Friday, 21 June 2013

A Jubilee Rose

It is coming up to nearly a year ago that we were at Hampton Court for the Royal Horticultural Show 2012, displaying our coveted Gypsy Hen house, the much loved Maggie Six in a vegetable garden and our Granary hen house in a wild meadow garden. So I was delighted to see, when on one of my many perambulations, that the Jubilee Roses that so beautifully ringed the Gypsy Hen house, have come back into bloom at their new home here at FSF HQ.

A Hampton Court Show 2012 Rose
 Seeing these gorgeous burgundy roses as they climb their way up the side of the summer house reminded me what a great time we had at the show last year. However, if possible, seeing these roses from last year got me more excited about this coming year's show. The clocks seem to have stopped since we sent the six long legged hobby hen houses to the celebrity designers and Anne has been wearing a hole in the carpet as she marches back and forth waiting for July 9th to roll around. So dizzy was she making me with her endless walking in circles that I was relived, when on Thursday morning, Kate Humble phoned Flyte so Fancy to run an idea past us for her Long Legged Hobby. With a mini project to focus on for a couple of days, Anne soon settled down and I was no longer being made dizzy. While I can't tell you what Anne and Kate discussed on the phone (nor show you the hastily sketched drawing of the idea done by Phill) I will say that it is a brilliant one and now we are as keen as ever, if not more so, to see the six finished Long Legged Hobby's in all their painted and decorated glory at the Royal Hampton Court Show and then at Tatton Park.

Turning this bloggers attention to our flock here at Flyte so Fancy HQ, it has been an important week for our feathered friends in both the poultry paddock and the wild birds that call our little corner of Dorset home.

Swallows getting ready to fly

While we out on the lawn taking photos of a mating panel in the brief moment of sunshine on Wednesday; the swallows that have been making a home in both the FSF barn (and everywhere else for that matter) flew the nest. As we stood there, these miniature aerial acrobats, soared, loop-de-looped and performed high speed dives around us. Standing very still for fear of getting a clip around the ear from a swallow going at a hundred miles an hour, we waited for newly flown birds to settle down before continuing with our photos. Next up for flying lessons, will be the House Martins that have diligently been building a nest in the apex of the barn roof. Having finished that essential task this week, we expect to see some baby House Martin's soon.

Down in the chicken field, our mother hens have been busy too. Our goose, that so carefully sat on her clutch of eggs come rain or shine, has disappeared into the long grass and I don't think we shall be seeing her again until we have more goslings to join our ever increasing gaggle.

Hamburg chicks in the FSF chicken paddock

The Silver Spangled Hamburg chicks are now big enough to have been released from their broody coop into the field and they have taken great fun in making sure that they are known to all and sundry, but always with mother hen close at hand. But with these chicks grown up enough to be out and about, we have some newly hatched arrivals at FSF HQ, in the form of Gold Laced Hamburg Chicks. Getting these chicks through an egg exchange with one of our local customers, and incubated by the Workshop Foreman Mark at his home, now that they have been taken off heat, they travelled the short journey to live in a Ranger Six at Flyte so Fancy while they finish off growing, and we cannot wait to see their golden laced feathers when they grow up.

Newly hatched chicks at Flyte so Fancy

It is with sad news that I end the blog this week. The Tufted Ducks that were living in the reeds of our pond, have had their nest attacked by a malevolent moorhen and the eggs have been eaten. We have not seen the parent Tufted Ducks in a few days but we hope that they will be back soon to try again for another batch of ducklings.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Cleaning A Poultry Pen

Every chicken keeper is familiar with the daily chores that go along with keeping your poultry pals happy. The filling of feeders and drinkers, the scattering of a handful of corn or the hanging of a pecking block are all daily tasks in the chicken keepers diary and Flyte so Fancy's diary is no different. Once a week in the Flyte so Fancy diary is marked with clean out the chicken coops, no mean task with a flock of thirty chicks, ducks, guinea fowl, geese and chickens. Flicking through the diary you will find highlighted once a year, removing and laying new hardwood woodchip in the Poultry Protection Pen that we have on display here at FSF HQ.

First of all the pen was cleared and the three Silver Spangled Hamburgh Hens and one Rooster that live inside were given the rare opportunity to range across the Flyte so Fancy grounds. The old woodchippings were taken off to the herbaceous borders and put around the plants within, where they will stay protecting the flower beds nicely.

The chickens love the woodchip; it keeps them clean, it gives them something to scratch through all day long, is washed through with the rain and it keeps the mud down. It is much better than bark, which we don't advise due to it quickly turning mushy and leads to mould spores. Softwood on the other hand quickly degrades and gets mixed into the mud, while hardwood woodchip sits on the surface and can easily withstand all weathers.

Once the woodchip was all removed, the ground was given a treating with Net-Tex Ground Sanitising Powder. A sprinkle on the ground kills worms and parasites at all stages in their development and will mean the likelihood of your birds ingesting worms is greatly reduced, resulting in a healthier and therefore happier bird.

