Wednesday 30 July 2008

No escape?

Milly continued to escape, but now it was by determination rather than by accident. We had bought extra fence poles, so the fencing was pulled tight. She patrolled up and down, testing a hole here, a hole there, until she found one she could jump through.

Close meshed garden netting helped. We draped it over the taut fencing. She found the bits we hadn't draped. We found more mesh, and covered all the fencing. She managed to get underneath the mesh and out through the fencing.

And so it went on. In the end we came back from the garden centre with some semi rigid plant support stuff, and DH cable-tied it all the way along the bottom of the netting. At least we could take off the close-mesh stuff, but the fence is much more of a nuisance to relocate now.

We're still moving the girls every two days, keeping them so that they are close to the Big Girls. Despite keeping the Eglu on the move, the poor "lawn" is looking a bit sorry for itself now. Mind you, it's not just the chickens. All the grass is looking starved of water.

The Littlees are not so little now. Had their second weigh-in yesterday, and thay have each put on more than 10% of their bodyweight in the last seven days. Hopefully it won't be long before Milly is too big to squeeze through the netting, as we've only reinforced the 7m length of it! At the end of this week, when they are 16 and 17 weeks, i;m going to move them off the "lawn", and put them at the chicken end of the garden. At the same time I'll relocate the Big Girls, so they are all in the same area - but still separated by netting-with-no-hens-land (NHL) in the middle. But the size of the NHL will be drastically reduced.

Jasmine's comb is shaping up beautifully. It's still very small and dainty. Her wattles are growing too, and no longer look like turned-over-lips. She weighed 892g, up from 810g. Sadly she no longer cheeps like a chick, but she's not bokking like a hen either.

Milly's nobby bits are now in a line, and I know from Jasmine's growth that they are the basis for a comb. No wattles yet that I can see. She weighed 620g, up from 559g. She's taken to screeching like a baby Pterodactyl.

Scarlett has taken to whingeing, making a sound like a frantic goose, for minutes on end. Honk honk honk honk honk honk. It starts off OK, but the volume keeps creeping up until it's very annoying. I'm sure it's attention seeking; maybe she regards me as a member of her flock and gets concerned when I'm not outside. I'm hoping she'll stop it when they are all down the other end of the garden.

Friday 25 July 2008

Back to her roots

Our modern domestic chickens are descended from tree-dwelling fowl in Asia.

This evening, Jasmine decided she wanted to go back to her roots, and decided to attempt roosting in a tree.

First, she got on the Eglu run. Twice. And from there, she leapt up into the cherry tree and tried to settle down for the night. DH had to "rescue" her, and she really didn't want to be rescued.

Looks like I might have to clip one of her wings. I know this is a routine thing to do, but I'd rather not unless we really have to. We don't think she'd have been able to get up there without using the Eglu as a launch pad, so we'll see what happens.


Austrian chickens?

I had a wonderful surprise last night. My very dear friend Susi, who is from Austria, emailed me to say she would be in England, in my local town, for half a day, and would I like to meet up for coffee today.

Susi and I worked together for many years, she in Austria and me in the UK, until she left the Company six? years ago. We've remained good friends since, despite not actually seeing each other for several years. We email intermittently, and it's always as though we haven't been apart.

Anyway, what's this doing on my chicken keeping blog?

Well, took her four eggs, including one laid this morning in one of my "Laid by my lovely Garden Girls" boxes.... and it turns out that she has been talking to her husband about keeping chickens! He's not too keen (now where have I heard that before?). How cool is that?

I wish she had been here for longer, she and Gunthe could have come to my house to meet my Girls and their Cube. Next time, maybe.

Never a dull moment


We're still moving the Littlees' Eglu evey two days. Yesterday, Milly escaped more times than I can count, and each time she headed for the Choisya in front of the kitchen window. So, when we moved the Eglu last night (with them tucked up inside), we adjusted the netted area so it incorporated said shrub.

DH got up to open the pop hole for them at 7.20, but we kept them in the Eglu run so that they fill up on their nutritious pellets. At 9.30 I took pity on them and let them out, and they both rushed underneath the shrub. They have been rooking around under there ever since. They've only really started to exhibit scratching behaviour in the last week or so, and it's lovely to see them able to express it so fully now. Makes me feel even sadder for Battery Hens.

