Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April's Fool News

Winter is well behind us now. The bees are very busy foraging these days. I have seen them out flying as early as 9am these past few days, which is usual for this time of year. Their new site is more sheltered and faces east into the morning sun, it is warming up the hive earlier than the previous site and therefore they can fly earlier in the day.
I need to do my first open hive inspection of the year this week. I might do it tomorrow if the weather stays good. I have one queen to mark and I need to add on another brood box to the other hive. I will also add some frames with no foundation so as to allow the bees to draw their own comb. I have a bee meeting to attend tonight, the meeting will focus on making splits and establishing nucs.
I am eager for Hubby to start on a perone inspired hive design. I would like to experiment that different hive types and get more into natural beekeeping. 

Most of the over wintered veg is starting to bolt to seed. That includes turnips, winter salads, kale, cabbages, leeks, beetroot, carrots etc. I need to start using them up now before they get too tough and stringy. Although the pigs would only be too happy to help!

Our pigs are doing great. They have put on a lot of weight since the arrival of amber, the cow. The milk is doing them well and they are thriving. The male unnamed pig will go to the freezer this month. His female friend is pregnant, hopefully, and so we will expect a litter of piglets during the summer. Hubby is very fond of her and wishes to keep her as his breeding sow.

Hubby started work on the new hen 'apartment' last weekend. He hopes to finish it by this weekend. We are both sick of hen poo on the doorstep each and every morning!
The plan is to move them from the stable and free ranging, to the  new hen house in the orchard. Hubby will mesh the fencing and clip their feathers to hopefully keep them restricted to the quarter acre that is the orchard. They will still have plenty of space but wont be able to get into the yard to poop on everything and lay eggs in random places that only the dogs seem to know about.
On the downside, they make a good living by cleaning up after the pigs, pony and cow. They also spend a lot of their time scratching out worms in the dung heap. They barely cost us anything to feed at the moment, so we will have to feed them more!
The design of the hen house is as follows. There are four nesting boxes on the side that can be accessed from the fence. This should make collecting eggs a very easy job, sorry dogs! The main body has various branches for perching and the floor is slatted, there are 1-2 inch spacing between the floor boards to allow for easy cleaning. Most of the poo should fall through, but I imagine I will need to sweep it out once or twice a month. Either way it should be easy to manage.
They will have a ladder up to access the door. I hope that this will make it fox/dog proof. We don't intend to lock them in at night. We will just do as we are currently doing, allowing them to fly over the stable door when it gets dark, knowing that the stable is fox proof. 
We will use the rain water from the roof to fill a shallow paddle pond that Hubby has yet to install, that will be the water sorted. I hope that I or the children will only need to collect eggs and feed the hens, from the fence once a day. Although I am sure that there will be regular escapes.


  1. It's surprising how difficult it makes things when there's chicken poo EVERYWHERE!! Wellies on for even a few steps outside the back door for instance.

    It's so much better here now that we have them back behind a fence where they belong, although a couple are still squeezing through the back fence and going into the woods to lay their eggs. At least I know where they go and our dogs haven't found out yet :-)

    Similarly to you we have now put guttering on the henhouse to catch the rain, only we have it going into a water butt as a pool would soon overflow with the amount of rain we get here.

    It's nice to hear that one of your pigs is staying as the farm breeding sow.

  2. I agree, hen poo everywhere is the big negative with free ranging hens.

  3. Beware of red mites! They particularly like any joins in wood, tongue and groove panelling can be very hard to eradicate them from. Smooth plywood might be good for inside.
    Some mites get on the hens but a lot more hide in the house and torment the poor hens at night. Sometimes if hens are reluctant to roost that can be the reason.
    I've had a recent infestation and ended up burning the wooden house and building a block one with rendered walls, as well as dusting the hens (not much..cough,, fun).
    Blowtorching the inside of their house and/or jetting parrafin in any cracks/joins can work apparently. But not blowtorching after the paraffin :0
    We never had them for years until we got new birds that I suspect brought them in.

  4. Thanks Nutterjack, I will keep an eye on that.


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