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, 31 January 2012

Strange bedfellows

Rebecca can't sleep unless she's snugly tucked up in someone else's feathers.  It's always been that way.   The feathers in question, generally speaking, have belonged to Irene.

Finally, after over a year of having first one Araucana, and then both of them, making themselves comfortable at her expense, Irene has rebelled.

Just like Popeye, she decided "I can't stands no more!".  So despite a noticeable absence of spinach, she has found a space in the coop where it's difficult for them to burrow into her plumage. She gets herself settled and sits firmly down.  That way, neither of the little blighters can worm their way underneath her and squat between her legs, like they do.  Ha!

It doesn't bother Punk very much.  She's tough, she can take it; the hell with it, she'll roost on the perch. But Rebecca has never had the independent streak that Punk exhibits.  She needs to be able to snuggle.

Which is how Fizz found himself precariously wobbling on the perch with an Araucana (almost the same size as him) tucked between his legs.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

There's no place like home

Sometimes chickens go where they’re not supposed to, the lounge invasion posted earlier in the month being a case in point.  Last week someone else told me she found one of her chickens at the top of her stairs.  Chickens waltzing into kitchens seems so commonplace that it’s hardly worth mentioning.

Fortunately our mob can’t get to our house, or I’m sure we’d find them in all sorts of odd nooks and crannies.   However, they do have a large run, with plenty of room to run around and not bump into each other.  But like many people who keep pet chickens, ours are allowed out in the garden, providing we’re around to supervise.   Although it’s too cold to stand around with them for long, we’ve still let them out as often as we can over the winter.  This morning there was actually some sun, so the gate of the run was opened up and out they all came.   

Then, after only a few minutes, as one they all turned and went back in again!   No mad panic, no free-for-all, no elbowing each other out of the way.  Just an orderly, well-disciplined stroll back into the run.   They reminded me of a group of old biddies taking their morning “constitutional” along the promenade of a somewhat genteel seaside town.

When I say “all”, that’s not strictly true.  Pom-Pom hadn’t noticed the mass exodus as she was busy.   It suddenly dawned on her that things had gone just a bit too quiet and that made her peer out from under her enormous hairdo.   Normally she can see the other chickens’ feet all over the show, even though she can’t see the rest of them.  There wasn’t a foot to be seen!   Not a single one!

“Yikes!” she thought.   On reflection, she’s far too posh to have used a word like that.  Most probably the thought that passed through her mind was more like, “Oh my word, I wonder where the riff-raff have gone.”

She was obviously extremely worried by the absence of the rest of the flock - after all, you never know when the Vikings might come on the rampage again.  So she was picked up and ceremoniously deposited back in the run.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Things ain't what they used to be

Poor old Fizz - things aren't going terribly smoothly for him at the moment.   Over the last few days there's been a bit of a rebellion in the hen coop.

A few posts back I mentioned that he had begun to take his status as Cockerel-in-Chief very seriously.  (We'll ignore the fact that he's the only cockerel and nobody takes him seriously.)   Anyway, he'd got into the habit of getting up in the morning and checking to see who was around and who wasn't.   Then he'd go back into the coop and unceremoniously turf out the lazy lot who were having a lie-in.   In other words, Tu-Tu, Punk and Pom-Pom.

A couple of mornings back, he got up as usual, stuck his head in the food dish, went for a quick recce round the run and made a token amorous move towards Rebecca.   Halfway through his courtship dance, he suddenly remembered he was three hens short in his little harem.   So leaving Rebecca looking mightily relieved, he headed for the upper reaches of the hen coop.

Normal procedure is a bit of a scuffle, some muttering, then Tu-Tu emerges.   After a bit more of a scuffle and some appallingly bad language, out comes Punk.   Finally Pom-Pom shows her face, following some very gentle persuasion from Fizz.

However, the duvet huggers must have had a bit of a conference.  It seems they decided to set up a Resistance Movement - although I suspect the committee consisted of Tu-Tu and Punk, with Pom-Pom offering moral, rather than physical, support.

Where were we?  Oh yes, we left Fizz marching up the ramp, through the pop-hole and into ..... defiant opposition.   There was the most almighty fracas!   Never mind a scuffle - it sounded more like a tag-wrestling match that all the spectators had joined in.  And the language!   I can only hope that Pom-Pom's bouffant pom-pom muffled some of the swearing, because she really isn't accustomed to that kind of thing.

It was all over very quickly.   The girls had made their position crystal clear and Fizz decided to respect their privacy.  So moments after he went into the coop, he came back out again.   Rebecca had the good sense to make herself scarce behind the spare coop.