Meanwhile, the Big Girls have been up since 5am, we don't close their pop hole in the summer so they can get into their enclosed run whenever they like. We let them out to range at 9.00. I went out to hang out some washing a little later and heard that wonderful Motorcycle Noise of Contentment that hens sometimes make. There was Delilah, in her nest amongst the pampas (the resting place so beloved by Washburn the Ginger Cat), purring away.

And sometime later, we had the unmistakeable, ear-splitting, crow announcing "Lo! I Have Laid an Egge and It is The Most Wondrous and Beautiful Egge Ever Laid by Any Chicken. Ever. And Am I Not Wondrous And Beautiful, Not To Mention Clever, For Laying It?".

Although it's very sweet, it's not good to have them laying eggs in the garden as they could so easily get damaged (and I don't want the Girls to get a taste for eggs). So, tomorrow, they may find themselves confined to their (very large) run until they've had a chance to lay.

No sooner had Delilah finished crowing than Washburn appeared, and took up residence. They say if you want to stop a hen getting to a nest you should put a ball in, or an upturned flowerpot. We put a Washburn in. Can you spot him?

And then Delilah came to check it all out. I was sure she was going to peck his tail.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Cat, Hen, Cat, Mouse,Littlee

We've had to be on our toes the last couple of days.

The Big Girls ranging area now includes a large bed, in the middle of which there is an enormous pampas grass. The Girls like to get in there and rook around, sometimes getting right into the pampas to nest.

Yesterday, Delilah was standing in front of one of her nesting places making a huge racket. Her volume is usually much quieter than Scarlett's, so there was obviously something not Not Quite Right. I went to investigate, and eventually spotted Washburn (our ginger cat) curled up in Delilah's pampas nest. He was well camouflaged. Delilah was standing right in front of him, he could have taken her out with out having to get up. But he just lay there watching Delilah squawk!

He was there for hours, he came in for dinner and went out again. We found him later on the other side of the pampas grass, again with Delilah right in front of him. This time though she was just rooking through the grass. Cool Cat! We're very proud of his restraint.

I'll post a pic later.

Oh, Milly escaped and walked along the Big Girls' fence line. Without any hesitation at all, Delilah poked her head through the netting and pecked Milly hard on the top of the head! Milly was uninjured, and it served to reassure us that we are doing the right thing keeping them apart until the Littlees are bigger.

Anyway, on to today.

Today, Milly continues to pop through the netting. She doesn't seem to try to escape, she just stretches for a bit of grass and pops through. We've doubled the netting up all over the place, and I have extra poles on order. This morning we were having brunch outside. One second (literally!) she was inside the netting, next second she was outside. Fortunately she's very happy to be handled, so she stopped to let me pick her up and pop her back. A few minutes later I saw her climb on a brick and walk through the netting again. This time she'd spotted a dead mouse that the Cat had left on the path.

She picked it up, I picked her up - complete with mouse - and put her back in the netting. Chickens love mouse, and will kill a mouse that ventures withing beak range. Jasmine was very interested in Milly's acquisition, and we were treated to the unforgettable sight of Milly running round with a mouse dangling by its tail from her beak, hotly pursued by Jasmine.

The details get a bit gory; after a few minutes Milly's beak had done its job and the mouse went in in one go.

The Big Girls - who have never shown any interest in the Cat's offerings - were very upset that Milly had something, and spent the whole of the time running up and down their fence line bokking furiously.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Cat gets revenge

I found a cat turd in the Big Girls' dust bath today.

Big Girls raise the Alarm

Scarlett has taken to crowing a bit at about 7.30 in the morning. We aren't sure whether she just does it, or whether something sets her off. We have a footpath at the bottom of the garden, and people are always exercising their dogs there, so it's quite possible. She also gets agitated when Cyril the Squirrel is around, and he's been around a lot.

