Nesting Boxes

As anyone who keeps hens knows, they are very particular about which nesting boxes are suitable for laying eggs.  Cluckingham Palace has multiple nesting boxes but not all are used.  Some are apparently just “no good!”  

This is the preferred nesting box.

IMG_1045It  has been the favorite from day one and there have been many times when more than one girl has wanted to use it.  

In a pinch this one is also acceptable.

IMG_1072Marigold demonstrates here. 

But these nesting boxes, which were built into Cluckingham Palace from the beginning and are pretty standard nesting boxes…

IMG_1068.. have NEVER been used.  They are just NO GOOD!  Why?  My first flock refused to have anything to do with them.  I hoped perhaps the new girls would use them, but no.   They agreed that this was NO place to lay an egg.  


Originally they were separated into three boxes.  They were smaller than the perfect nesting box so I took the dividing walls out.  I thought that might make them more comfortable.   But even when the other nesting boxes were occupied, no one ever laid an egg here.  Blossom once laid an egg on the floor underneath…but even she wouldn’t consider using these nesting boxes.

Do not ask me why.  Hens decide things and that is that.  Two flocks have rejected these boxes.  There is obviously something wrong with them.  But what?

For years I have been reading that some people hang curtains in the nesting boxes.  It gives the hen privacy and to be honest, looks adorable.  I thought about it more than once, but I couldn’t see how it would make that much difference.  There are no curtains on the “perfect” nesting box so they didn’t seem like a solution.

But, winter is coming and I had already decided to hang a curtain on the door to the outside run.  It lets a lot of cold air into the coop and a curtain would help. 


So I cut a towel and hung it.  It is tied back for now until they get used to it.  The idea is you close it slowly so they realize they can walk through it.  By winter it should help keep drafts out.

IMG_1077Lucinda models coming in through the curtains.

How adorable is that?  So I decided to go ahead and make curtains for the nesting boxes.  Even if they never used them, it would still look cute.

I had towels I could cut…

IMG_1069 ..and this curtain rod is very simple to install.  So why not?


Tie them back with a bit of lace and voila!  I loved it.  But would they?


IMG_1095Marigold has finished molting and is laying again.  She checked them out.

IMG_1097“Are those curtains?  For us?”

IMG_1090“This is nice.”

IMG_1094Blossom, who is the only other girl laying at the moment, liked them as well.

I have found eggs in these boxes every day since I hung the curtains.  Apparently, curtains is exactly what they needed.  Now, at long last, these nesting boxes are suitable for laying.

Who knew?

IMG_1087Chickens are the most amazing creatures!

Posted in Cluckingham Palace, Hens | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Changes in the Coop

I have been busy in Cluckingham Palace.  As the season changes and the weather grows colder, there are things to do…winterizing, drying herbs and a few other  improvements…but there are sad changes in the coop as well.  There are only six hens living there now.  We have lost two.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Jasmin’s crop was still full in the morning.  Was it impacted?  She also looked a bit thin..but she was molting so she was not looking her best in any case.  I brought her in the house so I could more closely monitor her food intake.  Often increased fluids, reduced food and gentle massaging of the crop will resolve the situation.IMG_0848She had her “friend” in the mirror so she wouldn’t be alone.  She was not thrilled, but her crop slowly improved.

Two days after I brought her inside, I went up to the coop to get the rest of the girls up.  They were very noisy which was unusual, but I was a bit later than usual because I had checked on Jasmin before I got to them.  I assumed they were just anxious to get their day started.  But when I opened the door so they could go out, no one moved.  They just stayed where they were, still sounding upset.  I opened the curtains to let in more light and noticed something under the food container.  It was Rowena’s lifeless body.   No predator had gotten in….there was no mark on her.  What could have happened?  I think she fell from the upper nesting box and hit the food dish on the way down. Or something.  It doesn’t really matter…my sweet, noisy, busy body, Rowena was gone.

IMG_7856Rowena was a very funny girl.  She had earned the nick name “Chicken Little” as she always seemed to be running around giving alarm calls about nothing.  She was always butting into everyone’s  business and had to know everything I was doing when I was in the coop.  At breakfast she loved the yogurt best and would run from dish to dish to get as much as she could.  Things were chaotic when she was around.  At bedtime, she had to be the last one in and then she would cause all sorts of trouble deciding where to sleep and pushing her way in.   There is no doubt that she could be annoying…but she made me laugh and I miss her.

IMG_0849   I buried her here..right next to the run.  In the Spring I will move some of the bricks and plant flowers.  Rowena’s garden.

