Friday, 10 September 2010
The old ladies sunning
The Bluebells do like to take advantage of good weather - it was very wet most of the week, so they didn't get out much. Today is warmer, if a bit windy, so they can enjoy it. Here they are - scraggy old dears!
For most of the past two months my dressing table has been home to various bottles which might make you wonder about my toilette regime. Alongside the delicately packaged Calvin Klein 1, Paloma, something with such a pretty box that I can't bring myself to start it, and the usual prophylactics against ageing that we over-50s allow ourselves to be conned into buying (though mine are distinctly closer to the cold cream end of the market than the designer labelled kind - indeed, they would be cold cream if it weren't that I don't much like the smell!)...I digress, alongside these fancy bottles are white containers stating "Total Mite Kill!", "Poultri-Drops", and "Just for Scaly Legs!". It comes of living in a small cottage - when you unwrap a parcel there is nowhere to put anything down, and the last line of resort is always my dressing table - things there are out of the way but easy to find. They should, of course, be on their way to the bin where all such items are kept, but the scaly leg treatment needs to be applied regularly, so it's good to keep it where I notice it from time to time.
I'm happy to report that the Bluebells and I are recovering nicely from our scale problems, but this has been the worst year I've known for pests and unpleasantnesses. We made the mistake, too, of moving the girls into a wooden house - we had to move them from their wheeled Eglu, a wonderful beast known here as the Vardo, because Steerage is rather feeble, and stopped being able to flutter up the ladder. We tried customising the ladder, to no avail, and for several weeks younger son and I took turns at crawling into the run to pick her up and put her into the house each night, but that was less than ideal on several counts: first, she also tended to take a nose dive (beak dive?) or her way out in the morning; second, it was frequently a horrible, muddy task and very difficult in the dark, taking both of us, one to hold the chicken and one to hold the torch; and third, it meant at least one of us had to be here, since OH is, like Pooh Bear, a trifle stout, to put it kindly. The wooden house was a cheap option, but by mid-summer we were fighting mite infestations (and more earwigs than you've ever seen, yeuch!). The roof blew off in a summer gale, too, leaving three rather ruffled and indignant ladies, so a necessary accessory ever since has been a large bag of potting compost on top. I expect you know that if you heave a bag of compost off a chicken house roof and onto the ground, it tends to split?
We got tired of the wooden retirement home (not as tired as itchy hens, I'm sure) and the new retirement home is a handsome latest-style Eglu Go. I think with two Eglus we are probably producing the most expensive eggs in the history of humanity (best not to mention this to OH!), but they taste wonderful (the eggs, that is), and we do love our girls. We do manage to be pragmatic up to a point - one was despatched when she became ill: the vet might have been able to prolong her life at the expense of her comfort, but it seemed much kinder to get her misery over and done with. As long as the girls take pleasure in strolling round the paddock, and stretching their wings out in a dust bath, though, we are happy to clean them out, chat to them and provide quantities of dried mealworms for their delectation. Boy, do chickens love mealworms! How do they know they're so good? Betty runs across the paddock shrieking with excitement when she sees the tub. Yesterday, she flew half its length (possible slight exaggeration, but it was an impressive feat for an old lady).
Off now to check that the buzzard isn't anywhere to be seen - regular readers may remember Betty's nasty experience? Her confidence is entirely restored, but when they are out frequent checks are necessary, and if it's about, the girls have to go in. If we're in the garden, of course, it's a different matter, and then they really enjoy the company.