Great Eggspectations….

| 30th July 2010

Give me some eggs!

Don’t worry, we’ve not reverted to battery farming, this is a Broody Box (or Naughty Cage as some like to call it!) and we’re on a mission to increase our egg supply here at Hen Corner.

As you can see, Butternut and Ascot (our two broodies) are locked in to try to break the broody cycle. This may seem cruel, but I can assure you that they have considerably more space, light, food and water than if we were to leave them to their prefered nesting box. Now, if you’re not familiar with the ‘Broody Cycle’ let me explain…. First, for clarification, it does not mean that they are desperate for a cockerel (they’ve probably never seen one!).  It is a cycle that begins when a hen, often a pure breed, decides that it’s time to stop laying and concentrate on incubating a cutch of eggs in preparation to hatch some chicks. Poor girl doesn’t realise that the eggs that she is laying are not fertilised, so all is in vain… If left alone the hen should sit in the nesting box for the three weeks of the cycle, however, our Butternut is ‘sitting’ for 4-5 weeks at a time. As well as ‘sitting’, she will pluck her breast feathers to a) line the nest and b) minimise insulation between her now increased body heat and the eggs. Again, silly girl doesn’t register that we’ve removed all the eggs, so all that she is sitting on is straw and shredded paper!

For the first two cycles, we let the girls get on with it knowing it would come to an end, but this is now the third month that they’ve been broody and we are starting to see the implications:

  1. No eggs from the broody hens
  2. They won’t leave the nest even to eat, drink or poo…
  3. They won’t let the other girls into the nest box to lay

So we are trying the Naughty Cage. Other suggestions are to put ice cubes/packs in the nesting box, dunking the broody hen in a bucket of cold water or dropping the hen from a height… all of these techniques aim to reduce the body temperature of the hen to break the cycle. The cage should work by preventing the hens from nesting as the cage has a wire base and is raised on bricks allowing a through-breeze (to cool her down). Let’s see hey?

As well as trying to sort out the two broodies, we’ve decide to put Ruby on Baytril (antibiotics) again, she’s still not right, but is obviously not giving up (she’s been ill since September) so we won’t give up on her! When we’ve finished with the cage, maybe we’ll make it more comfortable and use it for Ruby so that we can feed her up (without the others nicking it!) chopped boiled egg, corn, cod liver oil & soya mince…. all good high protein food that should give some weight and strength to the poor girl.

And the others?

Fortunately, all three of our new girls are laying, even though some of the eggs are still quite small, and it’s great to see them getting bigger and develop their characters.

Here you can see Maddy, our true blue, helping us out in the Kitchen Garden. We were just preparing the ground, for some established tomato plants, when we discovered a huge ants nest with hundreds of  ‘Rice Krispie’ looking eggs. Rather than poison or boiling water, we decided to let Maddy earn her keep and no sooner had we popped her onto the raised bed that she began to spot and peck those ant eggs – good girl!

Once Maddy had sorted out that problem, we were finally able to finished the planting on of all our seedlings, at last!

Slugs and bugs

A friend told me recently that it’s been a bad summer for slugs as it’s been so dry, but I’m still sure I owe a lot to my Nematodes. We applied our last lot this week and I’m wondering if they are also helping with the Asparagus Beetle? Within four days of applying the Nematodes I only found 8 beetles and within a week I found none! I’ve also spotted a few ladybirds on the asparagus, which could be helping, but those beetles are not much smaller than the ladybird… maybe they are battling it out head on? or with Top Trumps???? Anyway, I hope I’ve seen the back of them…

Spot the difference?

Whilst we’ve got a bit behind with our planting in the kitchen garden, I feel we’ve had good reason. We spent four weekends, back in April, laying the new brick paths and then more recently, we’ve spent two weekends giving attention to what was a ‘wildlife garden’ but was mainly just over-run with weeds. I hope you can clearly tell which are the before and after photos!

We’re jamming, we’re jamming

Today, we made our first batch of Jam’10. It was a bit of an experiment as we’ve just bought a new bread machine with a jam setting and decided to test this feature alongside the same recipe made in the big old preserving pan. It was Rhubarb & Apple jam (as we needed to clear some rhubarb to get light to the climbing squash and are starting to get some early windfall apples). The conclusion was that whilst the end results of the jam were very similar, the bread machine can only do smaller amounts (great for that individual artisan jar!) and is easier (no stirring, burning, spitting or need to check for setting point), yet the big old pan is great for preserving the gluts and making large batches.

And finally

I hope you’ve read this far as I’ve saved the best until last! We’ve had a number of requests for the recipe for the Apple & Chilli Jelly that we make here at Hen Corner and we are very pleased to have it for you here.

Jobs for next week:

Pruning back the spent soft fruit canes

Mulching the strawberries

Collecting the windfall apples

Replacing the glass in the cold frames

Have a good week and don’t forget to water….

Corners are not just for squares!

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