Meanwhile, Jasmin was doing well.  Her crop wasn’t perfect but it was improved.

IMG_0866Though she was still very thin.  I decided to bring her back with the others hoping she would continue to improve and gain some weight.

IMG_0968She was not sure of her place in the flock..they of course rejected her when she returned….she had been Rowena was gone and everyone was still adjusting.  Still, she seemed to be ok and was eating.    But after a few days, her crop was not emptying again.  Not wanting to lose another hen, I decided to bring her to  the Vet.    The Vet agreed her crop was too full and she was still pretty thin.  We decided that surgery would be a quick fix and then when she could digest her food better, we could work on increasing her weight.  Beatrix had had the surgery a couple of years ago and done well.  

But sadly, Jasmin did not survive the surgery.  Perhaps she was too weak…or perhaps there was something else wrong as well.  But in any case, Jasmin too, was gone.

IMG_0387Jasmin was the sweetest hen I have ever had.  She had trouble laying eggs….the shells were not right.  Hens that don’t lay have less status in the flock.  Jasmine was the bottom.    But she was still friends with everyone.  She especially liked to snuggle with Blossom at night.  And she also liked Beatrix and sometimes hung with her.   She would often go to bed early so she could have her favorite spot.  I never saw her peck anyone.  She was a lovely girl and  I miss her.

I buried her with Rowena.  The Jasmin-Rowena garden……

And life goes on.  They are a quieter and calmer flock now.  They have adjusted to the loss and are busy doing what chickens do.

IMG_0854A snack of mealy worms is always welcome.

I gathered herbs before the frost and hung them in Cluckingham Palace to dry.




IMG_1048It looks and smells wonderful!  And I will have lots of herbs for them for the winter.

IMG_1009I have flowers drying in the greenhouse as well.

IMG_1052I give them dried herbs and flowers in the winter.  

Then I added new grit and shell dispensers.

IMG_1037I don’t worry about grit much in the summer as they have dirt in the run.  But they need it in the winter.  They have oyster shells all year but they were in a hanging dish that kept spilling.  I got the idea for these dispensers from Lisa Steele at Fresh Eggs Daily.  They seem more secure.  And cute as well.

I have more to do.  Cluckingham Palace needs to be as warm and cozy as possible for the winter.  Lisa Steele’s site has a few more ideas that look interesting.  So we shall see what happens.

Meanwhile inside Brookwood Shire has a few new Autumn touches as well.


Posted in Autumn, Cluckingham Palace, Hens, Winter | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Fall!



Last time I wrote I was waiting for Spring!  Well, Spring arrived at long last and quickly turned into the hottest, wettest, most humid summer I can ever remember.  By the end of July I was tired of the heat and started wishing for Fall.  But like Spring, Fall (or Autumn as it is called in most of the English speaking world) was noticeably late this year.  Summer stretched into September…and beyond!

But time passes and as we turned our calendars to October there was a change.  Cooler air at last!  It was still a bit wet,  but so refreshing!  The trees have at last begun to put on their Fall colors….though they are still a bit yellow.  I am hoping the reds and oranges will appear as the the nights grow colder.  We have still not had a frost.

But the pumpkins and mums are out!  My favorite thing!  It was the beauty of pumpkins and mums in the Fall that first inspired me to start this blog….so many years ago.  Of course I have been busy with Fall decorations.

3CA01638-55DD-4FA2-9DE5-513006890CB6The window boxes got their usual pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.

AA673448-E2D6-4767-B5D2-EEA042E4F2CECluckingham Palace was also decorated.

8DF3CE97-C743-4C89-BA41-1AD40BB13646The vinca from the summer is still happy so I left it.  The green is nice with the colors of Fall.

1326664E-DB28-46FB-8286-FC7C265ED3F7Mums by the bench are stunning.

But there is much of summer still in the gardens.  The Nasturtiums continue to bloom brightly in the gardens..


…and in the greenhouse.

BE341233-35B0-4850-818B-85EC64A8305BJust gorgeous!

The zinnias and marigolds are still happy as well.




The sedum is having its moment.


930F160F-BB68-41AF-9238-E960AEA0AF55 Striking beside the white birdbath.

And of course the ever faithful alyssum..

BEC4FA82-87B3-4CAF-BE86-7280B3DD1CC9…continues to brighten its corner of the garden.

There are even a few snapdragons and salvia left.


And much to my delight..

18F9A302-335E-48B5-BB9E-CAFBB11D6BED…..the roses, a new addition this year, have almost reached the top of the arch.

