Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reader's Question: How do I keep the chickens out of my garden?

by Rebecca Nickols

Q: I have had chickens all of my life, but this year for the first time they are eating all my tomatoes. This has never happened before and I have always used chickens in the garden — for bugs and weeding. Any thoughts? — Charles

Q: I would love to hear suggestions on how to deal with free-range chickens and perennial beds. I have most of my beds fenced off from the girls; however, I don't like the look of it. Does anyone have tips on how to make the plants seem less appealing? Maybe powdered garlic? Some kind of organic method? — Jen in Norwich, Vt.

A: Charles and Jen ... First of all, I've only had chickens for a year and it's been fun journaling my experience on this site, but when a seasoned chicken keeper like Charles asks how to keep his chickens from eating his tomatoes, it makes me wonder if there is a way to keep the girls from devouring our vegetables or destroying our flowers. In fact, I'm having the same problem — every tomato that is within their reach is pecked and eaten as soon as it starts turning red!

I asked several poultry experts what they did to keep their chickens out of their gardens, and then I spent a lot of time researching this dilemma. I came to the sad conclusion that apart from some sort of fence or barrier, there isn't much that can be done to prevent the chickens from feasting on whatever they want. I guess they take it literally when we allow them to "free-range." The garden (vegetables, flowers, weeds, bugs) is a free-for-all, and they think we've created it for their enjoyment!

Even though I'm just learning all the ins and outs of chicken keeping, I've been a gardener for many years and I am of the same mindset as Jen — I don't want to have a fence protecting every plant, but I do want to let my chickens roam as they please. So, I decided to conduct my own (not-so-scientific) experiment that I called:

Gardening vs. Chickens

Step 1: The question ...
How can I keep my chickens from eating my plants?

Step 2: Research
The obvious, tried-and-true methods include fencing, bird netting — one article from Mother Earth News even included the instructions for adding a "chicken moat" around the perimeter of the garden! Other sites mention adding something that might scare the birds away, such as shiny tin pie plates, plastic owls or snakes, and even recordings of hawk calls. I was looking for some sort of organic method, as Jen suggested, to make the plants less appealing — garlic powder, pepper spray ... I've been in a constant gardening battle with the deer that free-range on my property for years. I use a homemade repellent that consists of garlic, eggs and milk; it has a terrible odor and supposedly tastes bad, but as long as I remember to apply the smelly spray, the deer avoid the odoriferous plants. I wouldn't want to put this concoction of rotten eggs and soured milk on my vegetables, but I also have another (less toxic) pepper spray that I use on my raspberry bushes, and it has also proven to deter the deer.

Would a odor or taste repellent work on chickens? Do chickens even have the ability to taste or smell?

I know that the chickens will eat any plant that I throw into their enclosed chicken run — probably out of boredom. However, when they're free-ranging, they pick and choose their favorites. For example, this spring they completely destroyed the bok choy in my garden, but turned up their noses (beaks) at the spinach, chard and lettuce. This preference for certain foods leads me to believe they must have some sort of ability to discern between yum and yuck ...

After a little more research I learned that a chicken's sense of smell is not highly developed and does not influence its selection of food. So, I marked garlic off my list of deterrents. In fact, I even found where some chicken keepers actually feed their chickens garlic cloves as a treat!

As for taste, chickens do have taste buds, but they're limited in number and sensitivity. I was hoping that they would have an aversion to peppers, but birds lack the ability to detect capsaicin — the chemical found in peppers that is responsible for its spicy taste.

Even after I learned the facts, I wasn't convinced that I couldn't train my chickens to stay away from my prize tomatoes. The research indicated that smell and taste shouldn't have that much of an effect on their choice of food, but I couldn't understand why they had never even nibbled at the garlic or peppers in my garden ...

Step 3: Hypothesis
"If I use an odor and/or taste repellent, the chickens will stop devouring my tomatoes."

Step 4: Test the Hypothesis by Conducting an Experiment
I remember from college that you're suppose to have a control set (or a tomato that hasn't been treated with a spray), but I'm not being graded on this assignment ... and I know that the girls love tomatoes. Check out the video below (of my daughter and flock) that shows just how fast five chickens can consume a tomato!

I decided to try two different sprays on the tomatoes: garlic powder and water, and my homemade pepper spray. I thoroughly sprayed each tomato being tested, then offered it to the girls along with a bowl of chicken feed. I knew that each chicken would take a peck at the tomato, but I was hoping that after one bite they wouldn't like the taste and/or smell and would move on to something else more appealing — or at least the bowl of feed. I conducted my little experiment at the end of a full day of foraging so that hunger wouldn't be an issue.

Here's the results ...

Garlic Powder Spray:
(2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 quarts water)

When I placed the tomatoes in front of the girls, at first they displayed their usual crazy behavior when I give them a treat. They all pecked at the tomatoes and continued eating them, but not with their typical enthusiasm.

