Perching and a new tail

Shadow and sugar love to perch and they have managed to find every single perch in the chicken run. The least used perch is the branch perch behind the hatch. The other two branch perches have the ladders leading up to them.

However the chicks have even found this perch.

Look how high we can perch
These girls can fly straight upwards
A close up to show Shadow and sugar’s feathering

After I had taken the photos of the chicks perching Speckles posed for me on top of the small shelter.

Speckles now has a full tail after her moult

Speckles was the first of the girls to moult and she is now the only one looking pristine and with a full tail. Salmon still looks a bit tatty and Spangle has only one remaining tail feather.

It will be good to get all the girls completely feathered up before winter.

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Autumn in the garden

There is now the colour of autumn in the garden as well as the chill in the air and the shortening of the days.

The berries look stunning
The sedums always give an autumnal splash of colour

Shadow and Sugar continue to be a tight pair. They have settled in really well and now mingle with the rest of the flock more than they used to. They have also come to enjoy all the treats.

The chicks peck at a bit of apple
Always together

I am very happy with the way these two lovely girls have fitted right in with the flock.

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We are now retired

Before lock-down happened we were slowing down towards eventual retirement.

Fairly soon into lock-down we made the decision that we wouldn’t resume corporate lunches but would just continue with afternoon teas and vintage crockery hire once things returned to normal if they ever do!

Then a couple of months ago my lovely husband was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration of the eyes. At this point he decided that he wouldn’t return to doing afternoon teas either but maybe we would just do the vintage crockery hire.

Another month later at his monthly check up his eyes had worsened and he had to have the first of three monthly injections in his eye. At this point we made the decision that we would be fully retired.

The positive thing is that he won’t go completely blind as he will still retain peripheral vision. The condition means a loss of the central vision. There is a dry type and wet type. The wet is caused by blood vessels leaking and can cause lasting damage. The injection turns it back to the dry type. There is nothing else that can be done.

It can worsen slowly or quickly and the scary thing is that it has been quick. This has been a shock.

My lovely eldest son is helping us with ways to move forward. He has ordered us both a new phone so that we can learn to use it together and eventually learn to voice activate it. He has sent us a Google Home which is voice activated and a Google Chromecast which will connect to the television and we will get a bigger television eventually.

We are lucky that we don’t have to worry about money. Our mortgage is paid. Because of his age my husband has his pension, he is eight years older than me, but I won’t get mine for another six years however we are now spending much less because of the current situation.

I sold most of our catering equipment on eBay before lock-down. I then put it on hold. Now that I have run out of stock my eldest son suggested I look for free stuff on Facebook Market Place. I have picked up three free lots and am selling the items on eBay. This has become my job now. I will also sell the vintage crockery but I can’t bring myself to do that just yet as it is too sad.

This has been a difficult time of adjustment for us. I feel that as I have my small group of regular followers who I consider friends that it would be good to be honest and explain our current situation. We are trying to stay positive.

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Sugar and Shadow

Sugar and Shadow are growing up so quickly and their feathering is changing slightly. Sugar has some very fine, biscuit colour brown, in amongst her white feathers now. That’s okay as she can be white sugar with a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Shadow has the grey in more of a patch pattern than a block pattern. Both girls are very pretty. It’s difficult to show the brown among the white on Sugar’s feathers as her white colour gives off a glare in the light but I managed to get some close ups while the pair were perching.

Sugar and Shadow look so sweet perched together
Close up to show how their feathering is changing
Shadow has new spiky head feathers

They are such an adorable pair of girls.

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Our home grown chillies and pickles

Three weeks ago I put our chillies on a rack to dry out. This was the photo of them back then.

Chillies drying out on a rack

To my surprise they have changed colour. This is the photo of the chillies today.

Most of the chillies have gone red

I think they look quite beautiful. As they can be used as they are or ground to a powder I am going to leave them longer to see if they dry out some more.

An update on our pickles. The gherkins which we pickled in a mixture of brine and vinegar have turned out really well and are very similar to shop bought ones.

