Posted by: hencorner | May 20, 2015

Restock the Flock

twelve fertile eggsDo not count your chickens before they are hatched.‘*

*Aesop

Please note: Cutest pictures are further down the page…!

Sadly, we’ve said goodbye to five of our chickens in five months this year. Well, for the small bantam that was whisked away by a neighbour’s cat, we didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye! My beloved Butternut, a Buff Orpington and star of BBC’s The One Show, was the first to go in January, she was one of our oldest girls and had delighted many children and adults alike with her cuddly appearance and gentle demeanour. Three of the tiny bantams were next, then Madge, another one of our cover girls featured on the front of our postcard, became very ill, unable to recover, earlier this month. On top of all these losses, my beautiful cat, Sapphire, didn’t make it through last month at the age of 19 years. I was very sad to lose Sapphire, I had lived with her longer than I’ve lived with my husband!
Bunty and chick nest I dried my eyes and began to hatch a plan.
We would restock the flock by giving Bunty, hatched here herself back in 2011, some fertile eggs to sit on. She had never tried this before but had been broody on many occasions in recent years. Telltale signs are that she refuses to leave the nesting box, growls if you try to remove eggs from under her, plucks the feathers from her breast (to remove all insulation from her warmth and humidity) and fluffs herself out to spread herself over as many eggs as possible.
Yellow chick in hands
As Aesop wisely said, ‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched’

You never can tell which are fertile, which will survive the 21 day incubation period and then how many are girls, who stay, and boys who go.

We have usually just bought 6 fertile eggs, delivered by post, from chicken breeders across the country and hatching rates have been as low as just 1 or 2 making an appearance in previous years.
However, this year we took advice from Gillian at South Yeo Farm East and tried 12 eggs under Bunty, who herself is a Bantam Chocolate Orpington hatched from eggs that I won in a Twitter competition!
Pekin chick in hand
So how many chickens can we count?
Out of the 12 eggs, 10 have safely hatched; 5 of each of the breeds that we chose; Pekin Bantams and Polish Frizzles.
We don’t know which are boys or girls and will just let them grow together, happily roaming around the garden as they get bigger.
So that takes us up to 21 chickens here at Hen Corner!
If you’d like to see them for yourself, and maybe have cuddle, check out the courses that we have coming up soon, or pop along to the Brentford Food Festival during Half Term.
We are running a workshop on Wednesday 27th May and will be bringing these cuties with us!

Coming up at the Corner – Half Term Specials!

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. The next few weeks brings Intro to Bee Keeping,  Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London and a new course, Bread: Sweet & Savoury. During Half Term, 25th – 29th May, we have all-age courses with Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday and Pizza Together on Thursday. I’m sure that Bunty will be proudly displaying her new chicks as a special treat to all our Half Term visitors.

Other News:

  • Our bees are doing well and seem to have accepted their nice gentle queen
  • We’ve had several school groups come to visit the baby chicks
  • The planting out has begun in the kitchen garden with crops neatly protected under net cloches

Jobs for this week:

  • Keep topping up the food and water for the chicks
  • Welcome Martin, our documentary photography student, to take pictures of our hive inspections
  • Look forward to our Half Term specials!

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | May 11, 2015

Completely Bowled Over!

Sourdough Sunday‘Bread is like humanity itself. We come in many different shapes and sizes, colours and guises, yet underneath the skin/crust, we’re all made of the same stuff.’*

*Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

As I’m typing this I have another batch of sourdough proving – it tastes so good! For those who have ever made it, you know that it is a labour of love; a process which takes days to make just a couple of small loaves. For those who have enjoyed the crisp dark crust and pungent chewy centre, please appreciate that this is not a fast food, true artisan skill brings us this delight and for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, find a farmers market, such as our local Brentford Market and look out for the artisan bakers who sell their wares. The process begins by making a starter, a jug or pot of flour and water whisked together to capture the wild yeasts from the air. This is then covered loosely to allow the starter to breath. As the yeasts begin to feed on the starches in the flour, volume increases and a sour taste develops from the carbon dioxide and lactic acid released during the long slow fermentation.
 Bowlover & Starter 1Bowlover & Starter 3

