First snow

Last night we had our first snow of this winter. It snowed for about an hour and settled. This morning it was still here.

Through our front window
Looking up the garden
Looking down the garden

I’m not quite sure why I found this a surprise but somehow I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t think it will stay around for long.

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Shadow lays an egg

Three days ago Smoke went broody after laying fourteen eggs in three weeks which is quite good for her.

Out of our current flock Smoke had been the only girl to lay through the winter up until now. We only got Shadow and Sugar last September at about three months old.

Shadow started laying in February, stopped in August and laid ninety eggs. Sugar started laying in March, stopped in September and laid fifty seven eggs. I had wondered if either of these girls would lay in winter and thought it most likely to be Sugar because like Smoke she is a serial broody.

However Smoke resumed laying at the end of October and Sugar didn’t so I then assumed that neither Sugar or Shadow would lay again this year. But a few days ago Shadow became much more vocal and I noticed that she had a lovely red comb and face. I started to wonder if she was getting ready to lay again.

Yesterday Shadow started going in and out of the nest box next to the one Smoke was in. I suspected she was about to lay. Shadow really wanted the nest box that Smoke was in. Smoke is our most aggressive girl and did not want to share with Shadow.

This process went on for some time before Shadow finally settled in the nest box next door to Smoke.

Smoke is broody
Shadow is in and out of the nest box next to Smoke’s
What Shadow really wants is to be in Smoke’s nest box
Shadow keeps looking in on Smoke
Then Shadow goes back to the nest box next door
Shadow eventually settles in this nest box

The next time I checked Shadow had laid her egg in the nest box next door to Smoke’s.

Shadow’s egg

Shadow’s egg is on the left of a medium shop bought egg for size comparison. We had just eaten the last of Smoke’s eggs so I couldn’t compare them but Smoke’s eggs are completely round where as Shadow’s egg is oval shaped.

What a clever girl! I felt ridiculously proud of Shadow.

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Portraits of the flock

The girls are all coming through the moult although I am still picking up some feathers each day. I have noticed that their feather colours change slightly with each moult.

Spangle is the most changed of all but the other girls have subtly changed. Spangle started out with a brown (spangled) pattern on her back and the brown feathers have disappeared with each moult until now they are almost completely gone. She has gone from lots of brown to almost just white.

Sugar has gone the other way. Sugar was mostly plain white and has gradually got more colour. It started as very faint and fine and now she has delicate salmon coloured feathers throughout especially on her neck.

I think that Salmon’s colouring is paler than it used to be. Smoke had gradually developed white feathers on her head and now has dark, almost black, patches behind her wings.

Shadow doesn’t seem to have changed although I think that she may possibly have more grey and Flame hasn’t changed but her tail hasn’t fully grown in at the moment.

Spot is also dropping small feathers but still has her stained wing and tail feathers. We won’t be able to see her true colour for a while.

Sugar
Close up showing some, fine, salmon coloured feathers
Shadow
Salmon
Spangle
Smoke with a few dark squares at the base of her tail
Flame with a partial tail
Spot
Spot facing the other way

It is interesting seeing the changes in the girls feathers. I think they have all grown more beautiful as they have matured.

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Flame has lost her tail

Flame seems to be having a moult in two halves. I am putting it down to Flame having a couple of broody spells late in the summer which kick started her moult.

In September she stopped laying and started dropping loads of feathers. Flame didn’t look as bad as she had some years despite feathers wafting from her with every movement.

Flame had a short tail rather than no tail as she usually had and I put this down to the long tail feathers dropping out and revealing the new shorter tail feathers growing in underneath.

However Flame is dropping feathers again and has now dropped her tail feathers leaving her with next to no tail. She has one short tail feather remaining.

Flame has only one tail feather
Flame’s tail feather from the other side

The good thing about Flame having her moult in two halves is that she doesn’t look any thing like as tatty as she has in the past when having one heavy moult.

Apart from Flame’s lack of tail she is looking pretty good. It won’t be long before Flame’s tail feathers grow back in and she will be back to her beautiful self again.

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Spot has been with our flock two weeks today

After two weeks with us it’s as if Spot has always been part of the flock. She has fitted in so easily.

Spot after two weeks with us
Spot shows off her long neck as she looks at me

After numerous dust baths Spot still has discoloured wing and tail feathers. The run she had been kept in must have reddish soil and as it was muddy it has stained her feathers.

I have toyed with the idea of giving her a bath but have decided to leave her be as I don’t want to stress her and prefer not to give baths so late in the year. The feathers are also quite tatty so she may moult them.

Hamburgs usually start to lay at six months but I think it’s too late in the year for Spot to lay this year. I am expecting Spot to start laying in the spring. Her comb isn’t red yet.

Despite her stained and tatty feathers I think she is beautiful and she will become more beautiful as she matures. She is a lovely girl.

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Topping up the soil level in the chicken run

Constant poop picking the chicken run causes the soil level to drop. This is most noticeable in front of the chicken’s patio area. The drop has become huge over the years.

Years ago we put some wooden blocks there to provide a step down but I try to keep the drop from the patio beside the wooden block from becoming too big.

Whenever I dig over the run I then use a spade to heap soil from further out in the run to the the front of the patio area. I also buy bags of compost every now and then to add but it never makes much of a difference.

