The flock is integrated

This has been a really easy integration. We have come to the conclusion that it’s much easier to integrate younger girls as they pose no threat to the flock and therefore there is no aggression towards them.

The day before yesterday I decided to help the chicks find their way round the whole run. I opened the hatch and guided them out to the bigger part of the run. I then closed the hatch and opened the gate to let the flock into the chicks part and closed them in.

The flock actually loved being in this part because it’s been denied from them and therefore had become attractive.

I then guided the chicks around the entire run. I do this by having my open hands behind them and just move them forward. I guided them to the patio area and put their dish there so that they would know that this was where the food was. I then guided them back down from the patio area and then repeated the excercise so that they would get used to finding there way to and from the patio area.

I then opened the gate and let the girls mix together. There was no aggression at all so I decided that I would try leaving them together.

I opened up the corner near the patio and propped open the gate. I had also closed the chicks coup and moved their food dishes to the patio area.

I had directed the chicks to the patio area
Look at us
The chicks exploring the run

At bedtime the flock was in the chicken shed but the chicks were standing at the edge of the patio and were cheeping. I guided them towards the pop hole and through into the chicken shed. They wanted to come back out but I blocked them with my hands and a few minutes later the automatic door shut.

I checked on the chicks and they were settled on the floor in the back corner of the shed. I made sure they were not in the firing line of being pooped on.

The next morning the chicks had become very adventuress and had explored the entire run. They love to be off the ground and discovered all the low perches, the wooden blocks, the log, the perches in the large shelter and the top of the small shelter.

I had changed all the food dishes to a mixture of growers pellets and chick crumb. Unfortunately the bigger girls were attracted to the smaller dishes and flicked pellets all around the patio area.

The chicks on the very messy patio area
The chicks peck at the chard
The chicks are getting so brave
They are so brave at the end of their first whole day with the bigger girls

I was really pleased to see that the chicks were able to get to the food even with the bigger girls close to them.

At the end of the day the same thing happened as the night before and I had to guide the chicks through the pop hole. It will probably take a while for them to get the hang of it but I am sure they will soon.

After the chicks first night in the chicken shed I put their little coup back on the patio area to become a nest box once more.

Spangle and the chicks on top of the little shelter

Spangle seems to like to be wherever the chicks are and will follow them around.

By the end of the first day I had seen the chicks eat from the bigger food dishes and drink from the metal water dish. I decided that now they knew where the food and water was that I would take away the small dishes so that the patio area doesn’t get covered in pellets and then I swept the patio area.

I am really pleased with how easily this has gone. The chicks just need to learn to go in the chicken shed by themselves and once they have got used to that I will then try to perch them at night. I am confident that it won’t be too long before they get the hang of it.

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The chicks on their perch

Since the chicks have discovered the little perch in their part of the run it has become a favourite spot for them. Before if they wanted to chill they would go in their little coup but this perch has now become the place to chill.

They have also discovered that the little perch gets a shaft of sunshine in the afternoons and they hang out there in the spot of sun.

The chicks on their perch
This is their new chill out spot

The chicks are growing up fast. They no longer spend time in their little coup during the day. I think they are cheeping a bit less too and are having less mad moments tearing around. They also seem to have slowed down with their feeding.

They were always in the food dish at first but they now spend some time just chilling in the run or on the perch. They are losing some of their baby ways. They have also dropped some of their baby feathers.

I think we are ready to start integrating now. I will let them spend some time with the flock tomorrow.

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And now for something completely different

It’s difficult when we have new girls not to post about them every day. They grow up and change so quickly.

But my husband picked me these from the allotment yesterday and I thought they were so beautiful.

A selection of flowers from the allotment plot

We also have a bumper crop of chillies from our two plants in pots on our patio. We have tried them and they are mega hot. Too hot to be manageable.

I was going to freeze them but realised that they would still be too hot to use. One of our allotment sharers suggested drying them so I googled it.

You can string them up or put them on a rack in the sun or in the oven on a very low heat. I decided that as we have sun at the moment that I would try that method.

Our chillies drying in the sun

The great thing about drying them is that you can use them three ways. You can grind them up to make chilly powder or you can use them as they are like sun dried tomatoes or you can re hydrate them in water.

I haven’t done this before so it’s experimental and I will report back at a later date. They do look pretty in the sun.

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The start of integration

Today I decided to let the chicks mix with the flock and see how it would go. I first opened the hatch and directed the chicks out into the bigger part of the run as I didn’t want them to get cornered in their smaller part.

