On two recent nights, terrible indignities have been occuring to our chickens. Thursday night last week they were dusted with powder that prevents nasties like lice and mites.
One who does not own chickens might be curious about this process. First up you want to wait for the girls to put themselves to bed. That process begins around twilight and can take up to an hour or more to be completed. Especially when you have new girls who are still working out their place in the flock.
There are two times of day when you will notice who sits where in the scheme of things. Feeding time, where the “lower” girls will be pecked away from the “good food” by the higher girls. It is not usually actual pecks, just acting like they are about to peck is enough to send a lower girl running away. This time of day is easy to document with photos and video.
The other time of day is bedtime. Lesser girls will be told in no uncertain terms to get off the roost of the higher girls. The girls have three roosts to choose from. At present we have two roosts in use – one inside the coop where the higher girls sleep – one in the run where the lesser girls sleep.
Apologies – I will not use flash at night if chicken eyes are aimed at me. So this is a dark time photo!
Once the girls have found their spot, they settle in and sleep. They usually remain asleep until about an hour before sunrise, at which time they start to wake up. Some early birds will be up and about, looking for food, water and early morning bugs to eat.
That is, unless they receive a surprise visit from two crazy lunatics who shake dust onto their feathers. In that instance there is much squawking and outraged clucking, some reshuffling of half asleep hens, and all the girls placed onto the internal roost inside the coop just so we know who has been dusted and who has not. I do not have photos for you of the dusting – that is a time when you need your wits about you and you can’t be trying to take photos.
On Saturday night there was another surprise visit – this time to do some feather trimming. The new girls have been here with us for two weeks now and it was time to allow some free ranging. These girls can really fly and BeeGee, Queen and Diana are more flighty than our usual chicken so we wanted to make sure they would not take off over the fence into parts unknown.
We did not bother with wing trimming our older girls – they have been living here for a long time and also are less athletic than some of our newbies.
On Sunday, the chicken enclosure door was placed in the open position, and we collectively held our breath hoping all would go well. AKA the girls would find their way back to the coop at the end of the day. Because Queen and Diana have been having a little trouble with that even inside the enclosure, often ending up on top of the coop rather than in it.
The girls had a grand time wandering about and exploring new areas they had been gazing at longingly since arriving. The grass was a big hit and much enjoyed, but the garden beds were also a source of happiness. They also found the secret dust bathing area where the cats can watch them from inside the house.
While the girls wandered, The Other Half got to work on building them a new way into the coop. He took apart an old fence we had lying around, and created something pretty awesome out of it – they now have an impressive ramp and they are enjoying it a lot. There are times when standing at the top is The Place To Be.
Brussel Sprouts are either nowhere to be found or extremely Up Money. We’ve had to improvise. I decided to use baby spinach in our Meatball Mix the other night. The result was somewhat odd, as the spinach turned everything green, even after it was cooked.
It was still delicious!
The new girls have settled in well for the most part, however the flock layout has turned out totally different to expectations. At the very top of the flock are Dark Comb, Lizzy and Kitty. Dark Comb was clearly determined to be the Queen Bee. Just under them is Foo and Finn. BeeGee is next, followed by Diana, and Queen is at the very bottom of the pecking order.
When we took Rosie in to see the vet, who was not our normal vet, she was surprised to find how observant we are and how quickly we had picked up on Rosie not being her usual self. The vet said many flock owners do not notice anything is wrong until things are *really* wrong. This can be of great benefit to the chooks if something is wrong, but it can also be to our detriment.
Last Saturday around lunchtime, Foo separated herself away from the flock and was standing inside the run on one of the roosts. By 2:30pm we were starting to get quite worried as this was not like her and it was contrary to the usual chook routine, normally Foo and Finn are inseparable, or sometimes they split up a bit to hang out with some of the other chooks but they are usually within each others sight line.
We suspected she might be egg bound, and thus we tried the spa treatment. She hung out by the laying boxes for the next hour and a half, with Finn coming in to check on her pretty regularly. Finally to our great relief she laid the larger than usual egg around 4:30. More than likely this would have happened quite naturally without any intervention or worrying on our part at all. But who knows, maybe the spa treatment helped her out. ;)
Most days the girls get at least one treat. In the past week they have had a variety of awesome new things to try. They pecked some cauliflower into a new alien landscape.
They were unsure at first about yoghurt but they soon discovered it was brilliant. It has to be lactose free for chickens. You also want to make sure to have at least two separate feeding stations so if the girls lower on the pecking order get chased away from one container they can visit the other one. I can cut these egg cartons in half so they have 4 locations to choose from.
BeeGee has discovered blueberries – she has one in her beak there, it is a bit hard to spot – and they are her favourite treat so far. She used to run away from us whenever we went out to the enclosure – now she waits to see if we have her most favourite thing. My expectation is that she will eat them out of my hand within a couple of weeks.
Last weekend was a long weekend here. We’d been talking about our fire plan and also preparing our home. The dry leaves were all raked up and placed in the chicken pen where they will be an endless source of amusement until they compost down.
The house gutters were cleaned out. Gutter guard was installed on some of the house guttering, this job will be completed next weekend as we ran out of gutter guard.
The cats enjoyed plenty of outside in the yard time, where Grumpy was fascinated by the moving leaves in the small birdbath pond, and Happy spent some time getting to know the new chooks. We did not get out for any Jervis Bay walks over the weekend, however plenty of exercise was enjoyed right here at home. Everything is much tidier now.
BeeGee – After the BeeGees, and also because she is black and gold. She was named by The Other Half at the petrol station in Batemans Bay, while I went to the bathroom. This is a terrible photo, I will get a better one. However BeeGee is the least approachable of our new girls and she is speedy. Most of the photos turn out as a blur. I might have to try the bigger camera.
