Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Fantasia Hen House

Down at the bottom of the garden; beyond the vegetable patch and further than the compost heap, where beams of sunshine preamble amid the dappled shade of the trees, and the birdsong combines with insect choirs in making harmonious melodies, there lies a place where magic is found. Where on a summer’s night any shadow could be a goblin, the mushrooms perform secret waltzes with the flowers and King Oberon rules over his eventide realm.

Fantasia Hen House
The Fantasia Rose Hen House
Into this place of enchantment comes the Fantasia Hen House. 

Chicken Decoration on Flyte so Fancy Hen House
Chicken Decoration
Now, rarely have I ever been accused of being overtaken with a sense of whimsical romanticism. However, the natural beauty of our surrounding's here in the Blackmore Vale in the centre of Dorset, and the graceful and delicately designed hen houses of Phill's "wiser" years, often leads to a penchant for the poetical, the odd little melodic phrase and the occasional bon mot here and there. 

With the gentle fades of its sides, through the compound curve of its roof, the Fantasia hen house is a coop with all the style and practical features that the modern chicken keeper quests for. Designed for six to eight hens, this capacious coop has plenty of head room for even the tallest of birds. Its large side entrance, plus it's double rack of removable perches and washable PVC droppings sheet make cleaning easy-peasy. Add to this full width ventilation cleverly disguised under the over hang of the slate effect tiled roof and the large front pop-hole, the result is an airy and spacious chicken house. Plus it's detachable nest box makes egg collection and cleaning a cinch.

Fantasia Hen House from Flyte so Fancy
A Spot of Shade
The Fantasia Hen House is available in three unique and distinctive styles. Firstly, unadorned in it's natural golden timber. Secondly, in Marston and Langinger Shades of Peppered Sage, Cafe Latte and Swedish Blue, which highlight the gentle curve of the roof and the tapering of the sides to subtle but glorious effect. Finally, is the Fantasia Rose. Like the castle from Sleeping Beauty, this hen house comes entwined in hand painted individual pink roses, fully illuminating the coop to it's paramount.

New to Flyte so Fancy in 2014, we are sure that the Fantasia Chicken Coop, with it's touch of enchantment, grace and magic, will prove a firm favourite with those chicken keepers looking to add a dash of fairy-tale charm to their gardens, in the places where the sprites and the pixies play.

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

What Should I Avoid Feeding My Chickens?

I will readily admit that when a packet of biscuits shows up in the office, or a member of the FSF team celebrates a birthday and we all gather for cake, I perhaps eat more than my fair share. When it comes to doughnuts my appetite has been, some what harshly I feel, described as "gluttonous" and my ability to tuck away three pieces of birthday cake as "impressively piggy". But it's not my fault, who doesn't turn down the opportunity to eat their own weight in treats when the chance arises, and our beloved chickens are no different.

Similar to my eating enough donuts to keep Crispy Kreme in business for another year, is bad for my health, there are many treats and plants that you should avoid giving to your chickens.

Poultry Treats
FSF Chickens having a Peck Around
Firstly, Peanuts. While a beloved snack for your garden birds that will see them through the coldest of temperature's, they should never be given to chickens. I have seen them for sale in and around "chicken world" as a treat for poultry, but they are in fact toxic to chickens when eaten in a great quantity and can lead to major health problems for you bird.

Also giving your hens the odd scrap of veggies here and there is fine, but if those vegetables are rotting it can lead to all sorts of issues, particularly botulism, which can be identified by a floppy necked or paralytic hen. The treatment is to clean everything with a good strong disinfectant, Virkon S. If you want to give your hens a healthy treat, try something like boiled potato peelings or carrots, a leaf or two of cabbage or other greens every other day but never too many.

Other treats to avoid are too many sunflower seeds and too much sweet corn. While your poultry will be eager for more, they are bad for them and will lead to runny yellow droppings. You should restrict these treats and make sure that they are eating staple diet of layers pellets, perhaps supplemented by mixed corn.

There are of course plenty of chicken treats available that are beneficial for poultry. The many types of pecking blocks and boredom busters available can help keep chickens entertained and have nutritional advantages. Here at FSF HQ we spoil our hens as much as the next poultry passionate person, but moderation is key.

If your hens are lucky enough to have run of the garden, there are plants that you may want to avoid as they can be toxic to chickens. Laburnum, the pea family, potato and tomato foliage, privet, yew, rapeseed, foxgloves should be avoided.

