Integration day

This afternoon I finished work early and decided to mix the girls. I settled on the patio area in a garden chair with a book, camera and water spray, to keep an eye on proceedings.

As I had expected, Speckles was the one that chased the new girls around. I used the water spray a couple of times to deter her.

The other girls didn’t take much notice. The useful thing was, that as I was sitting on the patio, the new girls felt it was safe to explore this area.

The three little girls preen together on the edge of the patio

The three little girls preen together on the edge of the patio

The rest of the flock group together

The rest of the flock group together

The new girls discover the other little coop/nest box

The new girls discover the other little coop/nest box

They explore the patio area

They explore the patio area

They do a lot of pecking

They do a lot of pecking

At this point I put the new girls in the chicken shed so that they could get familiar with it.

They explore the chicken shed

They explore the chicken shed

I then put Pebbles in with them and closed the door so that she could show them the way out. She popped straight out and they soon followed.

They find the pop hole

They find the pop hole

Rusty finds the water

Rusty finds the water

The girls mix

The girls mix

Rusty finds the big food dish

Rusty finds the big food dish

I have put growers pellets in all the dishes now as Peaches laid her last egg a few days ago and they can all now stay on growers until the new girls start to lay.

They both find the small food dish

They both find the small food dish

I felt quite pleased that the new girls now know where everything is and at last seem to have got the hang of eating from the dishes.

The next decision was what to do at bedtime. I would have liked to steer the new girls towards the chicken shed like I did with Caramel and Pebbles but these two are quite a different pair.

Rusty was oblivious to all the other girls going to bed and was happily pecking around her usual little coop. Freckles as always was getting anxious about where to go. Suddenly she flew right up into the roof and I had to catch her. Once again I decided the best course of action was to put them both in their little coop for safety.

I decided to try putting them in the chicken shed at dusk. I thought that if I did this tonight then perhaps once they had spent a night in there I could direct them towards the chicken shed tomorrow night.

I placed them on the perch next to Pebbles.

I put the new girls on the little perch next to Pebbles

I put the new girls on the little perch next to Pebbles

Rusty was the first to jump down

Rusty was the first to jump down

First Rusty jumped down and was soon followed by Freckles. It was probably a bit too soon to perch them as they haven’t really discovered perching in the run yet, like Pebbles has. I gave them a few minutes then looked in on them again.

They had settled near the pop hole which is fine. My photo is a bit hit and miss as I took it in the dark so I was guessing where they were. I didn’t want to use any light and risk disturbing them.

They ended up by the pop hole

They ended up by the pop hole

I will go out before the door opens in the morning and make sure they all come out safely. I will separate them again in the morning while I am out doing my deliveries but put them together again in the afternoon when I am at home to keep an eye on them.

I want to get them sleeping together as I worry about Freckles wanting to fly into the roof where she could possibly hurt herself. I think perching up may have to wait for a bit longer but that’s okay. I think the next stage is to try to get them to go in themselves where ever they end up sleeping. It doesn’t really matter where they sleep at the moment as it is more important that they learn how to go in.

I will continue tomorrow by trying to get them to go in the chicken shed themselves. It’s been a good day though with very little aggression so I am happy with the progress. We have got to this stage very quickly from a difficult first day and they have come on a long way in less than a week.

I am quite confident that they will be one flock very soon. I think it is going really well.

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The girls switch sides of the run

This afternoon I decided to show the new girls the other side of the run. I put them and Pebbles on the patio side and the other girls on the new girl’s side. I wanted the new girls to gain in confidence and explore the other side of the run.

Having realised how important the water bottle is to the new girls I turned it round to be in the same position but on the other side of the wire. It was the first thing they went to. I put the other water bottle on the patio area.

They have found the water on the other side of the wire

They have found the water on the other side of the wire

Meanwhile Pebbles was checking out the new girl’s food and water which I had moved to the patio area.

Pebbles finds the new girl's food very attractive

Pebbles finds the new girl’s food very attractive

Does she need to stand in the dish!

Does she need to stand in the dish!

She tries their water bottle too

She tries their water bottle too

I put the new girls in the chicken shed so that they would know where it is. They came straight back out and returned to the garden part of the run.

