Further efforts to change the bedtime habit

My efforts so far to change the bedtime habit haven’t worked. I have been lifting the two bigger girls from the perch over the hatch every evening at half past seven and putting them in. At least I lift one and the other just follows. I have been alternating each evening. I pick up Emerald one evening and Speckles follows and then pick up Speckles the next evening and Emerald follows.

I thought that as they don’t like being picked up it might encourage them to go in by themselves. They don’t particularly like being picked up but it isn’t enough to stop them perching outside at bedtime.

I need to break this habit as there are a few occasions coming up when we will be away overnight. If they perch outside and it rains in the night they will get wet. It’s time to have a change of strategy.

Last night I blocked the favourite perch over the hatch. This time I put a brush either side of the hatch door so that none of the perch was exposed. I then covered the second favourite perch on the other side of the hatch with a sheet of tarpaulin.

I wondered if they would then perch at the bottom of the run above the ladder but I thought I would start with the two favourite bedtime perches and see what happened.

I went out at half past seven and was really pleased to see that it had worked and all the girls were in.

The favourite bedtime perch is completely blocked

The second favourite bedtime perch is also blocked

It worked and the two bigger girls went in the shed at at bedtime

Hurrah! I plan to leave the two perches blocked for a week to see if this breaks the habit. The girls don’t use those perches during the day as they prefer the perches over the ladders which get the sun if there is any.

Maybe this is one problem solved but I will see what happens tonight before I get too carried away. I am hopeful.

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Freckles is broody and Speckles finally lays again

I had a feeling that Freckles was about to go broody. After laying her last two eggs she lingered in the nest box. When I lifted her out she accepted it and didn’t return to the nest box but she was making the broody sound – chuf chuf, chuf chuf.

This morning she went into the nest box and when I lifted the lid her tail rose up in a fan over her back. I now know this is a serama sign for  broody. When I first saw Freckles do this last year I had no idea what it meant and was quite concerned.  I have since gained experience with seramas and this is a sure broody sign.

Freckles is broody

I lift Freckles out of the nest box

This is another sure sign. When I lift her out she remains in the same position. I took her to the run and encouraged her to move off.

This is a shame as she is the best layer and we only have two girls laying. This means Freckles will now take a break from laying and that will leave Cinnamon as our only egg laying girl.

Freckles has laid twenty four eggs in the last month and a half and Cinnamon has laid nineteen eggs in the same time.

Dandelion continues to look brighter but still hasn’t laid an egg and is no longer going to the nest box so maybe it was a false alarm. Speckles, Emerald and Dandelion have now all had spells in the nest box with no eggs arriving.

I am continuing with the tylan to be on the safe side as I not really sure what is going on with Dandelion. Tomorrow will be day five of the tylan.

The next time I checked on the girls Speckles was in the nest box.

Speckles is back in the nest box

Emerald soon comes to watch over her

These two are such firm friends that one can’t do anything without the other being there too. Speckles came out a little later without laying once again. She is obviously feeling that she should be laying.

When I next checked Speckles was settled in the other nest box and was purring to herself. That sounded like an egg was imminent.

Speckles is settled in the other nest box

You can just see Emerald’s leg at the ramp. She is still keeping a vigil over Speckles.

The next time I went up to check Speckles was back out in the run and I lifted the nest box lid with baited breath. Yes, at last their was her egg.

Speckles egg on the left and freckles egg on the right

I felt so pleased, not because of the egg so much but because it means she is okay. I had started wondering if there was something adrift with her. Oh well one girl stops laying and another girls starts!

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More non egg laying activities

Dandelion has looked a bit brighter today and hasn’t gone to the nest box at all. Freckles and Cinnamon both laid their egg.

Speckles sat in the nest box with a little heap of pine shavings on her back while Emerald kept her company.

Speckles is in the nest box with Emerald keeping her company

Emerald greets me

Later they were back in the run and I checked the nest box. Still no egg. They must think they should be laying but it’s just not happening. It’s all a bit weird.

