Meekle’s Blog – An Insight into Downsizing

Leek Auction
March 29, 2009, 7:10 am
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“Spring has sprung and the grass has riz” as my mother says! So we all got up early as a family (much to the kids annoyance) and went off to market to see what prices the hens go for. That way we will know whether to send the surplus that hatch to Leek market (for the better price) or to Penkridge Market (for the quicker turnaround but lower price)

Not only did we come away with prices, we bought more hens too! We purchased three Point of Lay (POL) Maran hens (£7.50 each)- absolutely stunning and they lay a dark brown egg. With the normal hens laying a light brown, the maran laying a dark brown and the araucana laying a blue / green egg – our egg boxes are looking quite colourful.

Cuckoo Maran Hen

Cuckoo Maran Hen

Photo of a Maran Hen (source:

we also ended up buying some more pekin chickens which were absolutely stunning. We purchased two pairs of Millefleur Pekins (hatched late 2008 i believe – given the immature crowing for example), which will give us a cockerel and two hens with a spare cockerel. The prices were high, but nearly half of what i would spend at the normal breeders shop. In our area – millefleur are selling for around £25-30 each, usually £70 for a trio. I managed to pick up these birds for £30 a pair. There is a good chance that i could sell the spare cockerel for £15-20 and make some of my money back, and i notice that eBay are selling a half dozen fertile eggs for £10 including postage. So the payback shouldn’t be that long at all.

Mille Fleur Pekin Bantam Hen

Mille Fleur Pekin Bantam Hen


Housing was an issue, as this was a spur of the moment decision due to the sudden sighting of these birds. So on our way home from Leek, we dropped into the pet shop and bought a couple of guinea pig arks for £39 each and adapted them to have a house at one end. they are 5′ long and 2′ high by 2′ wide. i wouldn’t put a normal sized hen in as it wouldn’t get much movement space as it could only use the very centre as that is the high bit, but the bantams seem quite happy in these. I will make them a proper house and then these arks can be used for the chicks to grow on in. I will also be buying a large shed to house and brood the chicks in so  we may go through a phase of moving birds about to rationalise the run usages!

The only problem i have now is that the two new cockerels are challenging each other to a crowing contest, and my old Pekin cockerel has to wade in too just to show who is boss!

The limping Hen
March 29, 2009, 6:41 am
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Well, a week back i was really worried that my Cochin Hen had broken its leg and that she would die. I even took her to the vet. Most people would have said that enough was enough, and to have culled her and put her into the pot.

However, the vet said that it appeared dislocated and that it might pull back round given time and confinement to stop her doing too much. Well, the only spare space i had available at the time was an indoor rabbit hutch so she came indoors in that, for some TLC.

The first few days were obviously painful for her, but as time went on she got stronger and stronger to the point that a day or two ago we let her back out on the grass for a wander. she seemed fine, so we let the others out to meet her and welcome her back. THAT WAS A MISTAKE.

The others mobbed her and one hen in particular (Ellie the battery rescue) tried for blood. That knackered that idea. So, Blossom is still in an indoor hutch, on my dining room table (while we all have to eat off our laps in the lounge) laying me an egg everyday walking happily about in her rabbit run.

I will need to construct an outdoor run for her and perhaps put her in with some bantams when they hatch and grow up a bit, then she can become the natural leader of that flock and not get pestered by bigger hens

Growing stuff
March 23, 2009, 9:15 pm
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Well, we have a small greenhouse installed now, and currently in it are various flower seeds (to attract the bees and butterflies, and various salad crops such as lettuce, radish, tomato and cucumber, and we also have the slightly more exotic Goji berry bushes, olive tree and even a coffee bush!

I do hope that it produces just one or two teaspoons of beans so that i can say i grew my own coffee!

The limping chicken
March 23, 2009, 9:13 pm
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just a quick update on “Blossom” our hen with the dislocated leg. We have had her indoors now for nearly a week and she has made a fantastic recovery. She is up on her legs now, quite happily walking around the cage that she is in (remember we had to confine her according to the vet) and she is very vocal now and getting stuck into the food.

We tried her back outside, and let her walk about outside for a bit at the weekend and she was fine. We let the other hens out and they made a bee line for her and mobbed her. So, looks like she wont be intergrated back into that flock for a while and we have possibly found the cause of her bad leg!

She will stay in now for most of this week, going outside during the sunny bits to graze on the grass, but she will definately be indoors over night. We are going up to Leek Market on Saturday so i might be able to get her a new house from there “on the cheap” (only paid £5 for the broody coop) and then she can go out safely.

Minor Disaster
March 15, 2009, 9:05 pm
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I will keep this brief as i am needed to sort out the bird, but one of my cochin hens has managed (dont know why or how) to dislocate her right leg at the “knee”.

She was in a bad state this morning but has perked up today. will take to teh vet tomorrow if she makes it through the night. who said smallholding was fun???

Buzz Buzz Buzz
March 13, 2009, 7:44 am
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Last night I attended the AGM of our local bee club. They are a hardy bunch, of what i can only say are a reasonably aged group – which must show testament to the life giving properties and preserative goodness of honey!

They welcomed me with open arms, and after discussions with various members there, i have decided to join the group and get some bees. not only will i be able to source my own local honey from the bottom of the garden, but across teh UK bees colonies are sufferring so i hope to do my bit to keep them going. without bees, it is estimated that the UK will lose its ability to produce crops within 5 years of there being no nees – as bees are so very very important to the pollination of crops.

I have signed up to do a 6 week course at their hive location – apiary – where i can learn the basics and then be skilled enough to start a small nucleus of bees myself. Here’s looking towards a good year with the bees.

Apples and the like
March 7, 2009, 8:35 pm
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I have purchased from Homebase today, two apple trees (one cox and one Jonagold) and some blueberry bushes. They are the type that come in a small bundle of soil, held together in cling film and then stuffed into a polythene bag. The apples are trying to put on some leaf so i need to get them into the ground ASAP so they can start sucking up nutrients from the soil. I intend to plant them about a metre in from the hedge running along the back of the garden (that way they wont get hit when the farm flail cuts the hedge) and any windfalls will come my way and not into the cows field!

Not sure where to put the blueberries but they only cost about 50p each so anywhere will do, and if they fruit well theres a bonus. The potatoes are chitting up nicely and really need to go out, bbut you shouldnt plant spuds (especially earlies) before St Patricks Day (17th March) i am told. I figure the Irish know a thing or two about potatoes so i am going with that.

My mushrooms didnt last too long, but i have a case of spore still and some nice hen muck and straw rotting down nicely for them so who knows what will occur in the summer.

The onoions should have gone in but i am late digging over so i will make a concerted effort this weekend to get them in too. Its all go…. soon i start my bee keeping course and that will be even more fun and games i am sure…….

Speak soon…………….

The Eggs are a coming thick and fast
March 7, 2009, 8:29 pm
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Well, now the days are getting longer, the eggs are coming thick and fast. We get an average of 4 per day from the five big chooks, and now the bantams have started laying.

We are getting a pure white egg from the appenzeller bantam, pretty much every other day, and the two pekin hens are taking it in turns to lay one a day.

the cokerel has been treading these hens so there is a very good chance that they are fertile, so i have fired up the old incubator to test the fertility of them. I will gather together around half a dozen potentially fertile eggs and then set them in the incubator for a period of 7 – 8 days to see if they start to develop. If they do, then i will be able to set the pekins up properly and start to develop the “breeding programme”