Pepper Spray:
(2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid dish soap, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 quarts water)

I thoroughly expected the same reaction out of my chickens with this spicy spray, but to my surprise they didn't care for these pepper-flavored tomatoes! They each took a taste, but quickly lost interest, wiped their beaks off in the grass, turned their backs and walked away! I know this doesn't prove anything, but I really didn't think it would make any difference if I sprayed the tomatoes with anything. I decided to take this part of my experiment a bit further.

Another favorite treat of the girls is strawberries, so I sprayed them with my amazing pepper spray, offered them to my flock and waited for their response. At first they went crazy fighting and pecking each other for the juiciest berry, but in the end they their response was similar to the pepper-sprayed tomatoes. They did, however, eventually consume all the berries, just not with the same zeal they normally have for a treat.

Step 5: Conclusion
Though the pepper spray did slow the chickens down a little, they still damaged the tomatoes and finished off the strawberries. Who knows, maybe if I diligently applied the spray the girls would eventually develop an aversion to tomatoes. I've come to the realization that a lot of my garden will be eaten by the chickens. The tomatoes, peas and beans within their reach have become their smorgasbord. As for now, I'm letting them have their share. I enjoy watching them free-range and I appreciate the eggs they provide. Eventually, I'll probably get fed up and do the only proven way to keep chickens out of the garden: I'll build a fence.

To see what else is happening on our Southwest Missouri property, visit ...the garden-roof coop.

Barclays Premier League Deadline Day LIVE:

Barclays Premier League Transfer Deadline Day LIVE:


Nicklas Bendtner has been seen with his dad at Stoke today.....
Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole has agreed to join French champions Lille on a season long loan deal.
QPR are wrapping up a £10million deal for Manchester City winger Shaun Wright Phillips and Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand,

Tottenham have almost completed the £5million deal for West Ham midfielder Scott Parker and have made a new £9million bid for Bolton Wanderers defender Gary Cahill.

QPR confirm they have agreed a fee for Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand.

Wigan Athletic want Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Giovani Dos Santos.

Stoke City have reportedly agreed a fee with Birmingham City for striker Cameron Jerome.

QPR have offered a contract to Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy who is surplus to requirements at City.

FACT: Joe Cole is the first English player to play in Ligue 1 since 1997. (Chris Makin Marseille)

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp says that Luka Modric will not leave Tottenham to go to Chelsea.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas is now wanted by Aston Villa after they lost Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole to Lille.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants to sign a new midfielder before the transfer window closes later today...... and Yossi Benayoun is on the Frenchman's radar.

Bolton are set to sign Liverpool striker David N'Gog for £4million today after 2 weeks of waiting.

Tottenham Hotspur confirm the signing of West Ham United midfielder Scott Parker for around £5million.

Joe Cole has a chance to put his football career back in shape by going to Lille on loan.
Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Brazilian defender Andre Santos and he will wear the no.11 shirt.

Arsene Wenger said about Andre Santos: "He has experience in the Champions League and for Brazil and has proven he can deliver at the highest level. We welcome Santos to the club and look forward to him having a big impact for us."

Liverpool, Stoke City and QPR want Craig Bellamy.

West Ham want Tottenham midfielder David Bentley as he is surplus to requirements at Spurs.


Midfielder Christian Poulsen has left Liverpool for French team Evian.

In other news:
Inter Milan have confirmed the signing of Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan on a two year contract.
If they hadn't sold Aguero to City, they could have had a great strikeforce of Aguero, Forlan and Falcao.

Porto could struggle this season in Europe without Falcao who was their star man.

Per Mertesacker's £8million arrival to Arsenal from Werder Bremen is expected soon.
Arsene Wenger should have bought Cahill aswell to bolster his defence.

Liverpool have their sights set on Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge who is struggling to get into the first team although he shows massive potential.

Arsenal have agreed personal terms with Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker.
They have now confirmed the £10million move.

FACT: This makes Mertesacker Wenger's 7th summer signing.


Bolton are confident that Gary Cahill will stay at the Reebok..... until January at least......

Tottenham defender Alan Hutton is in Birmingham in talks over a move from Tottenham to Aston Villa.
The 26-year-old full-back has been linked with a deadline-day transfer to Villa Park, where he would be reunited with former Rangers boss Alex McLeish.

Fulham have completed the signing of Juventus defender Zdenek Grygera on a one-year deal.


Arsenal are reportedly making a late bid for Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta who would be an ideal replacement for Cesc Fabregas. (Both spanish and Arteta would not cost much but fill the gap)


Peter Crouch is travelling to Stoke to discuss a £10million deal away from North London along with team mate Jermaine Jenas....

Everton have almost signed Holland winger Royston Drenthe on loan from Real Madrid.
West Ham United have confirmed they have signed Tottenham midfielder David Bentley on a season long loan.

Everton need the money for Arteta so £10million to Arsenal is practical........
Craig Bellamy is reportedly having a medical at Liverpool.
I doubt he would get a first 11 place....

