What Happens In SnoskredLand?

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There’s a chook lurking back there!

So much stuff, almost too much to type. Things are very busy and I am not sure when I will get back to regular blogging. In the meantime, here are a few tidbits that might eventually work their way into posts of their own.

– We got a new fridge, which is all fridge no freezer.

– The reason we most needed the new fridge – eating so much of our food prepared from scratch takes up a lot more space

– Buying things in bulk saves us money but things like potatoes keep better and longer in the fridge.

– I have been shopping for clothes at my new size and you can bet that is going to be a post by itself.

– I have discovered a new snack – peanut butter spread on apples. I like to eat this at 9:30pm while watching Tabatha’s Salon Takeover reruns on the Style channel on Foxtel. The Other Half believes this is a freakish snack, not eaten by “normal” people. He has never seen Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, but I am sure he would think that is freakish as well.

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– We have had so much rain, the chook pen is a flooded mess. This means we are in the process of planning a new chook pen.

– The chooks have been getting a lot of treats as a consequence. They had lactose free yoghurt today.

– The colonoscopy did not happen as scheduled. Unfortunately all the “low fibre” foods I was told I had to eat to prepare actually cause a lot of irritation and inflammation in my bowel. I would have been better off sticking with my protein shakes only but they were “not allowed” even though chicken and eggs were.

– We have been revisiting the 80’s and 90’s musically – our car stereo is like a Delorean, taking us back in time.

– My oldest nephew has decided to become a pilot. This is terrifying news for me but happy and great news for him.

– The chook pen rebuild may mean less time for blogging but I will try to keep you updated.

Reading – Persuasion by Jane Austen, previous to that I re-read Game Change which is such a great book about the 2008 election campaign. It is not just about McCain/Palin as it was in the movie – it covers the democrat side fairly comprehensively as well and says some very revealing things about the Clintons. Worth a read if you like US politics.

Watching – Season 2 of Billions – Season 6 of Homeland – Big Little Lies which is just amazing.. I loved the book but the show is even better.

Drinking – We did an overnight trip to Sydney recently for a wedding and I had a glass bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water. It was perfectly chilled and in a glass bottle which made it feel very fancy and awesome. The next day we were at Costco and they had a 24 pack of San Pellegrino in 500ml plastic bottles on special so I bought it and once a week or so I treat myself with one.

Eating – just cooked the first Brussels Sprouts for 2017 tonight. So glad they are back on the shelves!

I’ll try to post at least once a week for the next month, we’ll see how it goes. This post might actually inspire a few more to be written. :)

Chickens, country life

Building A Chook Fence

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The previous fence arrangement was Not Great. It worked for the most part AKA it kept the chooks on the lawn where they were meant to be and NOT on the concrete pooping up a storm. However as time went on, it began to biodegrade and holes began to appear.

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It was originally meant to be temporary until we built our Queensland room onto the back of the house. Realistically that is a HUGE job and may even require getting council approval depending on what we want to build and how we want to build it.

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Normally the chooks ignore the holes but sometimes one would find their way into the promised land. That was no big deal. But when all 5 of them scratched up my seedling bed – seen above with Grumpy before I planted the seedlings in it, it was time to get to work on something a bit more permanent.

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I never question the how, what, why, where or when. The Other Half just creates a plan and implements it. I am purely there to assist and sometimes this causes problems when I do not understand his vision. But I must say I am usually very fashionably attired to assist. These are my Aldi $15 wellies which originally were gorgeously shiny, several months of doing chook jobs has dulled them a little. They are due for a good clean.

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So his plan involved stardroppers, chicken wire, and wire to tie the chook wire to the stardroppers. That was the time consuming fiddly part of the job.

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It did turn out very well indeed.

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Here are the girls back out free ranging once it was finished. This photo was taken on the Sunday before Purple Comb became so unwell. You can see she seems perfectly fine, free ranging happily with her besties. However it is more likely she was starting to feel unwell and just very good at hiding it.

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I had become very sick of our hose arrangements, and it was time to find a better solution. You know when you change something and it works so well, and you are left wondering why did I not change this thing before? That applies to this hose purchase. It is incredibly useful and has me out watering the plants way more often than ever before. Which can only be great for the plants in the long run.

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Life goes on, for the girls. They do seem to be sticking together in their flock more, just recently. They are still being spoiled rotten with blueberries, baby spinach, corn on the cooler days, tuna, strawberries, and occasionally scrambled eggs as well.

