Broody Rusty

Five seramas and four laying at any one time. They take it in turns to go broody but I feel blessed that so far it’s only one at a time and I seem able to break them in three days by simply removing them from their chosen spot each time I go in to them.

For the last few days it’s been Rusty’s turn. She had taken to laying in the corner of the chicken shed under her nighttime roost.

Freckles and Dandelion also like to lay in that same spot so I have been closing the shed when they have laid but leaving it open when I think they are ready to lay. The day before yesterday I closed it as they had laid the day before and that kept Rusty out in the run during the day.

Yesterday I knew Dandelion and Freckles were due to lay so I left the shed open. Although Rusty had spent the day in the run the day before and doesn’t attempt to go in the nest boxes (only the corner of the shed will do) as soon as the shed was open she wanted her spot back.

Dandelion had settled herself in the corner spot. I heard Dandelion squeaking a protest and went to investigate. Rusty had climbed over her to get to the corner spot and was sitting half on top of her.

Rusty is practically sitting on top of Dandelion

Rusty is determined to get her corner spot

I ended up removing Rusty to the run and putting Dandelion in a nest box and then closing the pop hole to the shed. This meant Rusty stayed out in the run and luckily Dandelion settled in the nest box and got her egg laid followed by Freckles.

Dandelion is the only one not to go broody so far and Cinnamon has only gone broody once for just a day.

Apricot also laid her first, super tiny, egg after being broody two weeks ago. It seems that one gets back into lay as the next one goes broody or visa versa. They are providing us with enough eggs to keep us going though so I am happy with that.

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Yogurt for the girls

I love giving the girls some yogurt as a treat as I love seeing all the girls together on the patio and seeing them with their yogurt beaks.

The girls have some yogurt

Some yogurt and spinach

The girls love yogurt

Dandelion and Cinnamon

Even the bottom girls get to have their share. By the end of the day the dishes looked as if they had been licked clean.

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We had this amazing thistle in the garden and the bees absolutely loved it. But it grew too big for it’s spot near the path and we decided to move it. It didn’t survive the move, sigh! Recently on a trip to the garden centre with some money off vouchers we found it again.

This time we planted it in a spot where it has plenty of space to grow, in front of the chicken run.

I love the colour of this thistle

It’s not very big at the moment but the last one soon turned into a big clump so I have hopes that this one will do well here. Welcome back pretty thistle.

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Bedtime line up

Last night I took my camera with me when I checked on the girls at bedtime. I was surprised to see that Speckles was next to Cinnamon.

Speckles is next to Cinnamon

Speckles and Cinnamon

Dandelion and Apricot are on their usual perch

Freckles and Rusty are on their usual perch

Emerald Speckles and Cinnamon

Emerald looks as if she is wondering what Speckles is doing over there. Cinnamon has definitely made up her mind that she sleeps with the bigger girls. She is on the back perch every night.

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Baby slow worms

We have slow worms breeding in our garden. Last year we saw baby ones on our path. A few days ago we spotted a baby one on our path again. This is our first sighting this year.

This year’s baby slow worm

A pound coin for size comparison

As their numbers have declined over recent years it is good to know that they are breeding here.

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Emerald loses her last tail feather

For a while Emerald has held on to her last remaining tail feather but it has now dropped out.

Emerald has lost her last tail feather

She has a cute shape with no tail feathers

Emerald stretches her long neck

There was a bit of spinach caught in the wire and just as I took her photo Emerald reached for it showing how long her neck is. I think she is an amazing shaped bird. I love her quirky shape. She will soon be beautifully feathered again.

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Feathers and feet

Emerald and Speckles are both heavily moulting. Poor Emerald is a mass of pins and missing feathers. Speckles has an almost all white head.

Emerald is looking really shabby

Speckles has lots of white on her head

Cinnamon has big feet for her tiny size

Look at Cinnamon’s feet in comparison to Speckles feet. We call them her “digger feet”. We think it’s all the digging she does that has given her such big feet for her tiny size. What a funny little girl she is.

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Catching some sun

Emerald, Speckles and Apricot line up in a patch of sun. Emerald stretches, lifts out her wing to the sun and dozes.

Emerald, Speckles and Apricot catch some sun

Emerald lifts her wing to the sun

While keeping her eyes closed

Pure bliss.

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A change in the dynamics of the flock

Since Emerald and Speckles have become the only two bigger girls, amongst a flock of little girls, the dynamics of the flock have changed totally.

It has become a happier, quieter, more settled and harmonious flock. But it’s not just that, it has changed in some other, more surprising, ways. Emerald and Speckles have changed slightly. There are two things going on here but I will start with Speckles as it is easier to demonstrate with a few photos.

Speckles is acting like a mother hen with her babies around her. She appears to be treating the five little girls like her brood. She is often sitting in the middle with all the little girls around her.

