Dandelion’s egg laying

Yesterday Dandelion laid her sixth egg. I spotted it out in the furthest part of the run when I went in to the chickens first thing in the morning. She has yet to lay one in a nest box.

She just doesn’t seem to know that she has laid because shortly after this she went into the chicken shed. She stood there shouting.

Dandelion shouting in the chicken shed

Dandelion has a really loud, high pitched, shout. I could hear her while she was inside the shed and I was indoors. I don’t know why she was shouting and not going in the cat box. I had changed the pine shavings in the cat box that morning and wondered if the fresh shavings were putting her off.

Eventually she did settle in the cat box and all was quiet.

Dandelion settles in the cat box

But not for long. Emerald decided she was ready to lay her egg and chased Dandelion out of the cat box.

Emerald settles in the cat box

Since I have put the cat box in here both Emerald and Speckles have laid every egg here. Dandelion started shouting again and even giving her some corn to distract her only stopped her shouting while she ate the corn. If only I could explain to her that she had already laid her egg and there was no need for any of this.

Then it went quiet and I went to see what was going on.

Dandelion settles in the right hand nest box

Phew, Dandelion had decided to settle in the nest box instead. This is actually good news because it means that when the cat box is occupied she will now perhaps settle for a nest box.

Next time I checked Emerald’s egg was in the cat box and Dandelion was back in the run and quiet again. She must have decided her job was done.

Cinnamon on the other hand prefers the nest boxes but Peaches and Barley do everything they can to keep her out of the nest boxes which is maddening. The day before they were chasing her from the nest boxes and we had to go out so had to leave her to it.

When we returned Cinnamon’s, longer shaped egg, was in the cat box. She must have given up on the nest boxes. This is also good news because it means that when she is being chased from the nest box she will probably go to the cat box.

Egg laying seems to cause such drama at the moment. We are eating lots of lovely eggs though.

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Getting back to one feeding station

We have now had the three amigos for three months. It took a month to get them integrated which is the longest integration yet. Now after two months of being fully integrated I decided that the last stage needed completing.

I decided it’s time to remove the extra feeding station from the run and just have the patio area as the feeding station, which is how it has always been, before the arrival of the three amigos.

The three amigos have to cross the patio at bedtime and now have to come to the patio to get to the nest boxes, apart from Apricot, who isn’t laying yet. Sometimes when the bigger girls are out in the run they come to the patio for a peck at the afternoon apple.

It’s not ideal having a food station in the run. When it rains, it gets wet. Some food gets flicked into the dirt and I have to pick it up along with some of the soil. When I lifted the tiles that the dishes were on there was mould underneath which I removed.

It is time to get the three amigos used to coming to the patio for food and water. There are still the two water bottle above the ladders for back up water. There are two waters on the patio and two food dishes plus I added a dish of mash too.

I worry about whether the three amigos will get enough food but I have to move this on sometime. Surely they will come to the patio rather than go hungry. I will monitor the poop under their roost spots to check that they are eating enough as well as monitoring how often they come to the patio.

The patio is the feeding station

There is water and food on each side of the patio plus today a dish of mash in the middle as well one on one of the wooden blocks out in the run as a little back up for the first day of the new regime.

Proof that the three amigos do come to the patio

We have seen the three amigos on the patio when the other girls are out in the run so hopefully they will soon get used to having to come here for food.

This is the last step into being fully integrated and I am hopeful that the three amigos will soon get used to this.

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Spring greens and an egg in the run

I give the girls spinach every day but I am missing the big bags of greens I used to get from my friend Jackie’s allotment. Now that Jackie has moved away I don’t have access to the abundance of allotment greens any longer.

I decided to give the girls spring cabbage as well as spinach so that they have greens to peck at that last longer.

Spring greens for the girls

I heard the sound of a little girl’s, egg laying, shout so went to check.

Dandelion’s egg

There among the greens was Dandelion’s egg. This is Dandelion’s fifth egg and she has yet to get an egg in the nest box. Her eggs now have good, solid, shells and they are the smallest, palest shelled, eggs of the little girls.

She just doesn’t seem to be aware of when her egg is about to arrive. I imagine she was having some greens when out it dropped.

At least she isn’t having a problem with laying now that her eggs have good shells. I guess in time she will get used to the feeling of when an egg is coming. I am sure that one day she will actually lay one in a nest box.

