Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 1st December 2018
Hen-joy a Lie In
It has been over 12 months since I invested in one of the best products I have ever used. It makes my life easier every single day, especially at this time of year. And it is … (drum roll please), the ChickenGuard automatic chicken coop door opener.
Shutting my hens in, to keep them safe from the fox, in the summer meant that sometimes I had to wait for them to go to bed before I could! In the winter, I used to have to trek to the top of the garden in the wind and rain, often sliding around in the mud, like Bambi on Ice. And I would also always fret if I wasn’t going to be back until after dark – would Mr Fox have beaten me to my girls?
So despite being a little bit sceptical that an automatic door opener would be reliable and do what it said on the box, I nonetheless thought it would be worth a try. It has been absolutely life-changing.
You simply fit the small weatherproof unit onto the front of your coop, attach the cord to the door (or you can also buy a strong aluminium door and runners with the unit), set the timer to open and close when you want – which even I could do – and let the unit do the rest. It runs off 4 x AA batteries, which were even supplied, and I haven’t even changed them yet, they are still working well. It really is the most wonderful and essential bit of kit for all hen owners. You will wonder how you coped without it.
The Premium and Extreme unit even have a built in light (LUX) sensor, which you can programme to trigger the opening and closing of the pop hole door.
I can’t recommend it highly enough and with Christmas just around the corner, what a great present for the hen lover in your life; something to enable you to have a lie-in on the bleak winter mornings and to protect your feathered friends from predators and ‘fowl’ play.
More details at www.chickenguard.com
Chicken intelligence is underestimated, according to a paper published in the journal Animal Cognition last year. Chickens are typically thought of as possessing a low level of intelligence compared with other animals, however the study showed that, ‘they can reason by deduction, have a sense of numbers, possess self-control when it comes to holding out for a better food reward, and demonstrate their cognitive complexity when placed in social situations requiring them to solve problems.’
Chickens will appreciate having something to do and hanging favourite food like corn on the cob, lettuce and even cooked spaghetti from the chicken wire will keep them entertained as well as fed. If you hang up a CD or DVD and they will enjoy looking at themselves.
They love small wind up cat toys – they think they are mice, which they would naturally chase and eat.
Spirulina is a great tonic for chickens. Put a small dish of spirulina and water in their pen for them to access but make sure there is fresh water available too.
Last year I bought a little plastic xylophone, put it in the chicken pen and sprinkled a few layers pellets on it. The result? The hens ‘played’ the xylophone as they pecked at the pellets. Simple pleasures – or maybe I need to get out more?
Don’t Bug Me
So Sainsbury ‘s has become the first supermarket to sell edible bugs, with customers being able to buy Eat Grub’s Smoky BBQ Crunchy Roasted Crickets in 250 of the stores. The house crickets, also known as acheta domesticus, are farmed in Europe and will come in packets of about 50 and sell for £1.50 per bag.
Apparently they have a ‘crunchy texture with a rich, smoky flavour’. So do BBQ flavoured crisps.
I suspect as a result of the eating trials on ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’, you have been able to buy the bugs online for a while, along with buffalo worms, meal worms, grasshoppers and endless flavours of crickets.
The very savvy Shami Radia and Neil Whippey launched Eat Grub in 2014 after collaborating with chef Sebby Holmes to open an insect-themed pop-up restaurant in east London. A wider range of products was then made available from an online store.
You can find out more on their website, www.eatgrub.co.uk which also offers recipes like grasshopper stirfry, mealworm flapjacks, buffalo worm fried rice and red curry cricket rice cakes.
A little tongue-in cheek (see what I did there), but apparently the insect snacks are not being seen as a gimmick or something to eat for a dare, as a spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s claimed, “Consumers are increasingly keen to explore this new sustainable protein source. Gram for gram, dried crickets contains more protein than beef, chicken and pork – with 100g containing 68g of protein, in comparison to just 31g of protein in beef.”
Really? That’ll be it then.
It does remind me a bit of the mother who saw her toddler putting a slug into his mouth.
“Don’t do that,” she shrieked, “It’ll taste horrible.”
“Tastes just like snails,” he replied.