We have a hamburg at last

I have been waiting for a hamburg since last year. The breeder got ninety percent cockerels last year and couldn’t part with any hens so we decided to try again this year.

This year she again got ninety percent cockerels which she said is the highest percentage she has ever had. She had only one hen of five months that she could let me have.

As I have now discovered how much easier it is to add a single girl I was happy to take her. It was late afternoon when we got back.

She had been in a muddy run so has muddy wings and tail but I am hoping that she will soon get the hang of dust bathing and clean herself.

I put her in the run and our girls took very little notice of her. She soon explored the run and I threw out a handful of sunflower seeds which shared with our girls.

She soon found the perches and the top of the shelter. She hasn’t been used to having photos taken so it was difficult to get photos.

I wanted to stay with our tradition of a descriptive name. I considered Magpie, Harlequin and Patches but in the end we settled on the more simple name Spot.

The photos are not great as I couldn’t get too close but they give an idea of Spot.

Spot on the perch with Flame
Spot meets the girls

As dusk approached Spot followed the girls up to the patio area and discovered the food and water. I hoped she would follow the girls into the chicken shed but she didn’t know where to go. She kept looking up to see if there was any where to perch.

I stayed to see what would happen. The pop hole door closed and Spot was still outside. I tried opening the door for her but she couldn’t work out how to go in. Eventually she settled on top one of the nest boxes and I was able to pick her up.

All the girls were on the back perch so I put Spot on the side perch. She seemed really happy to be on a perch and settled straight away. I hope that once she finds her way out in the morning it will help her to know where to go the next day. If not I will put her in again until she learns to go in herself.

This morning I went out to check on the girls as soon as the pop hole had opened. Spot was standing next to the food and water so that’s a good sign. I threw out some corn and Spot shared in it without any chasing so that’s a good sign too.

I am very pleased with how well it has gone so far and I think Spot will soon settle into the flock.

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Ebony goes to a new home

Ebony hasn’t been the easiest of girls in our flock. She has always been a bit of a thug.

Ebony won’t allow any of the little girls to be near her or especially the treats. She chases them and sometimes pulls a beak full of feathers from their backs as she does so.

But the worse thing is that she will squat over the little girls, pinning them down, while wiggling her behind. It puts me in mind of a cockerel. I have never had this behaviour in our flock before and sometimes Ebony is quite brutal with the little girls.

One of her other traits is trying to peck my legs when I give out treats. I have stopped using the, protective, frying pan cover and now simply raise my foot so that if she pecks it’s the sole of my flip flop/boot.

Ebony also shouts the whole time Flame is in the nest box during the summer and she has a very loud voice when she shouts.

Ebony isn’t an easy girl to love but I have felt that it is just something we have to rub along with.

But now we know someone who had three chickens and has recently lost one. She is upset that she has been left with only two. She is the landlady of our local pub and my husband has been looking after the pub garden since mid summer.

He asked her if she would like to take Ebony and she said that she would love to. We have said that we will take her back if it doesn’t work out. Ebony should go from being top girl in our flock to bottom girl in her flock which should stop her being a thug.

My husband will be able to keep an eye on her and I will be able to visit her. It seems like a win win situation.

I am still hoping to get a couple of Hamburgs at the end of the year and integrating them will be much easier without Ebony. I think this move will make for a happier flock and the landlady of the pub will be happy to have three girls again.

Moving Day

We took Ebony to her new home and stayed for half an hour to see how it went. We opened the cat box and Ebony went quickly out into the run. At first the two girls and Ebony took no notice of each other at all.

A few times the light coloured girl gave Ebony a quick chase to show that she was top girl. The blue coloured girl stayed well out of the way. It looks like Ebony is going to be middle girl in this flock. The two girls have names but I can’t remember the bluebell’s name so will just refer to them by colour for now.

Ebony with her new flock mate
Ebony settling in

I couldn’t get the bluebell in the photo as she was staying out of the way. The landlady is going to stay in touch by text. We have said that if it doesn’t work out we will take Ebony back but after half an hour we all agreed that it was going really well.

K texted me a couple of times with photos of Ebony later that afternoon and said that all was still going well. She checked that Ebony found her way to bed at dusk. After the first night Ebony should get the hang of where to go.

K texted again in the morning and said all is still good and Ebony has been eating and had a treat of meal worms.

K has said that I can visit any time which I will be doing and we will be keeping in touch. I am optimistic that it is going to work out well.

One week later

We have kept in touch most days and we visited a week later. Everything has gone well.

Ebony has settled in
K’s bluebell is moulting

Ebony is doing all the usual chicken things and there is no bullying.

It is lovely when I give out treats to our flock to see all the girls share them together. Before the little girls had to wait until Ebony had moved away before they could have a chance.

Ebony is on an equal footing in this flock and the three of them share the treats together. Ebony is eating , scratching and perching with her flock mates at dusk. She also had a dust bath while we visited.