Healthy Poultry Treats
Boredom Busters for Chickens
We all love spoiling our girls, but like myself and the choice between a plate of doughnuts or the healthy option of fruit cake, making sure that your chickens get a healthy and balanced diet is paramount. If your girls are looking a little worst for wears our Chicken Checkup Info Page is always worth a look to aid in a diagnosis.

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Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Flyte so Fancy 2014 Catalogue - Part Deux!

On Monday 10th March the sun shone down on Flyte so Fancy's little corner of rustic idyll with a lazy abandon. The chickens in the field rejoiced at no longer having to hitch their petticoats to get past the muddy puddles while the ducks looked mortified and did everything they could to keep the puddles muddy. Inbetween the sawdust clouds billowing from the workshop and the despatch department busily packing the vast quantity of orders to go out that day, I resolutely sat out in front of our barn shop and waited for the Flyte so Fancy 2014 Catalogue to be delivered.
FSF Team reading the chicken compendium
The FSF Despatch Team read the 2014 Catalogue

At around 10:15 we had a delivery. The excitement was palpable. After it turned out to be our latest delivery of woodchip, it was "suggested" by Richard, the Operations Manager, that I should "go back to my office".

All day long deliveries and collections passed through the Flyte so Fancy gate, till at 3:14 exactly, the catalogue arrived.

The Free Flyte so Fancy 2014 Catalogue is bigger than ever, with 88 pages of gorgeous poultry housing, the essential supplies needed for chicken keeping, feeds and treats and great gifts for all of you poultry-passionate people.

Compiled meticulously and with the greatest care (i.e all my incorrect uses of there and their have been changed) and filled with beautiful photos and useful information, the new 2014 Catalogue has everything that you need for the coming years chicken keeping behind it's front cover. An absolute must-read for poultry lovers everywhere.

You can order your free copy of our catalogue through the website here or give us a ring on 01300 345229 and we will get one out in the post for you as quickly as we can.

Flyte so Fancy Poultry Supplies
Only 500 More to go Today...
Unfortunately for me, as I spent two and half hours sat out the front of the shop "sunning myself" I have been given the job of licking and affixing every single stamp to the envelopes. I'm not even sure that you have to lick stamps anymore...

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Friday, 7 March 2014

10 Interesting Facts About British Garden Birds

Its a Friday, so in preparation of the weekend pub quiz, or if like me you have an innate desire to tell people bizarre and vaguely useless pieces of general knowledge with or without their asking, then this is the Friday garden birds blog for you. Ten interesting, amazing and (quite frankly) educational facts about the wild birds that we all love who live in our gardens.

Ground Feeding Wild Birds Birds - Chaffinch
A resident FSF Chaffinch 
  1. House sparrows are seen in over 70% of British gardens but their population has declined by more than 60% in recent years (according to RSPB figures).
  2. Blue tits were seen in 84% of gardens in the 2010 Birdwatch Census. Almost any garden with a peanut feeder will attract blue tits. 
  3. Robins first appeared on Christmas cards during the Victorian era as they looked like postmen in their red tunics, who were known as "redbreasts". They also hold their territories by singing in Winter and so are associated with Christmas. 
  4. Woodpeckers have long been associated with water, because it was believed that a woodpecker drumming signified rain. The woodpeckers of Great Britain must have been working over-time this Winter!
  5. The goldcrest is the UK's smallest bird and has to eat its own weight in food every day to survive the winter days and nights. 
  6. Starlings are the mimics of the bird world. They can incorporate the sounds of other birds, frogs and even mechanical noises into their song. They have even been known to mimic car alarms and mobile phone ring tones. 
  7. Goldfinches are the interior decorators of the garden bird world. They sometimes use aromatic flowers to adorn their nests. Lovely.
  8. The Pied Wagtail is one of the only garden birds that walks on the ground, most other birds hop.
  9. The blackbird is the most widely seen bird in British Gardens, the male is black and the female is brown, so keep your eyes peeled. 
  10. The Green Ring Necked Parakeet is Britain's only naturalised parrot. They are thought to have escaped from collections in London and bred in the wild, often found in large noisy flocks in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Squirrel Proof Feeders from Flyte so Fancy
Blue Tits and Great Tits Enjoying a Snack
So, there you have it, ten interesting and educational facts from Flyte so Fancy about Britain's garden birds, ready to use at the drop of hat this weekend, to amaze all and sundry.

Thanks for Reading

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Britain Loves Garden Birds

Britain loves its garden birds. We love them so much in fact that there is a Royal Society set up for their protection. However, this isn't anyone trying to save the Dodo or a major environmental project like the successful re-introduction of Red Kite's to Scotland. This is people coming together to protect and enjoy the ordinary garden birds that flitter and flutter to and fro in our gardens, a society of which this humble blogger has been a member, since he was just a wee lad. In fact from my desk here at Flyte So Fancy HQ I have the perfect view of one of our feed stations for watching the murmurations of the sparrows, finches et al, as they stop off for a snack.