A few days ago we saw the first baby slow worm of the year in the same spot as last year.

Our first baby slow worm of the year

My thumb for a size comparison

It is good to know that they are still breeding in our garden.

At the end of the day Dandelion hadn’t visited the nest box or laid her egg (she used to lay it in the run sometimes) but she seemed a bit brighter so we will just have to wait to see how she goes.

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Almost egg laying

Yesterday morning Dandelion seemed brighter first thing and she joined in with the morning sunflower seeds and had some mash. I decided not to bring her into the bathroom again as she was eating okay.

As the morning went on she started to look poorly again. By lunch time she had settled back in the nest box so I now think this is an egg related issue.

Emerald also sat in the nest box for a little while with a heap of pine shavings on her back. By the time I went back with my camera she had left the nest box and there was no egg.

Emerald looking in the nest box

Dandelion in the nest box again

Emerald must be feeling as if she wants to lay. She is very late this year and she only she has a short egg laying season. She usually lays from the beginning of March to the beginning of May so she is already half way through her laying season. I was beginning to think that perhaps she had stopped laying due to her age but you never know.

Speckles is still doing sloppy poops and still not laying. She laid five eggs in ten days at the beginning of March and hasn’t laid since. She is still obsessed with drinking rain drips from the weld mesh and I am guessing that until the weather changes she will continue like this. Unfortunately we are forecast another week of rain.

Speckles looks fine in every other way and still has a huge, red, comb so I am not going to worry too much. There is nothing I can do anyway.

We have never had so few eggs at this time of year. Apricot never started to lay and Dandelion is obviously struggling to start. Emerald and Speckles have always laid at this time of year before but as long as they are okay I am not bothered about that. It is more of a problem that Dandelion is having such a struggle to lay.

After several hours in the nest box Dandelion gave up once more without laying. I feel so helpless as there is nothing I can do to help her lay. I gave her some chopped grape to keep her strength up and once more dripped some tylan water into her beak as I hadn’t seen her drink.

There is nothing more I can do to help her but just wait to see if she will eventually get her egg laid.

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As always it seems to go from one thing to another

The day we lost Apricot, Dandelion started to look really poorly. She didn’t even come for the bedtime corn which I knew was a bad sign. She went into the chicken shed to her usual spot but without Apricot this meant she was on her own.

I didn’t like to think of her on her own so I lifted her across to the perch on the left next to Cinnamon and Freckles.

Dandelion looks poorly

My first thought was that she ready to lay again and struggling with a soft shelled egg as I have seen this with her last year. Her face is so red that I thought this was probably what the problem was and that once she had laid she would bounce back again.

However the next morning she showed no interest in the morning sunflower hearts. She didn’t appear to be eating or drinking. I decided to bring her in, in the cat box and try to tempt her with some mash, sunflower hearts and chopped grape.

Dandelion has always disliked competition and has always been last to the treats so I thought if I separated her I could tempt her to eat.

Dandelion in the cat box

Dandelion attempted to eat some grape. She dropped a few bits but managed to eat one bit. She then stood in the food dish as she attempted to find a way out of the cat box. She obviously didn’t want to be in there.

I decided to let her have free range of the bathroom. I lifted the rug and everything from the floor and put her dishes in front of her. She started to eat from the dish.

At this point I could hear a faint whisper of a wheeze in her breathing as she ate and detected a slight sweet smell from her. Suddenly I thought that maybe this wasn’t an egg problem but the dreaded mycoplasma again.

Dandelion free ranges in the bathroom

Stress can make it resurface and I think perhaps perching next to Apricot and seeing her fall from the perch and die would have given her a shock.

I decided to start back on the tylan in the water and in dishes of mash. If I am wrong there will be no harm done but if I am right it may save Dandelion and protect the rest of the girls.

