Our second day with the chicks

Today Cinnamon has started taking notice of the chicks. She has been pacing up and down the wire desperate to find a way in.

Cinnamon is eyeing up the chicks

It’s typical that it’s our smallest girl that wants to get at them. Cinnamon was the same when she was on their side of the wire looking out at the bigger girls. For a tiny girl she has always been a feisty one.

Emerald continues to want to lay her egg with a little girl. Today it was Cinnamon’s turn. She has now laid her egg next to each of the three little girls. Cinnamon chose a corner of the chicken shed instead of a nest box and Emerald followed her. It seems as though Emerald likes company when she is laying her egg.

Emerald got her egg laid first. She is pretty quick at egg laying and shortly after Cinnamon laid hers.

Emerald and Cinnamon in the shed together

They look so cute together

The chicks seem to spend most of their time in the food dish. Blue remains the one to dig the most. They stay pretty tight together.

The chicks are a day older

Jasmine in the middle is rather crowded by Lemon and Blue

Jasmine has a yellow stripe down the middle of her breast

This photo isn’t great because she wasn’t still and so it is slightly blurred but it’s difficult to get a shot of her breast so I kept it in to explain the naming. Blue and Lemon both have lemon colour on their heads. Jasmine has a slightly darker yellow colour (like the colour of jasmine hence the name) and has a stripe of this same yellow colour down the middle of her breast. Blue has some dark blue colour in with the black.

They will grow into their colours as they get bigger and it will be easier to tell the difference between Lemon and Jasmine. I have always liked using colour, descriptive, names.

The chicks seem to be happy in their new home. Integration will be “fun” but we are a long time away from that yet so I am just going to enjoy this easy bit when they are contained in a small environment.

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I have chicks

I have researched far and wide trying to find another serama breeder. I talked to the secretary of the serama club and she has been looking for me but nothing came of that. I tried the breeder that Sophie got her girls from but sadly due to ill health she has given up chickens. I tried all the poultry shows with no luck. I asked on the “Down The Lane” chicken forum but with no luck.

Then David (thank you David) sent me an advert from the preloved site. I called the lady and she said that she only had chicks and a long waiting list for them but that I was welcome to come and look. She is an hour away from us and works during the week so we arranged to go yesterday.

Stupidly in the excitement I forgot to ask her name so will call her “lovely chicken lady” of Parkside Poultry in Aldershot. She breeds serama, pekins and quail. She was really helpful and her many birds were kept in lovely clean conditions. We were very impressed with her all round.

She has such a good reputation that as fast as she hatches and grows the birds to two months so that she can sex them they fly out of her place to the people on her waiting list so she isn’t able to get her birds older than that.

I knew that the only way I could have some was to take them at two months and she only had a few girls left at that age. Every bird I pointed out was a boy and in the end it was a matter of asking which were girls and taking what she had. I ended up with three girls, two silkie feathered and a frizzle feathered.

The reason I would have preferred older girls is because the integration process is quicker. With young birds they need to be started on chick crumb and progress on to growers pellets whereas the current flock are on layers pellets. This means that they will have to stay separated until they are about six months and at point of lay. So instead a few weeks it will be four months before they can start mixing.

The other problem is their tiny size. I had taken the cat box to collect them and was rather alarmed when lovely chicken lady said that they could possibly escape through the grill on the front of the cat box. I had to hold the grill against myself and block it in the van for the journey home.

I had intended to put them in the dog crate with a nest box as a coop but realised that their small size meant they would be able to squeeze through the bars. I needed to go to the pet shop for chick crumb so I looked for something more suitable for them and came back with a hamster cage which at a cost of twenty pounds wasn’t too bad and will come in useful if I have chicks in the future.

The chicks had been cheeping all the way home and the first thing I did when we got home was to set up a water bottle in the cat box and a dish of chick crumb. The three chicks immediately piled into the food dish and went quiet. We realised that they were hungry.

All three chicks in the food dish in the cat box

We put together the hamster cage which came with it’s own water bottle and a tiny  food dish plus a hamster’s wheel which of course we left out and I put in a layer of pine shavings. I put water in the tiny dish so that the chicks have a choice of water.

The chicks immediately found the water bottle, the chick crumb and the feeding quarters. They also started digging and dust bathing in the shavings. They seemed completely at home in the hamster cage and I felt much happier knowing they were in a safe environment until they get a bit bigger.

