Monday, 30 May 2011

Lily my Lovely

Lily has gone.

She started to slow down a while ago, spending large parts of the day sitting quietly in the shade.  Up until a few days ago, she was still eating, munching grass, and coming for treats.  We thought she would probably just go to sleep one day and not wake up, or she'd go like Delilah - having a heart attack whilst dustbathng.

She declined suddenly a few days ago.  I started to feed her myself, offering her cat food, yoghurt, chick crumb, whatever I could tempt her with.  She'd eat when I fed her, but that was all.   She was still mobile, but a bit unsteady on her feet, and her knickers had to be cleaned each day.  She started to sleep in the nestbox, and she kept out of the way of the other girls (because she was unsteady).

Today she wouldn't eat at all, and she stood in the middle of the run and didn't move unless one of the other girls knocked her.   I shut the other girls out, and sat in the run with her for ages, watching her and trying to tempt her to eat. I didn't know what to do.

When it was time for Daisy to go, she looked like she was ready.  She wasn't eating, she was hunched up....  Lily wasn't quite like that.   I sat there, trying to decide what to do.    Was it time?    What if I asked DH to do the deed, and it wasn't really time? 

The decision was made harder because Lily is my absolutely favourite Girl.  She's the reason that I got more hens,  she was the first hen who was happy to be held.  She made chicken keeping a two way thing.

All this was going through my mind as I sat there.  And then I realised that the end result was going to be the same, whether I made the decision today or tomorrow, or three days time.   I was going to have to ask DH to do it,  and whenever that was, the decision wasn't going to be any easier.   The best that would happen is that she wouldn't decline further beforehand.  The worst that would happen would be that she would decline bit by bit, wasting away,  and that she would end up suffering before we finally did it.

And that's when I realised it should be today.   It's a lovely sunny day,  she had eaten yesterday so she wasn't starving slowly to death.  We sat on the garden swing together and I told her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me,  what she had done for me, what I would remember about her, and that she was my very favourite hen.  I confessed to her that I cared about all my hens, but that she really was special.

DH did the deed for me.

She was absolutely loopy.  Very flighty, but she liked being held by me.   She was an incredible escape artist, but she always came up to the back door to let me know she'd got out.      She had no fear,  when we first got her (along with Daisy) she kept getting into the older girls run and they were always too shocked to peck her or to retaliate.  She laid beautiful white eggs, and was such an active little girl.
I can't bring myself to go through my photos yet,  so I'm just reposting some photos of her from earlier blog entries.
Lily, aged 16 weeks

Lily, 2011, aged 2

My lovely, lovely girl. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Last NIght

We went back to the allotment just before dusk last night, to see if the chicks had managed to get into their shed/coop for the night.  

We weren't hopeful.  Last year's hatch hadn't managed to go into their coop at all on their first day, and were very happy to see us when we turned up.  It took several days before they worked it out.  It was a similar story with previous hatches.

Anyway.  We crept quietly up to the allotment, and were surprised to hear cheeping from the shed.   At least some of them were in.  We manoevered around so we could see into their netted area, and we could see that some were still out and were busy eating.

We decided we'd go in and check that everything was OK.  Of course, the inside chicks piled out to say hello.   DH went to get some feed to top up the feeder.  I went to see what had happened to the Established birds, now that they were intermingled.    I opened the nestbox of Roo's coop, expecting to see a broody Ruby.   Instead I found Roo.  He wasn't in the nest box, but he was sitting with his back end in the coop and his face in the nest box.

I went to the other end of the allotment, and opened the nestboxes on the left hand side.  3 Laydees were squashed into one nest box.   "Daft Girls,you've obviously had enough, haven't you" I thought.  Then I noticed what looked like claws in the main coop.  I bent down and looked through the next nestbox along into the coop.  And there was Mrs. On the roosting bars, up next to the nestbox which contained the Laydees.    My eyes became accustomed to the dark, and I saw at the other end of the roosting bars,  one of the Welsh Blacks!  I couldn't see which.

Poor Roo. 2 of his wives and his 3 new possible fiancees have all abandoned coop!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Birds and the Bees, PS

I forgot to mention that we decided to leave the fence between the two Established flocks open.  So, they can all mingle around together,  thereis a coop at each end so they can decide where they snuggle down at night and who with. We will keep a close eye on the Laydees to see if we need to put saddles on them.  In the meantime, we know they are light enough, and flighty enough, to be able to jump up on to one of the shelters, out of Roo's way, if they don't want to be near him.

It would be helpful if they did decide to become one flock,  as we may start a second breeding flock with a Cockerel from this year's hatch - assuming we find one with a lovely personality as well as stunning looks.

