Baby moult

Chicks have a partial moult where they lose their baby feathers and get their adult feathers in. We have only had the five amigos for three weeks but when we first got them they all had tails.

Since then Vanilla has lost her tail and Marmite has only a short tail. This was the new girls in the first few days we had them.

New girls

Notice vanilla’s upright tail at the back of the photo.

Vanilla with no tail

See the difference now. I have been picking up white feathers from the run. She has moulted her tail feathers and will now grow her adult tail.

She will soon be back to her former glory.

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Ebony is broody

Three days ago Ebony spent most of the day in the nest box coming out just a couple of times for food and water and a quick dust bath. I wondered if she was going broody but at the end of the day she was out in the run and both her egg and Flame’s egg were side by side in the nest box.

Two days ago Ebony spent the entire day in the nest box, once again just coming out for food, water and a swift dust bath. At the end of the day she was still in there. I couldn’t shift her as she would peck me.

The breeder chose her for me as he said that she was a lovely, gentle, mother to chicks. That’s as may be but she has a scary, hard, peck. In the end I resorted to putting on gardening gloves and lifting her out.

There were no eggs so neither Ebony or Flame had laid. I closed the high nest box and decided to leave it closed. Ebony always lays in this nest box but Flame sometimes lays in the chicken shed and has once laid in the nest box on the patio so I thought that if she needed to lay she would find somewhere else.

Ebony was making the boc boc broody sound. At bedtime both Ebony and Flame were in the chicken shed and I chased Speckles in to join them.

Yesterday Ebony kept checking the high nest box and eventually sat in front of it. When Flame tried to join her she raised her tail in the typical broody way.

A bit later when Flame tried to join her again Ebony took her anger out on her. She held flame by the neck and didn’t let go. It looked brutal and I sprayed Ebony with water to make her let go of Flame.

Ebony is broody

Flame joins Ebony

Which causes Ebony to raise her tail

The typical broody pose

The next time I checked on her Ebony was settled in a corner of the chicken shed. We had friends coming to lunch so I decided to just leave her be.

Ebony settles in a corner of the chicken shed

When we took our friends up to meet the girls both Ebony and Flame were out in the run. I checked the chicken shed and both Ebony and Flame’s eggs were side by side.

I am rather surprised that these girls continue to lay when broody. With Flame she spent three manic weeks checking the corners of the chicken shed for eggs but continued to lay eggs during that time.

Now Ebony is obviously broody but still laying eggs too. I think these girls are brighter than broody seramas and have experienced hatching eggs before so Ebony seems to know that she has to be on her nest to sit. Broody seramas have no such logic and will sit anywhere.

I think Ebony was then desperate to lay her egg so she found an alternative place to lay but didn’t remain sitting as it wasn’t her nest. As both Ebony and Flame have now laid in the chicken shed I am going to take the opportunity to remove the high nest box.

I will clean it out, put fresh pine shavings in and return it to the patio area. It will be much easier to remove broody girls from the lower level and it will free up the top of the shelter as another surface for the girls to sit.

It will be interesting to see if Ebony continues to lay. It will also be interesting to see what she makes of the disappearing nest box.

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An update on the five amigos

We have had the five amigos for three and a half weeks now, four weeks on Wednesday. It seems like longer because they have integrated so quickly and easily. They are also growing quickly.

I have been a bit nervous about whether Vanilla was a girl because of a combination of her big feet, her red face and her deep, honky, sounding voice. I have been telling myself that I was being paranoid and that Blue was smaller than the amigos when we became certain that he was a boy. He had a red comb and wattles and he had no voice until he started crowing.

Yesterday I had a revelation. I was cleaning the chicken shed when I heard a honky kind of voice similar to Vanilla coming from behind me. I turned round to see that it was Sienna. I had a light bulb moment. It was the start of her grown up voice.

I realised that Vanilla is probably a bit more mature than the other amigos and the honky voice is the beginning of her grown up voice. The red face is also a sign of her maturing.