Three little chicks

The black/blue one is the frizzle and is first to find everything. She is already looking like top girl of this trio.

Our three new girls

They are so cute

I have never had such tiny girls

I have had six week old girls before (Peaches and Barley) but they were bantams and so never as tiny as these girls. The lovely chicken lady said it’s no different though and they will soon grow. She had a trio that were four months old that were reserved, with a deposit paid, and they were much bigger so we could see that they will soon grow.

I separated the smallest corner of the run that I use as my starter part for new girls and put the hamster cage in that part. This part stays in shade, the shaft of sunlight you can see in front of it soon moves away.

I will be taking the chicks inside at night to our bathroom, or at any time we get bad weather, until they outgrow the hamster cage.

In position in the separated part of the run in front of the shelter

The chicks are hiding in the sleeping quarters in this photo.

The flock didn’t take any notice of the new girls. I think because they are in another cage they are not attracting more than an occasional glance at this stage.

I was surprised that when I went to check on them before bedtime the chicks had almost emptied the food dish. I refilled it to the brim. They eat a lot more than I had imagined but that’s a good sign that all is well.

I chased Emerald and Speckles into the chicken shed at half past eight and the chicks were still in the food dish. I went back at nine o’clock and the chicks were in their sleeping quarters. What clever chicks!

I am sticking with my tradition of descriptive names and our new three amigos are Blue, Lemon and Jasmine. We now have two of each feather type which is a really nice balance. I am so thrilled with our new additions.

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Egg laying shenanigans

Emerald is laying every other day like clockwork at the moment. She is very happy to share a nest box with one of the little girls. Usually it is Dandelion but today it was Freckles.

They looked so sweet sat side by side that I went to get my camera. By the time I returned Emerald had just laid her egg so she was now stood up.

Emerald and Freckles in the nest box together

It looks as though Emerald is sat on Freckles but it’s just because Freckles has seen Emerald lay her egg and is instinctively trying to pull it towards herself. These little girls love to sit on an egg or eggs.

Emerald has just laid her egg

I reached under Emerald and removed her egg. Meanwhile Cinnamon and Dandelion were sunning themselves together.

Cinnamon and Dandelion in a patch of sun

There has been another odd thing going on around the egg laying. I talked to my mum about this recently but hadn’t got around to posting about it because I didn’t want to come across as humanising chickens and wanted to be sure I was pretty much correct with my assumption before saying anything.

There is something a bit odd going on with Speckles. As I have said before she has been doing sloppy poops for some time and hardly laying at all. She last laid an egg twelve days ago and that was the soft shelled egg that I posted about.

This is the first time she has laid a soft shelled egg and since then she has stopped laying altogether. I am not worried about not having eggs just a bit concerned that that means all is not completely well with her although she seems normal in every other way.

From that time she started shouting in the afternoons and I mean full on screeching/screaming. If I was indoors with the windows closed I could hear her.

There have been a lot of lovely sunny days and when sitting in the garden I started to worry about annoying the neighbours. It is as loud as a cockerel and is not something she has ever done before.

I tried distracting her, I tried telling her off and in desperation I tried squirting her with a water bottle. As soon as I moved away she started again. It was driving me to distraction.

As the week went on I suddenly realised that she was doing this whenever Emerald was in the nest box. We would have one quiet day and one day of this behaviour in time to Emerald laying every other day. I think she suddenly notices Emerald is missing and panics. As soon as Emerald has laid and is back out in the run all is calm again.

I think because Speckles isn’t laying herself she doesn’t think to go and look in the nest box. When Speckles was laying Emerald would always watch over her from the ramp and so she knew where she was. Speckles seems totally unaware that Emerald has gone in the nest box and will come to the bottom of the run and scream.

Today when this happened instead of trying to stop her I led her to the patio area and lifted the lid of the nest box to show her that Emerald and Freckles were in there and she immediately calmed and went quiet.

This has been happening since Speckles stopped laying twelve days ago. I will now try to lead her to the nest box whenever this happens while I am at home and maybe she will soon stop doing this.

Speckles and Emerald are such tight pair. They are still trying to sleep out at night too. I simply go and tell them to go in at about half past eight and watch over them as they make their way in.

Emerald always liked to perch out in the evenings after the other girls had gone in but when we had Peaches and Barley, Speckles would go in with them. As it neared dusk Emerald would jump down and join them. I think it’s because we no longer have Peaches and Barley that these two have become joined at the hip! This means that when Emerald perches outside Speckles of course joins her.

