We have changed the perch in the chicken shed

Earlier this week we changed the perch at the back of the chicken shed. Things never go according to plan and we found that the job wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

Because we had two parallel  perches my idea was to use them as a step up perch and a roosting perch as we have on either side of the chicken shed. I must admit that my husband suggested we just move the complete thing down low but for some reason I had it in my head that it should be the same arrangement as the side perches so that the little girls would be at the same height as they were used to.

This meant buying a shorter pair of brackets for the top perch. You can see the marks above where the brackets were before. The back perches now matched the height of the side perches.

The new lower perch arrangement

We got the job completed just as the girls started coming in at bedtime. I soon realised my mistake.

There wasn’t enough of a gap for Emerald to fit comfortably.

The three amigos went straight to the new perch and were happy with it. Freckles is always the last in and hadn’t come in yet. Emerald wasn’t at all comfortable and kept turning and getting up and down. Emerald is the biggest girl and there wasn’t enough room for her tail to fit comfortably. Speckles solved the problem by facing the back of the shed but Emerald wanted to face outwards.

The side perches would have enough depth for Emerald but she is a creature of habit and this is her spot and this is where she wanted to be. It is totally random which way Speckles faces but not so with Emerald. Emerald always faces outwards.

I felt awful for Emerald and stupid for not realising the gap would be too small! We decided that the only thing to do was to lift all the girls out and alter the perch again.

This was our second attempt

We changed to the longest perch on the longest brackets and put it in at the height of the lower, step up, perch at the sides.

All the girls on the lower back perch

Emerald and Speckles couldn’t wait to get back in their spot and the three amigos quickly took the other end of the perch together. I then picked Freckles up and put her in the middle. I just managed the photo above before she jumped down and returned to her usual spot.

Freckles back in her usual spot

It was good to see the three amigos snuggled up together again

I think it is going to be impossible to change Freckles habit so I will leave her to perch alone. I feel happier though that the three amigos are perching together again.

The next night

I watched the girls go in the following night. The same thing happened. Emerald and Speckles settled in their corner and didn’t seem bothered by the perch being lower. Apricot was first to the back perch. Cinnamon was next and Dandelion soon followed.

Lastly Freckles sauntered in and headed straight up to her spot on the side perch.

Freckles in her usual position

The three amigos are snuggled up together again

A view of all the girls

In the end I think this is a success and I am happier with this arrangement. It seems that the three amigos did want to perch at the back but Dandelion couldn’t get up there before. It is much better that before winter the three amigos are perching together again and can keep each other warm.

It’s a shame that Freckles is on her own but she has been used to this spot since she joined the flock and I don’t think we can change her habit. She is the largest of the little girls so I think she will be okay.

This also means that if we have new girls in the spring they can use the right hand perch during integrations.

Although it was a hassle moving the perch twice I feel that we got it right in the end. The chicken shed has had many perch changes since we have had it but sometimes we need to evolve things to suit the changing needs of our girls. The girls seem happy with this new arrangement.

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Our last courgettes

I can’t believe that we are still getting courgettes from our veg plot. I have ready cooked dishes, with courgettes in the freezer, but as I am picking the last ones which are smaller in size, I have been finding different ways of cooking them as I go.

This is my latest favourite way of cooking them. I saute them in margarine to soften them a bit. I then add a crushed clove of garlic and cook for another minute. I then add a dollop of sun dried tomato puree and cook for another minute.

This is so simple and delicious.

Courgette dish

We still have baby courgettes on both plants but I keep thinking that they won’t make it. You never know though with the strange weather we are having at the moment.

I think this year I have had to come up with the most different ways of cooking courgettes ever to keep up with their abundance. I am sure this will be an all time record for our courgettes.

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A weird day

Yesterday was a weird day for weather. The storm Ophelia swept through the west of the country. Although we are on the East of the country and the storm missed us it’s effects were seen over the whole of the country.

We started the day with an exceptionally high temperature for October. The temperature rose to 22 degrees c/72 degrees f by half past twelve as I came out of the supermarket after doing my daily shop. By the time I arrived home at one o’clock the temperature had dropped to a more normal 17 degrees c/64  degrees f. This was followed by a strange yellow light. The sky was a yellowish grey. An hour later the sun appeared and was as red as a blood orange.

I tried to capture it in photos but the colour didn’t show up. The sky was the nearest to the colour that I got. The yellow/orange light didn’t show and the camera didn’t capture the red sun later.