QPR have expressed an interest in Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong.....
On the last day....

Arsenal have had a Nicklas Bendtner plus money deal for Mikel Arteta rejected.
Everton want at least £10million upfront without a trade player.

Spanish club Sevilla want Tottenham Hotspur's Giovani Dos Santos and have offered £4million but Harry Redknapp wants at least £8million.

Sebastien Bassong has completed his move from Tottenham to QPR. He is desperately looking for first team football and QPR have offered him that.
Arsenal have just made a £10million bid for Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta.
Scott Dann is at Blackburn and personal terms have been agreed.
Craig Bellamy is holding personal talks with Liverpool.
Benayoun wants to go to either Liverpool or Arsenal- he's desperate to leave Chelsea.
Peter Crouch has agreed to join Stoke City and only a few details left.

David NGog has arrived at Bolton to complete his £4million move from Liverpool.

Manchester City have completed a one-year deal  for former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargeaves.
Bad deal?

Arsenal have turned their sights on Yossi Benayoun after failing in a bid to sign Mikel Arteta hours before the transfer deadline.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Peter Crouch has arrived at Stoke's training ground.
Manchester City have accepted QPR's bid for winger Shaun Wright Phillips.

Liverpool confirm that striker David NGog has completed his move to Bolton.
Chelsea confirm that midfielder Gael Kakuta has signed for Bolton on loan.

21:05 Tottenham News:
Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton are in talks with Aston Villa and Peter Crouch is in talks with Stoke.

Arsenal are back in the race to buy Everton playmaker Mikel Arteta.
I prefer Arteta to Benayoun... Buy him for £12million Wenger!

FC Twente striker Byran Ruiz has two offers- Fulham and Newcastle.......
£9million although Newcastle are trying hard to prise him away from Martin Jol's grasp....

Tottenham striker Peter Crouch has passed his medical at Stoke and is close to agreeing a four year deal.

Stoke City have confirmed that they have signed Tottenham midfielder Wilson Palacios on a four year deal for £8million.

Talks between Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner and Sunderland are still ongoing.
Mikel Arteta has told Everton that he wants to leave for Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Benayoun wants to go also (on loan)


Craig Bellamy has undergone his medical at Liverpool and is now agreeing personal terms.

QPR are very close to finalising the deal for Manchester City winger Shaun Wright Phillips.

It is heating up!

QPR have confirmed the signing of Manchester City winger Shaun Wrigght Phillips.
Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles has submitted a written transfer request.
Surprisingly, I don't think it is bit too late for Meireles to rejoin AVB.....
Arsenal have signed Yossi Benayoun on a season long loan.
Blackburn have signed Birmingham City defender David Dunn.
Craig Bellamy has signed for Liverpool from Manchester City.

23:10-00:05 BREAKING NEWS:
Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles has joined Chelsea on a four-year deal for around £12million.
Sold on the cheap.....
Stoke City have completed the signing of Birmingham City striker Cameron Jerome.
Sunderland have confirmed the signing of Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner on a season long loan.
Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta for up to £10million.
Aston Villa have signed Tottenham defender Alan Hutton and midfielder Jermaine Jenas on a season long loan.
Everton have signed striker Denis Stracqualursi on season-long loan from Argentinian side Tigres.QPR have confirm the signing of Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand.
Stoke City have confirmed the signing of Tottenham striker Peter Crouch for £10million.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Convoys wharf planning application part I: what's your view?

Given the vast amount of information contained within the planning application for Convoys Wharf, I'm hoping to comment on some of the more salient points - building density, transport, heritage & archeology etc - over the coming weeks, other commitments permitting.

To kick off and give you an immediate feel for the in-your-face visual impact the proposed development will have on the landscape, a few of the renderings which can be found in a much larger document here.

Such renderings would have been extremely useful at the 'public consultation' so why weren't they shown? Take a look and see if you can guess the answer. (You can click on all the images to make them bigger).

The view from the Greenwich Observatory to St Paul's is what's known as a 'protected vista' in that no development is allowed to block it. On this rendering St Paul's is marked in red so that you can spot it among the towers that hem it in from both sides.

View from Millennium Quay:

View from Abinger Grove:

View from the Foreshore:

View from Greenwich pier:

View from Pepys Park:

View from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich:

View from Deptford High Street:

View from Pointer's Close (Isle of Dogs): this one is particularly worth clicking to take a closer look at. Note that it's not just the three towers which will have a visual impact on the local area - the surrounding blocks are also of a significant size. The existing tower block is shown on the right hand side, and gives a true idea of scale.

View from Plough Way:

Sound Tracks: East London Line music festival 17 September

The Amersham Arms in New Cross is one of three music venues on the East London Line which is taking part in the Sound Tracks music festival on 17 September. The New Cross Inn will also host events under the Sound Tracks banner. And festival goers travelling from New Cross to the other venues in Dalston and Shoreditch will be entertained by gigs on the 'travelling stage' of the ELL trains themselves.

