Dark Time

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Chickens

Day Out Saturday

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We were out super early on Saturday with many items on our to-do list.

First up was to pick up our large pet carrier from our friend who had borrowed it. Said friend lives right around the corner from destination two, which was a wood yard. We ordered just over a thousand dollars worth of wood in order to build our next project, which is the pergola beginnings of our Queensland Room.

For those not from Australia, a Queensland Room is essentially a screened in porch. Usually the screen is mosquito net or shade cloth.

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The next stop was Shellharbour shopping centre. We picked up 15kg of potatoes which will last us about a month and a half. These potatoes are far cheaper than buying potatoes locally. This is just one bag of the three bags, having been sorted into large potatoes for chips and smaller potatoes for other things.

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We then headed up the 9 into the Southern Highlands. The 9 is probably the best of the roads that go from the South Coast to the Southern Highlands. There is a small section which is bendy but after that it straightens out beautifully. It has the fewest potholes and lumps and bumps.

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Our next destination was Heatherbrae Pies and a cup of that great Chai Latte for me. All the while, we were listening to songs and crossing some of them off our list.

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I also enjoyed the cherry and apple pie. I did mean to bring it home and save it for Monday night when I would have warmed it in the oven but I realised that it would have to travel all that way back without any pastry companions to place in the cooler bag.

We returned via Kangaroo Valley, a quick stop at Bunnings to get some needed bits and pieces, then home. Not for long though. There was a twilight market on at Huskisson so we headed out for an afternoon 6km walk and a quick market stop.

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Then it was home again to discover that the chicken ladder had lost a rung. A quick and dirty solution was made though I am not allowed to show it to you, as The Other Half says it is not his best work. Plus it was built in the dark while we were trimming the new girls feathers in preparation for The First Free Range Day. That day is a story for another post.

Home

Here In Snoskred Land

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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.

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It was still delicious!

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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.

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Foo at the front, Finn behind, then Queen.

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. ;)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Chickens, Home

7 Days Of Jervis Bay

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Day 1 – a group of tourists take a selfie on the beach while the dolphin boat heads out.

I have lived near Jervis Bay for over 10 years now. You would expect that the stunning effect would eventually wear off. I’m here to tell you, it does not. There are days when the beauty stops me in my tracks and I cannot help but stare.

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Day 2 – swimmers are surprised by a pod of dolphins on their way to meet the Dolphin Boat.

There are days when I reach my “goal” of however many KM that I set myself, and decide to just keep going instead. However the past 2 days I have not been able to get to the bay due to a long weekend and I knew this would happen so I made sure to add on an extra 5km to my 10km walk on Friday. Traffic was bad on Friday. I got stuck at one notorious intersection for over 20 minutes.

Long weekends are great times to do a lot of work at home when you live in a holiday destination but you have to plan ahead, make sure you have everything you need well before the weekend, and choose your moments – and places – if you do need to get out and get something as a surprise. Between 5-8pm on Saturday and Sunday are generally good times to go places as long as you are not wanting to eat out in a restaurant.

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Day 3 – The dolphin boats await their passengers.

I have been trying to get to the walking tracks at least 6 out of 7 days for the past 3 weeks. The weather has been excellent. I would actually prefer it to rain because we really need it. If it did rain, I would still go for my walk. Thunderstorms and lightning, not so much.

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Day 4 – Kayakers head out into the bay.

Lately my photos have not been doing any justice to what I am seeing with my eyes. It might be time to replace this camera. Here you see 7 photos from my most recent 7 days at the bay. Most of the photos should enlarge if clicked on, except for day 6.

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Day 5 – Rays of sunlight break through the clouds.

It is school holidays here. I don’t mind the extra people about. It is so lovely to see more people enjoying the bay. Everyone I pass says hello. I do mind them being endlessly inconsiderate of others walking the path – and alternately being completely unaware of anyone around them which means I tend to scare them when I walk or run past them – littering – and somewhat memorably last week someone set fire to the toilet paper in our public toilets.

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Day 6 – I made a lizard friend.

I do think sometimes I could use a bike bell to let people know I am approaching, but I wonder exactly where I would put it. Both my wrists are spoken for – one with my fitness watch, the other with my camera cord. Maybe I should wear a bell around my neck, like a cat or dog.

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Day 7 – Shark Net beach is usually very calm, perfect for swimming.

I also do mind when they cannot allow the beauty of the bay to distract them from their problems and issues. I overhear things. Who cares about work, you are not there right now, you are here in the bay, enjoy it!

Sure, none of the overheard things are “No Mummy, PLEASE, NOT the mineral water, Mummy!” which was our most remembered overheard snippet of conversation ever, in a supermarket in Adelaide and we have been laughing about that ever since. We have no idea what Mummy does with the mineral water but we have imagined many things. More than likely the child wanted Coca Cola instead.

What is your most remembered overheard snippet of conversation?

exercise, Fitbit, Jervis Bay

The New Girls

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

Chickens

Spring Cleaning

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Chickens, country life

Jervis Bay Is Awesome.

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I think I might have killed the treadmill, again. I realise now I might not have told you about the first time I murdered it, with spider spray. We had to order parts for it, The Other Half did fix it. Since then it has propelled me for hundreds, maybe thousands of KM.

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My beloved treadmill had been making a strange smell for a while. I just thought it needed a small service, and the smell might have been the new commercial lubricant that we had used. The last time I used it on a Sunday evening to catch up my missing steps, I noticed that the room seemed to be smoky and the smell was “louder” than usual. Lucky The Other Half was at home, so I called him in. When he took the cover off, we found that the motor was literally smoking. Actual puffs of smoke were appearing.

