Sleeping the girls together

Yesterday I mixed the girls all afternoon and once again they spent the entire time at the top of the ladder.

The really annoying thing was, that Rusty actually perched next to them at the top of the ladder without any fuss at all, but every time they came down and attempted to get to the food dish she chased them back up the ladder again.

Rusty snoozes in the sun on the same perch as Cinnamon and Apricot

Rusty snoozes in the sun on the same perch as Cinnamon and Apricot

Look how close Rusty is to Cinnamon

Look how close Rusty is to Cinnamon

At one point I went to pick Rusty up and she squatted for me so she is getting ready to lay any time now. Maybe that will help her calm down a bit.

I separated the girls before bedtime to give the new girls a bit of respite and decided to try sleeping them together to see if this would help things along. We put up another low, broom handle, perch in the opposite corner to the one Rusty and Freckles sleep in.

I waited until the main flock were all in their bedtime positions then I picked up the new girls and placed them in the shed. They came straight back out again.

I put them back in again and this time unhooked and closed the pop hole door. I checked on them after a few minutes and all three were huddled in the corner directly below the bigger girls. This was no good as they would get pooped on.

I picked them up one at a time and put them on the new perch. I checked back in a few minutes and they were still where I had put them.

The new girls on their new perch

The new girls on their new perch

The rest of the girls

The rest of the girls

The new girls perch is just showing on the right of the photo. I went out a bit later and they were settled on the perch so I hooked the automatic door back up. It was already in the closed position by now.

Yesterday the automatic door opened at quarter past seven so I planned to go out at seven o’clock and make sure the new girls got out okay. I looked out of the window at five to seven and the girls were already out so I missed the door opening.

They all seemed okay though. I scattered the morning sunflower hearts and the entire flock took them together. I was kicking myself that I had forgotten my camera and by the time I went back with it the flock had dispersed and I had missed the shot.

By the time I had done the morning clean up in the shed the new girls were back up the ladder. I put a few extra dishes of mash around the run and decided to leave to them until it’s time to go out for my lunch deliveries. I will then separate them again so that can have a scratch, possibly a dust bath, and feed in peace while I am out.

It will be interesting to see if they remember where to go at bedtime tonight. If they don’t go in on their own I will put them in again. As their perch is right by the door I feel it’s easy for them to get out first in the mornings. We have achieved the new girls first night on a perch so that is a step forward.

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The second day together

In a way the second day together wasn’t as good as the first. The problem now, is that the new girls are spending the entire day at the top of the ladder, and that isn’t moving things on. If I took them down from the ladder the other girls immediately chased them back up again.

Speckles is in a dust bath

Speckles is in a dust bath

Freckles is dust bathing on the other side of the wire

Freckles is dust bathing on the other side of the wire

Peaches and Barley, Emerald and Rusty are here

Peaches and Barley, Emerald and Rusty are here

Barley and Peaches are doing their impression of book ends

Barley and Peaches are doing their impression of book ends

These three spend all their time here

These three spend all their time here

I make sure they have some food

I make sure they have some food

They have some mash

They have some mash

If I chase them down they get chased back up again. I worried that they were getting no food, so I did this, but this is a one off only. I realise that it isn’t the answer because it isn’t helping them to mix and it enables to them stay here all day.

At the end of the day I separated them again which gave them some time to have a scratch around and some food and water. On Saturday I felt that we were making progress but on Sunday they spent their entire day on top of the ladder. I have come to an impasse. How do I move them on from this!

I think the next stage is to try to get them together at night and see if that moves things on. This is definitely the most difficult integration I have ever done. I sometimes despair of them ever being united but I know that we will get there in the end. I have to keep trying different things until I find out what works.

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An entire day together

Yesterday being Saturday, and no functions, was the ideal day to put the girls together for their first whole day. I put them together at eleven o’clock once my chores were done.

My main worry is that the new girls can’t get to the food dishes when they are mixed. I don’t really want to have a feeding station in the run but decided that for now it is the only option. I set up a dish of mash (as it doesn’t get flicked out like pellets) and a dish of water on the small wooden block. This part of the run stays dry now that it has a solid roof and it’s near the ladders for an easy escape.

Of course the original flock were straight on to it. Anything new has got to be better than what they are used to and I knew the new girls would have to wait for the novelty to wear off before they would get a look in.

I set up a new feeding station

I set up a new feeding station

The original girls loved it

The original girls loved it

Cinnamon and Dandelion found safety here

Cinnamon and Dandelion found safety here

And Apricot here

And Apricot here

Something amazing happens

Then something amazing happened

Rusty and Apricot have their heads in the dish together!

