Chicken Merge & Vale Twiggy


The Great Chicken Merge has occurred.. Sort of. You can put chickens together in an enclosure, but you cannot make them a flock or tell them what the pecking order is – they have to do that themselves, and it takes time. When your girls have so much space that they could pass days without running into each other if they so desire, integrating themselves into one flock will be slow going, and mostly takes place around food, and where chickens roost at bedtime.


So, how does one merge chickens together? With great difficulty, a lot of interesting chicken food, and plenty of time and attention.


Large trays of chicken interesting food – namely greens chopped up nice, tomatoes, strawberries, and tuna – were put together. I made 3 large trays, so that there would be plenty of places for the girls to eat and get to know each other.


There was much eyeballing. New chooks and old chooks alike, eyeballing and sizing up their chicken foes. There were one or two kerfuffles – the beginnings of a fight, which mostly ended with girls going their separate ways without the fight really starting.


Battle lines were being drawn – the five old girls VS the 3 new girls. And yet none of the girls really seemed like they wanted to push things to an actual battle. Lizzy, the black and gold Pekin, is the only one who tends to push the boundaries.


In the photo above, there she is, pushing. And here she is, at it again –


I’m writing this a couple of days later, and no actual battle has yet taken place – things are still in a wait and see mode, with the older girls clumping together and sticking together –


– and the new girls exploring the enclosure and not fighting much for position.


There have been a couple of interesting moments – mainly at bedtime. On the first night, Lizzy, who is perfectly named for her behaviour – she is *exactly* like her Pride and Prejudice name sake – decided she wanted to roost with the older girls.


This is Lizzy – she is the black and gold Pekin.


Well, what a to-do there was! Never did you hear so much squawking and tut tutting and general chicken noise at bedtime., but Lizzy carried her point and got a spot on the indoor roost, on one end, next to Rosie who is the lowest chicken on the pecking order and not one to cause trouble, not even with a new girl.


The two grey and gold Pekins – Kitty and Mary – decided Lizzy was welcome to all that kerfuffle, and they chose to sleep happily out in the enclosure area, where there are two roosts to choose from and zero old girls to fight with in order to get on them.


The next night, Lizzy was either too tired, or had been convinced by Mary and Kitty to avoid all the drama, and all 3 girls slept on the roost out in the run area. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is just as safe as the roost inside the coop. I don’t have a decent shot of Mary at this time, she is a bit camera shy but here is a shot of Kitty –


Below is an old photo of the run and you can see the two roosts there, from when the coop and run were first mated together.

The day the merge took place I was out in the enclosure with the girls for an extended amount of time. I had some work to do out in the chook pen, namely, taking out some of the large amount of leaf litter which appeared during December. I also intended to sit and watch them a little, so I took out a stool and a glass of water with a cover, because raking can be dusty even after all the rain we’ve had.


I cannot speak for all chickens in the world but I can speak for our chickens. Our girls LOVE leaf litter. For the most part and I have blogged about this before, we rake it all into one corner and leave it be, and the girls scratch and peck and time and weather generally composts it into soil.


There you can see piles starting to form. The plastic green thing on one side is the end of the hose which runs into the pen allowing us to water the garden bed if we need to.


In early December, it rained for 14 days in a row, and we had the highest rainfall for a December since 1888. Seriously, no joke. I looked it up. 249mm was the December total. We usually get 77mm average in any December and in some cases as little as 10mm for the whole month. They had 216mm in 1888, so we beat that in 2014, making this the highest rainfall in a December since they started keeping totals.


You make that pile, we’ll destroy this pile you made, kthx human!

We had a thunderstorm every afternoon for the first 7 days. The stormy weather blew a lot of extra leaf litter into the enclosure. This is no bad thing and normally I’d just rake it up all neat like and then let the chickens pick it apart again. You can see in this picture below that the chicken wire roof has plenty of leaf and branch litter on top of it, as well.


However, on closer inspection, I noticed that some non leaf rubbish – chip packets, lolly wrappers, plastic bags, that kind of thing – had blown in as well. And I’m not happy to leave that in there. A decluttering was required, the litter needed to be raked up and any rubbish removed, and then much of the litter could remain, to be picked apart and enjoyed. During my raking of this litter, I discovered many of the reasons why the chooks spend good portions of their day picking through it – I found many crickets, spiders, slugs, and other insect goodies which the girls love to eat.


You may have noticed that our white leghorn bantam “Twiggy” is missing – she had to be euthanased, unfortunately, not long after we got her. She was suffering very badly, to the point her comb and wattles were turning purple, a sure sign of respiratory and circulatory issues. Due to these worrying symptoms we sent her to be necropsied and make certain we were not dealing with any truly serious nasties.


The news eventually came back and while no evil respiratory illnesses were present she did have laryngitis, bronchitis, a chest infection along the lines of pneumonia, plus a kidney issue which would have become very unpleasant for her down the track. The vet said it is unlikely she would have survived the stress of having to be treated with antibiotics as she did not much enjoy being handled by humans, and unfortunately the kidney issue would have killed her within 6 months in any case.

