Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Category: chickens

Whirlwind Dingle Update

Gosh. It’s suddenly November, and we seem to have not updated since… summer.

A lot has happened.

So, in brief…

The House Has Eyes

The windows are in. They may come out again, because I’m not entirely happy with how they’re fitting at the moment, and I’m certainly not chuffed with the expanding foam that’s in there. Evil stuff.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

The plyboard is temporary, natch. And we really need to redo that ex-window in the stone part of the house, because it does not look good.

We’re now thinking we may go for oak for the rest of the windows, sell these ones, and replace them. Because obviously we’re not making this easy for ourselves…

Another Dingle Tragedy

Remember Nugget, our poory little rescue hen? She was sick, and we were giving her antibiotics every day. She was getting much better, much more lively, and was a clever little hen. Then a fox took her.

Vicky basically cried for a week.

Then there were four hens, who are all most fabulous: Granny Featherwax (the original and leader of the pack), Shirley (the other rescue hen), Big Betty (a Bluebell), and Mrs Pickles (a Cheshire blue, who Vicky trained to fly up onto your arm).

chicken sitting on my arm

Mrs Pickles has come home to roost

Floors…

We pulled up the scabby old carpet in the living room to find a roomful of quarry tiles. Sadly, they’re not all in beautiful condition, and there are two different types.

We’re probably going to put flagstones down in here.

Quarry tiles of variable quality

Quarry tiles of variable quality

The Garden…

We have been pretty busy in the garden, though. We got a good crop of vegetables, and more squash and pumpkin than any reasonable person could wish for.

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

Two of them became Hallowe’en pumpkins:

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we've been watching a lot of RuPaul's Drag Race)

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we’ve been watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race)

And we’ve started preparing the Chicken Palace and new mower shed. The idea is, where the compost heap is at the moment was a big patch of wasteland, really. 15 feet of brambles and nettles at the end of the orchard, next to the field.

So we’ve cleared that lot out, started levelling it, and acquired 60 paving slabs. Some of those paving slabs will go to form the floor of the new mower shed and chicken feed shed. The chicken house will be attached, and raised off the ground leaving a few feet for the hens to mooch around beneath, then there’ll be a big permanent run that’s totally fox-proof.

Watch this space.

But for now, here’s the progress (we put Vicky’s niece Ella to work):

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

But perhaps most excitingly in the garden, we now have a greenhouse! Joe’s sister offered hers up to the first taker — and never one to pass up a bargain, we snapped it up.

We took down the shaky little shed next to the vegetable beds and levelled the land:

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Then we lumped thousands of paving slabs up the hill and Vicky became the most irritating fussy person in the world: they had to be millimetre perfect… after Joe had finished chilling, there was further levelling.

A job well jobbed.

A job well jobbed.

Then up went the greenhouse. Hurrah! And we only broke two panes of glass in the whole transportation and erection process.

#winning

Greenhouse is ready for action

Greenhouse is ready for action

Then we filled it with chilli plants:

The future of many trips to buy soured cream...

The future of many trips to buy soured cream…

Compositions in Fibonacci…

And finally, Joe and the chickens inadvertently arranged themselves into a Fibonacci sequence. And Joe learned that, when presented with peanut butter, chickens give zero flips about manners:

Fibonacci chickens

Fibonacci chickens

What’s Next?

Today, we’ve been pondering attic electrics, looking at the neighbour’s amazing timber-framed extension, and planning the bathroom.

A Little Dingle Tragedy

It’s been a sad week at Casa Dingle: we lost Nanny Egg and Amelia Eggheart to a fox.

In the middle of the afternoon.

We didn’t even realise until the next day when Vicky found two sad little piles of feathers up on the footpath in the woodland. We were actually pretty upset — they have such distinctive personalities and we miss them.

And poor Granny Featherwax was all alone, and that’s unacceptable.

So Vicky got straight onto the British Hen Welfare Trust and arranged to adopt two ex-battery hens. It is an eggcellent charity, so please consider it next time you find money burning a hole in your pocket. (Now we have more eggs, we’re leaving them out with an honesty box, with all proceeds going to the BHWT.)

