Category Archives: Chickens & ducks

How many chickens and ducks should we keep to provide eggs for a family of five?

We currently have 11 chickens and three ducks – they are lovely characters and have become family pets. Unlike most pets they are also useful as they provide us with a supply of lovely fresh eggs.

I often wonder if we have too many birds?

How many would be the perfect number to provide eggs for our family of five?

My hubby complains we don’t have enough and he would love to add more varieties to our collection.

An important consideration is how much space you have. Our chickens live in the orchard and share two houses. We try to keep the chickens and ducks separate at night but they will often tuck up together. In fact, the chickens love going to bed with the duck – maybe he is seen as a replacement cockerel?

The chickens and ducks live on grass and if we have too many we lose the grass and end with a mud bath. Fewer birds would ensure we always keep the grass.

Regular readers will know that I am always trying to use up eggs. We have a noticeable lack over winter and a huge glut in summer. We are not keen on pickled eggs so they all tend to get eaten fresh, baked or given away. I do sometimes sell a few at work.

I wonder if it makes economic sense to have all these extra eggs that I am trying to use, give away or sell. I make a little money but I don’t think I cover the cost of keeping them.

So, from our birds we are collecting between 8-10 eggs a day at the moment. We are eating lots but I could easily manage on less than this. As we lose hens we replace a few at a time to ensure we always have a mixed age range. This helps keep up the supply of eggs. I am wondering about not replacing any for a while so they naturally reduce their numbers.

I think 4-6 eggs a day would be more than enough. That’s 28-42 a week! I could still provide some for family and friends but at a more manageable level.

So less birds would mean fewer eggs, less cost of keeping them, less mess, less wear and tear on the garden and less cleaning out!

I think I just have to persuade the Hubby!

Her x

Chocolate jubilee birthday cake

I made a cake this weekend for my brother-in-law’s birthday. He loves chocolate so the flavour was sorted, I just had to decide how to decorate it. I felt inspired my the recent jubilee celebrations and decided to go for a Union Jack. Some red, white and blue M&M’s on offer at the local supermarket sealed the deal.

I had two little helpers (both the girls) and we were all really pleased with the result.

 

 

The peanut M&M’s are stuck on nicely with chocolate ganache (150ml double cream heated with 150g of chocolate). The ganache makes a good (and tasty) coating for the cake. The cake is edged with Cadbury’s chocolate fingers and finished with some red ribbon.

The children enjoyed copying a picture of the Union Jack – a bit like painting by numbers! I would recommend this method of cake decorating.

 

 

The cake itself is a duck egg sponge. I am always looking for ways to use up my eggs and making huge sponge cakes can easily take 6-8 eggs.

In fact I will be posting more about my egg mountain later this week.

Her x

Nothing is safe from the chickens if they can reach it!

I caught my naughty chickens stripping the leaves off the autumn raspberry bushes this week. They stick there heads right through the fence and tear off the leaves.

Some of the bushes are stripped bare. I just need the warm weather to make the raspberries grow faster than the chickens can eat the leaves.

I have tried putting things along the bottom of the fence to stop them but they are crafty little things and can jump very well. They can’t jump into the veggie patch as we clipped their wings to stop them eating everything we grow!

I will keep a close eye on this!

Her x

All this hardening off is very hard work!

The time has come when all my little seedlings are growing up and getting ready to leave the cosy comfort of the greenhouse. Well, actually, they are partly being evicted as I want the room for my tomato plants.  The weather is still cool but as we head into May it is gradually warming up. As my little seedlings have been used to the greenhouse environment I need to acclimatise them to the outdoor conditions.  In practise this means taking them outdoors in the daytime and back again at night for a few days. This is easier said then done as I have quite a few trays of seedlings. It seems to take the whole family about 15 mins of passing, tripping over seed trays and arranging to get them all out in the morning, and then we repeat this process again at night.

I know all the benefits of hardening off but part of me wants to just plant them out and see what happens. I feel like a neglectful parent even admitting that, but I am frustrated by the fetching and carrying every morning and night!

You may wonder why I have hostas in the greenhouse. Well, they are all growing in pots. Early spring I put them in to give them a good start. After hardening off I use the bushy little plants to fill any gaps in the flower borders, the pots just slip in and are unseen from a distance.  Then next year I bring them back to the greenhouse and start again. I have a rogue duck that escapes the orchard and enjoys spending time in the flower borders. I think she does a great job of de-slugging the garden so I can manage to grow beautiful silky hostas every year.

