Winter colour

The red pyracantha berries are still looking pristine and next to the winter flowering jasmine are giving a splash of winter colour.

Winter flowering jasmine and red berries

A warm splash of colour on a dull and damp day.

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A corn cob and a broody Flame

I recently ended up with one odd corn cob from a bag of frozen corn cobs which is rather annoying. I decided to give it to the girls. The reason I haven’t given a corn cob for ages is because they always used to get rolled from the patio area into the dirt and then abandoned.

I had a light bulb moment and decided to put the corn cob in a dish so that it would stay put. Only Speckles has had corn cob before but the girls associate the white dish with treats and Ebony is always first to any treats.

Ebony is first to check out the corn cob

Ebony tries the corn cob

Vanilla shows an interest in the corn cob

Dandelion and Cinnamon are interested in the corn cob

Flame had gone straight to the nest box after the morning sunflower hearts which I expected after moving her from there the evening before.

When I returned to check on the girls at lunch time, after my deliveries, I was surprised to see that Flame was still missing. I opened the nest box and Flame puffed up her tail. I realised she was broody at this ridiculously late stage in the year.

Flame is broody

I went to lift her out and she went to peck at me. I ended up putting on a pair of gardening gloves to lift her out. Ebony and Flame only peck me when they are in the nest box but they peck like they really mean it and have bigger, sturdier, beaks than any of the other girls.

Flame had laid an egg but the broody girls often lay one last egg. I assume she will probably take a break from laying now.

I decided to close all the nest boxes as Ebony had laid her egg in a corner of the chicken shed a couple of days earlier so I felt sure she would do so again if she needed to lay.

Meanwhile the corn cob in a dish idea hadn’t worked. The dish was still on the patio but was empty and the corn cob was in the dirt.

The corn cob is in the dirt but Ebony is still pecking at it

After I moved Flame from the nest box she sat on the patio for a few moments. She then rushed out into the run shouting angrily and had a mad scratch around in the dirt. She then spotted the corn cob and pecked it with such fury that my photo of her is blurred but it gives the impression of her.

An angry flame furiously pecks at the corn cob

Meanwhile Ebony was settling in a corner of the shed.

Ebony settles in a corner of the chicken shed

Flame soon stopped shouting and started making her mournful sound. She chased any girls near her and pecked at the apple, had some pellets and walked all round the nest boxes. She jumped on top of the nest box and then she gave up. She returned to the run and seemed to be back to normal.

I am hopeful that like Ebony she is smart enough to know that if she can’t get in the nest box and can’t get to an egg then there is no point in sitting. Ebony came out of it in a day so I hope Flame will be the same.

I will leave the nest boxes closed tomorrow to make sure she doesn’t go back in. Tonight when I checked on them Flame was perched on the back perch with the usual girls.

The amigos however were still having the usual argie bargie. Spangle and Vanilla were perched this time. I moved the other three up to the perch but Marmite ended up next to Smoke. Marmite is so timid that every time Smoke pecked her head she jumped back down again. In the end I moved Marmite to the other side of the perch and they all settled.

It seems that Smoke will peck any heads perching next to her and Marmite as bottom girl is the most timid. I will make sure I don’t put Marmite next to Smoke in future.

What a mission bedtime is at the moment but they all get settled in the end.

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Shenanigans at bedtime

I went up to check on the girls this evening just before the automatic door closed. To my surprise four of the amigos were still just outside the pop hole. I wonder why they leave it so late to go in.

Four of the amigos at dusk

Meanwhile Spangle was already perched

At this stage I realised that Flame wasn’t with the line up on the back perch

Flame was in the nest box

Flame had left it too late to lay her egg and the automatic door had now closed. I moved Flame to the perch at the back of the shed. She will have to wait until morning to lay her egg. If I hadn’t checked on the girls Flame would have been in the nest box for the night. I definitely feel the need to check the girls every night.

I moved Flame to the perch

The five amigos are perched at last

I shone the torch to help the last of these girls up to the perch. As usual it was Smoke and Vanilla who were last. I have often seen Smoke peck at Vanilla’s head when she tries to perch next her but tonight Smoke jumped down and chased Vanilla around the shed while pecking at her.

I don’t know why, when these girls hang out together happily during the day, they are so aggressive at bedtime. Smoke really doesn’t like Vanilla perching next to her.

Eventually I waited until Vanilla was on the perch then shone my torch at the perch for Smoke to jump up and then shut the door quickly so that it was too dark for Smoke to peck Vanilla.

I opened the door again for a quick photo and then shut it again. I don’t know why these girls have to make such a meal out of getting perched at bedtime. I have seen this many times before. Girls that will happily perch next to each other during the day don’t want certain girls perched next to them at night.

I often wonder what it is about a certain girl that another girl doesn’t like or at least doesn’t tolerate next to her. Smoke doesn’t behave like this with the other amigos. I guess it is probably because Vanilla is second to Smoke in the pecking order and must be kept in her place.

It’s a wonder they ever manage to get settled at all at bedtime but once it is dark they quieten down. They have to perch together for a long time over the winter. No wonder they are so eager to come out in the morning.

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Dandelion is moulting

Recently Dandelion was having a lovely dust bath. When she left the dust bath I saw that she had left a little heap of feathers behind.

I then noticed she was looking really scruffy around the neck with bare patches and pins showing. Her head is also patchy and I could see fine, tiny, feathers wafting from her head.