And the lay-abouts?   Tu-Tu made a dignified entrance to the new day about 5 minutes later and had a leisurely breakfast.   Punk strutted down the ramp not very long after that.   Pom-Pom nodded off again and, as usual, still hadn't got up by the time we left the run. 

Fizz trying to work out what just happened

Monday, 16 January 2012

Animal crackpots

It seems that our little neighbourhood is the type that attracts animal oddballs. 
I’ve become used to the idea that I own a chicken who hates laying eggs, but recently I met another nonconformist.   He’s our new neighbours’ absolutely gorgeous Border Collie.   He’s the kind you see at Sheepdog Trials, running round making sure that the sheep end up exactly where the shepherd wants them.  Not this one though.   Here we have sheepdog who is scared of sheep!  That's why the farmer had to find a new home for him.

We live in a rural village, so when he’s taken for a walk, you can guarantee he will encounter sheep at some point - the first field he walks past, to be precise.   So what does he do?  He turns his head away and refuses to look at them.   If he can’t see them, they’re not there and so he has nothing to be afraid of.   Makes sense to me.

This sheepdog has the right idea, although the sheep look rather surprised!

Then we have the tern who thinks he’s a crow.   He and his mates spend a lot of time in the field behind my garden, so I often see him.   The crows potter round the field, checking it out for any edible bits and pieces (although I shudder to think what it is they actually find to eat).  Pottering round with them you will usually see a solitary tern.   When they gather on the dead oak for a chat, there he is again.   When they fly off, so does he.

Some years ago, when I was living abroad, I went to the local RSPCA-type place to see if they had a cat.  I came away with a calf.   As I explained to the family when I got home - they both began with a "c" so what did it matter?

I had to hand-rear our week-old acquisition and, as a result, she followed me all over the place.  Most afternoons I went for a walk down to the river that flowed through the property.  The dogs and cat used to come with me, and the calf brought up the rear.   I'd sit down to quietly watch the local birdlife; the calf thought this was an invitation for her to lie down beside me and put her head in my lap.   I hadn't the heart to tell her that cows don't do that.

Over the years, I've cared for a variety of rescued birds and animals, many of whom seemed blissfully unaware of normal behaviour for their type.  Well …. it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same, would it.

Picture by C. MacMillan

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Oh it's nice to get up in the morning - but it's better to stay in bed

Pom-Pom is very much her own chicken.   She likes to have a lie-in in the morning and get up when she feels like getting up – and not before.   She tends to keep herself to herself and could never be described as a sociable type.    She’s usually to be found at the edge of the group, or even well away from them, thinking her thoughts and keeping them to herself.   However, at the moment, she is more than a little disgruntled.

The reason for this is Fizz.   Since his moult and gorgeous feather re-growth he’s a changed cockerel.  He’s a bit bigger, certainly bulkier and his spurs have grown enormously.  They are no longer rounded little bits of stubble on the back of his legs.   They are indeed a fine pair of spurs;  anyone would be proud to own them.   Fizz has matured into an even prettier chicken than he was before, and he is very well aware of that.  

Apparently he’s also learned to read and at some point has come across Shelley’s poem “Ode to the West wind”.  The poem’s last line says, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”     

“Aha”,  he thought,  “Spring!  That’s when I start my serious bonking.   Must get some practice in now.”   At least, that’s what I imagine he thought, but for all I know he’s never seen a poem in his life.

Anyway, the upshot is that if anyone lingers in the coop after I’ve opened up, Fizz goes back upstairs and chases them out.   Those affected are Punk, Tu-Tu and, of course, milady Pom-Pom.   Punk is like me in the morning, it takes her a while to come round.  She gets up a little later than the early birds, has a bit of a stretch and then goes out.   Tu-Tu is the oldest bird in the flock and doesn’t feel the need to rush out like she used to.   She stays in the nest box , contemplating the joys that the day ahead might bring.   At this point, Pom-Pom only has one eye half open.

I always stay in the run for a while once I’ve opened the coop up.   Rebecca, Irene, Titian and Maggie come out very quickly as usual.  Next Fizz races out of the coop and buries his head in the pellets for a quick breakfast.   Last year he would have been chasing Punk, Rebecca and Tu-Tu all round the run in order to have his way with them before anyone had a morsel of food.   Things are a bit different now.

Having eaten, he takes a quick look to see if Rebecca’s handy for a speedy bonk.  But she knows what to expect  and will have made sure she’s not in his immediate line of sight.   However, Fizz knows where there are more accessible vents to be had.  It’s then that he shoots back up the ramp and into the coop.

And the peaceful tranquillity of my lovely rural garden is shattered!

Loud squeals and squawks emanate from inside the coop, then the thunder of tiny feet as Punk races out to escape Fizz’s amorous advances.  Further squeaks accompanied by the sound of serious scuffling and the bundle of fluff which is Tu-Tu appears, rapidly en route for the wide open spaces of the run.   That just leaves Pom-Pom.

