Trying to keep your chickens happy and healthy is an ongoing process and Helen has been enriching their coop with treat puzzle balls, hanging various veggies from string around the coop, planting interesting non-toxic plants and providing dust bathing areas (which of course they didn't use! I caught Renee dust bathing NEXT to the actual area they were supposed to be using one day...)
The girls were initially on some lovely fresh turf - we knew it wouldn't last very long but it hasn't done too bad lasting nearly a month, but some bits were starting to look a bit worn and even worse, we had a week of pretty awful weather and the turf was acting like a sponge and soaking up so that when you stood on it, it seeped out in puddles!
This wasn't great as it meant that it would eventually turn to mud, which is bad for hens with feathered feet (and we have three of those!) If mud balls up in the feathers it can make it painful for the chickens to walk, and if it's too wet their feathers can become very messy...
So Helen spent some time researching and along with Scarlet we decided that better drainage was definitely needed. The aim was to put some pea gravel down to create good drainage, and then top that with sand to give a nice surface for the hens to scratch in (it's also bug resistant and makes cleaning up easy too).
9 bags of pea gravel later, we started to realise how big that damn coop is! There's six large bags of sand in there too. It's been an expensive weekend...
But it seems to be working - their feet feathers look good and it's nice and easy to clean too!
Of course when Helen was emptying their small (mostly unused) dust bathing area of sand, they all decided it was now the best place to dust bathe in the world...
(Maude is in there somewhere...!)
You might have noticed our quite striking chicken coop, it's one of the new breed of plastic coops which promise easier cleaning, better insulation and better protection against the dreaded red-mite.
There are a few plastic coops available now - most seem to be quite expensive! We originally looked at Omlet's Cube, but it was ruled out when we realised how tiny it was (all of Omlet's coops/runs/cages are really small - their chicken runs always have either bantams or pullets in them - no fully grown hens! This is more than a bit naughty :( They also say they are suitable for 6-10 birds! What kind, finches?!)
We were really impressed by Green Frog Designs as they show real, large grown hens in their product images! Scarlet very astutely noticed that most other sellers used very young or bantam hens in their product images - so Green Frog's images of the chicken wagon with a massive Brahma in were wonderfully refreshing and honest. They also specify the number of hens suitable for the wagon by quoting Poultry Club of Great Britain Guidelines and even say they prefer using Soil Association Guidelines as it offers more space per bird - this is so refreshing after seeing other's ridiculous quotes for how many birds you can cram in their tiny enclosures...
The Chicken Wagon coop was ordered mid-day and arrived the very next morning - delivery was free and certainly very fast! The guys at Green Frog were brilliant too - friendly and helpful.
You end up with several huge various sized boxes, opening them up reveals lots of large bits of plastic and small pieces and a rather daunting instruction leaflet. We laid everything out on the lawn (luckily the weather was fine) and went through the instructions identifying the bits and pieces so that when we came to actually make it we might have a better idea of what we were doing. They seemed pretty clear (they must have been or we'd have gone wrong!) and taking it slowly and carefully we had no problems - even having to build the wagon inside their coop as the final build wouldn't have fit through the door!
I had useful help whilst building it (thanks to my nephew Joe!) - it eventually took us about 7 hours to completely build.
After using it for several weeks, I'm still impressed by the chicken wagon. It's huge - I mean huge - it says it's suitable for 6 large hens but our 6 various sized can all roost on ONE of the perches - there are three in total!
The wagon is pre-setup for the Chicken Guard automatic door opener - this is amazingly well designed as you don't have to worry about setting it up, it's literally fit and forget, no more worrying about getting up to let the hens out, or secure them at night.
The nest boxes are designed in a way so that the eggs roll away from the hens to aid collection and to help prevent hens eating their eggs (after having a naughty hen who did this, this is another brilliant touch).
The inside of the chicken wagon can be pressure-washed to clean it, and there is practically nowhere for mites to hide - the lack of seams and joins you'd find in wooden coops is great.
It also looks fab on hencam - we really like the unusual design and style!
We also have loads more space for the hens - we've gone from:
The new chicken wagon is nearly as big as the total run size the hens used to have! We had several leylandii taken out and the others severely trimmed back so we could fit the very biggest run that we could in there. Landscaping and enrichment is ongoing... It all looks great!
