Snow

Yesterday it snowed from nine o’clock in the morning until twelve o’clock lunch time. The flakes were the biggest we have ever seen and the snow was the sort that sticks together and settles quickly. It was quite dark in the chicken run.

Yesterday’s snow looking up the garden
And on the patio

Over night the snow froze and this morning it was crunchy. Today we have blue sky and sunshine so I took two photos of the same views.

Looking up the garden today
And the patio with blue sky

We are being ultra careful as it is thawing and freezing and although it looks beautiful it is treacherous. When I go up to the chickens I walk on the crunchy snow.

I have had to take the chickens some water first thing in the mornings as it freezes overnight. We are not used to this. The sun today is most welcome though.

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The three bigger girls

Although our flock of nine girls get on together very well and are often all together there are also times when they are a flock of two parts.

Sometimes the three bigger girls will be perched together while the smaller girls are hanging out together elsewhere.

The bigger girls together on their favourite perch
I talk to them so that they turn to look at me

This perch is Flame’s favourite perch and very often if she is missing from the flock I will find her here but at other times Ebony and Speckles will keep her company.

This perch recently rotted at the ends and fell down. Because it is the very favourite perch we rescued it. My lovely husband cut the ends off and nailed it back in place. Despite being a bit shorter it still remains the favourite perch so it was worth saving.

I love to see the bigger girls hanging out together.

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Warm mash for a cold day

There isn’t a lot going on in the chicken run at the moment. It’s an in between time of year. Shadow and Sugar are showing an interest in the nest boxes.

They like to spend time on the ramps pecking at the pine shavings and some times scratching the shavings out of the nest box but I don’t think they are actually ready to start laying yet.

However it does mean that they will know where to go when they are ready to start laying. I don’t anticipate any problem with them laying in the right place.

Sugar and Shadow check out the nest boxes

Yesterday was very cold and I decided to give the girls some warm mash as a treat.

Some warm mash on a cold day
The girls love mash

It didn’t take long for the mash to disappear.

In other news Ebony laid two eggs at the end of December and another two at the start of January but hasn’t laid since. Her last egg was the soft shelled egg eleven days ago.

Smoke has now gone broody so that’s the end of egg laying for the moment. Smoke has been laying for a month and has laid seventeen eggs which is pretty good for her between broody spells.

So after having unexpected eggs in December and January there will now be a lull and I don’t expect any more eggs until February. You never know though as these girls are often able to surprise me. I will be reporting back when we get our next egg.

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Changing over to layers pellets

Both Smoke and Ebony have been laying since half way through December. This is normal for Smoke but unusually early for Ebony. Ebony is usually the earliest to start laying other than Smoke though.

Ebony started laying half way through January last year and Flame and the rest of the little girls started laying in February.

This morning I found a soft shelled egg from Ebony, in the chicken shed, underneath her roost spot. This is her first ever soft shelled egg. I know that this is due to the girls being on growers pellets which don’t have the calcium of the layers pellets.

The chicks are now seven months old and have red faces and combs. I think they are now old enough to safely progress to layers pellets which will be better for the whole flock as they come back into lay. I have decided to change the dishes over to layers pellets at the end of today.

Ebony’s first ever soft shelled egg
Soft shelled egg

I was already intending to give the girls a fish treat today. I decided to scramble Ebony’s egg with a little olive oil and water and mix it in with the fish. The girls may as well benefit from this extra treat.

The flock rushed to the treat with just Sugar and Shadow hanging back a bit. Sugar is definitely the braver of the chicks and was the first of these two to go to the treat. Once the main flock had started to move away Shadow got her turn.

Treat of scrambled egg and fish
Sugar is getting braver
Sugar and Shadow get their turn at the treats
The chicks have red combs and faces

Unfortunately I will have to waste the remaining growers pellets that I have but it is never easy to time the right amount and it’s a small cost in the scheme of things.

