Friday, 31 August 2012

The time has almost come.. nove the babies to their new home on the Allotment. 

I've been looking forward to this - and the freedom it brings -  for a couple of weeks but, now the move is imminent, I'm not looking forward to it at all.  How perverse!

The chicks are more than ready. They are 8.5 weeks old, and need the space.  I keep telling myself that they will be very happy,  a huge area to explore,  two coops to choose from, lots of spots to dustbathe in.   But I will miss them.

I will miss their happy little cheeping sounds; I'll miss having that wave f chooks come running up to see me when I go out; I'll miss my group of especially firendly chooks who desperately want to be picked up (and rewarded with a treat).  I'll miss the bedtime squabbling, and Yellow doing his rounds when everyone has gone upstairs.

We're going to keep the two garden-destined Girls here.   If they had been younger, I would have sent them all to the Allotment and brought the two girls back later, when they are older.  I feel mean separating them from their brothers and sisters now,  but overall it will be one less upheaval for them to suffer if I separate them now.  And the advantage of keeping them here is that it will be easier to get them happy and relaxed in our company, as we'll see them all the time.

I guess it's a little easier as the choice of who the "lucky" girls are is clear.  Only one of the Exchequers is a girl, so she will be one;  the friendliest of the Welsh Blacks are Yellow, Green and Grey.  Yellow and Grey are both boys,  so Green is the natural choice.    

Tomorrow's the day. Weather permitting.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Stir crazy

Milly is now back to her bullying spiteful self.  She had a couple of quiet days, one with looking very sorry for herself and the oother where she was only in the mood to bully in spurts.

Roobarb, meanwhile, started refusing to go back in the Run.  She's still growing her new feathers and a couple of the others (including Milly) have been taking the opportunity to barge into her a lot.   It's taken several - spaced out - attempts to get her in in the evening.  I had to go and do the allotment Girls on Friday and I shut the chicks in,  then shut the Girls in. Roob refused.  I tried a few times, at intervals, but she just would not go in and she would not be caught.  In frustration, I left her out, telling her that if she got eaten by a fox it would be her own fault.

On Saturday I had a doctors appointment at 9.00.  I let the Girls (and the chicks) out early, then attempted to shut them in again at 8.30.  Everyone except Roobarb.  Several attempts later, I was going to be late, so once again she was left out.

On Saturday night, Milly and Florence decided that if Roobarb got to stay out, they should too.   My frustration - in the midst of heavy rain - almost boiled over. I picked up a garden rake and chased them into the Run.  I felt really sheepish afterwards - sodden and sheepish - but I was reaching the end of my tether.

This morning I had to move the chicks Cube.  It's currently got 3m of run, as well as the 1m under the Cube, so it's quite big to manouevre, especially as I wanted to turn it 90 degrees.   The Chicks thought this was a great game,  and when I had to temporarily move some of the netting, they seized on the opportunity to break free.  I let them.

They were fairly easy to round up,  Garvo was offered as a bribe and this brough 15 of the 18 back in to their area immediately.  The ohter 3 weren't so cooperative,  and I mentally marked their cards.

The Big Girls decided that they were missing out on something, so started wailing in chorus.  I try not to react to them when they start (they quickly learn to associate wailing with attention), but I could feel myself getting really really annoyed.    I came inside and sat down for a few minutes.

I'm going a bit stir crazy.

I know that the chicks have plenty of room in the cube run to be perfectly IK for me to leave them for an hour or so.   However, I also know that it's like kids in the back of the car.  That bit of giggling shoving and puhing can quickly get out of hand and turn nasty.  With chicks, if blood is drawn it could be disastrous.  For that reason, as they are at the age where they are doing a lot of "play" fighting,  I don't like them to be shut in any more than absolutely necessary.

It's only a problem because DH is away, so it's not possible for us to coordinate being in and being out. 

It wil be fine.  It's not for much longer.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Poorly chook

Milly was very unwell on Thursday.  I thought she was going to die, she looked soooo ill.   I thought it might be heatstroke, so I syringed water into her,  and wrapped her in a cool damp towel.  I left her in a shady cool place for the day,  and kept going out to syringe her every hour. I have her some nutridrops.