Speckles is surrounded by her little flock

The little girls sit in a group around Speckles

Cinnamon is sitting behind Dandelion but you can’t see much of her as she is so small. Emerald is never far away but it is always Speckles at the centre of the group.

When I take in the treats Speckles calls the little girls over to the them. She makes that sound that they all make when they discover something good and cockerels do similar when they find a tasty titbit and want to share it with their girls. With Speckles though it is different to how she has been before. She gets very excited and keeps making the “here is a treat” sound over and over while making no attempt to take the treat herself. She waits until all the little girls are with her and are taking the treat before she will have a little herself.

She does this with the morning corn and bedtime sunflower hearts, whereas before she would have just joined in. Now she hardly touches the corn as she is so busy calling the little girls and watching over them. She appears to be behaving like a mother hen to her brood.

With Emerald it took us a while to even discover that her bit of behaviour belonged to her. During the summer we sleep with our bedroom windows wide open. We hear lots of noise from outside in the early hours of the morning. We hear the deer barking in the woods behind our property and the pheasants calling. We hear the noisy jackdaws and all the birds of the dawn chorus.

Then every morning at around five o’clock or soon after we would hear a strange cry that sounded a bit like a cockerel and yet not. It was a loud, sort of strangled sound, that we had never heard before. It had about five notes to it but it was more of a screech than a call. It would only come once or twice each morning. It sounded as if it came from something large. I said that it couldn’t be our girls because it was a sound that I had never heard before.

The family four doors away have two standard sized chickens and I wondered if it came from them but we were also convinced that it wasn’t a chicken sound. It was such a strange sound that my husband even wondered if it was from some sort of  dog at one point. We puzzled over it for a few weeks.

Emerald is always the first to sound the alarm call if there is a cat in the garden and then all the other girls join in with her. Emerald will stand on one of the branch perches at the end of the run with her neck stretched and she will shout. We heard this commotion one day and went up to investigate. Just at that moment Emerald uttered the sound that we had been hearing. We saw and heard her do it twice.

Mystery solved. We couldn’t believe that the sound had come from her. We have had her for four years and have never heard her make this sound before. I wonder if she is taking on, a bit of a cockerel role, as the head of a flock of little girls.

The automatic door on the chicken shed opens at first light so the girls are out at about five o’clock during the height of summer which may explain why we were hearing the cry, at about that time, a bit like a cockerel crowing at dawn.

It may seem rather fanciful but it does seem like Emerald and Speckles have taken on a parental role with the little girls. They seem to be looking out for them. It is a far cry from the past battles and bullying that we have seen within the flock. It really does appear that Emerald and Speckles are in tune together as a pair looking after their flock of little girls.

It is all quite fascinating to see and I am really pleased to have a happy, harmonious, flock.

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A change in the bedtime lineup

Since we have had the little girls, by which I mean the seramas, Rusty and Freckles have always perched on their own perch on the left hand side of the shed and Cinnamon, Dandelion and Apricot have always perched on their own perch on the right hand side of the shed with the bigger girls on the, higher, perch at the back of the shed. The bigger girls now just consist of Emerald and Speckles.

But recently Cinnamon has taken to going in first and perching on the right hand side of the bigger back perch. She has been perching behind the perch that Dandelion and Apricot roost on. I thought that maybe it was because she had gone in first and that she would be lonely on her own during the night so each evening I moved her from there to the perch next to Dandelion and Apricot.

After a week or so when she was continuing to do this I decided to leave her. I realised that if she was consistently perching there every night then that must be where she wants to be. Emerald and Speckles were taking no notice of her at all.

Then one evening Cinnamon was perched on the left hand side of the back perch next to Speckles and Emerald. It seems that she has decided that she is part of the bigger girl’s group now. They have accepted her and don’t bother her at all.

This is another thing that has changed completely since Peaches and Barley have left the flock. There always used to be lots of bumping around and head pecking between the bigger girls at bedtime. Now Emerald and Speckles perch side by side without any fuss and bedtime is an easy, quiet and settled affair. Now it seems that even a little girl joining them is quite acceptable.

Cinnamon now perches here most nights

You can see why I thought Cinnamon might be lonely.

Apricot and Dandelion on their perch

Rusty and Freckles on their perch

Cinnamon perches with the bigger girls

It’s amazing how the dynamics of the flock have changed so much with just two bigger girls. There is no longer any bullying and the whole flock are harmonious. I think that Emerald and Speckles would accept any of the little girls perching besides them.

It is funny how Cinnamon, who is our smallest girl, has decided that she wants to be with the bigger girls. I have decided that she is capable of choosing where she wants to perch so I am leaving her to perch where ever she likes.

Last night I took my camera out with me again to see where she had landed up this time.

Cinnamon was pretty much much snuggled up to the bigger girls

Cinnamon has definitely decided that she belongs with the bigger girls. This is so sweet to see. Speckles is quite happy to have her alongside.

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