The new girls look tiny on the patio area

The new girls look tiny on the patio area

They explore the other side of the run to the bottom

They explore the other side of the run to the bottom end

They seem to be happy exploring the further parts of the run. Rusty is never far behind Freckles. Sometimes Freckles gets further away, then Rusty notices and rushes at speed to catch up with her. She doesn’t like to let her out of sight.

Rusty acts as if she is Freckles chick. She pushes herself under her and follows her every where and puts her beak against Freckles beak constantly. At first we thought it might be because they had been used to the water bottles and therefore used to beak to beak contact at the water bottle. A few days later, Rusty does this all the time to Freckles, so it seems that it isn’t a water thing, but is just a chick behaviour.

A lot of beak contact

A lot of beak contact

And again

And again

A close up of Freckles and Rusty

A close up of Freckles and Rusty

They are very much together but it is definitely a case of Freckles leading and Rusty acting as her chick and following and trying to be as close to her as she can. They seemed fairly confident on the new side of the run though, which is a long way from their first day of not wanting to leave the safety of the little coop.

Before bedtime I switched sides again but once more I felt that Freckles wanted to be on the other side. She stood on the little coop roof, twisting her head upwards, looking for somewhere suitable to roost. The other girls had all gone into the chicken shed so for safety I put Freckles in the little coop with Rusty and closed it.

Tomorrow afternoon I will mix all the girls together and try to speed on to getting them sleeping together because I feel Freckles is ready. We have come such a long way in just a few days. I think these two are settling in really well.

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A much better day

What a difference a day makes! Today the new girls were behaving like chickens. They were keen to get out and explore their space.

Today the new girls explored their space

Today the new girls explored their space

I bought another water bottle with a bigger hole as I was a bit worried that the new girls were having to work too hard to get the water. It turned out that Freckles liked the bigger bottle and Rusty preferred the smaller one so I am happy that they have a choice now.

I have also given them a mix of chick crumb and growers pellets which I have made smaller by grinding them in a pestle and mortar. I have sprinkled some on the tile in front of their dish to help direct them.

At lunch time I put Pebbles in with them again. To my surprise she went straight to their water bottle. I wonder if she remembers this from when she was a chick. She was more than happy with their food too and she checked out their little coop.

pebbles tries the water bottle

Pebbles tries the water bottle

I opened up the bigger half of the run and the new girls went exploring.

The new girls find the open hatch

The new girls find the open hatch

They explore the bigger part of the run

They explore the bigger part of the run

They head towards the ladder with an audience on the other side of the wire

They head towards the ladder with an audience on the other side of the wire

All the bigger girls were lined up, watching the little girls with interest.

They explore to the end of the run

They explore to the end of the run

Pebbles checks on them

Pebbles checks on them

The three of them were fine together. At the end of the day I put Pebbles back on the other side to go to bed in the chicken shed.

Tomorrow afternoon I will switch sides with Pebbles and the new girls on the other side of the run so that the new girls can get familiar with the other side. I think we are ready to move on fairly quickly but we are also very busy this week so we will have to do it in stages when we are at home to watch over them.

We need to leave tomorrow at seven o’clock in the morning for a breakfast delivery and we have a wedding at the weekend to cater for and to wash up from afterwards (afternoon tea on our vintage crockery). I will try to do the integration in between when we are at home. I am confidant that we can move this on quite quickly as there have been no signs of aggression but we also need to fit it in around our work.

I would love to have less work and more chicken time but I must do the best I can within the time I have. I feel this integration will be better moving fairly quickly as I could tell that Freckles wanted to be on the other side at bedtime tonight. I think they will settle together sooner rather than later. I am quite optimistic that they will all be together quite soon.

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I still have a lot to learn

I went out at first light this morning and opened the little coop for the new girls. They didn’t want to come out. Dave’s set up had no run so I knew that they weren’t used to being outside and it would take a bit of adapting to. I lifted them outside several times but they just ran back in again. I decided to shut the coop in the hope that they would explore the outside a bit.

I had to close the little coop to stop the new girls going straight back in

I had to close the little coop to stop the new girls going straight back in

A few hours later I needed to leave to deliver my lunches. The new girls were huddled close to the closed little coop and I worried that being unused to being outside they may be cold. I opened the coop again and they ran inside.

