best layer of the month # January

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It’s 31st January already . . . time to tot up the egg count and see who wins the award for “best layer of the month”!

As you can see from the above photo, hens are all in fine fettle.  Miranda has finished her moult and grown all her lovely red feathers back.  Combs are all bright red . . . and hens are currently enjoying having 100m2 to roam around in.  Since the new gals joined the flock, they’ve all been playing at Houdini, escaping from the net enclosure on a daily basis.  So we decided rather than trying to fence them IN it was easier simply to fence them OUT of the areas we don’t want them scratching (ie strawberry, raspberry & potato patch).

Anyway, egg count this month is as follows.  Miranda – 5;  Miss Moneypenny – 6; Mauricette – 26 and . . . Miss Plumpton – 28.

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By my calculations, that makes Miss Plumpton the winner, and a total of 65 eggs for January. 

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best layer of the month #December and best layer of 2017

woo hoo!

The new gals have started laying!

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This photo was taken when they first arrived, in October, but since, their combs have developped and turned a nice healthy red.  And the laying began!

Which means, we had 26 fresh eggs this month – mostly small ones, but they were still very nourishing.  Miss Moneypenny only laid 1 egg this month . . . Miranda laid 7 rather large eggs, but with very strange shells

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After googling, we think these are called “body marked” and the strange shell surface is probably due to lack of daylight, but they were whoppers and very yummy.  Miss Plumpton, our Sussex laid 8 eggs and Mauricette

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our French Blue is this month’s winner with 10 eggs – yay!

And just because I love statistics . . . I’m now going to do a tot up for the entire year of 2017 to see who the “best layer of 2017” award goes to!  Are you ready?  Okay in 2017 there were 530 eggs laid in total.  The two new gals come in last place, since they only just started laying this month

Miss Plumpton in last place with 8.

Mauricette second to last with 10.

Miranda came in third place with 149.

Our lately departed Miss Marple came in second place with 161.

And the 2017 award winner is . . .

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Miss Moneypenny with 202 eggs!  Way to go Miss Moneypenny lol.  I suspect that the coming year will see a change in the regular monthly award winner.  Miranda and Miss Moneypenny have been with us since Spring 2015 and are probably passed their best laying days.  Which is why Miss Plumpton and Mauricette came to join the flock – let the old ladies rest, and let the young ones do the laying.

best layer of the month # November

. . . or a more appropriate title this month: “What? no eggs?”

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Just look what I had to do this month!

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I actually had to go and BUY some eggs!  Something I haven’t done since May 2015, when we first started our hen-keeping.  The young Miss Plumpton and Mauricette, who joined our flock at the end of October have been very ornamental so far but haven’t started laying.  Miranda has been through an impressive moult this month, finally growing back all her beautiful red feathers and looking more like herself. 

And Miss Moneypenny . . . well, she laid 3 eggs early November (which we were very grateful for) but  nothing since.  She has been the best layer for several months in a row so she’s entitled to have a rest. 

Not to worry.  We’ll just have to make do with shop-bought eggs until things pick up, which I’m sure they will. 

90 years on . . .

Please bear with me a few minutes, while I give some background explanation about this post, before actually getting to the point.

Last month, as regular readers will know, we added two new laying hens to the coop

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and I was searching for names for the gals, preferably beginning with the letter M or names that could become a Miss (something).  I was looking for “old” names since I think hens look like quaint little old ladies with frilly petticoats.  As you also know, these two gals were named Mauricette and Miss Plumpton but that was after coming up with a long list of possible names.  The white Sussex became Miss Plumpton because (after googling) I learned there is a small village in East Sussex called Plumpton . . . so that seemed so appropriate for a lovely plump Sussex hen.  Mauricette however was almost named Millicent (after the flapper girl Millie Dillmount from the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie”).  Husband preferred Mauricette though which has more of a French ring to it – and therefore more appropriate for a French Blue.

Anyway . . . while discussing possible hen names with Avis (yep poor Avis got dragged into the naming process) . . . Avis suggested Milly Molly Mandy lol.  And one thing leading to another . . . I was soon on amazon (more out of curiosity than anything else) to see if the MMM books were still in print.  And what was my surprise to see that they are!  90 years after the publication of the first Milly Molly Mandy adventures (in 1928) by Joyce Lankester Brisley, Milly Molly Mandy is still alive and well, and in Puffin paperbacks!

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?

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Of course!  How could I resist?  I bought myself a copy of The Adventures of Milly Molly Mandy which is a reprint of FOUR of the MMM collections.  Including: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, More of Milly-Molly-Mandy, Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy and Milly-Molly-Mandy Again.  A total of 45 different stories.

This has been my bed-time reading for the last week.  Snuggled up under my quilt, with a mug of hot chocolate and a cat, I’ve been re-living the adventures of MMM and thoroughly enjoying myself.  Stories will probably annoy some people as they have lost nothing of their innocence and events so obviously take place in an era when children were allowed to play outside unsupervised, go exploring, use their imagination, show initiative and just enjoy being children.   It was in a day & age before any of the technologies that young children take for granted today. In a day and age where Father grew vegetables: Mother cooked and washed; Grandpa sold the vegetables at market; Grandma knitted; Uncle kept cows and chickens; and Aunty sewed and did the sweeping and dusting.  A situation which would shock many people today, with the sexist stereotypes, but that’s just how things were 90 years ago with all family members pitching in and doing what they knew how.