I took away their dishes as I knew the bigger girls would scratch soil into them. I closed the little coop as I didn’t want to risk them getting trapped in there and I opened up the corner by the patio area to give them an escape route.

Then I opened up the gate to see what would happen. Of course the flock were keen to get into the chicks area as it was suddenly new to them after being unavailable for a week.

The chicks were quite adventuress and soon explored the bigger part of the run. They then moved up to where the rest of the flock were. Most of the girls didn’t take any notice of the chicks.

Spangle was the only one who chased them a couple of times. I wasn’t too surprised at this as Spangle recently had spats with Marmite and Salmon so she already wanted to move up the pecking order. It made sense that she needed to show the chicks they were below her in the pecking order.

There was very little notice taken of the chicks and we felt it went really well. I wanted to take the opportunity to show the chicks the patio area which is always the most difficult part for new girls. I ended up picking them up and putting them on the patio.

Smoke was in the nest box and I thought that they were very brave to have a look in. Today Smoke laid her first egg since her last broody spell.

I then put their dish in front of them and sprinkled a bit of their food outside the dish. The chicks were happy enough to peck at the food.

The chicks discover another part of the run
The chicks come face to face with the bigger girls
At last Marmite can get to the water bottle
Speckles takes no notice of the chicks at all
The brave chicks look in at Smoke in the nest box
The chicks peck at the pellets on the patio

At this point I felt that this was enough for the first day. I closed the part at the corner of the patio and I closed the hatch. I then shook the corn and sprinkled some outside the gate to get the other girls back out.

I then picked up the chicks and put them back in their area. This seemed the quickest and easiest way to get them back to their part of the run.

I am very pleased with how it went. I just want to get the chicks confident with the growers pellets before I move on to the next stage. By this afternoon they had eaten all of the chick crumb that I had mixed in the dish and just left the pellets. I think it’s going to take a bit longer to get them changed over.

It was a very encouraging start though and I don’t think it will take too long to get them all together.

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The chick’s first week

The chicks have now been with us for a complete week as we collected them last Tuesday.

I open their little coup between seven and half past seven and they tumble straight down the ramp into the food dish.

The chicks head straight to the food dish
They like to stand in the food dish

I looked up when to start the chicks on growers pellets. It says at about ten weeks and I think the chicks are twelve weeks or more so I decided to give it a try. I broke the pellets up into smaller bits for the changeover and mixed in some chick crumb too. They seemed to take to it easily.

They still had to stand in the dish
They seem to have got the hang of the pellets

Today the chicks discovered the little perch which we put in this section when we first had chicks.

The chicks discover the little perch
They also tried the top of the hatch

Once the chicks had discovered the little perch they kept returning to it as if they were really pleased with their new found skill.

I am really pleased with how it is all going.

I have looked back at the last serama integration and I had mixed the five new girls in five days. I am amazed that it was so quick. I think that they were a bold bunch because they had a safety in numbers. As these chicks are just a pair I feel that I would rather take it a bit more slowly.

There is no need to rush and I am at home all the time now so I have plenty of time to spend with them. I want to get them used to all the different parts of the run before I start mixing them.

This corner part of the run seems to be a good size for their size and the thought of letting roam the bigger parts feels too soon at the moment. I am happy that there is no animosity from the other girls but I think it’s better for the chicks to take our time.

Getting the chicks on growers is a step forward and they seem very happy in their own little space for now. If they are happy I am happy.

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Day six with the chicks

The new girls are growing before our eyes and are also growing in confidence. At first they spent a lot of time in their little coup just popping out for food, water and a quick run around.

Today the chicks have been outside all day apart from when they went inside to “dust bath”. I guess it will take a while for them to realise that they can do that outside too!

I think the good weather is encouraging to them stay outside. Yesterday they were side by side in a shaft of sunlight but I didn’t manage to get my camera quickly enough. Sunshine is also new to them.

All the older seramas have taken an interest in the water bottle and Spangle especially. Spangle has actually worked out that she can just about get her beak through the wire to the spout. It’s quite amazing because it seems that she remembers the water bottle and yet it was three years ago that the seramas had water bottles on their arrival with us.

There is another thing that has been really cute and I managed to get some photos today. Spangle will be at the water bottle on her side and the chicks will be at the water bottle on their side and they are not at all bothered by each other. They actually go and join Spangle at the water bottle or she joins them at the water bottle.

And something even more cute than that. Speckles and Spangle often stand beak to beak. They will stand perfectly still but beak to beak. It seems to be their special thing. A couple of times today Spangle and Sugar were standing perfectly still and were also beak to beak. It’s difficult to capture the exact moment but I got a shot just as they had moved slightly apart.