Birds and the Bees

Arrived on the Allotment with the chicks, put them in their new home, and went to see the rest of the Chooks.   Norman was back in with the Breeding Flock and, to my surprise, Siouxie Sioux had joined them as well!    NotNorman was the only Laydee left in the Laydees Pen, and she was pacing up and down the netting looking quite stressed.

I checked the nestboxes and found that Ruby was in there, and very broody.  I gently lifted her out, and found four eggs under her - including one from Norm and one from Siouxie.     I felt vry sorry for NotNorman,  so I opened the netting to let them all in together. We were going to be there for a while, and I thought we could see what they all did, and then put them in their respective areas before we left.

The combined area is quite large - most of the length of an allotment, and very wide.   All the Chooks mingled around together.     Eventually curiosity got the better of the Breeding flock, and they all went to explore the Laydees coop.

We then got on and did the chicks.  When we let them out of the shed,  the Establishment lined the netting and just stared.  And stared.  We watched the chicks for ages.  They seemed perfectly at home.  They didn't take any notice at all of the older chickens,  and the oldies eventually got bored and wandered off.

We then decided to do a bee inspection. This was the first time we'd opened the hive since the Incident.   Havin g two of us meant it worked well.  I used the smoker,  and DH lifted the various boxes,  and we both inspected the frames.    We worked as quickly as possible,  our main concern was to see i there were any queen cells.   We saw eggs, brood and stores.

There were a lot of bees, and the noise level rose gradually.    I was pinged a few times, and a couple of bees stung my leather gloves.    We then put the hive back together,  and left the bees.  

They didn't entirely leave us.  A fair few followed us. We waited near the chickens for a bit, some of the bees flew off but a couple were persistent. They weren't pinging us or anything,  but thy didn't want to leave.      We did our finishing up bits,  locked up,  and walked slowly back to the car.  Gradually the number of following bees reduced.  until we only had a couple of persistent ones at the car.

DH did very well. He had been quite nervous (unsurprisingly!) as the inspection progressed,  and it helped that I was there to keep an eye on the bee situation and to give him an objective view on the number of bees and ther their temperament.   I felt quite secure in my bee jacket, especially as I was wearing a cap to protect my forehead from the main weakness of the design.  I was also fortunate in that I had decided to wear leather gloves today instead of Marigolds,  so the stings didn't get through to my hands.

All in all it went well.

I think we'll do our next inspection in the early evening though.  That way the bees will have overnight to calm down.

Bye Bye Babies, part 2

Really, really, really didn't want to take the Babies to the Allotment today. I wanted to keep there here for "just a few more days" so I could get them more used to eating from my hand etc, and so I could look out for them if the weather turns rainy.

Common sense prevailed.   They will have a lot more room on the Allotment, and there is lots of greenery for them to eat.  So, we started packing the car this morning.   One of the Grandpas feeders.  Scrubbed and empty drinker.  Unopened bag of Growers pellets.    Second feeder.  Second drinker.   Remains of opened back of pellets.  At this point, I needed to remove the chicks from their netted area, so we could take the netting down (we need it on the allotment).

So, I caught them one by one and put them in the Saavic Dog Crate.   20 was far too many to travel in that one crate,  but it was a convenient place for them to wait until they had all been caught and given a bit of grape as a treat.  DH then took the netting down,  while I cut holes in a roomy cardboard box and then moved 7 of the chicks into it.  And then we were off.

We put them straight in their new shed/coop, with a waterer.  We shut them in, hoping to imprint "coop" on them,  while we put up the netting, and sorted out the other chooks (more about those in a separate post).  Kept checking on the chicks, and they were happilky scratching around in the Aubiose flooring,  and drinking.
Put the feeders in place, filled up the waterers, and opened the pop hole to let them out,  I took a quick pic before they realised that the pop hole was an entrance to the outside world...

..and another quick one as they started to make their way to it...
They had a whale of a time, munching the grass/weeds,  and exploring their new area.  We've only given them about a third of the space we've allocated them;  firstly, there is a lot of greenery and I don't want them to gorge on it all at once,  and secondly, I want them fairly well contained until we're sure they are going back into the shed at night.

The Established Chickens were not amused.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bye Bye Babies, part 1

The 13 Light Sussex babies went to their new home this morning.

Got up just before 7 to let the chicks out to run around and flap their wings, stuff their faces, etc.   A couple of hours later,  I caught each Sussex and popped them into the Saavic Dog crate.  I had thought I would need a box as well, but atually there was still plenty of travelling space in the crate even with all 13 in. We then took them to their new home.