Next up was the new layer of woodchip. There is no need to put down a membrane or remove the grass and a bag of hardwood woodchip will cover approximately 10 sq ft with a depth of around 2"-3", so for our 9 x 9 protection pen we used eight bags to give it a good covering layer all over. Once it was all in, it was raked over to an almost spirit level precision of flatness.

While the chicken coop was out of the run we took the opportunity to give it a good scrubbing out with Poultry Shield and also mixed up a solution in a tub and put the perches and nestbox in for a soak, before removing them and positioning them in the sun to dry out. In went a new fresh layer of HempBed-E, along with the liberal application of Diatom powder to the corners, around the perches and in any crevices.

Once the house was clean it was positioned back inside the run, as well as the feeders, drinkers and a boredom buster pecking ring for good measure. The last job of the day involved trying to round up the wayward hens and rooster who were terrorising the grounds of FSF HQ. The use of three people, a catching net and the broadcasting of mealworms in the doorway of the protection pen, soon saw the four chickens returned to the safety of their hen habitat.

If you look in the the Flyte so Fancy diary, all crossed off, was the daily task, the weekly chore and the year job. Not bad for an afternoons work.

The chickens certainly seemed pleased with it too.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Flyte so Fancy Week

The beautiful weather that has finally arrived here at FSF HQ (the rural Blackmore Vale, Rustic Dorset) this week saw me taking myself away from my desk in the office and becoming a general nuisance to all and sundry everywhere else at Flyte so Fancy.

My first trip was to the despatch department to see off the first triumvirate of Hobby Hen Houses going to their celebrities for the RHS Hampton Court and Tatton Park shows. With the sun beating down on this line of lavishly finished hen houses the quality of everything, the timber, the designs and the steady hand of a Dorset Craftsman really shines through. These three (see picture) were destined for the decorous touch of Phillipa Forrester, Kate Humble and Sophie Conran. Once these chicken coops have been given an artistic flourish they will be off to Hampton Court ready for the start of the show on the 9th July. Once there you'll be able to locate them in the Escape Zone, a new area dedicated to birds, bees, butterflies, stylish homes and gorgeous gardens; where these celebrity designed and decorated hen houses will fit right in, making a colourful splash of every bodies favourite feathered friends.

The second delivery of hen houses went out the next day and should be getting their first coat of paint from Deborah Meadon, Nikki Tibbles and David Domoney this weekend, if the sunshine stays around for a little bit longer that is. With the Long Legged Hobby Hen Houses gone to their six celebrities; here at Flyte so Fancy HQ we can barely contain our excitement until we can see them in July.

Hearing that there was the chance of a biscuit going spare in the despatch department (an event that occurs as rarely as a blue moon), I quickly left the Hobby Hen Houses in search of a snack. What I was confronted with instead, was a hive of activity of despatch workers buzzing as busy as bees to get all the  latest deliveries of poultry products away on the shelves. From Chick Troughs to Plastic Jam Jar Feeders we had it all. In danger of being put away on a shelf myself if I stood still next to the Natures Grub delivery for much longer, I headed for the only empty spot I could see. Nonchalantly leaning against the shelf, it didn't take long for one of the team to move me so they could put our latest delivery of the Chicken Guard Automatic Doors away. These have been proving so popular with everyone, with the inbuilt timer and the override buttons giving you an unprecedented ease of use and control, that as soon as we get them in they are headed straight back out to be fitted on chicken coops up and down the country.

As the rumour of a biscuit turned out to be false and not fancying the half open tub of earthworm treat for myself, I decided to deliver it to the chicken paddock for their usual afternoon refreshment. After throwing down the odd handful here and there I watched it quickly descended upon by our hungry hens. I took the opportunity to check-in on both our Silver Spangled Hamburg chicks (who have lost their cute chick feathers and are beginning to develop their gorgeous two tonal array of plumage) and when I could see past their entourage, our two goslings, currently going through their awkward teenage stages.

Being summoned back to the office via walkie-talkie, to help out as opposed to sunning myself with the chickens, ducks and geese I took a moment to check in on the nest of Tufted Duck Eggs that is carefully hidden among the reeds on the pond. Another week and we'll have some Tufted Ducklings doing lengths of the pond I reckon.

A slow walk back up to the office, via the despatch department to drop of the much depleted tub of earthworms (and to just triple check on that biscuit rumour), took me past the now fully wrapped Long Legged Hobby Hen Houses as they were being loaded onto the lorry for delivery to the celebrity designers. Dragging my feet and trying to find any reason to stay outside in this beautiful Dorset sunshine. I finally gave up and headed back to my desk, turning my attention instead to hatching a reason as to why I would need to go down to the chicken paddock tomorrow to spend some time with our resident poultry pals.