Togetherness

Peaches and Barley have always been an inseparable pair of girls.

Peaches and Barley chilling together

Peaches and Barley chilling together

They are often sitting together like this or dust bathing together. They couldn’t sit much closer together if they tried. We often think they look like a pair of bookends. They do make me smile.

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Speckles

Speckles is still dropping feathers. She has a very pale comb and a short tail at the moment. Her two little feathers that stand up on her head have returned and her head has a lot more white than before she moulted.

Speckles

Speckles with her little head feathers sticking up

Speckles has more white on her head than before she moulted

Speckles has more white on her head than before she moulted

She has quite a white patch on her head

She has quite a white patch on her head

The girls do look funny when you catch them straight on

The girls do look funny when you catch them straight on

She seems to have been moulting for ages and she does get more white each year. She is a cute little girl.

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Toffee has settled in to being top girl

After Butterscotch had gone Toffee wanted to sleep out in the run for the first three nights. I chased her into the shed each night and on the fourth night she went in by herself and has done so ever since then.

The surprising thing is, that she has changed her habit from always sleeping by the shed wall, to sleeping in the middle of the perch in the position Butterscotch always sat in. At first I thought it may be a one off but she has roosted in this middle position every night since.

I think perhaps she has settled into Butterscotch’s position of being top girl and therefore also her position on the roost.

Last night I thought I would take a photo to demonstrate this. I took three in case there ended up being a blurred one and thought they were quite amusing so decided to use all three.

I just love the way the girls look down from the perch and always wonder what they expect to see down below.

Toffee is in the middle

Toffee is in the middle

Speckles looks down

Speckles looks down

Barley looks down

Barley looks down

These girls do make me smile.

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My favourite part of our new path

I love the way our path zig zags beyond the veg patch and the edging plants tumble over it.

My favourite part of our new path

My favourite part of our new path

I like this corner of the path

I like this corner of the path

It will look better still when the plants on the right edge of the path fill in and tumble over it too.

I am so pleased at the way the path enhances the garden rather than detracting from it. I think as time goes on it will look better and better. I am so glad we have got the path done at last.

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Things are changing

Since Butterscotch left the flock Toffee had chosen to sleep outside in the run for three nights. Last night I knew things were changing. When we went up after dinner and gave out the usual dandelion leaves Toffee was no longer perched up in the corner of the run but was hanging out with the girls.

I knew this was the night that she would return to the chicken shed. I could sense the change in her.

Later I checked in on the girls and sure enough they were all in the shed. The surprising thing was that Toffee was no longer in her usual position against the wall but was in Butterscotch’s position, right in the middle of the perch.

Toffee has taken the position in the middle of the perch

Toffee has taken the position in the middle of the perch

This was a total surprise to me. The last three nights I have chased Toffee in at near dusk and even in near dark she has moved from the middle to her usual position next to the wall. Last night she went in of her own accord and chose the middle spot and stayed there.

It will be interesting to see if this is a one off or if this is a new routine. I may be reading too much into this but it seems to me that she may be accepting her new role of top girl and moving more confidently into the middle position of the former top girl.

Time will tell but I think things are changing.

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The day that Butterscotch went away was a horrible day

The day I wrangled with the decision of taking Butterscotch to Moira was a really horrible day. Dealing with Butterscotch’s story was enough to post that day so I put the other matter aside for another day.

I had come to the certain conclusion that Butterscotch was being plucked and felt the sooner I acted the better and I decided to call Moira in the afternoon after our deliveries were done.

We delivered our lunches and arrived back home at lunch time. To our surprise our neighbours had devastated our rose along the fence line while we were out.

When we moved in nine years ago the gardens were very open and overlooked. Because our path runs alongside the boundary fence we couldn’t grow anything against the fence.

My husband came up with the idea of putting up arches and growing roses and honeysuckle over them. The neighbours we had at the time said they loved seeing the rose growing over the fence as their garden didn’t have much planting and they got the flowers before we did because of the direction of the sun.

Of course we told them to feel free to cut anything that encroached too much on their side and they used to give the rose a gentle prune at the end of each summer.

We had new neighbours move in at the end of last year and of course we said to them too that they should feel free to prune anything that came too far over the fence.

What we hadn’t expected was that they would cut it back completely without talking to us first. Had we have known they were thinking of getting rid of everything on their side we would have pulled as much of the rose as we could back over to our side.