A strange sky

Yellow/grey sky

It was quite eerie. Through following several blogs I could see that this was happening all over the country. It was caused by sand from the Sahara being pushed up into the atmosphere by Ophelia.

As the day went on everything gradually returned to normal. We were lucky not to be effected by the storm. Tragically three people were killed in Ireland due to trees coming down.

It was strange though that the whole country saw the eerie yellow light and yellow sky. A very weird day!

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There is a fair bit of moulting going on at the moment. Emerald and Speckles seem to have been having a long drawn out moult. They are both still losing some feathers and Emerald has pin feathers on her bottom.

Speckles now has a fluffy bottom and her white head has returned to black and white as the black spotted feathers have come back in.

The little girls are all dropping feathers and only Freckles is still laying, she is laying three or four eggs a week. Apricot has a mass of pin feathers on her head and is sporting the porcupine look. I remember Pebbles looking like this so I think it must be a feature of the silky feathered girls.

Apricot has a mass of pins on her head

She is looking like a porcupine

Freckles is the only girl laying and therefore the only one going to the grit

It is funny how they know that when they are laying they need the grit.

All the girls should be looking back to their beautiful best soon.

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The new bedtime routine continues

The new bedtime routine has been the same for the last four nights now.

These three are in their usual spots

These three are well spaced out

All the little girls are spaced out

Excuse the crazy angle, that’s down to me. The perch is level but taking the photos in the dark with a flash I can’t tell exactly what I am seeing. I just point and hope to get a shot and I didn’t have the camera level but I just wanted to show how spaced out all the little girls are.

I have never had girls spaced out like this before. My husband’s theory is that Dandelion has B.O. and first Cinnamon her best friend deserted her and now Apricot has deserted her.

I feel sorry for her as she is the only one that hasn’t chosen to perch alone. I  don’t think she is able to get on the back perch. I would really rather see the little girls snuggled up together but I suppose they will do what they want to do.

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Dust bathing

Emerald has definitely been showing her age lately. She spends much more time perching or sitting than she used to and she doesn’t join in with the greens and apple unless she happens to be already on the patio area.

She does like to join in with the morning sunflower hearts and evening corn but greens and fruit won’t tempt her to move if she is perched up.

Today she was having a lovely dust bath. It made me realise that she doesn’t do this as often as the other girls these days either. It was lovely to see her enjoying a dust bath.

Emerald is a blur of movement

She has made a deep dust hole

It’s lovely to see her dust bathing

Her feathers have such a beautiful, glossy, Emerald, sheen.

Freckles and Cinnamon dust bathing

You would be forgiven for thinking that Cinnamon had a broken wing. She has her wing stretched out and has her foot on it, pinning it to the ground. It looks most peculiar. These girls do get themselves into funny positions while dust bathing.

Speckles stands guard over them

Cinnamon is throwing some shapes and Speckles as usual stays close to keep watch over them. I love to see the girls enjoying a dust bath. When they dust bath you know that all is well with them.

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A new bedtime line up

For a long time the bedtime line up has remained unchanged. Freckles continues to perch on the perch on the left that she used to share with Rusty. Speckles and Emerald always perch on the back perch behind her. Dandelion and Apricot perched on their perch on the right and Cinnamon on the back perch behind them.

Watching the girls going in at bedtime it was always Cinnamon that went in first and bagged her position on the end of the back “bigger girl’s” perch.

A couple of nights ago I was surprised that when I checked on them Apricot was now in the middle of the back perch. I feel a bit sad that this meant all the little girls were now perched alone but as it isn’t cold at the moment I decided to leave them be. I wondered if this was a one off or if it was going to be the start of something new.

Apricot surprised me by perching on the back perch

Freckles is in her usual spot

Speckles and Emerald are in their usual spot

Poor Dandelion has been left in her usual spot but now alone

Apricot in her new spot but not too close to Cinnamon

The next night I looked in on them a bit earlier and just Apricot was missing. There she was again in the middle of the back perch. I then watched the other girls go in. Emerald took her place followed by Speckles. Freckles took her place. Then Cinnamon went in and I realised how she was getting up to the back, higher, perch.

Cinnamon went to the right hand perch that she used to use then from the end of that perch she jumped to the end of the back perch where she has been roosting for ages. She then turned herself around and hunkered down.