Flyte so Fancy Peanut Feeders
Peanut Feeders
But all this activity and flying is hungry work, so its important to keep an eye on what sort of treats and feeds you provide as lunch for the garden birds. As with nest boxes, different feeds will attract different birds.


Personally I love peanuts and so do garden birds, although luckily for both species they are slightly different (don't go giving the birds salted or dry roasted). Peanuts are great to give to the birds during the winter, like robins, when feed is scarce and being high in protein offer a great pick me up. They should always be put into a peanut feeder though, as if distributed loose, small or greedy birds and chicks can choke on whole nuts. Also make sure you only buy Alfatoxin free peanuts, otherwise they can kill the birds.

Nyger Seed;

This thistle seed is a favourite with lots of bird breeds as it is an oil and energy rich feed, it is in particular a magnet for goldfinches and siskins. A feeder with small holes will cut down on wastage, but birds will flock from all around to get at these delicious seeds.

Sunflower Hearts;

Sunflower Hearts are loved by many garden birds, especially sparrows, tits and even some larger wild birds too, they are helpful to humans (avid gardeners especially) as they don't leave a mess of discarded husks all over the lawn. They can also be used in feeders, spread on the bird table, or just scattered on the floor for ground feeders.

All round bird seed mixes are great at providing a little bit of everything that wild birds will need to keep them happy. Lastly, if the birds in your garden are getting a little bit lazy and you fancy giving them a treat, nothing will get them singing your praises in the dawn chorus, like a handful of mealworms liberally cast in all directions.

Peanuts for Garden Birds from Flyte so Fancy
Woodpecker eating Peanuts
A few Top Tips:

  1. At this time of year feed perhaps once or twice a day and always make sure fresh clean water is available. 
  2. High energy fat foods like suet and fatballs are great when it is cold. 
  3. Always feed to demand. Take away soggy or uneaten feed and don't allow stale or uneven feed to accumulate in the feeders. 

Whenever I attempt to take a picture of the garden birds I can see from my window, especially the hoard of sparrows that regularly descend upon our seed feeders, they are usually three fields over before I have even raised the camera. That being said, sitting here at my desk in the FSF office, there are few things more enjoyable throughout my day, than watching these little birds industrially go about the business of lunch.

Thanks for Reading

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Feed the Birds

Every Tuesday and Thursday, here at FSF HQ, the gardener (after seeing to the chickens and ducks) turns his attention to making sure that the wild birds that also call Flyte so Fancy their home are looked after too. The seed and peanuts feeders get a good clean out and the bird bath gets a top up, as the birds dutifully sit by and watch.

There are all sorts of feeds available for our little feathered garden friends. There are seeds, peanuts and fat balls all crying out for the attention of wild birds stopping off for a snack and each one requires its own feeder. Throw in the question of anti-squirrel feeders to stop the russet tailed pest from nabbing all the goodies and you've got yourself a headache waiting to happen.

Wild Bird Feeders
Blue Tit on a Fat Ball Feeder
Firstly and most simply for us wild bird lovers, is ground feeding. From robins and blackbirds to thrushes, just throwing a handful of yummy garden bird feed (but not peanuts as smaller birds can choke on them) on the floor is enough to keep them happy. The Gardman Ground Feeder Cage is a great way to keep out squirrels and cats, while allowing ground feeding birds to eat safely.

Seed feeders attract many different birds to your garden and they are great for keeping a lot of bird seed fresh for as long as possible. Perfect for the smaller birds like tits or finches, bigger birds will clear up any mess from the floor that the smaller birds will inevitably make (the other huge advantage is that you can fill them with a variety of feeds, like nyger seeds and all round mixes).

Peanut Feeders are the only real way to safely feed whole peanuts to birds. If you spread peanuts out on a table then there is a large chance of smaller greedy birds or new fledglings "pecking" off a bit more than they can chew and choking on the whole nuts. As such peanut feeders tend to have a tight mesh that stops whole peanuts being pulled through but allows the garden birds to easily peck at them.

Fat Balls provide an energy rich and nutritious treat for the birds in your garden and can often just be hung from a bird table or bracket. However If you have a resident squirrel or specifically want to make sure that the smaller birds get to the fat balls, then a fat ball feeder is a great way to make that happen (but make sure that you remove the nets). Fat balls are especially good for providing a much needed energy boost and necessary fats during the winter months.