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If we make it through the summer with 4 chooks remaining, we will be very lucky. Rosie and Dark Comb are over 6 years old now. Lizzy and Kitty are expected by our vets to have shorter than expected lives due to the early vitamin deficiencies their previous owner inflicted upon them by feeding the wrong food. We will make their remaining days as great as they can be.

Chickens, country life, Home

Chooks Are Bad

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Thursday last week, I let the chooks out to free range. When they are out ranging, I tend to stand at the back door and watch them from time to time during the day. I checked on them about 3:30pm.

When I checked again at 5pm, they had somehow managed to knock the orange fence down that separates them from the potplant and concrete area, and one or several of them had got into my large plant pot.

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I had planted some silverbeet and kale before we went on holidays, just to see how it did. We have not had a lot of luck recently with seedlings at all. Well now two of the new plants had been pulled out completely and dirt thrown everywhere by some very naughty girls. All of them were involved, we watched it on the CCTV cameras. I took some screenshots for you!

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You can see Grumpy lying in the sun inside the door there, casually watching the carnage. It is not entirely their fault, as the orange fence had seemingly begun to biodegrade. They’d managed to put some holes in it and sneak through before, but usually we have spotted them before they had a chance to do anything bad, and they would quickly leave when we went out there.

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Look at Rosie there, overseeing the goings on, like the grande dame she is.

I went out into the pen pretending like I had a treat to give them, they all followed me into the pen, and I locked them up for the day. Bad girls, I said! You should have seen their sad chook faces as they all stood by the door, hoping I would forgive *and* forget. I counted them, as I always do when I put them away. 12345, I thought. Yep, all in.

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Game Hen 1

But worse news was to come for the girls – when I told The Other Half what they had done, we agreed that the orange netting which was serving as a fence had to come down and we had to come up with another solution. He went out and took down the fence, and swept the concrete as we have had a lot of leaves blow down recently.

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Game Hen 2

The next morning, when the other half went to feed them, he only saw 4 chooks. He knocked on the back door and told me one of the game hens was missing. Impossible, I said. I remember counting them when I put them away. I went to get dressed, by the time I got back he had found the missing girl, who had made herself a lovely nest in an invisible spot, behind a gum tree in among some aloe vera at the very back of their enclosure.

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When I went back out there around 10am to check on them, they did not get let out to free range, again. They could not quite believe it. I had gone out to get one of their water containers and bring it inside. It was a 38 degree day and they needed some ice water. When I went back out with the water, they did not get let out, again! They did not realise they now had no fence at all stopping them from pooping on the concrete or getting into the plant pots.

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How did she even manage to squeeze in there?

The next day, perhaps in protest at not being let out, perhaps just out of spite or because it is fun, the game hens laid their eggs in the special hiding nest. We used some wire to bring the wire fence closer to the tree, so this spot is no longer accessible to the girls. Yesterday we built them a new fence, which is a story for another blog post, and I will tell you that story next Monday.

Chickens

Counting The Minutes.

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This last couple of weeks may well have been the slowest weeks of my life. I can guarantee as soon as Sephyroth arrives, time will speed up enormously and those 3 weeks will vanish before we know it.

The to-do list has been long. As mentioned here, I took this as an opportunity to do some serious spring cleaning. Every surface in this house has been cleaned in some way. We did a clean out of some old furniture which meant a dump run. I also did a clean through of my wardrobe – I have tried on every single piece of clothing and been quite ruthless in donating things that do not fit or suit me.

The chook pen was cleaned late on an afternoon last week. This is a job we usually do early afternoon but this time our weekends have been too busy with other jobs, so we had to do it after The Other Half finished work.

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Our Grande Dame Rosie the Rosecomb was deeply unimpressed with us. She felt it was bedtime, and what were these idiots humans doing to her house? How was she meant to go to sleep? All that fresh new sand to explore, but Rosie did not even stop a moment, she went straight up on the bed perch.

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We ordered a chicken feeder and waterer just to make life a little easier for my parents who will be visiting daily, feeding the cats and chooks. I’d been asking The Other Half to make me one of those PVC feed/water systems for a few years now, but there have been so many jobs on his to do list and this never happened. When it arrives and we have used it for a while I will write a post about it. :)

Those chooks want out of their pen to free range anytime they see humans and they are super sneaky, so I didn’t want to tempt fate by needing someone to go in there. They do have backup water and food within the coop that they will eat if all other options are gone.