I think it’s that that has given Emerald the confidence to stay out. Now she has her partner in crime along side her they are happy to stay out. It’s heartwarming to see strong friendships in a flock but boy these two are so close that they are proving problematic. Never mind, I just have to deal with it. I suppose it is better than aggressive behaviour!

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Our garden is looking really lush

The garden is really lush at the moment after the recent rain followed by recent sun.

Corner bed outside the cabin

Veg plot

Lilac

Veg plot from the other direction

Another corner bed

Looking towards the chicken run

Path in front of the chicken run

Chicken’s strip has filled in

Looking back from the chicken run

Back towards the veg plot

Lilac and freesias

I bought some inexpensive freesias as I love the scent of them. They looked a bit sparse in the vase so I added some of the lilac from the garden.

The garden is looking amazing and is filled with promise of more to come. The rose over the arch, fence and cabin roof is a mass of bud and will soon look amazing. I will revisit it when it is in full flower.

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Our slow worm has grown

A month ago I did a post about the baby slow worms in the garden. They were really tiny, about the size of worms. Yesterday I saw a much bigger one sunning itself on the plant that is next to the fence that I showed in my last post. I think they may be from the same batch but has grown so much since we last saw them.

Our slow worm has grown

It’s tail is in the crack in the concrete next to the fence. It’s sunning itself on the comfy bed of our plant. I feel sure this will be one of the babies we saw last month as it’s not as big as an adult and still has a very smooth look with out markings.

We claim them as ours as they have been breeding in our garden successfully for years. We see the babies every spring. We are always pleased to see them again.

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Our garden path

Two years ago we had our garden path laid. Before we had the path redone it was just concrete that over time had cracked and broken. Beside our next door neighbour’s fence was a channel of smooth concrete that the fence posts had been set in so we had the path butted up to this as it wasn’t really possible to do anything else.

Last year the neighbours put in a new fence beside our path. To remove the old fence posts and set the new ones in, some of the concrete had to be broken, leaving holes on our side.

We decided to plant in these holes with the hope that once the planting was established it would hide the concrete all together and give the appearance that the path is floating between planting on either side.

I took a photo of this last year so that I could then compare it to this year. It hasn’t entirely filled in yet but some parts are giving the look we wanted. I will repeat this post again next year to see how it looks then. I think by next year the concrete strip may be entirely covered.

The garden path last year

The garden path this year

Nearest end of the path

Furthest end of the path

It’s a work in progress but it is coming along nicely. I think it will look great by next year.

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Bigger girls and little girls side by side

Yesterday Emerald and Dandelion wanted to lay their eggs at the same time. I went to check on them and they had both settled together in the same nest box. It is heart warming to see how well the girls of different sizes get along together.

Emerald and Dandelion in the nest box together

When I next went to check they were both back out in the run and there were their eggs side by side in the nest box.

Their two eggs side by side in the nest box

Sometimes people worry about having girls of different sizes but in our flock the difference in size is no problem. They share the nest box, they dust bath together and in winter they snuggle up together on the perches. They sit in the sun together and are never far from each other. It is lovely to see the different sized girls in perfect harmony.

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A baby robin in the chicken run

Yesterday while I was in the chicken run and my husband was outside we suddenly saw a baby robin in the run. It appeared to have flown through the weld mesh but was in the corner with the perch above the hatch and didn’t appear able to find it’s way back out.

I distracted the girls to the other end of the run with some corn and opened the chicken gate. I tried to direct the baby robin towards the gate with a broom. I didn’t want to touch it as baby birds can be abandoned by their mothers if they have the smell of  a person on them.

The daft thing went straight past the open gate and headed towards the chicken shed. I stopped to take two quick photos of it just outside the pop hole.

Baby robin

Slightly closer

I didn’t want to linger as I didn’t want to frighten it. The next minute it had hopped through the pop hole and was exploring the chicken shed. It hopped about in the pine shavings and then it tried out all of the perches. It seemed to rather like it in there.

I used the broom once more to direct it out of the open shed door and once again it flew straight past the open run gate. It went back to it’s original corner but this time successfully got back through the weld mesh.

My husband saw it again today and it flew into a nearby bush so it seems none the worse for it’s little adventure.

A little later my husband saw a baby blue tit fly through the weld mesh and into the bush above the big shelter. A few minutes later it flew back out again. I can’t think why the baby birds are being attracted into the chicken run.