Exploring their space
They are growing already
Spangle joins them at the water bottle
Spangle and Sugar had just been beak to beak
Spangle and Sugar at the water bottle
Spangle and Sugar continued at the water bottle even after Shadow had moved away

I am loving how adorable the chicks are and how there is no animosity between the the rest of the flock and them. I am very pleased with how it is progressing.

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Day four with the new girls

The new girls have got the hang of everything really quickly. On the first night I put them to bed as they hadn’t yet worked out how to find their way in to their coop.

By the next day they had got the hang of getting in their coop and were in and out all day. They come out for food and water and a run around and then go back in.

They spend a lot of time scratching and pecking in the pine shavings and at one stage I looked in and they were “dust” bathing in the shavings. This is because it is what they have been used too and it will take time to learn that there is real dust to dust bath in.

I checked on them at at six o’clock and they had gone in the coop. I decided to leave it open in case they wanted a last top up of food before bedtime. This was a mistake. They came out again and once it had got a little bit darker they couldn’t find their way back in. I guided them in at half past six.

Last night when I checked on them at six o’clock and they were in the coop I closed it. I have decided it is better to close them earlier while they able to put themselves to bed. They were snuggled up to each other in the back corner.

When I open the coop in the mornings they now come out straight away and go straight to the food and water.

Scratching and pecking in the pine shavings
Close up
Synchronised drinking
Always together

They are a very tight little pair and are always very close together. From past experience I know that these two will stay as a tight pair.

The good thing is that the other girls are taking no notice of the new girls. Occasionally one of them will look at them with curiosity but nothing more than that. There is no pacing the wire.

I think that these girls are so small that they don’t pose a threat to the other girls so hopefully the integration shouldn’t be too difficult. These two will go in at the bottom of the pecking order.

Shadow is slightly bigger than Sugar but there is already no doubt that Sugar is top girl of this pair. Sugar leads and Shadow follows and every now and then Sugar runs at Shadow to let her know she is boss.

They are incredibly cute!

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New girls

We have two new girls. At the beginning of August I put my name on the list with my serama breeder for new girls. She was selling them so fast that they were going out from a few days old to a week old and nothing was staying with her beyond a week. She takes back any that turn out to be boys.

I don’t want to do that and after my experience with little chicks and having Blue turn out to be a boy so I now go on her waiting list instead. This means that at the end of the year if she has any unsold that have reached about three months she lets me know.

Yesterday the breeder e-mailed me to say that she had a few older girls. I arranged to go over to her after lunch. I had put my name on her list for silkie girls too but she only had a few silkie feathered girls and someone else was in front of me on the list. She is keeping me on the list so I may get some later in the year.

There was a lovely brown and white frizzle but I have promised myself never to have another frizzle after Dandelion as I don’t think the frizzle feathered girls are hardy enough for winters outside.

There were only a few to choose from but I was happy as they were pretty colours. I chose a white one and a pale grey and white one. By the end of the day I had named them Sugar and Shadow.

The breeder sold me some chick crumb and I will keep the new girls separated until the few remaining laying girls stop laying. Then I will put all the girls on growers pellets until the new girls are ready to start laying and will gradually start integrating.

I closed off the triangular part of the run and put a nest box in there for them. I set up a dish of chick crumb and of water on some tiles as a feeding station and added two water bottles as well.

New girls yesterday
Exploring their new home
Shadow calling because she had lost sight of Sugar

Shadow was crying out because she couldn’t find Sugar. Sugar appeared to have vanished. Eventually I lifted the nest box and found her underneath. As soon as they were together again they were quiet. I have now heaped the soil around the edge of the nest box so that they can’t get underneath. These two girls are already bonded and can’t bear to be out of sight of each other.

I had put them in the nest box and closed it for five minutes in the hope that they would then know that this is where to go at bedtime. It didn’t work and at near dusk they were still outside. I put them in and closed it.

I went out at seven o’clock this morning and opened the nest box. I went back at eight o’clock and they were still inside. I guided them down the ramp. They have since returned to the nest box a few times so I am hoping that tonight they will be able to find their way in on their own.

Sugar and Shadow this morning
On the move
Drinking together

They soon got the hang of both the dishes of chick crumb and water and the water bottle too.

When we got back home yesterday there was a surprise for us. Speckles went into the nest box the day before and I wondered why she was in the nest box but didn’t think any more of it.

Yesterday afternoon when we got back there was a large white egg just inside the pop hole of the chicken shed. I know this is Speckles egg because Flame stopped laying a week ago and her eggs always have little clusters of calcium bubbles on. Ebony’s eggs are smaller and are beige and at the moment dusty as she had suddenly taken to laying them in the shelter instead of the nest box.