In the chook pen we have 3 large water containers. Two are old icecream containers, and one is an old salad bowl of mine which is still functional but we lost the lid, so that made it a perfect chook container.

Water in a chook pen is tricky – you will get algae growing in the container, the chooks dust bathe so dust gets in the water, leaves and bugs get in the water, and the water itself evaporates so you need to refill them regularly and scrub out the containers. I usually do this job twice a week – the old water goes on the plants so it does not go to waste. Fingers crossed the new item will work as intended, but I will leave the other containers in there as a backup.

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The lawn has now been mowed. The chooks have been having a great time with this longer grass and clover flowers because it is hayfever season and The Other Half gets sneezy when he has to mow the lawn this time of year. Hopefully this weekend we will be able to weed and feed it.

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We bought a new container for the kitty litter tray. This is mostly to make it easier for my parents to scoop while we are away. However it has turned out to be one of the best ideas we ever had, because we got a 34 litre under bed storage container, so it gives them plenty of room. We were finding the other container often would have large clumps at the edges, because of where the cats would position themselves when they got in it.

Here on the blog, all the posts have been scheduled and are ready to go. I went through all the books on my tablet, removing the books I have no intention of reading and sorting them into alphabetical directories by author.

On the trip front, all the documents are together and ready. The itinerary has been finalised – with the flexibility of swapping days if the weather is Not Great. I put together a text file with all the addresses we will be going to ready for easy loading into the GPS.

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I asked The Other Half which ride he would like to go on first at Dreamworld. He said he would like to wing it. I said no, that is not how going to a theme park works. You need to have a plan! And not just any plan but a plan specially designed to ensure you are doing the things people tend to do at the exact times other people tend NOT to do them. If you can plan it well enough you can shorten your queueing times considerably without the need to pay extra for “fast track”.

I watched Bathurst in preparation for our visit there. We’re planning to walk the entire track, plus drive it (slowly) a few times. We might also walk much of the track for the Gold Coast 600. Sephyroth is quite the car racing fan.

I took a final shopping trip last Friday. I knew it was a mistake to go when I did, because it was 10am on a Friday. We needed a few things and I thought I would pick up the last of the trip items while I was out, like travel sugar sachets, those small UHT milk things, just bits and pieces.

It was like shopping with zombies. We are so spoiled always shopping after 6pm on a weekend when virtually nobody else is around. I think I am becoming less tolerant of other people who are in my way than I have ever been before. By the time I got to the end of the shop I felt infected with the zombie virus myself, distracted, zoning out, and I actually forgot to put a bag of shopping in the trolley. Lucky they called me back, because that bag had all the cat food for the kitties while we are gone.

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We packed everything a week ago. We had not intended to pack. We were doing a mock pack, to make sure all our stuff would fit in the car once we add the suitcase of Sephyroth. Fortunately I had a suitcase almost the exact same size here. I started out just making sure our toiletries would all fit in the toiletry bag and got sucked into the temporal packing vortex. One hour later and we were packed.

When it came to packing I was ruthless. I packed for 5 days of clothes, we are on the Gold Coast for 6 nights. I will do a wash before we leave and we’ll be set for our further 3 nights. I find if I pack well before we leave, I will remember everything I have forgotten to pack and be able to put it in before we leave. The day after our pack, I realised I had forgotten socks and camisoles. I have a last minute packing list, to grab all those items we will be using up until go time.

Chickens, kitties, Snoskred On Holidays

Around Here

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It was Saturday morning, and I was sitting in my pyjamas drinking the morning coffee and doing a bit of reading. The Other Half was headed out to the Man Cave, and he said “Shall I let the chooks out?” I said, sure, not even thinking that there were strong wind warnings, because the caffeine had not kicked in yet.

Maybe 20 minutes later, while I was playing Cascade on my phone, I noticed an incoming call from The Other Half on his mobile. Before I could even think what the heck, I answered it. “I need your help out here” he said, out of breath. It sounded like he was fighting spiders, or snakes, or some kind of bad thing was happening, then he was babbling on about the padlock. What padlock, I was thinking? “I don’t understand what is going on” said I.

Rosie has escaped the yard, she flew over the fence and I am trying to catch her, and if you open the side gate I might be able to shoo her in there, but at the moment I am not even sure where she has gone”.