Foo – after the Foo Fighters. Foo is facing the camera.
Finn – After Neil & Tim Finn AKA The Finn Brothers. Finn is looking away from the camera. Finn has a floppy comb at the back. That is not dirt on their chest, that is their colouring.
Foo and Finn are the most approachable of our new girls and not at all afraid of humans. One of them spent quite a bit of time under my chair while some of the first flock jostling was going on, just happily scratching and chilling out. When I go out there, they walk right up to me and peer at me curiously, do I have a treat for them? I do not think these girls have any ambitions to be Queen of the Flock. They are happy being part of the flock and do not wish to lead.
Diana – After Diana Ross initially, but after observing her she is more like Princess Diana. Determined and persistent. She saw there was green grass on the other side of the fence, and spent at least 2 hours trying to work out how she could get to it.
Diana has a green band on her foot which helps us to tell her apart from Queen. She has been very busy working on her grass project which has kept her distracted from the flock positioning. In the photo above she has progressed from walking the fence line to standing on things, trying to see if there are any gaps in the mesh. There may have been, but seeing her determination, The Other Half got out the staple gun.
Queen – After the band Queen, and also she is the largest of the new girls and extremely perfect looking. She’s had a couple of run ins with the older girls and it seems she has been the winner of those runins. I think she wants to be Queen and has the same level of determination to get that job as her sister Diana has to get to the grass. These two girls are incredibly graceful, how they walk around is a thing of great beauty. Almost like ballet dancer chickens.
Lizzy (our Black Pekin), Kitty (our Grey Pekin) and Dark Comb who is keeping an eye on Queen.
They were living in pens of 5 girls and one rooster – three of these girls are from different pens. Foo and Finn were in together and were already good friends. They are all a year old and were raised by a human so they are friendly and easy to handle once you have picked them up, they will calmly sit and accept their fate, which is good for medicine and health checks.
Out in their new pen they have so much more space – and height – than they did previously. They were not at all sure about the arrangement of the coop and run. It took them a while to get the confidence to explore it and figure out where the roosts were, and the nesting boxes, and a couple of them originally tried to sleep on the roof before they found their way to the roost.
They received blueberry treats and kale yesterday. Kale they understand. Blueberries they have never seen before and they are clueless, and slightly scared of them. It will not take them long to understand that these are a treat. In the meantime the older girls run around picking up all the blueberries before the other girls get a chance.
On Tuesday, after I got home from my walk I spent some time watching the girls just to see what was happening in the yard. Queen found herself a huge spider – I think I saw it while I was raking things up on Saturday – and all the other girls both new and old chased her around the yard trying to steal it from her.
They have settled in nicely and they are dustbathing up a storm out there as I type. I’m not allowed to have favorites as you all know, but Foo and Finn did not have to work very hard to steal my heart. Plus I love if you call them together you get “FooFinn”.
At night there is still a little uncertainty about how to get into their sleeping area, but I expect by the end of the week they’ll remember exactly where to go. It is still a bit hard to tell who is where in the flock positioning. The girls have so much room out there, they do not need to encounter each other if they don’t want to.
It seems like there are three groups forming – Foo and Finn are usually not very far from each other, Diana, BeeGee and Queen hang out together a fair bit, and the older girls are sticking to their group however Dark Comb is often letting the newer girls know they are below her with a peck or two.
Our Grande Dame Rosie and Dark Comb were the best of friends. Dark Comb is the official Survivor, she is the last girl standing of our original 2011 flock.
The day after Rosie went to Rainbow Bridge, Snoskredland awoke to find the two Pekin girls had gone broody and poor Dark Comb was out there all by herself. I went and kicked the broodies out of their nest, and Lizzy stayed out instead of going back in, which made me feel slightly better.
However I know those two will be in and out of broodiness all spring and summer and the sight of Dark Comb by herself was breaking my heart. Chickens cannot flock when they are all alone.
Our mixed flock originally had several different breeds of chicken – three Old English Game hens, Rosie Rosecomb, White Sussex and Ancona. Out of those breeds our favourite has been the Old English Game due to their large personalities and very happy natures.
I did some digging and found an Old English Game breeder on the South Coast who was willing to part with some girls as his incubators are full and chicks are just hatching out now – it was a bit of a drive, down past Narooma. A bit of a drive is a bonus for us. We have that song project.
Let it be known, though. This was not our original plan. We were planning to re-do the chook pen in spring this year, then hatch out chicks once we had completely enclosed the pen, safe from rats, mice, snakes, etc, yada yada. Also, normally, one would quarantine girls before introducing as we did with our last lot of auction hens. In this case, we are far more knowledgeable in the health of these new girls than we would be in getting chooks from an auction.
On Saturday I cleaned out the chook pen in preparation. Of course I picked the hottest day of spring thus far to do it. I raked up all the leaves and branches which have fallen in recent winds, and made a nice pile for the girls to dig through.
On Sunday we left early, we had a great drive stopping for a quick breakfast at our favourite pie shop in Ulladulla – Hayden’s Pies – and back on the road for another couple of hours. On arrival there were literally gale force winds, making it difficult for us to hear the breeder describe his different girls to us, the colours and his Old English Game breeding projects.
We initially intended to get two girls, we ended up with five. At our first stop on the way home, the first chook was named – BeeGee because she is black and gold. That has inspired a musical theme. By the time we got home all of the girls had names, and we sat out in the chook pen for a couple of hours enjoying our new girls. Now the sun has gone down, the roost squabbling is over for the time being, and everyone has settled in for the night, including us.
They will remain in the pen for the next week, and likely before we let them out to free range we will do some wing clipping because we have noticed these girls are enthusiastic and excellent flyers. You will get to meet them properly on Wednesday!
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.
– 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. :)