The Chicken Hen House

I had chickens… Long story all covered very recently. I now have four new ones….I have learned a lot recently. A real case of if I knew then what I know now. In brief snippet format here’s what I know

  • These hens are just over 6 months old.
  • All hens start laying at approximately 7 months
  • The run I have is over 6′ tall.
  • Its very sturdy [and built from old timber]
  • The wire mesh runs to the top and is very well attached
  • Foxes wont go in if there are dogs present
  • The shed faces away so I can collect the eggs/ clean out easily
  • The hens will only sit in the hatches if they are laying
  • They will eat anything… within reason!
  • It will take them 2 weeks to settle in
  • They are very friendly
  • I have called them The Supremes
  • Cocks are very loud – I didn’t take one
  • They will be fed on barley and whatever is leftover
  • My green waste bin should be very empty from now on
  • there’s a lot of money to be wasted on bad ‘eco’ books
  • not one book on sale could tell me what it would be like
  • Eggs are expensive
  • Eggs can be bartered for potatoes
  • Don’t cut the grass for the hens before they arrive – they will mow it for you
  • hens like a little bit of height a pole to perch upon

Regarding what I built for the hens… here’s the facts

  • the area of the run is 5m x 2.3m and just over 2 metres tall
  • the shed I got is a 6′ x 4′
  • the hens ‘boxes’/ rooms [?] are the shed width divided by 4-ish and are 40cm off the ground. Do include a lip so the eggs don’t fall out.
  • the wire mesh is just ordinary chicken wire – as its called
  • I used the green ‘tennis court’ type mesh because it was left over and I had ran out of chicken wire
  • the timber is approx 1.5″ x 2.5″ – it was whatever I had lying around
  • the timbers are 2′ below ground level and compacted in. No concrete was used.

anything else I’ve missed out on? what do you think… ?

Oh and have a happy easter 😆

we had some chickens…

but no eggs would they lay…

I called the two girls cagney and lacey [read the full story here].

The reality was I promised my niece Lilly I’d have two chickens [or hens] for her to see on that particular weekend. Cagney & Lacey got delayed in traffic [by about two weeks] and so I rang a friend of mine Alec and asked him could I have two…

they were never any good for me, but you’re more than welcome to them if you wish…?

…was what I was told. I took them. After about six months [and only 3 eggs] of threatening the two girls with eviction unless they started earning their keep I eventually gave up and rang Alec…

these girls are about as useful as a concrete block for laying Alec, you’d better take them back…

And so after learning, reading and researching – visiting, watching and asking all the questions… I got talking to another friend Paddy. Paddy is also a ‘small feathered friend expert’…

It’s taken a while, but I’ve learned that it is about getting the setup right, to suit you. No-one else I know has had hens… so it’s by experience. I also studied horticulture and I had that [once again] ‘living the good life dream’ bug going on. But Alec & Paddy have been at this for yonks and the lads have loads of our feathered laying friends – lots! and I only want 3 or 4. Remember 4 hens generally means 4 eggs… per day[ish]. And ‘her nibs’ likes baking…

So I’ve cleared the place out. I’ve rang John my civil engineer friend and I’m going to get it right this time… to suit me.

weed, weeding and more weeds

I always think of my sins when I weed.  They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of – Helena Rutherfurd Ely, A Woman’s Hardy Garden, 1903

weed free gardens

weed free gardens

Who wants them? What should we do about them? A weed by definition is deemed to be a plant growing in a place where it is not wanted. We tend to know them better as a pain in the rear (and no I am not talking about my mother in law) and sometimes to a point were our nerve endings would rather see cobble-lock city come to our town via frustration avenue! I will tell you, it is easier than you think to solve all of your problems.  You need no more to rush to the chemist to buy your bottle of Doctor Peters super magic hair restore tonic.

Weeds are generally categorised twice. So you either have broad leaf or narrow leaf and perennial (completes it life cycle over several years) or annual weeds.

The perennial and broad leaf weeds that we detest more are the ones we know the best.  Into this category fall docks, thistles, dandelion, buttercup etc. They are generally deep- rooted, low growing and stubborn. In this situation hoeing will not increase the aesthetic value of your house, just make your journey to the institution a little bit more sedated. Usually found in poor soiled lawns, ditches and scrubland.

We can in fact only define a weed, mutatis mutandis, in terms of the well-known definition of dirt – as matter out of place.  What we call a weed is in fact merely a plant growing where we do not want it.  ~E.J. Salisbury, The Living Garden, 1935

weed free gardening?

weed free gardening?

The problem is not to control them in the ditches or driveways but to control them when amongst our grasses (without chemical use). The growing point (lowest central budding point) is below or similar to that of grass and so the mower tends not to eliminate it by cutting. A semi selective translocated herbicide applied via calibrated sprayer is your only man, in my opinion. This is a chemical where the molecular make up will not allow it stick to the thin narrow grass leaves. As it forms a distortion in the growth cells of the weed, a sort of myxamitosis for plants, the unnecessary green pest grows itself into oblivion without affecting the lawn. The temperature for grass growth is approximately twelve degrees Celsius, so below this point the chemical will not take effect. Please note that your lawn should be established, ensure that your dilution rates are suited to that of your knapsack sprayer and use a cowl or hood to avoid wind-drift.


with age comes beauty...

Annual weeds are generally shallow rooting and most commonly regarded as the mite who got into my (flower) bed without my permission. Examples include cleavers, willowherb, chickweed etc. Although their leaves are not slim-line in shape, they are easier to control than their better know more stubborn brethren. They are rarely found in lawns and when found, mainly in flower-beds, they are better pulled by hand. More eco-friendly methods such as a good planting plan with select areas of ground cover plants, some regular maintenance and bark mulch will normally help to reduce this problem. Spraying can be used in larger more developed areas but you should clear away from the base of the plants and again use a cowl to avoid chemical particles hitting the plants you do want to keep in perfect shape.

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.  ~Dave Barry

frogs in the garden

frogs peter donegan landscape garden domesticit seems similar to squirrels the frog is having a hard time of it too. Why? ‘pristine’ gardening trends seems the answer.

The IPCC [the irish peatland conservation coucil] has a really good which has excellent tips on how to do your bit. It also has a really cool facts page. For eg; Did you know – in recent years a painkiller 200 times the power of morphine was found in frogs skin!

My reason for mentioning this creature? It’s great when my nieces & nephews pop around to say I saw some and for the gardener – these guys eat just about every bug & insect pest available.

I spotted this chappie having a nap in some long grass last week – simply brilliant watching nature!

mustard – seed, grow, crop, eat

peter donegan garden advice growing mustard seeds


I found it really hard to find information of any substance or at all in any books on this plant.

But, if ever you wished to go green really quickly this is the plant for you. I chose white mustard. Instructions say it can be grown on tissue paper! it is that easy. I planted the seeds a different way [no particular reason, partly why there are so many books on gardening I suppose…] then planted outside.

Some say crop the plant just before flowering, the instructions say when its 2″ tall? I say whatever makes you happy. Why? Because, again, the varying schools of thought suggest that the taller the plant the stronger the taste…

Now it is all cropped? Chop it. Eat it. Next time I can grow it to my own specific taste. My tip. Sow a little [about ten seeds] every two weeks and keep the crop turning over.

mustard white seed plant crop peter donegan


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