Charlotte Popescu set up Cavalier Paperbacks in the nineties primarily to publish the Pullein-Thompson pony books. These are traditional pony adventure stories that were widely read by pony mad children in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Keeping the books in print enables fans of the pony books to buy them for their daughters and grand-daughters.
The fruity cookbooks have been produced to give recipe ideas for gluts of summer fruits such as raspberries, apples and other autumn fruits. The Apple Cookbook shows just how versatile the apple is and contains over 180 recipes. There are many keen foragers out there and Fruits of the Hedgerow and Wild Food, Garden Food are aimed at all those who love gathering free food.
If you love puddings then Puddings – One for Every Day of the Year is the book for you – there are puddings to match special days and festivals and in the book all the fruits are used seasonally.
Charlotte started to keep poultry and immediately became very passionate about her hens. This led her to write books about them. There are four poultry related books – Hens in the Garden, Eggs in the Kitchenhas now sold well over 20,000 copies. Best Hens for You – Choosing Breeds for the Garden gives lots of insights into the different types of hens with stories and anecdotes – this book is also suitable for the younger generation on hen keepers. Chicken Runs and Vegetable Plots was produced for those wanting to combine vegetables and hens in the garden, Chickopedia has been published this year and covers everything to do with chickens in an A to Z format.
We have published some military books. The most successful, The Tears of War , was dramatised on BBC radio 4. It tells the story of a first world war poet, May Wedderburn Cannan, and her relationship with Bevil Quiller Couch.
There is a weekly blog which will feature stories and pictures from the hens in my garden.
Tom Fyfe -
November 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm
These two Silkie crosses have been my best buy at Salisbury market (just £15 for the two of them). I called them Sadie and Sammy. They have proved to be absolute treasures, wasting no time in settling in and laying substantial clutches of eggs; they then went broody simultaneously. I got them some hatching eggs and they sat in adjacent nest boxes. They came out together for food and drink and a quick dust bath and then both got back on their eggs at the same time. Their chicks hatched and they seemed so unified that I put them in a little hutch together to share their brood. I was really quite nervous as to how they would react as usually Mothers become very aggressive once they have their chicks to protect and would not tolerate another Mum’s chicks. However it has worked perfectly and they are sharing motherhood and the chicks with great aplomb. Their synchronicity is staggering. They sleep sitting close up together, sharing their brood who often like to snuggle between their two Mums. Sadie and Sammy dust bathe together and their chicks have quickly learnt everything they need to know for the future, including foraging, preening and dust bathing. This is the first time I have ever had two mothers looking after their chicks together!
I got my alpacas, George and Alfie, shorn at the beginning of August. I was put on a waiting list at a Mini Mill and a few weeks later their fleeces were sent off. Just got some wonderful wool back – it has been produced in 50g skeins and is as soft as silk. It wasn’t cheap, though, to have it spun! I have more cream than brown.
If anybody wants to buy some, the going price seems to be £5 for 50g. Just send an email through the website and we will sort something out.
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I heard about the organic, free range ‘spent’ hens through someone who had re-homed one of my surplus cockerels. I fixed up to go over with my friend, Jacky, thinking I would re-home between two and four hens. We were amazed at the sight of over 2,000 hens (a further 2,000 hens had already been re-homed) as they massed around us. There was a loud humming noise from their collective clucking. The hens had two large fields over which to roam and there were two alpacas on each side to protect these vast numbers of hens from foxes. They also had an area with small trees where they had made earth pits for their dust baths.
I knew that those who couldn’t be re-homed would be going to slaughter in just a few days. These are the Columbian Blacktails that supply Waitrose with their free range eggs but the stock of hens must be renewed every fourteen months to keep up supply. I must say there didn’t appear to be many black tails and I was surprised by how many feathers some of them had lost but the farmer said that was because they had been working so hard. In comparison to rescued battery hens these birds had not been debeaked (had the tips of their beaks cut off) and their combs looked red and healthy (not puffy and pale). I wanted reasonably well feathered hens so that I could integrate them with my flock as soon as possible. But every time I decided there was a particular hen I wanted she would disappear into the crowd; little did she realise the opportunity she was missing! All the hens were very fast on their feet but also very inquisitive and some went straight off to investigate my car and some flew into the back of the farmer’s Landrover. As I ran after hens, Jacky had them following her as if she was the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The farmer said they were taught to range by following her round the massive field when they first arrived. We eventually got four hens into my animal carrier. But then, as we stood chatting, there was one more hen pecking at my shoelaces and I couldn’t resist bending down, picked her up easily and she just had to come with me as well.