They also found that she had serious nutritional deficiencies and seeing as all 4 of our new girls turned out to come from the same breeder, the vet suspects that the other 3 girls may have the same nutritional deficiencies. We will have to keep a close eye on them. Sometimes these things can be fixed by a balanced diet, but sometimes much damage is already done, especially if these crucial vitamins and minerals are missing when the girls are growing up and need them the most.

It is always difficult to make that decision to euthanase, and I know we’ll have to experience this again before too long, with 5 girls who are getting on in chicken years. If we make it to the end of 2015 with the 5 older girls, I’ll be very happy if that happens, but I’d also be quite surprised.

Chickens are here for a good time, but not always a long time.

Chickens, country life, Vale Pets

Vale Ancona


Ancona was humanely euthanised by our lovely local chicken vet yesterday.

I have dreaded this day for some years now, always knowing it would arrive, and always hoping when it did, I would be able to do what needed to be done. The other half was willing to do it himself, and more than likely he would have been fine with that, growing up as a farm child he has euthanased chickens before, but I wanted to be certain there was nothing more we could do for her and it made sense to me to take her to the vet.

Ancona started to look a little off colour on Saturday. She couldn’t make it onto the roost on Saturday night which is a bad sign. I initially thought this was a result of us treating the chickens feet with olive oil for scaly leg mite late last week – Ancona hates being handled by humans and when we do have to handle her, she is resentful and reserved for several days afterwards. We hoped she might improve.

On Sunday she was eating and looked to be on the mend, at least we hoped so, but by Sunday night she was no longer able to climb the stairs into the coop. The fact she did not even protest when we picked her up told me pretty much everything I needed to know, it was not her personality at all.. :(

We took her and gave her a warm salt bath, checked to see she was not egg bound, and brought her inside for a warm night in a box by the gas heater. She was no better this morning, so first thing it was off to the vet. I knew before we left home that it was unlikely she would be coming home with me. :(

I am deeply comforted by the fact that she has had an amazing and wonderful and very full of treats life. She has laid us many eggs over the past few years and each one has been enjoyed to the maximum by us. She was not a fan of humans – her breed, Ancona, is known to be flighty – and we have respected her dislike of us, only handling her when absolutely necessary. We have loved her from a distance, as was her desire.

We loved you, Ancona. Thanks for being a great chook.

With all that said, 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.

Will we add to our flock? More than likely. Ancona was our most reliable layer and we’ll miss her eggs. The girls have huge amounts of space out there and sometimes when you bring in younger girls it perks the older girls up. I’ve sent an email off to a local chicken breeder whose chickens I have admired for some years now, and the next chicken auction is a month away if that doesn’t work out..

Chickens, Vale Pets

So, it has been a while.

Almost a year. Is anyone still out there?

You can thank Jocelyn from Mama’s Style for my return. :)


Our Big Kitty
Lots to update – our big kitty went to Rainbow Bridge in December 2013 – she is greatly missed. Vale Big Kitty.

We nearly lost the other kitty as well to kidney failure but after a long time at the vet she returned home to us. She’s not the same kitty as she was. She’s super grumpy. We thought this would fade with time but it has been over 6 months so this seems like a permanent new thing. So her name here on the blog is now officially Grumpy.


We got a new small kitty who is probably the sweetest disposition cat I have ever met – Lets call her Happy.


You see how there are little nubs in the rug she is lying on? She thinks these are teats and will slobber all over them when she is doing her kneading and purring you are my mother love me routine. Loopy just like her owner, lol.


More Happy
Previously small kitty but now middle aged Grumpy kitty is not a fan of the new kitty *at all* but Happy is not giving up. There have been many times when the grumpy kitty would be fast asleep and the little kitty would sneak up, creep up, and all she wants is to lick her. But the minute she puts her nose close enough the long hair furs of Grumpy alert her to the presence of Happy, and the jig is up, there will be hissing, perhaps a paw swipe.


She is a regular domestic short hair but she has some secret tabby hidden within her.


Your request to use the internet is DENIED.
Happy has taken on some of the habits of Big Kitty – I’ve had cats do this before – Big Kitty took on aspects of my childhood kitty when we got her. It almost feels like Big Kitty is being channeled through the new kitty. The most hilarious channelment has been this –


Big Kitty had a penguin which she would always bring us at night, with plenty of miaowing. Happy has this mouse on a stick. She picks up the mouse in her mouth and the string and stick trail along dragging on the ground making this somewhat terrifying yet always funny sound.


Synchronised Eating.

Anyway, I’m sort of back – in a place where I have a bit more free time than I used to, some bad stuff going on I can’t type about but looks like I will be jobless very shortly – while this sounds like a bad thing the bullying and harassment going on is a lot worse than being jobless so it is actually a good thing even though it sounds bad and wow what a run on sentence that one was, lol.

I’ve scheduled a couple of posts for this week, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

So what happens with you?

kitties, Vale Pets, work