I have never seen Dandelion moult like this before. Usually seramas moult a few feathers at a time and it isn’t very noticeable.

The last thing Dandelion needs is bare patches, at this time of the year, as she feels the cold more than any of the other girls. My theory is that frizzle feathers are not as insulating as straight and silky feathers.

The only good thing is that hopefully they will grow back in before the really cold weather.

Dandelion is moulting

She has pins on her neck

Dandelion’s bare neck

Dandelion is missing some head feathers

Dandelion makes use of this small shelter more than any of the other girls so at least she knows the best place to go on cold days.

I really feel for Dandelion and hope she gets her feathers back in quickly.

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Perching at bedtime

Yesterday when I checked the girls at bedtime Smoke was below the amigos’ perch. I assume she had been knocked down. I shone the torch onto the perch above her and she jumped straight up.

I thought that I would try to train the amigos tonight to use the opposite perch which would be easier for them to get up to.

When I checked on them tonight they were all perched and I changed my mind. It felt as if it would be cruel to move the amigos when they were all perched for the night. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

As we don’t stay away overnight in winter it means that I am always here to check on them. If one of the amigos isn’t on the perch I can always put them on so it doesn’t seem fair to put them through training them to a change of perch.

The main flock at bedtime

The amigos at bedtime

How could I lift these girls to another perch! I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. For now I will leave the bedtime routine as it is.

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A frosty morning

Over night and this morning we had a temperature of minus two degrees. The chicken’s water had a layer of ice on it. I poured hot water over it and gave the girls a dish of warm mash to start their day.

A frosty morning

Frosty garden

Frosty plants

Frosty rose hips

And again

I thought the frosty rose hips against the frosty cabin roof looked quite christmassy. It all looks pretty but I must admit I don’t like it. I don’t like frost and I worry more about the girls. I hope the frosty mornings don’t last too long.

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The amigos try yogurt for the first time

Today I decided to treat the girls to some yogurt. I usually put it in four little dishes but I have never given it to a flock of twelve before so I decided to put it in six little dishes. I put the dishes down on the patio and waited with my camera in hand.

The girls already familiar with yogurt come up first

Ebony is missing as she was in the nest box laying her egg

Soon the amigos come and take a look

The amigos get a bit bolder

The amigos decide they like yogurt

By lunch time all the dishes were empty. I think the amigos may come up more quickly next time now that they know what yogurt is. I think I can safely say all of the flock enjoyed the yogurt.

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Today is day five of the tylan. The girls all look fine and the sneezing has gone down to occasional with Spangle being the one who is sneezing most.

I am going to stop the tylan for now as I know from last year that residual sneezing takes a while to go completely and I want to be able to use the tylan effectively during the colder part of winter if it is needed.

Cinnamon keeps Dandelion company in the small shelter

These two girls seem to be very close these days. As I have said before the girls that have been together the longest seem to have the closest bond.

The amigos gather around the water dish

The amigos are almost like a separate little flock. Because they came in together they tend to hang out together but I think that because they came in as a bigger group there aren’t any particular close friendships. There is quite a bit of pecking order stuff between them and at bedtime Smoke pecks the head of any girl next to her.

In other news the amigos have all managed to get in the shed at bedtime before the automatic door closes. I have started giving the bedtime corn at the earlier time of three o’clock and I now stay away until the automatic door has closed as I think that perhaps I distract them if I go in too close to bedtime.

The main flock are always on the back perch but with the head pecking going on amongst the amigos there is often one girl pushed down to the lower rung. I always move them up to the top rung as they would get pooped on if they stayed there.

I think the problem is that because the rungs are at angle across the corner, the bottom run is in parts, directly underneath the top rung. They are at an angle because of the pop hole. This makes it awkward for a girl to get from the corner of the bottom rung to the top rung.

I think the other thing is that this perch has only had three girls perching here before whereas now with five girls it is more difficult for them all to get in place.

The perches on the other side are not angled and so are more like a step up making it much easier to jump from the bottom rung to the top rung.

The amigos perch

The perch that used to be used by Cinnamon, Dandelion and the silky girls

What I am thinking is that if I could train the amigos to use this perch instead of the other one it would be much easier for them all to get to the top perch. The difficulty is that it is really hard to change a chicken’s habit.

It may be worth a try though as there is nothing lost if it doesn’t work and they continue to use the corner perch. I think I would start by moving them to this perch after dusk and then cover the corner perch with a bin bag the next evening.

It is forecast to be very cold over the next few nights so I will delay the training until it’s not quite so cold as it is more important during the colder nights that they settle easily. It may be a challenge. Watch this space!

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Little friends sharing a dust bath

Dandelion and Cinnamon are firm friends and they spend a lot of time together. It is heart warming watching these two little friends together.

Cinnamon and Dandelion sharing a dust bath


And from the other direction

These two are so sweet together.

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The five amigos at six months

I recently managed to get some even better shots of the five amigos perching together, this time, above the other ladder. I decided to use two of these photos to update my “History of the flock part three” (above the title). I had included photos of the amigos when we got them at about three months old. Now I have added the photos of them all grown up at about six months old.

The amigos when we first got them

The amigos perching together

And again in a slightly different order

I said recently that Vanilla has changed colour and has much more gold on her now. I now realise that Spangle has changed too and has much more white on her. I think she has got prettier. I like seeing more white as it show cases the dark feathers and she no longer looks like a turn stone.

If you move between the first and second photo you can see the changes in these two girls. They have all grown into beautiful girls.

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