Anyway — meet Nugget and Shirley Bassey:

Two ex-battery chickens

Shirley Bassey & Nugget

Shirley is big and strident, and fought Granny Featherwax for top place in the pecking order (Granny won). Nugget, on the other hand, is half-bald from the waist down, quite small, and completely adorable. She looks a bit like a nugget, hence the name.

And we also picked up two more hens from Wynne’s of Dinmore, where we got our original three. Meet Betty and Mrs Pickles:

White chicken and grey chicken

Mrs Pickles & Betty

Mrs Pickles is small and white and is a Cheshire Blue — she lays beautiful blue eggs. And Betty is a Bluebell, and she lays pretty grown eggs.

They’re all settled in and completely awesome. Granny is getting over her bad temper at the new arrivals…

UPDATE

More drama at Casa Dingle: Nugget got ill. She was shivery and fluffed up and sad, so Vicky took her to the vet. She had egg peritonitis, which can be really serious. She may not be long for this world, but she had a week of antibiotics and seems much, much better…

We’re just hoping for the best really. It doesn’t seem fair — she’s spent her whole life in misery, with no sunlight or grass, and we wanted her to have years of freedom. Fingers crossed — at the moment she’s doing great. All her feathers are growing back — even after two weeks she looks better. She’s putting on weight, and is a bundle of fun. She’s interested in everything, is super friendly, and is just awesome.

Nugget the chicken

Nugget: with more feathers than she had when she arrived

Garlic mash?

Quick vegetable-based update:

The garlic is growing like billy-o – even more than in this photo, and it’s all coming up now. We’ll have no vampire problems at The Dingle, I can tell you.

Garlic growing

Sexy garlic

And I’ve put the first early potatoes in to mixed reviews (maris peers). The farmers in the pub said it’s too early and the ground is too cold. Lots of people on the internet have implied I’m a bit late.

Everyone is wrong. I’m right on time. Everyone knows a wizard arrives precisely when she means to.

Potatoes ready to be covered

Mash

The rhubarb is about to take over the world, as rhubarb is wont to do. The fruit trees are all bursting into flower. And the chickens are silly:

Chicken balancing act

Silly Birds

In other garden news: almost all the brambles and bits of wood are gone from the bank and we’re about to start flowerating it. We’ve decided to move the mower shed from the middle of the lawn to the back corner. (Well, when I say “move” I mean build a new one and paint it a pretty colour). And we’ll leave the giant sycamore stump to become a stump garden.

Roll on summer, hammocks, and gin and tonics.

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Giant sycamore coppice and other heavy things

When we first looked at the house, way back in February, there were three large stumps in the middle of the lawn, each with a few poles growing out of them.  By September they had transformed into a veritable coppice topping out at well over ten meters high, and a good eight meters across.

It was somewhat alarming to realise how quickly it had grown, and we feared if we gave them another year we might not have a lawn at all.

At the very least, it needed reducing in size and showing who was boss.  Out came the trusty chainsaw, and we took it from this (okay so this was taken in summer, but you can see how ridiculous huge it was):

Sycamore before

to this:

Sycamore after

A mere skeleton of its former self. But it’ll bounce back.

We also took out most of a dead apple tree, and made a start on the world’s most giant GardenStump:

Stump

At some point during proceedings, the wheelbarrow committed seppuku. I don’t think it ever really recovered from drunken midnight railway sleeper maneuverings…

Progress though. Progress.

Oh, also – the chickens appear to be digging a tremendous hole in the garden…

Tremendous Chicken Hole

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And lo! There was an egg

There has been great excitement at The Dingle this week, for on Thursday lunchtime, Granny Featherwax gave us our (and her) first ever egg. It’s a tiny wee egg, about half the size of a “standard” supermarket egg – but it has a good, strong shell. We’re going to eat it later.

A small egg lies nestled in the straw in a nesting box

Granny Featherwax’s first egg!

The girls are doing splendidly. They love grapes and bananas, and I truly believe there are few things in life as funny as watching a chicken steal your banana skin and legging it up the garden, with two other chickens in hot pursuit.