The press release explains:
Join the Sound Tracks party on Saturday 17th September and spend the evening on a musical journey via the London Overground’s East London Line. The inaugural Sound Tracks Festival takes you on a voyage taking in three of East London’s innovative music venues: Cafe Oto in Dalston; Concrete in Shoreditch and the Amersham Arms in New Cross. What’s more, two supporting venues will host events under the Sound
Tracks banner - the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and the New Cross Inn.
Bands headlining the 100% independent festival include abstract dance music innovator Fantastic Mr. Fox, rhythmic jazz quartet Shabaka & The Sons of Kemet, and energetic garage punk frontwoman Marina Gasolina, formerly of Baile Funk band Bonde do Role.

Event organisers Amanda Lwin & Carolina Garcia were inspired to create the festival after realising that the recently extended railway line joins up places with rich musical identities. “The East London Line perfectly links up some of London’s best venues for independent music” say the urbanist / musician duo, “New music
is migrating outwards from central London: Sound Tracks Festival is about joining the dots”.

Meanwhile, the new London Overground trains have an extra-special part to play. Live performances will be taking place on the ‘Travelling Stage’ inside the trains, travelling up and down the East London Line. A range of upcoming acts will be playing short acoustic sets for festival-goers and commuters alike, with permission from Transport for London and the train operator, LOROL. This stage links up the main venues, each of which is less than three minutes walk from its Overground station.

Performances at Sound Tracks Festival will start from 7pm on 17th September 2011 at Cafe Oto, Concrete Space and Amersham Arms and go on till late. Wristbands allowing entry to all venues are £8.50 in advance (£12.50 once Early Bird tickets are gone). Some associated events are free - please check the website for details.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Questions, Answers, and End of Summer Thoughts

It seems to me that this time of year has an urgency to it. Maybe it’s from all the children trying to pack a final few days of summer in before they head off to another year of school. Or, maybe it’s from the migratory birds and the hibernating mammals that need to store up extra energy for long trips and deep sleeps.

Or maybe it’s from me, and other gardeners, gathering and harvesting; blanching and freezing; pickling and drying the fruits of our garden patches—trying to use every last bean, summer squash and cucumber before the autumn frosts arrive.

My hens are getting ready for the next season, too. As evenings arrive earlier and mornings brighten later, the girls have slowed up their egg production, and most of them have begun to shed feathers in their annual molt.

I’ll admit this: I have been spending every possible daylight moment I can outside. The garden is keeping me busy, and I’ve been trying to plan ahead for the winter by calculating how many bales of straw to buy from Farmer Brown (my nearest neighbor), to keep the hens warm and happy when the temperatures begin to dip.

I’m also trying to soak up all the late summer warmth myself—to remember when winds howl and snow flies. And honestly, I prefer to be digging in the dirt or mucking out coops. I’m spending my evenings processing vegetables in my canner or grinding up relishes, and then I’m falling into bed to the sound of “pings” and the smell of vinegar.

I’ve hardly used the computer this summer, and I’ve neglected sharing on this blog. If you’ve been reading the recent blogs, you’ll see one from Taylor Miller asking for your help and expertise in answering some of the many questions received on this website. I’ve chosen three questions to answer by sharing my own experiences.

1. How do I prevent new chicks from eating layer ration (offered free-choice to the flock) and adults from getting into the starter/grower high protein feed that’s for the chicks? Chicks in brooders do not have this issue, obviously, but I have broody hens that are being permitted to set clutches for the first time.

My answer: You don’t mention whether you are free ranging or keeping your chickens in a coop with a run. My experience is with the latter; and I, too, offer layer ration free choice. When I have broody hens, and hens with young chicks, I separate them from all the other chickens. I have had three or four clutches going at once, and I’ve used bales of straw, cardboard and even old screens wired together to keep each little family on their own until they are feathered out enough to fend for themselves.

I give each group water and their own sectioned feeder, filled with chick starter, and I’ve never really worried that the mother will eat too much of it. She looks out for her babies, and she isn’t laying eggs (therefore, not requiring layer feed for a while).

When the chicks are finally introduced to the rest of the flock, I have a feeder with starter/grower and that’s all the purchased feed they can reach. Sometimes the other chickens eat some of it, but my laying hens seem to prefer pellet layer feed, and they don’t bother the finer feed much. I keep the pellet layer feed in a hanging feeder, and I hang it high enough for only the hens to reach.

If you free range your chickens, I would think that you could still use the idea of separating the mothers and babies from the rest of the flock, and using hanging feeders for layer feed.

2. All my hens are in with one rooster. Do I need to split up the group so I will have fertilized eggs and non-fertilized?

My answer: In a word, yes. Hens will lay eggs whether or not there’s a rooster, but only if there’s a rooster will they lay fertilized eggs. If you have a rooster in with your hens, there’s still no guarantee that the eggs will be fertile, but if there’s no rooster that guarantees no fertile eggs. A good rule of thumb is to have one rooster for 10 to 12 hens.