She looked so ill that I thought the stress of a car journeyto the vets might kill her. I offered her chick crumb in yoghurt, but she didn't want it.  I put her in the nest box in the afternoon, with a coop-cup of water.   Last evening,  she finally stuck her head in the cup, and had a drink, then another one.  I kept going out every half hour to splash the water to get her to drink, until it was dark.

This morning, she was up and unsteady.  She sat outside, so I moved a bowl of water near her, and offered her some mealworms. She ate the mealworms, but had some clear liquid come out of her mouth.   I gave her some chick crumb, and left her to rest quietly.

She's breathing OK now, and has had a bit of a walk around, but she's still spending time resting.  I'm assuming it was heatstroke, and hopefully she'll get back to her normal (spiteful, frankly) self.

Chickeny update

The chicks are now 7 weeks old. They are not chicks any more, they are small chickens.   Some of them are obviously boys, some are obviously girls, and some are anybody's guess.

We added a Grandpa's Feeder to their run a couple of weeks ago, in the open position.   They were very happy using it.    About a week ago, we changed it to the partially open position..... then I raised it up so it clanged more..... then we added a second Grandpa's Feeder two days ago, and removed their Omlet Grubs completely.  All going well so far, and I'm going to try changing the setting to fully closed in a couple of days.

Every day I go in and offer treats (actually Garvo Alfamix chicken feed) to any of the birds that let me pick them up.  The same gang are always "me, me, me, pick me", and these are the ones that we are likely to keep.... as long as only one of them turns out to be a boy.   YellowRight is definitely a boy, and he's the boldest, most eager chick,  so he's likely to be our keeper.  GreenRing is a Girl, she likes sitting on my shoulder, and she will probably come and live in the garden assuming that the second Exchequer Leghorn turns out to be a Girl as well. The first is definitely a boy, a really lovely chap  called Spike.

The other MeMeMees are GreyRing and PurpleRing, who could be girls or boys, we aren't yet sure.

The hopefully-female Exchequer doesn't like me to pick her up, but she does like to fly up and land on my hand or arm, so I guess she'll get it with practice.

They are due to go to the Allotment in a week. Another decision needed: dowe let them all go and then bring back 2 Girls later, if hopefully-Female-Exchequer turns out to be a girl;   or whether to keep the hopefully-female-Exchequer and GreenRing here to grow on and to be integrated with our Big Girls when old enough.    Part of me would like to keep them here so I can continue with the taming,  but it might be better to keep them with everyone else until we are sure of the genders.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Oven Ready Roobarb

A few days ago Roobarb wasrunning around the garden with a bare back. That part of her looked like a supermarket oven ready bird.  Over the following three days, she's lost more and more feathers.  She looks a really sorry sight at the moment.

The others are not joining her yet.  Florence did have a mini moult, but she seems to have gone off the idea.

I'm wondering what sort of colour Roobs will go for this year.   Her original feathers were black with a sort of gold/bronze lacing.  She emerged from last years moult with black feathers with a lot more copper/bronze colouring.   

What will she unveil for us this year?

Happy Birthday 5 weeks old

So, the chicks are 5 weeks old today (well, technically, some aren't 5 weeks old until tomorrow).

DH cut a plank especially to fit across the width of the Cube, so I could remove the plank-on-bricks arrangement that we had before.    The chicks love it....although of course none of them were on it at the moment my camera shutter clicked
I have added an extra feeder, so there are 4 stations now.  This morning I added some growers pellets to each feeder - just a small amount.  The next step will be to introduce the Grandpas Feeder, in the open position, to get them used to it. 
Last night, we waited to see whether they would take themselves to bed.  A couple went in and out a few times.   DH and I went and watched TV to distract ourselves,  popping intot ht ekitchen every 10 minutes to see whether there was any progress.

After about half an hour,  ten of them managed to get themselves to bed. 8 of them failed completely.  We went back to the TV, but the cheeping got louder and louder.  In the end we had to catch them and putthem on the top of the ladder so they could find their way into the Cube.

Today's plan is to move the Cube again. It's a warm day so I've switched the Electric Hen (EH) off.  I might leave it off overnight if its going to be warm.... we're lucky that we have 18 chicks, as this makes it easier and quicker to get them off heat. 

We might let them "free range" (that is, run around outside the Cube in a limited area) later today.

