A new chicken shelter

With the wood removed from the old fence my husband made a new chicken shelter to replace the dog crate shelter.

This is much better as it can stay permanently in the run and the girls can dust bath underneath it, sit on the shelf inside or sit on the top. This means that they still have the same space but would be sheltered from cold and wind in winter, that is if they would go in it.

Peaches and Barley liked to sit in the old shelter on cold, wet, days so this would mean the little girls would have another place to go.

Emerald is the first to scratch in the shelter

The bigger girls go in to investigate

Speckles, Emerald and Barley check out the top of the new shelter

The bigger girls are always the nosiest but I am sure the little girls will find it eventually. It will be interesting to see if any of the girls use it.

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More new fence

Since we have had the new fence panels put in the neighbours have told us that they have decided to replace the rest of the fence so that it all matches. It will be good to have all new fence and should then last for many years but it is going to be a huge upheaval for us.

We have so much trellis and planting attached to the fence.  We did this to hide the ugly fence and also to provide a screen between us and the neighbours as some of the original fence wasn’t very high. They are going to match the height of the panels that we have put in.

I took some photos before any work began.

Fence outside our kitchen window

Going past our cabin/kitchen

looking down the other way

They said they would let us know when work was going to begin so that we can take everything off of our side of the fence. We expect to lose some of the plants but hope to keep as much as possible. We hope to lay it down on our side and put it back on to the new fence.

The fence panels on this part are only as high as the bottom of the wood with the trellis on it. Our path is much higher than the neighbours lawn and patio area and it meant that with just the original fence we looked straight in on them. We grew the rose over the arches and along the fence to give a higher screen for privacy.

We also have a strip of concrete between our path and the fence which was already there and may get disrupted. We are not quite sure what will happen to this.

Work on the fence begins

We had a note through the door saying work on the fence was starting in the morning. First thing in the morning we took all the planting off of the fence.

We took down the plants but propped them up to begin with so that we could get past them

The rose was more difficult to pass

We propped the rose up with a chair and a plank

The panels opposite the kitchen window are in place

We start to put up some new trellis and put the plants back

All the trellis is now in place

The view from the kitchen window is much nicer

The honeysuckle and clematis is back on the fence

Looking the other way

It was our neighbour’s brother/brother in law doing the work, to help keep the cost down. He worked from eight o’clock to five o’clock and got as much done as he could. He said he would return at eight o’clock the next morning to finish the job.

Day two on the fence

Brother/brother in law arrived at eight o’clock in the morning once more. By lunch time he had finished the fence.

We put the pots back in place opposite our kitchen window.

The pots are back in place

We put new trellis on the rest of the fence and got the rose tied back to the trellis. We both got scratched to bits. It wasn’t an easy job but we were pleased with the end results.

Looking up past the cabin

The rose is back in place

Looking at the rose arches from the other direction

There was a gap between the concrete and the fence which couldn’t be filled so we have decided to plant it. We are using some of the plant from our front drive as it seems able to grow in any conditions. We hope it will eventually spill over and cover the concrete strip.

The original fence has been up for the ten years we have lived here so this new fence should last for many years. We are pleased that we have managed to get everything back on our side and it looks much neater than before.

With the bits of wood that were holding the trellis before the new fence, my husband is going to make a wooden chicken shelter, to replace the dog crate shelter and a wooden nest box to replace the cat box nest box.

We are very happy with the new fence and now that the entire length of the garden has been fenced we feel that the garden is now finished.  Of course planting can always be tweaked from time to time and the veg plot is seasonal but for now the garden is complete.

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Cymbalaria Muralis

I now have a name for the plant on our front drive. My mum had kept a photo of it with it’s name. Thank you Mum.

Cymbalaria Muralis

When I tried to find my previous post about this I discovered that it wasn’t last year but the year before. How time flies!

Jenny said she thought it could be ground ivy. I googled ground ivy and that is something different but I can see why she thought it might be that. The leaves are ivy shaped and it has a long list of common names, a lot of which, have ivy in them. The flowers are like tiny snap dragons.

