Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Its a sair fecht, on the Orkney good-life 'croft'

OK, its not really much of a sair fecht here and its not really a croft, but I do love that scottish phrase. I can't complain today, windy, yes but not raining sideways. However, maurading chookies in the stripey household first thing, isn't really what I'd expected to see when I ambled through to the utility room of doom (its very big which equals very messy). I should have known of course the chooks were lonely - needing company and wanted to pop in for a cuppa - however, their 'gate' was closed - so I was a bit perplexed as to why they were out, or rather IN the utility room.............waiting for breakfast maybe?

Peedie, the guard dog extraordiare, looked on unsympathetically. He reckons the chickens get more food than him, so if there are chickens around, he's not too bothered, it might mean a bit of extra nosh for him........
OK, having told the chickens to get out - and believe me they are intelligent, they now know the command, 'out' and finger pointing towards the door, appears to work with them, I've had plenty of practise...........The gate was closed - but a rung had fallen out........providing a handy 'chicken flap' to the world outside.
Now, who else would lead but Karyn the chook, she doesen't even look bothered does she - this chicken has adventuring blood in her, I think.
Now, when I say gate, I mean recycled gate, made from an old pallet, cut to fit the gap, the gap made cunningly big enough for a wheelbarrow to go through, but only just. The hen coop is largely fashioned out of recycled 'stuff' we find lying around here, or readily available in Orkney. Pallets are readily available, old fencing stabs (posts) are often kicking about, hen wire we bought, but you often see it on local freecycle and of course trusty baler twine (agricultural string) is put to many a good use in most households in the countryside. Here I used baler twine as a temporary gate hinge, um, over a year ago, it worked very well - baler twine rocks!
The gate clearly needs a bit of keep the mauraders at bay. I don't mind them being free range during the day, I'd rather they didn't come in for brekkie and they do wreck areas by the house if they are left to thier own devices - the dig stuff up - like the edge of the house bed with the ladies mantle newly planted in it last week.....................

Nothing else for it then, out with the hammer and the nails (in a trusty recycled tin can, excellent for holding stuff like this in) whilst Mr Flowers is currenty newly arrived back from his travels, DIY really isn't his thing, neither is gardening or many 'croft' like activities, he has his own interests and talents which I appreciate him for and thankfully I love this kind of work, so we make a happy pair, each doing what we love.
Once the rung was fixed, I thought about it and found a bit of an offcut of chicken wire, 'just in case' and made the 'gate' even more secure.
Ta, da, a new gate for the chookies - I love the practical side of having a go at good lifing - using recycled materials is grand but it does make you think - OK I need a gate, what can I make it from........a pallet makes a brilliant gate. Now as I work away, you'd think the maurders would be off exploring - um no, they took time to watch me from their coop, under the elder tree as if butter wouldn't melt in thier little beaks. Irony of taking off the gate, they prefer to stay in there...........I'll never understand the workings of a chickens mind.
Whilst I'm out there being all things in chicken management and diy - I decided to clear out their beds too, which are in the shed through the window - which is hidden by the tree in their coop.
 Each week they get a full maid service - cleaned out nest boxes and each one rebedded by straw.
In the summer its not too dirty, in the winter it can be worse - but they get this spread out in their outside coop - one clean out will cover about half the area outside, not that I get a look in to spread it out, the minute it goes in there - they love it start squaking and scratching around in it - maybe they think there is buried treasure with it all?
I think chicken keeping is getting very much more fashionable and rightly so. However, if I was starting up I'd be a bit daunted by the expense of a coop and houses for them etc. However, if you are willing to give a bit of lateral thinking a go, keeping hens doesn't need to be very expensive and you can make alot of what they need for next to nothing. Living out here - we did look at a fancy house for them, the cost to get one here was as great as the house for them - so we put our thinking caps on and make alot of their kit from recycled stuff we had the byre its the same, all the hen beds/nests are free and recycled  - we've one old rabbit hutch converted to a hen roost/nesting box.......
One old cheese/meat store from our old house, which we were given, painted for outdoor use, currently indoors in the byre.............
In between these two is an old TV stand on its side (are you still with me?) and the straw is tucked into it - again free, we found this in a shed..................
 An old drawer is an excellent nesting box......................
 And an old wooden wine box........................
 And an old crate...............luxurious recycled beds for some very well pampered hens...............
 An old pallet and an old bedstead allow the chickens to get out into their coop, or into their beds - they tend to sleep in the tree at the moment, hens are naturally woodland birds, so nesting in the tree is second nature to them.....
 I love the view out of that window, through the tree - the only one here at our homestead..........
The byre also holds the bale of straw we got for free from work, being old and mangled, it was free if we could pick it up, so we picked it up, amazing what you can fit in a transit van when you need to!
 Of course give hens a comfy few houses and beds and stuff - and without doubt - they'll clamber up like acrobats and lay eggs on the bale - I'll never fathom chickens!
 Pretty lovely eggs though, seven today - these hens have laid all year, and through the winter, every day. Worth a bit of work I think, to keep them happy!
Time for lunch.....................not eggs today, these are earmarked for a pal, I sell my eggs at £1 for each half dozen, the money from the ones we sell pays for the extra hen food we buy each month. Extra bought in hen food costs £8 a bag - which lasts my ten hens about 2 weeks they don't need extra food being free range, but I do like to make sure they get their minerals, keep them healthy for all those adventures!