We’re just learning to pick them up at the moment. They don’t like it, but they do like the treats they get. Apparently they’ll get used to this, which is good because we need to be able to pick them up so we can inspect them and make sure they’re healthy.

If you’ve ever considered getting chickens, but weren’t sure – do it. They’re easy to look after and they’re endlessly delightful. And very fine-looking animals to have pottering around in your garden.

Three chickens in the sunshine and the coop in the background

Enjoying the sunshine

Clucking Bell!

The chickens have arrived!

3 chickens huddling in their coop

The girls arrive!

Meet Amelia Egghart, Granny Featherwax, and Nanny Egg.

Amelia is so named because she is missing a toe, but she was the first intrepid chicken explorer to make her way down from the coop and into the little covered run. She’s an explorer, and undaunted by the challenges presented by being slightly toe-less.

Granny Featherwax and Nanny Egg, well… they just look a bit witchy. And very capable. And a little mischievous.

The girls stayed in their top coop for the first afternoon and night, to settle in – then we opened their ramp the next morning and tried to coax them down into the run with a little corn.

It took them a while, but by lunchtime they were all pottering around. Here’s what we’ve learned in the first couple of days of chicken-keeping:

  • They’re very chatty – every time we wander over, they chuckle at us and follow us around, which is delightful
  • They love dandelions – I mean, they proper love dandelions
  • They poo a lot
  • They drink a lot of water, too
  • They’ll eat almost anything we will (apparently they go mental for cooked leftover spaghetti – watch this space)
  • Checking for eggs is just about the most exciting thing to do ever (I’m hoping this won’t wear off)
  • They’re very clever – took themselves to bed without needing any prompting or encouragement

They’re staying in their little coop and integrated run for a few days, but next week we can let them out to free range around the garden when we’re around. I’m a little worried about the fox that lives at the back of the woodland, but we’re hoping all will be well if we’re there and if we encourage them to be out in the orchard rather than under the tight bushes.

We’ll get some better pictures up when they’re out and about and they’re more used to us.

In the meantime, here’s their posh house:

Pyramidal chicken coop, house on top, run below

The Ark of the Chickenant

Imminent Chickens!

So, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to keep chickens – and now we’re in The Dingle, I can finally do it! Hurrah!

So on  Saturday just gone, we headed over to Wynne’s of Dinmore, which is just a few miles away, and wandered around their farm.

They have, as well as everything chicken-related, alpacas for sale. Look at this dude! They look like 80s pop stars, they’re ace. But they’ve got batshit-crazy eyes and they just kinda stare at you, so we’re not getting alpacas.

A ginger alpaca and a blonde alpaca giving us the hairy eyeball

A ginger alpaca and a blonde alpaca giving us the hairy eyeball

We might, however, get a couple of pygmy goats because you’ve never seen anything so cute as a baby pygmy goat.

Anyway – we’ve ordered a chicken house, all the gubbins to get us started, and three Calder Ranger hybrid hens. I’m expecting a call today and I’m ridiculously excited. We’re hoping they’ll all arrive before the bank holiday weekend so we can get to know them.

In other news, here’s what else we’ve accomplished so far:

  • Settled in nicely
  • Cooked two meals in the Rayburn, which were delicious (lasagne and a tagine)
  • Let the cats out for their first explore (nervous, us?)
  • Taken out a dead stump and a dead apple tree
  • Planted our three trees: a Victoria plum, a conference pear, and an apple
  • Mowed the lawn many times
  • Got broadband sorted
  • Planted a miniature herbery (mint, oregano, curry, parsley – we’ll see if the mint goes mental)

We’ve not done much in the way of, well, anything yet. We’re going to live in the cottage for a couple of months before we make any big decisions… but we are going to start stripping wallpaper and Getting Stuff Done over the bank holiday weekend.

Watch this space…

Tagine in Rayburn oven

Our first Rayburn meal – a bean tagine. Delicious.

Stone planter containing parsley, curry, oregano, and mint

Our miniature herbery: parsley, curry, oregano, mint

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