I think this is the right move for the health of the flock and I feel sure that there will be more egg laying happening soon. One thing is certain and that is that the girls enjoyed their extra treat.

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First group dust bath of the year for the little girls

It’s been a very cold start to the year. Even so if there is a patch of sun the girls will find it and they love a dust bath together.

First group dust bath of the year
The little girls dust bath together
They love a good dust bath

Speckles was dust bathing nearby, in front of the little girls, in the first photo. Smoke is often not part of the little girls’ group. Smoke is the only aggressive girl among the little girls and they often keep out of her way. Smoke doesn’t seem to mind being a bit of a loner though.

In the same way Ebony is the only aggressive girl of the bigger girls. Flame and Speckles don’t seem to mind though and Smoke isn’t bothered by Ebony either. They seem to recognise each other as the most fierce.

Because of this Smoke is top girl of the little girls. However Ebony is number two of the bigger girls as Speckles maintains her top girl position because she is the eldest and has been part of the flock for the longest time. Speckles manages to maintain top position without aggression.

It is all part of life as a chicken though and the little girls don’t seem bothered by it. The pecking order must be maintained.

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End of year egg totals

This year I have had to wait until the very last day to do my end of year egg totals as Smoke and Ebony have been laying through the end of December.

Smoke and Ebony are so in sync at the moment that they have taken to sharing the favourite nest box and yesterday after laying they shared a dust bath together. It seems to have bonded them for the moment.

Smoke and Ebony share a nest box

Smoke has kept the little white patch on her head. I think this may be a permanent feature.

I record my eggs on some vintage sheets that I first got from Terry’s blog when she kept chickens. I print a new sheet ahead of time each year.

My eldest son and I.T. expert laughs at my paper records. I find them invaluable though. I make notes on the sheets of new girls’ arrivals and ages and girls lost, of first eggs laid and soft shells or weird eggs and of vet visits or treatments. It is a great tool to quickly look back at for information and I love comparing the amount of eggs laid by each girl each year. I use the girls’ initial to record their egg.

My egg records

So here are this years totals and a comparison with last year.

Speckles laid just the 1 egg this year which is 5 less than last year. She is our oldest girl and I didn’t really expect her to lay at all this year and don’t expect her to lay again but you never know with these girls.

Ebony laid 115 which is 38 less than last year.

Flame laid 138 which is 24 more than last year.

Smoke laid 117 which is 1 less than last year.

Spangle laid 59 which is 8 less than last year.

Salmon laid 71 which is 11 more than last year.

Marmite laid 63 which is 54 less than last year.

Shadow and Sugar are about 6 months old and haven’t started laying yet.

This years total eggs is 564.

What we would expect is that each girl will lay a bit less each year. What is surprising is that a few girls have laid more.

I think the reason Flame has laid more is that she only went broody once this year as opposed to several times the year before. Flame also continued to lay for 2 months longer than last year.

Smoke is a regular good layer but also a regular broody and it’s amazing how close her total is to last year.

Salmon was laying some soft shelled eggs last year and this year she has laid good shelled eggs so I think that is why she has laid more this year. It’s almost as if whatever problem Salmon had last year has fixed itself which is really good news.

Marmite has been the opposite. Marmite laid good shells last year but this year has laid soft shells all year. I think this is why, fortunately for her, she has laid much less this year.

I find it odd that Marmite has developed this problem as mostly it seems that the girls that lay soft shells do so from the start. I feel really sad for Marmite and it so good that she isn’t laying for now but I worry how she will be next year.

I would be happy for Marmite to stop laying altogether but as we know from experience this doesn’t happen. We can only hope for the best for her next year.

All that remains is for us to wish my readers a Happy New Year and to hope that next year will be a better year for everyone.

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December eggs

Today is two days after the Boxing Day eggs. There were no eggs yesterday. This morning Smoke settled in the favourite nest box. A while later I heard her shouting and knew that she had laid her egg. Smoke was shouting her head off.