The Nuttery Range of seed feeders and peanut feeders are all specially designed and are guaranteed as squirrel proof feeders to help make sure that your feed gets to the birds. Sturdily built and of the highest quality, their vibrant colours and simple designer style looks good in any garden. While Gardman provide a comprehensive range of all manners of seed feeders and peanuts feeders in a full range of styles to add a hint of rural charm to any back garden.

Wild Bird Feeders from Flyte so Fancy
Anti Squirrel Peanut Feeder
Looking after wild birds can be a fairly passive but highly rewarding experience. Setting up a few feeders here and there in the garden (which only need looking after once or twice a week as we do here at FSF) can result in a garden that is filled with excitement and activity.

Thanks for Reading

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

5 Tips To Help Garden Birds Build A Nest

Getting garden birds to settle and nest in your garden isn't always as easy as you would think. Here at Flyte so Fancy HQ we are lucky enough to have plenty of places for birds to nest, with swallows and house martins in our barn, the swarm of sparrows who nest in our colony nest boxes and the various robins, tits and finches that call the FSF nest boxes home, so we thought we'd share some top tips on how to help wild birds build nests in your garden.

Blue Tit eating from a peanut feeder
Blue Tit in the FSF Garden
  • The less energy the birds expend looking for nest building and padding material, the quicker they can become settled into egg laying and rearing their brood
  • Put out several wooden nest boxes with different sized holes and shapes to attract a wide range of species.
  • Leave an old hanging basket out with grasses, bits of plants and natural fibres in, to make it easier for them to collect. 
  • House sparrows like to collect their nest material from within a few feet of their nests. A supply of straw, dried grasses, fur and natural fibres located nearby will help encourage them to nest. 
  • Blackbirds, thrushes and house martins use mud for their nests (not a problem considering the winter we have had) but if it has been dry, leave a small wet muddy patch in your garden (again not a problem considering the winter we have had) to attract them. 
Garden Birds and Flyte so Fancy
Greenfinches enjoying Breakfast
Just providing these few simple materials, either in the countryside or in an urban enviroment, can help encourage wild birds into your garden and soon have them nesting and raising young ones. 

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Monday, 3 March 2014

Tweeting (but not the sort you're thinking of)

Whilst arguably my years as a "twenty-something" are slowly but inexorably running out, the wireless dial in my car has never strayed far from Radio4 since they started. About a year ago David Attenborough took to tweeting. Now before you rush to Twitter to follow the great man, this was part of Radio 4's Tweet of the Day, two minutes every day highlighting one of Great Britain's resident garden birds, their song and David Attenborough telling you why this particular bird is so fascinating. Perfect listening for a morning drive to work.

Garden Birds at Flyte so Fancy
Gardman Cottage Green Nest Box 
When it comes to attracting birds to your garden what they're looking for is a tiny bird barracks. A warm and cosy cubby hole for them to build a nest in. As you would expect locating a wild bird nest box in the correct place is important. Bird boxes for Sparrows and Tits for example should be placed a few metres off the ground, facing somewhere between north and east on a compass, ideally it will also be a sheltered spot. The size of the hole in the nest box is important too, different sized apertures in the front of the bird box will result in which bird takes up residence. Bird boxes should also always be situated somewhere where the bird will have a clear flight path in.

New nest boxes are often best put up in autumn, many birds use them over autumn and winter as a place to eat or roost, then the following spring birds will take up residence ready to use them as a nest for raising their chicks. We have some wonderful new small bird boxes from Gardman, perfect for both countryside and urban gardens, ranging from the practical nest box with the option of three different sized apertures to choose from, to the dreamy and idyllic little beach huts.

On the other hand swallows and house martins require a different sort of nestbox all together. If, unlike us here at Flyte so Fancy, you are not lucky enough to have a whole barn for them to nest in (and the despatch team do love them zipping around their heads during the summer) then well situated nest boxes around the gables of houses and under eves will help entice them to nest in your garden. Modern houses tend to have these areas closed off, so having a few of these nest boxes set up, certainly helps provide them with a much needed place to nest for raising nest years brood of chicks.

Garden Birds at FSF HQ
FSF Resident Sparrows
Having your own little cadre of garden birds zipping around the garden is always enjoyable to behold and they soon become as much a part of the family and as easily recognisable as your chickens. I also whole heatedly recommend having a listen to Radio4's "Tweet of the Day", it doesn't get much better than David Attenborough talking about the birds you can see in your garden.

Follow our blog all this week for tips and information about our native garden birds.

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