Anyway. Humungus amount of crowing this morning. It was 5.15 am, early even for her. DH got up, bleary eyed, and looked out of the window. Something was definitely up as the Isabelle (our Cat) was lying on the "lawn" near the Littlees Eglu.

I got up, pulled on a dressing gown, and came downstairs. Fumbled trying to find the door keys, I wasn't really awake. As I opened the door I saw the cat lying in an unusual position, and wondered what on earth was going on.

When I opened the door, Izzy tried to get up, but she was caught in the netting. She panicked a bit and struggled, andI tried to calm her down while I approached her. In fact, she managed to wiggle free just as I got there. She's fine. A bit embarrassed/put out perhaps, but no signs of any serious injury.

We don't know whether the Big Girls raised the alarm because the cat got stuck, or whether they raised the alarm because Izzy was investigating the Eglu, causing her to run and then get stuck.

At least we know there was a reason for it.

Not again :-(

Yesterday afternoon, Jasmine stayed in the dustbath on her own for a while. When she got out, she couldn't stand up. She kept falling over, tried to stand, fell over again. It was horrible. I got out all my chicken books, posted on the internet, to try and find out why she should be "off her legs".

After 5-10 minutes she was "OK". She was walking, then sitting, then walking. Much later, she was perfectly fine, no sign of problems at all.

I phoned the breeder for advice. Sounds like she's not getting the nutrients she needs. I feed growers pellets, which should be all they need; they have ad lib access to, and eat, oyster shell & grit; they've been getting cucumber and tomatoes as treats. They've been eating well (100-150g between them). The inputs are OK, which means that she might have a parasite which is stopping her getting the nutrients from the food she eats.

I was going to worm them next week anyway, so I started worming them yesterday. I've also ordered some stuff from my Vet which deals with/and is a preventative for other parasites, such as lice, mites and fleas; it'll be in today, so I'll start her and Milly on that as well.

She seems fine this morning, but we'll keep them in their Eglu run until later on today, then let them out for a bit of ranging. maybe she overdosed on grass instead of pellets for the last couple of days?

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

the Dust Flies!

The Littlees have been out free ranging around their Eglu and Run for three days now. We've moved everything so it is sideways on to the Big Girls free ranging area, so they are now all very much aware of each other. Over the next week or so we'll move the areas closer together until they are adjoining.

As soon as we gave them free range access, we put a dustbath in the area for them. The Littlees have ignored this completely...until today.

They were having a joint bath together; Jasmine was making the Chicken Motorcycle Noise of Contentment.


Thursday 17 July 2008

Give her an inch....

Decided to let the Littlees out for a bit. I staked out about half a square metre outside their Run door, opened the door and waited.

Milly came zooming out, not stopping for the netting. The netting caught her, she reversed up, and tried again. Stopped, ate some grass, looked around to see the Big Girls getting very agitated at the sudden appearance of two new hens.

And then Milly tried again. This time she squeezed and squozed, and popped through the netting. I scooped her up, she tried top eat my jumper at various strategic points, and was very curious about the world around. I put her down in the Run and doubled up the netting. She escaped again while I was doubling up.

She's obviously still a bit too small for Going Outside, so I'll let them have a bit longer this afternoon, while I'm watching them, and then put the netting away and try again next week.

Scratch that. Whilst typing that last paragraph I saw Milly walking down the garden. I rushed out and scooped her up and put her back in the Eglu run. Fortunately, Washburn was busy sitting on the fence and didn't seem to have spotted a small, snack-sized, chicken walking past.

Monday 14 July 2008

Smile for the Camera

continues to be happy being scooped up and/or stroked, especially if cucumber is involved. She's as light as a feather, and very quick witted. The Welsummer (I'm trying "Sonja" now, as she's very red) is still shy. I picked her up from the nestbox, and she really doesn't like it. I'm having to take it very slowly with her; it's difficult to make progress as Mophead always wants to be the centre of attention!

They are both quite large now, compared to what they were when we got them. Mophead's wings still aren't straight, which worries me, but she's so bright and active.

I dusted them both with red mite powder yesterday, as a precaution. I don't think I'll be suffering from red mites in the near future either, as I'm also very well dusted.