I brought my new hens home, kept them confined for just a few days to get used to their new surroundings and let them out on a Sunday morning. A couple of hours later a friend called to say she has spotted a golden-coloured hen on the main road – was it one of mine? My husband and I rushed down our road and onto the A345 that runs through our village. I went one way and my husband the other; he spotted her on her way to the local shop – she had crossed the road twice. He ushered her back towards our house, snapped her up and she was reunited with her mates. To escape, she had got into our neighbour’s garden, out on to our quiet road and then headed up to the main road – not sure if she knew where she was heading but if she was heading back to her organic farm she was going the wrong way!
My five hens have now settled down well, are still laying and will continue to enjoy the free range life but without the scrum!
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I love this time of year with various broody hens sitting and hatching their chicks. I bought some hatching eggs off ebay and have had varying success with them – some proved infertile. I now have three small sets of different aged chicks.
The garden has finally been sectioned off so that I have a chicken-free zone mostly because I was fed up with the amount of chiken poo I was having to clear up on the terrace (I have around 40 chickens!). I can now grow some flowers in pots, improve my herb garden and bring on vaious vegetable plants without too much disturbance from scratching hens.
Pearl's chick having eaten part of my cucumber plant
The only hen allowed in this inner sanctum is Pearl who is mother to two chicks. It gives her and her chicks some freedom, rather than stay cooped up in a small run. The drawback is that she has taught her two little ones all the tricks of the trade. The chicks get into the pots, scratch up the earth around newly positioned cucumber plants and eat the plants as well while Pearl stands by and keeps guard. They’ve been taught to nibble at anything tastly and green such as lobelia bedding plants, nemesia, fuschia and pansies. They’ve been under netting to eat rocket and pea shoots, have dug up my newly planted thyme and eaten my lemon sorrel down to the stalks. Despite the havoc (all can be remedied) I have to admire the teaching of such skills. The chicks take their own dust baths and now mostly forage on their own – they are not yet six weeks!
Pearl's two chicks having a dust bath
In contrast my four eight week old motherlss teenagers (hatched in a friend’s incubator) have no idea aout tasty green plants, barely know how to dust bathe and can’t even manage to climb a small ladder to their sleeping quarters (I have to put each one to bed every night!).
Chick still wet and unable to stand
The third set of chicks were hatched by mother, Ophelia. She hatched two chicks, several eggs were infertile but one last egg had a live chick inside. We helped the chick out of the shell but by this time Mum was up and about and unwilling to sit and keep this chick warm. So we put it in a little box in some straw and my son looked after it, keeping it warm in the sunshine or by blowing hot air on to it from a hair drier. That night once Mum was settled, the chick (still not ready to stand) went back under her, and miracle of miracles the next morning the third chick was not only accepted by Mum but dry and fluffy and on its own two feet.
I definitely think natural incubation – ie. mother sitting and raising her own chicks is the way to go which is whyI don’t own an incubator!
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I don’t keep hens or cockerels for exhibition but thought it would be interesting to go to a show. So off I went to the Bantam Show held by the Reading and District Bantam Society in Newbury, Berkshire. There were 1,600 bantams on show of all different varieties from the very small Seramas to the bigger bantams such as Wyandottes and Croad Langshans. There was a Sales Section which I headed to first. We had deliberately missed the rush earlier in the morning – apparently it’s like the January Sales when the door first opens; so there were quite a few empty cages but I found the trio of bantam Brahmas that I wanted and snapped them up. They are the gold variety so the cockerels have a wonderful array of differently coloured feathers and the hens have a gold pencilled pattern over the majority of their feathers. The gold colour is finely pencilled with black. The birds have feathered feet which means they are not able to be as effective at scratching up the garden as breeds with clean legs!
