Our rose reaches it’s peak

Although this is a garden post today I thought I would just update on Sugar first. Sugar is now over her broody spell after four nights in the dog crate.

After three nights I thought that Sugar was through her broody spell so I left her in the run at bedtime with the chicken shed and nest boxes opened. Instead of going in the chicken shed Sugar settled in a nest box. I put her back in the dog crate for a fourth night.

Yesterday afternoon I opened the nest boxes and chicken shed again and Sugar took no notice of the nest boxes. At bedtime I checked and Sugar was perched in the chicken shed with her flock mates. Hurrah! This morning Sugar was out in the run taking no notice of the nest boxes. Four nights is a lot better than six weeks. This is what I will do with Sugar from now on.

Our climbing rose usually peaks in May but is a whole month late this year. I have been holding off this post while waiting for the rose to reach it’s best. Over the last few days it has been heading there and I have been taking photographs. Yesterday I felt it had reached it’s peak and I took a few more photos.

I am so glad that I did as early evening it started to rain and is forecast to rain most days for the next week. It’s a shame that it’s peak was so short lived this year as it is now being battered by the rain.

This clematis is the best it’s ever been
The fox gloves are lovely
The veg plot is planted
A self seeded allium
A few days ago the rose was opening
About half the buds had opened
Looking glorious
Looking down towards our gate
The same first view yesterday when almost all the buds were open
The rose has reached it’s peak
Yesterday before the rain came

It is a shame that the rose doesn’t last longer but it is spectacular while it is flowering.

The other rose on the arches usually flowers just as this rose is over but because this one is so late it is flowering at the same time this year.

Another rose

Our veg plot has cages over the cabbages and broccoli to stop the butterflies/caterpillars. I have put pea sticks in for the peas but also put them in the gaps to try to deter the cats from using it.

I have been loving the sunny weather but at least the rain will water the garden and the allotments. We had our first strawberries from the allotment yesterday. The raspberries are also a month behind but should start ripening soon.

Everything in the garden and the allotments is looking good and there should be plenty of produce to come soon.

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Sugar is broody again already

This time Sugar has laid only eleven eggs in thirteen days and gone broody again. She laid her last five eggs five days running. It seems that she is going to be another serial broody.

This time I decided that I would try to break her out straight away as I don’t want her sitting for another six weeks especially in this hot weather. The day before yesterday she laid mid afternoon and returned to the nest box. I lifted her out and closed the nest boxes.

At bedtime Sugar was settled in the corner of the chicken shed. I decided to take immediate action. I put Sugar in the dog crate overnight with food, water and a perch. Sugar settled on the perch.

Sugar is in broody jail

I took this yesterday morning before letting her out. I closed the nest boxes and returned Sugar to the run. When it became clear that a few of the girls wanted to lay their egg I returned Sugar to the crate. Once the eggs were laid I returned Sugar to the run with the nest boxes closed once more.

I will keep up this regime over the next few days and hopefully it will only take about three nights. Sugar is already used to the perch and settles straight on to it each time I put her in here. I hope to break her out of this quickly without any stress as she seems to have adjusted to this regime.

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Disappearing chickens

I know that our chicken run is secure. I know that the girls can’t get out and nothing bigger than the weld mesh squares can get in. And yet I still have moments when I can’t see a girl and a moment of panic clutches at me. I think that a girl has managed to get out even though I know that that can’t be.

Yesterday I thought that Flame was missing. I couldn’t see her in the run. I checked the nest boxes and then the chicken shed. I checked the shelters. I went out into to the run and found her sitting on the ground just behind the wood where the original run drops down to the newer part. As she is brown she blends in and despite being one of the bigger girls she is difficult to see. She was hidden by the wood that divides the two parts of the run.

Then today it was Sugar and Shadow that I thought were missing. Once again I checked the nest boxes and the chicken shed. I looked out into the run and there was no sign of them. So I went out into the run to look for them.

There they were digging away in the small shelter. I went back and grabbed my camera.

Sugar and Shadow digging in the small shelter
Sugar and Shadow inspecting their work

In other news both Flame and Smoke came out of their broody spell together the day before yesterday. Once again it is lovely to have no broodies for now but I am not holding my breath before the next spell.