If there’s one thing that Pom-Pom hates, it’s laying eggs – but a passionate Fizz comes a very, very close second.  His attentions are generally greeted with shrieks and screeches, the likes of which haven’t been heard in this part of the world since the Vikings went on the rampage.  

Underneath all that egocentric blustering, Fizz is really an awfully nice chap.  After all, he is British don’t you know.  So he limits himself to chasing Pom-Pom out of the coop, followed by a couple of half-hearted attempts at sex, then gives up.   He loves her so much, that he doesn't enjoy upsetting her.

Pom-Pom shakes herself vigorously to get all her feathers back where they should be.  As it happens, she normally ends up right beside a food dish;  there’s nothing like breakfast to sooth a troubled brow (or something like that), so she indulges in a bit of soothing.  

I’ve entirely given up any thoughts I harboured of having some little Poland chicks to play with some day.   But at least peace is now restored to my bit of the valley …….. until tomorrow morning.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Smoking Shelter Blues

When I go to let the chickens out in the morning I have a little ritual.   This involves throwing lots of pellets inside the smoking shelter, right along the whole length of it.   Then I dribble a handful of them just a little way out of the entrance.   The idea is that the chickens will spot the dribbles, then eat their way right inside.  I'm using this bit of skulduggery to get them so used to going inside, that when it rains or is windy and they fancy a change of scenery, they'll take a wander over there.   Or if they are in a thoughtful frame of mind and want to have deep, meaningful conversations with Maggie, they have somewhere private to go.

It's worked very well, it really has - but only at breakfast time and only with one chicken.   Mad Irene remembers the first time I encouraged the chickens to use the smoking shelter, using exactly this crafty technique.  So now she always hurtles out of the coop, grabs a quick mouthful of pellets at the entrance and eats her way in.   Then she'll realise that she's on her own and rush out again.   That's because she constantly worries that one of the others will have something that would be much better in her beak.  What if someone's found a worm?  How will she know if she's stuck down in the shelter?   She can't bear the idea that she might be missing the opportunity to steal something nice from one of the others. 

Irene needs the apple that Tu-Tu has made off with

It's obvious that some members of the flock pop into the shelter for a quick snack, because there's never anything left by lunchtime.   But they always wait until I've gone indoors before they sneak in.  However, I take comfort from the fact that, little by little, they are getting used to going inside.

A few days ago the weather was absolutely horrible.   The wind roared down the valley like a steam train going full pelt, and it rained on and off all day.   I read lots of horror stories about people's chicken coops being blown over, with chickens inside.   Our chicken coop stayed resolutely upright and didn't move an inch.   Just as well really, since every single one of my daft chickens had gathered in the cage beneath it.

The smoking shelter gives far more protection from the wind than ever the cage does.   So why, why, why don't they use it?   Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

In and out, out and in

It was another very wet day yesterday and the chickens were less than impressed by it all.  When the weather's foul, the fowl congregate in the cage under their coop and stay there.

Tu-Tu doesn't like being stuck inside the cage and ventures out from time to time for a little wander round.   Despite the fact that we've got lots and lots of woodchip in the run, it was never going to be able to cope with the amount of rain we've had recently.   As a result, it's somewhat muddy in there.   But our little Pekin is a game gal and doesn't care if her feet feathers get mucky.  Off she goes anyway.   Her footwear looks a mess after her perambulations, which leads on to something that puzzles me enormously.  How and when does she clean up?  She's a bird who takes a pride in her appearance, so she cleans said footwear quickly - but I've never seen her do it.  It amazes me, but you simply don't see her walking round for days with dried mud clinging to her feet or skirt. 

It was getting dark pretty quickly , what with the rain and overcast sky.  So I went down a bit earlier than usual to see if they'd decided to have an early night.  Some of them had indeed gone to bed, but a quick glance in the cage told me that Maggie, Irene, Pom-Pom and Rebecca were still lurking downstairs.  

For a while now, Pom-Pom has been roosting on the cage gate.  She was standing at the cage entrance now, in deep thought.  Should she go out and roost in the rain ..... or not.   I solved her dilemma by shutting the cage gate, so she'd have no alternative but to join the others in the coop.

I went back to the house feeling really pleased with myself because I'd prevented our little Poland from becoming a sodden mess of wet feathers.

I started back down to the coop about 15 minutes later, so that I could do a head count, close the pop-hole and lock the gate into the run.   I was met by my very anxious looking son, who had just got back from work. He informed me I'd left Rebecca outside the cage!

When I'd glanced in earlier, I'd mistaken Punk for Rebecca.   I'm sure it was some sort of conspiracy because Punk invariably goes to bed early - which is why I assumed she was Rebecca.

