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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Monday, 19 December 2011

Pond life

Beyond the dry stone wall that marks the end of my garden there's a big field.   I posted a picture of it a few months ago.

In Spring it's full of sheep with their cute, bouncy little lambs.  But not in Winter.   In Winter, it's full of water.  Well not absolutely full, if I'm honest.   There's usually a couple of rather large ponds, joined by a thinnish streak of water.   From the larger of the two ponds, a stream-like body of water snakes away, only to disappear just before it can tumble over the drive which leads to the farm. 

Usually these ponds attract a dozen or more Mallards and their wives.  I miss the sheep, but look forward to seeing the ducks every year.   But it was rather different this time.   When the first pond was still in its infancy, five ducks arrived.  Three of them were normal, adult duck size, but two of them looked quite a lot smaller.  In fact, had it been Summer, I'd have said they were this year's hatchlings.  The idiots decided to spend the night on what, in reality, was no more than a very large puddle.   When I went to open the chickens, the ducks had disappeared.   I can only hope that it wasn't down some fox's throat!

But I digress.

The small puddle grew rapidly and before long, there were the two familiar ponds.  But no ducks.   This year, for the first time, there were loads and loads of terns!  There's usually four of five of them who fly along the river, two fields away.   You frequently see flashes of white through the trees as they zip up and down like demented Scalectrix racing cars.  Sometimes they come and sit on the uppermost branches of the dead oak, just to take a breather I suppose.   But never in any great numbers.

At least this huge mob were quiet and well-behaved.   That's quite a blessing, because 30 or 40 of them could make quite a racket if they all decided to start chatting at once.  But no, they just bob around, taking in the view.

This morning, the ponds were frozen solid.   One solitary tern sat in the oak, all on his ownsome, looking very folorn.  Maybe he thought that if he wished hard enough, the ice would melt and he could float around in solitary splendour.   In the end, he gave up and flew off to join his mates.

The weather forecast for the coming week is for mild weather for the time of year.  If the Met Office has managed to get it right for once, the pond will return to its former watery glory.   It will be interesting to see who gets there first - the ducks or the terns.

This is going to be my last post for this year.   So  the chickens and I wish you a very happy Christmas, and may the New Year be all you want it to be.   With very best wishes from Fizz, Pom-Pom, Mad Irene, Titian, Tu-Tu, Maggie, Rebecca, Punk and me.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Share and share alike

It finally dawned on Irene that she had the two Araucanas all to herself every night.   She noticed that Titian had disappeared from beside her on the perch, but didn't really connect it to having both Rebecca and Punk nestled into her feathers.

It took her several nights before the answer to her double trouble problem finally seeped through to her little chicken brain.   Titian had moved into a nestbox - she would do the same!  Problem solved.

The only trouble was, both nestboxes were occupied already.   Titian, as we know, had made herself comfortable in one of them, after turfing Tu-Tu out.   The other was Maggie's domain - and Maggie is Clucker-in-Chief, Top Of The Heap, The Head Honcho.

Did that worry our lovely Light Sussex?   Don't be daft, we didn't call her Mad Irene without very good reason.

She simply tried to move in with Maggie!   Now Light Sussexes are not small chickens and they come under the category of "Heavy" birds.  Blue Orpingtons aren't small either. even if they are of the bantam variety.  So you can see the problem, can't you.  Small nest, two large birds, who will move? 

Well as it turned out, neither of them did.   Maggie was absolutely determined to stay put, partly because she's Top Chicken and partly because she was comfortable where she was, thankyouverymuch.   Mad Irene thought it was jolly decent of Maggie to stay and share with her.  It meant that instead of having chickens snuggling into her feathers, she could snuggle into Maggie's.  And Maggie has an over-abundance of feathers to snuggle into.

So there you are, Irene finally got a decent night's sleep.   But it will be interesting to see if Maggie allows her to have another one.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The smoking shelter

Having waffled on about the smoking shelter we built for the ungrateful chickens in our care, it's about time I posted a picture or two.