When I got back at lunch time I lifted the new girls out again and once more closed the little coop. I was getting very concerned by now that I hadn’t seen them eat anything or drink from the water dish. I tried scattering sunflower hearts and corn. I gave them mash as well as pellets and a few spinach leaves.

I used the trick that I have read people use, when rearing babies, without a mother hen to show them how to eat and drink. I picked up each one in turn and put her beak in the water and also in the mash. Nothing at all! No reaction to the water.

Later in the afternoon I put Pebbles in with the new girls. She went straight to their mash and also hoovered up all the seeds and corn.

Pebbles made a bee line for the new girls dish

Pebbles made a bee line for the new girl’s dish

The blob on the left of the dish is mash not poop. I had put a blob on the tile in case the new girls didn’t recognise the dishes but it didn’t entice them at all. The other girls are looking in but it’s more to see what delights are on this side than anything to do with the new girls!

Pebbles shows how it's done but it is lost on the new girls

Pebbles shows how it’s done but it is lost on the new girls

Pebbles gave the new girls a token peck, the kind that is aimed in their direction, but doesn’t actually connect. She also ran at them a couple of times but it was half hearted. It was to show that she was above them but with no real aggression. I was happy with how Pebbles was behaving with them but I was growing more and more anxious that they were not attempting to eat or drink. There was no poop either so I knew that they were not eating.

They were pecking at the ground, at the pine shavings and at the coop. I was getting really worried that this meant that they were hungry but didn’t know what the food or water was. At this point I e-mailed Sophie for advice as her first three seramas were of a similar age. I intended to call Dave in the evening to ask what he feeds and waters them with. I was getting really concerned at this stage.

Sophie said that the advice she had had, was to give chick crumbs until they start laying. She e-mailed me back a few minutes later saying her girls had been used to water bottles and she had bought them the sort of water bottles that rabbits use.

By now my instinct was, that failing getting them to eat, the more urgent thing, was getting them to drink. I decided to use the syringe to their beak like I had recently done with Caramel. I picked up Freckles first then Rusty and offered the syringe.

I couldn’t open Freckles beak as easily as Caramels but once I started to drizzle water on to her beak she suddenly started to take it. She started to respond to the syringe and I suddenly realised that Sophie must be right and this was what they were used to. I repeated the same thing with Rusty and got the same response. I did this with each of them twice.

They went back into their coop and I then broke pellets into tiny bits and put them in amongst the shavings and added some crushed sunflower seeds. They started pecking at the coop floor. There was lots of pecking and chirping and I realised that they were probably used to their food on the floor. They were probably really hungry.

I dashed out to the pet store and bought some chick crumb and a, small, rabbit water bottle. I dropped the chick crumb into the shavings and we rigged up the bottle just outside of the coop.

Oh my goodness they pecked at the crumbs then they spotted the water bottle. First Freckles took a drink from it and then Rusty came out and joined her. They drank for ages. I felt so relieved but also so stupid.

I had no idea. Every farmer I have got girls from has had similar drinkers to me. Either the galvanised type that I have or troughs. I hadn’t come across the use of bottles before. When we thought about it we realised that in Dave’s set up water would get knocked over, walked into to, or would have muck scratched into them so bottles was a sensible choice.

Thank you so much to Sophie who once again has been a huge to help to me and I didn’t need to call Dave as the problem had been solved. I was horrified to think that the new girls had been hungry and, even worse, thirsty all day. But I was so relieved to have solved the problem before it became too late.

The farmer I got Emerald and Toffee from said that chickens will always find the water. I said this to Sophie and she said that he didn’t know seramas! The habit must be so ingrained in them that even when I put their beak in the water dish they didn’t respond. Oh my, what a learning curve for our first day! I think I have loads of chicken experience and then there is a new lesson to be learned.

Thank goodness I have connected with Sophie who has been of so much help on my serama journey.

The new girls find the water

The new girls find the water

This is obviously what they have been used to

This is obviously what they have been used to

The thrill of seeing them drink was amazing. I think tomorrow will be a totally different day. I think the fact that they didn’t want to leave the little coop may have been largely down to hunger and thirst.

I feel sure that tomorrow they will be much more adventurous and maybe we can even move on the integration process as there has been no aggression today. I get the feeling that this would be better done quickly. I feel much happier tonight than I have felt all day.