So I raced to the bedroom to throw clothes on, then ran to the backdoor and put on my new gumboots, then ran to the back gate and tried to open the padlock. No go. It had rusted over. I yelled over the fence that I would swap with the other half because I could not open it, and ran around the side of the house. By the time I got out the front I heard this tremendous squawking and then I saw The Other Half emerge from the bushes, Rosie firmly grasped between his two hands.

He was covered in blackberry thorn scratches. She appeared to be fine, other than being very upset about being caught! She is a small chook, and when she gets separated from the other girls she will run like a bat out of hell to catch up with them, and if that does not seem to be fast enough, she will fly. On this morning, being quite windy, she got a little more lift than she expected and sailed over the fence as a surprise to herself.

It will be a few days before we recover enough from this incident to let them out again. I might have to head out down the side lane with the clippers and remove some of those blackberry bushes for everyone’s safety. One night recently, we heard someone using a chainsaw in the dark, the next day I found someone had been cutting up trees for firewood down there. Not a smart move, methinks!

What else have we been up to here, besides chasing chooks?

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Watching – The X Files – we are up to season 8 finally! Plus, Mr Robot is back and it has been amazing thus far. I’m also enjoying season 3 of Murder In The First and The Deadliest Catch.

Freezing – bananas, strawberries, and pineapple for protein smoothies. Namely this Lava Flow recipe with protein added. I am going to try this carrot cake one next..

Ordering – protein in bulk from bulk nutrients, and k/d cat kibble from My Pet Warehouse.

Building – New IKEA furniture – a story for another post. :)

Cleaning – the house like a crazy person as our vet did a home visit for Grumpy. Guess who spent two hours cleaning the bathroom and toilet in case the vet needed to use them, which of course she did not? They are super spotless now though, which is awesome. And that two hours does not include the four or so hours I spent deep cleaning the kitchen/lounge the day before, or the hours we spent vacuuming and mopping the floors the day before that.

Considering – We’ve realised that Grumpy gets very stressed out having to go to the vet, and that was actually making her eye ulcers worse than better. Any progress we would make was wiped out the following visit because she got stressed about the previous visit. On this home visit, we were very glad to find no eye ulcers in the eye, however we are talking with the vet about corrective surgery for her eyelid as it keeps turning inwards.

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Planning – Our Gold Coast – Tamworth – Bathurst trip with Sephyroth, this coming October. In the above photo the pink arrows point to the Peninsula Apartments, where we will be staying, and the blue arrows point to the Q1 which they were building on our trip up there in 2003.

Listening – I made two MP3 CDs for my nephew recently, for his new car. The first two burned wrong for his car, something about folders and playlists, but they work ok in mine, and so I have been greatly enjoying them. It is all 80’s music, all kinds of stuff from I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred to Gold by Spandau Ballet. We burned them correctly on the second try and loaded them into his car as a surprise. He sent me an SMS after he drove home in the car to say how awesome the first CD was, and he was right!

Wondering – just who the heck this person is that I seem to have become. I went to Aqua Aerobics last week but the warm indoor pool was closed. My options were – go home or get in the outdoor pool and do some aqua jogging and swimming in there. It was 17C (62.6F) outside, and the pool is heated to 25.2C (77.36) and normally there would be NO WAY IN HELL I would get in an outdoor pool at these low for Australia temperatures, but I was determined to do my exercise, so I GOT IN.

Playing – Cascade and Tiny Tower Vegas on my phone. I do not play a lot of games these days but I LOVE Cascade, it is a bit more difficult than your average gem matching game

I have been playing Tiny Tower Vegas for probably 6 months now, just when I’m going to bed or waking up in the morning. I have 68 levels most at level 7 and 8 – I believe the game runs out of levels just over 100. I also have 1212 chips – and I did not cheat! I just ran out of time to play the poker games and the chips have been stacking up as a surprise to myself.

Chickens, country life, exercise

Chooky Chore Day

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The time of year is upon us where we do the regular chook pen clean out. This year we added the task of turning over the “soil” – by now most of the actual top soil has been washed away by the rain. What is left is pretty hard packed, and just underneath it is mostly clay. It has been in the shade for most of the day for a few weeks now, and moss was growing on top.

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You know your girls have plenty of better stuff to do and sunnier places to be when they allow two tomato plants to grow from seeds to over a foot high, right in the area where their seeds land every day. I took them from the middle of this area and planted them in a pot. Sorry, I did not get a pic of them! Too busy doing. We’ll see how they do.
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The coop and run were cleaned out, and allowed to air a little. Then fresh sand was placed inside. We used to use zeolite and rice hulls but both of these have become difficult to source locally recently. Sand is a good compromise, because it is easy to scoop the chook poop out of.

