Nature can be so cruel, our beautiful powder puff chicken “Silver” is moulting, she looks even more prehistoric than a normal chicken. How can there be a benevolent God when chickens moult at this time of year!
One good thing about snow, life has to slow down!
I was unable to get to work on Friday, TOWPCOE also lost Today and looks like no catching up tomorrow. So we’re hunkered down for an evening by the wood burner after shifting over 20 tonnes of snow* between 4 of us, makes you realise there are disadvantages of having a 100m long drive.
* Apparently 1 cubic foot of snow weighs about 15lbs
so 300ft by 10 ft and it was at least a foot deep works out as just over 20
So with the cold weather coming in I always feel a bit sorry for the chickens. We try to give them a bit more bedding to nestle down in if they want, but it does amaze me how they manage to keep warm.
The wet summer has meant that they have been hanging around in the porch quite a bit already, the only drawbacks are a lot of droppings and the occasional disdain from the cat as he has to get through them to his catflap! Sometimes he waits for a human escort through the rabble. We have a bench nearby that gives them the opportunity to perch at various heights, watching the changes in order has been quite amusing. It took a long time of for the new ones to settle in this time, but now they may be taking over.
They are loving the scraps, the picture shows them arguing over some rice with breadcrumbs and poultry spice, this lot will eat leftover potato too, other hens haven’t been so keen on them. Their favourite treat by far is the seeds from a pepper… We first noticed this while watching them attack the compost bucket en route to the heap, now we save every one for them.
They have been eating a lot of wild bird seed, one of their favorite hang out places is under the bird feeder, I reckon they eat more of that than the pellets we leave in the run, so their diet is very varied which must account for the fantastic taste the eggs have, (even our fish van man said they’re the best eggs he’s had in ages).
What is great to see is how they move around the garden together, often in pairs but not far from each other. Their behaviour is different from other groups we’ve had. These ones seem to like a fresh dust bathing area, so have made several new ones around the garden under the hedges and especially under the Welllingtonia (great redwood) we are lucky to have. It’s lovely and dry underneath, (so dry we store our big pile of kindling under there), but every evening – well around 4pm as the light fades, the girls are under some part of it or the hedge next to it, enjoying whatever grubs they can find.
Another benefit from this group is their apparent moss clearing ability, we’ll have to see what effect it has on the grass next spring and summer.
Finally we have 2 pairs of chickens that are no longer drawing blood!
For about a week now they are putting themselves to bed, as long as we don’t interfere. If we are around they seem to faff about a bit, but obviously I don’t know what happens when we’re not around…
They have even been seen eating from the same sprinkling of bird seed.
Still only one regular egg layer, hoppy, don’t know what has happened to scraggly/the other one/brownie she doesn’t seem to have laid for about 3 months, but that’s another issue. The two newbies seem to have laid an egg each, tiny little ones, each hen lays eggs of a certain shade of brown so although laid on different days I think they are different hens. The picture shows these alongside one hoppy laid a few days ago and a lighter for scale, hoppy’s was 96 g!
We’re now just waiting for silver and bronze to chill and not flinch when the old ones look up, I’m sure that will come. One pleasant by-product of the change is that hoppy and scraggly don’t wander off down the drive anymore, they had started to wander quite a distance, silver and bronze haven’t discovered those delights yet and long may that continue. We’re so glad that after almost 5 weeks we can now feel happy about leaving them all out all day.
So after over 2 weeks the TOP DOG (hoppy or hopalong since her bumblefoot last year, another post about chicken surgery at home seems appropriate at some point) seems not to be getting at the new ones, but now ‘the other one’ (she has been called the other one for quite a while, we should rename her really as the two new ones have names!) has started. TOWPCOE thinks it may be that she now has to establish her second rung on the pecking order, lets hope it’s a bit quicker than last time.
After a desperate phone call for some advice from the breeder we let them all out last Tuesday, it was quite tricky getting them all back home, as the new ones were still wary of us, and pretty terrified of the old ones. It has got a bit easier, the second night we had to leave silver in an arc outside til it was dark, another night the old ones got home first so herding the new ones into the run so they were all together was a bit of a hassle, silver was hunched down out in the run after dark, I just picked her up and popped her inside.
One evening the new ones went in the coop early, I shut the door so they were safe and left the run open for the old ones, after we came back from the pub, I had to climb in the run to get them from the far end and pop them into the coop, without kneeling in all the shit, not an easy task.
I love the way they go floppy after dark, however used to being handled they are hens always seem a bit tense but at night there’s no resistance at all.
Once last year the door of the run had been shut to mow the grass so they couldn’t put themselves away when we were out, TOWPCOE found one hunched up in the porch, one under our massive redwood, but the third was nowhere to be found, luckily there was no fox or badger around that night and she turned up in the morning… So as long as the new ones are tempted in first the old ones seem to manage to wait, but we have to get to them just before dark or who knows where they’ll end up roosting.
This afternoon they were all about 5 metres away from each other with no bickering, though I don’t know what happened when I walked away!
I have just put the new ones in to have a good feed before the others go in, as it seems the old ones don’t let them out of the coop and therefore no access to the layer pellets until we let them out in the morning. I gave them some cheap pasta cooked up tonight, something different in a white box as they were getting a bit bored of wild bird seed, and are learning to follow a white box at least within their comfort zone. For the rest of the day they are free ranging and eat all sorts of stuff, (another post about odd things that chickens eat will appear at some time).
The new ones are not venturing far from the run yet. I tried to tempt them a bit further, with bird seed in a white box, to the door of the polytunnel today, where there is a lovely big dry dustbath hole but no luck. They’ve started their own under the currant bushes, but with all this rain there’s not a lot of dust!
Well I spoke far too soon about the new hens, they are still timid, and being picked on. They are getting used to the idea of a white box containing treats though which is encouraging. Just been up to check on them as dusk falls, I let the old ones in a little earlier today, maybe the wrong decision as there was a lot of screeching going on, but now they are all in the coop so ok ’til tomorrow am! So it’s now 9 days and we still can’t leave them all together in the coop, or let the new ones out to free range, oh well, I’m sure we’ll get here in the end.
So the first post about the new hens. We have had chickens for the last 4 years, we started with a few of ex battery who were great, though can’t remember how many we had but a couple that died then we got a few POL (point of lay around 16-20 weeks old and technically just about to lay) to boost our egg count. A year or so later in October at 9am in the morning a fox got all three newbies and the last ex-battery. It was a bit of a shock for TOWPCOE who was looking after them while I was away, so I got a call in Torquay. Anyway we gave that winter a break and got some new ones in the spring, two ex-battery and two POL, and I don’t remember them being quite as vicious with each other. Mind you in trying to write the chronology of our chickens I realise they all become a bit of a blur.
So these new ones pictured nervously above yesterday, seem to have finally settled in a bit today, not terrified of every movement around them and even tolerating the old ones wandering around the outside of the run. Now they just have to associate the sight of an old 2kg margarine tub with tasty treats and we’ll be able to let them out to free range the garden with the old ones. The first chickens we had would follow you anywhere if you had any light coloured receptacles or even once a piece of paper. Annoying when gardening or eating outside but very handy for rounding them up. They just don’t tell you things like that in ‘manuals’, or not that I’ve read in my random flicking through and dipping in and out of books and websites.