Its not really a 'sair fecht the croft'! Its really quite fun, baler twine, pallets, straw and recycled boxes just add to the variety!


  1. Sounds about right, perfect. Hens are great fun to have around and don't mind the recycled efforts, I know from experience over many years! But, as you say, they'll always find a place to lay which is not as planned! As long as you find it soon enough, it doesn't seem to matter much though.

  2. I'm impressed by your ingenuity. Looks like you got the tea towel...

  3. Janet, we did indeed get the tea towel........ :)

    Iain, I think they play hide the egg stash. Love it when recycling works at this level..... :)

  4. Reading about your chooks adventures makes me rethink our decision to hold of 'planting' a hen house in our garden. Maybe we should just go for it..... Really enjoy reading your posts!

  5. Cuttingwood cottage nice to see you and if it were me I'd just go for it! Such adventures, never a day without some hen based chuckle :)

  6. Laughing out loud here. That could have been a picture of my front door - I really believe hens are planning to take over the world. A darn sight better job they might make of it too.
    I always smile when I see those expensive permaculture courses and books etc - if you want to see how permaculture works, just spend the day on a croft. :)

  7. You are right about hens becoming fashionable. The local brand-new, pumped-up Dobbies supermart is selling 4 hens (no cocks because they are supposedly anti-social in an urbanc environment) plus massive luxy house & fencing for £359 pounds. I almost fainted... I prefer bantams myself, as they do a little less damage, and I adore 12 egg omlettes. How is your fox protection? I find I need 9 foot fencing to have a chance of preserving my fowls

  8. Barefoot crofter, how very true a day on a croft is a real eye opener :)
    Hens may well take over the world, I've a soft spot for my little adventurers even if out, they run over to see you (food induced of course), but I like to think they are excited to see me, they even come on walks up the track, in real life I appear to be the mad chicken lady of orkney!

    Jenni, pesky indeed, they are missing your apple cores, I hope you've seen your local hens :)

  9. Kininvie OMG how much?. Thankfully no foxes here, worst thing I can worry about are the odd brave cat.

    We paid £5.40 each for six of the hens, the others were free. Hen wire isn't cheap, but you can easily get hold of it cheap too - phew people get ripped off on they? The pay back in eggs has been amazing, these lot really earn their keep.

    A decent moveable rabbit hutch and a couple of chooks would start someone off fine, wouldn't it! Agree cockerels aren't that neighbour friendly

  10. Kininive I love bantams too, there are a few in the next village, very silly, but 12 egg omelettes must look cute, bit like quails egg fried sandwiches....:)

  11. No foxes on Orkney? You surprise me. I bet you have mink though....almost as bad.
    I get my bantams at Lanark market. Since bantams have never been bred for commercial use they still go broody and breed properly in the old style. The downside is they don't lay in winter. They used to live in the carcass of an old chest of drawers, but I took pity and bought them a cheap hen house.

  12. Hey there, no mink either, stoats were recently reported (an introduction) but these are to be controlled I think. Orkney has no real native mammal ground predators, hedgehogs have been introduced (I think) and can cause havoc with ground nesting birds.

    The worst thing to go for hens here would be otters......don't see them much though.....

    Hens are pretty safe here

    Old chest of drawers sounds ace, nice that you can get bantams at the Market. We order hens at the local agricultural hardware shop.

    Mines aren't supposed to lay in winter, but I'm not complaining!

  13. fantastic post fay , i can't wait til i get chooks again they are so cheeky

  14. Just found your site, after you dropped by, thanks by the way! Loving those chicken characters, wonderful shots of their day to day doings! I hope to get some in the future, obviously lots of DIY to learn:~)

  15. Loved this post! Just catching up today with your doings-- I am really starting to feel the pressure to get chickens again. How did you teach Peedie dog not to eat them? All your "making do" is certainly familiar and makes me laugh but with complete understanding. I have a new "gate" now to our "car barn" that Mr. O made from part of a wooden crate. It has FLAT GLASS lettered on it in big red print on the plywood... And who knew Kininvie had chickens?

  16. You have a great philosophy about using what is around, though I think you are also a tad over ambitious in suggesting that the chickens have brains! OK, enough brains to undersand "out", OK, I'm wrong... Love the conversion of hen-flap to colditz gate, I think the chicken wire is an excellent addition.

  17. Squirrel thank you :-) will pop over to frugaldom soon, thesis all correct ted and handed in! Hooray

  18. Foxglove lane thank you, you've a beautiful blog you'd love chickens :-) thanks for popping by!

  19. Linnew, I worried about the og, but a while back dog and chicken came nose to beek, peedie nudged the chookies out of the way to get to the scrap of food I'd chucked out!

    Mend and make do is brilliant, they do say necessity is the mother of invention (do they?, I've always wondered who they are and why was their mother inventing....) it's amazing what no money and guddling stuff together with what you've got.

  20. Janet, colditz gate! Love it,

    Chickens are cunning and smart, don't be fooled by the innocent looking beaks and scratching around, they are very good at disguises.......

  21. lol, your posts about your chickens always puts me in mind of the movie "Chicken Run".

  22. Jts - you mean I'm not mrs tweedy?