Hi! Here are some links to resources about keeping chickens in your garden. It is something I want to do. I have done a lot of research (to the point of joining a new forum and being able to answer the queries raised there!) but haven't personally handled hens for about 20 years.

These links are provided as a convenient way to gather them and share them with hubby, but if they are of any interest to others, then great.

Note: I've read loads and LOADS, from casual guides to scientific papers. I just thought these would make a fairly comprehensive selection for beginners, while not overwhelming.

I'm looking to adopt 4 ex-battery hens in spring 2016.


Battery hen rehoming org through whom I'd plan to adopt my hens:

Coop with double run - actually, I'd get a third for our space so it was a coop and three adjoining runs; this would fit recommendations of 1ft2 per bird in the coop, and 1m2 per bird in the run. Would also get covers for the 2 runs nearest the coop, and ideally an automatic timer to open the pop hole in the morning. (Hubby! See my sketched plans for coop and run with plenty of space and enrichment!)

Excellent beginner's guide, haven't yet found anything more useful! Start here and if you only read one guide cover to cover, make it this one.

Size needed: but note: Nearly all sites recommend 1sq ft in the coop with 15" of perch each. In the run, if not allowing out to free range, most guides recommend 1sq m per hen. This guide specifies 1sq m per pair of hens but this is less than the average guide and I'd aim for around 1sq m total space per hen, with good enrichment activities in the run, plus the chance to free range as a bonus.

Down The Lane - beginners' guide and comprehensive articles, also friendly discussion forum:

Backyard Chickens learning centre - useful articles but a lot of overlap with other guides:

More info on the life of a battery chicken and any quirks:

USA based guide - more pragmatic and a few extra concepts covered:

Omlet's guide: Not hugely helpful, but Omlet are the market leader of coops, so included for completeness:


Finally: Mike the Chicken Vet is a Canadian vet who specializes in commercial hen farming. While I don't like some of what he describes, I respect his knowledge. A few of his articles that I found interesting were...

1. Anatomy of a hen. Do you know how they grind up their food, without teeth? How they breathe? That they don't urinate? And that only one of their ovaries will be used? and (and for anatomy of the egg production system, see
- note that these links contain post mortem images of the internal workings of a chicken. Fascinating tho!)

2. The different types of housing. In barns where hens are free to perch at different heights, 85% have a broken bone by the time they are less productive and discarded a year later. In cages, this figure is less. Mike questions whether it is better to have a bored but safely enclosed hen, or one that can exercise natural desires but may get hurt? Personally I hate all types of intensive farming and if all I can do is save four little hens from execution without ever having seen daylight or known the pleasure of a dust bath, then I must.

Free- PDQ powertrike (for parts or needs repair)


I have a PDQ powertrike, with the standard battery pack (replaced a few years ago but not charged recently). It has the attachment to connect to a folding wheelchair with crossbraces.

The lights come on, but nobody's home, so I suspect the motherboard is kaput and suggest it is good for parts. This is just a guess. It was fine until it stopped working, no other faults.

It was invaluable to turn my manual wheelchair into a 11mph trike (think Easy Rider!) for everything from going to Tesco, to going to Glastonbury.

Might also be useful for parts for someone working on an electric bicycle project? The wheel, brakes etc are fine.

Image here for people who dont know what I mean:

Free in the next week, or we will send it to the tip, as we need the space.

Collect from E11, or arrange postage. TNT has a free trial delivery offer which could probably be used.

I hope it can help someone! Ill be advertising it widely, and please feel free to spread the word. It would be a shame to bin it.

If interested email with subject POWERTRIKE. Thanks!

Mood bands

I've just come across this wonderful product, aimed at people with autism, but which I think could be far more widely useful:

It's a doublesided wristband. On the green side it says 'Happy to talk' and on the red side 'Please leave me alone'. Comes in child and adult sizes. You turn it inside out to change the mood.

I think that's a brilliant idea (ignoring for a minute that some people are hypersensitive to textures etc and might not like the feeling of wearing it).

