Egg laying shenanigans

Emerald is laying every other day like clockwork at the moment. She is very happy to share a nest box with one of the little girls. Usually it is Dandelion but today it was Freckles.

They looked so sweet sat side by side that I went to get my camera. By the time I returned Emerald had just laid her egg so she was now stood up.

Emerald and Freckles in the nest box together

It looks as though Emerald is sat on Freckles but it’s just because Freckles has seen Emerald lay her egg and is instinctively trying to pull it towards herself. These little girls love to sit on an egg or eggs.

Emerald has just laid her egg

I reached under Emerald and removed her egg. Meanwhile Cinnamon and Dandelion were sunning themselves together.

Cinnamon and Dandelion in a patch of sun

There has been another odd thing going on around the egg laying. I talked to my mum about this recently but hadn’t got around to posting about it because I didn’t want to come across as humanising chickens and wanted to be sure I was pretty much correct with my assumption before saying anything.

There is something a bit odd going on with Speckles. As I have said before she has been doing sloppy poops for some time and hardly laying at all. She last laid an egg twelve days ago and that was the soft shelled egg that I posted about.

This is the first time she has laid a soft shelled egg and since then she has stopped laying altogether. I am not worried about not having eggs just a bit concerned that that means all is not completely well with her although she seems normal in every other way.

From that time she started shouting in the afternoons and I mean full on screeching/screaming. If I was indoors with the windows closed I could hear her.

There have been a lot of lovely sunny days and when sitting in the garden I started to worry about annoying the neighbours. It is as loud as a cockerel and is not something she has ever done before.

I tried distracting her, I tried telling her off and in desperation I tried squirting her with a water bottle. As soon as I moved away she started again. It was driving me to distraction.

As the week went on I suddenly realised that she was doing this whenever Emerald was in the nest box. We would have one quiet day and one day of this behaviour in time to Emerald laying every other day. I think she suddenly notices Emerald is missing and panics. As soon as Emerald has laid and is back out in the run all is calm again.

I think because Speckles isn’t laying herself she doesn’t think to go and look in the nest box. When Speckles was laying Emerald would always watch over her from the ramp and so she knew where she was. Speckles seems totally unaware that Emerald has gone in the nest box and will come to the bottom of the run and scream.

Today when this happened instead of trying to stop her I led her to the patio area and lifted the lid of the nest box to show her that Emerald and Freckles were in there and she immediately calmed and went quiet.

This has been happening since Speckles stopped laying twelve days ago. I will now try to lead her to the nest box whenever this happens while I am at home and maybe she will soon stop doing this.

Speckles and Emerald are such tight pair. They are still trying to sleep out at night too. I simply go and tell them to go in at about half past eight and watch over them as they make their way in.

Emerald always liked to perch out in the evenings after the other girls had gone in but when we had Peaches and Barley, Speckles would go in with them. As it neared dusk Emerald would jump down and join them. I think it’s because we no longer have Peaches and Barley that these two have become joined at the hip! This means that when Emerald perches outside Speckles of course joins her.

I think it’s that that has given Emerald the confidence to stay out. Now she has her partner in crime along side her they are happy to stay out. It’s heartwarming to see strong friendships in a flock but boy these two are so close that they are proving problematic. Never mind, I just have to deal with it. I suppose it is better than aggressive behaviour!

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Our garden is looking really lush

The garden is really lush at the moment after the recent rain followed by recent sun.

Corner bed outside the cabin

Veg plot

Lilac

Veg plot from the other direction

Another corner bed

Looking towards the chicken run

Path in front of the chicken run

Chicken’s strip has filled in

Looking back from the chicken run

Back towards the veg plot

Lilac and freesias

I bought some inexpensive freesias as I love the scent of them. They looked a bit sparse in the vase so I added some of the lilac from the garden.

The garden is looking amazing and is filled with promise of more to come. The rose over the arch, fence and cabin roof is a mass of bud and will soon look amazing. I will revisit it when it is in full flower.

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Our slow worm has grown

A month ago I did a post about the baby slow worms in the garden. They were really tiny, about the size of worms. Yesterday I saw a much bigger one sunning itself on the plant that is next to the fence that I showed in my last post. I think they may be from the same batch but has grown so much since we last saw them.

Our slow worm has grown

It’s tail is in the crack in the concrete next to the fence. It’s sunning itself on the comfy bed of our plant. I feel sure this will be one of the babies we saw last month as it’s not as big as an adult and still has a very smooth look with out markings.

We claim them as ours as they have been breeding in our garden successfully for years. We see the babies every spring. We are always pleased to see them again.

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Our garden path

Two years ago we had our garden path laid. Before we had the path redone it was just concrete¬†that over time had cracked and broken. Beside our next door neighbour’s fence was a channel of smooth concrete that the fence posts had been set in so we had the path butted up to this as it wasn’t really possible to do anything else.

Last year the neighbours put in a new fence beside our path. To remove the old fence posts and set the new ones in, some of the concrete had to be broken, leaving holes on our side.

We decided to plant in these holes with the hope that once the planting was established it would hide the concrete all together and give the appearance that the path is floating between planting on either side.