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A quick service was performed, and the assessment was Not Great. Thankfully, Spring has Sprung and the weather has been gorgeous, so out I went, almost every single day, to get my exercise done. The one exception was Tuesday, where I tried the treadmill again and got 10 minutes out of it before it began to smell again, prompting me to use the much hated elliptical. I guess I will have to use it when the weather does not allow out time. And we could really do with some rain, so I would accept having to use the hated elliptical if we could have some rain.

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I do have a problem with my mind. It tells me that if I get out to walk, I better make it worthwhile. Why walk/run 5km when you can walk/run 10km, Snoskred? And why would you want to quit when the scenery is this great? I did 3x 10km plus one 8km last week and a 5km on Saturday. I had a rest day on Sunday. I’ve already done 10km and 8km this week.. On the days I do a 10km, I allow myself a small piece of baked cheesecake for dessert. I feel I have earned it. ;)

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There has been a bushfire in Booderee National Park. It has been very bad and they believe it may have been deliberately lit. They got it under control early on, but the next day it had flared up in several different places, and then it really took off with some big winds we had.

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It was a hot day too, 30 degrees C (around 85F) so that did not especially help. They had to evacuate the camping grounds, HMAS Creswell, and Jervis Bay village.

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The fire is mostly out now, though they’ve had a couple of flare ups. I’ve seen some aerial photos on Facebook and the amount of bush that is gone is staggering. Our favourite bushwalk there looks like it is just clear ground and burned trees now. Once they reopen the park, we plan to go in and do that bushwalk and take some photos, and then go back at least once a month to watch it all grow back. It seems like The Other Half’s favourite campgrounds were spared any damage, at least for now.

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This has us thinking about our own fire plan, and I will be doing some organising in the next few weeks so we can have a grab bag of things we need to take. We already have a plan for the cats, and the chooks are my big worry because if we had to evacuate at night that is easy, they will all be asleep on the roost, we just grab them and put them in the carriers. Daytime, HA, how hilarious, to try and catch chooks who are not great fans of being caught. Rosie the Grande Dame in particular will be almost impossible to catch, as she is speedy.

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So we have a plan of what we are going to do, the plan we currently lack is where we intend to go. That might depend on the situation. In the meantime, I will be out and about, doing a lot of walking in the extremely awesome Jervis Bay. I might download some step aerobics videos for inclement weather days, and alternate that with the elliptical. I need to work on core strength.

Jervis Bay

Vale Our Grande Dame Rosie

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It is 2:35pm on Tuesday and I’m sitting here waiting. I already called the vet and made the appointment for late this afternoon. I know Our Grande Dame Rosie is unwell. I took them out some tuna as a treat and Rosie did not even try to move or show any interest. That is how I usually know the time is nigh. She perked up a little, not enough to eat, but enough to follow the flock down to the dustbathing area, and I had a tiny nugget of hope for a minute there, but she is not dustbathing.

I’m not going to completely stress her out by trying to catch her right this second. Rosie is not into that kind of thing. She keeps her distance from us humans and she expects the same courtesy in return. I have a post scheduled tomorrow where I talk about our fire plan and the one issue with it is trying to catch Rosie. When she is healthy, she is very hard to catch. She is incredibly speedy. And she can fly!

So now I have the luxury of a couple of hours to sit here and think about how much we have loved having her as one of our chooks, and how much she is going to be missed by all of us. Dark Comb has not left her side since I got home from my walk and noticed she seemed off.. We’ll wait till she gets up on the roost this afternoon, it will be less stressful for her.

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Sometimes so speedy she was just a blur in the photo.

Rosie was originally named Blackie, when she first arrived here. She also had the nickname of Nugget for a while. I found her at the Goulburn chook auction in July of 2011. She was maybe 6 months to a year old when we first got her. She was a show chicken and her sister was an award winner, but Rosie was deemed unworthy for whatever reason, and I bought her for the expensive price of $10.

Nobody else was bidding on her, and had I not bid my $10 she would have been taken home and culled. Because she came home with me, she had 6 extra years of chicken life and she truly had an excellent chicken life, once she learned how to be a chicken. She was spoiled regularly with treats and her most favourite treat was strawberries cut into little squares.

I believe Rosie had spent her entire life prior to arriving here in a small chicken box, similar to the pens they use at chook auctions. She had no idea how to be a chicken. Here you can see her first experience with grass and learning how to dustbathe. She was always the lowest girl in the pecking order, and after Red Comb was attacked by a hawk, they became great friends.

At one time, because she is quite small, she became our escape chicken. She also flew over the fence as a surprise to herself one Saturday morning when it was a bit windy out. The amount of effort and time it took us to recapture her.. I think if Rosie had not been quite so terrified and upset at finding herself in unfamiliar surroundings, she would have been laughing at us.

She has always been a great friend to the English Game hens, and Dark Comb is the last one left. So I am a little worried about what happens once Rosie is no longer with us, with so few chooks left in the flock now. Though the main reason we did not add any more girls was because I felt Rosie would prefer to live out her years without having to go through another reshuffle of the pecking order. The girls we have left will handle it a lot better, if we chose to add more girls.

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Update – Rosie is now with her bestest chook friends in Rainbow Bridge. This was a tough one for us especially when our normal vet was on holidays. Our Grande Dame put on a decent show this afternoon, pretending to peck at the ground like she was eating when the other chooks were about, but she wasn’t picking anything up. When no chooks were looking, she would just stand completely still.

Once we got her to the vet away from the flock, she felt like it was ok to show us exactly how unwell she was feeling and we then knew that we’d made the right decision. We are not sure what caused her to feel this way, more than likely it was just old age and her time. Chooks are not built for long lifetimes.

As I always post when this happens – there are 3 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.

We will miss you, our sweet Grande Dame. We loved our time with you.

Thank you for being such a great chook.

Vale Pets