3. Will Rhode Island Reds get along with a sex link in a chicken tractor?

My answer: It’s been my experience that if chickens get along in your coop, yard or field, they’ll also get along in a chicken tractor. Today, in fact, I had a Rhode Island Red, a Buff Orpington and a bantam mix out in my tractor, and they had a great time scratching around together.

If you are thinking of introducing chickens to each other for the first time in a chicken tractor, that’s a little different. When I’m introducing young chickens to my older hens, I put the young ones in the tractor right next to the yard with the older girls and let them peck along next to each other for a few days. It seems to make them become used to each other; eventually, I put them in together one night and hope they get along. There’s always jostling for position in the “pecking order,” but I’ve never had too much trouble.

I think if I had one Rhode Island Red and one sex link, though, I might try them together in a chicken tractor, just to see what happened. If you do try this, stay around and watch them. They might just ignore each other, or they may bristle up and posture to show the other one how big and important they are. If they actually fight, you’ll want to separate them right away, make sure they’ve not drawn blood and work out a different way to introduce them.

I hope sharing my chicken-keeping experiences has given you some ideas and help with your questions. May you all be safe from the storms on the East Coast this weekend.

Deptford carriage ramp/St Paul's House/Octavius Street redevelopment

In a rather unseemly rush, a whole host of new planning applications flooded into Lewisham's planning department this month. One of these was Convoy's Wharf, of which more later.

The other major application was for the redevelopment of the land around Deptford Station - the so-called Deptford Project which includes St Paul's House on the High Street, the land behind it, the listed carriage ramp which leads up to the station platforms, and the tranche of land on the other side, which is on Octavius Street.

A planning application was submitted back in 2005 at the same time as the station redevelopment application, but never progressed any further. The latest proposal features some significant changes to the original.

For a start, I believe the original application related only to the carriage ramp refurbishment, public realm improvements and the nine-storey building on Octavius Street; the latest application includes St Paul's House on the High Street, which is to be redeveloped and extended. Two restaurant units are proposed at ground level, one at the front and one at the rear, with three 'town houses' in the new building at the back, and eight 'affordable' units above the high street restaurant unit.

Above a couple of aerials of the St Paul's House development; the eight-storey block for some reason is only shown in faint outline, but you can still get some idea of the enormous scale of the block.

Below is the view from behind (from the corner behind the Deptford Project cafe). Do click on the picture to make it bigger and you will see the architect has labelled the shop units 'Iceland', 'Jewellery' and rather snarkily, behind the tree, 'Betting shop' (where currently no betting shop exists. Thanks for the vote of confidence guys).

The previous plan was to convert the arches in the existing (listed) carriage ramp into 14 'live/work' units, and behind that, build a nine-storey block containing 101 apartments. The new plan has done away with the live/work units - instead the arches will now just be converted into 'workshops' - and the block has been reduced to eight storeys. Whether or not this involves a reduction in height (or just an increase in storey height) I cannot say but they have certainly shoe-horned in a few more apartments to whack up the return - 121 apartments of which 14 are studios, 37 are 1 bed and 70 are 2 bed. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger, and see the scale of the new buildings - particularly the Octavius Street block.

The number of parking spaces are minimised - 26 will be provided (in a 'stacking system' - whatever that means) for the coop housing next door to replace those which have been lost to the new building, as well as six wheelchair-accessible spaces, and one parking space for each of the three town houses. Presumably you can't sell a town house without a parking space, even one right next to a high street shopping area. It seems likely that with some 140 new apartments on the site, there will be increased pressure on parking along Idonia Street and surrounds; the developer is committed to contributing to the cost of investigating implementation of a controlled parking zone on these streets, which is unlikely to go down well with other local residents.

Two car club spaces will be installed - also on neighbouring streets - and 126 bike parking spaces provided on the site.

Planning documents are available here (planning application reference DC/11/78175) although so far I have been unable to find a design & access statement.

Sue has also posted about this over on Crosswhatfields blog and mentioned the 'community involvement' statement in the application. If you went to the 'consultation' you'll remember it involved sticky, coloured labels and could not really be viewed as any kind of scientific survey, although the developers seem to have got lots of bar charts and graphs out of the results. You might want to have a look and see what conclusions they have drawn about your views.

Comments on or objections to the planning application should be submitted to Mark Furlonger, Planning Service, 5th Floor Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London SE6 4RU, by fax to 020 8314 3127 or by email to Please print your name, do not sign it. You should also send a copy to your ward councillor(s).

Deadline for comments is 15 September 2011.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Extra Bones shop and free lunchtime music

The Utrophia temporary residency of the former job centre on Deptford High Street includes the Extra Bones shop run by Andrew Kerr, which opened recently. Andrew sells homemade artwork, zines and 'objects' as well as having a trading post box where you can bring something and swap it for something else to use creatively.

