They are not cocking a snook at DEFRA flockdown regulations, like Mr Cummings’ jaunt to Barnard Castle. The winter snow has played havoc with the roofing over the hen run and it now leaks, and as my flock are delicate and don’t like mud, they now spend daytime hours in my shed and move quarters to sleep in their regular accommodation every night.
Luckily, the actual henhouse roof remains steadfastly watertight.
The shed was built for the specific purpose of removing all chicken-related junk from the family home, lovingly made by the fella who is not quite so fond of the chooks as I am.
I have since made some slight alterations to his masterpiece to create a spa area in one corner of the shack for the gals. This is filled with diatomaceous earth which is a magical dry powder that is excellent for keeping chook feathers tidy. It also has the added benefit of controlling unwanted guests, for example, mites. So the feathered four spend daylight hours kicking up the dust in a sort of homage to the 'splash it all over', Henry Cooper Brut adverts of the 1980s. Inside there is also a quiet secluded nest box for popping out a golden globe or two. I also dutifully supply them with a smorgasbord of edible goodies and some water so that my ladies can lunch in style.
Every morning I diligently transport the birds from boudoir to day base. I tried a herding approach once, but Clem and Aphrodite went A.W.O.L in a snow drift. I'm pleased to report that they have all taken to this new mode of transport well. At dawn I deftly grab each chook as soon as her beak sticks out of the henhouse door and bundle her one at a time unceremoniously under my oxter. I then make the short journey across the garden to the end destination – chicken shed. At the journey's end there is a wee ruffle of feathers and off they pop inside, none the worse for their undignified mode of delivery.
So never mind Two Jags Prescott, I've got four chooks with multiple domicile addresses, Cluckingham Palace and the West Wing.
The jaunt also allows me an opportunity to do a daily health check to ensure all is well with the flock. Eyes, should be clear and bright and combs blemish free and vibrant. I can also have a feel at the gals’ crops, a clever food storage pouch which hens have located slightly to the side of the right breast muscle, used to store excess food, to digest later.
The crop should be empty in the morning and full at bedtime which allows the chooks to slowly release energy throughout the night to keep themselves warm.
I can also tell who has been greedily scoffing by how weighty they feel. Hens hide their illnesses so weight loss is a key health indicator. I'm really hoping that spring will be here soon and the girls can be released from their incarceration.