Egg laying and a slow worm on the path

I think both bigger girls have finished laying for this season. Flame definitely has as she last laid a week ago. Last year she stopped half way through November.

Ebony laid her last egg three days ago but had been laying every other day so I am less certain with her as yet. Last year she stopped half way through October.

It hasn’t been such a good summer this year which is probably why they have stopped earlier.

Smoke on the other hand started laying again a week ago after three weeks of not laying and has now laid four eggs since then.

Sugar has laid her first egg today after four weeks of not laying. I suspected that as Sugar has turned out to be a serial broody like Smoke that she would also continue to lay through winter between broody spells.

We have switched from only the two bigger girls laying to two little girls laying. At least Smoke and Sugar are both laying together so we will still get a few eggs.

Yesterday I saw a slow worm on the path. It was small and thin so I think it is one of this year’s young ones. It stayed long enough for me to get my camera.

Slow worm on the path
With my fingers to show it’s size

I love the fact that we see some young ones every year. They are breeding and thriving in our garden.

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Still moulting

I am finding heaps of, little girl, feathers in the chicken shed each morning and in the run especially in the dust bath holes. Yet the little girls don’t actually look much different.

But there is a change in them when they are not involved in egg laying. They hang out together in a tight group either dust bathing or preening. They seem to like to hang out under the metal table.

The little girls like to hang out together under the metal table

Another thing I have noticed is that Shadow and Sugar have been having little spats. They raise their ruffs and run at each other breast to breast.

This is surprising considering how attached to each other they were when they were chicks. Shadow wins these little spats and Sugar is firmly at the bottom of the pecking order.

The order is Smoke at the top then Salmon, next Spangle, then Shadow and Sugar at the bottom. I have come to realise that even the closest of girls have to make sure that the pecking order is in place. The first time I was surprised at a pair of inseparable girls doing this was with Amber and Honey.

Ebony is top girl. Flame is mostly in second place but does allow Smoke to get the better of her sometimes.

Flame and Ebony are the only girls laying, usually every other day. They are dropping a few feathers but not really moulting at the moment.

Flame with a few feathers sticking out each side of her
Ebony also with just a few tatty feathers

I think the two bigger girls have been moulting in partial stages. They did a partial moult after they each had a broody spell and since then just a few feathers at a time. This is better than a complete moult in one go. It will be interesting to see if they are done now if they have more to come.

I also wonder how much longer they will lay. Any eggs are a bonus at the moment.

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Moulting

We have had the worst August that I can remember. It has been cloudy and cold the for the whole month with drizzle some days and no sun at all.

This weather seems to have triggered an early end to eggs and an early moult for the seramas. They usually stop laying half way through September but all the seramas stopped laying half way through August this year.

For weeks now I have been finding feathers in the chicken shed and in the run. Salmon and Shadow are looking a bit tatty but the rest of the girls don’t look much different despite the amount of feathers I am finding.

Shadow
Salmon
Sugar
Spangle
Smoke

Smoke came out of her broody spell after a week. As only Ebony and Flame are laying and both lay on the same day, every other day, I decided to break Sugar out of her broody spell. Sugar had been broody for two weeks.

I closed the nest boxes and Put Sugar in the broody crate for two nights. This was enough to break her out of it so we are once again between broodies for now.

The girls have been hanging out together in a close group with lots of preening going on.

The girls hang out together

The good thing is the girls will be through the moult before winter. I expect Smoke will lay through winter as she usually does and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sugar lays through winter too. Time will tell.

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Changing our veg plot to a fruit plot

Our veg plot at home is no longer productive. Over the years we have lived here the garden has matured. The planting surrounding the veg plot blocks out a lot of sun and the roots have invaded the plot.

This year the only veg that was successful on our garden plot were the runner beans and they are pretty much the easiest veg to grow. Also we share two allotment plots which produce an abundance of veg so we don’t really need a veg plot at home.

However our single raspberry cane produced well. Our strawberries got eaten by slugs before we got to them. We have enjoyed the strawberries and raspberries from the allotment and can never have too many unlike some of the veg which produces a glut and we end up giving a lot away.

So we have decided to change the veg plot into a fruit plot. We decided to make the right side that has one raspberry cane into a row of raspberry canes down the centre of the plot to the asparagus plant at the patio end of the plot.

We decided to continue strawberries plants on the left side from the few at the top of the plot down to the other asparagus plant at the patio end. We decided to mulch the whole plot with tree chippings which will keep weeds down, moisture in and hopefully deter the slugs.