I took a photo of this last year so that I could then compare it to this year. It hasn’t entirely filled in yet but some parts are giving the look we wanted. I will repeat this post again next year to see how it looks then. I think by next year the concrete strip may be entirely covered.

The garden path last year

The garden path this year

Nearest end of the path

Furthest end of the path

It’s a work in progress but it is coming along nicely. I think it will look great by next year.

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Bigger girls and little girls side by side

Yesterday Emerald and Dandelion wanted to lay their eggs at the same time. I went to check on them and they had both settled together in the same nest box. It is heart warming to see how well the girls of different sizes get along together.

Emerald and Dandelion in the nest box together

When I next went to check they were both back out in the run and there were their eggs side by side in the nest box.

Their two eggs side by side in the nest box

Sometimes people worry about having girls of different sizes but in our flock the difference in size is no problem. They share the nest box, they dust bath together and in winter they snuggle up together on the perches. They sit in the sun together and are never far from each other. It is lovely to see the different sized girls in perfect harmony.

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A baby robin in the chicken run

Yesterday while I was in the chicken run and my husband was outside we suddenly saw a baby robin in the run. It appeared to have flown through the weld mesh but was in the corner with the perch above the hatch and didn’t appear able to find it’s way back out.

I distracted the girls to the other end of the run with some corn and opened the chicken gate. I tried to direct the baby robin towards the gate with a broom. I didn’t want to touch it as baby birds can be abandoned by their mothers if they have the smell of¬† a person on them.

The daft thing went straight past the open gate and headed towards the chicken shed. I stopped to take two quick photos of it just outside the pop hole.

Baby robin

Slightly closer

I didn’t want to linger as I didn’t want to frighten it. The next minute it had hopped through the pop hole and was exploring the chicken shed. It hopped about in the pine shavings and then it tried out all of the perches. It seemed to rather like it in there.

I used the broom once more to direct it out of the open shed door and once again it flew straight past the open run gate. It went back to it’s original corner but this time successfully got back through the weld mesh.

My husband saw it again today and it flew into a nearby bush so it seems none the worse for it’s little adventure.

A little later my husband saw a baby blue tit fly through the weld mesh and into the bush above the big shelter. A few minutes later it flew back out again. I can’t think why the baby birds are being attracted into the chicken run.

In other matters I am having no luck at all with finding any serama breeders. I got an e-mail back from Wokingham saying they no longer breed seramas. I now seem to remember that this was what happened last time I was looking and you have to wonder why they don’t take the site down.

I have tried the number of the acting secretary of the serama club several times and it just rings and rings with no answer and no voicemail so I am wondering if the number is no longer active.

I researched poultry shows in the Berkshire area and found details of the Bucks County Show. There is a show on 31st August and amongst a very long list of poultry and ducks there will be on show just one male and one female serama.

I have e-mailed the lady in charge with no reply. I have telephoned her and the voice mail says that there is no one there at the moment. In my e-mail I asked if she knew if the person showing seramas would be willing to sell some or if she knew of any other breeders that may sell some.

I seem to just keep coming up with dead ends. I will keep trying but to be honest I am not at all hopeful. I am feeling very disappointed at the moment. I am not quite sure what to do next but keep searching.

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I really want new girls

The first lily in our garden is opening up

I didn’t have a photo for this post so thought I would show the first of my bargain lilies just starting to flower in the sunshine.

I called my breeder at the weekend to see how he is getting on. He said to call every month and I left it five weeks so as not to hassle him too soon.

I was very disappointed to hear that he has no eggs hatched at all. I am thinking that I need to start researching to see if I can find another breeder. Starting from scratch it could be a long time until my breeder has girls to sell.

He previously had two trios so I assume that he has the same. A trio is two hens and one cockerel which is usual for breeding.

A proportion of eggs laid will not be viable, possibly not fertilised. A proportion of any chicks that do hatch will turn out to be cockerels. A proportion of those being silky feathered, which is what I would like, could be very small.

It could take a year to have enough girls to give any choice and I would like new girls during the summer to get them used to being outside before winter.

I have found one possibility in Wokingham which is near enough to us. There is no address or telephone number so I will have to e-mail them and I am not sure if they are still in business.

We are away Thursday and Friday and out all day Saturday so I can’t do anything until after then but I think that I will set the wheels in motion by sending an e-mail. I am keeping everything crossed.

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Heat wave

We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave at the moment as I think is the whole country. The little girls love the heat but the two bigger girls not so much.

Speckles continues to do sloppy poops and it’s obviously no longer because of drinking rain water.

I have researched this and it is suggested that providing the girl looks fine in every other way there is nothing to worry about but I still can’t help thinking that as it has gone on for so long there must be something slightly adrift.

Speckles has been laying fewer eggs than usual and yesterday for the first time she laid a soft shelled egg which I found broken in the nest box. Despite this she does seem normal in all other ways. She is active, dust baths, eats well and runs to the treats with vigour so there is nothing much I can do but see how she goes.

