New bedtime position

Attaching the square of plastic behind the bigger girls bedtime perch has sort of worked. It has put them off perching there and last night they perched at the bottom of the run on the branch perch above the ladder instead.

This perch was always Emerald’s and Speckles favourite bedtime perch and I am not sure what made them switch to a different perch in the first place.

The new bedtime position

I am okay with them perching there as it is away from the weld mesh. It is a sort of “mission accomplished”.

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Bedtime habits

The little girls are very good at going to perch in the chicken shed at bedtime. The bigger girls like to perch outside in the summer. As it has been so hot I have been leaving them out until it’s dark and cool and then I move them inside.

However we soon have two weekends running when we will be away overnight. As the forecast is still very hot I have decided to let the bigger girls sleep outside overnight on these two occasions. I need to be sure they are completely safe though.

The bigger girls used to perch here

The bigger girls now perch here

They have been perching here for the last week. I assume that they have changed to this position as it is a little bit higher. However I am less happy with this choice. I have read on forums of girls being attacked overnight when roosting up against the weld mesh. A predator could put a claw through the weld mesh and do some damage to the birds. In the dark the girls would be unable to move away.

I know there is probably a slim chance of this happening but a slim chance is too much for me to be happy with. There is a square of plastic attached to the weld mesh in the lower, right hand, corner of the photo above. It hasn’t proved useful there so I have moved it in to position behind the spot where the girls are roosting.

I will leave this in place for the nights that we are away and then remove it. It will give an extra layer of protection to safeguard the girls and will give me peace of mind.

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Eggs are coming thick and fast

Both Ebony and Flame are now laying eggs two days in a row then missing a day and then two days in a row again. I can’t believe what good layers they are. Dandelion has also laid two days running which is very unusual for her. Speckles has laid her second egg, since starting to lay again, four days after her last one which is usual for her.

Two days of eggs

From right to left in the order that they were laid we have Dandelion’s tiny egg followed by Ebony and Flame, then the next day we have, Ebony and Flame¬†and then Speckles huge egg followed by Dandelion’s tiny egg.

Cinnamon is on a broody break from egg laying at the moment. This means we have had four out of five girls’ eggs in one day which is quite amazing.

The game girls have looked stressed in the recent heat with a lot of beak panting. They have been very noisy at times too. I had been giving frozen peas in the afternoon which  helps to cool them down.

Then at last we had a cooler day on Saturday and they were quiet and calm. On Sunday we had some, longed for, rain. It rained all day which is really good for the garden. Hopefully it will be a little less hot and the girls will appreciate that too.

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The new girls try some mash

I am gradually getting the new girls used to all the treats. Yesterday I thought I would try them with mash for the first time. Mash is a great treat because the girls love the different texture but are eating what they are supposed to eat anyway.

As usual Ebony is quick to try something new

Flame hovers in the background

Flame is creeping nearer

Flame is going to try the mash

Flame finally tries the mash

The pattern is always the same. Ebony is a confident girl and quickly tries anything new. Flame is cautious and also lower down the pecking order so she always takes her time getting the courage to approach something new.

Once they had tried the mash they decided they liked it. Like most lower ranking girls Flame would often wait until the other girls had had their fill and then come back to the mash when the coast was clear and she could she have some in peace.

Half way through the day the smaller dish was empty. By the end of the day the other dish was empty too. I think they enjoyed the change.

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The new girls try some yogurt

The game girls have very quickly got used to the treats are keen to try anything new whereas the chicks are still wary of treats. I decided to see how some yogurt would go down.

Some yogurt for the girls

Ebony was first to try it as usual and she obviously liked it.

The game girls like the yogurt

Flame soon joined in and she liked it too.

Flame has spots of yogurt on her head

I wondered how Flame had got so many dots of yogurt on her head. A moment later I found out. Speckles, with a yogurt beak, pecked her on the back of the head leaving another dot of yogurt on her head.

I put another dish in the run to see if the chicks would be brave enough to try some.