I found that if I dropped bits of mash, seeds and grape in front of Dandelion she would eat them. This seemed to give her her strength back. I knew there was a chance she wouldn’t drink the water any time soon so I decided to give her start on it by using a syringe to drip some of the tylan water into her beak.

Once she had had food and water she seemed to perk up and I thought she would probably be happier back with the flock.

I put her back in the run and she looked brighter than she had done and her flock mates immediately  surrounded her.

Dandelion looks brighter back with her flock mates

I decided to give her some more tylan water in the afternoon and hopefully that would be enough to start her eating and drinking again.

After losing Apricot I can’t bear to think of losing another girl so soon. Having got Dandelion through the awful winter I can’t give up on her now.

Later in the afternoon we checked on her again and she was in the nest box. Maybe I was right first time after all.

Dandelion is in a nest box

Cinnamon is also in a nest box

It was good to see Cinnamon in the nest box as she hasn’t laid for a week and I was beginning to wonder why she had stopped. Freckles continues to lay every other day.

Cinnamon soon laid her egg and Dandelion sat in the nest box for a very long time. Eventually she came out shouting and I checked to find that there was no egg. She has done this in the past and may lay her egg tomorrow. She may even lay it in the run as this is what was happening last year.

What an up and down day! I will continue to treat with tylan for five days just to be on the safe side and at the very least it protects the girls.

By the end of the day Dandelion looked poorly again. She went to her usual roost spot and once again I moved her next to Cinnamon and Freckles. I had to put the two bigger girls in.

In the morning I will bring Dandelion into the bathroom again to make sure she gets some food including chopped grape to give her a boost. I hope this will keep her strength up so that she can get her egg laid. We will have to see what tomorrow brings.

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We have lost Apricot

I had an awful shock yesterday morning to find that Apricot had died overnight. I went into the run first thing and straight away noticed that Apricot was missing. I assumed that she might be laying her first egg of the year.

I opened the chicken shed and found her laying in front of the perch she roosts on. There was no poop under her roost spot so it looks like she died soon after going in. When I checked the girls last night and got Emerald and Speckles to go in Apricot was perched next to Dandelion in her usual spot and looked perfectly normal.

This was how I found Apricot in the morning

There is one of her wing feathers directly under her roost spot and she is in front of the perch. I wonder if her feather came out as she fell. I picked her up and examined her and could find nothing that looked wrong. I checked her vent in case she had an egg stuck but it looked normal. She hasn’t been going in the nest box at all so I don’t think she was about to lay.

It’s such a mystery as she was absolutely fine the day before. She was running around and eating the mash and taking spinach from my fingers. Her face and comb were red and she was bright as a button. You can see the photos of her on the previous post.

I am so upset as she was our favourite. She was so sweet, so friendly and so pretty. After the disappointment of having to wait for new girls it’s a bitter blow to lose one of our existing girls and our only remaining silky girl at that.

It is so odd because Apricot and Cinnamon were the only two little girls not to seem effected by the mycoplasma. The day before my husband had remarked how Apricot cracks us up with her speedy run. She would run with her head down and wings out at full speed. I was only saying that day how sweet she was and how pretty too.

We had only had her a year and she was only just under a year and a half old. I cried when I first saw her and struggled to hold the tears back all day.

We buried her in the chicken’s strip next to Rusty and Amber. The exact same thing happened to Amber but at least she was four years old. Oddly enough that was at the same time of year three years ago.

I lifted the dandelions from the chicken’s strip. My husband dug a very deep hole and I wrapped Apricot in paper and put her in then replanted the dandelions over the top of her. My husband made a wooden cross to mark the spot. I am afraid we now have a chicken graveyard going on here.

Apricot is laid to rest next to her flock mates

Her spot is on the left with the newest cross. Freckles appears to be watching over her.

I wanted to do a tribute to her with photos from her too short time with us. She was such a special girl.