Once we arrived at R's allotment, they were popped into their new coop,  and we went off to feed our own chickens and to do some simple bee business.  I had to rescue the spare hive floor which had lain, abandoned, next to the hive since the Incident over a week ago.   The bees didn't react.     I then took the varroa tray out of the hive, to bring home so we can examine it.   Again, the bees just ignored me.   We came back to see if the chicks were ready to come out.  They were actually happily exploring their coop,  so we left R to it.

At home, the remaining babies didn't seem to notice that anyone had disappeared.  I guess they have quit a large area to roam around in anyway,  so they may not realise until they go to bed tonight. If they realise then, even!

We're possibly going to take them down to our allotment tomorrow, weather permitting.    Part of me wants to keep them here longer so I can handle them more (in case we do decide to keep some of them for breeding);  but I think they wil have a whale of a time on the allotment. There's plenty of grass there for them, and lots of new things to investigate.    If they were staying here, we'd have to think about giving them some fresh ground to explore anyway,  which means that they'd have some ground earmarked for the Big Girls. 

So, the current plan is to take them tomorrow and, while they are getting accustomed to their new house,  we'll do a bee inspection. Two birds, one stone.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Broody beauties

Florence has continued to be broody for longer than I can remember.  The chicks are 6 weeks old now, and she was broody before they had their first outside experience, so it must be about 4 weeks.  She has been taking care of herself - coming "off" the nest a couple of times a day for a poo, feed, drink, dustbathe and leg stretch,  but she's definitely lost weight.

For the last couple of days I have been hoiking her off the nest box many times a day, in the hope she would finally give up. She didn't.

This afternoon I got the broody cage out and set it up in the main run. It's a large Saavic dog crate, and it folds up in seconds.    After a couple of hoiks this morning, I finally put her in it, along wth water, feed, a hanging treat feeder and some vegetables.  I hate doing it.  I checked her every 45 minutes.

Then, after laying her egg this morning, Milly decided to go broody as well.  She was in the nestbox (before having laid) when I hoiked FLorence out.  I realised soe hours later that she was still on there.  She's on day 1 of being broody, as she laid today and then just didn't want to get off the egg. So I ended up putting her in the broody cage with Florence. Good job it's big enough.

I let them both out again at 5.45pm, as I don't really want to make them stay in it overnight if I can avoid it.

I hope they snap out of it, I feel so mean.

6 weeks

The babies are 6 weeks old now,  and we've now introduced them to treadle feeders.   Last year we were losing feed on the allotment to vermin, so we decided to switch to treadle feeders.  We bought some relatively inexpensive ones, which worked, but they weren't suitable for Roo.  So, I bought one of the Grandpa's Feeders (GFs)for the Breeding flock.    

It was fantastic. Really worth paying all the extra money for.   I quickly bought a second one for the Laydees,  and we kept the original treadle feeders for last year's chicks.   This year, I decided to replace the chicks' treadle feeders with 2 Grandpa's Feeders. 

We decided we'd introduce them to the treadle system while they were here in the garden, so it's one less new thing for them to have to get to grips with when they move to the allotment.   They are, of course, too light to operate the treadle at the moment, but it doesn't matter.   For the few days, you have the treadle pinned open anyway, just to get them comfortable with eating out of it; and then you have it pinned part way open for a week or so,  so they get used to getting on the treadle and the whole thing going *clunk*.     

We've currently got one large and one small GF in the garden.  It didn't take long before they were happily eating from it 

Although some of them wanted to investigate the back to  see how it worked..

...and others just wanted to get on top...

...or inside...

Friday, 20 May 2011

Time flies

Sorry been really busy with work and I just haven't had time to update.

Definitely "small chickens" now.  We did a one-by-one check yesterday, and now many of them are in 14mm rings with the rest still on 12mm.   They don't particularly want to be caught, but are mostly quite happy to perch on our wrists.hands/shoulders if we do pick them up.  

Tonight will be their first night with the Electric Hen turned off. I'm sure they will be fine, but I can't help but worry.   We'll leave the Hen in the coop anyway as it also provides an extra shelf.  They still don't fill the whole house.

The Sussexes will be going to their new home very early next week and the plan is that all our lovely babies will go to the allotment a day or two after that.    To start with they will have a big shed as a coop,  we'll move them to a more traditional coop when we have fewer chooks.

The shed has been cleared, cleaned and sprayed ready.  We just need to put Diatom powder down, and some Aubiose to cover the floor. DH is going to replace one of the windows with mesh, as they generate quite a bit of heat and I think they'll need the extra ventilation.

We need to mow the grass, but we don't want to risk disturbing the bees at the moment.

Allotment Birds
Norman seems to have moved in with the breeding group, laying her eggs in their nestbox as well.  We discussed whether she was stuck there and couldn't find her way back to her own coop, but really we're sure she'd figure it out if she really wanted to get back.    Having said that, DH decided to return her to her own coop for the last time. If she gets back in with Roo and his Ladies, she can stay there.