They had reached through the trellis and cut through thick branches that had growth going along the entire length of the fence. This killed lots of the growth that we had tied along the fence over the past nine years giving both us and them a screen between the gardens for some privacy.

Our rose on our boundary fence

Our rose on our boundary fence

Our rose is at it's best in June

Our rose is at it’s best in June

The rose is trashed

The rose is trashed

We have lost our screen

We have lost our screen

The rose is no longer over the fence

The rose is no longer over the fence

The gardens are as open as they were nine years ago when we moved here

The gardens are as open as they were nine years ago when we moved here

We now looked straight into their garden and also straight into their kitchen (the white extension). My husband was absolutely furious. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t talk to us first so that we could have managed the rose between us instead of just killing huge swathes of it.

In the mean time I had called Moira and she had agreed to take Butterscotch but it needed to be right away as she was going out later and was busy the next day.

The journey over was awful as I was upset to be taking her and my husband was so angry about the rose. This was turning out to be a really horrible day.

At the end of the day my husband asked the neighbours not to cut any more and said that we would make sure the next day that it was all on our side. He let them know he was upset by this and I stayed indoors as I didn’t feel up to confrontation and I didn’t want to fall out with the neighbours.

The next day I had a lunch for fifty with lots of extras ordered so I had to plod on with the work while my husband set about repairing the damage. He decided to put up some boards to keep the rose on our side.

I went out to help at moments when he needed another pair of hands. I saw our neighbour sitting on her patio and felt that I must say something as I didn’t want there to be bad feeling between us. I said that I didn’t want us to fall out over a fence and explained that we were putting solid panels up instead of just trellis to keep the rose to our side.

She said that they were putting a bamboo screen up on their side as they wanted more privacy. She said she was happy for us to put what we wanted on our side and then they would add the bamboo to their side.

I can understand that they probably thought that the way to go was to cut everything level with the fence so that they could then put up some bamboo screening but I still think they could have talked to us and we could have done it between us without so much damage.

It isn’t like a hedge that can just be cut smoothly, some branches are long reaching. They know the hours we are at home and they didn’t need to do it while we were out but I just don’t want bad feeling between us.

My husband put some boards on to the top of the fence

My husband put some boards on to the top of the fence

view from the other direction

View from the other direction

We then attached some trellis

We then attached some trellis

view from the other direction

View from the other direction

We put up the boards then some trellis then tied any remaining bits of the rose to the trellis making sure it was all on our side. This cost us just over a hundred pounds plus an afternoons work.

In the early evening our neighbours put up the bamboo screen on their side.

Our neighbours have now put up a bamboo screen on their side of the fence

Our neighbours have now put up a bamboo screen on their side of the fence

Bamboo

View from the other direction

Had we not have put the panels on our side they wouldn’t have had any more privacy than through the rose. I took a photo to show that you can actually see straight through the bamboo.

Close up of bamboo as a screen!

Close up of bamboo as a screen!

We have actually done them a favour by putting solid panels on our side. It doesn’t look so bad from our side now but it will take a few years for the rose to grow back over the empty panels.

I think they may be intending to do the same throughout the length of the garden so we will have to do this on our side over the rest of the garden to keep the rest of our roses. This will be more awkward to do behind the chicken run but we will tackle that another day.

Any one who reads my blog regularly will know that not only am I passionate about chickens but we are passionate about our garden too so this was a pretty stressful few days.

I don’t think our neighbours are going to be good friends of ours in the future but as my husband says we won’t have to see them through the fence any more.

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Adjusting to being without Butterscotch

At bedtime the day before yesterday, without Butterscotch, Toffee decided she wanted to sleep outside in the run. Toffee is usually first in the chicken shed at bedtime because she likes to take her place against the wall of the shed.

The only time she has decided to sleep out since we have had the chicken shed was when we had the path done and the stress of the guys working by the run coupled with the fact that I couldn’t go up to the girls as I couldn’t stand on the newly laid path led to her to sleep out for one night.

I have to assume that she feels a bit of upset at Butterscotch, who was the top girl, leaving as she once again decided to sleep out. I chased her from the perch at the furthest point of the run to the chicken shed four times before deciding to close the pop hole and keep her in.

Yesterday morning it was unusually quiet. I had to look out of the bedroom window to check that the automatic door had opened as there wasn’t a squeak out of the girls. Usually I hear them in the early morning before I go out to them.

I decided to give them some mash to cheer to them up a bit.