Possibly, on the surface, much too out-dated for today’s youngsters to be able to relate to the goings on in the stories, but for me (a 1964 baby) the stories brought back so many memories since these books were amongst those I grew up on.  MMM isn’t just a little girl in a pink & white striped frock who does girly things.  She is always out and about with Little-friend Susan or Billy Blunt, climbing trees, fishing, learning to ride a bike, camping out,  discovering the joys of letter-writing, gardening, rescuing baby hedgehogs.

What’s also so lovely (in my opinion) is that Puffin haven’t tried to modernise the stories in any way.  They have kept the original black & white artwork (which I think is also by Joyce Lankester Brisley) . . . a few examples here

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My very favourite story in this collection is: “Milly-Molly-Mandy Spends a Penny”.  If there’s one story that sums up the values my parents passed on to me, and I hope I passed on to my children, it’s this one!

In a nutshell: MMM find a penny (which in 1928 must have been worth quite a bit).  She asks all family members (Father, Mother,  Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle, Aunty) for suggestions as to what to do with her new fortune.  Grandpa says: put it in the bank.  Grandma says: buy a skein of wool and learn to knit.  Father says:  buy some seeds and grow mustard & cress.  Mother says: buy a patty-pan and make a cake.  Uncle says: save until you have 3 pennies and buy a baby duckling.  Aunty says: get some sweets.

Milly-Molly-Mandy thinks long and hard . . . and by spending her penny very wisely, she is, in fact, able to make that one penny go a very very long way, enabling her to grow mustard & cress; learn to knit; bake a cake; buy some sweets; save a penny, and finally buy a baby duckling! 

best layer of the month # October

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All I can say is “Hourray for Miss Moneypenny!”  If it hadn’t been for her, we’d have been very short of eggs this month.  Total egg-count is at an all-time low with only 33 eggs from the coop in October.  Miss Marple laid 7 of those (before she died earlier in the month); Miranda, who is currently moulting, laid 8 . . . and Miss Moneypenny  laid 18.  Here she is again

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The star of the coop!

The two new gals have been settling in . . . and I haven’t noticed too much bullying recently.

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Mauricette and Miss Plumpton tend to stick together, but they are out and about scratching and getting lots of fresh air.

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A close up of Miss Plumpton, our young Sussex.  And a close up of Mauricette

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who is a French Blue and has a gorgeous black head & collar but smokey grey body. 

Oh and we’ve moved the guinea fowl to a slightly different set-up.

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They’re now inside the larger plastic green-house in the veggie patch.  Not sure if this is going to be viable solution as the nights get longer and colder.  It keeps them dry and safe from draughts during the day, but it gets pretty cold in there at night.  Guinea fowl being guinea fowl, they refuse to use the straw-lined sleeping quarters I have provided, but choose to perch on top of the mini-green house with only their plumage to keep them warm.

let me introduce you to the new gals

You’ll know that we were down to only 2 hens last weekend when Miss Marple died.  I immediately phoned the breeder we buy our fowl from and reserved 2 new hens which we collected on Thursday.

The first 2 days, we kept them shut in the coop, with food & water, just to let them settle in.  However they were in close contact with Miranda and Miss Moneypenny at bedtime.   Then we let them explore the inner enclosure for 2 days, so the old gals could see the new gals in daylight, but not peck them to death.   

The following photos were taken during this introductory stage, so apologies for the chicken wire. Please allow me to introduce you to . . .

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Our two new laying hens.

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Having to undergo full inspection.

Miss Plumpton

Miss Plumpton, a hybrid Sussex, all beautiful and white with black tail feathers and a very pretty “collar” of black around her neck.

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And Mauricette, a French Blue.

Both Miss Plumpton and Mauricette are 20 weeks old, and “on the point of lay”.  We’re not expecting any eggs from either of them for a few weeks, until they’ve settled in properly.  Anyway, they’ve now been allowed to explore the outer enclosure and things are going fairly smoothly.  Miranda is being very bossy and she doesn’t seem to like Miss Plumpton very much – we’re wondering if it’s because she’s such a bright white? Early days yet though.  I’m sure they’ll all be scratching and happily clucking together before too long. 

and then there were two . . .

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Miss Marple (above) is now pecking & scratching in chook heaven.  I’d noticed she was under the weather a few days ago, and I probably didn’t react in time.  By the time I did  react, she was suffering from an enlarged crop (so google brought up various issues like “impacted crop” and “sour crop” for that).  Husband contacted a few vets in the area.  None of whom seemed to know much about hens so it basically became a DIY lesson in hen health (or ill-health), sifting through various articles/videos on the internet to find out what to do.

We isolated her from the other gals and adminstered a small amount of olive oil in the first instance, hoping this would help the blockage.  This was then followed, by some gentle crop massaging to help her vomit and empty her crop.  I thought I had got the hang of things, and was managing to help her bring up lots of foul-smelling gunk . . . but sadly, it was a case of too little, too late.

Miss Marple will be remembered as a very prolific layer, a very good-looking black & tan hen with a bit of an attitude. 

So for now, there’s just Miranda and Miss Moneypenny in the coop  . . . but hopefully, it won’t be long before a couple of new chooks come to join them.  I need to phone our local breeder to find out if there’s still time to reserve a couple of birds for this month, or whether I’ll have to wait until March next year.

In the meantime . . . guinea fowl are growing and seem to have settled in well.

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Here they are, aged 9 weeks, sunning themselves in the back garden. 

We’ve been having an Indian summer this past week with temperatures around 23°C and gorgeous blue skies.  An opportunity to take a few colourful photos

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of what’s flowering outside . . . and one, just for laughs, of what Ducky is up to indoors.

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I know it doesn’t look like it, but he’s actually fast asleep, with his eyes wide open lol.