The other 2 little laydees are still broody.  I think we might try and integrate the two flocks,  keeping both coops available so they can choose where to sleep.  We'll start by letting them mingle when we are around and see how we get on,  and I'll make sure we get some saffles for the Laydees, just in case Roo decides to try his luck.  The Laydees eggs are easily identifiable from the other 3 breeding ladies,  so we can make sure we don't hatch them (unless we really want to).  We'll see.

We're thinking we might keep one of the new cockerels, with a couple of ladies to keep him company.  If we do so, we'll be running two breeding flocks as I don't want to have to cull Roo.  We'll see.

Garden Girls
My lovely Garden Girls are mostly OK.  Lily is still a bit of a worry, still very quiet, but she is eating well and doesn't seem to be in any discomfort.  Florence, my Australorp, is still broody.  She's been broody for weeks now, much more than the 3 weeks they normally go through.    Every day when I hoik her out of the nest box, I explain to her that she doesn't have any eggs and, even if she did they wouldn' t be fertile...but she just OOKs at me, and goes back into the nestbox as soon as she's had a little smackerel of something.

I gave her notice yesterday that if she was still broody at the weekend I would get the dog crate out and put her in it.  She just OOKed a bit more, and ignored me. 

The Bees were fine over the weekend.  On Monday, our adjacent plot holder got stung by a bee, and he rang to let us know.  We went down to have a look, and the bees seemed fine, although there were a couple of scout bees around.  We moved around teh plot, and around our neighbours plot,  and a couple of the scouts came to investigate.   We wondered if there was a "line of sight" problem, and we thought that covering the Heras fencing between the plots with fine mesh netting might act as a bit of a screen.

We went to the allotment on Tuesday morning to put up the etting.  Immediately we arrived, a couple of bees came to see what we were up to.  They weren't too bothered by my presence, but they stung DH. Twice.  There were a lot of bees around the hive entrance, but they sounded quite calm.  We had enough netting to cover several panels,  the ones that directly adjoin our neighbours plot.  

We ordered more netting, which arrived on Thursday. On Friday (today), we took the netting down to complete the screening.   The bees were fine, didn't bother us at all.   We didn't do anything else,  we didn't want to risk annoying the bees just before the weekend.

We have one other thing we can try, if necessary, which is putting a netted Heras fence panel in front of the hive.  We don't really want to do that as it'll make it harder for the bees, but we'll do it if we have to.

We'll do a small bee inspection on Monday....hope it goes OK!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The chicks are now coming up to 5 weeks old.   They are looking more like very small chickens rather than big chicks.
We've given them a large part of the garden, over 20feet by 12 feet, including 2 flower beds.   About a week ago, we moved them on to big feeders (as well as having the standard Cube feeders). Since this picture was taken, we've had to raise the feeder up by standing it on bricks - the chicks are growing fast. I just love their cute fluffy knickers.
As well as their Cube, we've put the Go in their netted area. It was in there originally as  a temporary retreat for one of them who had been injured.  We realised that some of them like to sit on or in it during the course of the day, so we've left it in there for now.
I also put an old garden chair in their area.  They love it, and it's surprising how many small birds it can accomodate, all at different levels.

In fact, the chair is such a useful item that we now put it inside the Cube's run, if the chicks have to be shut in at all.   Although to our human eyes it seems to take up a lot of space,  in fact it provides a huge amount of extra perching space versus the actual area the feet take up (if you see what I mean)
Sometimes, when we get back and open the Cube run so they can all run out,  they actually just carry on perching for a while. They look like they are busy having a bit of a natter..
We're still getting the usual jostling for position in the chickeny hierarchy, but it's normally just a quick spat.  Hopefully they have plenty to keep them otherwise occupied

Checked them all over yesterday,  and changed the rings on some of them.  All but one are now on 12mm rings.

We're reducing the length of time the Electric Hen is on over night, starting tonight.  babies are growing up!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bee mishap

It's always easy to write about the things that are going well in our endeavours, it's sometimes harder to share when things don't go so well 

Yesterday, things didn't go so well.

One of the options we could have implemented when we moved the bees into their new home, was to swap the old and new brood boxes round.  We didn't do this, instead once the Queen was in the new brood box, we put a Queen Excluder underneath so she couldn't lay any more eggs.  The plan was to just wait 3 weeks or so, so all the eggs would have gone through thir cycle and hatched,  and then remove the old brood box completely.