I gave the girls some mash

I gave the girls some mash

They all joined in at the mash

They all joined in at the mash

They are enjoying this treat

They are enjoying this treat

Speckles was a bit intimidated by Peaches and Barley

Speckles was a bit intimidated by Peaches and Barley

Emerald and Speckles decided to give up for now

Emerald and Speckles decided to give up for now

Peaches and Barley only had to look at Speckles to cause her to run away. I knew she would go back to the dish when they have had their fill though.

In the evening the same thing happened again. Toffee decided she was sleeping out. I don’t know why Butterscotch leaving should cause Toffee not to want to sleep in the shed. It’s very odd.

Four girls in the shed at bedtime

Four girls in the shed at bedtime

Toffee wants to roost here

Toffee wants to roost here

I chased Toffee into the shed

I chased Toffee into the shed

Once again I chased Toffee into the shed and closed the pop hole. I will continue to do this until she gets back into the habit of going to bed in the shed. I am amazed that Butterscotch going has changed her habit like this. I think the girls are missing Butterscotch.

Toffee is back in her usual spot

Toffee is back in her usual spot

At dusk I checked in again and Toffee was in her usual position next to the wall. I connected the automatic door back up again for the morning. I wonder how long this new routine will continue. It has clearly unsettled the girls having Butterscotch leave.

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Now we are five

I agonised over this decision yesterday and decided to call Moira at the farm for a chat to help me make up my mind.

I am not happy that Butterscotch hasn’t been able to keep her head feathers, let alone the crest that she should have, in almost her entire time with our flock. Below is a photo of when she first came to us and this is what she should look like.

Butterscotch in all her glory

Butterscotch in all her glory

I feel so saddened that it has been such a long time since she has looked like this. For many months now I clung on to the hope that she may just be moulting her head feathers every time she goes broody and that the next time she grows them she will keep them.

This time round I realised that this is not so. She simply must be getting plucked each time she goes broody which she does like clockwork. I looked back and realised that she only looked like this in the early months with our flock. For over half her time with us she hasn’t looked like this.

This is not fair. She shouldn’t be destined to live her life without her bouffant hair do and magnificent crest.

I talked to Moira and asked if she would take her and she said she would be happy to. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have Moira who I trust completely to take my girls. I think Butterscotch deserves a life with a flock that won’t leave her constantly with no head feathers.

Moira said that if she kept her until she got her head feathers back, I could always have her back again if I wanted to. I said that wouldn’t be fair. I wouldn’t want to keep unsettling both Butterscotch and my flock and I would always be afraid that the next time she went broody she would get plucked again. Once the decision is made I believe that it is best to stick by it.

It seems crazy to send the victim to a new home rather than the perpetrator but I believe that in this case it is the best course of action. I don’t know who the perpetrator is for sure but I would guess that it is Barley. I couldn’t separate Barley and Peaches plus I have had them from six weeks old and I have had them for more than twice as long as Butterscotch.

Butterscotch could live with Moira’s flock and grow back her head feathers in the first month or two and keep them. I am sure she will be happier not being plucked every time she goes broody. She has always been very much her own girl and not dependent on the flock.

Moira said that I could bring her straight away and as she was busy the next day and we are also really busy in the next few days it seemed best to jump right on to it and take her straight away. Moira said that as she is broody and just wants to sit she will keep her in the cat box that I took her in until dusk and then put her in the barn.

I know Moira is very well used to integrating new girls successfully and she says she loves taking in waifs and strays as it keeps her busy. She has just taken a mare and foal from a man who wanted to retire from horse keeping but wanted them to go to a good home.

I feel a bit choked and the flock feels a bit small but I also feel that I have made the right decision.

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Here we go again!

Yesterday Butterscotch went broody again or at least I thought she was going broody from the previous afternoon. Because Peaches and Barley had both laid their egg the day before and only lay two or three days a week I closed the nest boxes in the hope of breaking Butterscotch from being broody again.

We went out at half past eight in the morning as we were meeting friends for breakfast because they were paying a flying visit from France. We returned home at lunch time.

When we left Butterscotch had a feathered head and when we returned Butterscotch had an almost bald head once more. I was shocked. This time I really felt she would keep her head feathers and I am totally puzzled as to what is happening here.

Butterscotch yesterday morning

Butterscotch yesterday morning

Butterscotch yesterday afternoon

Butterscotch yesterday afternoon

I have no idea if her feathers are falling out or being plucked out. This is really weird and puzzling.