My instincts were right about them not feeding and drinking and thank goodness I managed to solve the problem before it had gone too far. I am still learning but thankfully I am tuned in enough to have spotted the problem early and a little help from a chicken friend sent me in the right direction.

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We have new girls

We collected our new girls from Dave this morning. He was an hours drive from us and now that we have found him we could go to him again in the future when we need new girls.

He had loads of girls to choose from, all variations of buff and white with different markings.  He had all the feather types including what he called srizzles which he said were a cross between silkies and frizzles. He had some beautiful black cockerels but no black hens. Seramas don’t breed to colour so you never what you are going to get. He had plenty enough choice for me though.

I wanted another buff one and chose one that was darker in colour than Caramel. Dave was surprised how quickly I chose and told us some people take ages. I then had to choose from the white ones and the first ones I pointed out were too young to take. I soon settled on one that Dave considered was the right age to take.

Dave says that these girls are four months old but the buff one looks much younger. He said that it was because she is silkie feathered and they mature a lot slower than the straight feathered, which the white one is.

As usual I chose  descriptive names and we thrashed out the name choice on the journey home. We settled on Rusty and Freckles.

Rusty and Freckles in the cat box

Rusty and Freckles in the cat box

I put some water in with them on arrival back home. I usually start them off in the dog crate but as it was only lunch time by the time we had arrived back home I decided on a different strategy. I decided to put them in the little coop and shut them in for fifteen minutes while I got the run separated and then open the little coop. I thought that this way they would know that this was where to go at bedtime, but they could have their portion of the run to explore for the afternoon.

I put them in the little coop

I put them in the little coop

Rusty and Freckles

Rusty and Freckles

Are you looking at us!

Are you looking at us!

They didn’t want to come out of the little coop. I lifted them out and showed them the feeding station.

They investigate the feeding station

They investigate the feeding station

Pebbles is taking a look at them.

This was as far as they ventured

This was as far as they ventured

They went straight back into the little coop where they obviously felt safe.

Peaches and Speckles take a look

Peaches and Speckles take a look

I lifted them out a couple of times but they kept returning to the little coop. When the other girls went to bed the new girls were snuggled together in the little coop and I closed them in for the night.

Bedtime

Bedtime

I hope that will they will be a bit more adventurous tomorrow. They have a whole new world to explore and just need time to get a bit of confidence. I am sure they will soon get the hang of it.

I am thrilled to bits with the new additions and feel sure that they will soon settle into their new home. Tomorrow we will start them on the journey of getting used to a bigger world and eventually the rest of the flock. I feel certain that they will fit in really well very soon.

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I start worming the girls

I worm the flock twice a year and it is now time to do this again. I find the easiest way is to divide some fish into little dishes with the flubenvet powder mixed in and make sure each girl gets a share. It needs to be given for seven consecutive days.

I wondered how to give Pebbles a chance to get her fair share and came up with a simple solution which worked like a dream. I put four little dishes on the patio and kept one smaller dish for Pebbles. I lifted her on to the top of one of the nest boxes, put her dish in front of her and stood guard to make sure none of the other girls got in her way.

She tucked in straight away and I have now discovered that she likes fish. I wanted to take some photos but I couldn’t get the camera to work. After a few minutes I took the card out and put it back in again and it worked once more, phew, thank goodness for that. This meant I missed catching the whole flock tucking in as by this time Speckles and Toffee had wandered off but they did all get a share before this photo.

The girls have fish laced with flubenvet

The girls have fish laced with flubenvet

Pebbles has her own dish

Pebbles has her own dish

Throughout the day Sophie and her serama breeder, Rebecca, have been trying to find me some seramas within a distance that we can manage. It’s been an up and down day of disappointment followed by success and excitement.

A big thank you to both of them for being so determined on my behalf and such a help to me. We now have a breeder less than an hour away who has seramas and we are going at half eleven tomorrow to choose two. I am so excited!!

I will separate the run as before and the integration process will begin again. There will be lots more posts to come with new girls once more. I can’t wait!

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Pebbles is holding her own within the flock

We have been ridiculously busy and I haven’t had time to blog. We did an afternoon tea on our vintage crockery for a hundred and fifty on Thursday for a school speech day. It took up the entire day and we didn’t get home until gone half past six. Yesterday after deliveries and shopping the afternoon was spent washing up the crockery and matching up the trios and packing it away again. It was a mammoth task and very time consuming.