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The cat box is becoming a favourite nest box

Yesterday Freckles was ready to lay her egg and had decided that she too liked the idea of the cat box. Speckles and Peaches followed her into the chicken shed.

Peaches tries out the cat box but she is just being nosy

Freckles goes into the cat box

Freckles came back out and Speckles went straight in and sat down.

Speckles settles into the cat box

Freckles stands outside the cat box and shouts

Freckles behaved the same as Dandelion a few days earlier. She stood outside the cat box shouting. I had to go out on my deliveries so decided that she would have to sort it out. She could either wait for Speckles to come out or she could go in with her. Rusty and Freckles don’t seem to mind sharing a nest box with the bigger girls.

I knew that Cinnamon wanted to lay too as she was coming up to the patio and she has settled into laying every other day so was due to lay.

On my return I went to check on the girls. To my surprise Speckles was still in the cat box and Freckles was out in the run. Speckles then came out of the cat box and there was Freckles egg. It seemed that Speckles didn’t want to lay after all (she had laid the day before) and Freckles must have shared the cat box to lay her egg.

I checked the right hand nest box and there was Cinnamon’s egg, longer and slimmer in shape than Freckles and Rusty’s. Later in the day Rusty also laid her egg in the right hand nest box. This was the first day of getting three, little girl’s, eggs.

So far the cat box has been used by Speckles, Emerald, Dandelion and Freckles. That’s half of the girls that are laying. It seems a popular nest box. I wonder if the novelty will wear off or if it will remain popular. It is darker and more private, being in the shed.

I think using the cat box as an extra nest box has proved to be a success.

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Barley has a problem

A couple of evenings ago there were a couple of runny, very black, splats on the patio. I wasn’t sure who they were coming from.

There have been black slpats in the chicken shed overnight and in the run over the last few days.

Yesterday I saw that Barley had a very mucky bottom. She was the obviously the culprit. Her feathers were streaked in black poop and she was constantly pecking at it. It was obviously really annoying her.

Barley has a mucky bottom

It is really annoying her

In the past Peaches has had a mucky bottom and I managed to pick her up and clean her. I decided to do the same with Barley but she cottoned on that I was trying to pick her up and she wasn’t having any of that.

Peaches and Barley are the most speedy and the most difficult to pick up of all my girls.

I decided to leave it until bedtime. Once she was on the perch she was easy to pick up. Once I had picked her up she was as good as gold and didn’t move at all while I dealt with the problem. I sponged her with warm water with a little washing up liquid added. Once I had all the poop out I dried her feathers with a soft cloth. I dried her as thoroughly as I could and popped her back on her perch.

This is how she looked in the morning.

Barley has a fluffy bottom once more

That has got to feel better.

I googled black, sloppy, chicken poop and the results said that if the hen looks fine and well and is eating then it’s nothing to worry about and could  be due to something she has eaten. I had given melon as the lunch time treat for a few days so have decided to lay off of the melon for a while.

It is good to see her with a fluffy bottom once more. If only all problems were so easy to resolve.

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Here we go again

My most hated problem is back. Speckles is being plucked. I delayed mentioning this because it has taken a while for us to catch the culprits. It seems that Peaches and Barley are methodically plucking her.

The worst thing is that it’s not just her bottom but it’s all over. I posted a while back that she had pins on her bottom and was nearly fully feathered again. Soon after that post we noticed that those pins had disappeared and they have since started to come through again and have been pulled again.

I then noticed some feathers missing from her head. After that feathers were missing from her back. Next feathers were missing from her throat. Over the last few days more feathers have gone from her head leaving her bald on the left side of her head.

Speckles has a bare bottom once more

She is missing feathers from the right side of her head

The left side of her head is bare of feathers

She is missing neck feathers and some from her back too

She has a bare neck but it can only be seen when she lifts her head up and she has a triangular patch of missing feathers from her back but they can only be noticed from certain angles.

The back of her head is missing feathers

She spends a lot of time sitting in a corner looking sad

She spends time in corners or on top of the chicken shelter. I think she tries to keep herself out of the way but I have seen Peaches go up to her in the corner and pick at her head.

Last year I re homed Butterscotch with Moira at Whitehouse farm because she was getting her head plucked whenever she was broody and I didn’t feel I could part with Peaches and Barley who I have had since they were chicks. I hoped that removing Butterscotch would remove the problem.

