the bird of food for a short while, and note that the hungrier the chicken is, the more pecks it will do to get the food. We can play about a bit to ask the chicken how hard it is willing to work for the food. After how many pecks do you give up when you've had constant access to food? How many when you haven't eaten for a few hours?

3. Teach it to peck a key to receive a different reward - a resource we suspect might be important to it, and probably one that commercially farmed hens don't get. Remember we're animal welfare scientists and keen on showing farmers what their birds need for good welfare.

4. Now the chicken knows how to peck for more than one thing, and we can think of the pecks as money. How many dollars will it spend to get food when it hasn't eaten for four hours, compared to how many to get the other resource we suspect is important to it?

5. If the chicken will peck as many times to get access to the other resource as it will for food when it's very hungry, you can be fairly convinced that it wants the resource very much.

Using this approach, scientists have figured out that space, litter and nest boxes are important to chickens.

Sometimes the investigators use a different currency: for example, making the chicken push against a stiff door or squeeze through a small space, instead of pecking. Pecking is of course inextricably linked with food, and also with straw or mulch (the ancestral part of a chicken's brain having not yet clicked that all it really needs is access to a feeder, and that flicking up bits of plant matter to find the insects underneath is no longer vital for survival).

Pecking to get a private place to lay an egg, however, doesn't make as much sense. Chickens do squeeze through uncomfortably small gaps when they're desperate to get to something, though, so at times that is the best currency to base the experiment around. When you're asking an animal a question, you need to speak its own language as much as possible.

The answer to the nest box experiment was this: to get to a nest box before they laid, hens would push against a heavy door. They would only push against the same weight to get to food afer they'd been food-deprived for 4 hours.* That is a motivated chicken!

*Reference: Cooper JJ & Appleby MC 2003. Animal Welfare, 12, 39-52.

8 February 2015

A surprise broody brown shaver

I've had a broody brown shaver, for the first time ever! This is a breed that has generally had broodiness bred out of it - it is a commercial egg-laying breed, and the artificial incubators do the nesting, thank you very much. Yet sometimes nature crows very loudly, and you get a throwback.
It was very easy to snap her out of it. I blocked her from the nest box for a day by putting in a bucket with a brick in it (she would have pushed away the bucket alone - it needed the weight of the brick. These clucky hens are very persistent! She did plenty of clucking, too). She went back to normal after that one day.
Note her fluffed-up feathers and angry demeanour. She did NOT like her toasty nest box being interfered with by me.

There is a comprehensive post on this blog about broodiness here.

26 January 2015

The slippery slope of hen keeping

This video will make you laugh! It's about the slippery slope of falling in love with chickens.

The greatest hazard is not what you'd expect.... The hazards of backyard hens (2 min 35 sec).

15 January 2015

Shade and water for chickens in summer

Like you and me, in the current summer heat my chickens are loving the shade. Much as they love sunny spots to dust bathe in for much of the year, leafy trees become incredibly important when the temperature soars.

So, when you're siting your chicken run, do think about shade in summer. Giving chickens access to trees growing in front of a north-facing fence or building is ideal. The sun is overhead about now, so the trees provide plenty of shade. But in winter, when the sun is low, it will slant under the trees to provide warmth. Plus it will dry out the ground and lessen the mud problem that chicken runs often develop in winter.

If trees aren't an option, consider a shade sail, a sheet of plywood or anything else you can muster up. Anything but direct sun, please!

Drinking water is absolutely vital, too, and like us chickens drink a lot more when the weather is hot. They really can't survive without water: it's important to make this clear to chicken-minders when you go on holiday.

I like a hanging drinker with a bulge that stops falling in the water. If it's hanging it can't be knocked over, and if it's positioned high enough it won't have straw or dirt kicked into it. Try to keep it out of direct sun so it stays cool.

My favourite water tip is to add just a dash of cider vinegar to the water. I only started doing this about a year ago, just with the cheap supermarket DYC version, and quickly realised that it almost completely stopped the water going green in the heat. Wonderful! The vinegar is also said to do good things for chickens' digestive health. I haven't noticed any difference, but then they were healthy to start with. (Except the one that died, oops - that was post-vinegar.)

Hopefully the care you give your birds is rewarding you in the form of many eggs! These long summer days are great for egg production, and the egg section of our fridge is overflowing. Quiche time, I think.

13 January 2015

The dead chicken that keeps on giving

Proof that chickens keep on giving even after death. This ravishing chest-high peony poppy is growing on the burial mound of my old black Orpington. There's a healthy young passionfruit vine snaking its way up behind it, too.