It’s moulting time again

It’s funny but every year I am surprised by how early the moult starts. First Speckles was dropping loads of feathers and now Flame.

I checked back to July last year and I had taken some photos of Flame with no tail and I had titled my post “The moult has started early this year”.

I have also been looking back through the history of the flock and we collected Speckles in July and she promptly dropped all her tail feathers. I had to wait for her tail to come back in to get a good photo of her for my history.

So it is odd that every July I think that the moult has started early when in fact it actually starts at this time every year. I am going to try to remember that in future.

I also wondered if eggs would cease so I looked back at last year’s egg record. Flame started laying again after her moult and stopped after the first week in September so hopefully she will start laying again later this year.

Under Flame’s roost spot this morning
Flame this morning
Speckles this morning
Flame has two remaining tail feathers
Speckles has three remaining tail feathers

Flame’s moult is faster than Speckles. They both look okay though and the most obvious thing is their tail.

It’s actually far better to moult in summer than winter so it’s probably not a bad thing. I am sure they will both be back to looking their best soon.

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The garden has gone mad

With the recent mixture of sun and rain everything in the garden has gone mad this year and got really big.

The lavender is the biggest it has been yet
The Himalayan honeysuckle is enormous
The anemones get bigger every year
The chicken run is disappearing behind the growth

It all looks amazing but we will have to have a big chop back at the end of the year.

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Flame has spurs

I recently noticed that Flame has spurs. It’s usually cockerels that have spurs but there are no hard and fast rules with chickens.

I have just researched this. All chickens have buds on their legs from which spurs can grow. In most hens they remain latent but spurs are not uncommon on Mediterranean breeds. Flame isn’t a Mediterranean breed but as I said before there are no hard and fast rules!

Flame’s spurs

Chickens have three toes facing forwards and one toe facing backwards. The spur is a little higher up the leg.

Close up of Flame’s spurs
Flame

On Flame’s left leg you can clearly see her fourth, backward facing, toe and then above it the spur. On cockerels this can be scythe shaped and with a sharp point.

Luckily on Flame the spurs are short and blunt. I don’t think we have anything to worry about especially as she is such a placid girl.

Flame is definitely all girl as she is our best layer and goes broody a few times a year. In fact what made me notice her spurs was that I was hunkered down on her level trying to block her from joining Smoke in the nest box.

Over the last few days I have been closing the nest boxes after the girls have laid to try to break Flame out of being broody. It has worked as she has now given up. She had been broody for a week.

Flame lays five to six eggs a week compared to Ebony who lays four to five eggs a week. I used to say that Smoke was the best layer of the little girls but actually her constant broodiness means that isn’t really the case any longer. For the last two months Smoke has only laid seven eggs and then gone broody and taken the rest of the month off. Salmon has never gone broody and lays between ten and fifteen eggs a month.

There are definitely no rules when it comes to chickens. I quite like that Flame is a bit different with her spurs. All chickens are so individual which is one of the things that makes them so interesting.

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The girls’ view of the garden

This is the part of the garden that the girls look out on.

The girl’s view of the garden

I think it is one of the best parts of the garden. I love the way everything intermingles.

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Salmon and Flame share a nest box

Two days ago Smoke came back into lay after three days of dropping feathers. Smoke stopped dropping feathers and she laid both days.

On the same day Flame went broody. Smoke and Flame are our two best layers but I suppose it is lucky that they are not broody together, as they have been in the past, because that drastically reduces the amount of eggs we get.

With Flame occupying the favourite nest box there is a lot of shouting when Ebony or Smoke want that nest box too. However Salmon and Flame are happy to share. It’s so sweet to see them side by side.

Salmon and Flame share a nest box

If only all the girls were so happy to share. It is so much more peaceful that way. I have to collect the egg as soon as possible though or Flame would happily sit on it.

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First Broccoli

Yesterday we picked the first broccoli from our garden veg patch. We will be having it with our Sunday roast dinner.

The first broccoli from our garden veg plot

We know that it is caterpillar free due to the net cage we have grown it in and the more we pick the more it will sprout again.

The first of each crop is just that bit special.

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It’s hot

Speckles is moulting and sitting around in dust holes during the heat. Smoke came out of being broody more quickly than usual. She was broody for just under a week and as usual started staying out for longer periods.

I closed the nest boxes at the end of the day for two evenings and she perched in the chicken shed and then no longer returned to the nest box.

Two weeks on and Smoke would usually start to lay again but instead she is also moulting. I am finding a little heap of feathers under her roost spot in the mornings.

These feathers were under Smoke’s roost spot

Marmite looked uncomfortable again yesterday afternoon and I knew another egg was coming. This morning she looked fine once more and her soft shelled egg was actually in the nest box. It’s the first one in ages that has made it to the nest box and it was partly intact this time.

Marmite’s soft shelled egg in the nest box

As it was so hot I decided to give the girls a treat of mash made with ice cold water and topped with frozen peas.

Mash with ice cold water and frozen peas
The peas go first
This is always a great way to get group photos

The girls love this and it’s a great way to get all the girls in shot and to cool the girls down. It won’t be long before the dishes are emptied.

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Speckles is moulting and a change of address

I have been picking up feathers from Speckles for the last few days both from the chicken shed in the mornings and the run during the day.