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For most of the time while we did this job, the chooks were in their leaf pile far away from us, chasing bugs, crickets, and HOPEFULLY centipedes if they find any, because there was an incident where one got inside and was found after midnight thanks to Happy the cat, chasing it around The Other Half’s office. Then a couple of days later, one was on the front porch.

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Then the two game hens arrived to check out our progress. Shortly after this photo was taken, I turned all that mossy area into turned over soil, and got myself a lovely blister on my palm as my reward. Then I was spraying some essential oils around the feet of the pen – to prevent ants and other pests climbing into the coop – and managed to get some of that inside the blister. The pain was very painful!

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Now it is over to the girls, to beat this dirt into submission. I’m not sure how enthusiastic they will be unless some bugs magically appear in this area, or the sun suddenly reroutes itself and shines here again. We’ll see how they do over the next week. :)

Chickens, country life

Life Goes On – The Chook Version

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It has been nearly a month since Red Comb went to the Rainbow Bridge. The day afterwards, I mentioned in the comments on that post that we had three miserable girls out in the chook pen – her two sisters and Rosie seemed like they were missing her. That is quite unusual chook wise, all our past losses they’ve just got on with life without skipping a beat. I think it tells the story of how special Red Comb was, not just to me but to her chook friends.

Anytime a chook leaves the flock, the dynamics change. Rosie had long been a great friend of Red Comb. They could usually be found within a couple of metres of each other. So to look out at the chook pen and see Rosie on her own the first day broke my heart.

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Lizzy is the current leader of the flock. She gets the best treats, she decides where everyone is going, if someone else finds a treat she will do her best to steal it, she pecks at the lower hens at feeding time. She is a bit of a mean girl.

On the second day, Lizzy was broody, the two game hens were just chillaxing in the new chicken hotspot – behind the BBQ – I noticed that Rosie and Kitty started hanging out. Here they are, dustbathing up a storm.

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In a fascinating development, when Lizzy is broody, Rosie is the new leader of the pack. Rosie does not lead with pecks and treat theft. Rosie is a generous, benevolent leader. I have never seen her so much as aim her beak in the direction of another chicken, not even at Blueberry Treat time. However, she does defend the chook territory ferociously from other birds and will chase them away from the bird baths and the chook pen.

Life goes on for the remaining chooks. Life goes on for me, as well. But I still miss her.

Chickens, country life

Vale Red Comb

The post yesterday was written on the 13th of November. Red Comb had a whole month of blueberries and happy chook time since then. Late yesterday, about 6pm, I noticed that she was still sitting down after the heat of the day had passed. The sight of me at the back door with blueberries was not enough to raise her. I knew right then something was wrong.

Although her comb was still perfectly red, when I got down to hand feed the blueberries, she did not even try to walk over. Normally she would have run to me and had a blueberry in her beak before you could blink. I threw some over her way, and she did move towards them, but then she wobbled and nearly fell down. After that she seemed to perk up a little and did manage to eat some blueberries, but I knew this was bad news.

She then managed to climb up the chook stairs, and she managed to get onto the roost. We let her settle a little. Because the vet was already closed, we tried the spa treatment. That is when we discovered she either had an egg or some kind of growth in her abdomen. If you pick up a chook at regular times, you can often feel the egg inside – they feel quite soft and not like an egg at all. This felt harder than an egg.

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We talked about it – well, The Other Half talked, I sobbed mostly. We agreed she would have to go to the vet first thing this morning. I knew within myself the most likely outcome was that she would be euthanased. Even so, I had a tiny amount of hope that it was just an egg stuck, and that maybe our spa treatment would work and like all the other times before, she would get another chicken life. That maybe this morning I would find her egg in the nesting box and she would be out roaming with the other girls.

You see, Red Comb was not just a normal chook. She was my favourite chook. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her, because the first moment I saw her, she was sticking her head and neck out of her enclosure at the chook auction, trying to see her sisters who were in the pen below her. Rows of pens with chooks in them, she was the only one sticking her head out.

There she is. That photo gives you an idea of her personality however I could post every photo I ever took of her and you would still not quite understand, because her true awesomeness could never be photographed.