The other difference with Vanilla is that she has a very short tail but Marmite does too. I am finding feathers from the amigos so I think that they are having their partial baby moult and getting their adult feathers in.

I think that these are all signs that the amigos are growing up.


Note the difference in tail on Vanilla in the background.





Salmon is the smallest of the amigos. Smoke and Vanilla look the most mature. They were having a little spat yesterday and it had been obvious that Smoke was top girl from when we first had them but it now seems that Vanilla is second girl. Marmite is bottom girl with Spangle and Salmon seeming to be about equal in the middle.

As they are so well integrated I have now removed the feeding station at the bottom of the run from the day that I finished worming them.

I will give it a couple more days and then I will remove the feeding station from half way down the run. We will return to just one feeding station on the patio area which is better because the pellets don’t end up in the dirt.

The amigos come to the patio and eat from the dish and drink the water so I am confident that they know where everything is and we don’t need multiple feeding stations any longer. I have also removed the water bottles. I prefer not to have bottles in winter because they freeze more quickly.

The only progress still needed is for the amigos to perch at bedtime but I am sure they will soon latch on to it. I am leaving Dandelion to perch on their side of the chicken shed as she perches at the end furthest from the corner that they bundle into. I had hoped she might lead the way for them but so far they like their corner. I am sure that it is only a matter of time.

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Speckles is still moulting

Speckles has been moulting forever! She has also had a really poor year as far as egg laying goes.

Last year she laid 27 eggs which isn’t a great total. This year she has only laid 12 eggs. In March she laid 3 and in April she also laid 3. She laid 4 in May. She then took a month’s break in June and started to moult quite heavily.

Then in July she stopped moulting and her comb became red again. She then laid a further 2 eggs. I wondered if this was sparked by the heat wave we were experiencing at that time.

By comparison Ebony laid 24 eggs in August and Flame laid 25. These girls are amazing egg layers and are still going strong.

In August Speckles started moulting heavily again and has continued to moult ever since. She has very little tail left. Her head feathers are quite white and she has her usual feathers sticking out on her head. This is her trade mark and she has had these feathers sticking out since she was point of lay when we got her three years ago. They always return like this after her moult.

Speckles with very little tail

I do seem to have had some quirky girls. I have had really good egg layers and really poor egg layers over the years. It shows how different hens can be. For me though the eggs are not as important as having happy and healthy girls.

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Sharing a nest box

Ebony and Flame are so in sync with their egg laying that they both want their favourite high nest box at the same time. Ebony takes longer to lay her egg than Flame does so sometimes Flame joins Ebony in the nest box and Ebony will leave and return a few minutes later when Flame has laid.

Sometimes Ebony will reluctantly allow Flame to share. Now that they have settled into sharing a nest box they are a lot less noisy.

When I looked in the nest box yesterday Flame appeared to be virtually sat on top of Ebony. She had squeezed in behind her possibly so that Ebony couldn’t chase her out.

I went to get my camera but when I returned Flame was standing in the egg laying pose and her egg was beneath her.

Flame has just laid her egg

Sharing the nest box

As soon as Flame had laid her egg she left the nest box. About ten minutes later Ebony left the nest box and as usual their eggs were side by side.

I am so glad they have got this sorted out at last.

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A trip to Whitehouse Farm

Yesterday we took a trip to Whitehouse Farm. This is where we get our disposables and is also is where we have rehomed some of our girls in the past.

We rehomed Peaches and Barley at the farm last spring, one and a half years ago. We have visited them in between and I went along yesterday to see if they were still around.

Moira, the farmer, wasn’t around so I just wandered through the orchard where the chickens hang out. I know that she is happy for me to visit them when we are collecting disposables.

I soon spotted Peaches but there was no sign of Barley. As the two were inseparable I can only conclude that sadly she may have been taken by a fox. I know that Moira has a problem with foxes being quite bold even during the daytime.

