Yesterday dawned, as many others here do, beautifully. Little did I know it would be the day that one of my (more unusual) dreams would come true.
The plan for the day was relatively simple; clean out the chickens, get our first real Christmas tree, decorate tree with children without losing my marbles. The morning passed relatively without incident – other than falling on my chin in the chicken coop, about which the chickens were very unsympathetic, and remarkably ungenerous seeing as I’d just made them their very own dustbath for the coop.
After unsuccessfully seeking sympathy from both J and the girl (who poked me in the, already painful, chin) we went and collected the boy from school and headed off for the tree. Our original plan was to buy it from somewhere that was advertising all trees for £20, when we got there we found a saw and instruction to cut the tree down ourselves, but there weren’t any quite as big as we’d wanted. So we headed off again, this time to a local plant nursery – the trees were all lovely and it was like entering Narnia as we shuffled through the pines, checking bushiness, and price tag, as we went. In the middle of the garden was an older gentleman peering up at a heavily laden apple tree, camera in hand. J, never able to resist a nose, wandered over to find out what he was looking at, “Waxwings” he said pointing to the top of the apple tree “I’ve seen 77 in there”. I couldn’t believe it, I’ve been waiting years to see waxwings and there they were in all their glory, sat atop the tree, chowing down on apple. They were perfect, I could just make out their swept back hairstyles and dark eyeshadow, the Bowie tribute act of the avian world. Unfortunately we had neither our binoculars nor camera (we were just going to buy a tree not fulfil a years old ambition!), and so we didn’t get as close a look as I’d have liked, or any evidence. But there they were, magnificent against the autumn colours, giving their blessing to our Christmas tree expedition. There was definitely more of a spring in my step after the spot, and I ventured deep amongst the pine scented boughs to find the perfect tree, and we headed home with smiles, that even the disobedient children playing with broken glass on top of the cold frames couldn’t shift… at least, not for long anyway.
The tree is now home and, after much propping up with numerous “Stick-ey’s” jammed into the stand, it is looking pretty jolly and giving our final festive touch to the barn. The kids were vaguely interested in decorating it, until Cbeebies became an option, and then, thankfully, it was left to J and me to add the final touches.
Work has also been afoot to increase our chicken flock. We started off with three lovely ladies, but as the shorter days continued, their egg productivity declined rapidly; not helped by the fact that two of them went into moult once the colder weather arrived. After having our three for a while, we knew we wanted more. They are, relatively, easy to keep and quite fun to have around, and on top of that, they make eggs. At the end of last week we were told about a farm that was getting rid of chickens, so we got in touch and, at the weekend, headed off to collect them. The hens had been free range but were being kept in a large barn with thousands of other chickens ready for collection, the farmer helpfully grabbed them for us and we set off home with a bunch of very noisy chickens in the back of the car (boxed up, I’m not sure free range in a car would end well).
And we are now the proud keepers of 10 chickens, the extra 7 are quite prodigious layers and so we’ve been having lots of boiled eggs and omelettes and are barely making a dint in the egg numbers. We’re hoping to sell some from the yard gate if production continues at its current pace, as there are only so many eggs you can eat.
Initially the new girls were kept separate by way of a coop within the coop, to try and get them all used to each other. However after witnessing one of our originals trying to fight with one of the bolder new ones through the mesh of the coop, and injuring her beak in the process, we decided it was time to give the new girls some more space, and released them into the main coop. So far they aren’t being welcomed with open wings by our originals, I think they’ve had it too good for too long and so are a bit sulky – two in particular are going so far as refusing to roost in the coop, and so we’re having to move them from the kids’ playhouse nightly. We’re hoping this shouldn’t go on too long though and they’ll come to some sort of grudging agreement to live alongside each other in time. At least we’ve not had any chicken gladiatorial battles. Yet.