The list of common names are:

ivy leaved toadflax, kenilworth ivy, coliseum ivy, oxford ivy, mother of thousands, pennywort and wandering sailor.

Whew, what a lot of common names!

It is native to mediterranean europe.

It just appeared on our drive two years ago and has now spread the length of the drive. The drive is gravel and only gets water when it rains but the plant seems happy with these harsh conditions.

We are happy to have it on our drive and have transplanted bits of it to other parts of the garden. I love a hardy but pretty, free, plant.

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Little Mouse

We have had a field mouse in our garden for a couple of months now. We call it “Little Mouse”. It spends a lot of time in the flower beds by the veg plot and it also visits the chicken run.

We first noticed it in the flower beds and over time it has become almost tame. It has become used to us and if we are still it will come quite close to us.

We then started to see it in the chicken run. The bigger girls, Emerald in particular, showed curiosity at it but no attempt to catch it. I know standard sized chickens will eat mice and frogs but I don’t think our bantam girls would. I have never seen them take anything bigger than a spider and even then only small spiders.

Little Mouse would often pop out from behind the shelter so I moved the shelter out to make sure there were no holes behind it. I don’t want rats finding a way in. This has been the first winter that we haven’t had a rat problem.

Then one day I was outside the chicken’s gate and Little Mouse ran past my feet and popped through the weld mesh. It took a spin round the patio and popped back out through the weld mesh with ease.

A few evenings ago I was checking that all the girls had gone to bed when Little Mouse popped out from behind the shelter and came quite close to me. I went for my camera and then dropped a few seeds in the run and waited for it to appear again.

I took a few photos. I didn’t use the zoom as I can’t see the settings without my glasses so these photos show how close it came to me. They would have been amazing with the zoom.

Little Mouse

It gets quite close

It has such big eyes and ears for it’s tiny size. I am surprised  that it hasn’t been predated as it appears during the day and seems unfazed by us and the chickens. We don’t think one little mouse can do much harm and as it gets through weld mesh there would be no stopping it anyway. It is very cute.

I looked up some information about it. Field mice will live anywhere where there is food and shelter. They grow to ten centimetres long.

They eat seeds, berries, invertebrates and worms. In the wild they tend to have a short life, as so many different creatures prey on them, with an average of six to twelve months. They can live longer if conditions are favourable.

They reproduce quite frequently with a gestation period of around twenty five days. They give birth to between four and seven mice which are out on their own after about four weeks. They can reproduce several times a year.

They are generally nocturnal and are a vital food source for nocturnal hunters such as owls.

Maybe Little Mouse is safer hanging around our garden and chicken run during the day than being out at night. We often hear owls calling at night.

We will miss Little Mouse when it goes. It’s the closest I have ever got to a wild mouse.

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Cat box, nest box

Late yesterday afternoon I went to pick Cinnamon up and she squatted. This means that she is getting ready to lay.

This morning both Dandelion and Cinnamon attempted to get near to the patio but Peaches and Barley chased them away. Because they have been nervous of going to the patio right from the start it has become a game like the ladders were for a while. Whenever they attempt to get near the patio they get chased away.

This has already caused me to put another feeding station out in the run but now it is causing another problem. Where can the three amigos go to lay their eggs! I have never had this problem before.

Both Dandelion and Cinnamon have checked out the shelter and rejected it. I don’t want them to be stressed because they can’t get to a nest box.

I decided to use the cat box as another nest box in the run. At first I put it in the bottom part of the run near the food station.

Peaches, Barley and Emerald check out the new box

Peaches, Barley and Emerald check out the new box

The three amigos are interested but can't near because of the bigger girls

The three amigos are interested but can’t get near because of the bigger girls

I decided it was in the wrong place. It’s was too open there so I thought it would be better next to the shelter and at least it is half way towards the patio. Moving it meant it had to be inspected again.

I move it next to the shelter

I move it next to the shelter

Peaches and Barley inspect

Peaches and Barley, the two nosiest girls, inspect it

It’s not ideal as the shavings soon get scratched out but it will do as a temporary measure. It remains to be seen if the three amigos will use it. I am hoping that once the novelty wears off, the bigger girls will lose interest in it, and then the three amigos will have a chance to check it out.