I feel as if every post recently has been concentrated on Caramel and didn’t want it to appear that I have now stopped bloging, but there has just been no time.

Since we lost Caramel, Pebbles has found her way to her bedtime perch each night and has been holding her own within the flock.

She is really bright and has soon cottoned on to me giving her sunflower hearts or corn on the patio while I throw it out into the run for the other girls. They chase her away so I drop a bit on the patio and she comes to my feet to wait for her share.

She has also sussed out that she can have the morning spinach on the patio to herself once the other girls have moved away.

She sits near the other girls but not with them. This is typical.

The whole flock perched up

The whole flock perched up

The old girls are all on this side of the run

The old girls are all on this side of the run

And Pebbles is on this side

And Pebbles is on this side

Pebbles is at the end of the run near the other girls but on the other side of the run from them. It’s good to see her almost with them but also hard to see her apart from them too.

Sophie made a comment, gave me her email and is giving me contact with breeders of seramas, she has five seramas herself. I really want to get two more to add to the flock to keep Pebbles company. The breeders she got her girls from are at quite a distance from me but I am working on how to get round this.

Watch this space. I am determined to try to get some more seramas to add to the flock and make a better balance within the flock. They could then perch together at bedtime, keeping each other warm in winter, and keep each other company within the flock. I will keep trying and will update as I go along. Thank you Sophie for all your help with this.

Pebbles is a little character and is doing okay but I would dearly love to give her some little companions.

I will also update about the moult soon. Speckles looks quite different after her moult and Toffee seems to be having a second moult and is dropping her long feathers. It is also time to worm the girls again so I will be starting on that today.

Lots to catch up on and I will be back soon.

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Pebbles has got bedtime sorted

It was with a heavy heart that I closed the nest boxes last night. I felt so sorry for Pebbles being left without Caramel but I knew that she would now have to learn where to go at bedtime.

At half past six I went to check on her thinking that I would need to guide her into the chicken shed. To my surprise she had already put herself to bed on her own little perch. I felt really proud of her.

Pebbles put herself to bed with no help from me

Pebbles put herself to bed with no help from me

I checked back half an hour later and all the girls were in with no hassle.

Six girls at bedtime

Six girls at bedtime

It tugs at my heart to see Pebbles on her perch on her own. I am going to do some research and see if I can find another little girl to keep her company. I don’t hold out much hope though.

Thank you to all my supporters who have left comments. It helps to know that I am not alone. I will do my best to give Pebbles a happy life.

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Saying goodbye to Caramel

I can’t believe I am writing this after yesterday’s post. I am heartbroken to have to say that Caramel has gone.

This morning as usual I poop picked the chicken shed at first light with Caramel beside me. I then bought her in and gave her  her meds and some water and put her in the cat box with her dish of treats and a dish of water.

I was a bit worried that she wasn’t eating but was sleeping, mostly with her head under her wing. It wasn’t until about two hours later that she started eating. I could hear her so went to check on her and was horrified to see that while she was eating from the dish she had both eyes firmly shut. The left eye which had been her good eye was now more swollen than the right and was weeping.

This was just the worst thing to see as it meant she hadn’t been pecked after all but had a serious problem. It was pitiful to see her lunging at the dish and randomly picking up bits of food. She was such a little fighter that even with both eyes shut she still wanted to eat.

She then pooped the dreaded green poop. I knew that things were really bad for her and she was struggling with her breathing.

Caramel's other eye is now closed

Caramel’s other eye is now closed

Poor Caramel, this is heartbreaking to see

Poor Caramel, this is heartbreaking to see

I rang the vet and they were fully booked but said they could get me in at their sister practice which was twenty minutes drive away.

The vet weighed her and said she was almost the same weight as the first time she was weighed which was surprising. Those two feeds a day had kept her weight level up. She then listened to her chest and said her breathing was very crackly and bubbly. By now her left eye was oozing mucus and she said her beak was sticky with mucus. I had thought her sticky beak was due to the spillage of her sticky meds.