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The garden

We have had a strange spring this year. April was a dry month with many more frosts than usual. We lost our large and mature rosemary and sage. This was followed by a very wet and cold May.

Our climbing rose that always flowers by my birthday in May is a mass of buds but with only a few just starting to open. Everything is late this year but things are just beginning to get going and we have splashes of colour in the garden.

I took some photos starting by the chicken run and working my way down the garden to the fence opposite the back door.

The chicken’s strip
Big poppies
In front of the chicken run
Chives also in front of the chicken run
Half way down the garden
Peony as I head down the garden
Self seeded aquilegia in front of the cabin
Clematis opposite the back door

A mixture of sunshine and showers has made everything look lush and has helped the garden fill out.

In chicken news Smoke is still broody after ten days so shutting her out of the nest boxes hasn’t bought her out of it any quicker. A week after Smoke went broody Flame went broody too. This is just five weeks after Flame started back laying which is the quickest she has ever become broody again.

I think for Flame it is seeing a little broody girl that sparks her hormones. Flame wants to be a mum and mothers the little girls and they seem happy to play at being a chick. I decided that it would be best to try to break Flame out of it as quickly as possible as this means my best two egg layers are out of lay but worse than that is the mother and chick behaviour which goodness knows how long that would go on if I let it.

Like the last time this happened I am putting Flame in the dog crate in the shed with food and water and a perch while any of the girls are laying. I return her to the run when the nest boxes are closed and I leave her in the crate over night.

It only took three nights in the crate to break her out of it last time so I hope that it won’t take too long.

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Sugar is laying again

Recently I had noticed that Sugar’s comb had become red again and she has been more vocal. I wondered if she was getting ready to lay again.

Sugar laid yesterday and again today. Her eggs are quite large for serama eggs and oval in shape. After being broody for just over six weeks she is laying just two weeks after coming out of her long broody spell.

I was surprised as I thought it would take her longer to start laying again after such a prolonged broody spell.

Sugar’s comb is red again
Sugar is looking great

Both with Salmon and with Sugar I have realised how quickly they lose condition when they are not eating properly and how quickly they bounce back when they are eating properly again.

I really hope this long broody spell won’t be Sugar’s pattern but if she shows signs of going broody again I will try to break her out of it quickly.

Smoke is my serial broody but usually not for too long and she comes back into lay quickly. I don’t want any more six week stints of broodiness but I guess only time will tell. For now I am just glad to have Sugar back in lay again.

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Smoke is broody again!

Since Smoke started laying after her last broody spell she has laid ten eggs in twelve days and then gone broody again. She seems to be going broody sooner than ever.

I am so fed up of the constant broodiness that this time I decided to try to break her out of it straight away before it really got hold of her. Seems that this is easier said than done.

I have been keeping the nest boxes closed and opening one when I can tell that a girl needs to lay. I tried to make a one way system so that the laying girl could leave the nest box after laying but Smoke couldn’t get in. I don’t really want to shut a girl in the nest box.

Not very sophisticated but I propped the lid, from the tub that holds the sunflower hearts, against the ramp of the nest box. This was yesterday.

Broody Smoke on top of the nest box
Smoke tries to find a way into the nest box
There must be a way in somewhere

Today when Ebony was in the nest box I decided to leave it open. Ebony and Smoke are the two most aggressive girls and I didn’t think that Ebony would tolerate Smoke with her or that Smoke would be brave enough to go in with her.

Smoke looks in on Ebony
Look at how big I can make myself

While broody, Smoke always puffs herself up like this, when she is near Ebony.

I can only try to keep Smoke out because I am home all the time at the moment. At last we are having some lovely sunny weather so I am spending my time in the garden and can keep an eye on the girls.

A little later I heard Ebony shouting and when I checked she had laid her egg and Smoke was sitting on it. I removed the egg and lifted Smoke from the nest box and closed it once more.

I am not sure this is going to work as it is already Smoke’s third day of being broody but I will continue for another couple of days and hope for the best.