When we did our inspection last week, we didn't see the Queen. We saw brood,  weren't sure whether we'd seen eggs (it was too bright).  The bees hadn't been drawing out the frames in the super, which surprised us. We'd waited until they started drawing it out before excluding the Queen.

During the week we discussed options.  In the end, we decided that we would do an inspection this week, and we'd check out the bottom brood box and possibly swap them over. This way we only had one Queen Excluder.

With hindsight, it's easy to see what we should and shouldn't have done,  but here's a condensed summary of what happened.

I was at home with the chicks, so DH did this on his own.   The bees got quite upset.  DH was stung through his veil by many bees, there is a design flaw in it (above the brim there is mesh,  and the bees can sting through the mesh).

He put the hive back together, and left the area so the bees could calm down.   He sat in his car for a while.  After about an hour, he went back to check on the bees. He didn't go close to the hive, he just approached the allotment to look from a distance.  He didn't have his bee suit on.   The bees wre still on alert, and bees attacked him and stung him quite badly.

He talked through what happened with our bee friend,  and she was very helpful, as we now realise that there were a number of little things which came together to cause the problem.  

The main issue was that we should have either done our bee inspection or swapped the brood box.  Doing both took a long time, and got the bees rattled.        We might have got away with this,  but the bees honey source has dried up in the last week, there is a general lull while one source of pollen and nectar has finished and before the next one starts.  The bees were likely to have been grouchy because of this.  In addition, the weather has been unseasonably hot, and the bees have been missing the rain. All in all,  our interfering with the hive as we did for as  long as we did, turned their irritability into anger.  

And of course, once DH had been stung he was carrying the scent. Even though he removed the stings,  he still carried the scent of a sting - so when he approached the bees the second time just to take a look, they were immediately on the attack.

And we have certainly found the flaws in our beekeeping jackets.  The veil has mesh above the brim around the top of the head.  This is done for comfort, to prevent the wearer boiling over... but because the mesh is against the head (rather than away from it as the face veil is) the bees can get their stings through the mesh.   The cap part isn't adjustable, so it moves around on the head, meaning different parts of the head are against that mesh bit depending on the angle, so the bees were able to sting quite a range of places.

DH thinks that wearing a cap underneath will fix the problem.  I'm going to get a different type of jacket now, one with the fencing-mask type of hood.  I'll be scrutinising them carefully to look for possible areas of weakness.

Anyway. We both went to see the bees today, to make sure they had settled down and weren't causing a nuisance.  They were back to normal.     Of course, we didn't go close to the hive - we don't want to risk upsetting them unnecessarily -  and we'll leave the hive well alone for the next week!

DH is OK, much calmer about the being-stung part than I would have been.    His concern is about the bees themselves, and making sure we don't cause a problem for our neighbours.     I share those feelings - I just think that I'd also be feeling very nervous about the whole being-stung-by-so-many-bees part.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011



Their bodies have apparently now changed emphasis, and the quantity of overnight poo means that we need to clean out the poo trays every morning now.  

The electric hen bakes the poo under it, so it's not a difficult task to remove.

Still, it's only a couple of weeks more. Maybe 14 more poo clean ups.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

They go mad for blood

Two of the chicks have been much slower to feather-up than the other 31 and 1of them, Piglet, has been really slow.  He hasn't let it stop him though, he's been just as active and just as inquisitive as everyone else.

Today I was working at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, and I could see someone giving his shoulder a good peck. Then I realised that several of them were pecking him.

There was quite a bit of blood.  It was one cut, which had bled quite a lot; and the others, attracted by the blood, had been pulling feathers as well.    We put some antiseptic purple spray on the wound,  and then DH fished out the Go and a small part of the run, and we isolated Piglet within the free range area.

I also put a small dustbath in with him, as rolling in the dust will help seal the wound.

He'll probably have to sleep in the kitchen this evening.

Monday, 9 May 2011


Florence, our one-year-old Australorp, has been broody for a long time now.

She's been sitting patiently in the nest box,  although not on any eggs,  for at least 3 weeks.  She comes out twice a day for a poo and something to eat, and then goes back to her vigil.

I thought she'd get fed up with it after a few days, but she's persisted.


Slippery little chap

High pitched squeak told me that one of the Cats had caught something and brought it in the house.  DH wasn't around, and I was hoping that it was going to be something I could deal with, like a mouse, and not something that would make me go all girly like a "Big Mouse".

Helpfully, Izzy had let it go in the hall, so I shut the hall door to prevent It getting into the kitchen and the living room.  I then joined her in the hall.  The Cats like hunting in pairs,  and Izzy was quite happy to drop back to let me try and get It out from the stuff under the stairs. This meant she was poised and ready to leap on It if it managed to escape my grasp.

