Strawberries, chicken surgery and an escapee

Late this morning, I ambled down to the allotment, enjoying the bright autumn sunshine. Although the temperature has dropped, it is warm enough if you keep away from the shade. I love these cool and bright days on site – there are still a few remaining leaves on the trees, bright splashes of vivid yellow and burnt orange against the dark brown of the soil below.

As I arrived, I discovered Geoff and Cliff busy preparing for minor surgery.

One of Cliff’s chickens had bumblefoot quite badly and they had caught her and got her feet soaking in warm water with Epsom salts. After about 20 minutes, they got her out and had a look at her feet. It looked very uncomfortable and Geoff had the difficult job of keeping her still while Cliff operated.

The amazing effects of Epsom salts, mean that the core of the bumblefoot softens so it can be removed with tweezers. The swollen foot contained a lot of infection and Cliff managed to get a lot of puss out before spraying it carefully with antiseptic spray.

The procedure was repeated for the other foot before each foot was bandaged to keep any dirt from getting into the wound. Geoff took her back to the coop where she took a few minutes to get used to her new blue and purple boots.

Next I walked down to our coop to check on our girls. They all seem to be in rude health judging from the chorus of disapproving clucks at my tardiness.

Fortunately, most of the chickens have stopped moulting and have grown back their feathers completely. The only exception to this are Dolly and Polly who are still shedding the odd feather. Evie looks gorgeous with all her feathers back, shiny and soft.

Mel dropped by for a chat about Evie’s now legendary jumper and to offer some strawberry plants. These are a variety I am unfamiliar with, pineapple strawberries, but as my strawberry crop wasn’t brilliant this year, I eagerly took her up on the offer. I took my time clearing the strawberry bed of all the weeds and old strawberry plants. Three buckets of weeds later, it was clear and ready for the new plants. I planted around 12-15 before deciding it would be a shame to waste the remaining ones.

The entire wheelbarrow was full of them so I chose another 12-15 plants and put them in three rows in the main part of the plot, right by the shed. I think they look rather good and I am hoping they will produce an excellent crop ready for Wimbledon in June.

As I was about to leave, I spotted Cliff’s beautiful silky chicken wandering around the back of his coop. I slowly stalked the chicken, determined to catch it on the first attempt. Unlike Molly and her legendary break for freedom into the park, Cliff’s silky is very tame and friendly. I caught her easily and put her in the greenhouse on Keith’s plot.

Greenhouses are an excellent place for chickens in winter as the temperature inside is usually considerably warmer than outside. It’s especially important for older chickens or breeds susceptible to the cold, like silky’s. I topped up her water bowl and put out a mix of food to keep her going overnight. Cliff has left a cage full of straw to give her somewhere safe and warm to sleep.

I called Geoff to ask him to pass on what I had done to Cliff so he didn’t worry about where his silky had gone. Covered in soil and rather hungry after all the excitement of the day, I pottered home for a late lunch.

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