Apricot as a chick a year ago

The three amigos, they came in together

Apricot’s eggs were the size and shape of a strawberry

Apricot had a habit of having a dust bath before bedtime

Apricot was a fluff ball

Apricot was so pretty

Apricot a few days ago

Good bye my sweet little girl. You were such a cutie. I have such a lump in my throat at the moment.

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I would like some new girls

Yesterday I gave the girls some mash as change for them and added some of the poultry zest.

Some mash for the girls

I wanted a group photo to go with my post about planning for new girls but Emerald moved out of shot just as I took this and the previous shot with her in was blurred.

Later in the afternoon the flock were perched together so I tried again.

The little girls perch on the ladder

While the bigger girls perch on the branch perch beside the ladder

I have held back from calling my breeder until the weather got warmer. The flock has long since stopped the occasional sneezing after the mycoplasma and they all look healthy with good, red, faces and combs.

I knew I couldn’t add new girls during such awful winter conditions and have waited for the warmer temperatures to arrive. At last I felt that the time was right.

I was hoping that my breeder would have some older girls that I could add to the flock straight away. I was disappointed. He only has breeding stock left and no girls for sale but the good news is that he is ready to start breeding again and has just set up his trios and his incubator.

He said to call him again in a months time and see how it is going. I am so disappointed because it means that I will have quite a wait but I can’t have girls if he hasn’t got any so I will just have to be patient.

It is probably going to be three months wait at best. It will take a week to gather a clutch of eggs and three weeks until they hatch. It will then be a couple of months more before they are old enough to sex and to let them move on.

It looks like it will probably be August at the earliest and that is if everything is successful. He has been breeding for many years though so he knows what he is doing. I will just have to be patient and wait. I have marked it in our diary to call him again in a months time. I can’t wait for new girls but of course I will have too!

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More garden bargains

Yesterday I called in to our local D.I.Y. shop to see is they had any more bargain bulbs. I am so glad I did as I bought two pots of tulips for three pounds. Another garden bargain.

Yellow tulips

These open wide during the day and close in the evening.

Closed tulips at the end of the day

Red tulips

These are yet to open but the buds are showing the promise of what is to come.

I am really enjoying adding spring colour to the garden and making the most of a few days without rain!

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Time to get tough at bedtime

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day. After our evening meal I checked on the girls and the little girls were in the chicken shed but Emerald and Speckles were perched above the hatch as usual.

I decided that as it was still light and bright that maybe the little girls were going in a bit early. I decided to do an experiment. I decided to go back at dusk and see if the two bigger girls would put themselves to bed if I left them too it.

They didn’t. They were still perched above the hatch and the pop hole was closed!

Emerald and Speckles at eight o’clock

The pop hole is closed

I had to open the door and let them in. Now that I know that they definitely won’t go in without me telling them to I need to be a bit more brutal.

From tonight I am starting a new regime. Instead of telling them to go in I am going to silently pick them up and put them in. Maybe they will decide that they don’t like this and start going in before this happens.

I don’t know if it will work but I have to try to break this habit. In August we have a trip planned to a friend’s birthday get together. It involves an overnight stay. I would like to be able to depend on the girls going in. Even in August it could rain overnight and the girls would get wet if they perched over the hatch.

I don’t know if I can break this habit but I am going to try. Tonight we start with the new, tougher, regime!

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Bargain hanging baskets

We had a lovely day of sunshine today. It felt like spring after many days of rain. It’s apparently a small reprieve as the rain is due back again at the weekend.

We decided to visit a nursery near us. They only open at certain times of the year and they specialise in hanging baskets, both summer baskets at this time of year, and winter baskets in autumn.

I was amazed at what good value their baskets were. We bought two at seven pounds fifty each.

Hanging basket at the front of the house

Hanging basket at the back of the house

I put the one I liked the best at the back as that’s where we will see it the most. I liked the unusual combination of plants with the pom pom daisies and tulips including a snake’s head tulip.  The great thing about these baskets is that all the plants can go into the garden when the basket is finished.

It is cheering to see a splash colour and to feel the sun for a change.

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