For the last seven months now this has happened every month when she goes broody. Last month on the first day that she went broody she had an almost fully feathered head and spent her first broody day in the nest box. At the end of the day she had lost her head feathers. I wasn’t sure if another girl “possibly Barley” had gone into the nest box with her and plucked her head or if being broody again had caused her to moult her head feathers.

This time I had closed the nest boxes and we went out for the morning. I don’t know if she has sat in the run and had her head plucked or has moulted her head feathers. I am not seeing this happening so I just don’t know what is actually happening here.

Before when feather plucking was occurring we saw it happening and knew what was going on. We are not seeing any of the girls doing this and the girls often sit in the sun and don’t get plucked so why should this be happening? On the other hand why would she keep moulting her head feathers?

I just can’t work this out. I don’t think her feathers would just drop out again on her first broody day and yet we are not seeing any plucking or attention around her either. I am feeling so upset that this has happened again and yet so puzzled by it too. What on earth is going on here?

My research sheds no light on this. Is she destined to have a bare head forever? That in itself upsets me. I know it probably doesn’t bother her but it bothers me big time. I don’t want to keep chickens permanently without feathers especially on their head which I think is the worst place to have no feathers. I thought this time she would be back to normal and now have to consider that she may never be back to normal within my flock.

I am so upset that I am having to think about the way forward here. This can’t be right or normal.

I am wondering if she would be better off away from my flock. This is really painful to think about as I don’t want to seem to keep moving my girls on but I don’t want to be the cause of keeping a girl in less than the condition she should be in.

Moira at the farm said she will always take any of my girls if I need her help and I now need to think about where Butterscotch would be better off. Could she live on the farm with head feathers or stay with me and never have head feathers? This is her seventh month with my flock of losing her head feathers. I need to take some time to reflect and think this through.

I feel very heavy at heart about this right now. I just don’t know what I should do for the best.

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Everything is changing

A few months ago, my very good friend Jackie, made the momentous decision to move to the Isle of Wight. She has her sister and partner living there and has visited them and seen how lovely the scenery and sea views are.

After Jackie’s husband died eighteen months ago she has managed on her pension with no mortgage or debts but has come to realise that with no savings if anything on her house needs maintaining or repairing there is no money in the pot. House prices on the Isle of Wight are about half what they are here. Jackie has sold her house and can buy a flat or a terraced house there for about half the price and would have savings for her future.

Jackie doesn’t drive and the bus service on the Isle of Wight is really good. She would have all her needs nearby and a better quality of life.

Jackie has found a flat on the Isle of Wight to rent for six months which will give her time to find the right property for her future.

It turned out that the lady at the estate agent handling the sale of Jackie’s property lives nearby and has three chickens and was thinking of getting three more. She said that she would be happy to take Jackie’s three girls.

Yesterday I went to help Jackie with the move armed with my trusty dog crate, a net to catch any difficult girls and my camera. Chelsea was easy to pick up and put in the crate but the other two girls needed the aid of the net.

Jackie's girls are ready for the move

Jackie’s girls are ready for the move

We found Debbie’s house easily and checked out her run before bringing in Jackie’s girls.

Debbie's three girls in their run

Debbie’s three girls in their run

I manged to not secure the gate properly and her girls slipped out but Debbie said that she can easily get them back in with meal worms. She lets them into the garden sometimes but not too often as they would trash her well kept garden.

Debbie gets her girls back in the run with the lure of the meal worms

Debbie gets her girls back in the run with the lure of the meal worms

We put the dog crate in the run and opened it’s doors and Jackie’s three girls were soon exploring and scratching in the run.

Jackie's three girls in their new run

Jackie’s three girls in their new run

Chelsea and one of Jackie's girls eye ball each other

Chelsea and one of Jackie’s girls eye ball each other

Chelsea and one of Debbie’s girls had a stare out and then ruffs were raised and they challenged each other. The new pecking order will need to be sorted out. It wasn’t bad though and Debbie has a shed converted into a coop with a nest box attached and another shed next to it that can be converted to a second coop if it’s needed.

This morning Debbie sent Jackie a photo of her girls in their new setting and said that there had been no further fighting. We exchanged details so that we can keep in touch and I will be able to visit and update Jackie along with Debbie’s updates.

I think it would be nice for Jackie and myself to pay them a visit in the coming weeks which I am sure will be fine by Debbie.

This is one more stage of the changes that are taking place in Jackie’s life at the moment. When Jackie first told me of her plans I totally understood that this was the best thing for her but yes …. I cried a bit! I will miss her so much but we will always be the best of friends and will never lose touch.

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