The shop/gallery also has a programme of free lunchtime live music performances over the next few weeks.

I missed the first performance last Friday, although judging by the film clip on the Extra Bones blog I'm not sure it would have been my cup of tea, but I was interested to see that next week's lunchtime concert will feature folk singer Sam Lee. Sam sings traditional folk songs in his hauntingly beautiful voice, which will send shivers down your spine. If you are around next Friday, don't miss it.

Here he is singing with Jon Boden on Folk Music at Christmas.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cafe Frizzante, Surrey Docks City Farm

I've been in here a couple of times for coffee and soft drinks, but this week I dropped in looking for a light lunch and a break from the rain.

The cafe overlooks the very heart of Surrey Docks City Farm; the addictive goat mountain which is the scene of goaty frolics and can be very entertaining. As well as half a dozen tables inside the cafe, there's an outdoor area with four or five tables and plenty of room for push-chairs.

There's reasonably extensive breakfast and brunch menus, with special lunch dishes and a soup of the day on offer - pea and ham today. I had the special lunch which was parma ham with mixed salad leaves and 'heritage' tomatoes which was served with a dressing and a slice of toasted sourdough bread. The vegetarian option was the same but with feta cheese instead of the ham.

The leaves - which along with the tomatoes are grown in vegetable plots around the boundaries of the farm - were tasty and very fresh. They included basil, beetroot leaves and something I didn't recognise that had a very distinctive aniseedy flavour, as well as lettuce leaves. The 'heritage' tomatoes came in various colours - red, yellow, green and even purply - and were also very tasty and fresh.

Washed down with a bottle of Chegworth Valley apple and blackcurrant juice it suited me very well, although I thought the portion size of the lunch was rather frugal for the £8 price tag.

The cafe is open Wed-Sunday from 10-4.30pm and is in the middle of the Surrey Docks City Farm - you can get in from either the river path or via the main entrance on Rotherhithe Street. On Sunday they serve a roast dinner, which I hope to sample some time soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Octopump beer festival - more details

Thanks to the Royal Albert for sending me more information about the beers that they intend to offer at the upcoming Octopump festival*.

This is not an exhaustive list, we are promised more ciders and possibly other beers too, subject to availability:

Nick says it's 'almost certain' they'll be featuring:

Old Chestnut/c.1790 India Pale Ale from Dark Star(couldn't find this on the website tho)
Amarillo from Milk Street
Avalanche from Fyne Ales (gutted I won't get to try this - save me some? pls?)
Ramble Tamble from Triple FFF Brewery
Elsie Mo from Castle Rock Brewery
P.G. Steam from RCH Brewery

Other breweries they are hoping to feature should include some of these:
Kent Brewery
Hogs Back (cup of TEA anyone?)
Twickenham Ales
The brand new London Fields Brewery

As regards ciders and perrys, there will definitely be something from Severn Cider, I'm told, as well as two or three others which are currently being confirmed.

All very exciting - they are aiming for between 12 and 14 different beers and ciders over the three day period.

2-4 September 2011

Royal Albert Pub
460 New Cross Road
SE14 6TJ
020 8692 3737


*To some extent I wish they hadn't as I'm now regretting that I'll be out of town for the entire period :-(

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beer, food and crafts..

...three vital aspects of life if truth be told.

I have advance news that the former Deptford Deli at 4 Tanners Hill is set to reopen as 'Blossoming T', an 'art and craft gallery cafe, with art exhibitions, arts and crafts to sell and workshops for adults and children' according to business owner Cinzia Callegari. She says 'food will be simple organic fairtrade whenever it's possible, or from my allotment; tea, herbal tea served in vintage tea pots and cups...and hopefully organic wine from Italy.' She is also hoping to have live music once a month.

I do hope that she has better luck than the previous occupants Deptford Deli and Deptford Properly - from what I've heard, the property suffers problems with flooding and the landlord has in the past been unwilling to improve the situation. Hopefully it will be third time lucky - I like the sound of Cinzia's venture; tea and knitting (and cakes, we trust!) can be a winning combination!

Secondly, news that the Royal Albert pub on New Cross Road is planning a mini beer festival to celebrate the arrival of four new hand pumps at the bar, bringing the number up to eight.

'Octopump' will take place from 2-4 September and includes a range of beers and ciders on tap, music and BBQ, as well as the arrival of a bar billiards table. If you don't know how to play, you might want to get in a few practice sessions down at the Dog & Bell in advance. There's no news as yet on which beers and ciders will be on offer; RA management if you want to add this in the comments, please feel free!