Part finished - Maggie inspecting the work so far

When the corner posts were in place and the roof had been fixed on, Maggie very kindly went in to check that my son had done the job properly.   As you can see from the picture above, she takes her responsibilities seriously.   She inspected that particular post very closely indeed.  She was aware that darkness was closing in fast, most of the others had gone to bed and she would be following them soon. When no comments were forthcoming, we took it that everything was in order and carried on. 

The finished shelter

The next morning we put Maggie's favourite blue water dish in the shelter, opened the coop and stood back to watch the flock's reaction.

Did they get up that morning, do a double-take and nudge each other saying, "Wow, will you look at that!"   No.  Nothing.   Not one of those pesky fowls so much as glanced in the direction of their beautiful new refuge from inclement weather!   Despite her inspection the previous evening, Maggie headed for where her blue dish used to be.   When it wasn't there, rather than walk a couple of feet to the green drinker she slurped up some muddy water from a depression in the ground that must have been all of 1" deep.

For a few days they all made a point of avoiding their splendid new shelter until Punk accidentally found her way in, as recorded in an earlier post.

Do you remember the Hansel and Gretel story, where a trail of breadcrumbs is laid.  Their idea was that they'd be able to follow the trail and find their way safely back out of the forest.   I pinched the idea and adapted it.   I laid a trail of mixed corn that led into the forest - er, I mean smoking shelter.

If I could have got to a bookies in time, I'd have laid money on Mad Irene spotting the trail first and eating her way in.  I would have won, too.   She didn't look up until she reached the nice pile of corn and an apple at the end of the trail.   Even then, she only glanced round briefly before attacking the apple with gusto.

And then there were two - because where Irene goes, Rebecca follows.  Titian was close behind and soon almost the entire flock was clustered round the door, mostly unable to get in because Titian was blocking the way.   Maggie wasn't among the "in" crowd.   She looked disdainfully across at them as if to say, "Been there, done that."

So now when it's rainy and windy and horrible, our lovely little flock has an alternative venue which offers them good protection.   But they still all cram themselves into the spare small coop!!!!!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Night and day

Titian finally got fed up with having an Araucana stuffed into her feathers every night and decided to do something about it.   So she hoiked Tu-Tu out of the nestbox and took up residence herself.   It would appear that she simply stepped in and plopped down immediately, without bothering to turn round.   As a result, she had her beak to the back of the nestbox and the flock had a fine view of her bum.

So poor old Irene is back to being a hot water bottle for both Araucanas.   Rebecca, who started the whole idea of snuggling into Irene in the first place, took her usual position.

Rebecca will soon make herself comfortable by getting in among Irene's feathers

By the time Rebecca has herself sorted out, all that's visible are her legs and some of her tail.   Then Punk moved in from the front and made herself nice and snug too.   It's beyond me how Irene manages to get any sleep at all!

Fizz was obviously somewhat concerned about the view Titian presented to the world, as he spent the night balanced on the edge of her nestbox.   Dangerous position, given that Titian is Poo Queen. 

All these goings on at bedtime obviously annoyed Maggie and disturbed her beauty sleep.   When she appeared yesterday morning, she stopped halfway down the ramp, glared at my son, held her wings half out and then "harrumphed" at him.  Really it was halfway between an "harrumph" and a growl, but I have no idea how to represent the sound in words!  

Titian appeared next and went over to have a deep, meaningful conversation with my son's trouser leg.

Then Irene barged down, spotted a few pellets that had escaped from the feeder and pounced on them with a delighted purr.  She probably felt she deserved a treat after the night she'd had.

Everyone else made their way out except Pom-Pom, who was relaxing in her boudoir as usual.   But this morning Fizz was having none of that "Lady Muck" nonsense.   So he went back into the coop and made her get up.  

So today we learned a new expression from Maggie - but I strongly suspect it was fowl language.   (I'm really, really sorry - just couldn't resist making that pun).