The chicks stretch their necks towards the yogurt

They inspect it at a safe distance

They take a closer look

They just weren’t brave enough to actually try some but later when the other girls had left the patio they tried some of the splashes on the patio.

They peck at dots of yogurt on the patio

I put one of the dishes at their favourite feeding station at the far end of the run. When I went back later that afternoon they had finally plucked up the courage to peck it from the dish. I think next time I give the girls yogurt the chicks will know what to do.

It takes a long time for the chicks to get enough courage to try anything new.

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A slight change in the bedtime habit

Since Cinnamon has been broody there has been a change in the bedtime habit. I close the nest box before bedtime so that Cinnamon doesn’t end up in there. Cinnamon goes to her normal spot on the perch but spreads herself out in a broody pose.

Cinnamon has also turned into “angry bird” and chases all the girls including Ebony and Flame. Speckles is the only girl she doesn’t chase which kind of reinforces her new status as top girl. It is amusing to see Ebony run from the tiny Cinnamon.

The three bigger girls perch here at bedtime

I lift these three girls from here one by one and put them on the back perch in the chicken shed.

Cinnamon spreads herself as wide as possible

Dandelion is now perching with the chicks

I just caught this action shot of Sienna stretching her wings

I am quite happy for Dandelion to perch with the chicks because there is no hassle between them. The chicks have now become part of the flock and don’t get chased around at all.

The odd thing with broody Cinnamon is that she wants to get into the nest box and when I close it she spends time looking for the door and yet when it is closed and she goes into the shed instead she always goes to her perch like the photo above.

How do their little brains work! She couldn’t hatch an egg from there so there is no point sitting spread out on the perch and yet she would spend the day there if I let her. I have had to resort to blocking the pop hole to keep her out. This is the first time she has taken more than a day or two to break her of this.

There have also been changes in the pecking order. Ebony has grown in confidence, especially around the treats, which she loves. A couple of times recently she has pecked Dandelion on the head to move her away from the treats. Despite this she still runs from the angry Cinnamon.

The funniest thing of all that I have seen over the last couple of days is Jasmine, the smallest chick, chasing Flame around the run. Maybe the chicks won’t be at the bottom of the pecking order after all. It will be interesting over time to see how the pecking order shapes up.

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The garden during the heat wave

It’s been unusually hot and dry this summer. Most days this week have averaged 32 degrees/90 degrees. We haven’t had any rain since May. Parts of the country have had some rain but we have missed it here in the south. It’s been the hottest summer since the summer of 1976 and is in line to break a few records.

It has become impossible and impractical to water the garden. We have even given up on parts of the veg plot. We are trying to keep the potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes watered to give us some crops.

We got two portions of broad beans and they had tough skins so needed to be skinned. We got about two portions of dwarf beans and they needed stringing which they don’t usually. We did have an early abundance of runner beans and I picked and cooked about eight portions and put them in the freezer. After that the remaining beans were tough and twisted so we stopped watering them also.

Luckily we have no lawn. Our garden is too large to water apart from the pots on the patio. We have even given up on the two hanging baskets. At times like this it’s survival of the fittest. We are too busy to be a slave to our garden. Only the toughest plants survive.

We have lost some of the more delicate and most recently planted things. Some things don’t look great and we have cut them back in the knowledge that they will rise up again next year. Then there are some hardy plants that seem able to survive anything.

The view up the garden isn’t too bad

We have left the dead broad beans in the back (on the left) of the veg plot because it keeps the cats off. Since we stopped watering them they are brown stalks.

The path way looks good

It’s become too hot for me to sit in the garden so this is the spot I sit in at the end of the day when it has cooled down and this is my view from my garden chair.

The anemones look great

Anemones just need leaving to their own devises and once they have matured they can withstand the harshest winter and the hottest summer and always do just fine.

The hibiscus looks great

Hibiscus is another plant that once established can also withstand the coldest of winters and the coolest or hottest of summers equally.