It has all worked out very well.

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Allotment flowers and our fruit plot is completed

Yesterday my husband went to the allotment to collect the remaining strawberry plants that he had potted up from the runners and to dig out three more raspberry plants now that we have taken out our runner beans.

He surprised me with a huge bunch of flowers. They were the flowers from the jerusalem artichokes. They had been blown over by the wind plus we don’t them to drop their seed but it seemed a shame to waste them. They filled two vases and look wonderful.

A large vase of artichoke flowers
A smaller vase of artichoke flowers
A lovely splash of colour

I planted the strawberry plants and raspberry canes in what is now our fruit plot.

Completed strawberry patch

Completed row of raspberry canes
Completed fruit patch

We now have strawberries one side and raspberries on the other side with an asparagus plant at the patio end of each side. The fruit plot will remain all year round and as it matures should yield a good crop of fruit and we will still have plenty of veg from our two shared allotment plots.

I am looking forward to seeing this plot mature and to having lots of lovely fruit in the future.

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The worse serama moult we have ever had

Smoke went broody a few days after Sugar. With no girls laying I am keeping everything closed up and just opening the chicken shed at bedtime and closing it again in the morning.

Seramas usually moult a bit at a time but this year they are having a full moult. I put it down to having such a cold and cloudy August. They stopped laying at the end of August whereas they usually continue to lay through September and sometimes October.

I think this triggered the moult. I have never picked up so many serama feathers from the run including some longer tail and wing feathers. Salmon currently has no tail. I have never had a serama with no tail before. This usually only happens to the bigger girls.

Sugar and Smoke are the least tattered and I think this is because of the constant broody spells then laying again which means they have moulted more gradually although Smoke is missing her middle tail feathers.

A tail less Salmon

They look the untidiest flock of seramas we have ever had. It seems to be taking ages too but I am still hoping that they will all be fully feathered before the cold weather arrives.

It will be good to see them with their lovely new feathers in place.

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Sugar is broody again

Sugar has now set the record by going broody after just six eggs in eight days. The serial broodies usually lay for two weeks so one week laying is ridiculous!

Smoke has laid eleven eggs in sixteen days so is probably going to go broody soon and in fact has laid for a few days longer than she sometimes does.

They had both been laying for two days then miss a day then two days again. Because of this I closed the nest boxes and blocked the pop hole yesterday as it was Smoke’s day to miss a day.

This then means that Smoke will lay first thing in the morning after her missed day. Therefore I closed the nest boxes and pop hole just leaving Smoke’s favourite nest box open in the hope that sugar wouldn’t go in while Smoke was in there.

Sugar settled near by the bottom of the ramp to the nest box that Smoke was in. I checked back just as Smoke had laid so closed the nest box before Sugar could go in.

Broody Sugar

My plan is that once Smoke goes broody too I will keep everything closed. I would really rather not have these two sitting in nest boxes when it’s getting colder. I think they would be better moving around in the run.

It’s looking like it’s time to start buying eggs!

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Moulting continues

On the last three mornings I have found a heap of feathers under Flame’s roost spot. Flame doesn’t look too bad considering how many feathers she is dropping. I think her new feathers have been quietly coming in underneath.

Feathers under Flame’s roost spot

Flame has dropped her tail feathers but instead of the, tail less, look that she has sported in the past she has a short tail where the new feathers are already in place.

Flame with her new tail feathers growing in

All the little girls are looking a bit tattered. Salmon, Spangle and Shadow have pins on their head and Salmon and Shadow have pins on their neck too. At the moment Shadow is looking the most tatty.

Shadow is looking tatty

It will be good to have the girls fully feathered before winter. At the moment only Smoke and Sugar are still laying and they are the least tattered. I think their periods of broodiness cause them to moult in more gradual stages and also to continue laying later in the year.

The corn cobs at the allotment are coming to an end and yesterday I gave the girls some that were not good enough for us.

Some corn cobs for the girls

The girls love the corn cobs. As usual nothing from the allotment is wasted when we have chickens to hoover up anything that we don’t eat.

The girls should be looking pristine again very soon and will be ready for winter.

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Egg laying and a slow worm on the path

I think both bigger girls have finished laying for this season. Flame definitely has as she last laid a week ago. Last year she stopped half way through November.

Ebony laid her last egg three days ago but had been laying every other day so I am less certain with her as yet. Last year she stopped half way through October.

It hasn’t been such a good summer this year which is probably why they have stopped earlier.

Smoke on the other hand started laying again a week ago after three weeks of not laying and has now laid four eggs since then.

Sugar has laid her first egg today after four weeks of not laying. I suspected that as Sugar has turned out to be a serial broody like Smoke that she would also continue to lay through winter between broody spells.

We have switched from only the two bigger girls laying to two little girls laying. At least Smoke and Sugar are both laying together so we will still get a few eggs.