The upshot was that the poor little Araucana had been shut outside.   She kept running all the way round the outside of the cage and would stop outside the gate.   She'd stare hard at it (probably saying "Open sesame" - she'd heard that worked with stopped up caves), then off she'd go to do another circuit round the perimeter of the cage.  Then she'd stop at the gate, give it another look for a long moment, then off she'd go again.

I am sitting here weeping into my Martini.   I am a dreadful keeper of pet chickens.  I stop one of them roosting on her favourite perch, I mistake one of my chickens for her sister and, to cap it all, I lock said sister out in the cold and wet.

Never mind a refill - just pass me the bottle!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Fireworks on New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve I was playing cards with my son when we heard the unmistakeable sound of fireworks going off.   The noise they made was so loud, we thought they must be very close by.   Worried that the racket would upset the chickens, we rushed outside. 

Quite what we thought we were going to do to calm the flock down, I don't know!   On reflection, we didn't have many options to choose from.   Even with two of us down at the coop, we could hardly lift them all up in our arms, stroke their feathery heads and say, "There, there.  Don't worry.  It'll be all right soon."  For one thing there's 8 of them and only two of us, so we don't have enough arm room between us to accommodate all of them at the same time.   And anyway, I don't think they would have appreciated being yanked out of their comfortable coop, half asleep, no matter how good our intentions were.

Unlike today's horrible windy wet weather, it was an unseasonably mild evening.   So, like the good, responsible chicken keepers we are, we stood and watched the fireworks before going to the chicken run.  It was further away than we had, at first, thought.  There were 3 fields and a river between us and a really smashing display of what appeared to be commercial-quality fireworks.

It all finally came to an end, so we trooped down to the hen coop, lifted the lid of the nest box and shone the torch in.   Titian blinked up at us, started to shift her bulk out of the nestbox, then thought better of it.  The blinking stopped and we were glowered at instead.

The other nestbox was occupied by a very bleary-eyed Maggie, who looked at us as if we'd gone stark staring mad.   No, she hadn't been bothered by the fireworks, nor had anyone else, so would we mind pushing off so she could continue with her beauty sleep.

Needless to say, Fizz was so deeply asleep that he didn't disturb in the slightest when we looked in.  I very much doubt that Rebecca or Punk heard the fireworks or were aware of us either.  They would have been so deeply stuffed into Irene's feathers that any sound would have been so muffled as to be just about inaudible.

Everyone else seemed fine, so we quietly closed up and went back to the house. 

Photo by Ricardo Pesce

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A Christmas story with a difference!

I belong to a lovely forum called Down The Lane.   One of the members posted the following story about the mayhem caused by her chickens on Christmas Day.  It made me laugh so much that I asked her permission to share it on my blog.   


….. my brother wanted to show my girls what he and Dad had brought them for Christmas so opened the patio door and showed them a Roses chocolates tin full of mealworms. To my girls this just said “come in and help yourselves”, so 11 hens steamrollered into the lounge and jumped my brother.

Mealworms went everywhere, as did 11 mad hens trailing mud everywhere and, to make things worse, they had been dust bathing in their sandy run.   Of course in their rush to get inside they shook themselves inside the house, so I now had sand, mealworms and muddy chicken feet prints all over my brand new carpet.   We tried shoving them outside but once you opened the door to put one out, a chicken you previously put outside ran back in.

Finally between them eating and us scraping together and putting mealworms back in the tin, there were no mealworms left on the carpet.  So the girls turned their attention to knocking over christmas cards, bashing baubles on the christmas tree, digging in the bowl of Christmas pot pouri, eating my bouquet of flowers and tugging at the two Christmas elves that stand about 2ft high (ie chicken height) and then trying to eat their hats, scarves and presents they are holding.

We finally get them outside after they decided they were getting a bit bored now. We finally relaxed and my Dad sits down on the sofa with a big sigh and the cushion squeaks - Muffin the ex batt had jumped on the sofa and tucked herself up behind a cushion! We turf her out and do a head count - Bella is missing - quick search and we find her behind the back of the sofa with a half eaten chocolate - yep a strawberry cream and it’s all over her face and on my carpet!   Thank goodness my carpet is scrubbable!

I dont know why but they still got their Christmas dinner - cooked and mashed potato peelings, sprout leaves mixed with oats. To this they had left-over sprouts, roast potatoes, carrots, Yorkshire puddings, a few prawns (they loved these) and lettuce (we had prawn cocktail for starters) and topped with a few earthworms (my present to them). They ate everything even the carrots – happy, happy hens.


Thankyou so much for this story 4c lady.   And a Happy New Year to all of you.