I took some pictures of the Sablepoots ( Dutch booted bantams). I love the pretty lemon millefleur variety but I don’t think they would manage well free ranging in my garden – they are just too small and we have the ever present danger of sparrowhawks circling above – the Sablepoots are the size of a wood pigeon so easily susceptible to birds of prey.
Having walked down the aisles admiring the birds and being slightly amazed by all the different game breeds on show, we also had a look at all the eggs on display and the photographic competition. There was lots of networking going on but we didn’t stay too long –it was good to get out into the fresh air and the relative quiet after listening to so many cockerels crowing in a confined space!
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Betty and Brie, my two ex-battery hens were rescued in October 2009 so would have been 72 weeks old then. This is the stage when farmers usually cull their laying hens and replace them. That means my hens are now two years and eight months old. They are still going strong and laying, although not every day.
Betty, one of our Ex-Battery Hens
I read recently that ex-bats only live for between 2 months and a year after being rescued, although some may do better. Well mine are certainly doing better – they are really enjoying life and are very adventurous – the snow did not deter them from their usual activities – they were out there rooting about in the snow and still rushing through the white stuff, picking their feet up high, to get to the back door for treats.
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Keeping 40 chickens in a snow-covered garden is certainly proving challenging at the moment.
Elderly Hens and Cockerels
The older hens and my elderly cockerel continue to suffer in the cold. My little Pekin who is six years old is finding it tough and is spending much of her day in a nest box – her feathered feet are a real hindrance as they get wet in the snow. Some hens are still going through the moult which is hard for them at this time of the year but they are surviving.
With the heavy frosts over the last few weeks, keeping the water containers full of fresh water has been a struggle – the plastic drinkers become very brittle in the freezing weather and will break if roughly handled; the steel containers become solid with ice and need to be brought inside to defrost. And fresh water often freezes in a matter of hours so someone needs to be around to break the ice. Some of my hens like eating the snow but not all!
Access to Grass
The girls really don’t like not being able to get to the grass. We have had to rake up the snow to expose areas of grass – immediately there will be a group of girls pecking the grass tips to get their daily dose of greenery.
Egg Laying in the Cold Weather
Quite a few hens are still laying despite the cold weather. The snow does’t really put them off laying
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Ten days ago my beautiful but aged cockerel, Ali, was looking deathly cold and hunched up. He came in and stood in the animal carrier for a while until he warmed up; he went out again to be with his girls for the night but the next day looked even worse with his body so hunched, his head was vertically above his tail. He came in again in the morning and soon slumped down in the carrier, tucking his head into his neck feathers.
He lay like that, flat and totally motionless, for 24 hours; we touched him every so often to see if he was still alive and he would groan, ‘go away and leave me alone’. I was convinced he was dying but my son, Hamish, put him right next to a hot radiator. The next morning we could not believe our eyes – he was standing up and crowing – a deafening sound within four walls! We moved him into a dog cage and for the next few really cold nights he has come in for the night.
Now he is pretty much back to normal but sensibly manages to grab the warmest spot for the night between a couple of big girls!
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We have suffered from a badger attacking our chickens for the past four years. A badger would come in the night and kill any hen who had gone broody and was sitting on eggs in a secret nest. He also killed my three Indian Runner ducks, smashing his way into their hutch. Badgers can be vicious and are very strong. We hadn’t had any attacks this year, though, so you can imagine my amazement when I walked into the stable a couple of weeks ago to spot a badger curled up in the corner. It was first thing in the morning and I was in my dressing gown! I panicked, grabbed a stick and started prodding her. Not a lot happened so I prodded harder; I couldn’t work out if it was a dead badger. Eventually she got up and lumbered into the next door stable, disappearing behind a large, immoveable box. My hens were up and about so I closed the stable and door and wondered what to do next.
My neighbour suggested calling the RSPCA. Later that morning an RSPCA officer arrived and after many attempts, managed to fit a noose round her neck and pulled her out and into a large animal carrier. It was a such a relief to see her go. We have since heard that she went to a Wildlife Hospital, was considered too old to cope in the wild and has been put to sleep.
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