They are 3 for £5. I have no connection to the company, I just think it is an amazingly useful idea.

Looking for a part time PA (personal care etc) in east London

My PA gave her notice today, after a year working with me. So Im recruiting again. Word of mouth seems to work best - anyone interested or know someone who might be?

Main duties: housekeeping / cleaning / gardening, helping me prep food, liaising with my GP & pharmacy to ensure I dont run out of medicines, being around when I shower in case I fall, bringing me prescription milkshakes in bed, running local errands, occasionally pushing me in my wheelchair outside the house, etc. To be honest housework comprises the bulk of the duties but this is more than just a cleaning job as the whole lot are important to my health and independence.

Important: reliability, timekeeping, confidentiality, openness and honesty, willingness to support me and improve my life. Flexibility, legible handwriting and unflappability a bonus. No work experience necessary.

Applicants need to understand the difference between the medical and social models of disability; this is a PA role and NOT a "carer" role.

9 hours a week, based at my home in E11, £9/ hour. (Wish I could pay more, but it is council funded.) Prefer the hours to be spread over 2 or 3 afternoons, but am fairly flexible. Weekdays only. Ideally start end September with handover period from my current PA. Extra hours are sometimes available by mutual agreement.

Applicants must identify as female due to the personal care aspects. I am LGBT friendly and open minded, but need my PA to be so too! Happy to employ a disabled person if they are able to manage the role. Applicants must be aged 18 or over.

Only other note - I have a large, friendly, gentle dog. Applicants must be comfortable and confident around dogs, willing to be alone with him at times, and to use the correct commands with him as instructed. In return he is a lovely and cute companion in the workplace.

Please do pass this info to anyone who might be interested, or get in touch privately if you fancy it. I will of course respect your privacy too.

I'll update my application pack as soon as I'm able (this week) so you can register to show interest for that with no commitment.

Thanks for any interest or help to spread the word! This post is public and may be shared.

Commodore will be on TV tonight (thurs)

Just a reminder that Commodore will be on TV tonight (Thursday 31 July).

"Tonight: The truth behind the bargain dog trade" is on ITV1, 730-8pm.

Ive been told Commodore made the cut but will only be featured briefly, so dont blink or youll miss him!

The premise of the show is that we love our dogs and lavish treats on them, so we should also be prepared to pay a decent amount to ensure they come from a reputable breeder. Footage of C will come in the 'we love our dogs' section. However be aware that there will be scenes of puppy farms which may be distressing.

I should be clear that Commodore comes from an amazing breeder and I am delighted that we searched the country to find her. I hope this programme encourages others to do the same.

Enjoy seeing a quick clip of my fantastic boy!

Accessible hotel room costs

In May 18 Im going to see NIN at the NEC. I need a wheelchair accessible hotel nearby with ideally a 12pm checkout. Dont want breakfast.

Hilton Birmingham Metropole was recommended and appears to fit the bill, however their accessible rooms are far pricier than the single room I'd buy if I wasn't mobility impaired. They offer single rooms for £59 that night, and it will probably just squeeze my wheelchair in if they remove an armchair but they admit will be a tight squeeze as my chair doesnt fold, and the bathroom is not accessible to me. (I guess they probably have an accessible loo in the lobby or elsewhere that I could use, but that is no fun in the middle of the night especially as I have IBS and sometimes need to go urgently, and I would also like to shower if necessary).

Their only accessible rooms are Queen Deluxe, £93 for the same night. I dont need a double or even queen bed. I do need more room to move around the bedroom without injury but this is an access need not a choice. Are they unreasonable not to offer me an accessible room at their single room price? Since I would take the single room if I could, and anything else is a reasonable adjustment?

Im used to theatres giving me the lowest price as I would be able to use a cheaper seat if not disabled, and Im sure Ive stayed in hotels which did the same, but it has been a while since Ive used one. Or am I being all entitled cripple and I should fork out more than one week's DLA just for a night's stay at the nearest hotel to my venue? The discount offer expires tomorrow so I'd welcome comments very quickly.