They are still eating about 100g or so of pellets between them each day. We are keeping the pop hole shut overnight, at some stage we'll leave it open so they can get used to it.

Haven't let them out to Range yet. They are so small and light, they'd find it really easy to jump over the netting. I'm thinking I might wait until they are both 15 weeks (so 15 and 16 technically), as I'll be able to clip one wing then.

We've put an extra shade over the Eglu run, as it's very bright in there; and the corrugated roofing makes it a bit warm too.

Although they are in the line of sight of the Big Girls, the Big Girls don't seem to be taking any notice.

Mon Afternoon
Have taken loads of pictures, Mophead wanted to get in to all the photos.

We might have names (again). DH started calling Mophead "Mildred", apparently her hair-do reminded him of Mildred Roper in George and Mildred. Well, he had just come back from the pub, so what can you expect? Not too keen on the name "Mildred" as I'm trying to avoid "old lady names" (apologies to anyone I've just offended), but I can live with "Milly" I think. And the Welsummer, who has been through two names so far is now trying on "Jasmine" for size. I'd been reserving "Jasmine" for a completely different type of hen, but the poor baby needs a name! I'll try it for a couple of days and see if it sticks.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Not on the lawn!

Friday (start of week 2)
We continue to move the Eglu every 1.5 to 2 days. Because they are still confined to the Eglu run, the poo quickly covers the available area. We still haven't let them free range, we'll do that when they are a bit more tame.

Washed the Eglu out today. It's definitely quicker to do than the Cube, but it needs doing more often. The Eglu also destroys the grass it sits on - the Cube, being up on wheels, is a much better use of space.

The Legbar (who we've been calling "Mophead" while we think of a name for her), is really inquisitive and grabs anything and everything without any evaluation. She swallowed a poor spider who was minding her own business abseiling down the outside of the Eglu run. Unlike older birds who tend to peck gently, she pecks with a sharp jabbing movement, and with a lot of force. It actually hurts! I've had to get very deft at opening the door and shutting it without having her peck my fingers.

Today we moved them to a completely new part of the garden. They are now directly in front of the kitchen window, on the one bit of back garden that we would classify as "lawn" rather than just "grass". This move puts them in sight of the Big Girls for the first time, although both sets of chooks are already aware the other exists.

In this latest move we had an escapee. The Welsummer (who may be named Saffron, we'll see) managed to get out and ran straight under one large shrub. Catching any free hen is a challenge, catching a Littleewho hasn't been handled that much is extra fun. We used some of the moveable netting to get her into a space where we could catch her, and popped her back home again. Her little adventure among the shrub and one of the flowerbeds seems to have done her no harm.

Saturday Evening
Well! I've managed to hold Mophead on my lap four times this evening. She doesn't run away when I stroke her in the Run, and she let me scoop her up and hold her on my lap. The cucumber I was using to bribe her with had more to do with it than my skill with birds did, but I'm still really pleased. Saffron (still not sure about that name) snatched cucumber from my hand, but skirted away from being touched.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Growing girls

The (still unnamed) Littlees are growing!

We keep finding baby feathers around the Run; we haven't seen any signs of feather pecking, so we're assuming that it's just the new feathers growing through.

Yesterday they ate 116g of pellets between them, another increase on the previous day. Had a quick hold last night, but they aren't used to it so I only held them briefly.

This morning, Mophead decided to make a break for freedom. I opened the pophole, and realised I'd forgotten to bring out the pellets. I went back in, got the pellets, and opened the Run door to hang it up. Whoosh! Mophead was out. I fixed the Grub, shut the door, and found her running up and down outside the Eglu run. She didn't really know what to do with her freedom now she had it. She let me catch her, and all was well.

I wanted to go down the garden to check on the Big Girls, of course I had to come in and wash my hands first. No point in keeping them apart for bio security reasons if I'm going to go from one to the other without washing hands!

Monday 7 July 2008

Three days in

The weather today is atrocious!

Thunder, torrential rain... Despite us covering the top and one side of their Run, the poor Littlees have been going back into the Eglu to shelter from the weather.