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Thank goodness for snow!

Pom-Pom has finally come to her senses and has given up roosting on the cage gate - much to Fizz's relief.   When it started snowing on her, she decided that enough was enough.   It was warmer and dryer inside the coop with the others, so she put herself to bed there, with the rest of the mob.

To be fair, Punk seems to have forgotten why she kept chasing Pom-Pom and making her life a misery.   And Pom-Pom's memory of being frightened of the Araucana has faded too.   It must have done, because I looked into the run a few days ago and they were sitting side-by-side on the log.   As a result, Pom-Pom has lost her fear of retiring to the bedchamber with everyone else.  It appears she's no longer afraid that Punk will attack her the minute she sets foot inside.

I suspect that the whole thing started because Punk decided to moult so late.   The lead-up to it probably caused her some discomfort and she became crochety.  It's no good getting nasty with chickens who are above you in the pecking order and the only ones below her were Pom-Pom and Rebecca.   She was hardly going to take her bad moods out on her sister.   So that just left the snooty Poland.   Having said all that, we are talking about the bantam who didn't hesitate to attack a 6' 2" tall human male last summer, just because she couldn't get her own way.

If we had a normal cockerel, I'm sure things wouldn't have been allowed to get as far as they did.   I recently read a chicken-keeper's eye-witness account about two hens who squabbled over who should use a particular nest box.   One turfed the other out and occupied it herself.   The hen who lost out, took herself off and complained to the flock's cockerel.   He then went inside the coop and chatted to the hen in the nestbox.   Then he came out and chatted to the aggrieved party.   After that, everyone seemed happy.  

I seriously doubt if Fizz even noticed anything was amiss in our flock!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Order, order ..........

Time and again I've read that chickens don't like change; apparently it upsets them.   Well nobody told my lot that!   In fact they're the ones that make the changes, especially at bedtime.

We have two perches and two nest boxes in the coop.   Our birds ring the changes regularly as to who sleeps next to whom and where.   It's the one time that seniority doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference to them.  Having said that, since Maggie has risen to the rank of CEO (Chicken Everyone Obeys), she has taken to sleeping on her own in one of the nest boxes.  However, even she swaps from one to the other fairly often.   From time to time in the past, Tu-Tu has slept in the nest boxes, but of late she regularly occupies whichever one has been left vacant by Maggie.  

The rest of them use the perches, but they tend to crowd onto the same one - usually in an orderly line from one side to the other.  The Araucanas are the exceptions.  They stand on the floor behind Irene and Titian, then stuff themselves deep into the big girls' feathers.   They bury themselves so deep that sometimes all you can see of them are their legs and tails.   I've never quite worked out why they don't end up covered in poo, but they don't.

Last night, things had changed somewhat.   Titian and Irene had decided to take up residence very close together and jammed up against the wall, right at the very end of the perch.  One faced forward, the other faced back.   That didn't deter Punk and Rebecca.  Punk squeezed in between the perch and the back wall, then snuggled into Titian.   Rebecca took her usual position under Irene.

Fizz had decided to sleep on the roof of the coop.  From there he can not only guard his girls who have gone to bed inside, but can also watch over Pom-Pom, who still insists on roosting on the cage gate.  As usual, I lifted Fizz down and put him inside.   He had a huge expanse of perch to choose from - remember four of the girls were scrunched up in a corner and the other two were in nest boxes.   So what did he do?   He rushed over into the far corner and made a very determined effort to squeeze onto the perch between the wall and Titian!  He pushed and shoved and wriggled, but could make no headway against the combined weight of Titian and Irene.   They are big girls and either one of them is more than twice the size of Fizz.  In any case, it's difficult to move when you have another chicken nestled in among your feathers.

In the end he gave up and perched at the other end, where there was plenty of room.   When I'd finished laughing, I fetched Pom-Pom and put her inside, placing her on the empty perch nearest the door.   She, very sensibly, quickly settled down exactly where I'd put her.   She'll still be there in the morning.