Emerald and Speckles have teamed up

Emerald and Speckles have always been rather loners in the flock. Emerald and Toffee were close but after we lost Toffee, Emerald became a bit of a loner and Speckles did hang out in the chicken shelter and dust bath with Peaches and Barley but was also pretty much a loner.

Since Peaches and Barley have left the flock, Emerald and Speckles have teamed up. They are together all the time. They perch together on the bottom rung of the ladder but I can’t get a photo of that because as soon as I go in Emerald runs to me. But they do seem to be keeping very close to each other.

These two are sticking together

Together in the nest box

Speckles often sits in the nest box for a while but doesn’t lay and yesterday Emerald went in to keep her company. Speckles hasn’t laid for a week now. She isn’t a great layer, she normally lays about two or three times a week but she is getting feathers on her head and her bottom so I wonder if that has stopped her laying at the moment.

As you can see from these photos her recently bare head now has white pin feathers.

Emerald then went and laid her egg in the cat box which is her third day in a row. While she was out of sight, Speckles was calling for her.

When I give the morning and evening treats Speckles and Emerald are like a double act. They always jump to the inner gate.

They always jump on to the gate together

This photo shows the extremes in their combs. Speckles has the most amazing, huge, comb and Emerald has the tiniest comb.

Emerald always jumps back down to the patio

Speckles always jumps to my shoulder or back

Speckles looks as if she is wondering what Emerald is doing down there. Emerald always jumps down but Speckles always jumps on to me. This has been a long time routine with these two.

These photos show how much better Speckles head is looking which is so good to see. I am really pleased to see these two teaming up. It is quite heart warming.

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A peaceful and united flock

I can’t get over the change in the flock since we re-homed Peaches and Barley. It is so quiet, peaceful and harmonious. When I used to give corn or sunflower hearts I used to throw some the other side of the wire so that the three amigos had a chance of getting some and even then they would get chased round and round the wire.

I am now able to give the treats together and the flock is as one. It is so lovely to see them all together.

End of day treats

A united flock

The whole flock hang out together now and Emerald and Speckles have taken to sitting together. Speckles also has her head feathers coming back in and is starting to look better.

Emerald is laying really well and has gone past the date that she stopped last year (game girls have a short laying season). I expect she will stop laying soon but my husband said maybe less stress is keeping her laying longer.

Dandelion has now laid two eggs in a nest box after laying her first six in the run. I wonder if that too is because she is no longer being chased from the nest boxes.

When I go up to the girls they all run to me now rather than the three amigos hanging back. The three amigos now spend time on the patio. I have never before had to have a separate feeding station, bottles of water above the ladder and a cat box nest box in the shed. All these things came about because of the three amigos being chased.

I probably don’t need the cat box in the shed any longer but I am leaving it for a while because Emerald has taken to laying her eggs in there.

I will keep my flock at this smaller size from now on and will only add girls if I lose girls which I hope won’t be for a very long time and I would always add seramas in future.

I am now enjoying the flock again and the flock are happy and united once more.

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New life

Not much time for blogging today.

Veg plot

From the other direction

The gaps will soon be filled with courgettes and tomatoes but we have tried not to plant them too early in case of cold nights. Our rose around the patio is in bud and is just starting to burst open.

Not much time today because we went to meet my eldest son and his lovely wife’s first baby, my first grandson, born on our wedding anniversary. He is absolutely gorgeous and I am so very proud.

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The first day as a flock of seven

After the sadness of taking Peaches and Barley to Moira, being with the flock after they have gone has been a joy. I can’t believe the difference. Everything is calm and quiet.

The three amigos have been back and forth to the patio and have been able to share the lunch time apple and melon whereas usually Peaches and Barley would not have allowed them.

Cinnamon was able to go straight to her nest box of choice without being chased away and quickly got her egg laid.

It is so peaceful and quiet. Peaches and Barley were constantly noisy and my husband remarked how quiet it is now.

Cinnamon and Dandelion on the patio with Emerald photo bombing

Dandelion gets to have some melon

Apricot has some melon

The girls have melon together

As you can see Emerald doesn’t bother the three amigos at all, even when there are treats to be had. Emerald has the sweetest nature.

It is so good to see these girls on the patio

I think that all the problems I have had getting the three amigos to the patio wouldn’t have been as bad without Peaches and Barley but I couldn’t have done this sooner. I had to be sure there was no other way and it took the double problem of Speckles and Cinnamon to make up my mind.

You can see the grey under feathers where they would grab Cinnamon, pulling feathers out at the same time. I am not trying to turn Peaches and Barley into the bad guys (girls), as they just couldn’t help themselves, but it had just got to an unbearable stage for all.

I am sure they will be happier not having to defend the patio and nest boxes all the time. They will have to learn to settle into a new life which may be hard for them to begin with but eventually when they have a whole meadow and orchard to roam I know they will be happier.

The first day without them has proved to me that it was the right thing to do.