I was pleased to have been given a Bowlover to review recently and this was the perfect cover for my infant starter. I often find cling film fiddly, sometimes you don’t want an airtight seal and I worry about all that screwed up plastic going into landfill, but this new product has all the common sense of your grandma with the thoughtful design of someone who really cares about our environment (not saying that your grandma doesn’t!). Now that my sourdough starter is safe, and I continue to feed it, it will supply me with batch after batch of beautiful bread – let’s hope I can keep up with my family’s demand for

We love this cartoon which sums up Bowlovers in a minute:

 

FFF SkylarComing up at the Corner – Half Term Specials!

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. This month brings Intro to Bee Keeping,  Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London and a new course, A Day at Hen Corner. During Half Term, 25th – 29th May, we have all-age courses with Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday and Pizza Together on Thursday. Hopefully, we will be able to see Bunty proudly displaying her new chicks as a special treat to all our Half Term visitors.

Other News:

  • We are re-queening one of our bee colonies to insure that they are nice and friendly for visitors
  • Our latest article in Out and About magazine is out soon, talking afternoon tea, strawberries, scones and jam
  • The kitchen garden is neatly protected with net cloches over every raised bed – this means the chickens can free range more often and our seedlings stay safe.

Jobs for this week:

  • Plant the baby squash plants into the raised beds
  • Welcome some French journalist as they come to make a film about the rise of urban farming across the UK
  • Watch out for Bunty’s chicks which should be hatching any minute now!

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | May 3, 2015

May we welcome you

He was as fresh as is the month of May.’*

*Geoffrey Chaucer

_ROO6286We, like many other families across the country, are approaching GCSEs and this quote, above, is from the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales which I read for English Literature many years ago. The reference is to the Squire, son of the Knight, who was a young carefree and creative young man, living life to the full and enjoying every day. Doesn’t this month of May inspire us to take life in both hands? The apple blossom is in full display, the peaches, almonds and plums have set ready for maturing, figs are appearing by the day and the asparagus is growing in front of our eyes. May – we welcome you.
May we welcome you?
DSCF9990We had both a school group and a pack of Cub Scouts visit us last week. We looked at the fruit and vegetables that we are growing, the chickens and the eggs they lay, we watched the bees (safely behind glass in the observation hive) and ended our time together planting pots of sorrel to take home and nurture. Whilst I was explaining the roles of the different bees in the colony, one of the cubs pointed at the frame and said ‘Is that the queen bee?’, I assured him that the queen was not in the observation hive and that she was easy to see as she was marked with a white blob of nail varnish. ‘Well, that one looks different…’ continued the cub, and as I looked closer, I think he was right. It did look very much like a queen which could only mean that either two ladies were reigning or one was just taking over from the older monarch. I shall look into this more next week and hope that this clever boy can earn a Bee Keeping badge for his smart green uniform!
DSCF9849
We haven’t seen much of our beautiful Bunty recently as she’s currently sitting tight on 12 fertile eggs. She’s not had the opportunity to do this before as we used to use Butternut but, as Butternut sadly died earlier in the year, Bunty is rising to the challenge and only leaves the eggs for 5 minutes each morning to relieve and refresh herself before returning to her babies. We bought the eggs from a couple of different breeders and chose 6 mixed Pekins from Gillian at South Yeo Farm East and 6 Polish Frizzles from a breeder found on Ebay! They are due to hatch on Tuesday 12th May, so our course guests and visitors will get a preview of cuteness as we watch Bunty nurture her new family, hoping all goes well and we get some successful hatchings.

Pizza Together (Family)

Coming up at the Corner – Half Term Specials!

We would love to welcome you to one of our courses that we have running right throughout the year. This month brings Intro to Bee Keeping, Bread: Sweet and SavouryPerfect Pasta and a new course, A Day at Hen Corner. During Half Term, 25th – 29th May, we have Family Feathers and Fun! on Tuesday, Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London on Wednesday and Pizza Together on Thursday. Hopefully, we will be able to see Bunty proudly displaying her new chicks as a special treat to all our Half Term visitors.

Other News:

Jobs for this week:

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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