The runner beans have been a work in progress. I cheated and used pickling vinegar for them which can be used cold and so seemed a more simple method. When we tried them about three weeks later they were lovely and crunchy but so sour and acidic that we just couldn’t eat them.

I will never use pickling vinegar again. I googled and followed instructions for if your product is too sour. I drained off the vinegar and added quite a good amount of sugar and left it for a few days to dissolve. I then added it back to the beans and we tried them. They were still so sour that they were inedible.

Next I drained them again and poured over them the vinegar from a used jar of pickled onions. I thought that this would mean that the vinegar would be right.

The only thing is, that now, the beans taste just like pickled onions. They have the same crunch and with your eyes closed you wouldn’t know you were not eating a pickled onion.

Pickled beans mark three

It isn’t really what I would call a success as I am not sure of the benefit of beans that taste like pickled onions but I guess it has been a learning curve. Drying chillies and pickling are a first for us so it’s all experimental really.

I have learned a few lessons about vinegar and I think that is the part that we need to get right. It’s a shame about the beans as we have two jars of them and I think they will take a very long time for us to eat. There again there was such an abundance of beans that it wouldn’t really matter if we didn’t eat them

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The chicks have learned to perch at bedtime

The chicks have been so fast to learn. I had decided not to help them to perch at bedtime. I thought that there was no rush to move them on to the next stage. They would have to run the risk of being pecked by the other girls and I felt they would stay warm in the shavings.

However the chicks had other ideas. It has only been nine days since I put the flock together and by the fourth night the chicks had learned to go in the chicken shed by themselves.

Only three days later I was surprised on checking them at bedtime to find that the chicks were perched next to Marmite. They have perched next to Marmite for the last three nights and I haven’t seen any pecking which is really good.

For some reason the flash on my camera doesn’t seem to be working properly so the photos are not great but it gives the gist.

Shadow and Sugar next to Marmite on the perch at bedtime
Smoke and Speckles are at the other end of the perch

Smoke is always at the opposite end of the perch. I think the other girls stay away from her as she pecks. Speckles is sometimes in the corner at the back as she is here and sometimes in the corner with Ebony and Flame on the side perch.

The girls have been in this same order for the last three nights. I am so pleased at how well the chicks are doing. I was surprised they had started perching at bedtime without my help but these two girls like to perch.

During the day they have found all the perches in the run and can often be found perched together in various spots. Well done girls!

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The chicks have learned to dust bath

The chicks are really growing up and learning new things every day. They have now learned to dust bath in the soil rather than the pine shavings.

The chicks have learned to dust bath
Such clever girls

One of the chicks favourite spots to chill is the big wooden shelter. Sometimes they sit side by side on the perch and sometimes on the platform at the back.

Chilling out together

They look so cute sitting in here. This pair are totally inseparable.

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The chicks are growing up and Salmon is moulting

The chicks are growing up fast. They have now explored the entire run and have discovered both ladders and the branch perches above the ladders.

The chicks have found the ladders
Chilling on the ladder

They also spend time in the big wooden shelter and have found both the perches and the platform behind the perches.

After four nights of me showing them into the chicken shed they started finding their own way in. They are pretty quick to catch on.

They have also learned that they can jump on me. Sugar was the first to jump to my arm then down again then on to my shoulder and down again then on to my back. Shadow not to be outdone also jumped to my back.

Unlike the other girls when I tried to tip them off onto the nest box they wouldn’t budge. I ended up putting my fingers in front of their feet and one at a time they perched on my fingers and I lowered them down.

A few days later when I was crouched down Sugar jumped on to my head. She jumped down again on her own. This is so funny and sweet but we have yet to get a photo.

Only Ebony and Flame are still laying and they are laying less often so both food dishes now have growers pellets in which I crush a bit to make them smaller for the chicks.

Smoke has gone broody once more after eight eggs in twelve days. I am happy to leave her to it as there are only growers pellets on offer at the moment.