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Peaches and Barley have a new home

This has been another really difficult decision to make. I had a long chat with our friend Moira at the farm. She had taken twenty eight rescue chickens (she offered to take thirty but got the last twenty eight) a few days earlier and they are restricted to the barn and courtyard while settling in and learning where home is.

She said to bring Peaches and Barley to her at the end of the day and they could go in the barn at bedtime and they will be able to mix in along with the rest of the new girls.

I feel heart sick to be doing this again but I really hope this will be the last time. I know that the flock will be happier without them. The little girls will have a better life and Speckles will be able to regrow her feathers and will also have a happier life. Peaches and Barley will have a free range life with as much grass as they could ever want.

They have had three years with me and now will have the chance to live free range and will never be bored. I will miss their little fluffy bottoms in my flock though and also having them jump on my back as I clean the run. I have a lump in my throat at the thought of not having them around any more but I will be able to visit them.

I took some photos of their last night with us. The girls all know their place at bedtime.

Freckles and Rusty sleep on the left hand perch

The bigger girls sleep at the back

The three amigos sleep on the right hand perch

I gave Peaches and Barley some melon in the afternoon as a last treat with us.

Peaches and Barley have some melon

I prepared the dog crate and added a dish of mash and an apple. I managed to catch Peaches and Barley and we took them late in the afternoon to Moira.

Moira and her girls

The brown girls are the ones she has rescued from being slaughtered. They are being confined to the barn and courtyard until they know where to go at bedtime.

Beyond the courtyard is the meadow where the girls free range once they are used to their new home.

She is going to add straw and water to the dog crate and keep Peaches and Barley in there for their first night. They can then get used to the sounds of the other girls around them and it means when she opens up in the morning they won’t be able to escape the barn.

She will leave a few friends and Peaches and Barley in the barn. They will stay in the barn for the first few days so that they know that is where to go at bedtime. They will then go to the courtyard and eventually to the orchard. This has always worked for Moira and is how she has added our girls to her flock in the past.

She says, as always, that she will look after them as best she can and that it isn’t goodbye as we can visit soon.

The flock seemed very quiet on our return home but Cinnamon was happily scratching near the patio where she would have been chased from before. I know that however difficult this has been it was the right thing to do. I really feel that the flock will be a happier flock now.

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The chicken shelter

I am pleased with the chicken shelter as both the little girls and the bigger girls seem to like it. I have at different times seen every girl go in to it.

Apricot in the shelter

Freckles perches in the shelter

Yesterday when I was in the run there was a heavy shower which was very loud on the roof. The bigger girls and Rusty ran straight to the shelter. By the time I had got my camera Rusty had left. It makes me laugh how even though the run is roofed and dry they still run to the shelter when it rains.

The bigger girls in the shelter

This gives me hope that during bad weather, cold or windy, they may actually perch in the shelter. It will also double as shade during hot days.

I went back a bit later when it was raining again. Apricot seems to prefer the shelf at the back.

Apricot and Dandelion are in the shelter

Speckles is in the other shelter

Peaches and Barley were also in here but left when I went in.

Rusty joins Apricot and Dandelion in the shelter

Freckles joins them

They turn to face the front

Only Cinnamon is missing from the little girls but I think she wanted to lay her egg. She was near the patio.

They dust bath under it, perch at the front or sit on the flat wooden bit and stand or sit on top of it, so it has lots of uses. Also having two shelters means that there is room for all the girls. They do seem to like to be in there when it rains even though the run is mostly dry.

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Poor Speckles

Things have not got any better with Speckles and in fact it has got ¬†much worse. I am giving serious thought to re-homing Peaches and Barley with Moira but we have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet.

Every time Speckles gets some pins through on her head and her bottom they are pulled out again and recently her head and her bottom have both looked red and sore. She is also getting a bare neck and has feathers going from her back too.

Poor Speckles head

Speckles neck

It actually looks worse than the photos because they don’t show how red her skin looks and because of her black and white feathers its difficult to show in a photo how bad she is looking.

She spends time trying to keep away from the other girls and while having a dust bath at the furthest part of the run she didn’t even come to the patio for the lunch time apple. Also her and Emerald perched out in the run one evening at bedtime which they haven’t done since we have had the chicken shed. I had to pick them up and put them in.

It’s not just Speckles that is victim to Peaches and Barley either. They chase the three amigos, Cinnamon in particular, mercilessly. They have taken to pinning Cinnamon to the ground which is awful to see. They also grab her by the feathers on her back and she is looking a bit tatty now. They keep her away from the food and water and they keep her out of the nest boxes.

To cap it all a few days ago Cinnamon was drinking water from the bottle at the top of the ladder and Barley ran up the ladder and chased her down. I have been giving it a lot of thought and I really think the flock would be happier without these two.

Last year they were plucking Butterscotch and because I really didn’t want to part with them I took Butterscotch to Moira thinking that she would have a happier life there and that the problem would end there.