The vet said it was bacterial and that there are contagious strains and non contagious strains. This was really worrying as she had been in with the flock but I said that there were no signs with the rest of the flock including Pebbles who sits with her every afternoon and perches with her at night. The vet was encouraged that this meant it’s not contagious but said at any sign of symptoms with the other girls to separate them and take them to the vet immediately.

The vet said that she hasn’t responded to the antibiotic and the only other treatment they could give her would be a different antibiotic, which they would have to order in, and give by injection. It would have to be given into her muscle and would cause painful muscle spasms and she said that being so tiny she didn’t hold out much hope that this could bring  her back at this stage but the decision was mine.

It should have been a no brainer and I have always made the decision quickly in the past to end suffering but I kept thinking that she had still eaten that morning and not given up and I so wanted to go on fighting. I cried and took quite a few minutes before I made the decision, which I made, because I knew I couldn’t let her suffer.

I held her while she was put to sleep and stroked her and talked to her and cried and cried over her. This is so hard to write because I can’t stop crying.

I can’t believe that we have only had this little girl for three weeks today and it has only been a week that I have been treating her. I have grown so attached to her because in that time I have handled her more than any other bird before and cared for her so closely. Oddly enough this has hit me more than any of the girls I have lost. She really got into my heart and I feel so upset at losing her and at Pebbles being left without her too.

I want to end with a tribute to a little girl that stayed with us for the shortest time but that got herself firmly wrapped around my heart.

Caramel, such a beautiful girl

Caramel, such a beautiful girl

Caramel and Pebbles

Caramel and Pebbles

Pebbles and Caramel

Pebbles and Caramel

Caramel and Pebbles share some yogurt

Caramel and Pebbles share some yogurt

She was such a big character for such a little girl and although not with us long she was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

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Caramel keeps me on my toes

This little girl has given me several scares since I have been caring for her, but goodness me, she has wrapped herself around my heart.

The first heart stopping moments were going out into the run first thing in the morning and seeing all the girls except Caramel. I have now got used to her not coming out of the chicken shed in the morning and have stopped panicking when I don’t see her.

In fact I think she knows the routine and actually waits in the shed in the morning for me to come and get her.

The second scare came a few days into her treatment. I had her in the cat box after her meds to have a feed without competition. I looked at her and saw what I thought was the same problem she has in her right eye, also in her left eye. It was cloudy and I panicked. If the problem was in both eyes then it could mean it wasn’t a peck or injury but something viral which would be much more serious plus her chance of survival with a problem in both eyes would be vastly reduced.

I called my husband and we looked at her together and her left eye was normal and looking at me as if wondering what was going on. It was just her third eyelid closed for a few seconds. Chickens have a third eyelid that helps moisten, clean and protect from dust especially when dust bathing. Many a photograph of a chicken can be spoiled by this spooky looking third eye lid being closed. Whew! what a relief! Her left eye is fine.

The third scare came today. From past experience with chickens I know a lot about telling their condition from their poop. Both Treacle and Sparkle had bright green poops just before I had to have them put to sleep. This means their internal organs are not working properly and usually occurs, as in both my girls, when they have given up and stopped eating. Caramel’s poop has been a good, normal, colour which indicates the eye problem is external not internal.

This afternoon I checked on the two little girls sitting on top of the nest box together and got a fright when I saw a few little blobs of green poop. My heart sank and at that moment, right on cue, Caramel did a normal looking poop. I then remembered that a bit earlier on I had seen Pebbles tucking into the spinach. What they eat also colours their poop. Whew! another scare and relief again. Caramel is really keeping me on my toes!

When I bought Caramel in at half past three for her second meds and a feed I was able to monitor her poops in the cat box and, thank goodness, they were normal.

Bedtime is causing a bit of confusion. Because I put the little girls in the little coop/nest box for the last few nights for safety, until the other girls had settled, Pebbles now thinks that’s where she should go and settled in there at dusk. I know it’s me that has made her confused but I did it to protect Caramel at bedtime.

Tonight I waited until dusk and then put both little girls on the bedtime perch. Tomorrow I will close the nest boxes at bedtime. I am sure that they will soon get the hang of it.

The two little girls on the bedtime perch

The two little girls on the bedtime perch

As long as Caramel is getting better, albeit very very slowly, the bedtime routine is the least of my worries. It will sort itself out eventually.

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