We will be able to do all this for free. We are digging up raspberry canes from the allotment plot that have crept outside of their patch. We are potting up the strawberry runners until they root and then bringing them home.

At the allotment there is a mountain of tree chippings for people to help themselves to. Conifer chippings have just been added to the pile and we have been bringing them home in our strong log bags and adding them to our plot.

It is a work in progress. We cleared the plot apart from the runner beans as they are still producing. We will wait until they are over then remove them and add another three raspberry canes in their place.

We will gradually keep adding strawberry plants until they fill their half of the plot.

The left half of the plot is prepared with mulch
Looking in the other direction
The right half is mulched and some raspberry canes planted
The runner beans are still coming so they will stay until they are over
The first batch of strawberry plants are in
The fruit plot so far

The strawberry plants are small and look a bit lost but they will soon grow. We like the fact that the plot will be perennial rather than annual.

The raspberry canes and strawberry plants will mature along with the two asparagus plants and it should be a great plot in the future.

Sometimes things need to evolve in a garden and we love the idea of having our own fruit patch. It will also be good not to have it empty in winter.

When the runner beans are removed and the plot is filled with raspberry canes and strawberry plants I will do an update with more photos.

For now it is a work in progress but we are happy with the way it is coming on and it has all been for free which is a bonus.

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Broodies and dust bathing

Yesterday Smoke went broody, four days, after Sugar. Smoke has laid ten eggs in thirteen days. That is two more eggs in two more days than Sugar. These girls are both serial broodies!

Salmon, Spangle and Shadow are all taking a break from laying. With Sugar and now Smoke out of lay we only have Ebony and Flame laying. It is eight days since Shadow last laid, ten days since Spangle last laid and eleven days since Salmon last laid.

I am now just lifting Sugar every time I go in to the chicken run like I do with Smoke. Sugar has now settled into a more normal way of being broody so I hope that she won’t need to go in the broody crate.

Sugar now accepts being lifted from the nest box and stays out long enough to have water, food and a dust bath instead of just rushing straight back in. The other change is that she is accepting me putting her on the perch at bedtime instead of dropping down to the corner of the shed floor.

As long as Sugar doesn’t go on beyond a normal time of being broody I am hopeful that this will be enough. I am hoping that she has mellowed into being a normal broody rather than being obsessive to the point of starving herself to sit all the time.

Yesterday afternoon Salmon, Spangle and Shadow were dust bathing in a patch of sun. I lifted Sugar and Smoke from the nest box for a break and they joined the other little girls in the dust bath.

It was so lovely to see them all dust bathing together that I fetched my camera. Flame was dust bathing a bit further along and it was only Ebony that didn’t join in and was strolling on the other side of the dividing wire.

A row of dust bathing girls
Smoke playing headless chicken and Salmon laying on an outstretched wing
They are enjoying communal dust bathing
They love a good dust bath in the sun

I love to see the girls dust bathing together. In the past Sugar would have gone straight back to the nest box within seconds but she seems much more chilled now.

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This and that

At this time of year our hibiscus is amazing. It is opposite the chicken run and towers over the chicken run height wise and has a mass of blooms.

Amazing hibiscus
A close up of the blooms

We picked one corn cob from the allotment today to see if they are ready and were stunned to see that it is just perfect.

And in chicken news Ebony started laying again five days ago and has laid three eggs since then. That’s two and a half weeks since she went broody.

Today Sugar has gone broody again after laying eight eggs in eleven days which seems to be her maximum. We had just four days of all the girls laying before Sugar went broody once more. Sigh!

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Broccoli stalks for the girls

One of the great things about having chickens is that no allotment or garden produce ever gets wasted. The broccoli we tried to grow on our garden veg plot hasn’t worked. The cage to keep out the butterflies, followed by caterpillars, isn’t tall enough.

The broccoli wasn’t able to produce heads. We have had some lovely broccoli from the allotment so we decided to take a hit on this and pulled up some stalks for the girls.

The girls have broccoli stalks
This will keep them happy all day

By the end of the day I expect to remove just the stems.

Moulting seems to have started early this year. After their recent broody spell both Ebony and Smoke are moulting and I am picking up little piles of feathers from the chicken shed each morning plus a few from the run. I don’t anticipate these two girls starting to lay again for a while.

Flame was laying every other day until four days ago. For the last few days Flame has been sitting in the nest box for a while but not laying. I think she may have come to the end of her season but doesn’t seem to realise it yet or maybe she is just taking a break.