In other matters I am having no luck at all with finding any serama breeders. I got an e-mail back from Wokingham saying they no longer breed seramas. I now seem to remember that this was what happened last time I was looking and you have to wonder why they don’t take the site down.

I have tried the number of the acting secretary of the serama club several times and it just rings and rings with no answer and no voicemail so I am wondering if the number is no longer active.

I researched poultry shows in the Berkshire area and found details of the Bucks County Show. There is a show on 31st August and amongst a very long list of poultry and ducks there will be on show just one male and one female serama.

I have e-mailed the lady in charge with no reply. I have telephoned her and the voice mail says that there is no one there at the moment. In my e-mail I asked if she knew if the person showing seramas would be willing to sell some or if she knew of any other breeders that may sell some.

I seem to just keep coming up with dead ends. I will keep trying but to be honest I am not at all hopeful. I am feeling very disappointed at the moment. I am not quite sure what to do next but keep searching.

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I really want new girls

The first lily in our garden is opening up

I didn’t have a photo for this post so thought I would show the first of my bargain lilies just starting to flower in the sunshine.

I called my breeder at the weekend to see how he is getting on. He said to call every month and I left it five weeks so as not to hassle him too soon.

I was very disappointed to hear that he has no eggs hatched at all. I am thinking that I need to start researching to see if I can find another breeder. Starting from scratch it could be a long time until my breeder has girls to sell.

He previously had two trios so I assume that he has the same. A trio is two hens and one cockerel which is usual for breeding.

A proportion of eggs laid will not be viable, possibly not fertilised. A proportion of any chicks that do hatch will turn out to be cockerels. A proportion of those being silky feathered, which is what I would like, could be very small.

It could take a year to have enough girls to give any choice and I would like new girls during the summer to get them used to being outside before winter.

I have found one possibility in Wokingham which is near enough to us. There is no address or telephone number so I will have to e-mail them and I am not sure if they are still in business.

We are away Thursday and Friday and out all day Saturday so I can’t do anything until after then but I think that I will set the wheels in motion by sending an e-mail. I am keeping everything crossed.

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Heat wave

We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave at the moment as I think is the whole country. The little girls love the heat but the two bigger girls not so much.

Speckles continues to do sloppy poops and it’s obviously no longer because of drinking rain water.

I have researched this and it is suggested that providing the girl looks fine in every other way there is nothing to worry about but I still can’t help thinking that as it has gone on for so long there must be something slightly adrift.

Speckles has been laying fewer eggs than usual and yesterday for the first time she laid a soft shelled egg which I found broken in the nest box. Despite this she does seem normal in all other ways. She is active, dust baths, eats well and runs to the treats with vigour so there is nothing much I can do but see how she goes.

Emerald is feeling her age and spends more time sitting and snoozing these days. Today when it was hot and the little girls were sunning themselves she found a shady spot on top of the shelter and was snoozing there.

Emerald has found a new shady spot to sit

Emerald snoozing in the shade

I felt compelled to call her name to check that she was okay

Despite this Emerald is laying really well and recently laid two days in a row for the first time this year.

Dandelion has really come into her own. After many times of looking poorly over the winter she is now thriving in the hot weather. When I last did portraits of the girls Dandelion had black spots on her comb where I thought that she had been pecked by Speckles. She now has a beautiful red comb and is laying good shelled eggs every other day. It is as if she is fixed!

Dandelion in the nest box

She is more active than she used to be and even seems to have more confidence when the other girls are competing for the treats.

The other problem I am still trying to sort out is that the two bigger girls still want to sleep outside of the chicken shed. I have been hanging clear tarpaulin over the perches in the evening which worked for a while.

They then got braver and perched on top of the tarpaulin. I chased them down and then arranged my wellie boots over the spot they had perched on and went back later to check on them. They had knocked my boots down and perched there again. I am now hanging a black bin bag over the tarpaulin which at the moment is working.

We are away overnight at the end of next week so I am keeping this up for now so that I can feel confident that they will go in while we are away but longer term I am not sure if I am going to be able to break this habit.

While we are at home I can just go and herd them in each night but we are away overnight again in August. This is a work in progress.

And that is all the latest news from the chicken run. Overall I am pleased that all the girls are looking good and laying well, apart from Speckles, but then she has never been a particularly good layer anyway.

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