This makes me think that Apricot may have wanted to perch on the back perch but couldn’t jump from the right hand perch to the back perch with Cinnamon already there and blocking her. So instead she has worked out that if she goes in first she can bag herself a place on the back.

It will be interesting to see if this habit continues. We have gradually adapted the perches to suit the girls and put the left and right perches in a bit lower and with a narrower width perch to suit the little girls smaller size and smaller feet. This seemed to work well at first but it seems that now they have other ideas.

It seems that a higher perch will always be preferred but I wanted the perches to be both safe and easy, to both get up on to, and also down from. You can never dictate what chickens will do though.

I will continue to watch them at bedtime to see if this is just temporary or a new routine and will report back later.

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Portraits of the girls and an update on egg laying

I thought I would do an update of the girls current portraits.







Dandelion and Cinnamon

Apricot has pin feathers on her head

Seramas are supposed to moult a few feathers all year round and lay eggs all year round. I think they have spurts of moulting though because they all seem to be moulting at the moment and I am picking up lots of little feathers. Only Freckles is laying so our egg production is right down and I am having to buy eggs at the moment.

Apricot hasn’t laid since her brief broody spell a month ago and she has the palest of the little girl’s combs. She does have a mass of pins on her head though so I think this is the reason.

I don’t mind the girls taking a well earned break from laying. I just want them to stay healthy. I worry about them more since losing Rusty. Apricot is such a sweet little girl. She is so pretty and so friendly.

It is two weeks since Cinnamon laid and a week since Dandelion laid so they seem to be dropping off one by one. Freckles is still laying but only about three times a week. Freckles has always been the best layer of the little girls.

Last winter the only little girls we had were Freckles and Rusty as the three amigos joined the flock in February. This was before Freckles and Rusty started laying.  Freckles started laying at the beginning of March and Rusty started laying at the beginning of April.

Dandelion started laying at the end of April followed by Cinnamon at the beginning of May. Apricot started laying at the beginning of June. Silky feathered seramas mature slower and therefore start laying later.

It will be interesting to see if seramas do continue to lay through winter although it won’t be a true test until next year as hens do usually lay through their first winter anyway. The difference is that most hens usually have their first full moult approaching their second winter whereas seramas moult a few feathers all year round.

I am still learning about seramas  as we have only had them for just over a year. We got Caramel and Pebbles last August but sadly didn’t have them for long. Although We have only had them a year I am firmly converted to seramas and can’t imagine not having them in our flock now.

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Speckles comb

It always amazes me how different Speckles comb is in summer and winter.

Speckles comb in May

In summer Speckles comb is huge and bright red. In winter it is small and pink. It completely changes her look.

Speckles comb in October

Her head looks smaller and her face looks quite different. She is all pastel coloured instead of bold red. Her comb changes more than any other girl I have ever had.

In summer her magnificent comb and wattles remind of a cockerel. I never cease to be amazed how her comb can change so completely.

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A very close flock

I think that the flock is the tightest it has ever been at the moment. It has been a really close flock since Peaches and Barley left the flock but the girls have pulled even closer since we lost Rusty.

Speckles is still playing the role of mother hen to the little girls which she has been doing since Peaches and Barley left the flock in May. Five months of being a mother hen to the little girls when real mother hens only do this for about six to eight weeks. We wonder how long she will do this. My theory is she will probably change when she starts laying again in the spring but we shall see. It may also change if more girls come into the flock.

She calls the little girls to treats and picks up bits to drop in front of them even though they are perfectly capable of finding their own bit’s. She is totally unselfish with the little girls which is not like chickens at all. On their part they accept her as a mother figure and gather around her all the time.

If there is a sudden loud noise or a loud bird noise they all close in around her. It seems that they are happy to have her as a mother figure. It’s the most odd but also endearing thing I have come across since keeping chickens.

Emerald appears to be really feeling her age and spends a lot of her time perched while the rest of the flock potter around together. At the end of the day they all perch together. I took all these photos in one day.

Emerald spends a lot of her day perched like this

Speckles has her girls gathered around her, Freckles just moved out of shot as I took this

Speckles watches over her girls as they dust bath and peck at the soil

A communal preening session

They gather again on the other side of the run

Now Emerald perches on the other ladder

All of the rest of the girls preen below Emerald’s spot

It’s a communal preening “headless chicken” session

All the girls perch on the ladder

Freckles moves up the ladder

This was my favourite picture of the day. It is heart warming to see how together the flock are.

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