It was Zoey's birthday a week and a half ago, but we just haven't had time to bake her a cake. I've picked three batches of blackberries whilst out walking dogs, to use to colour the 'icing', and all but this last batch have gone off in our fridge as we've left them too long!!
Today whilst walking a dog I found the last few blackberries of the year, so I picked them and knew I just HAD to bake a cake for Zoey when we got home...cue cake making!
We normally make our pups cakes with a fairly human recipe, but this time I decided to make it totally doggy!
Ingredients: Lamb tripe mince, Rabbit & Cranberry wet dog food, various vegetables and herbs. The 'icing' is simply mashed potatoes, but I ruined it a little by not blending the blackberries, meaning it was a little pale and patchy looking...oh well, Zoey doesn't care ;)
The cake didn't look much like a cake, but it was fun (and easy!) to make! We decorated it with a band of dog-friendly chocolate buttons, and a strip of a dog treat as a 'candle'!
Kasper and Zoey got a slice each, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Normally when we give Zoey something she's never had before she sniffs it suspiciously and gives it a tentative nibble...she gobbled this cake down in record time!
Head over to the forum to see more pics!
Once again this weekend we found ourselves time-poor and didn't get chance to start on Helen's planned landscaping in the chicken coop until 8pm on Sunday, when it was completely dark! I had to set up a flood-light (and put some blu-tak over the light sensor on the chicken coop door opener so it wouldn't let the hens out early!)
Helen had bought some chicken-friendly plants earlier in the week and on Saturday we bought 3 bags of sand for their new dust-bath.
It's not finished yet - we have some natural branches to put in for the hens to hopefully perch on, and one of the plants was a bit big and covered the cam view! But here's how it looked last night after we finished:
And here's their new dust-bathing area complete with log perch/wall and plants:
As well as their dust-bathing area they have a Rosemary plant (so they can self-stuff themselves!!) and a tall grass (which you can't see here), panaromic shot which might give you an idea of the layout:
We waited with baited breath this morning to watch the hens explore their new features, but nobody has dared go into the sand yet (although Mabel did step into it and then hopped back out!) - let us know if you spot anyone in it!
Here's Mabel and Leslie looking pretty!
Not sure how long these plants will last!
They have a little area behind the coop which will have plants too:
Our Chicken Wagon has 3 large perches and is quoted as suitable for around 6 large hens, looking at how our girls slept last night this might be a conservative estimate! We could cram about 18 in there :)
After some very stressful days building chicken runs, multiple finger injuries whilst fitting chicken wire, building chicken wagons and possibly the most stressful journey to buy chickens which should have taken 25 minutes but actually took 2 hours 20, the new girls are in their new home!
Traffic conspired against us (you can read about that nightmare journey) which culminated in us having to ask those lovely people at Pear Tree Poultry to open late for us which they very kindly agreed to. We were really impressed by the set up, and the hens were simply gorgeous! Scarlet had a definite list of breeds we should have, and luckily they had every one - at least this bit went to plan!
We then made the ardous trip back to our home, and it was completely dark by then so the girls went straight to bed, and it was amazing to see them up and about the next morning!
Their Green Frog Designs home is brilliantly designed with lots of nifty features and very few places for red mite to hide in - the girls arleady see it as 'their home'. I'm going to write a full review of the chicken wagon as a poultry house, but initial findings are very positive.
You might notice as well THAT THE WEBCAM IS BACK ONLINE!!! It's only a temporary camera but it heralds the return of hencam! Audio will be returning shortly (the old microphone developed a fault due to moisture ingress).
But look how fantastic everything looks! :)
Today Lyle accidentally left a full, unopened pack of crackers on top of Archie's cage.
Archie is a clever little booger, and can easily open packets that are outside his cage and pull things through. Today, not only did he manage to open the crackers, but he then pulled the packet so that they scattered everywhere!!
Archie got a lovely meal of cracker (hey, could have been worse!) and half a dozen also fell into Kasper's crate - now THAT is teamwork!
Of course, I had to get a photo before we cleared the mess up ;)
We received a couple of large packages on Friday, but missed one which was the chicken run we'd ordered - as luck had it I was working from Leeds on Friday afternoon, so I checked how far the depot was from me and it was only 9 minutes away - if I waited until Saturday to pick it up it was a 2 hour round-trip from our home...