I went to take a closer look, and the look she gave me, I will never forget it. If I were to try and put it into words, it would be HI!!!!!!! Her personality shone through like a bright light right in your face. I hoped I would be able to afford her. I can’t remember how much I paid for her, but I managed to buy both her and her two sisters in the pen below, plus White Sussex. My budget for the day was $120 and I think all four together cost me somewhere between $100-120. Here was the first post I wrote about them.

While waiting to bid on them, I met the man who bred her and her sisters the next day at the chook auction. He breeds them to show them, and these girls were not show chicken quality, so he was hoping they would find a great home. We had a good long chat. I showed him photos of the place they would live if I won the bidding for them. He was very happy to see the three girls reunited into the carrying case and going to a good home.

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So she and her sisters made my backyard their home and in the process they made my backyard something I never expected – a place I wanted to hang out and spend time just watching them *be*. The life of Red Comb and her sisters was treat filled and happy. She got all kinds of treats, from mealworms to yoghurt. She had broody times occasionally, not as often as the other chooks.

Being my favourite was not good news for her, it just meant if something was going to happen to a chook, it was going to happen to her. I remember one time after we first began to allow them to free range, she disappeared overnight. She could not be found anywhere. But the next day, she returned.

Then there was the hawk incident in 2013. I wrote about that here, and I officially un-favourited her at that time. After the hawk incident she was never the same chook physically, but she survived and went on to eat many more treats.

I knew this terrible day would arrive eventually. No matter how well I knew that or how much I tried to prepare for it, that does not change the fact that the past 17 hours or so have been awful. I had a lot of trouble going to sleep last night because every time I closed my eyes, I could see that happy chook running towards me for her blueberry medals and I knew it was very unlikely I would ever see that happen again.

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When I got up this morning I went right to the back door and I saw her standing on the roost. Girls are never on the roost at that time of day – everyone else was under the chook pen dust bathing. We had our showers and went out to put her in the carrier. I took some blueberries and though I had them in my hand and she was the only chook there, she would not get down off the roost for them.

Eventually after a lot of convincing by me, she did get down, and wandered over to eat her last blueberries. I called the other half over and he put her in the carrier. I went inside and called the vet, keeping it together for the time it took to book an appointment in 15 minutes and telling them it was likely for euthanasia, then I lost it. The whole way there, as much as I tried not to cry, salt water ran from my eyes.

Luckily our normal vet was working today, after a short wait she took us in, and told us what I already knew to be true. It was a mass, not an egg. I asked her if The Other Half could go with her while she did the euthanasia – he is a farm boy plus he is amazing with the animals, they are so calm around him. She gave Red Comb some anesthetic gas and she went off to sleep, she never even knew about the needle.

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In the photo above she was mid-moult – each moult brought her closer to show chicken quality and she was in such beautiful condition, even today her feathers were stunningly gorgeous. We brought her home and trimmed off some of those beautiful feathers as a keep sake, and now she rests under the lemon tree, with Mary. Her two sisters are behaving very strangely this morning – they know.

As I always post when this happens – there are 5 other chickens in the yard for whom life continues. They live minute by minute, sucking the most joy out of each and every moment, whether it is a dirt bath, finding a bug, eating a treat from the humans.. all we can do is love them while they’re here, protect them the best we can from predators, know when it is time to let them go, and remember them when they are gone.

It will be a very long time before I can go into the yard without expecting Red Comb to run up to me, looking for her blueberries. I take huge comfort in the fact that she who was so concerned for her sisters at the chook auction got to arrive here with them and live many happy and treat-filled days with her two most favourite chooks in the world.

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I am officially favourite-ing her again. There will never be another favourite. We loved you, Red Comb. May there be as many blueberries as you can eat at the Rainbow Bridge where you now rejoin White Sussex, Ancona, Mary, Twiggy and Big Kitty. You will be greatly missed here.

I’ll be taking a few days off, you might not see me in your comments sections this week. Posts are scheduled as always, so the blog will continue as usual.

Chickens, Vale Pets

The Chicken Mind

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There are certain things you need to look out for when it comes to chickens. Terry from Henblog writes in her post diagnosing a sick chicken

“The best advice that I can give anyone is this: know your animals. You should be so acquainted with their quirks and vocalizations, their greetings and their eating habits, that as soon as something is off, you know it.”

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But sometimes, odd chicken behaviour has nothing to do with being sick, and everything to do with chickens getting an idea stuck in their mind. Broodiness is one such example. Above you see my two pekins in a broody mood.