Well, I had better go and recruit the family for the moving plant palaver!

Her x

When the garden gate is left open…the chickens will feast!

My seven year old son left the gate open to the vegetable garden this week. It was a mistake that was discovered about six hours later, unfortunately,  after the chickens and ducks had been on a veggie visit…

The veggie patch was beginning to take shape and I was pleased with the progress; the tiny plants were beginning to peak through the soil.  They are no more. The chickens and ducks had a wonderful afternoon scratching, digging, pecking and dust-bathing.

The baby salad leaves that were peaking through have gone, the broad bean seedlings have gone, and my spinach and lettuce plants protected by the bottle cloches just did not have enough protection against the mighty chickens.

All that was left was a bare patch…

They all looked very pleased with themselves as I looked at their afternoon’s work. The scratching and soil-turning skills that I had been delighted with when they were helping clear a patch of land for flowers had been deployed on my beautiful veggie garden.

At least the greenhouse door was shut! That devestation would of probably made me cry.

There was nothing for it but to lecture the kids (again) on keeping the gate shut, fix the damage in the veggie patch and look forward to the eggs that the chickens and ducks would be laying following their nutritious feast.

A few plants were past saving. My only surviving purple sprouting broccoli plant for one.  I will be surprised if it manages to put on enough growth to give me another picking. It was looking so good.

At least it was early in the seaon. The lesson has hopefully been learned over the loss of a few plants rather than a whole season’s growth – like last year!

Her x

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I’m making meringues to make a dent in my egg mountain.

You may wonder what has become of my huge egg mountain….well, we made meringues!

My Big Girl and I spent a lovely morning churning out meringues of all shapes and sizes. It was a basic two eggs whites to 2 oz of sugar mix and, of course, we used eight egg whites as I needed to make at least a small dent in the egg pile. We baked the small ones for 40 mins and the larger ones for 70 mins in a preheated oven at 150°c.

So much fun can be had with a piping bag –  Big Girl is rather nifty with the piping bag and loves to ice cupcakes. She had a go at making meringue butterflies, flowers and regular swirls.

After a while we thought we would explore further with the addition of a little food colouring introduced to the piping bag through a straw. This gave a lovely pink stripe to our meringues as they appeared out of the piping bag.

With a particular dessert in mind I also piped tiny little swirls, some with a pink stripe and some with a flaked almond to the top.

They keep really well in an airtight container. Mine have not lasted a week as they have made tasty additions to yoghurt, cream, fruit or my lemon dessert creation.  I will try to find time to tell you more about the lemon dessert tomorrow.

Her x

Flower gardens, chicken helpers and broken tools

At the start of the year I was determined to grow more flowers. The borders are full of shrubs and established plants and leave little room for annuals so, first of all, I needed to find some new ground. Our garden is already full but a little corner of the chicken orchard looked hopeful.

It only has a few extra fruit bushes  and some bridal’s veil growing. I had rescued the shrubs from the discount section of a garden centre when they were half dead – a habit of mine – and the berry bushes had popped up elsewhere and I thought I would stick them in here to see if they took – I hate throwing stuff on the compost heap.

The chickens love a bit of disturbed ground to scratch about in, so my poor plants have been badly abused; the roof tiles were to protect the roots and that the chickens kept exposing.

First job was to re-home the above plants. The berry bushes and tiles  moved to a different area of the orchard and the shrubs went to live in my shady border as they are happy in a shady spot.

Next, I recruited the whole family to dig, clear, collect stones and plan a fence. Hubby informs me this is a job for postcrete so the fence is an ongoing project, as we haven’t been to get any yet (plus it’s now pouring down so not ideal for that kind of thing anyway). Hubby has collections of old wood and useful ‘things’ around the garden, and managed to find some suitable sized bits of post and some chicken-wire to be the basis of my fence.

Finally, with the area cleared I have left the chicken helpers to do what they do best, scratch. After a rough dig over I have left the chickens to break up and clear the rest of the patch for me. The bonus being the ducks are rather partial to a slug snack.

They are very enthausiastic helpers, you can imagine now why I need the fence after I have planted up!

As an after-thought the positioning of my new flower garden should mean I should  have a beautiful view from the greenhouse this summer!

I am really pleased with my afternoon’s effort, the only casualty was my favourite fork. It just snapped clean in half. It will now have to go and join the tool graveyard in the shed. Hubby recons that when he retires he will fix them all…we shall see.

Her x