The only possible problem was my car isn't exactly large, and the chicken run would probably be in quite large boxes... But I thought I'd risk it anyway! I asked at the counter if I could see the boxes first and the guy said "well it's in the large section but I'll bring it out and you can check". He brought out two massive boxes - one squat square one and one long one which was taller than me!
I ended up opening the squat box and spreading it's contents around my car anywhere it would fit - down the sides of the seats, in the passenger footwell, crammed along the roof area... Then the long package was stuffed across the passenger side, which worked quite well.
Driving home on the motorway was... fun. I had to hold onto it going round corners but got it home safely and mostly without any drama (although it's got my seats a bit dirty - grrrr!
The next day I spent a couple of 'enjoyable' hours in the afternoon building the frame:
The instructions are quite vague, so it's kind of like building a huge metal meccano set with Ikea instructions.
It slowly started to take shape...
Finally a confused half hour trying to work out how the doors work (I'd forgotten some of the bits tucked down the side of the seat in my car!), it was done (well, the frame at least) - it's pretty big...
I didn't want to miss out testing it...
The next step is finding time to fit the mesh and making sure it's all secure - this is the most time-consuming bit apparently and is incredibly fiddly and will inevitably end up with fingers scratched to ribbons from cut wire mesh..!
After that is done, all we need is some space to actually put it - hurry up tree people!!!
This is how our kitchen looks at the moment (and will do for a couple of weeks until the trees are cut back and we can actually get things ready for the hens!)...
The main chicken run has been ordered! It's due for delivery in the next few days. This is only slightly worrying as we need some trees cut back (and some removing altogether) before it will fit in it's intended place...
And we've decided on a coop! It's the most fabulous Green Frog Designs Chicken Wagon which will be a great home to the hens and look ace on camera too.
Sharing a video of an alligator being trained to ring a bell using positive reinforcement (adding something nice, eg a food reward) and negative punishment (taking away something nice, such as attention when a dog jumps up).
The cool thing about force free training methods are that they work with all species, be it dogs, alligators, hyenas or humans! All around the world people are using modern, gentle training methods to teach all sorts of animals. This includes (but is not limted to!) pet rats, wild animals in zoos for a form of stimulation, and even zoo animals to willingly consent to veterinary procedures, such as blood tests!
How cute is that alligator?! :)
Yep, today our little Raiden turns 12 weeks old! He's gone from this:
To this, in a month
To celebrate we took Raiden for his first walk on the beach. We thought he might get to see lots of people and his first ever other dogs...but there was NOBODY there! :(
Oh well, Raiden had a wonderful time anyway.
He got to have a good explore. He had his first experience of thick gooey mud (and, unlike Zoey, didn't mind it at all)
And he had his first experience of salt water - cue the "Nooo Rey, don't drink that!!" calls :D
He had a whale of a time charging through really tall grass, smashing his face into it and flailing about madly!!
After the beach because we had seen no dogs we decided to walk to the field near our house to see if there was anybody there - nope! But, as there were no distractions, Rey got to try going off the lead 'properly' with no longline trailing after him :D
And here's a video of him playing with the bottle we carried his water in :)
We borrowed my nephew Joe last weekend to help with dismantling and disposing of the old rotten coop.
We thought initially it would be a quick 10 minute job - it ended up taking us nearly 4 hours with a crowbar, sledgehammer and axe to take the coop to bits and burn it... What didn't help was Helen's plants which took a bit of a burning - hopefully they'll come back in the spring!
The space looks a lot bigger without the coop, and it makes you realise there was quite a bit of wasted space before.
The only problem we had was the explosions as the stone flags exploded (!) due to the heat, spraying us, my car and our house with red-hot stone and burning wood - perfectly safe!
I might have some explaining to do.
My dad told me about the easier upload on the blog so I thought I'd check it out and try posting some photos from the past week!
Here's a photo from a sunny walk the other day (too hot...)
Zoey's wonderful smile :)
And Raiden at 11 week old playing with the turtle toy my family bought him :)
We've upgraded our blog thing!
Our new CMS (Content Management System, don'tchaknow!) is a bit new and improved over the old system - it means it's easier to add news which looks nice and has pictures and stuff, and you can click on an image for a full size version.