Also posted to facebook and my own LJ for opinions.

And they called it "puppy love"...

Just heard the awesome news that my puppy, and its siblings, were born safe last night.

I've had a pretty rough time with my health lately - in the last week or so I've had every symptom I ever get, from pain to allergic reactions, from vomiting to dizziness, you name it! I'm being triggered by the demolition work opposite my house, so I know why it's happening and that it won't last much longer, but I was starting to feel awful and wonder if I'd made a mistake committing to a puppy - so much to do, and although I've proved that I CAN just carry on when I feel rotten, I was starting to get down and doubt myself, doubt everything.

Then I heard the news today. Since then I've been feeling like I'm going to burst! Can't stop grinning... singing... just ridiculously happy. It is simply amazing to know that our new family member is out there, and I just know everything will be ok and it was the right decision. Couldn't feel more right. Mike and I will soon be a threesome again.

Now I can let myself believe it will actually happen... and I had better get the house in order!

Red Lion meet reminder

Just a reminder about the Red Lion meet on Saturday, from 1.30pm.

If you haven't already told me you're coming, please do, because I have given the pub an estimate of numbers but it would help me to know who I'm *actually* expecting :-)

We have the snug booked, which for those who don't know the pub is right at the back.

I look forward to seeing people!

Labradoodle-oodle-oodle, you start off with a lab and then you add a poodle...*

For those who haven't heard the news via Twitter or Facebook, Mike and I are on the waiting list for a puppy!

We met the parents a couple of weeks ago - dad is a gorgeous Goldendoodle, and mum is a Labradoodle. So basically our puppy will probably be big, white and shaggy. :-) There are some pictures of us with the parents here. The breeder is wonderful, everything I could have wanted - I'm very lucky to have found her.

The litter is due in 4 weeks, which means we should be taking our pup home in about 12 weeks time.

We have decided on a name to follow on from Cray, and that's Commodore!

Before Commodore comes home, I'm working on three challenges:
  • Getting the house and garden cleared up - our cleaner left in November. I'm going to hire someone else, but until I find someone permanent, if anyone fancies some extra cash and is free during the week, and happy to do some cleaning or help me with some sorting, please send me a mail!

  • Getting my sleeping pattern sorted. I know I need about 12 hours sleep every night. Mike can feed and walk the dog before work, but I still need to shift my sleeping pattern because I currently wake at around midday. So I'm moving my alarm back by 10 minutes every week. I can always nap later on (when puppy naps!) If you see me on twitter overnight please tell me to get offline, even if I'm only tweeting because I can't sleep. I've asked Mike to kick my phone and tablet off the home network after 1am, too - that helps reinforce my wishes, when my self discipline is on the ropes!

  • Drinking less - I had a theory that I tend to feel more nauseous on days when I drank more alcohol the night before. Experiments have proved inconclusive, but I'm trying to cut down to a certain limit, when I'm at home for the evening anyway. It will do me good in the long run, but in the short term I expect to struggle a bit more with pain. Never mind, a puppy will distract me!

I've also been more active for the last month or so, proving to myself that even when I feel ill I can still manage to get up and go out (as if with a dog, and sometimes with my friend and his dog). I need to rest afterwards - always have, always will - but as long as Mike and I can take care of the dog's walks, I can keep him stimulated during the day with other things such as training sessions, and play sessions as well as using a feeder ball or playing "hunt the treat".

I still miss Cray very much (and we still haven't scattered his ashes...) but our family needs to be three again, and I'm looking forward to it. It's awesome to think that our new family member is slowly growing... very exciting. To think that little Commodore will hopefully still be with me when I'm 50 - well, that's wonderful. I love Mike to bits, but I feel that our household is only complete with a dog in it. Luckily Mike adored the parents and I know he's looking forward to our new family member too.

* In keeping with my usual habit of using song lyrics in the subject line, I discovered this song on YouTube. I can't decide if it's awful, or just plain abysmal, but I guess children might like it...