Introducing New Hens into the Flock


I’ve now owned hens for about 15 years now and over the years, I have tried different ways and methods of introducing new hens. I do not believe that any method enables you to magically introduce the new kids on the block to an established flock and not expect there to be some teething problems. I have found that as long as the original flock is happy and well-balanced then new hens can be introduced without any problems but invariably it takes time.

I have installed two security cameras in the chicken coop, one on either side. The original idea was to detect mice so that I could block up any holes where they were coming in but I’ve found them invaluable for keeping an eye on the hens to check that all is OK and they have everything they need regarding food and water. It also means I can keep a closer check on what is happening when I get new hens.

The pecking order exists for a reason and it is important for every bird in the flock to know their place and to respect the older hens. It is not something that can be achieved overnight and it can take at least several weeks before they are fully accepted.

I’ve found that 3 is the ideal number when buying new hens. This way, they have their own little gang who they feel comfortable with so that they are not so isolated.

I thought it would be interesting to keep a track of how long it took for them to become part of the flock and accepted. 

The cage is something I bought way back when I first had hens and I now use it for new hens or if a hen needs to be separated from the rest if they are sick, etc.

I bought the 3 newbies in the morning of Friday 19th May. For the first three days, I kept them in the cage with food and water. I installed a new wire mesh with finer squares on the floor so it was nicer for them to stand on as I didn’t like the way that the chickens’ claws went through the gaps in the original floor. I simply cut a new piece of mesh and attached it to the base with pieces of wire.

I let the older hens out of the hen coop and let them wander outside before closing the coop door. I then opened the two doors of the cage and encouraged the new hens to step outside. Eventually they did. I left the new hens inside to explore the coop and have a drink and some food.

I also installed a second ladder so that they easily get up onto the manger to sleep.

Their “safe” space was the area under the egg-laying boxes. I allowed them access to this space for the first three days but then gradually reduced the amount of space by blocking it with crates. They then began to spend most of the day on the manger, flying down every so often for food and water.

I would go in every night to help them up onto the manger which is where they sleep.

The breakthrough day was DAY TWENTY-FOUR, Sunday 12th May 2024.

Over the past few days, the newbies had been gaining in confidence. There had been no excessive bullying form the other hens, apart from the occasional peck to show who the bosses were.

That night, the new hens got themselves up onto the manger to sleep, with a small space separating them from the other hens.

The hens slept the entire night in the same positions.

This was the first day when the new hens were fully integrated in the flock, moving with the older hens as one flock.

That night, the new hens had gone up onto the manger early at about 18:00 but had then got off. Meanwhile, the older hens had gone up onto the manger to sleep and were huddled around at the top of the longer ladder, which is were they normally slept. This meant that the younger hens couldn’t access the manger. 

This was the first time that the new hens had tried to get up onto the manger using the longer ladder. Eventually, they sorted themselves out and they all went to sleep on the manger. Here is the picture:

Today one of the new hens laid her first egg and amazingly she laid it in the egg box. Here is a photo.

Gazpacho 2024


Although it is really too early in the tomato-growing season to fully appreciate the flavour of sun-ripened tomatoes, I wanted to make a recipe for 2 people without the addition of any bread. This recipe makes about 1000 ml of gazpacho.

This recipes serves two but it can be easily adapted.


It only takes a few minutes to prepare this refreshing, cold tomato soup which is perfect for hot, summer days.



  • 6 large plum tomatoes (about 725g in total), roughly chopped
  • 1 small Italian green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 15cm cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a good glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • a good splash of balsamic vinegar
  • a splash of normal vinegar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of homemade garlic mayonnaise (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Blend the tomatoes in a food blender.
  2. Add the other vegetables and blend for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the oil, vinegars, salt and water and blend well.
  4. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Patatas a lo Pobre or Patatas Panaderas in the Oven



This popular Spanish dish slowly cooks sliced potatoes in olive oil with onions, green peppers and garlic. It is often served in restaurants, particularly in Southern Spain. Patatas panaderas is a similar version where the potatoes are cooked in the oven.

Rather than frying the sliced potatoes on the hob in a frying pan with lots of olive oil, I decided to cook them in the oven. They worked really well but I thought the times and temperatures suggested in the recipe I followed could be changed to cook them for slower and longer. Rather than using a glass dish covered with foil, next time I would use an iron lidded casserole. This recipe has the new times and temperatures.

Patatas a lo pobre



  • 150g potato per person, peeled and cut into 4mm slices
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin slices
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin slices
  • 5 (or as many as you like) cloves garlic, peeled
  • a splash white wine
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Put the potato, onion, pepper and garlic into a casserole.
  2. Drizzle over some olive oil.
  3. Pour over the wine and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the lid on the casserole and place in the oven.
  5. Turn on the oven and heat to 180ºC.
  6. When it has reached its temperature, cook for 1 hour.
  7. Remove the lid and toss the potatoes.
  8. Turn up the heat to 200ºC and cook for another 30 minutes when it has reached the temperature.

Roasted Red Peppers



We’ve just been given the most amazing red peppers by some friends who grow vegetables over in. They are massive and full of flavour so I’ve been experimenting with different methods for roasting them.

Roasting Red Peppers in the Air Fryer


  1. Cut the peppers into 1cm thick strips.
  2. Put the strips directly in the air fryer basket and AIR FRY at 200ºC for 20 minutes.
  3. Open the drawer every 10 minutes and drain off the liquid. You can use this in other dishes and is good added to soup.
  4. At the end of the cooking time, drain off any remaining liquid and toss in some oil in a bowl.
  5. Put back in the air fryer and AIR FRY for a further 20 minutes at 200ºC.
  6. After 10 minutes, open the drawer and put the pepper slices back in the bowl with the oil from the drawer. Toss well before returning to the drawer for the rest of the cooking time.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and leave in air fryer with the drawer closed until needed.


Dorset Apple Cake

cortijoblog dorset apple cake


We had a bumper harvest of apples last Autumn which we’ve been enjoying throughout the winter. We wrapped the larger apples in brown paper and stored them all in wooden crates and have been eating them ever since.

cortijoblog dorset apple cake

Dorset Apple Cake



  • 115g cold butter, diced
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 115g brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 225g apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 100g sultanas, or other dried fruit (e.g. figs)
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 160ºC fan.
  2. Butter and line a deep 500g loaf tin with baking parchment.
  3. Mix together the flour and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingers, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Stir in the light brown sugar.
  6. Beat in the egg and milk to form a thick batter.
  7. Add the apples and dried fruit.
  8. Mix well and then put in the tin.
  9. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar over the top.
  10. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.