January Blues

And so as the January weather continues to make the third lockdown more miserable than the last, I escaped down to the allotment for some fresh air. Over the past couple of weeks, I have told myself that I must clean out the main coop. In winter, with the water supply off, the freezing temperatures and difficulty lugging a bale of sawdust up and down a flooded path – it is by fair my least favourite job. As a result, I tend to postpone it until the last possible moment. This obviously results in the cleaning taking much longer than if I had done it a couple of weeks earlier.

Sensing an opportunity with the fractionally warmer temperatures (a balmy 8 degrees) and no rain forecast until the evening, I decided today was cleaning day. Armed with a new bucket and massive tube of diatumous earth, I ambled down, noting the distinct lack of any people out and about. I stopped in the greenhouse to say hello to the happy trio to discover that they also were needing a proper clean out. Having cleaned out our chicks at home earlier, I felt rather as if the entire day was to be about chicken poo. Rolling my eyes, I filled the bucket with water from our water butt and added a generous splash of anti-mite fluid. Grabbing the bucket, a sponge and dustpan I headed down to the main coop.

I was mobbed by hungry chickens as I stepped in. In order to extract myself, I threw a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds around. Instantly, I was forgotten in the haste to scoff as many treats as could be crammed into their greedy beaks. Expecting nothing, I opened up the nest box. Astounded, I spotted a pale green egg! I was absolutely shocked. The Cream Legbars don’t usually lay until much later in the year. Glancing around at Polly and Rey, I tried to work out who had laid it. Both of their combs looked the same redness and I soon gave up trying to work it out.

The following couple of hours were busy with removing old bedding, sweeping out the nest box and dowsing it in anti-mite fluid. The perches sat outside the coop, the ends soaking in the bucket for an hour each side. Once the bottom boards were scrubbed clean and left to dry, I started to turn over the soil in the coop. This is the best way to make friends with chickens. Surrounded by eager beaks, every time I dug up a fresh clod, it was jumped upon and scoured for every tasty worm or delicious morsel. By the time I had worn myself out with digging, the nest box was dry.

I put in new shavings and replaced the perches before realising I hadn’t topped up their food. Remembering the new bag of corn was in the shed, o called my husband and asked him to come down to help lug it into the coop. Whilst I was waiting for him, I went back up to the greenhouse. Leia was strutting around shouting when I arrived. The other two were up high, wisely avoiding her wrath. I always forget how quick cleaning out the greenhouse is in comparison to the main coop. By the time my husband had appeared, I was sweeping up the last of the old bedding.

I have him a list of jobs and carried on cleaning. The girls watched me suspiciously. When my husband reappeared, he amused himself by spending several minutes chasing Lilja around the greenhouse, trying to hold her. It took a number of attempts as Lilja is exceptionally good at avoiding capture. Grinning with success, and holding a very disgruntled chicken, he declared he was top chicken. I am fairly sure I heard Lilja mutter something unprintable in reply. Rolling my eyes at them both, I went back to adding fresh bedding to the nest box. Several minutes later, the job was done. Fresh water and food in place, we stood back and admired our handiwork. Covered in dirt, tired and very hungry, I walked home pleased with a job well done.

The plan for the next few days is to finalise the projects for the new season and work out what we want to grow.

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