Finally news of plans for a new 'Brockley' Saturday market. I have put Brockley in inverted commas here as the proposed location is the car park next to Lewisham College on Lewisham Way - not really Brockley in my view, but then again not really New Cross and not really Lewisham. I guess calling it St John's Market would have prompted lots of questions of 'where?'. There's only vague information so far - a facebook page and basic website exist so if you are interested you should probably bookmark them. Of course we have plenty of market in Deptford every Saturday, and although I do often get frustrated at the lack of local seasonal fruit that's on sale - rarely see greengages or russet apples for example - I probably wouldn't bother going all the way up there just for that. I guess it will be handy for people living in St John's and New Cross though.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Improve Your Flock in 60 Days

by Jennifer Sartell

Do your chickens do the Checkerboard? Mine do, well, they will be over the next 60 days. I am excited and proud to announce that Iron Oak Farm is taking the Purina 60 Day See The Difference Challenge!

We love our chickens! I love watching them grow and develop into beautiful birds, birds that I'm proud to say come from our farm. When a person takes a chicken home from Iron Oak Farm, I want them to know that I have done all that I can to raise that chicken, or it's parent stock, to the best of my abilities. So when Purina and Community Chickens asked me to "Take The Challenge" I was eager to give it a try.

Photo Credit
Purina Mills has a stellar reputation for making quality feed, and has been in business since the early 1900's.

"Today the red and white nine-square is still recognized as a sign of quality and is one of the most recognizable logos in America through products such as Purina Chow and other brands."

The thing I liked the most about signing up for the challenge was that Purina stands behind their claims. They believe so strongly in their product that they sent me an awesome new Flip Camera to document the 60 day Challenge and to share the differences I see in my animals with you.

Here's my first video, sort of an introduction to the gang.  
Iron Oak Farm Flips For The Challenge

As you can see from the video, it's not just the chickens that will be taking the challenge, but our Nubian doelings, Nan and Gretta, our Angora Goats, Knit and Purl, and our three rabbits, Darby (the Holland Lop) Wallace (The Chestnut Angora cross) and Grommit (The Black Angora cross)

To make the challenge easy Purina has provided a printable Tracking Form to reference throughout the 60 days. In the first week, The Challenge tells us that our animals should be showing noticeable signs of eagerness to take the new food. And to always keep in mind, to take it slow when introducing a new feed. I will also be sharing the progress on my Iron Oak Farm blog, my Facebook Page and my Twitter Page.

We will be feeding our chickens Purina Flock Raiser Sunfresh Recipe throughout the 60 days. We've also added a Flock Block which provides essential vitamins and minerals to free ranging birds. It also acts as a great source of entertainment.

Other Reasons to Love Purina:
  • "Animal agriculture and Purina Mills essentially grew up together as the company became the leading pet food manufacturer in the industry."

  • "In 1916, Purina Mills was the first in the feed business to establish an analytical laboratory to test the final product before it went out to customers."

  • "Purina Mills has also spearheaded the industry’s most innovative system for testing ingredients and monitoring nutritional consistency."

The best part of all, is that you too can sign up for the Purina 60 Day See The Difference Challenge, and take advantage of all the things that Purina has to offer. You can track the progress of your animals right along with me. Upon sign up, Purina will send you money saving coupons, but that's not all. One lucky winner will also be the recipient of a Flip Camera and additional coupons towards more Purina products. You're gonna Flip for this challenge!  

dead leaves

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dead leaves by winter

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What Would You Do?

by Taylor Miller

Every week at Community Chickens, we get dozens of questions from people across the world, hoping to find someone who has shared a similar experience. We try to answer them all, and forward them on to experts where we can. But many of the questions are unique, and because of this, we realize that sometimes the best people to answer the questions are precisely the people who are or have been in your shoes. This is why we often ask our guest bloggers to tackle questions - and they do such a great job!

So here's what we're asking, "What would you do ..." if you were in some of the following situations? What would you tell our readers? What is your best advice?

YOU might be the best person in the world to answer someone's question ... and we want to provide you with that ability. So, go for it!

If you'd like to respond to a question, leave a comment, and be sure to indicate to which question you're responding: (e.g., Q1: This is what you should do ...)


Q1: Curt and Marcia Stowell write: I have a hen with a very large crop all the time, even 1st thing in the morning.It does not receed at all over nignt.She is a polish top hat about 14 months old. she has acsess to both size 1 & 2 granite grit. is there any thing that I can do for her?


Q2: Beth writes: After gathering fresh eggs and refrigerating them, I
noticed that when hard boiled, the white of the egg sticks to the
shell and it is very difficult to peel. This does not happen to store
bought eggs. I am wondering if refrigerating the eggs is the reason
because I hard boiled one that I had not refrigerated and it hard
boiled fine and was easy to peel. I have given eggs away to family who
have mentioned that they also are unable to peel the cooked eggs. How
long can eggs remain unrefrigerated and would this have any effect on
peeling cooked eggs?


Q3: Shery McHorne writes: I'm a complete newbie to chicken raising and have a cockerel that NOBODY wants. (I'd keep him but our zoning prohibits it.) I have concluded that this rooster needs to become a roaster, but I don't want/know how to do the deed myself. I have read other folks talking about taking chickens to a processor. Who are these processors and how do you find them?