Sadly it seems that they have just moved on to the next most vulnerable victim. Last year Butterscotch, this year Speckles. Despite the spats between Peaches and Emerald, Emerald has remained top girl and gives Peaches an occasional peck to show her. I think this means they leave Emerald alone and concentrate all their efforts on poor Speckles.

I feel absolutely torn about what to do here. I feel I can’t keep re homing girls and yet I really don’t want plucking in my flock. I am realising that Peaches and Barley will probably just keep finding a new victim to pluck and I worry about the habit spreading or the little girls getting plucked.

Peaches and Barley have also become very noisy since we have had the little girls. They spend a lot of time making mournful cries and they chase the the little girls mercilessly.

They have been with me for three years now and since they were only six weeks old. They have always been a tight pair and are inquisitive and endearing and still like to jump on my back. I am not sure if I can give them up and yet I can’t bear to see plucking and want to wipe it out from my flock.

I hate seeing Speckles head becoming more and more stripped each day. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should re home them or wait until next year and see if it happens again then. I am going to have keep thinking about this for a while. It’s just too hard a decision to make.

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It’s Emerald’s turn to lay her egg in the cat box

The cat box is becoming a popular nest box. Emerald often runs around manically before laying her egg as if she isn’t really satisfied with the nest box choices.

Yesterday she settled in to the right hand nest box for a while but then she suddenly ran out of the nest box and ran to the shed. She went straight into the cat box and started scratching around. She flicked some pine shavings on to her back and then she promptly laid her egg.

It was if as soon as her egg was imminent she decided she needed to be in the cat box.

Emerald scratches at the pine shavings

Makes a nest

And promptly lays her egg

I am not surprised that out of the original flock it’s been Speckles and Emerald that have laid in the cat box. Speckles has laid in the chicken shelter before now and Emerald often gets a bit manic before egg laying as if she can’t decide which is the best place to lay.

The rest of the girls pick a nest box and usually stick with it. Yesterday Freckles chose the right hand nest box to lay her egg.

I could tell that Cinnamon was ready to lay her next egg too. She was being very vocal and coming up to the patio area. She looked in the shed and I showed her the cat box but she quickly left the shed. She went to the right hand nest box but left a little later.

At that point we had to go out to deliver an afternoon tea. When we returned I checked the nest boxes and there was a, slightly warm, egg in the right hand nest box. It had the longer, slimmer shape of Cinnamon’s previous eggs so I concluded that she had managed without my help.

It probably helped that Emerald and Freckles had already laid and none of the other girls needed to lay so she had a bit more freedom to choose her preferred nest box.

Well done Cinnamon. It seems that she is going to be as good an egg layer as Freckles.

This morning went I went out to clean the chicken shed and there was a tiny, pale shelled, egg under the three amigos roost spot. This must be Dandelion’s egg and it is the first one with a good shell and unbroken.

She just doesn’t seem to know when her egg is coming and sits either after she has laid or before she is ready to lay it. The good news is that her egg shell has improved and I hope that in time she will get better at knowing when her egg is coming.

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I love the colour in the garden

We have loads of bluebells at this time of year and I love the view from our cabin windows where we can see the pink geraniums peeping through behind the bluebells.

We have lots of bluebells in the garden

The last tulips are almost over

Pink geraniums are behind the bluebells

The roses are in bud waiting to give us the next wave of colour. I love the garden at this time of year.

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Another nest box idea and another day of egg laying drama

I have been thinking about how to help Cinnamon safely find a nest box to lay her egg. Before trying out the crisp box idea I had another idea. I decided to put the cat box in the chicken shed.

The cat box could make a perfectly good nest box. The problem was that in the run the pine shavings got scratched out. In the chicken shed this wouldn’t matter. It seemed that Dandelion was happy with a corner of the chicken shed but Cinnamon doesn’t feel safe enough in the shed. Perhaps the cat box in the shed would help her feel safe.

The other advantage is that in the shed she would go unnoticed whereas in the nest boxes on the patio she gets chased away by the other girls. I placed the cat box in a position where it wouldn’t get pooped on.

Another nest box

Yesterday another day of egg laying drama began. First Rusty decided it was time to start laying again.

Rusty is ready to lay again

Dandelion seemed ready to lay too and I showed her the cat box but at first she settled in the same corner of the shed as before.

Dandelion sits in the corner of the shed

Meanwhile Peaches wanted to lay her egg.