Now that the new girls have this area it will stop Ebony from laying her eggs in there. This egg was larger in size, more oval in shape and was smooth and white. There is no doubt that it is Speckles egg. It is her first egg of this year.

Well done Speckles! That was so unexpected and I can’t believe that she waited until we were out to lay it.

Speckles egg on the left, Ebony’s egg in the middle and Spangle’s egg on the right

Only Ebony and Spangle were laying until this egg. I wonder if that will be her only one this year or if she will lay another.

I will report back tomorrow with news of whether the new girls find their own way in tonight. They have cottoned on to the food and water very quickly so I am sure that they will soon get the hang of it.

The other girls have taken no notice at all of the new arrivals so that bodes well too.

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Autumn in the chicken run

The nights are drawing in and the days are getting cooler and this has an effect on the girls. Egg laying is slowing right down.

Smoke went broody, yet again, after laying eight eggs in eleven days. But this time she wasn’t as committed as usual. I think the cooler weather helped her to come out of it more quickly. She was broody for less than a week and that was without me interfering.

Marmite hasn’t laid for over two weeks but that is a blessing because it means she isn’t looking poorly before laying.

Salmon also hasn’t laid for two weeks but that is because she is moulting. She is looking really scruffy. Her breast feathers are loose and wafting from her and she is also dropping head feathers. Every time she has a dust bath she leaves behind a cluster of feathers.

Spangle is the only little girl still laying and is in fact laying better than usual. She is laying every few days.

Ebony and Flame are still laying but have slowed down to just two or three eggs a week.

A tatty looking Salmon
Salmon has lots of loose breast feathers

There is also a change in the little girls behaviour. The pecking order has always been Smoke in top place followed by Salmon and then Spangle and then Marmite firmly in bottom place.

While I was watching the girls from their patio I saw Spangle go at Marmite with her ruff raised. They both went breast to breast with ruffs raised until Marmite backed down. It was obvious that Spangle was making sure that Marmite was staying below her in the pecking order.

A few minutes later Spangle did the same thing to Salmon. The pair of them were jumping at each other breast to breast with their ruffs raised. This little spat looked much more brutal because salmon was not going to back down.

I was just about to reach for my water spray to try to break up this spat when Ebony went to them and quickly broke them apart. She then nonchalantly wandered back to continue pecking at a broccoli stalk.

I have seen Ebony do this in the past but it is quite something to watch how quickly and easily she breaks up a spat. You can almost add a thought bubble saying “children, stop that right now”.

I haven’t seen the little girls having spats like this since the early days of settling the pecking order. I wonder if it’s because Spangle is the only little girl laying and this has given her a newfound confidence. Egg laying does seem to bring on different behaviour at times.

The pecking order can be such a finely balanced and yet complicated thing.

Of the bigger girls Speckles is top and that has been earned by her age and being in the run the longest. Next is Ebony and then Flame at the bottom of the three.

It is also interesting because Speckles is the most frail of the three and Ebony is quite a thug and could easily take on Speckles but she doesn’t attempt to. I have seen Ebony pin Flame down to the ground and Flame is always submissive to her.

The pecking order can look quite brutal but none of the girls are ever bothered by it. It is just what chickens do. At other times the little girls will show the girl below them with a quick peck that doesn’t actually land but is just a gesture to show them their place.

It is interesting to me how this behaviour happens at the start of egg laying in the spring and then again at the end of egg laying in the Autumn.

There is never a dull moment in the chicken run.

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Wild flowers and broccoli stalks

We are still harvesting so much bounty from the allotment plots. I never expected the raspberries to produce for so long and we are all three sharers still picking them.

The plot below us was dug over at the beginning of the year and then abandoned. It hasn’t been fenced. Our wild flower seeds from our plot have seeded a huge swaithe of purple flowers on the empty plot. I decided to help myself to some and shared them with our next door neighbour too.

Allotment wild flowers

We have just had a letter saying that our first plot has won “best plot” for the second year running. We were really surprised to win it again and very happy with that.

With chickens nothing gets wasted. We gave the girls two of the spent broccoli stalks yesterday. They kept the girls occupied all day and by the end of the day the stalks were pecked clean.

Broccoli stalks for the girls
The girls pecking at the broccoli leaves
At the end of the day the stalks are pecked clean

With chickens nothing gets wasted and not only am I not buying any veg for us but I am also not buying any greens for the girls. There is plenty for the girls to enjoy.

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