Rusty and Apricot have their heads in the dish together!

This was my photo of the day. I was blown away by this. Perhaps there is hope after all. The main flock stayed in this area as it was where the sun was so the new girls stayed on the ladder.

Once the main flock moved to the other area I lifted the new girls down to the food station.

New girls at the new feeding station

New girls at the new feeding station

A chance at the mash but not for long

A chance at the mash but not for long

Unfortunately it wasn’t long before Rusty spotted them and chased them back to the ladder. They know the food is here now though so I think they will return when the coast is clear.

I checked back a bit later and was amazed to see most of the girls together in the sun. Freckles was in the nest box and Emerald was having a dust bath but Peaches, Barley and Speckles were sitting at the bottom of the ladder and Rusty and the new girls were on different rungs of the ladder. I took some photos but unfortunately there was a blip with the camera and the photos didn’t appear.

I went back to try again but Speckles had joined Emerald in a dust bath and Peaches and Barley had moved a bit further away from the ladder. I did manage to get the little girls snoozing on the ladder though.

Sitting in the sun together

Sitting in the sun together

Four little girls snoozing on the ladder

Four little girls snoozing on the ladder

Rusty on the bottom, Dandelion next with her head under her wing, then Cinnamon then Apricot at the top.

A little later, once Freckles had laid her egg, all five little girls were perched together. This was quite a heartwarming sight.

Five little girls together

Five little girls together

We have had the new girls a month now and I feel that they are going to have to get used to being together because it is time to move this forward. Cinnamon is no longer looking stressed and now that they have become confident with getting up and down the ladders I am happy to leave them unattended. This is all positive so we just need to keep going with this. We are getting there at last.

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An entire afternoon together for the girls

Egg production is up, with sixteen eggs on our egg rollers since last Sunday’s breakfast. Today was the first, four egg day, this year. This means I no longer need to buy eggs, so as I had two shop bought eggs left, I decided to scramble them for the girls as a treat. This is the main flock’s favourite treat of all.

Scrambled eggs for the girls

Scrambled eggs for the girls

They are loving the eggs

They are loving the eggs

They are not at all sure about this

They are not at all sure about this

The new girls just couldn’t pluck up the courage to try the egg. Once the other girls had finished their egg they were desperately going up against the wire trying to get to this dish. I gave up and gave the dish to the other girls.

After lunch I was ready to mix the girls as I had a free afternoon but Cinnamon was having such a lovely dust bath that I didn’t want to spoil it for her. Rusty and Freckles had been dust bathing on the other side of the wire.

Cinnamon makes such a deep hole considering what a tiny girl she is. She keeps on digging and when she was sitting in her hole she almost disappeared. I took one shot through the wire in case she moved on when I moved to her section.

Cinnamon makes a deep hole to dust bath in

Cinnamon makes a deep hole to dust bath in

Once through the gate Apricot put her face right up to the camera. I kept this shot as it is quite funny.

Apricot photo bombs the shot

Apricot photo bombs the shot

Cinnamon stands in her hole

Cinnamon stands in her hole

Apricot appears to be asking her what she is doing

Apricot appears to be asking her what she is doing

These girls are so funny. It was three o’clock by the time dust bathing was finished and I opened up the gates and escape routes.

The afternoon went the best yet and I left the girls together until the bedtime corn at five o’clock. The new girls came out of their section on their own. They did end up at the top of the ladder fairly soon but I lifted them down and put them on the patio while the other girls were occupied dust bathing.

Eventually they went back to the top of the ladder. I left them a while and when I returned they had actually made their own way down from the ladder and moved up the run. This is another break through.

Rusty did most of the chasing but not all of the time. Speckles and Peaches did a little chasing. Cinnamon didn’t look stressed at any time though.

Emerald was desperate to get into the new girl’s coop so I let her in and she laid her egg there today.

I got them all back to their sections with the help of the bedtime corn and Cinnamon was scratching happily in her area without looking stressed. I felt we were finally getting somewhere with this.

I will keep giving them longer spells together and once the clocks have changed (Sunday) I will start working on getting them to bed together. The clocks changing will mean the automatic door will be opening at seven o’clock instead of six o’clock which will make it easier for me to be there to watch them come out and make sure it’s going okay. This is the next hurdle to get over but I am happy at the moment that we are making progress.

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Four probably is a crowd!

Yesterday morning there was a lot of shouting about who was going in the nest box. I couldn’t understand how it had been so harmonious on the last two occasions when the girls shared the nest box and why it was so unsettled this time. On checking it out I found four girls missing from the original flock. I checked the nest box.