I took a couple of pics yesterday...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Chickywicks aged about 33 days

The chicks have been sleeping outside in the Cube (with an Electric Hen, of course) for the past 3 nights.   They haven't taken themselves to bed yet - they didn't seem to want to stop running around and eating, even at 8.30pm.

Last night, DH and I decided we would walk them up the Cube ladder to bed.  They know perfectly well how to get up the ladder, they are up and down it all day.   They know that they come down the ladder every morning when we open the pop hole... but perhaps they haven't quite connected the dots.

So. Yesterday evening, 8.30pm.  I opened the door nearest the Cube ladder (thank goodness that we fitted extra doors to the Cube).  I leaned in, scooped up a chick,  and put it on the ladder.  It jumped off. Everyone else ran away.

DH tried rattling the treat cup from inside the Cube.  Vacant looks all round.

Deep sigh. (from me).

I squeezed my not inconsiderable frame in between the Cube and the rosemary.  I then manouevred myself so that I could crawl inside  the Cube run.   DH smothered a giggle when he realised where I was.   I really really hate chick poo.

From there, it was a smooth operation.  DH opened the egg port and held in a cup of Garvo Alfamix Chicks (which works superbly as a chick treat).  I caught each chick, and put it on the ladder. Once the first one had gone in,  they were almost all happy to be caught and placed and go in.  Except one Welsh Black, and one of the Exchequers. No surprise there, I'm sure these are the same pair that are last to be caught every evening.

The Exchequer ran round the Cube run a few times. It was impossible to catch himher, s/he's like Roadrunner.  Eventually, she took pity on me and ran up the Cube ladder of her own accord.   The last chick necessitated me squiggling about to catch them,  but as we were both confined to the Run and she was not like Roadrunner, it didn't take too long.

Getting out was worse than getting in as I had to kneel on the wire skirt. Ow, bluddy ow.  And my knees (or, specifically, the knees of my trousets) were covered in chick poo.   

I've made a bargain with the Chicks.  I told them today that once they have taken themselves to bed, I'll let them free range outside the Cube Run.

I hope they do it soon,  as it'll make it much easier to keep the grass in good condition.  This is because there will be 18 chicks over a wider area, so the pressure on the grass at any one time will be less.   They are on new grass at the moment, and two areas they've had over the last 6 days have been raked and watered (from our water butt).    They are on fresh grass today, and I've got one more piece of virginal grass available before we have to start re-using.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Hawk Conservancy, Andover

It was my friend Yvonne's 40th birthday this year, and I decided that a day out playing with birds of prey would be a lovely way to celebrate.

For my brother I.'s 50th, we bought him a day out hunting with a Harris hawk, accompanied by our elder brother.   I didn't think Yvonne would be too happy about the whole hunting thing, so I went for a day at the Hawk Conservancy.

What a fantastic place.  There was so much to see, we bolted our lunch so we could go and have a look around.     I'll definitely go back and take a more leisurely look around.

As for the day,  it was fantastic.  Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable.  We had a small group (with one irrititating chap who had done this once before somewhere else, and he insisted on going on and on and on about how the other place was better, the birds were bigger, there were only two of them so he flew more birds, and how he gave a demonstration at the end and a bird attacked him. ).

We flew so many birds: gorgeous shy vultures, owls, hawks, falcons...  And the weather was superb.

We started off with a couple of vultures, who are really sweet and gentle creatures.  They perform an incredible feat of nature: nt only do they clear carcases, but they can clear diseased carcasses (ones where the disease is fatal to man).   In the wild many species are facing extinction, mostly from a derivative of Voltarol which is given to cattle.    It's sad that vultures can consume anthrax and a whole other host of natural nasties and render them safe,  but die within hours of consuming a carcass where the animal has ingested Voltarol. It's criminal, and should be outlawed.

It was so hot that I had to go to the car and get a hat.



At the final session, we were all able to fly Harris Hawks, taking it in turns to send a Hawk off then someone else had to call it back.

Definitely recommend the experience!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Will they, won't they?

At 4 o'clock I made a decision.  If the chicks put themselves to bed in the Cube by 6pm, I'd leave them in there. If not, I'd put them back in the shed.

At 5.30, everyone was very industriously stuffing their beaks. A few chicks went up the ladder into the Cube.  And a while later, came down again.