As you can see, while Fall has arrived,  the gardens are far from done!

A frost is expected later in the week, so things will change soon.  But for now there is much to enjoy!

I have more to show you….I have been busy in Cluckingham Palace as well as in the house, and I have some sad news to share,  but it will have to wait as this blog grows too long!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Fall!












Posted in Autumn, Gardens, Nature | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Spring? Anyone seen Spring?


So it snowed today.  No accumulation…just snowflakes floating down all morning.  Sigh.  It is gray and raw and very unSpringlike and it is April!  A few brave little green sprouts are emerging but I haven’t even raked out the beds.  It feels too cold to remove their winter bedding.  We really could use a bit of color!

I took a quick walk around the gardens this afternoon when the snow stopped.  There is NOT much going on!

IMG_0046This lone primrose is struggling to open.

IMG_0048These two, in a sunnier location, are a bit farther along.

IMG_0049This Mrs Mooney pulmonaria is braving the cold….though cautiously.

It seems April is continuing the Lion days of March….

IMG_0052The garlic is just starting to emerge.

IMG_0057 Even the crocuses are slow to appear.   Where is Spring?

IMG_0051The daffodils have begun but no blooms yet.  

Thankfully the heather doesn’t mind the cold.

IMG_0055It’s vibrant pink is a very welcome sight!

IMG_0054As is this lighter pink one.

IMG_0058Heather is a beautiful plant. Its early blossoms are usually a feast for the awakening bees…but I haven’t seen amy bees yet….

IMG_0041The girls are trying to make the best of it.  I gave them some parsley and they were thrilled to have it.  It has been a long winter.

Merlin is upstairs most of the time now as long as he can get up and away from Fiona….who just wants him to PLAY!!  He too is waiting for a sunny window to sit in….

Fiona is the only one who is not impatient for Spring.  

She is loving her walks in the woods.

IMG_0013She even ran into her Aunt Sunny the other day.  We had never met her before but we commented on how much they look alike..found out Sunny was a Willow Wind pup like Fiona (and Fergus) and then discovered that Sunny is Topsy’s sister.  Topsy was Fiona’s mom.  and so Fiona’s Aunt.  Small world!

IMG_0015They has a wonderful time chasing each other and finding sticks to chew on.  (Notice there is still some snow on the ground in the woods!)

So it is not all bad and we are keeping busy while we wait and wait and WAIT for Spring to arrive…and for life to return…

Thankfully my inside primroses are still quite happy.


They continue to flower and to bring  much cheer.

IMG_0060I will plant them outside at some point….but not yet.

And look what else has started to bloom!

IMG_0062I brought last summer’s geraniums in for the winter….and just a few weeks ago, they started to bloom….a welcome sight indeed!

And perhaps..just perhaps, a sign that Spring is on the way!

Posted in Brookwood Shire, Fiona, Gardens, Nature, Spring | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Tradition Goes On

Many of you who follow this blog may remember that in early March of 2014, our dog Fergus was diagnosed with spleen cancer.  His future was very uncertain and I wondered if he would see another St.Patrick’s Day.

IMG_0796He did.  Here he is in 2014 with his lovely St.Patrick’s Day scarf.    After St.Patrick’s Day, I carefully put his scarf away and wondered if he would wear it again.  He did.  In 2015 and in 2016.  But sadly, in June of 2016, we lost Fergus.

We had our adventures in Ireland, and returned in Spring of 2017.

Fiona arrived in May.  

imageTime has gone quickly and now it is March again.

Today, Fiona proudly wore her great uncle Fergus’ scarf.


She had a lovely walk in the woods.

17C566F2-0812-4D83-9EAA-F9812B37A23FE7D465E4-A039-41FF-B116-E2E945D8FEEFA30BD03D-7E3C-44EF-AF63-2118DBE2C47E2A163F93-6FB6-4A02-86BD-7C153841DE5AIt was a grand day.

The tradition goes on…

Happy St.Patrick’s Day!



Posted in Nature | 3 Comments

Some Good News

Hello and Happy New Year!  

IMG_7670The bitter cold weather that had descended upon us in mid December seems to be gone and we are having  more typical winter weather.  It is a relief to be sure….it was just TOO cold!  But is is still a long way until Spring so, as usual, I have filled the house with cheery primroses!  

IMG_7675They are a reminder that Spring will return and the gardens will again be filled with color.

IMG_7674These little daffodils will have to do until Spring arrives outside.  Last year at this time we were in Ireland and daffodils were up…not blooming  yet, but up.  But here in New England everything sleeps beneath the snow….it will be months before the daffodils emerge.