Now four probably is a crowd!

Now four probably is a crowd!

Poor little Freckles looks a bit squashed again but as usual this little girl is not moving.

I think Peaches is just being nosey

I think Peaches is just being nosy

Emerald and Freckles had both laid two days before so I knew they were due to lay. Speckles last laid two weeks ago and had been looking in the nest box the previous day so I knew she was ready to lay too. Peaches laid two days before and is only laying about once a week at the moment so I knew she was just being nosy. She loves to watch the girls in the nest box often much to their annoyance. This is what caused the shouting!

These three girls settled together eventually

These three girls settled together once Peaches had retreated

Freckles sitting with three eggs again

Freckles sitting with three eggs again

When I heard the shout I checked again and only Freckles was still in the nest box. I lifted her and there were three eggs, one of them being hers. I lifted her out of the nest box. I always have the dread of her going broody but so far so good.

In the afternoon I mixed the girls for a couple of hours again.

Dandelion and Cinnamon made it to the patio again

Dandelion and Cinnamon made it to the patio

Once again the new girls made it to the patio while the other girls were dust bathing. There was some chasing around once more with Rusty being the worst offender but Peaches joining in as well.

Emerald and Peaches in the "new" dust bath

Emerald and Barley in the “new” dust bath

Eventually the new girls ended up back at the top of the ladder so I decided that was enough. The trouble is once they retreat to the top of the ladder they don’t mix any more and it seems pointless to leave them there.

Cinnamon didn’t look stressed like she had the day before though so maybe that is a bit of an improvement. I sometimes wonder if these girls will ever be mixed!

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A couple of hours together

Yesterday afternoon I mixed the girls for a couple of hours. I intended to leave them together all afternoon, until bedtime, to try to move the process on but Cinnamon became stressed so I ended the session.

Cinnamon is such a tiny girl and since we first had her she has become very easily stressed. I thought things were going really well and left the girls to it while I answered some work e-mails. I went back out with my husband to check on them and the new girls were on the ladder. Cinnamon was at the top and was closing her eyes and breathing with her beak open. I felt that she must be stressed.

I immediately separated the run once more and put her back in, her home section, with a dish of mash. She soon tucked into the mash and returned to normal. She seems to get stressed easily and each time once she has some food she recovers. It made me realise that I need to continue slowly with this. I think the other two girls are robust enough to move the process on but Cinnamon is fragile and I can’t risk stressing her so we will continue to go slowly.

When I opened up all the gates and escape routes the main girls were straight in to their favourite dust bathing bit.

Dust bathing in the favourite spot

Dust bathing in the favourite spot

While Emerald dust baths in the shelter

While Emerald dust baths in the shelter

Here is my new dust bathing spot

Here is my new dust bathing spot

This is the second time Emerald has chosen the shelter for a dust bath. I am surprised as it’s not very deep. She seems to like it though.

The three new girls perching

The three new girls perching

This was how they were when we came back out and decided that Cinnamon had had enough. I think her fear of the other girls causes her to go right to the top.

Dandelion can now perch too

Dandelion has now learned how to perch

Dandelion’s head feathers are filling in nicely.

It’s easy to pick the girls up while they are perching so I picked up Cinnamon and put her on the patio by a dish of mash. I thought that while the other girls were distracted with dust bathing it would be a good time to get the new girls on the patio.

Cinnamon has some mash on the patio

Cinnamon has some mash on the patio

I then collected Dandelion and then Apricot.

All three girls on the patio

All three girls on the patio

Meanwhile Rusty and Freckles had joined the dust bathing girls and the, almost brave, Cinnamon strolled by them.

Rusty and Freckles join the dust bath and Cinnamon is nearby

Rusty and Freckles join the dust bath and Cinnamon is nearby

Rusty and Freckles peck around Peaches and Barley

Rusty and Freckles peck around Peaches and Barley

Dandelion braves the patio while I am on it

Dandelion braves the patio while I am on it

Dandelion popped back onto the patio while I was there rather than while I was in the run. I thought that was a good sign.

It all seemed to be going really well so it was at this point that I felt it was safe to leave them to it for a bit. Having decided to give them the whole afternoon together I felt that I couldn’t stay in the run the entire time.

When we returned the three girls were positioned, as in the previous photo on the ladder, with Cinnamon right at the top. That was when we decided she was looking stressed. My husband did remark that it’s hardly surprising she is stressed if she is being chased around and has to escape to the top of the ladder.

I know that they all have to get used to each other eventually but I just can’t bare seeing Cinnamon stressed and worry for her as she looks so tiny and fragile. I think that I will have to just keep following my instincts.