If this works out my lovely husband is going to make a little wooden nest box. That way we can make it with a bit at the front to stop the shavings being scratched out and with a smaller opening so that it should put the bigger girls off and leave it available for the little girls.

I really hope that eventually the three amigos will get brave enough to go to the patio but for now I just need to solve each problem as they arise.

Other news is that Rusty seems to have come out of her broody spell. She was in the nest box first thing this morning and I took her out. I went back later with some spinach and took her out again. A little later I took her out again and found three eggs in the other nest box from Emerald, Speckles and Barley.

After that she stayed out and every time I checked during the afternoon she was still out. Hurrah!

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Broody Rusty

Rusty is definitely broody. She was in the nest box from when I first went out this morning. I looked in the nest box and she raised her tail. It made me realise that Freckles must have been going broody recently when she was doing the same tail raising thing.

The odd thing was that she didn’t commit to it so I passed it off as not being broody. She had been in the nest box on and off for a couple days and then finally laid a tiny egg. She was raising her tail when I checked on her in the nest box. After she laid her egg she returned to the nest box briefly as if she wasn’t sure she had laid it and then left the nest box and didn’t return to it. She did then take a break of six days before starting to lay again. It’s as if she was about to go broody but changed her mind.

Rusty raises her tail

Rusty raises her tail

Unlike Freckles fan like tail Rusty's silky tail is whispy

Unlike Freckles, fan like tail, Rusty’s silky tail is wispy

I lift her out of the nest box

I lift her out of the nest box

Every time I have gone out to the girls today I have lifted Rusty out of the nest box. She would then go and have some pellets from the three amigos feeding station, then run up the ladder for some water from the bottle (I have no idea why she goes there for water), then have a manic dust bath.

She isn’t an angry broody and is totally docile and quiet. She will let me stroke her and pick her up and never growls or tries to peck like some past broody girls (Topaz). In fact at the weekend we had our grandchildren to stay over, they are aged five and eight and they were thrilled that they could both stroke her and hold her. They don’t usually get this chance as the girls usually keep their distance from visitors.

At one point this afternoon she spent time on the perch above the ladder and I wondered if she may come out of this fairly quickly.

Freckles then went in to lay her egg and when I next checked Rusty was sat on it. I guess an egg is just too hard to resist. By now it was five o’clock and unlikely that any more girls would want to lay so I took Rusty out again and closed the nest boxes. It would be good if I could help her snap out of it sooner rather than later.

I always think it’s a little sad to spend days sitting in a nest box without an end result and it’s better that they get back to doing normal chicken things as soon as possible but I am so glad that she is a sweet broody girl rather than a little monster.

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Oh dear! I think Rusty may be broody

Yesterday afternoon Rusty went into the nest box and stayed there all afternoon. I was surprised that at the end of the day she hadn’t yet laid her egg and took her out of the nest box. She usually lays every other day and had actually laid the day before.

At bedtime she was back in the nest box and I moved her to the chicken shed. This morning she was back in the nest box again and I started to think maybe she was broody but I was surprised she would go broody when she hadn’t just laid an egg. I took her out of the nest box again.

Mid morning I lifted her from the nest box once more and there was her egg. I knew it was her egg as Freckles had already laid hers a bit earlier. I wasn’t sure at this point if she was broody or had just taken longer than usual to lay her egg.

She returned to the nest box and was joined by Emerald and Peaches who laid their eggs. Rusty sat on their eggs until I removed them. I am surprised that it’s Rusty rather than Freckles that looks as if she is broody as Freckles has always liked to gather other girls eggs underneath her. Freckles has been laying now for eight weeks and Rusty has only been laying for three weeks. I guess that’s enough eggs to be a good clutch though. She has laid nine eggs in total. Freckles has laid thirty eggs.

Later in the afternoon I decided to take Rusty out of the nest box again. Instead of putting her on the patio where she leaves a pile of shavings for me to sweep up I decided to put her in the run. Emerald promptly started digging right next to her and showered her in dirt. We couldn’t help finding this funny, although when I collected my camera and went to take some photos, Emerald then covered my feet in dirt too. As it was a warm day I was wearing my flip flops so my feet were in were the state as Rusty was.