There was also no sign of Claude, the huge cockerel, that had been resident for many years but he may well have passed to old age. Without seeing Moira I can only speculate so perhaps shouldn’t make too many guesses.

I spotted a new set up of an enclosed run and large coup and went to investigate. It was a breeding pen for silkies. I know Moira likes to take on new projects. There was one cockerel, possibly a replacement for Claude and three adult hens. There was another smaller hen which I would consider was at the “teenage” stage and there were seven chicks.

There was another empty smaller run and coup nearby so I would assume the mother and chicks had been in there until the chicks were big enough to integrate with the other silkies. They were all getting along happily.

Peaches hangs out with a friend

I am only able to identify Peaches because her comb flops to the left and Barley’s comb flopped to the right. She is moulting and the pair of them always looked very shabby when they were moulting and their combs would be very reduced in size.

Silkies and their chicks

The chicks are in the food dish

A selection of hens

A moulting Peaches

A few bantams in the mix

It was sad that Barley was no longer there but good to see that Peaches was still around. A free range life is always with it’s risks but I feel leghorns need a free range life and I would never consider having them again in my contained set up.

They are zippy birds and being contained made them bullying and caused them to pluck the other flock members. I know rehoming them was the right thing to do because they were in a more suitable environment for them and my flock has flourished without the bullying.

Integrations have been so much easier since Peaches and Barley left the flock and I now have a happy flock. I was pleased to see Peaches again.

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Sedums and plant support

I love the late summer colour our sedums bring to the garden but ours would always fall open leaving a bare centre.

In spring my husband had the idea of giving them some support. We found what he was looking for at our local garden centre and we bought two. We later realised that we really needed three and will get one more next spring but having two out of three gives me the chance to demonstrate the beauty of the plant support.

One of our sedums in April

It’s in the centre of the photo behind the hyacinth with the support just above it.

Another sedum

At the time I was photographing the spring bulbs but you can see the sedum next to them with the plant support in place ready for it to grow up through it.

The sedum from the first photograph growing through the plant support

The sedum that we missed putting in a plant support

It has flopped open leaving bare stems in the middle.

The sedum from the second photo now supported

The plant support is now invisible but the sedum has stayed together and the look is much improved. It now remains looking beautiful. Sometimes something very simple can be very effective.

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High spots and red faces

The five amigos definitely like high up places.

The amigos discover the top of the large shelter in front of the high nest box

They also discover the highest perch

These little girls are very flighty and love to be high up.

We got these girls three months after the silky girls so I am guessing that they are about three months old. We have had them three weeks now. I think our silky girls are about six months old.

I used to think that Jasmine may be younger than Sienna as she was smaller but they are both getting red faces at the same time so I now think that they are probably the same age.

I no longer think that Jasmine is smaller but now think that Sienna is bigger. She is the largest silky girl we have had. As well as not breeding to colour seramas also don’t breed to size and a chick can end up bigger or smaller than the parent bird as well as different in colour.

Sienna and Jasmine are getting red faces and combs

Silky girls are slower to mature than straight feathered girls. Most hens start to lay about six months but all my past silky girls have started to lay between seven and eight months.

I wonder if these two girls will start laying before winter. Last year the seramas stopped laying in December and started laying again in March. It is said that seramas can lay all year round but I think that is only if they are kept indoors during the winter. I think a lot is dependent on the weather.

I think when kept outside they stop laying during the coldest months. I have no problem with that as I think it is good for them to take a break. It will be interesting to see if the silky girls start laying this year or next year.

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Dandelion’s eggs

I am writing this post in hindsight because we thought there was a problem with Dandelion and then it passed but I hadn’t got round to writing about it.

Last Tuesday I could see that Dandelion didn’t look happy. She had the look that she used to have when she was about to lay a soft shelled egg.

Dandelion doesn’t look happy

Her eyes were closing although her head is so deep in her ruffles that you can’t see her eyes.