IMG_7663Merlin has called a truce and come upstairs.  The cellar was too cold and he missed his heater.  Fiona is VERY excited to see him upstairs…but of course he still won’t play with her.   She chases him and he leaves.  No fun at all!

IMG_7666 So she chews on her toys by the fire…

She is also busy with her rehab exercises.  As you may remember, she injured her knee a few months ago.  Surgery was recommended but not until her growth plates close which would take a few months.  So she doesn’t lose all the muscle mass in the injured leg while she waits,  she has PT exercise to do.

IMG_7679We call the blue circle thing the “cookie machine.”  She steps on it with her front feet and you wave a cookie around so she keeps shifting her weight on the back legs.  It keeps the injured leg engaged.  But as far as Fiona is concerned, the purpose of putting your feet on it is to produce cookies.  She loves it and never misses an opportunity to get a cookie.  The black dish is similar..front feet on it and she pivots around it with her back feet.  And another cookie is produced.  How wonderful!

IMG_7677These are cavellettis.   The bar is adjustable and she has to walk through, stepping over the bars and using each foot…no cheating and not using the lame leg.  The first hole (6″) was nothing but the second hole (9″) is challenging.  But she has been practicing and cookies are given so it is all good.

Today she went to the Vet to have more X rays to see if her growth plates have closed and to see how the knee looks.  She has been doing so well in rehab and shows no signs of lameness that I have been hoping that the knee has healed.

And perhaps it has.  The X-rays showed no fluid (which would indicate inflammation and a compromised ACL ligament.)  The little bump that indicated she had pulled the ligament away from the bone, is gone.   You can’t see the actual ligament on the X-ray so nothing is certain.  But surgery may not be needed.  If the ligament has reattached to the bone and healed, it should be secure..and she should be fine.  Unless it is not lined up right and it causes the ligament to tear.  That is what isn’t clear.  But her growth plates have closed and her muscle mass is good in both legs.  So we will continue with the rehab exercises AND she can have a longer leash for walks…and romp a bit.  We shall see how is goes but we are cautiously optimistic that we are on the road to recovery…she may not need surgery after all!!!  Such good news!!!

IMG_7676Fiona is tired after her big morning (and some sedation for the X-rays) but it won’t be long until she is herself again and ready for some fun!


Posted in Fiona, Nature, New England Weather, Winter | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Winter Has Arrived

Winter, it appears, has arrived at Brookwood Shire…bringing snow, ice, frigid temperatures, grey skies and dark days.  A big change after the mild Fall we had,   and not my favorite season.  It is always a bit of a shock.

Luckily, most of our winter preparations were made before the really bitter cold came.

IMG_7585Our bird feeders are up and ready for hungry birds and squirrels  who may come by.

IMG_7594I have added straw to the big run…

IMG_7598…and to the little run.  It gives the girls something to do and it is a bit of insulation from the frozen ground.

IMG_7600The nesting boxes got more straw as well.  As you can see, Lucinda is now laying.  So far only Rowena and Lucinda are laying but I think Marigold is thinking about it….or was before it got so cold.  We shall see how it goes.

Since it is so cold outside, I have been focusing on the inside…time to make it all a bit festive.  My lovely neighbor had an abundance of holly from her holly bush and generously shared with everyone, so I had lots of holly in addition to my usual greens and winterberry.

IMG_7560The mantle looks so warm and welcoming with the holly, greens and candles.

The kitchen is also very festive…..

IMG_7569The fridge is even cuter with a bit of holly.

IMG_7570The shelf above the fridge.

IMG_7579Another shelf, above the coffee area.  You can see I have hung the measuring spoons that I got for the Irish cottage.  Nice to have a place for them here as well.

I redid the coffee area with Christmas dishes.

IMG_7606And I used the chicken canisters from Ireland.  

IMG_7607The shelves and cabinet together.

IMG_7571More holly by the sink.

And some on the island.

IMG_7545 Light for the dark days of winter.



And look who has decided it is too cold in the cellar.

IMG_7575He still hates Fiona but has figured out when she is asleep or in her crate and comes upstairs then.

IMG_7584He still loves “his” heater under the little cabinet in the kitchen and spends as much time as he can there.

IMG_7592Fiona still can’t understand why he won’t play with her.  Here  she is looking very grown up and dignified..Notice she has taken over “his” chair in the sun.

So despite the dark and the cold, Brookwood Shire is cozy and warm….and everyone is settling in.



Posted in Brookwood Shire, holiday greens, Merlin, Merlin, Winter | 4 Comments