Mop-head (we still haven't settled on names) continues to be the most inquisitive of the two, despite the fact that she is much younger. Yesterday, I decided to introduce a "treat" for them, and put some little pieces of cucumber on the Run floor. Mop-head was the first to try; Welsummer, who is a little bit slow on the uptake, kept trying to steal from her friend, ignoring the fact that there was plenty of cucumber for both of them!

Today I tried them on a couple of broccolli florets; same pattern as yesterday. What was really sweet today was that when I "click clicked" they came running out tof the coop to see me. Cupboard love!

Last night, after they'd been in bed for an hour or so, I opened the egg port and took them out one at a time for a hold. They weren't too keen on that idea, so I only held them for a few seconds. I was going to try again tonight, but the weather really is appalling, so it'll have to wait.

We've had them three days, and we've already moved the Eglu twice! There was so much poo! The good thing with the rain is that we'll be able to move them back on to previously used ground in a few days, which is just as well as we've probably got 3 more moves in this part of the garden before we have to find somewhere else in the garden for them to enjoy.

The (existing) Girls don't seem to have realised that there are other chooks around. it's not surprising, as there is a big Pampas grass between them, and the Little-ees only make quiet cheep cheeep cheeeep noises.

We've started to weigh their food now. We didn't do this on the first day, but I know that on the second day they ate 80g between them, and yesterday they ate 95g between them. Once they are hand tame then I'll weigh the birds themselves as well, so we can keep track.

The Cats still seem to be mostly ignoring the newcomers, but that might be because the weather isn't very good for Watching.

Friday 4 July 2008

They're here! (updated)

Well, the babies are here.

We collected them from the wonderful Alison at Hook Farm this morning. They are very small! The Welsummer is 13 weeks old, the Cream Legbar is 12 weeks old. They're currently shut up in the Eglu to recover from the journey, and I'll be letting them out into their Eglu Run in about half an hour or so.

Washburn appeared within seconds of us putting the girls in, and he's been sniffing all over the Eglu trying to work out how to get in to get his lunch.

Haven't decided on names yet. I've got a couple in mind, but I'm not sure. They're paired names, and I've never paired my pets' names before (as you're potentially left with a pet with a silly sounding name if one of them dies!).

I'll post pics later.

We opened the Eglu door at 12.30, and left them to emerge in their own time. Legbar, the youngest, ventured out first, followed later by Welsummer. They spent a few minutes eating grass, worknig their way down the run. Legbar found the water and had a long drink, and some time later she found the pellets.

They've been in and out of the Eglu a few time, but seem OK. It's a lovely day for it; we've put an extra shade cover over the run as it's probably a bit too hot for them.

Have taken some pics, but as thwy were through the run bars you can't see too much. Will see if I can find a reasonable one to add later.

Here are some pics.
Firstly, one so you can see how small they are compared to the Eglu; then a profile of the Legbar; and then one of the pair of them whic is not a flattering pic of the Welsummer, she's stretching upwards and this makes her look like a Game Bird!; and finally a snap of the two of them

Later still (6pm)

They've been rootling about in the grass, eating their pellets, drinking the water, sitting and dozing.... I'm a bit concerned that the Legbar's wings are not horizontal, they are pointing downwards slightly. If you know what you're looking for, you can see it in the second picture above.

I know this isn't a good thing in older birds, so I'm really hoping it's just because she's hot/tired/young. I'll see how she goes tomorrow and, if there's no change, then maybe ring the breeder for advice.

Both Isobelle and Washburn (cats) are feigning indifference to the Littlies.

And It's good night (7.45pm)
At last! After half an hour of to-ing/fro-ing will they/won't they, the Littlies finally went to bed. We closed the pop hole, took the food out of the Run, and breathed a sigh of relief.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Ready for the Newbies

The new Eglu has arrived!

DH built it yesterday, and we've located it away from the Girls for the time being. The Newbies arrive on Friday, and will spend the first five days or so in a different part of the garden to settle in. Then we'll move the Eglu near the Cube so everybird can see everybird else, but will all be well out of pecking range.

And then we'll start the slow process of integrating them. because the Newbies will only be about 14 weeks old, it'll be at least 6 weeks before they can all live together completely.