This is my blog about the day to day lives of my little flock of pet chickens. They're a happy little flock, although they're totally crackers! If you want a laugh, they'll gladly give you one.


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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dialogues and monologues

When we first got our little flock, Titian was the most vocal by a very long way.   She spent most of her time chattering away to you, irrespective of whether you were actually listening to her or not.   Actually, if she thought your attention was drifting away from her, she'd grab your trousers and give them a pull.  Or if she thought you couldn't quite hear her, she'd stand on something to bring her beak more up to the level of your ears - then shout.


Recently, she's quietened down a bit.   However, her place in the conversational ranking has been taken up by Maggie.   To be fair, most of her exchanges consist of giving you advice.   If you want to know anything about anything, ask Maggie.  She seems to know all the answers and is happy to share that knowledge.   She generally starts nattering long before she can see you.   In addition to being a good conversationalist, she also has excellent hearing.   That means that the moment you set foot out of the back door (quite some way from the run), she starts shouting encouragement.   Even if you're not actually on your way to the coop, but off to do some gardening, she still keeps bellowing at you.  Just to let you know she's there if you need any horticultural advice.

Rebecca has developed a chatty habit too, over the past few months.   Whenever I go into the run, she makes her way over, stands in front of me, looks me in the eye and quietly "chirrups" to me.   I've no idea what she's on about.   She's not asking for food or special treatment and she hates being picked up.  She's bottom of the pecking order, so perhaps she just wants a bit of attention from someone who, in flock terms, is on her level.   She doesn't go and chat to my son, so obviously he's higher up the social order than me.  Her sister Punk, although she's quite belligerent at times, has very little to say for herself.


Irene chunters away, but I always have the impression that she's simply talking to herself.  Well that's who she's most interested in, isn't it.  Tu-Tu quietly chats to you, it's more of a whirr really, but hasn't much to say to the rest of the flock.   I think she spends some of her time reminiscing about when she was second in command.

Pom-Pom quite often gets the mutters.   But she's another one who isn't sharing her thoughts with the world at large - principally because she can't see the world at large due to her huge hairdo.   No, she wanders round muttering to herself - all the time.   I strongly suspect that what she has to say is of the "price of fish" variety, rather than any deep, meaningful reflections.


And then we have Fizz.   I've mentioned in past posts how many different sounds he makes.   There's his "CROW!!!!!!" warning, which can equally well be applied to doves, bluetits or aeroplanes.   But he really witters on when he decides to sleep on the roof of the coop and we decide he's not going to.   He carries on and on from the time he's lifted up until he's finally settled on a perch in the coop.   It's at times like that that I'm glad I'm not fluent in chicken-speak.   I'd probably be terribly shocked by his invective!

Friday, 25 November 2011

How did I get here?

Have you ever been in a situation where you are so lost in your thoughts that your mind and body quite happily function to get you where you're going safely - but with no conscious directive from you?  Basically, you're on automatic pilot.   Suddenly, you wake up, look around and wonder how on earth you got where you are.  You certainly can't remember the journey.   Well that's exactly what happened to Punk this morning.

In an earlier post I mentioned that we'd built a smoking shelter for the chickens.  It would be an extra refuge for them during inclement weather; an alternative to one of the two covered coop cages.  But so far each and every one of those ungrateful pieces of poultry have shunned it.   Not one of them has deigned to put so much as half a beak across the threshold.

When I went to open up this morning, it was obvious that Punk had something on her mind.  Unusually for her, she exited the coop reasonably gracefully.  Her normal practice, once she's finally decided to get up, is to elbow the others out of her way so that she can rush into  into the run to see what she's been missing.   Today, it was more of a saunter.  I could almost (but not quite) hear her asking, "I say old girl, could I just squeeze past you please?"

I was busying myself poo-picking, so wasn't really watching what was going on around me.   When I'd finished that lovely job, I had a look round to see who was doing what and where.   It was then that I spotted Punk in the smoking shelter.   And she had that "How did I get here?" look on her face.

Fizz looking down at a rather subdued Punk

I put it all down to the fact that she's left it until now to moult.  She's eating and drinking well, her poo is as it should be, so she's not ill.  No, I think it's simply that she's suddenly realised she looks pretty silly at the moment.  She has feathers sticking out at odd angles and her tail has disappeared.   She doesn't like it, not one bit.   Remember, this is a bantam who thinks she's a full-size Brahma - she's taken my son on in a bout of fisticuffs before now.   So I think she was in deep thought about how she could make the best of a bad situation.   And that's why she ended up in the smoking shelter!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

D'ya wanna make something of it?

For the past week, most days have started out and ended up with heavy mists.  In between, we've been treated to overcast skies.   Sun?  What sun?   And with the amount of wintry daylight diminishing rapidly, all in all it's been a bit miserable of late.

Which may explain some of the tetchy behaviour I've been seeing in the chicken run.  