Sugar was only out of lay for two weeks including her broody spell and a one week break after she came out of it. It always amazes me how quickly Sugar starts laying again. She started laying again two days ago.

Other than Sugar we have Salmon, Spangle and Shadow laying. Shadow also took a break for a week which she does from time to time and has laid twice since then. Spangle is an erratic layer and only lays on average once a week. Salmon has hit her stride and has been laying every other day for three weeks now. This is really good for her.

The girls are just about keeping us in enough eggs for now. It is great to be between broodies at the moment but I know it will be Sugar who will go broody again when she has laid her quota of eggs.

I am used to the routine now though and will just make the most of this time between broodies.

Edit :

Flame has just laid, later this afternoon, after her four day break so it looks like she hasn’t finished after all which is good news.

I wrote this post too soon. The next day Smoke laid again which is three weeks from when she went broody. Looks like we have our two best layers back for now.

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Through with broodies for now and some group photos

Sugar had three nights in the broody crate and then was through with being broody. This works really well with Sugar.

Having three broody girls at once meant there wasn’t much egg laying going on. We have been getting just one or at best two eggs a day. This meant that I could keep the nest boxes closed and try to break all three girls at once.

The reason Sugar spends the nights in the broody crate is because she refuses to perch in the chicken shed when broody while Smoke and Ebony will perch. Sugar perches on the perch in the broody crate though. I think she doesn’t like sitting on the paper lining the crate.

For the last two nights I left Sugar in the run and she has perched at bedtime. It is so nice to see all the girls perching together.

Today I opened up the nest boxes and none of the girls that had been broody took any notice so I think they are now all through it. Hurrah!

As well as sharing our allotment produce with our neighbours the girls also get a share. They get to have anything that goes to seed.

The girls share our allotment produce

The girls also get any soft tomatoes and chopped tomatoes is one of their favourite things.

The girls love chopped tomato
A great way to get a group shot

It is so good to see all of the flock together again. I don’t suppose it will last long but I will enjoy it for now.

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Three broodies and today’s allotment harvest

Smoke has now been broody for nine days. Sugar has been broody for five days and Ebony went broody three days ago. It’s getting ridiculous!

I go up to see only half the flock in the run and if a girl is laying even less girls out. The nest boxes are clogged up making it awkward when a girl wants to lay.

I just can’t manage with three girls broody at once so decided I need to break them out of it.

I decided to start with Sugar because she is the easiest and three nights in the broody crate is enough to break her out of it. She had her first night in the broody crate last night.

This morning it was obvious that Flame wanted to lay. She didn’t lay yesterday so was ready for a morning egg. Flame always makes a mournful sound when she wants to lay so it’s really easy to tell. I put Sugar back in the broody crate and opened up the nest boxes.

I decided to put Smoke in with Ebony to leave another nest box empty for Flame. When I returned to check on them this is what I found.

Flame decided to share with Ebony and Smoke

Flame is the girl most happy to share a nest box and she wasn’t put off by there being two girls in there already. Flame soon laid her egg and I closed the nest boxes once more and returned Sugar to the run.

We then went up to the allotments to pick some produce for our Sunday dinner. There is an abundance of produce at the moment.

Today’s harvest

The amount we picked has made little impression on the amount of produce still to be picked. We are sharing our harvest with our neighbours and will message our allotment sharers to go and pick too.

It is that time of year when everything comes faster than we can keep up with. I don’t like rhubarb myself but we pick it and pass it round the neighbours as it needs to be picked. Luckily our neighbours are happy to receive produce.

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Broodies and sharing nest boxes

Sugar has now gone broody as well as Smoke. Sugar has laid nine eggs in twelve days. The gap between going broody and the amount of eggs laid seems to be diminishing for both of them.

Having two broody girls in the two favourite nest boxes makes it awkward when the other girls want to lay.

Today when I could see that both Ebony and Salmon wanted to lay I decided to put Sugar in with Smoke to free up another nest box. On the same day that Smoke went broody Salmon started laying again.

Ebony immediately took up her position in the favourite nest box and Salmon settled in the third nest box by the gate.

The next time I checked on the girls Flame had settled in the nest box with Ebony. It seems that sharing is a must at the moment.

A little later Salmon laid her egg in the third nest box. The next time I checked both Ebony and Flame had laid their eggs side by side.

Flame and Ebony share a nest box
Sugar and Smoke share a nest box

I was pleased that three girls got their eggs laid without any shouting. It is so much easier when the girls will share nest boxes.

Luckily we had built up a collection of eggs while all the girls were laying for a short while so we will be okay with two girls out of lay for a while.

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