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A fish treat for the girls

We now have a broody free flock and it’s lovely. It only took two days of closing the nest boxes but leaving the chicken shed open for the egg laying girls. Salmon showed no interest in the shed and she continued to perch at dusk.

After two days I opened the nest boxes and Salmon had lost interest in them. It is so lovely to go up and see the entire flock together in the run.

I have given the girls a fish treat last week and again yesterday to give them a protein boost. Sugar is back to eating normally and the colour of her comb is better.

All of the girls are laying apart from Sugar and Salmon. I would expect Salmon to take at least a week’s break and Sugar probably up to six weeks break. The longer they remain broody the longer the break before laying again.

A fish treat for the girls
A great way to get photos of all the flock together
They are such a lovely flock
The girls enjoyed their fish treat

I am really enjoying this spell of all the girls together until the next broody spell and egg production is up again which is an added bonus.

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Almost broody free

Yesterday I left the nest boxes open and Sugar took no notice of them so in the evening I left her with the flock. When I checked at dusk I was really pleased to see that Sugar was perched with her flock mates.

After three nights in the broody crate Sugar has come out of this at last. Sugar is now eating normally again and I think her comb has a bit more colour to it.

Just as Sugar has come out of this it looked as if Salmon was going broody. Salmon has never gone broody before. I couldn’t believe that as soon as one girl is out of it the next girl is into it.

Just as I was opening up the nest boxes again I decided to close them up once more. Having just researched broodiness I had been reminded that the quicker you try to stop them the faster the process will be.

I just felt that I couldn’t cope with another broody so soon and while Salmon was sitting in the nest box Flame was sitting on top of her. I really don’t want this behaviour again. After salmon had sat in the nest box for several hours without laying I decided to take her out and close up the nest boxes. Flame had already laid her egg.

I lift Salmon from the nest box
I encourage Salmon to move away

I have to say that Salmon is a beautiful girl. Salmon was in angry mode and ran at any nearby little girl and chased them away. She paced around clucking away with the typical broody sound all afternoon.

I waited until dusk to see if Salmon would perch or sit in the corner of the shed. I was very pleased when I checked and both Sugar and Salmon were perched.

I left the nest boxes closed and waited to see if Salmon would be sitting in the corner of the chicken shed in the morning. Salmon was out in the run. Unlike Sugar Salmon only wants the nest boxes and not the chicken shed.

This makes the process easier. It means the shed can stay open for any of the girls that want to lay and Salmon will be kept out of the nest boxes. Salmon already seems to be returning to normal so I am hopeful that speedy intervention has nipped it in the bud.

Phew! It would be great to be free of broody girls for a while and it’s so nice to go up and see the whole flock out in the run. I hope this means Salmon is back to normal and tomorrow I will try the nest boxes open again while keeping an eye on her.

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Trying to break broody Sugar

Sugar has now been broody for more than six weeks. I am starting to worry about her. Her comb has gone from red to a pale, slightly grey, colour. To look at her comb she looks like an unwell chicken.

Sugar isn’t eating anything but a few seeds. She has stopped doing the large broody poops that broody girls do. Sugar is losing condition. It is time to try to break her out of this.

As usual I have done a google search. I thought I already knew all there is to know about this but it never hurts to look again. I put “six weeks broody” in the search and it said that is too long to leave a broody girl. They will lose condition and possibly become too underweight. It said that it is kinder to break them than to let them lose condition with no reward of chicks at the end of it.

I have made my plan. I will close the nest boxes and the chicken shed in between girls needing to lay. When any of the girls need to lay I will put Sugar in the dog crate in the shed. I will also leave her in there over night.

I have taken up David’s idea of putting a perch in the crate. When I tried Sugar in the crate before she was flapping around and I was worried she would hurt herself. This time she has actually been using the perch.

The weird thing is that she has reverted to her previous behaviour. It seems that when the nest boxes are open she will sit in them all the time but when the nest boxes are closed she just wants to jump on me as soon as I open the gate. I have never come across this behaviour before. I have never had such a crazy girl before. I wonder why I have the craziest chicken!

I have to do a mix of closing the nest boxes and using the crate because Sugar refuses to eat anything while in the crate. I have put in the crate mash and sunflower hearts and apple and spinach and water and she refuses to touch anything.