If you'd asked me which was the least likely chicken to get irritable, I'd have said Irene.   She may be dilly, she may poke her beak into everything, but fractious?  No.   Well actually "yes", as it turns out.  Twice now I've seen her take a run at Fizz.   It was more like the kind of feint a boxer might do, a sort of "Gerrrrofff" kind of thing.  And he ran away!   Well I suppose if you saw a huge bundle of white feathers bearing down on you, you would too.  Irene is huge compared to Fizz.

Whatever the cause, it must have been catching, because moments later Titian did the same thing to Tu-Tu.  The little Pekin looked absolutely astounded!   But she erred on the side of caution and quickly backed away.  We had a repeat performance 5 minutes later.   The size difference between Titian and Tu-Tu is even more marked and the behaviour less understandable.   Then I remembered that when the Poland bantams first arrived, Titian made Pom-Pom's life a misery.   However, Titian has been remarkably quiet all summer.   Having said that, since she's moulted and re-feathered, she has been much livelier.  I now have my fingers crossed that she doesn't return to her old bullying ways.

As I've said in earlier posts, Punk has been a right bitch for a while.  Now, just to show us that she's well hard, she has just (just mind you) decided to moult.  She looks a wreck!   And she's not happy about that at all, so she glares at me when I go into the run - apparently it's all my fault.

And now, just to round things off, everyone has stopped laying.   My big bear of a neighbour came round to get half-a-dozen eggs and went away with one tiny bantam egg cupped in his huge hand.  It was all I had to give him.

Oh well ..... it'll soon be Spring.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A change isn't always as good as a rest

I'd have thought that a chicken's personality would stay pretty much the same all its life.  That was before I started keeping chickens.  Now I've learned that, just as with human beings, changes in circumstances can bring changes in chickens' personalities too.

Tu-Tu is a prime example.  When she first arrived she was second in command to our beautiful late-lamented Sebright, Queen B.   Rather like a Company Sergeant-Major Tu-Tu didn't walk, she swaggered round the run.  Queen B gave the order, Tu-Tu carried it out.  With relish, it often seemed to me.   She was a high-ranking member of the flock - she knew it and she made quite sure the others did too.

She quickly got us organised as well, showing no fear of us from very early on.  However, she drew the line at allowing us to pick her up.

Then she insisted on going broody, sat on Araucana eggs and reared the chicks. When she returned to the run, the swagger had disappeared.  Remembering her previous form, the others were not nice to her at all.  Sometimes Queen B stepped in to protect her, or offer a quiet few words of encouragement.  But she seemed to realise her Lieutenant was shell-shocked and that she'd have to do her own dirty work.

Tu-Tu was very nervous at this point in time.   She had lost a lot of condition and a lot of weight, as well as losing her authority.  As soon as one of us went into the run, she would come over and now she begged to be picked up.  She quite rightly felt much safer in our arms.

However, she's a trooper is our little Pekin and, to paraphrase the old song, she "picked herself up, brushed herself down, and started all over again".

She can't be second in command again because Maggie can cope very well by herself thankyou-very-much.  However, Tu-Tu is no longer bottom of the heap.   I have a feeling she's quite happy sitting in the middle of the pecking order.   She's no longer frightened of shadows (or any of the other chickens).  She now has an air of tranquillity about her, a sort of matronly calmness.   She has regained her air of authority, but there's no belligerance now.   Even when she chases the Araucanas, she simply takes a short run at them - just to remind them of their inferiority.  There's no longer any pecking going on.

So a complete personality make-over.   I didn't see that coming.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Goose town

Just by way of a change, instead of blogging about my chickens, I'm blogging about a flock of  geese.  In fact these very geese plus a few more:-

They're a wild bunch who live in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire.   And when I say "in", I do mean in.   Instead of swimming up and down the local rivers and canal, they like nothing better than to spend their time causing traffic chaos in the town.   Especially at rush hour!

They potter off along the main road, totally ignoring the traffic, to whichever bit of Sowerby Bridge they feel like enjoying today.   When they get bored with that bit, off they hike somewhere else - usually at the opposite end of town to where they've just been.

And they have absolutely no respect for traffic rules.   They wander down the middle of the road, often spread out from one side to the other, instead of in an orderly queue.   They ignore red lights, mount the pavement and even sit down for a rest on double yellow lines (I've seen a picture to prove it at ).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the place, it's a small town (population about 10,000) with a long history.   It's been a crossing point on the Calder and Ryburn rivers at least since the Middle Ages.  So I can't help wondering if perhaps they are descendants of geese who lived here all those centuries ago.   It would explain why they think they own the place!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

More moulting news

Wow, Titian is amazing!  The tufts at the end of her quills have blossomed into proper feathers and are growing fast.  She has a little way to go before she reaches her former glory, as her bum is still only covered in short quills.  But she's well on the way and OK as long as she doesn't sit down.

Irene doesn't seem to have noticed her feather loss - she now has no tail.   Mind you, Irene only notices what other chickens are eating that she's missing out on, so no surprise there.

Now that her moult is over and done with, Tu-Tu has become remarkably calm (providing she can't see the Araucanas).  She's happy to be picked up again and looks quite tranquil while she's several feet up in the air, comfortably lodging on someone's hand.