Seramas are supposed to moult a bit at a time but Salmon is moulting quite heavily. She is dropping feathers all around the run and in the chicken shed. She has dropped a few tail feathers. She does have pins on her head already and I am hoping that she will be feathered up before the weather gets colder.

Salmon is looking tatty
Salmon is dropping feathers all around the run

We have had Shadow and Sugar three weeks tomorrow and they have settled in really well. They are very adventurous and quick to learn and totally at ease with me which is lovely. We have a very happy and settled flock.

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The flock is integrated

This has been a really easy integration. We have come to the conclusion that it’s much easier to integrate younger girls as they pose no threat to the flock and therefore there is no aggression towards them.

The day before yesterday I decided to help the chicks find their way round the whole run. I opened the hatch and guided them out to the bigger part of the run. I then closed the hatch and opened the gate to let the flock into the chicks part and closed them in.

The flock actually loved being in this part because it’s been denied from them and therefore had become attractive.

I then guided the chicks around the entire run. I do this by having my open hands behind them and just move them forward. I guided them to the patio area and put their dish there so that they would know that this was where the food was. I then guided them back down from the patio area and then repeated the excercise so that they would get used to finding there way to and from the patio area.

I then opened the gate and let the girls mix together. There was no aggression at all so I decided that I would try leaving them together.

I opened up the corner near the patio and propped open the gate. I had also closed the chicks coup and moved their food dishes to the patio area.

I had directed the chicks to the patio area
Look at us
The chicks exploring the run

At bedtime the flock was in the chicken shed but the chicks were standing at the edge of the patio and were cheeping. I guided them towards the pop hole and through into the chicken shed. They wanted to come back out but I blocked them with my hands and a few minutes later the automatic door shut.

I checked on the chicks and they were settled on the floor in the back corner of the shed. I made sure they were not in the firing line of being pooped on.

The next morning the chicks had become very adventuress and had explored the entire run. They love to be off the ground and discovered all the low perches, the wooden blocks, the log, the perches in the large shelter and the top of the small shelter.

I had changed all the food dishes to a mixture of growers pellets and chick crumb. Unfortunately the bigger girls were attracted to the smaller dishes and flicked pellets all around the patio area.

The chicks on the very messy patio area
The chicks peck at the chard
The chicks are getting so brave
They are so brave at the end of their first whole day with the bigger girls

I was really pleased to see that the chicks were able to get to the food even with the bigger girls close to them.

At the end of the day the same thing happened as the night before and I had to guide the chicks through the pop hole. It will probably take a while for them to get the hang of it but I am sure they will soon.

After the chicks first night in the chicken shed I put their little coup back on the patio area to become a nest box once more.

Spangle and the chicks on top of the little shelter

Spangle seems to like to be wherever the chicks are and will follow them around.

By the end of the first day I had seen the chicks eat from the bigger food dishes and drink from the metal water dish. I decided that now they knew where the food and water was that I would take away the small dishes so that the patio area doesn’t get covered in pellets and then I swept the patio area.

I am really pleased with how easily this has gone. The chicks just need to learn to go in the chicken shed by themselves and once they have got used to that I will then try to perch them at night. I am confident that it won’t be too long before they get the hang of it.

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The chicks on their perch

Since the chicks have discovered the little perch in their part of the run it has become a favourite spot for them. Before if they wanted to chill they would go in their little coup but this perch has now become the place to chill.

They have also discovered that the little perch gets a shaft of sunshine in the afternoons and they hang out there in the spot of sun.

The chicks on their perch
This is their new chill out spot

The chicks are growing up fast. They no longer spend time in their little coup during the day. I think they are cheeping a bit less too and are having less mad moments tearing around. They also seem to have slowed down with their feeding.

They were always in the food dish at first but they now spend some time just chilling in the run or on the perch. They are losing some of their baby ways. They have also dropped some of their baby feathers.

I think we are ready to start integrating now. I will let them spend some time with the flock tomorrow.

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