When I checked the favourite nest box I found Ebony in there. I realised that Smoke was still shouting because Ebony was sitting on Smoke’s egg. This always happens if any girl sits on another girl’s egg. I lifted Ebony and retrieved Smoke’s egg.

When I next checked the run Ebony was back out and there was Ebony’s egg in the nest box. It was a bit bigger than her previous egg which was what I expected.

December eggs

From the right is Smoke’s boxing Day egg then today’s egg. Next is Ebony’s Boxing Day egg and on the right Ebony’s egg laid today.

Ebony’s egg today is fatter and paler than her first December egg. It seems as if Ebony is going to continue to lay. We have only ever had eggs in December from first year girls and from Smoke so this is very unusual.

I have no idea why Ebony is laying in December but all eggs are very welcome. These girls are often able to surprise us!

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Boxing Day surprise

Smoke has now laid four eggs this December so far. On boxing Day Smoke settled in her favourite nest box next to the chicken shed.

Ebony started shouting and while having had this behaviour through the summer, when several girls wanted the same nest box at the same time, I couldn’t understand why she should be shouting now.

The next time I checked on them Ebony was in the nest box between Smoke’s nest box and the store cabinet. Ebony was putting pine shavings on her back. I realised that she had been shouting because she wanted the favourite nest box which Smoke was already in but I couldn’t understand why she wanted a nest box in December.

Meanwhile Smoke had laid her egg. Smoke and Speckles looked in the nest box that Ebony was in as if to say that they wondered what on earth she was doing in there.

Next time I checked back Ebony was back out in the run and when I checked the nest box she had laid an egg. I was amazed that Ebony has laid an egg in December which was totally unexpected.

Ebony putting pine shavings on her back
Ebony settled in the nest box
Smoke and Speckles watching Ebony
Ebony lays an egg in December!

Smoke’s egg is on the right, Ebony’s egg is in the middle and a medium shop bought egg is on the left for size comparison. Ebony’s egg is smaller than her usual eggs but first eggs after a break are often a bit smaller.

Ebony stopped laying at the end of October whereas last year she stopped laying at the end of November. Ebony started laying half way through January this year.

Flame in comparison stopped laying half way through September last year but this year continued laying three quarters of the way through November and started laying in February this year.

It is very odd getting an egg in December though. I wonder if it will be a one off or if Ebony will lay some more. Only time will tell and I will report back here.

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Christmas Day in the chicken run

I planned to give the girls yogurt as their Christmas treat but they got a bit of an early treat this morning. I was giving them their morning sunflower hearts when I knocked the plastic carton that I decant the corn into. The lid flew off and corn tipped into the bottom of the store cabinet and also onto the chickens’ patio.

I decided to leave the store cabinet doors open and let the girls clear up for me. So they started their day off with extra corn. I then gave them some allotment chard for their daily greens. We are still digging up clumps of chard each week for the chooks.

Mid morning I took in their Christmas yogurt treat in four little dishes. The main flock are used to little white dishes meaning a treat coming in but the chicks were too busy with the chard to notice even though there was very little left on the chard. Notice the chicks in the background of the first photos with the yogurt.

Allotment chard for the girls
Yogurt treat for the girls
The chicks now have the remains of the chard to themselves
Yogurt beaks
The chicks finally come to have a look at the yogurt

The chicks are always last to the treats but once the rest of the girls have moved away the chicks always get their turn. I think we have very happy chooks.

I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas under these current difficult circumstances and hope for a better New Year for everyone.

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Smoke lays an egg

This morning Smoke was very vocal and was looking in the nest boxes. She soon settled in her favourite nest box next to the chicken shed.

When I next checked on her she was back out and had laid an egg.

Smoke in the nest box
Smoke’s egg on the left and a medium shop bought egg on the right

I checked back on last year and she laid nine eggs last December. Smoke is the only one of the little girls that lays all year round. Well done Smoke!

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