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Three’s a crowd or maybe not!

Yesterday morning I checked on the girls and was surprised to find three girls missing. Emerald, Peaches and Freckles. I checked the nest box and there were the three girls.

Three's a crowd

Three’s a crowd

The three girls settled down together

The three girls settled down together

Three’s a crowd or maybe not, as the three girls settled together without any fuss. Notice that little Freckles kept her chosen position despite being a bit squashed by Emerald.

I was really impressed that these three girls were happy to share the nest box with no shouting or shoving. In the past there have been struggles with sharing a nest box but I think that was because Honey and Topaz were more aggressive about this.

I checked back a little later and Emerald and Peaches were out of the nest box. I felt sure that they couldn’t have laid their eggs that quickly. I checked the nest box and Freckles was flattened and as wide as she could make herself. I lifted her up and there were Emerald’s and Peaches eggs, so it seemed that they had got the job done, quickly and quietly.

I removed their eggs and left Freckles to it. I checked a little later and she was out of the nest box leaving her little egg behind.

The first three egg day of the year

The first, three egg day, of the year

Emerald’s egg is on the left, Peaches smaller egg is in the middle and Freckles little egg is on the right. I am also surprised that both Emerald and Freckles laid two days running. Well done girls!

Once again I didn’t finish work until just before the girl’s bedtime but after the bedtime corn I mixed them for half an hour. I closed the new girl’s section to avoid it being invaded and trashed.

It didn’t go too badly with only a small amount of chasing. At one point Apricot and Cinnamon escaped to the ladder, then suddenly, Dandelion cottoned on about perching. She finally sussed out how to jump to the perch next to the ladder. I didn’t manage to get a photo but she did jump up and down a few times as if practising her new skill.

This is a really good break through because as well as helping with escaping it should help with eventual, bedtime, perching.

All in all it has been a good day.

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Egg laying in harmony

We had a manic day yesterday and I finished work too late to do any mixing of the girls as it was nearing their bedtime.

Yesterday morning however, I checked on the girls and Freckles and Emerald were both settled in the the nest box together. They looked so sweet together and it shows that girls of different sizes can get along in harmony.

I came inside to get my camera  but by the time I returned the egg laying was over. Emerald was just emerging with a little collection of pine shavings on her back (obscured by the nest box) and her egg was just in front of Freckles breast.

Emerald leaving the nest box

Emerald leaving the nest box

Emerald was followed out by Freckles and there were their eggs side by side.

Emerald's and Freckles warm eggs together in the nest box

Emerald’s and Freckles warm eggs together in the nest box

This was so sweet, it warmed my heart. After the aggression of the current integration processes it was so lovely to see. It’s a pity I missed the shot of them together but never mind. It was a lovely moment.

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Lovely eggs for breakfast

It was a bit of a manic day yesterday so not much time for photos. We had a bigger and smaller egg each for both Saturday and Sunday breakfast and they were lovely. It is so nice having our own eggs again.

Sunday breakfast eggs

Sunday breakfast eggs

And in the pan

And in the pan

Once in the pan their isn’t such a noticeable difference in the size. The smaller eggs are at the front of the pan. They were delicious.

I mixed the girls for an hour in the afternoon and it wasn’t too bad. Rusty was still going after the new girls when ever they got any where near her but I dug the run over to occupy the original flock and that seemed to help.

The new girls had moments of being a bit braver and venturing away from the bottom part of the run. I think it is gradually getting better. Just got to stick with it.

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Rusty red comb

A while back I commented that Rusty’s comb was the same orange colour as her feathers. Well not any more! It’s now a bright red along with her wattles and her face.

Look how red Rusty's face, comb and wattles are

Look how red Rusty’s face, comb and wattles are

And can you see that angry glint in her eye. My cute little girl has turned into angry bird.

I gave the girls a bit of time together yesterday afternoon but after a few minutes Rusty and Freckles had to go to chicken jail again. Rusty was being a nightmare.

After a while of the new girls and the bigger girls being together I decided to separate the bigger girls too and try to encourage the new girls to the patio. I sprinkled some seeds on the patio to show them that there are good things here.

Apricot has some seeds on the patio

Apricot has some seeds on the patio

Apricot was first to the patio but I herded the other girls towards it and they soon found the seeds. I love Apricot’s mixed coloured tail feathers.

The three girls on the patio

The three girls on the patio

Dandelion’s middle tail feather fell out a while ago but she now has a short new tail feather growing in it’s place. This girl has yet to reach her full beauty but she is on her way.

That was all I had time for but I think the new girls confidence on the patio is growing. We will keep taking small steps for now.

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