At 5.55, I reluctantly went and sorted out the shed.  At 5.57, I realised that the chicks weren't ready for bed. Yesterday, they had started to snuggle in a pile. Today, everyone was still very active.  The up and down laddering continued.

So, I decided to wait and see.  If they started to create a pile, I'd put them in the shed.  

Meanwhile, I put the Big Girls away. Apart from Milly, who is having her third nevening of not knowing where bed is.  Or is just being Milly.  Coaxing failed, so I just shut the others in and left her out.  I'm sure she'll go and sit by the door when she's ready.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for the chicks to decide where to settle.

The Next Day

All big Girls back to their normal selves.

Chicklets very keen to come out of their pen in the shed to the Cube.  I left them in the Cube for about ten minutes, then opened the door, and was treated to a fantastic display. Some chicks climbed down the ladder, some flew from the door onto the ground. Wish I'd recorded it.     After about an hour we had a heavy rain shower.   They didn't go back into the Cube, but they snuggled in a group by one of the wheels.  I resisted the (very strong) urge to rush out and "save" them.  As soon as the rain stopped, they were out and about again.


Friday, 3 August 2012


So, in the end, I forced my way round the inside of the netting, so that it made Roobarb walk out from the Pampas in front of me.

My right arm is somewhat shredded, as Pampas fronds are evil.   I walked Roobarb into a netting corner, picked her up, and put her in the Run.

Everyone is now safely where they should be.

I knew that giant sized tube of Savlon would come in handy one day.

On my feet and on my toes

Today was Disinfecting Day at the Allotment.  I cleaned out the Big Girls coop, and sprayed it with poultry shield.  I emptied, scrubbed and disinfected the drinkers.  I emptied and scrubbed one of the two water barrels. I scrubbed and poultry shielded two sets of roosting bars, and several black trays/ I poultry-shielded the already-swept shed.   I emptied, scrubbed, disinfected the other water barrel.    I Stalosaned and Diatomed the Big Coop, and put fresh Aubiose everywhere.  I refilled the drinkers. I diatomed all the roosting bars.   I was shattered. Came hom, showered. 

Meanwhile, at home...

I cleaned out the shed floore. The chicks have been up and down the CUbe ladder all day.  DH was away.  I decided to see if the chicks put themselves to bed in the Cube. If so, I'd leave them out.     No. They rested in a heap on the floor of the run.

So, I put fresh Aubiose in the shed, and set about catching the chooks.  The first 8 were easy. They all came to eat Garvo.  The next 6 were not to bad.  The next 2 were harder.  Doors in multiple places is only any good if you have someone to man the door.  The last but one was a bit of a toughie.  The last one, one of the Exchequers, was a nightmare.

She ended up escaping, and ran round and round the Cube run. I couldn't catch her.  She squeezed through some trellis and into the fruit bed.  She ran past the cat, several times (well done Wash for not responding to the provocation). I staked out netting, and walked her towards it. She got underneath it. 

After about 20 minutes of walking after her, I was wondering what on earth I was going to do.  We were in the fruit bed for the second time. I thought about getting out the chicken catching net.  I wasn't sure where it was, and I was afraid I wouldn't find her again if I left her to look for it. 

She made a run for it out of the fruit bed.  I walked after her, she was heading for the Shed.  I was confident that I would be able to catch her when she got to the mesh. I was wrong.

She pushed it aside, and ran into the brooder with her brothers and sisters.

That's not the end of the story. Oh no.

I put some runner beans on to boil, a pressie from a fellow allotment holder. (DH is away, so my dinner is a big bowl of runner beans with a raspberry vinegar dressing, followed by rice pudding). While the beans were simmering, I put the Big Girls away.  Except Milly, who was refusing to remember where "home" was, for the second nigt on the trot.   I had no patience left, so I went and found the chicken net.   The Girls went ballistic,  including Milly who managed to scale the netting and escape into the Garden.   I put the net down, and tried to catch her. I only managed it because she became entangled in the netting.

I calmed her down, and put her in the Walk in Run, only to find that the others had disappeared.  Eventually I found them, hiding in the Pampas.  Clever Girls! (although that isn't the phrase I used at the time).   Tilda and Custard followed me for corn, and I popped them in the Run with Milly.  Florence and Roobarb would not move.