Our under-stairs is open, it's where we put our pushbikes.   Today though, it also had three 20kg bags of chicken feed in front of the bikes, waiting to be put away.  I hoiked them over to the other side of the hall.   Then I fished out a couple of pairs od shoes belonging to DH. And then his beekeeping suit (we're using jackets only now).  Then I could move out the bikes, into the kitchen.

Fortunately it wasn't a mouse, and it definitely wasn't a BigMouse, although it was a largeish rodent. It looked like a small mole.  It managed to slip through my fingers a couple of times.  I got the hand-held Dyson Pet Vac thing out while I was down there and hoovered up some rather impressively sized dust bunnies.  And then I vacuumed around the sewing machine (which also lives under there) and whatever heavy piece of kit DH had parked undfer there some months ago temporarily. 

It dashed past me, and past Izzy who had got bored of watching me and wasn't really paying as much attention as she should.  Down the hall, and into the Corner.   I sighed, and followed it.

Of course it picked the Corner.  We have a plant on a plant stand,  our Roomba,  the charger for the PetVac; next to it there is a large wicker basket which contains kindling and upon which was a mountain of stuff that was ejected from DH's car recently and was awaiting rehoming.   I started to move the stuff around, and again I missed catching It.    As I'd now excavated the Corner, I decided I might as well vacuum up the dust bunnies lurking there too.  I contemplated tackling DH's Pile Of Stuff, but I couldn't work up the enthusiasm.

Izzy was on the stairs by this time, presumably disappointed that I wasn't taking this more seriously.

I've no idea where It is at the moment.  I've left the hall door shut and I've come here to try and find out what it is.  

It's body shape, size and fur looks very much like some of the pictures of shrews that I've found;  but there are other pictures of shrews which have completely different fur and very pointy noses, which this chappy doesn't have.

I do hope I manage to catch It and release it before the Cats get it.    If it was a HouseMouse (which we don't have) then I probably would be glad that the Cats were doing their job,  but it isn't.  It's a little thing from Outside that had the misfortune to meet Izzy this morning, and I'd like to save it.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Now that the chicks are happily settled in the Cube and its run,  we have a window of a few days where it is possible for us both to be out at the same time.  This is because they are still small enough that being shut in to the Cube run for a short period of time isn't a problem.

So, I went down to the Allotment with DH to do a bee inspection.   And to say hello to the chooks, as I haven't seen them for a while.

I tried to take some photos, but the combination of the strong sunlight and my mesh veil made it very difficult,no, impossible,  to see what I was snapping.   I took5 photos, and only 3 of them are even  vaguely worth sharing...but here they are anyway:
Looking down into hive

My first attempt at a close-up of a bee.

Brood frame showing a lot of "sealed brood". Sealed brood contains pupae, which will emerge as bees. Many of the other cells contain larvae (which haven't turned into pupae yet), and some will contain eggs (which haven't turned into larvae yet_

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Cat Acne

Did you know that cats can suffer from Acne? Neither did we, until earlier this week.

Izzy, our partially white cat, is always getting grubby.  She lies in mud, in oil, all sorts of Unmentionables.   Sometimes she cleans herself up quickly, sometimes it takes a couple of days of concentrated washing for her to regain her Persil whiteness.

A couple of weeks ago she was a bit grubby from lying in wait for some poor unsuspecting rodent or other.  Most of her gradually cleaned up, but she had a bit of "five o clock shadow" under her chin  A couple of days passed, and we noticed that her shadow seemed to be growing.  DH had a feel around, and found a spot or bite under her chin.  We were concerned that she'd been injured and it would fester, so we made an appointment at the Vets.

The Lovely Lady Vet took a look and pronounced that it was Cat Acne.   Apparently, it's quite common. I googled it later,  and found that it really is common.  Upon inspection there were lots and lots and still more little blackheads under her chin.  Izzy was given an antibiotic injection, and we have some liquid to dilute and apply daily.  

Several days on, and it's improving.   She hates having her chin done,  and DH so far has been volunteered to be the Wicked Person who does it.

I'm not going to post pictures.

Moving up

Last night, many of the chicks took themselves to bed in the Cube.  Rain is forecast for the next few days, and DH and I discussed what was best to do.

In the end, we decided to leave them in the Cube overnight.  We put a thick fitted rain cover over the length of the cube run, it goes most of the waty down both sides.  The idea was that, although the grass could do with the rain,  we wanted to keep the area in the  Run dry.

Last night we had rain. Lots of rain. Thunder. More rain.   Poor chicks, I thought. Maybe we should have left them in the shed!   But we had made the right decision.

It was still raiing this morning, but we were able to let them out into the dry run.