Let me know what you think. As a way of testing it, here's a pic I took on Saturday night of Ribble Head Viaduct as the sun faded...
This is where it starts to get a bit exciting - we thought it only fair that those lovely people that have helped us towards our new coop should be the ones that get to say which breeds of chickens we should try and get!
Although we haven't actually found a replacement coop yet, we are looking and so we might as well start thinking about what hens will get to live in there too!
Scarlet has found a breeder near her and they usually have some or all of the following, so Lynn, CC and Kate, what do you think of...
Welsummer (bantam or standard)
Rhode Island Red
And finally, especially for Lynn: Silkie!
We might have an idea of coop soon too so we'll run that past you too :)
Today, very suddenly, Zoey began acting seriously ill.
In the morning she woke in a playful mood and started trying to wrestle with Kasper. As I needed more sleep Lyle took Zoey downstairs and I kept Kasper with me so we could sleep more.
Once we were all up we let Zoey out from her crate and immediately something was very wrong. She walked slowly and seemed to be in pain and absolutely terrified...her tail was tucked right under her belly, her eyes were wide, her ears were pulled back and her body was curved. And she was trembling, violently, her body shuddering.
I went beside her and soothed her whilst gently checking her body over. Nothing seemed to cause her pain.
She took herself to the dog bed and curled up unhappily to rest. Five minutes passed and the violent tremors were replaced with gentle shudders, and then fifteem minutes later they stopped too.
We called the emergency vet and they said to wait until she was awake and see how she behaved. If she got any worse they advised to bring her in, but it wasn't necessary yet as she hadn't been sick, her stools were normal and there were no other symptoms.
After over an hour's rest Zoey woke up. She got up from the bed and came and settled beside me on the couch...and straight away the hard shivering began :(
Lyle called the vet and said we would be bringing her in. As soon as we were outside Zoey was much improved; walking almost normally and interested in her surroundings.
The vet did many checks (eyes, gum, joints, heart, temperature etc) and the only thing that showed up was she was slightly too warm.
The vet gave Zoey an anti-biotic and an an anti-inflammatory injection and said to bring her back in if it continued, but hopefully it's a one time thing.
Throughout the ordeal Zoey was OUTSTANDING - I have never been so proud of one of my dogs.
By the time we got back from the vets she was completely herself. Once we got out the taxi she had a little walk and then we came home. She played with her toys (including squeaky balls, which we usually hide from her as she's so noisy!) and now she's sleeping on the couch.
Please be better my little beauty.
For more info and photos please see the forum!
Happy Birthday dad :D
Hope you have a wonderful day -- the sun is shining for you...or at least it is as long as you have the same weather as us :P
Have an awesome day <3
We really want to get some chickens but the coop needs replacing and they aren't "cheep" :(
If you can, we'd love your help
If you came to hencam because you're annoyed that someone tried to send you a virus, it's annoying me too!
It seems, in a bid to get their rubbish through anti-spam filters, unscrupulous idiots are faking emails from @hencam.co.uk to get their spam through.
Please ignore anything that doesn't come from Neil or Scarlet @ hencam...
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their private parts.
Zoey began limping a week ago, so she has been on restricted exercise. She hasn't limped for several days now so we have been gradually increasing her movement and exercise.
I discovered that balance balls / discs were good for dogs; it helped tone their muscles, improve their balance and was good for recovering from injuries. Unfortunately the disc we would buy costs £50, so for now we would have to make our own...from couch cushions!!
This works really well and, as you will see from the following photos, Zoey really (really really) enjoys her training sessions with her balance stack :)
I don't give her any cues / instructions in regards to what I want her to do, I simply mark and reward her for interacting with the cushions...she gets rewarded for jumping on them, sitting on them, laying on them, waving her paws, digging...you get the idea :P
Waving her paw
Once she'd offered a few behaviours on the cushion I would click but throw her treat across the room. This meant she would chase after it and reset her position, so she had to jump on the stack again and could begin offering things from scratch
Lyle snapped this wonderful photo as I was refilling the treat bag. Zoey was happy to sit and wait on the cushions...in fact she was happy, full stop. This is training at it's best; the dog is involved, enthusiastic and both dog and trainer are having fun!
Check out the thread 'Zoey's balancing act' on the hencam forum (in the blog section) for more pics :)