With hind sight that was probably a mistake on my part but I couldn’t bear to think of letting Peaches and Barley go. Now it’s becoming unbearable and is spoiling the harmony of the flock and spoiling my enjoyment of the flock.

I think they may actually be better off in a larger, free range, space. They have had three years with me and now perhaps it is time for them to be in an environment that may suit them better.

I think with just Speckles and Emerald and the little girls the flock would be happily balanced again. The smaller number may work better and the balance of little girls would make their life so much better. I feel sorry for Speckles but I feel equally sorry for poor little Cinnamon.

I have been struggling with this decision but as I watch what is happening with the flock it is becoming more obvious that something needs to be done. I will have a chat to Moira soon.

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Peony

Our peony is one of the shrubs that was already here when we moved in ten years ago. I have never photographed it though as it takes ages for the flower buds to open and then just as they reach their peak it goes over. It’s a shame that the flowers, although lovely, are so short lived.

This year I thought that I would try to catch it.

The peony is in bud

It’s about to burst open

The peony is fully open

It will be like this for a few days and then the flowers will drop. It’s lovely while it lasts though.

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Greenery in the chicken run

We have talked a lot lately in the comments about trying to get some greenery in a chicken run. I have tried lots of things but everything gets stripped by the girls to the level they can reach which is why I give them greens every day.

However I thought I would just show what greenery they do have in their run. The huge hypericum was in this spot already when we built the run but had greenery down to the ground. It was lovely for the girls to hide and scratch underneath. Gradually they stripped it to the height they could reach.

We then added the metal table which the girls love to sit on and more recently the wooden shelter. They have now used these to stand on and further strip the greenery until it’s become a standard hypericum.

Hypericum

It looks a bit sad now but I am trying to hang on to anything green in the run and they still like to sit underneath it and continue to peck at any growth they can reach.

Pink rose

This rose was on the outside of the run before we extended it so had already grown tall. The girls love the petals when they drop from the flowers.

The pink rose from the other side of the gate

Large shrub with white flowers

The girls have stripped this shrub to a standard shape too.

Large shrub with mauve flowers

This shrub has grown so much that it’s bursting through the weld mesh. The girls have been able to strip it ¬†from this corner perch so again there is no greenery lower down.

It’s proved impossible to have any greenery at a lower level but I still think it’s good to have some plants in the run to provide interest and shade and the extra leaf that can be reached from time to time.

The outside of the run

The shrub with the mauve flowers is bursting through the weld mesh blending the run into the garden.

The girl’s dandelion and mint garden

The mint has rather taken over the dandelions. I have picked the dandelion leaves for the girls and now need to leave them to regrow. I read that chickens will eat mint but now find that my girls don’t like the mint which has meant that the dandelion leaves have been harvested and the mint has been left to take over.

At the moment I am giving a mix of spinach and spring greens because the girls love the spinach but it goes so quickly then they move on to the greens which last most of the day.

This is really the best that I can achieve by way of keeping some green in their run but they never go without greens. I do my best to keep them as happy as possible.

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Dandelion’s egg laying

Yesterday Dandelion laid her sixth egg. I spotted it out in the furthest part of the run when I went in to the chickens first thing in the morning. She has yet to lay one in a nest box.

She just doesn’t seem to know that she has laid because shortly after this she went into the chicken shed. She stood there shouting.

Dandelion shouting in the chicken shed

Dandelion has a really loud, high pitched, shout. I could hear her while she was inside the shed and I was indoors. I don’t know why she was shouting and not going in the cat box. I had changed the pine shavings in the cat box that morning and wondered if the fresh shavings were putting her off.

Eventually she did settle in the cat box and all was quiet.

Dandelion settles in the cat box

But not for long. Emerald decided she was ready to lay her egg and chased Dandelion out of the cat box.

Emerald settles in the cat box

Since I have put the cat box in here both Emerald and Speckles have laid every egg here. Dandelion started shouting again and even giving her some corn to distract her only stopped her shouting while she ate the corn. If only I could explain to her that she had already laid her egg and there was no need for any of this.

Then it went quiet and I went to see what was going on.

Dandelion settles in the right hand nest box

Phew, Dandelion had decided to settle in the nest box instead. This is actually good news because it means that when the cat box is occupied she will now perhaps settle for a nest box.

Next time I checked Emerald’s egg was in the cat box and Dandelion was back in the run and quiet again. She must have decided her job was done.

Cinnamon on the other hand prefers the nest boxes but Peaches and Barley do everything they can to keep her out of the nest boxes which is maddening. The day before they were chasing her from the nest boxes and we had to go out so had to leave her to it.

When we returned Cinnamon’s, longer shaped egg, was in the cat box. She must have given up on the nest boxes. This is also good news because it means that when she is being chased from the nest box she will probably go to the cat box.

Egg laying seems to cause such drama at the moment. We are eating lots of lovely eggs though.

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