It's not raining now, and it's been heating up.  I let them out into their free-range area a few minutes ago, and they all came tearing out.    They had their mad few moments of running around with their wings stretched (like little children pretending to fly), and then settled down - mostly - to eat.    

They do exhibit some funny flock behaviours. Every so often, someone will run to a completely different part of the pen, and then they all swerve and go chasing after, wings flapping wildly.

They are starting to move from being large chicks to being small chickens.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Next size up

Last night we were pleasantly surprised to see the a number of the chicks take themselves back up the ladder and into the Cube at the end of the day.  The Electric Hen (EH) was in there,  is in there and on all day, just in case the chicks need it).  We discussed whether to let them sleep overnight in the Cube now. 

It was tempting. It would make evenings and mornings much easier, as we wouldn't need to ferry 33 chicks to and from the shed.    It would also mean their waterers would remain cleaner (thety get a few bits of Aubiose in them in the shed brooder).  But they are a but young.

We did a chick-by-chick inspection,  and changed the ring sizes for many of them.  I also made some notes about the extent of the feathering etc.

It won't be long before we let them camp out. Still with the EH of course.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Chicks in detail

Because of the parentage of the chicks, it's not been that easy to tell which chick comes from which parent.  I've been making notes about the different chicks, in the hope that this may help us next year (assuming we have the same parents next year!).  It will be interesting to see if the colouring etc turns out to be an indicator of sex,  so I'm trying to make quite detailed notes.

Our friends R&C have a Light Sussex (LS) cockerel, running with a number of LS hens and also one rogue RHode Island hen.

We have a Sasso cockerel (which itself is a hybrid, and we aren't really sure what's in him), running with a Sasso hen (ditto)  and two Welsh Blacks.    The Welsh Blacks are Australorp x Indian Game.

It's been easy to identify those that are the offspring of the LS cockerel. We know we have 13 of those (plus Hannibal).  We're also fortunate that R collected eggs over just 2 days, so it's likely that only 2 (or 3) could be Rhodeys.  Looking at them, 2 of them ("pink" and number 18) seem to have a slight brown tinge to some of the wing feathers, and so I would guess that their Mum is the Rhodey. The rest (3,7,9,11,12,13,17,21LS,25,orange,purple) are either LSxLS, or the Rhodey gene isn't showing.

Of our own 20 chicks,  9 are black and so have one of our gorgeous Welsh Blacks for Mum.

The rest could be Sasso mum or Welsh Black mum,  but there are some interesting colourways going on, and I have made some guesses.

The rest of this is more for my own benefit, as it's very detailed and likely to bore the pants of anyone else.

Numbers 2 and 6 are almost identical,  and are different to the rest. They are much lighter sandy/ginger coloured, with a touch of black at the wingtips.  I would guess that these are Sasso x Sasso, and I think they are girls.

Numbers 15 and 21 have been very slow to feather up.    Both have enormous combs.   I would have guessed that these were Sasso x Welsh Black, but  on balance I think there is a chance that they are Sasso x Sasso boys.  I need them to feather up more to tell. 

Numbers 16 and 24 are mottled, but very black.   Sasso x Welsh Black.

Numbers 8 and "blue" (we ran out of numbers),  are mottled, dark, with just a touch of orange. Sasso x Welsh Black.

3 of them (22, no-ring, and "orange") are very orange, and I would say they are Sasso x Welsh Black.

However, it seems unlikely that with 20 eggs, only 4 are Sasso x Sasso. 

Fortunately, I've bought numbered rings in larger sizes so hopefully we can keep track. 


I haven't seen the bees since before DH transferred them to their proper hive.   I've been on chick-duty.

Things are progressing well.  DH put a second brood box on top of the first brood box,  and the Girls quickly drew out the wax frames.  Soon the Queen was laying in there, and we had some stores.     So, DH put a Queen-excluder (Qx) underneath the new brood box so she couldn't go back in there,  and also put a super on top.  Now we have a Qx on top of the brood box as well as the Girls have been busy drawing out the frames in the Super.

Later we were advised that we could have just swapped the boxes around and used one Qx,  which was obvious once it had been pointed out to us.  Never mind.

Now that we have the chicks in the Cube during the day, I think I'll try and go with DH next time he does a full inspection and see if I can take some pics.

Curiosity and the Cat

Both my cats, litter-mates, are incredibly curious.  More than that, they are downright nosey.   I've often tried to explain to them about curiosity and the cat, but they don't listen.   

Past exploits have included Isabelle being shut in the wardrobe, and getting shut in the loft on another occasion, and once she got shut in a bedroom on the day we went off on holiday (but was fortunately rescued by my friend S who visited to feed them).  Washburn has tried to get in the Ocado van and someone elses boot,  and he once got shut in somewhere all day and most of the night.  The list goes on. And on. And on.