Pom-Pom is looking a little happier too.   I can't helping thinking that she's cottoned on to the fact that although her moult has finished and she's re-feathered, she's still not having to lay those damned eggs.  She's hopeful that this state of affairs will continue right throughout the winter.  Or forever .... ???

Our sole supplier of eggs at the moment is Maggie.   She's kindly been ringing the changes with the patterns on her alternate-day offerings (just to keep us amused I suspect).  The dots come in different sizes and in white, brown or purple.  What a thoughtful chicken.

We're down to one Robin in the garden now; I think it's the youngest of the three.  He sings very quietly.  I'm not sure if he's simply not found his full voice yet, or if he has a permanent sore throat.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sheltered housing

For some time now, we've been debating how best to provide some extra shelter for the chickens during the winter.   At the moment, if the weather is too breezy for their liking, they go into the cages beneath one of the two chicken coops in the run.   The smaller coop is no longer used as sleeping quarters, but the cage door is always open, so that it may be used by any of the chickens who want to wander in.  However, if it rains they all huddle together in the bigger cage.  

During last winter's snow, we found Pom-Pom standing chest-deep in snow, wondering how she got there and how she could get out.  She was still thinking about it when we found her.   After that little incident, we didn't allow them out of the cage when the snow was thick on the ground.  Part of the problem was that if we cleared the snow away from the area around the coop, one bright spark would always venture beyond the cleared area and into the deep snow.

The run is far too big for us to cover completely, and much too wide where the coop is situated.  We've toyed with all sorts of ideas to extend the cage for them, trying to find one that wouldn't cost us a fortune and would be simple to construct.   We eventually decided to put up a "smoking shelter" opposite the coop and just a dozen chicken steps away from the cage door.   If it snows, we can clear a path for them to reach the shelter.  We can also block off the rest of the run so nobody can go off-piste.

By the time we'd been able to get to the DIY store to buy what we needed, it was mid-afternoon.  Then my son got to work making the supports and a frame for the corrugated plastic roof .   As a result, it was almost dark by the time we got into the run to put it in place.   I had the vital task of holding the torch so my son could fix the screws into the wood, rather than into his fingers.  But the job got finished.

During the construction work Fizz had been slumbering on the roof of the coop.  But he got a severe case of the mutters after a while and marched down and into the coop chuntering "This noise is intolerable!".  The only real problem we had was that we had to manage without Maggie's valuable advice.  She gave up and went to bed with the rest of the mob.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

This and that

This blog is just a series of little updates.

The formerly near-naked Titian now has a good covering of quite superb 1" long quills.   I noticed yesterday that little auburn tufts have appeared on the ends of a lot of them.  We think her personal philosophy is "Get rid of 'em quick, grow 'em back quick".  I also suspect that her daily dose of yoghurt has helped considerably.  She was suspicious of it initially, but is now the first to get her beak into it the moment I put the dish down.   In fact she runs over, just to make sure she is.   It's nice to see, because it's been quite some time since the lady deigned to run anywhere, for any reason.

Irene had a mini-moult about a month ago.  She lost a couple of feathers under her chin, and that was it.   She now finds that she has time to fit in another go.  The crown of her head, her cheeks and her neck are now almost featherless.  She has also lost a couple of her black flight feathers.  I can see from the coop floor and in the run that she's still losing lots of white feathers - but trying to work out quite where she's lost them from is another story.  She's managing to conceal her losses very well.

Punk still refuses to acknowledge that she's never ever going to get further up the pecking order than she is now.   The problem is that her foster-mother stands between Punk and further promotion.   Tu-Tu is now only half their size, but she still chases both Araucanas if either of them so much as enter her peripheral vision.  And they run!  She has always blamed them for her spectacular plummet from second in command, to the bottom of the pecking order.  And all because she was tucked away out of sight of everyone, looking after them.  At least now she's above Rebecca, Punk and Pom-Pom - and she ain't giving her place up for anyone, not even relatives.

Fizz does not like to be disturbed once he's fallen asleep.  This evening my son removed Pom-Pom from the cage door as usual, and popped her into the coop.  Despite there being plenty of room on the perch beside Fizz (he being the only occupant), our little cockerel woke up.  And he was cross about that.   So he pecked Pom-Pom's head and then my son's hand.  Neither peck was exactly gentle either.   Very odd behaviour when you consider what an easy-going chap he is for the rest of the day.

I haven't mentioned Maggie for a while.   Her feathers are back to their former glory - in fact Rebecca wondered why she's never noticed them before.  So she has transferred her nocturnal attentions from Irene and now buries her head in Maggie's ample feathers.  As Maggie has such a vast quantity of them, I'd be surprised if she's even noticed.

Maggie is the only one of our chickens producing eggs at the moment; she lays on alternate days, regular as clockwork.  What a star.   Everyone else has given it up as a bad job, but I'll be curious to see if the Araucanas start laying in early January, like they did this year.