On Wednesday the pine shavings were quite wet under her roost spot and I wasn’t sure if she had laid an egg without a shell. She had a slightly mucky bottom and didn’t look at all happy. I picked her up and cleaned her bottom and checked her over but I couldn’t see anything wrong with her.

I called the vet and made an appointment for that afternoon after I had delivered my lunches.

By the time I got back at lunch time Dandelion was in the nest box. I decided to cancel the vet as I felt that I needed to wait and see if she managed to get her egg laid and maybe would then feel better.

A bit later I checked on her again and she had just finished laying her egg. For Dandelion it was a whopper! It was twice the length that her eggs usually are. No wonder she hadn’t looked happy. She looked perfectly back to normal once her egg was laid.

We hadn’t got any of Dandelion’s tiny eggs left to photograph so I am using some past photos to show her eggs usual tiny size.

Speckles egg is in the middle then left of that is Cinnamon’s egg then far left is Dandelion’s tiny egg

Flame’s egg is on the left then Ebony’s egg and right of that is Cinnamon’s egg and furthest right is Dandelion’s tiny egg

Below is the recent egg that Dandelion struggled to lay.

Cinnamon’s egg is on the left and Dandelion’s is on the right

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I saw Dandelion lay that egg and then Cinnamon laid hers shortly after I would never have believed that that was Dandelion’s egg. Any other time I would have thought that was Cinnamon’s egg but they both laid that day and that was definitely Dandelion’s egg.

Two days later they both laid again.

The next eggs, two days later, Cinnamon’s egg on the left and Dandelion’s on the right

Dandelion’s egg is now smaller than the last one but still bigger than her previous tiny eggs. I am glad that her egg is smaller and hope that the large egg was just a blip as I don’t want her to suffer from laying larger eggs especially as she has had a slight prolapse in the past.

I think that as the egg was longer rather than bigger in width she managed to lay it without prolapsing. She seems fine now so I hope that her eggs return to normal size as I don’t want her to have problems laying in future. I don’t know why she laid such a large egg.

Dandelion is our chicken with nine lives. She has come back so many times from us nearly losing her. She used to lay soft shelled eggs in her first year and looked so poorly but she kept pulling through. She suffered from the myco all last winter but came through. She had a slight prolapse but was the only girl to bounce back from that. She seems to keep going despite set backs.

Every time I think we might lose her she comes back to fight another day. I am so relieved that we still have her and another crisis seems to have passed.

Long live Dandelion. The chicken with nine lives!

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Almost perching at bedtime

Last night when we checked on the girls after our evening meal several of the amigos were on the perch in their bedtime corner. Dandelion was also on this perch with them.

By the time I had gone back indoors for my camera only Smoke was still on the perch and she dropped down after I had taken the photo.

Dandelion and Smoke

I moved Dandelion to the other side with Cinnamon and the silky girls and decided to try to perch the amigos.

I got them all on to the perch and took a photo and then one by one they dropped back down and settled in a heap in the corner. They obviously know how to get on to the perch but don’t feel safe to spend the night there.

I don’t want to rush them as I feel it will be better for them to work it out for themselves when they are ready.

The amigos on the bedtime perch

I have been feeling a bit nervous about Vanilla. She has big feet, she has a red face and she has an unusual voice. She doesn’t twitter like the other amigos but honks like I imagine a baby goose would. However her comb is pale so I really hope that she is a she.

Although I wanted a black coloured serama and a blue one it was because I wanted to add variety and move away from the buff colours but Vanilla has become my favourite because I love the white with the honeycomb coloured spots. She is so pretty and I rather liked her deep and unusual voice too until I started to worry about having another boy.

I am probably over worrying after our experience with Blue but I will be happy when these girls get older and I can stop worrying about them being girls. I hope that she is just maturing and I keep telling myself that we would know by now if she was a boy. I am keeping everything crossed.

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