One of the things they find particularly irresistible is boxes.  Any box.   They have to get in it.  Sometimes it takes them ages to work out how to do it, especially if the box is partially closed, or has something in.  

Anyway.  This morning, Wash didn't come in for his breakfast.  This is such a rare occurrence, it usually means he's got trapped somewhere (and once it meant he's been hit by a car and was lying injured by the side of a road);  we try not to panic until he's an hour late.

At about half-past breakfast, DH called me upstairs.   I looked into our small bedroom, where there is a large box suitable for packing a tailors dummy.  The box was wobbling.  A lot.  Then a cat's paw appeared.

Wash had been able to jump into the box, but the flaps had closed behind him and he couldn't get out.

Silly boy.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Babies and the Cube

Yesterday morning, Tuesday,  was a bit nippy so we delayed putting the chicks out until nearly midday.   We then put them in the back of the Cube, a few at a time, until all 33 were in.   Left them there for a few minutes, and eventually opened the pop hole to let them out.

A few heads peeped out as soon as the pophole was open.  Eventually one of the black chicks descended the ladder - part way, before going back up again.  And then they gradually started to come out.

Some climbed most of the way down,  some flew from the pop hole.   Some climbed back up again.

Later, I put a lettuce at the top of the ladder to encourage them to climb it.  That worked really well.

And later still, I opened the door to the run and let them out....
They really do run that fast, and flap their wings that much

Monday, 2 May 2011

Ready for the next step

We put the chicks away this evening and, as soon as they were tucked up in the shed brooder, we set about removing the Go and replacing it with a Cube.  We wanted to put the Cube in the same position as the Go, leaving the netted area as it was when the chicks went to bed, in the hope it causes less confusion tomorrow.

Everything is in place. The Go is now on the patio. We won't dismantle and clean it until we're sure the Cube is going to work.

Tomorrow, before we put the chicks out, we'll put the Electric Hen in Cube.  We'll also start by introducing the chicks into the Cube itself, and then we'll let them out throught the Cube's pop hole.      

A bit later on in the day, we'll put some lettuce at the top of the Cube's temporary ladder, to encourage them back up.

Here are some pics of the set-up:

We've no plans to get the chicks to stay in the Cube overnight just yet, we'll see how it goes and what the weather forecast is.

Fingers crossed!

Clever little monkeys

So, this morning DH constructed a ladder to go over the Cube ladder. This one had treads very close together.

Next step was to see if we could teach the chicks to use it.  We propped it up agains the Go run, and I putan enticing lettuce at the top.

A few minutes later, I saw that one of the chicks was eating the lettuce. Hurrah! I came into get my camera, and then I just had to laugh as I saw another chick climb up the vertical sides of the Go run (like Wallace in the Wrong Trousers) wings flapping to keep balance.

So, I moved the ladder to some of the netting, propping it up against a pole.

Shortly afterwards there was a bit of a "monthers meeting" underneath the ladder as the chicks were obviously trying to work out how to get to the lettuce...
...then someone was at the top (although I don't know if they jumped or climbed)

Some chicks underneath tried jumping up to reach the lettuce from below,  and some just waited for bits of lettuce to fall.

Eventually we had a few chicks at the top, so that was fine.

Next step is to try the Cube.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Next steps

We've been really luckywith the weather, so the chicks have been able to be out all day every day for the last few days.

We raised the Electric Hens (EHs) again today, ready for the chicks tonight.
This afternoon we got the other Cube out and scrubbed and disinfected it.
DH is going to make a ramp, so we can teach the chicks to use it over the next few days.   Ideally we'd like to get the chicks into it overnight, with the Electric Hens still in use. 

We'll see.


"Number 25", aka Houdini, on one of his recent excursions:
We've found one of his escape routes now and pegged it down....

...but he's been out again since.  The Big Girls were not amused.

New day

Feeling better this morning. 

We rearranged the chicks netted area so that some of the grass could rest. To compensate, we gave them a flowerbed.  We thought they'd use it as a dustbath, but they are excitedly rooking through it, doing that chickeny salsa to turn over the earth.

I popped out to take a picture to find that they have all realised that it's good to dustbathe in...

We also have another character to keep our eye on.  "Number 25", aka Houdini,  has been escaping frequently from the run since yesterday.  We haven't been able to work out where he's getting out.  

Adter returning him to the run 4 or 5 times in quick succession, I sat outside and read a book whilst watching them yesterday.  for the hour or so I was outside, he didn't even attempt to escape.  I came in to get a drink and - you've guessed it - he was out again when I returned!

He's been out twice this morning, despite the rearranging of the netting.