I came inside and ate my very mushy runner beans thinking they would walk overe to the Run door when they were ready.  I went out again, and managed to persuade Florence to leave the safety of the Pampas.  Roobarb would not be moved.

Roobarb is uncatcheable. She doesn't like being picked up.   I love her because she is a gorgeous chicken with green legs,  and she doesn't pick on Tilda.   I don't want to chase her, as I've clearly stressed her out more than enough already.  She followed my cunningly laid corn trail to the edge of the pampas, but refused to leave the safety of the fronds.  I've come back in now, to give her a bit more time to relax. 

I should perhaps explain that I can't get round the Pampas when I am inside the Girls free ranging area.  The netting on one side doesn't allow an Upright to pass.   So I can't even walk her away from her hiding place.  

I'll go out again in a few minutes and see if I can get her to move.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ready for tomorrow

So, we've attached the Cube, which I scrubbed out earlier. We removed one of the Run sections, which still gives them a net increase of 1 metre plus the footprint previously occupied by the Go.

We've (well, DH has) trimmed down one of the large door panels so it fits on the side.

Roosting bars removed, and the Electric Hen is sitting in the back, not plugged in yet.  Tomorrow we'll put the chicks in the back of the Cube for a short while, then let them out.    They'll continue going back into the shed at night for the next few nights.

It's so fantastic having all this Cube run. Last year, we had the chicks free ranging (within a netted area), and we found that one of us had to be here all the time. This was because it meant putting the chicks away - restriucting their area - if we weren't around.   Now, weather permitting,  we don't have to ensure that one of us is here 100% of the time as they have a fox proof run to play in.   

We will let them free range soon..... but that's not in the next few days.

Stepping Up

My Dri-box arrived today. It's a black, plastic, waterproof, box which you can use in the garden to keep electrical extensions safe from the weather.    Why is this relevant?  Well, we have the Electric Hen (EH) on in the back of the Go, and we've temporarily been standing the power supply on the chicks ladder and covered with a plastic cloche and secured with a brick.

Today I was able to replace all that, which meant that I could put the ladder inside the run for the chicks to start to get used to.   I put it at a fairly easy angle, lodged at the top near the Go door and at the bottom with a brick.  I came inside to wash my hands,  and when I got back outside the ladder was covered in chicks.

 They were busy making their way to the top of the ladder, and then back down again.   As I watched them, I realised that once they got to the top, they weren't able (or confident) enough to hop up on to the top of the Go.

I watched for a little longer, and then decided to take action.  I adjusted the setup so that the ladder went all the way to the top.  It was a bit steep, but I thought I'd see what happened.

A few of them have been up there, all the way to the top.  I'll see how it goes... I might move the Go forward, and put the ladder behind it so that it still reaches the top but is not so steep (the Go is sloped). 

Looks like we might be adding the Cube sooner than I thought.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Back on track

The chicks spent the day outside today.  We put the small Electric Hen (EH) in the back of the Go, but they didn't use it.  I tried them with a small amount of iceberg lettuce. They ran around with bit os it for a while,  others gave chase, but I didn't see much evidence of Iceberg being consumed.

Meanwhile, the Big Girls tucked noisily into chunks of water melon.

Cleaned out the "brooder" floor in the shed, and moved the chicks back in for the evening.   Moved the outside run to new grass,  raked and sprayed today's grass. 

Tomorrow I'll be introducing DH's chick-friendly cube ladder into the run,  with a view to introducing the Cube maybe at the weekend.  Once the Cube is on, it'll be marginally easier to move the run around... mainly because we'll be able to remove the Go (currently it is too big to go in through any of the doors, wso we have to lift the 3m of run right up to get it out and moved).  Looking back through my notes from last year, I see that we kept the Go available (outside the Cube run, within their netted area) as a bit of an unheated rest-area. Maybe I'll do that this year when we let the chicks out o fthe safety of the cube run.  There is less pressure to do so this year because the run is so big anyway (and will be 2m x 1m bigger still when the Cube goes on!).

Hard to believe they are 4 weeks old tomorrow (and Friday). If these were supermarket chickens, they'd be half way through their lives already, and they'd be enormous.