The hollyhock has started to flower at last

We put this one in this year as we had lost the ones we planted in the past. The leaves developed orange dots as if it was diseased. I kept cutting the worse ones off and now it has surprised us by finally flowering. The flowers are beautiful and it has a lot more to open yet. How long we will keep it is another question.

There are pockets of the garden that are either brown/yellow (autumnal looking) or bleached. The hostas are completely bleached but there are parts of the garden that still look good. The way I look at it is that it will all come back next year.

You can never tell in this country what sort of summer we will get and next year could be completely different. The garden will always return and evolve year after year so there is no point worrying about it. Like a lawn it will always come back.

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Speckles lays an egg

Yesterday Speckles laid an egg in the high nest box. This nest box is currently the favourite with the bigger girls. She hasn’t laid for two months and this is the first time she has ever come into lay after her moult.

I wonder if it is because she laid so few eggs earlier in the year that she has come back into lay again. This has been such a surprise.

Speckles egg in the middle

On the left is Dandelion’s tiny egg and next is cinnamon’s which is really large for her tiny size. In the middle is Speckles, long, white, egg. Next is Ebony’s darker egg and Flame’s egg is on the right.

This is all the laying girls’ eggs as the chicks are too young yet. I love that I can still tell which girls’ egg is which as they are all so different.

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It’s all about eggs at the moment

When I added some new girls to the flock I hadn’t expected to get an influx of eggs, nor a nest box problem, which I think we have now solved.

After eating our own eggs for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday we still have a full egg roller for the first time in ages.

A full egg roller

I love all the different sizes. The tiny one in the middle is Dandelion’s egg. We are now picking out two medium sized eggs each as in Cinnamon’s eggs or one large and one small one each as in a game girls’ and Dandelion’s egg.

I put the bigger eggs in a pan and when they are almost ready I add the tiny eggs. Perfect eggs of assorted sizes!

For the last couple of days Speckles has been have a twirl round the nest box. I thought it was just curiosity because of the extra shavings that I have added.

This morning when I went out to the girls she was missing. I checked the run, the nest box on the patio area and the chicken shed. There was only one other place she could be. Sure enough she was in the new higher nest box.

It’s Speckles turn in the high nest box

Look at her red comb and wattles. It looks as if she is coming back into lay after a two month break. Her comb had shrunk and gone pale and she was moulting. She has now finished her moult and I wonder if she is about to start laying again. This has never happened before.

She came out a little later without laying an egg but Speckles often needs to practise first and then lays the next day. It will be interesting to see if she lays tomorrow.

Speckles seems to have grown in confidence with the realisation that she is now, for the first time ever, top girl. She is another girl, like Emerald before her, that has risen from the bottom to the top.

When Ebony came in Speckles took no notice of her. When Flame came in Speckles took no notice of her either but Ebony soon showed Flame that she was below her in the pecking order. Over the last couple of days Speckles has been chasing Flame around the run a bit.

It is as if she has suddenly realised her new status and is showing that she is now top girl. It is interesting to watch the dynamics of the flock altering. It is also unexpected to have an abundance of lovely eggs.

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Ebony and Flame both lay an egg on the same day

I think we have finally sorted out the egg laying requirements. It seems that it was both height and depth that the new girls wanted.

I topped up both nest boxes with a really deep layer of shavings and the same for the corners of the chicken shed. Monday morning Ebony went into the high nest box and this time she settled straight away.

Flame stood in the run and shouted her head off. We knew the neighbours would be at work by now so we decided not to stress about it. As it happened Flame stopped after a short while so hopefully this will settle down. We have to remember that the new girls have only been with us for a week.

Ebony in the high nest box

It wasn’t long before Ebony had got her egg laid.

In the afternoon I was surprised that Flame went into the high nest box. She had already laid the day before.

Once again Ebony started shouting her head off but once again as the neighbours were at work we decided to leave her too it. This time she soon stopped so maybe things are finally settling down.

A bit later I checked again and Flame was back out in the run. She had laid another egg so that’s two days in a row. I think we are finally getting the egg laying sorted.

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