Recently we were on the look out for the best value compost for the raised beds at the allotment as they didn’t produce so well this year. We found an offer at our local Homebase of five large bags for fifteen pounds. They are five ninety nine for one bag so that is really good value.

We bought some for the allotment then decided to buy another five to top up the chicken run. This is the biggest improvement in the level so far.

The soil level in front of the chicken’s patio as it was
The soil level now that it has been raised
Scratching fun for the girls

The level will settle a bit as the compost is very light and dry but it’s the best improvement for many years. The girls will also spread it a bit too and will enjoy scratching in it.

I am pleased with the improvement and I am sure the girls are too.

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Allotments greens and Smoke lays an egg

We have been giving the girls the greens from the allotment that are not up to up to standard. It’s purple sprouting broccoli that didn’t form as it’s too late in the season and has now been attacked by caterpillars.

The girls love it and Spot soon cottoned on to it as well.

Spot soon got the hang of allotment greens
Spot is joined by Smoke

This afternoon I checked on the girls and found Smoke missing. Smoke was in the nest box.

Smoke getting ready to lay again

It’s been a month since Smoke and Sugar last laid with Sugar’s last egg four days before Smoke’s last egg.

Sugar gave up being broody about a week before Smoke did so it will be interesting to see if Sugar also starts laying again or waits until spring.

When I next checked Smoke was out in the run and her egg was in the nest box.

Smoke’s egg on the left of a, medium, shop bought egg

Well done Smoke!

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Spot’s first week with our flock

I am so thrilled with how well Spot has settled into our flock. By her fourth night she found her own way into the chicken shed at bedtime. Not only that but she perched in the middle of the little girls on the back perch rather than on the side perch where I had been putting her for the first few nights.

A couple of days ago I kept checking on the girls before bedtime to see how easily she was getting in. I found that she is now among the first girls to go in which is very sensible.

Spot was on the perch next to Shadow and Smoke and Flame were together at the other end of the perch. Flame is always the first girl to go in. Salmon, Spangle and Sugar were still outside and were last to go in and settle on the back perch.

Spot has perched at the back, in the middle of the little girls, every night since that first time. This shows that she is accepted and not being pecked away.

Although the little girls chased her a bit during the first few days to show her that she is bottom girl there has been no pecking or ruff raising. Spot has been hanging out on the edge of the flock from the first day and wherever the flock was she would be close by.

Gradually she has progressed to being among the flock. Spot has shared in the communal dust bathing and preening sessions.

At first Spot was going to the food and water on the patio area when the rest of the flock were elsewhere but now she is confident enough to go to the patio area when the other girls do.

At first Spot would go to the food and water and join in with corn or sunflower hearts but she didn’t understand the white treat dishes or the fruit. Spot is a very fast learner though and half way through the first week she was pecking at the mash and fruit along with the rest of the girls.

Spot on the chicken’s patio
Spot pecks at the melon
The other girls don’t bother Spot

Spot has also quickly become used to me and doesn’t move away from me like she did for the first couple of days. She is also getting used to the camera.

I think the flock accepted her quickly as they didn’t see her as a threat and she is such a fast learner that she learned everything she needed to to fit in. From the first few days she wanted to be around the girls rather than staying away from them and I think this helped her settle quickly.

I don’t think this would have been as smooth had we still had Ebony in the flock and Ebony has settled really well into her current flock so it couldn’t have worked out better.

I am so pleased with how everything has worked out and feel that we have a lovely, happy flock.

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Communal dust bathing

Spot is growing in confidence. She has been getting closer to the other girls and closer to me too.

Today Spot was enjoying a communal dust bathing session with the rest of the flock. This is so good to see and I am really pleased with how well and how quickly she is settling in.

Communal dust bathing
Spot joining in the dust bathing session
Dust bathing on both sides of the wire

Happy flock, happy me. I am so pleased with how it’s going.

Update

I have just been up to check at bedtime and on only our fourth night Spot has got herself into the chicken shed. Not only that but instead of being on the side perch she is on the back perch in the middle of the little girls.

I am so proud of her!

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Some information about bantam hamburgs

I am happy with how Spot is settling in. On her first evening I herded her towards the patio area before dusk so that she would settle somewhere near the chicken shed rather than perching out in the run.

Last night I went out a little bit later than the night before and Spot was settled on the chicken shed roof. Although she hadn’t found her way in, it’s early days yet, I was encouraged that she was heading in the right direction.

It made it easy for me to lift her from the chicken shed roof and put her on the side perch like I did the night before. I expect it will take a little while of doing this before she gets the hang of going in herself.

Spot at dusk

I thought I would give a bit of information about bantam hamburgs.

Hamburgs have a german name but are generally considered to have originated in Holland.

They are active, flighty birds. They are good egg producers of small white eggs and start laying at about six months old.

They rarely ever go broody and are very cold hardy. They have a rose comb and no feathers on their feet or legs which are a slate blue colour. They come in many feather colours.

I would add, now having spot, that they have big feet and long legs and a fairly long neck. She reminds me of a smaller version of a game bird. She is also very speedy. In size Spot is in between Flame and the seramas.

I think Spot is the perfect addition to our flock.

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