Emerald is feeling her age and spends more time sitting and snoozing these days. Today when it was hot and the little girls were sunning themselves she found a shady spot on top of the shelter and was snoozing there.

Emerald has found a new shady spot to sit

Emerald snoozing in the shade

I felt compelled to call her name to check that she was okay

Despite this Emerald is laying really well and recently laid two days in a row for the first time this year.

Dandelion has really come into her own. After many times of looking poorly over the winter she is now thriving in the hot weather. When I last did portraits of the girls Dandelion had black spots on her comb where I thought that she had been pecked by Speckles. She now has a beautiful red comb and is laying good shelled eggs every other day. It is as if she is fixed!

Dandelion in the nest box

She is more active than she used to be and even seems to have more confidence when the other girls are competing for the treats.

The other problem I am still trying to sort out is that the two bigger girls still want to sleep outside of the chicken shed. I have been hanging clear tarpaulin over the perches in the evening which worked for a while.

They then got braver and perched on top of the tarpaulin. I chased them down and then arranged my wellie boots over the spot they had perched on and went back later to check on them. They had knocked my boots down and perched there again. I am now hanging a black bin bag over the tarpaulin which at the moment is working.

We are away overnight at the end of next week so I am keeping this up for now so that I can feel confident that they will go in while we are away but longer term I am not sure if I am going to be able to break this habit.

While we are at home I can just go and herd them in each night but we are away overnight again in August. This is a work in progress.

And that is all the latest news from the chicken run. Overall I am pleased that all the girls are looking good and laying well, apart from Speckles, but then she has never been a particularly good layer anyway.

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Another change of egg laying habit

I had been doing some gardening today and all the girls were watching me and waiting for any worms that I dug up.

Then I went into the run and Dandelion was missing. I thought she was probably laying her egg and I checked both nest boxes but there was sign of her. I looked in the chicken shed and she didn’t appear to be in there either. Even though I know my run is secure and there was no way that she could get out a little pang of fear still clutched at me. I kept telling myself that there was no way she could have disappeared.

I checked behind the shelters and did the rounds again of looking in the nest boxes and the chicken shed.

I looked in the chicken shed

My common sense was telling me that she must be in here somewhere and I stepped into the chicken shed.

There she is

Dandelion had chosen a different corner to lay her egg

There she was tucked into the corner behind the pop hole. I have never seen Dandelion or any of the girls choose this corner before.

Dandelion soon laid her tiny egg in this corner and Emerald and Cinnamon laid their egg in the nest boxes so we have had a three egg day today.

These girls never cease to surprise me.

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Egg laying and all it’s intricasies

You would imagine that laying eggs for a hen would be a simple matter but that isn’t always the case.

When you have a small flock like we have you can see all their funny little habits. My two bigger girls don’t always seem to know when they are about to lay and will spend time in the nest box and then not lay until the following day or even several days later. I think of this as practising.

In the past they have made a huge fuss over finding their favourite egg laying spot already taken, but with only five girls at the moment, that hasn’t been an issue recently.

When they first started laying this year the chicken shed was the favourite spot but they have now moved on to choosing the nest boxes. I never know why they suddenly change their habit.

The day before yesterday Speckles suddenly decided that the large shelter might be a good place to lay. I have no idea why she would choose this spot. When Speckles is thinking about laying an egg Emerald is always with her standing guard. She cannot resist keeping watch while Speckles sits.

Speckles settles in the large shelter

The large shelter

Emerald watches over Speckles

When I returned a little later Speckles had sensibly abandoned the shelter for the nest box.

Speckles decides that the nest box is more suitable after all

Emerald watches over her once more

Once again Emerald stood on watch but it turned out to be another of those false alarms and Speckles left the nest box without laying an egg.

Emerald later went into the nest box and did lay her egg.

Yesterday when I checked both Speckles and Emerald were in the nest box together and both girls had some pine shavings on their back. I knew that it was very unlikely that Emerald would need to lay as she had laid the day before and never lays more than every other day at best. It seems that she just likes to keep Speckles company.

Emerald and Speckles are side by side in the nest box

They both have pine shavings on their backs

A little later I checked again just as Speckles laid her egg and then both girls left the nest box together. Talk about a close pair of girls!

Yesterday Cinnamon also laid her first egg after her broody break. She had taken ten days break which was exactly the same as Freckles. This means all five girls are now laying with the little girls usually laying every other day, Emerald laying an average of three eggs a week and Speckles laying only once a week.

I am very pleased that Dandelion is now laying good shelled eggs every other day. Her eggs are tiny though and she also has some confusion about when she is about to lay. She sits in the nest box without laying sometimes and she sometimes lays an egg then returns to the nest box as if she doesn’t realise that she has laid.

The day before yesterday we had some welcome sun and Dandelion loves to sit in the sun. I checked on the girls to find Dandelion having a lovely dust bath in the sun and there was her tiny egg in the dirt about a foot away from her. It seems that she hadn’t even noticed she had laid it.

It does make me smile how these girls have such funny ways over their egg laying. It is lovely to have enough eggs not to need to buy any at the moment and it is great to have all five girls laying again.

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