The good thing about these broody hens – once I remove the eggs, pick them up and put them on the ground, they usually forget all about being broody and go right back to being normal chickens – until someone lays another egg.

There have been times when one of these two has an extended broodiness with and/or without eggs in the box. It can last a couple of weeks. I discourage it in hot weather, and I always kick the broody out when I go out to collect the eggs, so they can poop, eat, drink, etc. In super hot weather I try to go out every hour or so, to make sure everyone is doing ok.

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You might recall the above photo from a Sunday Selections post – this is when Purple Comb got the idea in her head that she did not want to lay her eggs in the nesting box. This is not a new idea for her – she has done this for at least two weeks every year since we got her. One year she laid nearly 20 eggs in a hidden spot we did not find until we did some serious gardening. We still are not sure how long those eggs had been there!

hiddennest

Purple comb is not broody with these eggs – she simply lays them and gets on with her day. Once the egg is laid she rejoins the flock. When I go to collect it, she plays the “it wasn’t me, truly, I lay my eggs in the nesting box” game. Here she is, doing exactly that, while I tell her off, because I got dirty collecting her hidden egg!

wasntme

She presently has three not laying box places where she will lay her egg – in that garden box, under the lemon tree in the garden, and she made a tiny little nest next to the gate leading out to their leaf pile. Before laying her daily egg, she roams separately from the flock – scratching around, hunting for that perfect item to take and add to her native nest(s).

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Chickens are flock animals and when one removes themselves from the flock, that is sometimes cause for worry. In the case of Purple Comb, she has a purpose in her mind which is outweighing flock time. She wants to build the perfect native nest(s) for her eggs. Why she thinks a spot next to an old wooden gate and a drain cover is perfection, that is yet another mystery of the chicken mind.

gatenest

Red Comb has been removing herself from the flock on super hot days, choosing a shady place to sit and dust bathe. She is not enjoying the hot weather. I make sure to give her cool treats and any day where the temperature reaches 30+, I put some cold water with ice spheres in it into the pen. Once I do that, she dust bathes near the cool water, and I see her drinking slightly more than usual. She will get a cold watermelon, tomato or blueberry treat.

redcomb88

She is still eating, still laying, still doing all the usual chook things. She just takes a break when she needs to. Once the heat of the day passes, she is back out roaming with the girls. I know her well enough to know that her hot day flock removal is not a huge cause for concern with her. She has never been quite the same since the hawk incident. She simply wants to be in the coolest spot possible when the heat is on.

I know Red Comb is still enjoying life and she still runs for her blueberry medals, even on a 40C (104F) day. In fact all I have to do is stand near the back door and there will be a chook frenzy, with all the girls running up to see if I am bringing them a treat. On hot days I only go to the back door if I am taking them something because I do not want them to get all excited without an actual reward.

The day she does not run up, excited to see me, that will be the day I know she has had enough and it is time for that dreaded journey to the vet. Until then, the blueberry medals and treats will be a daily event. Chooks are here for a good time, not a long time.

potplanteggs

Purple Comb was eventually successful in hiding many eggs from me and she got another chook to join in. This is 5 days of 2 chooks laying their eggs in a hidden spot. This potplant was removed from the chook pen once I discovered this – it normally sat in an area I don’t always check, obviously! I only discovered it because I saw one of the chooks standing on the edge of the potplant.

I had noticed the drop in eggs and thought the heat plus mites and/or lice might be the reason. One of the broodies had a few red mites, I found. All the chooks got a dusting with the pest powder that evening, plus a dose of Ivermectin. The treatment is very effective, within 24 hours I checked the broody again and saw no sign of any pests. It was a few more days before I found these eggs.

It is a not so awesome fact of chicken life that chooks will experience these pests from time to time and it is always the first thing I look for when the eggs disappear. Usually dust bathing is enough to keep our girls pest free, except when they get broody because they do not spend time dust bathing. When it rains a lot, they also cannot dust bathe.

Mostly these things are carried by wild birds. While it might be an idea to discourage wild birds from hanging out in our yard, I also enjoy wild birds visiting. We have two bird baths which are quite the bird hangout on super hot days. Even if I took away the bird baths, the chicken wire on top of the coop does allow small birds to fly in, mostly pigeons but there is a willy wagtail who likes to fly in and eat spiders up high where the chooks can’t reach.

Chickens, country life, garden