Chicken and Chips!

| 9th March 2012

Welcome back to Hen Corner!

We had a fantastic surprise this week in a free delivery of wood chips for the ‘Henclosure’ and have been experimenting with a new variety of cheese using ingredients from the garden; but first here is the next film in our series ‘Ten Top Tips for Keeping Chicks’:

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Why do chickens like chips?

Well I promise it’s nothing to do with ketchup! Here at Hen Corner, we have given the girls a large ‘Henclosure’ made of Omlet Netting allowing them to have a good amount of space for free-ranging outside of their Eglu Cube without have access to the whole garden, especially the veg patch… Chickens love to eat grass and scratching around looking for worms and other such treats is a real favourite pastime. However, it doesn’t take long for them to trash parts of your lawn if they get half a chance. Hence their designated area is pretty clear of vegetation; dusty in the summer and just plain swampy when it rains. A good covering of woodchips helps to keep the area less muddy (and the eggs cleaner) and doubles up as a giant litter tray for all that chicken poop! Last year we spent over £100 on woodchips from the garden centre (for both the chickens and the garden borders) so when an offer of a free delivery came my way, I jumped at the chance. The only problem was that it was 4 tons dropped outside our Victorian Terrace House an hour before dusk and only me, my son and one wheelbarrow to move it all round to the garden. A big task, but well worth it, especially when rewarded with pizza!

We’ve been trying out a new style of cheese. We love to holiday in the British countryside and have visited the Lynher Dairies Cheese Farm in West Cornwall on a couple of occasions. Whilst they now make a great selection of cheese, their most famous (and a real favourite of ours) is Yarg. This is unique due to it’s flavour that is given by the nettles that the cheese is wrapped in before it matures. The nettles allow a natural mold to develop which ripens the cheese bringing a mild, clean distinctive flavour to a stunning looking cheese. Here is our first attempt of trying this at Hen Corner using nettles that we picked last year and froze for this very purpose, it sits with a Camembert style cheese that we’ve made several times before using the Home Cheese Making recipe; it’s another mold ripened cheese that is wonderful and creamy served best at room temperature.

Other News:

  • Thanks to Alchemist on the River Cottage Community for telling me that it’s not the chickens eating the parsnip tops, they tend to die back over winter – so hurrah! We might get some after all….
  • We’ve been forcing rhubarb with an old bottomless dustbin and the young pink stems are looking nearly ready, hopefully we’ll have a supply from March through to October.
  • We are now collecting an average of 7 eggs a day, so cakes all round…

Jobs for next week:

  • Take the mouse guard off the beehive giving the girls free access to the spring sunshine.
  • Sow the Cucurbitaceae (pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and courgettes); we held off a bit on these
  • Use reclaimed slate (from a roof replacement down our street) to mulch under the beech hedge and around the herb bed. This suppresses weeds, retains water and looks really smart!

Have a good week yourself…

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