Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hen Life in the Outer Hebrides


We have had over two weeks of dry, sunny weather here on the Outer Hebrides. While those on the mainland have shivered through the snow drifts, we have basked in the sunlight, and enjoyed the long evenings.



The hens, in particular, have loved the return of Springtime here on the islands. They enjoyed helping when I was digging over the raised beds last week, scratching and scrabbling around - eating all my worms - naughty girls!



But mostly, they like to roam around the garden - foraging for the odd bug, or doing a spot of sunbathing.


 Of, course - they do lay the most fantastic freerange eggs - even if we have to hunt around for them, sometimes  quite a lot. We have become good at working out where the latest nesting spot is, although they like to keep us guessing, and change it every time we discover their treasure. They do have a nice clean nesting box in the hut - full of soft warm straw, but prefer the odd corners and clumps of grass or weeds - crocosmia is a favourite. .


Unless, of course, they decide to go broody, and take over the hen hut - scaring away any hen, or egg collector that comes near them. This particular girl is a perpetual broody, but she isn't any good at it. I have let her sit on eggs several times before, but after a week or so, she pecks them all and abandons the nest. A few weeks later she is at it again!  Yesterday, I ventured out to see what the ladies had laid for us, and found Crazy Hen sitting firmly in one of the nest boxes. I recognised the angry growls with a sigh.  Donning a stout pair of gardening gloves (a broody hen is a vicious beast) I removed her from the box and carried her off to a makeshift broody coop where I gave her some fertile eggs to sit on. We'll see what happens in 3 weeks time, although I don't have great expectations.


So - that is Hen Life in the Hebrides - dawn to dusk, scratching, pecking, sunbathing, laying and roosting outside. Pretty perfect, I would say.


Yes - absolutely perfect!

27 comments:

  1. I hope she is successful! What a positive thinking hen :) Thanks for the walkabout in your life :)

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  2. Lovely pictures! My girl and I just walked to a prohibitively expensive deli and bought 6 beautiful white duck eggs from a farm on Deeside. They were so beautiful that she wouldn't let me break the shells for lunch, so I had to blow them before scrambling! I just hope that duck has a clean bum...

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    1. Lol - yes some of these do look a bit mucky, but a quick wipe soon has them looking presentable. The shells are porous so eggs shouldn't be washed. It takes a good pair of lungs to blow six fresh duck eggs!

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  3. Lovely post, thanks for sharing. I'm gathering inspiration for when we get the courage and the necessary things needed to keep urban chicken!

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    1. Oh don't be scared, Nicole - go for it!!!

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  4. Hello from New York City...a place that is so very different from where you live. I am visiting your site thanks to Lori's beautiful post giving me a link.

    I am surely going to be back again...must make some notes about your Scotch Broth recipe, as it is still quite chilly in New York, and definitely still soup season.

    Cheers!

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    1. Hi Frances - thanks for visiting. I enjoyed your NYC Easter parade post - thank you xx

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  5. Your girls look so fat and happy! I have a brooder hen too, Miss Milly, and your are so right, they can be quite cranky.
    Enjoy all your beautiful eggs!

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  6. Lovely girls! This is one of those "one day" things. I'll get there eventually!

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  7. So enjoyable checking out your life there. Am from the USA - middle Georgia - and I find your blog fascinating.
    Free range eggs/chickens are about a thing of the past in my part of the world! Looks mighty good to me.
    Thanks!

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    1. Thank you Kay - hope you can find some pastured eggs nearby xxx

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  8. What a beautiful post! Lovely girls! My dear aunts (from Scotland) used to call me Hen....fond memories!

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  9. I also have a few perpetually broody hens! two are good at sitting the game fully- another jumps nest a few days out and tries to chase another off hers!
    You are so lucky to be able to let them totally free range. we have packs of wolves and coyotes in our bush that would snatch our flock up in short time- they steal kittens each year and will when hungry take small dogs and fully grown cats!

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    1. We are very lucky - we don't even need to shut them up at night! There are no foxes here and the escapes mink have been eradicated. Our neighbour's collie is the only danger, but he is kept away now! Xx

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  10. Today I glanced out the back window to see two of my hens 'playing dead'. They were taking a dust bath but they were in perfect unison.
    "Lay like we're dead, now one, two, three... flap a wing, flap a wing, throw the dust. Now one, two, three... play dead!" :)

    Blessings, Debbie

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  11. Lovely pics of your hens enjoying life on the farm and what great looking soil in your plots!Good luck with the chicks.......

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    1. Hi Andrea - I am beyond thrilled at the condition of this soil!! The pigs did a good job last year, bless them, and a load of cow manure as well! Xx

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  12. All so beautiful, look at that gorgeous sunshine! We have escaped the snow and bad weather but it has been colder than usual here delaying some seed sowing, but it will all catch up.
    There are lovely glimpses of Spring here and there, some gorgeous sunny days more recently ... and I am loving the lighter days too x

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  13. We have been thinking of having chickens for a while now, and have decided that this is the year. Only the snow has stopped us from going to see our local poultry supplier/expert. I am so excited about this, and your post has only made me worse! I will be scouring your blog for all things hen-related shortly!

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    1. Ooh RB - how exciting. I remember feeling the same when we were waiting to get ours. Have never regretted it - well maybe when cleaning all the droppings from the doorstep every day, but not really ...;)

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  14. What happy-looking girls :)

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  15. What a fickle hen you have. Perhaps this time she will get her chicks. We are plotting out our henhouse for our new home. I am eager to get started, but first we must make nice with the neighbors since it will be an urban homestead.

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    1. Oh goood luck heather. We first had hens when we lived in town, and our neighbours always appreciated the occasional box of eggs - and were happy to bring round the odd stray chook!
      xx

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  16. I don't eat eggs but it is lovely to see hens living a good life, they are so nice to see having a happy time. Thanks for taking care of them. Too many people put them into little containers in their gardens and then pretend to be sad when foxes get them. Look after them properly people and foxes won't eat them! Give them a good standard of life please not just one that makes it easy for you. Don't get them at all if you don't know what you are doing (most people.)

    Do you have foxes on the island by the way?

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  17. oooh that egg looks good! Our hens laid eggs wherever for the first 6 months or so of their laying careers but have seemed to settle on the coop now :-)

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  18. My parents were crofters too, although Dad had another dayjob to make ends meet, we never went without milk or eggs or vegetables, We bought fruit: oranges and melons and pears and the likes, but apples galore till end of february. About the hens every time making new laying nests: just take the eggs and put a chalk egg, I think they do not exist anymore,but there are many claypottery eggs around, about the size of their own eggs, colour preferably natural or white, put it in the now empty nest and most certainly they will lay their eggs continously in that nest. Hens like to lay eggs until there are enough to get broody on, so just leaving one egg should do the trick. to make it easier on a human use a clay or chalk egg. Love your blogs, reading from now till then, as I usually do when finding a new to me somehow farmy blog. Reina

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    1. Hello Reina - thanks for your lovely comment and advice. I will look out for a china egg. Happily the broody hen has managed to rear a clutch of chicks just last month.
      Where was your croft? x

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