Peaches decides to share the nest box with Rusty

Dandelion came out of the shed without laying an egg

Cinnamon joins Dandelion on the patio

The three amigos are getting very brave

They get to have some apple

Rusty and Peaches were now out of the nest box and their eggs were side by side.

Meanwhile Speckles seemed to have vanished. I checked all the usual places and then checked the shed. Speckles had decided she wanted to lay her egg in the cat box.

Speckles likes the new nest box

Now Dandelion decided she needed to find somewhere to lay her egg. She kept going into the shed and shouting. She was really loud for a little girl and she didn’t look happy. I put her in a nest box but she wouldn’t stay and just kept going to the shed where she would stand and shout very loudly. We could hear her from the other end of the garden.

I tried shutting her in a nest box. When I lifted the lid to check on her she jumped out. She wasn’t going to settle like Cinnamon so I didn’t feel that I could shut her in again. She returned to the shed and stood there shouting.

I decided to leave her to it and see if she could work it out. When it all went quiet I returned to check on the girls and Speckles was out in the run but Dandelion was missing.

I looked in the shed and then in the cat box.

Speckles egg was in the cat box and Dandelion was sitting beside it

I removed Speckles egg and Dandelion settled down in the cat box.

Dandelion is settled in the cat box

It seems that all the fuss was because Dandelion wanted the cat box but Speckles had got it first. These girls really are drama queens!

When I next checked on them Dandelion was perched on the ladder in the run. I peeped into the cat box and ….. nothing! All that drama and she still hadn’t laid her egg. She does seem to have a bit of a problem with her egg laying.

The good news though is that she accepted the cat box as a suitable place to try to lay an egg. I will be leaving the cat box in place so that the girls get familiar with it. I hope that Cinnamon will find it next time she wants to lay.

If the three amigos turn out to be happy laying their eggs in the cat box that will be a problem solved.

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More, egg laying, drama

There is always a bit of drama when several girls want to lay at once but it’s more difficult now that Cinnamon is laying too as she gets chased away by the other girls. Yesterday afternoon Barley, Emerald, Freckles and Cinnamon all wanted to lay at the same time.

Barley was shouting for a bit and then settled in the right hand nest box. Emerald did her manic running about and then decided she wanted the same nest box. Barley growled at her but Emerald was undeterred and settled in there with her.

Freckles was doing a lot of shouting and looking in both nest boxes but not going in. Poor Cinnamon was the same as the day she laid her first egg and was running everywhere.

The problem was every time she tried to enter the empty nest box Freckles would chase her away. She was once again going to the new shelter and going to the highest perch in the chicken shed. I decided to intervene again. I shut her in the empty nest box. I had tried shutting her in the chicken shed but she kept going to the highest perch so I decided the best thing was to shut her in the left hand nest box.

As soon as I did this she settled down. I kept checking on her and she was scratching around for a bit then settled down and methodically threw pine shavings over her back. She hasn’t got the hang of actually getting any of the shavings on her tiny back.

In the meantime Barley came out of the nest box shouting her head off. I checked and her white egg was underneath Emerald. I took it away and five minutes later I checked on Cinnamon again and she had laid her egg. She seems to lay quickly once she settles down.

I then checked on Emerald again and there was her beige egg and she came out of the nest box. Phew! Three out of four and just one to go. Freckles went into the right hand nest box. The next time I checked Freckles was out and her tiny egg was in the nest box. Four out of four done and peace returned once more. Freckles egg was eight days after her, three day broody spell, which was exactly the same as last time. Her eggs are small and are beige in colour and almost round in shape.

Today’s eggs

Freckles round egg is on the left, then Cinnamon’s, which is a bit smaller than her last one. This may be because she has laid two days running this time. Next is Barley’s white egg and then on the right Emerald’s beige egg.

The colour differences don’t show as well in photos but Peaches, Barley’s and Speckles eggs are white and Emerald’s are easy to identify as they are beige.

The problem now is how the three amigos get to a nest box without my help on the occasions when several girls want to lay at once.

We have toyed with the idea of making another nest box but if the other girls chase them from it, it won’t help. My husband suggested putting some crisp boxes in for the moment, to see if they get used, before he embarks on making wooden ones. Crisp boxes have worked in the past.

There always seems to be some drama playing out at the moment and we still have Apricot to start laying yet.

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