Yesterday I saw a slow worm on the path. It was small and thin so I think it is one of this year’s young ones. It stayed long enough for me to get my camera.

Slow worm on the path
With my fingers to show it’s size

I love the fact that we see some young ones every year. They are breeding and thriving in our garden.

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Still moulting

I am finding heaps of, little girl, feathers in the chicken shed each morning and in the run especially in the dust bath holes. Yet the little girls don’t actually look much different.

But there is a change in them when they are not involved in egg laying. They hang out together in a tight group either dust bathing or preening. They seem to like to hang out under the metal table.

The little girls like to hang out together under the metal table

Another thing I have noticed is that Shadow and Sugar have been having little spats. They raise their ruffs and run at each other breast to breast.

This is surprising considering how attached to each other they were when they were chicks. Shadow wins these little spats and Sugar is firmly at the bottom of the pecking order.

The order is Smoke at the top then Salmon, next Spangle, then Shadow and Sugar at the bottom. I have come to realise that even the closest of girls have to make sure that the pecking order is in place. The first time I was surprised at a pair of inseparable girls doing this was with Amber and Honey.

Ebony is top girl. Flame is mostly in second place but does allow Smoke to get the better of her sometimes.

Flame and Ebony are the only girls laying, usually every other day. They are dropping a few feathers but not really moulting at the moment.

Flame with a few feathers sticking out each side of her
Ebony also with just a few tatty feathers

I think the two bigger girls have been moulting in partial stages. They did a partial moult after they each had a broody spell and since then just a few feathers at a time. This is better than a complete moult in one go. It will be interesting to see if they are done now if they have more to come.

I also wonder how much longer they will lay. Any eggs are a bonus at the moment.

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We have had the worst August that I can remember. It has been cloudy and cold the for the whole month with drizzle some days and no sun at all.

This weather seems to have triggered an early end to eggs and an early moult for the seramas. They usually stop laying half way through September but all the seramas stopped laying half way through August this year.

For weeks now I have been finding feathers in the chicken shed and in the run. Salmon and Shadow are looking a bit tatty but the rest of the girls don’t look much different despite the amount of feathers I am finding.


Smoke came out of her broody spell after a week. As only Ebony and Flame are laying and both lay on the same day, every other day, I decided to break Sugar out of her broody spell. Sugar had been broody for two weeks.

I closed the nest boxes and Put Sugar in the broody crate for two nights. This was enough to break her out of it so we are once again between broodies for now.

The girls have been hanging out together in a close group with lots of preening going on.

The girls hang out together

The good thing is the girls will be through the moult before winter. I expect Smoke will lay through winter as she usually does and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sugar lays through winter too. Time will tell.

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Changing our veg plot to a fruit plot

Our veg plot at home is no longer productive. Over the years we have lived here the garden has matured. The planting surrounding the veg plot blocks out a lot of sun and the roots have invaded the plot.

This year the only veg that was successful on our garden plot were the runner beans and they are pretty much the easiest veg to grow. Also we share two allotment plots which produce an abundance of veg so we don’t really need a veg plot at home.

However our single raspberry cane produced well. Our strawberries got eaten by slugs before we got to them. We have enjoyed the strawberries and raspberries from the allotment and can never have too many unlike some of the veg which produces a glut and we end up giving a lot away.

So we have decided to change the veg plot into a fruit plot. We decided to make the right side that has one raspberry cane into a row of raspberry canes down the centre of the plot to the asparagus plant at the patio end of the plot.

We decided to continue strawberries plants on the left side from the few at the top of the plot down to the other asparagus plant at the patio end. We decided to mulch the whole plot with tree chippings which will keep weeds down, moisture in and hopefully deter the slugs.

We will be able to do all this for free. We are digging up raspberry canes from the allotment plot that have crept outside of their patch. We are potting up the strawberry runners until they root and then bringing them home.

At the allotment there is a mountain of tree chippings for people to help themselves to. Conifer chippings have just been added to the pile and we have been bringing them home in our strong log bags and adding them to our plot.

It is a work in progress. We cleared the plot apart from the runner beans as they are still producing. We will wait until they are over then remove them and add another three raspberry canes in their place.

We will gradually keep adding strawberry plants until they fill their half of the plot.

The left half of the plot is prepared with mulch
Looking in the other direction
The right half is mulched and some raspberry canes planted
The runner beans are still coming so they will stay until they are over
The first batch of strawberry plants are in
The fruit plot so far

The strawberry plants are small and look a bit lost but they will soon grow. We like the fact that the plot will be perennial rather than annual.

The raspberry canes and strawberry plants will mature along with the two asparagus plants and it should be a great plot in the future.

Sometimes things need to evolve in a garden and we love the idea of having our own fruit patch. It will also be good not to have it empty in winter.

When the runner beans are removed and the plot is filled with raspberry canes and strawberry plants I will do an update with more photos.

For now it is a work in progress but we are happy with the way it is coming on and it has all been for free which is a bonus.

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