Speckles is moulting early. I think it’s because she hasn’t laid at all this year and her hormones have decided that she is done with that for the year. Speckles only laid six eggs last year and I wondered if she would lay three this year following her pattern of halving her total each year.

Speckles had a few moments of sitting in the nest box almost as if to remind herself that this is the usual thing to do but no eggs. She is really looking her age these days and does a lot of sitting in the run so I don’t expect her to lay again. I am just happy that she looks okay.

Yesterday afternoon Speckles was having a lovely dust bath surrounded by feathers. I wanted to get a photo but as soon as I walked through the chicken run gate with my camera she ran to me.

Instead I took a photo of her dust hole and of her at the water dish.

Speckles dust bath hole full of her feathers
Speckles by the water

Speckles comb has never got as big or as red as when she was laying and I can see her age in her eyes but as long as she stays well and happy I am happy.

Yesterday we picked more raspberries and strawberries from the allotment plus a few lettuce. D and S, our lovely allotment friends, who lived opposite moved on Friday. They are only ten minutes walk away but we felt sad to no longer have them across the road from us.

We gave them a prosecco send off on Thursday evening with all of us allotment sharers, at a suitable distance, in their large front garden. We will miss spending time in their front garden, who would have thought we would have had so many meetings for drinks in their the front garden!

T and C picked three bunches of wild flowers from the allotment so that we could all three have a vase of them.

Another vase of wild flowers from the allotment

They are longer stemmed than usual so fitted nicely in a different vase.

I know the allotment will keep us all together and we will all still see each other but it is a bit of an end of an era not having our friends opposite us. We know that they will be happy in their new home though and at least they haven’t moved far away. Times are changing but we will always be friends.

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Marmite

Marmite is still really struggling with her egg laying. I had hoped she might get better but she seems to be getting worse if anything.

We always know when her next egg is due as she looks so miserable. She always has a really humped shaped tail and she isn’t interested in eating while like this. She drinks a lot of water and stands with her eyes closing and often puts herself to bed early.

Usually a soft shelled egg is laid in the chicken shed in the morning and then she bounces back to normal and eats enthusiastically again.

This process usually takes a couple of days but this time she has looked miserable for four days. She looked so poorly that I actually started wondering if we were going to lose her. I felt so sorry for her and so helpless.

Yesterday it rained all day and Marmite was drinking from a puddle. She had the really humped shape tail and her wings are always down to the ground when she is like this. She later moved to the water dish and continued to drink.

Marmite was drinking a lot of water and not eating and so was doing very wet, white, poops. She took herself off to bed early each day late afternoon.

Marmite drinking from a puddle
Marmite with her eyes firmly closed and taking no notice of anything around her
Marmite takes herself off to bed early

I was so worried about her but this morning she was out in the run looking normal again and eating. I gave the girls a couple of dishes of mash to help build Marmite up again and she was straight to the mash.

At first there didn’t appear to be a soft shelled egg in the chicken shed but with a disposable glove I sifted through the shavings and I found some bits of soft shell stuck to the shavings.

Marmite never seems to realise that she has finally expelled the egg and she has a ritual of sitting on the top of the nest box before sitting in the nest box for a while. Eventually she gives up.

In the past she has sometimes laid an egg on top of the nest box and I have found it broken where it rolls down the back. These days she seems to move into the nest box but either way I knew it didn’t matter as she had already laid.

Marmite sits on the top of the nest back
Marmite is back to normal again

Marmite has a lovely red face and comb and looks the picture of health once she has laid. It is such a shame that laying is such a problem for her.

I wish Marmite would take a break from laying but sadly that is unlikely to happen. I am so relieved that she has bounced back again for now.

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Flowers, berries and good neighbours

We have been so lucky that the neighbours that moved in next door in December have turned out to be lovely neighbours. We hit it off straight away.

We welcomed them with a card and a bottle of wine. They then saved me their moving in packaging for my e-bay selling.

They have been starting their garden from scratch as it was originally all lawn. We have passed over the fence self seedlings from our garden. We have also given them veg seedlings/plants as we have loads. When growing from seed there are always plenty to share around.

A few days ago they said that they had something for me. They gave us a bottle of wine and a bunch of yellow tulips to thank us for the plants we have given them. We were really touched as there was no need and it is easy to share the plants.

A gift from our neighbours

We have a quart pot hanging on our fence which has a succulent in it and luckily it thrives on neglect. This year it is flowering at it’s best yet.

Quart pot hanging on our fence and looking lovely

My lovely husband continues to bring me wild flowers from the allotment which gives a lovely splash of colour indoors.

Wild flowers from the allotment

Yesterday we went to the allotment and I picked our first punnet of raspberries from our second plot. These raspberry canes are four or five years old and although the raspberries are small they are really abundant.

Our first raspberries from the allotment

Having picked these I had made hardly any impression on the bushes. We were so lucky to have mature raspberry canes on our second plot.

I had bought some vanilla ice cream for the freezer on my last shop with these in mind. Raspberries and ice cream will be our lunch time dessert for the next few days.

There will be so much produce this year from the allotments that there will plenty to share around. It is so lovely to be able to share with our neighbours on both sides and to know that they appreciate this too. Good neighbours are a blessing.

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