Like when Salmon was poorly Sugar will only eat some treats when I put her on top of a nest box and drop treats in front of her. I got her to have some sunflower hearts and some bits of apple and spinach. She wouldn’t touch the mash. She wouldn’t take water in the crate but did have water when back in the run.

I am back to the thinking that it doesn’t matter what she eats as long as she eats something. When Smoke is broody she always eats when I take her out of the nest box but Sugar doesn’t unless I treat her like I did Salmon and hand feed her. I have read of committed broodies starving themselves and I can’t let that happen.

Sugar jumps on me as soon as I open the gate
Sugar is looking for a way into the chicken shed
Sugar jumps on me again
Shadow’s red comb for comparison
Sugar in the crate. Compare her comb with the photo of Shadow above
Sugar perching in the crate

I will keep going with this for as long as it takes. I have to break her out of this because this is definitely not good for her health.

I was pleased to see that she perched in the crate like this at bedtime whereas in the chicken shed I couldn’t get her to perch. She would go floppy and drop down even when it was dark. This feels like a step forward already and will be better for her and more likely to break the pattern.

I will report back with how we progress. I am feeling a bit more optimistic now that I have started with a new regime.

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The puzzle that nearly beat me

Over this last year of lock-downs I have done so many jigsaw puzzles. More than I have ever done before. I have become quite addicted to them, especially during bad weather, when we can’t get outside much.

With so much practice I have become very good at them. The only ones I gave up on were two I blogged about before. They were very soft focus and I couldn’t get going on them. I learned never to choose a puzzle with a blurred picture again.

My mum and me post each other puzzles. Sometimes Mum sends me some that are too hard for her or that she couldn’t finish because she struggles with her eye sight. I have managed to finish even the really difficult ones. I have become expert at recognising very fine detail. Dots on brickwork and leaves and twigs on trees, blades of grass and hints of clouds in skies.

Recently I discovered a local, monthly, jigsaw and paperback library. It is on the first Wednesday of the month and reopened this month. It is run by volunteers. They take donations of puzzles and books and charge just fifty pence per item which is an amazing bargain.

I donated five jigsaws and four books and bought two jigsaws and two books. I found it really difficult to choose the jigsaws. I have got so used to being given them and although I thought I would know what sort to choose I was a bit overwhelmed by having such a huge choice.

I like a 1000 piece puzzle as anything smaller I do too quickly. I chose one that was 1500 pieces as I thought that would give me a challenge. I can finish a 1000 piece in three days. This one took me a week. That was with me spending quite a lot of time on it as it has rained almost every day.

Once I had completed the outside I separated my pieces into the main picture and the background. I put the tray of background pieces aside and just worked on the picture which had a basket of fruit as the centre piece.

I got on well with the main part of the picture and found it challenging but enjoyable. Then I had just the background left to do. Another lesson learned is not to pick a puzzle with too much plain background. There was no detail at all in the background and it was also slightly fuzzy.

I have completed smaller plain backgrounds by the shape of the pieces but this was a daunting, huge, chunk of background. I was in a dilemma. Could I face the tedium of completing it or could I face giving up after completing so much of it. I decided to keep trying over the next few days and see how I got on.

Once I got started on the background I knew that I couldn’t let it beat me. I like to have a picture to follow and recognise detail but the picture was no help at all. I had to put away the picture and carry on purely by the shape of the pieces.

I arrange all the pieces on trays in rows of the pieces the same shape. With a small part like this I try every piece in each space but there were far too many pieces to do this. I had to study the shapes and match them. It was slow progress but I knew it would get easier when there were less pieces to try.

For the first time in ages my husband was able to join in. Because of his sight problem he hasn’t been able to do puzzles with me recently but he was able to join in with this because it wasn’t about seeing any detail but purely recognising shape and a lot of trial and error.

I wasn’t sure if I could get any further
Almost there
Hurrah! Puzzle completed

I am so glad that I didn’t let it beat me but I will try to choose more carefully in future. The actual picture really appealed to me so I overlooked the big background space. It would have been more fun with something else in the background but it was a challenge.

I am happy that I completed it.

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