Also, how does one caponize a rooster? Is it a job for a vet? And, how will that change his temperament (e.g., will he lose his aggressive instincts?) Most importantly, will it mean that he no longer crows? Our cockerel hasn't started crowing yet, so we're still under the
radar. If caponizing would prevent him from crowing, I could still keep him.


Q4: Theresa Porterfield writes: I think my chicken has fowl pox. are the other 4 going to
get it? if there are eggs are they ok to eat? Will I have to "cull"
her? Will I have to start over with the flock? they are 1 year last
April. They are free range in my urban back yard. I have 2 dogs as
well. is it catching. Can I do anything about the others? Is there
prevention. I am trying to have them be organic with the feed ect.
THey got the Mereks shot before I got them from My Pet Chicken.
Thank you for your help.


Q5: Jill Eaton writes: More than half of my flock of egg-layers has lost the feathers on
their head and about 1/4" down from the comb. Funny thing is it has
only affected my Red Stars and my Black Stars. My larger all-purpose
chickens and my barred rock and two Auracanas have not been affected.

Also, I have two Red Stars that have molted all the feathers off their
backs and have been naked for 4-6 months now. No sign of new

They get clean water every day, layer feed, oyster shell and lots of
vegetable matter from my organic garden.


Q6: Gina Burns writes: I live in Oklahoma and we are in the midst of a heat wave.
108 today with no end in sight. We have 11 hens and we are finding
rotten eggs in our yard. We know they are recent because we walk the
yard all day and they won't be there one minute and then the next
there will be four sitting around. Although our chickens have the run
of the yard they have never laid anywhere but their coop. We know it
is not that they go rotten in the heat because they might only be
sitting there maybe 30 minutes before we find it. The chickens have
access at all times to water and shade. Can a chicken lay a rotten
egg? They are light and slosh around when you shake them. Has anyone
ever heard of this? Any suggestions? Thanks


Q7: Barb Donahue writes: I purchased my chi in February 2011. My first purchase was 6
white pulleys and 3 weeks later I purchased 5 red chix. I have been
getting eggs for about a month. Usually four to five a day. All white
but one brown egg. I only ever see the white chix in the nesting
boxes. When can I expect the red ones to start laying or why aren't
they laying. I am a new chix farmer also. Please help...


Q8: Cindy Fonzi writes: I have one chicken who has no feathers on her bottom. It
is also very red. I've tried dusting more and spraying with the blue
medication. Still she is not getting any feathers. Could this be the
lst chicken in the pecking order?


Q9: David writes: Do I have to have a rooster? If I had a rooster I would
not know how to tell which eggs were usable or which had chicks.


Q10: Kenneth Cole writes: The problem I'm having is that all of my hens are losing
their feathers in the saddle area of their backs. They are 14 months
old. I have 14 hens and one rooster. They have appropriate food, fresh
water, and space. I see no picking of each other or other
irregularaties except that the rooster is a proficient breeder. Could
he be the problem? The flock has never been in contact with other
poultry and the coop is new. Egg production is down 50 to 60 percent
of what it was during the winter months. This started occuring in
april when they started to moult and they never grew back their
feathers. They still have voracious appetites and generally are calm
and gentle. They are buff orpingtons.


Q11: Deanna Osborne writes: We've had our chickens since May. My husband built our
coop. It has the nesting boxes in the back with a wire floor in front
and two doors that swing out that has a ramp they can go up to the
that part from the ground. But they can also get under the
nesting/wire floor area and seem to want to make their nest there and
we can't seem to keep the straw in the nesting boxes. Any suggestions?


Q12: Robin Meares writes: My 4
month old Barred Rock has been making the LOUDEST noises at 6:15 am - 9am. The only neighbor to complain is my own 19-year-old daughter whose bedroom is above the coop.

I tried adding a bowl of scratch inside the coop (they have food and
water at all times)last night and the noise did not start until 7:15
am this morning. I need more suggestions. My daughter is beyond upset
to be woken at this hour during her summer vacation. HELP!


Q13: Vianna Engel writes: My adult chickens seem to have a "cold",
they cough some and have a slight discharge from their eyes and nasals
at times. I have had them on Tetracylcine powder for a week now, and
they are much better but just don;t seem quite their perky selves. I
have also been putting vitamin and electrolite powder in their water
too. Any suggestions?


Q14: Zsaneen writes: Hello, we are just getting into the chicken thing, and
think that two of our young hens might be roosters. We have gone
online to compare pictures of young roosters and are wondering when
young roosters get their spurs, because ours haven't yet. They are a
few months old now and making some weird noises and we don't want to
make any close neighbors mad, as we live in town and our chickens are
in the backyard. Thank you!


Q15: Judy writes: At what age should I start switching my bantam chicks from
starter to grower feed?


Have a question of your own? Post it in our forum - or shoot it over to

where you hide secrets

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