Rusty sits covered in dirt

Rusty sits covered in dirt

I am not looking at you

I am not looking at you

After a few moments she stood up and did a massive shake off. She ran at speed straight up the ladder for a quick drink from the water bottle then sat puffed up on the branch perch.

Rusty is a puff ball

Rusty is a puff ball

Compare her to apricot sat a little further along the same branch perch

Compare her to Apricot sat a little further along the same branch perch

She returned to the nest box shortly after this but as it was nearing the end of the day and the rest of the laying girls had laid I decided to close the nest boxes and leave her out. I don’t know if I can stop her going broody but for now I thought I would leave her out and see what the next day brings.

There is never a dull moment in this flock.

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A bit of colour on our drive

Last year a little plant arrived on our drive. I thought it was a weed but I thought it was pretty so I let it stay. I put out a blog post about it and Mum told me it was a plant not a weed but I now can’t remember what it is called.

This year it has established itself all the way along the wall of our drive. It needs no looking after and thrives here giving a splash of colour to the edge of our drive. We are happy to leave it be.

A bit of colour on our drive

A bit of colour on our drive

A close up shows how pretty it is

A close up shows how pretty it is

I love it when something pretty arrives on it’s own and makes itself at home.

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Dandelion’s first egg

Dandelion hasn’t seemed herself for the last few days. She was spending time sitting with her head hunched down into her ruffles. I was worried that there was something wrong with her.

This afternoon while Rusty was in the nest box laying her egg I was very surprised to see Dandelion by the ramps of the nest boxes. I have never seen her go to the patio, without persuasion, apart from at bedtime. She then left the nest boxes and went into the shelter followed by her trusty sidekick, Cinnamon. I have never seen these two go in there either.

I started to think that she must be getting ready to lay an egg. I had thought Cinnamon would be the first of the three amigos because her comb is the most red but I noticed that Dandelion’s face and comb were a deeper pink than before. I guessed that her blond colouring compared to Cinnamon’s brunette colouring could be why her comb and face are a lighter shade.

I decided to get my camera and take a photo to demonstrate this. Just as I snapped the first photo she laid her egg, in the run, right in front of my eyes. A tiny, warm, damp, egg. She immediately perked up and looked back to normal. So that was what her problem was. There was no blood on her egg and it is even tinier than Freckles egg.

Maybe she was stressed because she didn’t know where to lay her egg. I think it took her by surprise when it arrived because she hadn’t even sat down. I know they have to stand up to actually lay their egg but they usually sit first.

Dandelion lays her egg in front of my eyes

Dandelion lays her egg in front of my eyes

I didn’t realise when I clicked this photo that that expression on her face was the concentration of laying her egg. It wasn’t until she stepped forward that I saw the egg.

And there it is

And there it is

As she stepped away from her egg her eyes brightened up instantly.

Dandelion's egg on the left, Freckles egg in the middle and Rusty's egg on the right

Dandelion’s egg on the left, Freckles egg in the middle and Rusty’s egg on the right

Dandelion's tiny egg on the left

Dandelion’s tiny egg is on the left, it is a paler colour than the other two

It is so tiny that it falls through the egg stand

It is so tiny that it falls through the egg stand

Dandelion's first egg

Dandelion’s egg

I took this photo to show the egg’s size with the fifty pence piece to compare it with. This was so unexpected. Today we had three little girl’s eggs. Well done Dandelion.

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Speckles and Freckles egg

Yesterday Speckles and Freckles laid their eggs together. Freckles doesn’t seem to mind who lays their eggs in the same nest box as her. She is happy to share and she likes to gather any eggs underneath her and will happily sit on them until she has laid her own egg.

Surprisingly, despite this, she hasn’t gone broody yet and is in fact our best layer. Her record is now laying four days in a row. When I saw Speckles and Freckles eggs side by side in the nest box it made me smile because Speckles lays the biggest eggs and Freckles lays the smallest eggs.

Speckles and Freckles eggs

Speckles and Freckles egg

You have to smile at these eggs.

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