Friday, 24 December 2010

Choosing a chicken coop

It's hard for a beginner to know what to choose! I was like this when pregnant and trying to work out what I needed... I didn't know a bugaboo from a babygrow and had no idea what a baby vest was! Well I feel exactly the same way now and a millions questions have been asked in the last couple of weeks: How big should the run be for when they're not free ranging? Should the coop be on the ground or elevated? How do I treat red spider mite? What if I get 'funny' eggs? And the big one - should I keep them at the allotment or at home??? Answers on a postcard please...

The matter's complicated because I plan on rescuing battery hens. The next BHWT ( rescue session for my area is at the end of January. So, it's going to be a bit chilly. They will have been kept in a small cage in constant warmth and light conditions and they're suddely going to be in the open air. They're probably going to be missing a few feathers and will need some help in the early days. So that all points to keeping the chickens at home - at least to start with. If that's the case then I'll have to get a small coop, with a smaller run, but on the positive side they'll be let out to free range more than if they're at the allotment. They'd need a much bigger run at the allotment to make up for the reduced time spent free ranging.

So, at least to start I think I'm getting a small coop and run for my back garden. I'll extend the run so that they can roam under the trees in my "woodland area" [aka the bit of the garden sheltered by next door's huge trees where nothing will grow unless I continuously water the area].

The next problem is not really a problem, but it does make it more expensive. I want a raised coop so that their is a sheltered area underneath for them to roam and also to keep things out of the coop (like rats!). I've read that it helps with damp problems too.

I've got to fox-proof the garden as well; at the moment there is a hole in the fence that a fox uses to wonder around the garden. That needs fixing. And my allotment friends who keep chickens suggested putting something around the base of the run to stop the foxes digging underneath.

Luckily my lovely partner David is buying me the coop for my Christmas and birthday present, but he has been prompting me to make a decision so he can get on and buy. And I think I've nearly decided... just need to ponder it for a few more days.

All this and I haven't even thought about feeders, food etc!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dear Father Christmas

My daughter, my partner and I have been writing letters to Mr Claus. I thought it was about time to manage expectations - last year (at the ripe old age of 3 1/2) she became convinced she'd get a wishing box after having seen it on Disney's little einsteins late on Christmas eve. She woke up in the morning and went through the presents getting more and more disappointed... it was so bad she eventually started trying to hide her disappointment.

We eventually worked out what she wanted - a green box with red ribbon and a toy cat inside. So simple to fulfil if we'd only known!!! So this year it's letters to Father Christmas.

So why am I writing about Christmas on an allotment blog? Well, I've asked for seeds but also a book about chickens. I've been thinking about it for a couple of years now and think I'm going to take the plunge.

So, what do I need to get? A book for starters (although there are several chicken coops on our allotment, including my neighbour Tom so I should be able to get lots of advice and help). A hen house. Now there's a tricky one. I was quite keen on an eglu or eglu cube But have also seen this type of chicken house which I think looks quite good.

And the last, and most important question is: What type of chickens? I quite like the look of Buff Orpingtons and understand that they are nice hens. I've been told to get Rhode Island Reds as they are good layers. But I'm a bit stumped. Perhaps it will be down to what is available in my area?? Watch this space!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bonfires and more clearing up

I've spent what little time I have for my plot clearing up. Mainly taking wood and bits from my new plot and adding it to the ever growing bonfire pile. Fortunately the site have been having monthly bonfires so most of it's gone now.

I've not got very far with the new greenhouse - see before and after pictures. I still need to finish the glazing and give it another coat of paint. But the weather has not been kind to me - first rain then frost/snow so not suitable for silicon sealing the glass in (or doing the work!).

I'm still harvesting stuff - some swede and carrots. I've still got brassicas and parsnips to come.

I did manage to plant some broad beans, but no garlic yet.

On a more cheerful note here's some pictures from Bonfire night. We had fab fireworks, a brilliant bonfire as well as pumpkin soup, hot dogs and spiced apple punch!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Clearing up for the winter

Well, I've not blogged much this year! Doesn't mean I haven't been allotmenting, probably just too busy. Sorry folks! Anyway, I had quite a productive year, but the long dry spell in early summer proved a challenge. My potato crop was smaller, my sweetcorn minute and the fruit non-existant, except for raspberries which were very happy.

The big success for this year was tomatoes. I didn't let them dry out and was rewarded with thousands of decent sized toms, the principle borghese mini plum toms were fantastic and I'll do those again. But the shirley, moneymaker, gardeners delight all did brilliantly as well. The only downside was they all ripened in a 3 week space - normally they start in June and go on to November (but generally are quite small).

Squash was a big disappointment - only 4 and one was got by woodlice/slugs and the only butternut squash vanished.

I've now started the autumn/winter clear-up - there's some green manure in, I've got broad beans and garlic to plant and there's parsnip and various brassicas to harvest in the next couple of months. The rest of the beds will be cleared and manured.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

New plot and greenhouse

I now have a second plot - another half plot (5.5m by 13.5m). It houses my new greenhouse (a rescued old cedar greenhouse). I'm currently restoring it and working on the new plot.

The old plot is doing fine - lots of tomatoes, some potatoes, beans, sweetcorn, carrots, courgettes etc. I had a good fruit crop - loads of plums, blueberries, raspberries (almost non-stop). Strawberries were not too good but had gooseberries and blackberries as well as a good grape crop (yet to be harvested).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

New Year

A bit late I know, but I have at long last started my new allotment year! I've just about tidied up my plot after the winter's inactivity, I've started seed sowing: tomato seedlings, aubergine courgette and brassicas in the greenhouse, spring onions and parsnips in the ground (although may have pulled up parsnips when sorting out the millions of weed seedlings that appeared.

My very productive plum tree (4kg last year) has flowered - I was a bit worried, it lost all its leaves after fruiting last year as have the other plum trees I planted.

Also, I've got an allotment extension! It's a strip of land about 3m wide adjacent to my plot but will make a few extra beds, and allow room for more fruit!