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, 30 April 2012

Of pheasants, lambs and leopards

Back in March, when we had such gorgeous sunny weather, we started planting stuff in the garden.

Come summer, I planned to have a wide "curtain" of sweetpeas against the fence.  No. 1 Son drilled drainage holes in half a dozen plastic storage containers.  You know the sort - you can get them in places like B&Q or Homebase.  You use them to put paperwork and stuff in that you want to save "just in case", but never look at ever again.

So, in went the compost and the boxes were placed end to end along the fence.   Then in went the bamboo poles all nicely staggered with some towards the back and others further forward.  (Any pole dancer will tell you - you can't have your poles in a straight line, it spoils the effect).  Finally, we planted lots and lots of sweet pea plantlets and protected them with a long piece of fleece which we removed during a recent 3 minute break in the rain.  If it ever stops raining, we plan to disguise the containers by putting some willow fencing along the front.  That will also serve to stop the chickens poking their beaks around in the compost, looking for worms.

Unfortunately, the pheasants discovered them before we had time to protect the young plants with netting.   They decided that our sweet peas were meant as snacks for passing wildlife and have been tucking in.

Which leads me to the point of this story.  One of this year's young male pheasants decided that a visit to the snack bar was called for.   So he flew up, intending to land on the dry stone wall which marks our garden's boundary.   However, before landing he spotted that not only were the chickens loose in the garden, so were we.  So instead of landing, he closed his wings and dropped straight back down.   All I saw was a pheasant's head for a moment, before it disappeared again.   It was just as if he was on a trampoline.

His acrobatics drew the attention of some nearby lambs who thought it would be fun to chase him.  Which they did.   So he legged it off down the field, and that drew him to the attention of his dad.

Dad had already made it crystal clear that it was time the lad found his own territory.   So he came thundering over to chase his son off.  The youngster turned tail and headed back up the field ........... doing a leopard crawl!   You know what I mean?  Belly to the ground!

It's bad enough having chickens whose behaviour is far from normal.   Now it appears they've infected the wildlife!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A very soggy drought

"More than half of Britain is now in drought, the Environment Agency has warned, as the UK faces its most severe water shortage since 1976" (quote from a national newspaper a few days ago).

Drought!  Really?  For those of you who don't live in the UK, we've experienced an awful lot of rain lately.   In my little corner of England, it hasn't stopped raining for nearly 3 weeks!

And my chickens are not happy!  When they hear me coming down the path, they rush to the gate hoping that:

a.   They are going to be let out into the garden.
b.   That it's not pouring with rain on my side of the gate.

Instead of which, all that happens is they get wet and troop dejectedly back to the covered cage area.   They still don't bother going into the smoking shelter unless I throw corn in there.   Then they gobble up the goodies and retire back to the cage!

I've let them out into the garden when it's stopped raining long enough for me to do so, but that hasn't happened very often of late.   Even Mad Irene is getting fed up with it now, and she doesn't get fed up easily.   And her pupil Rebecca can no longer truly be described as "Lavender".  She has managed to acquire a black head - probably from delving into the mud looking for drowned worms.

Deluge or no deluge, there comes a time when you have no option but to clean out the coop and put fresh new bedding in.   That point came yesterday afternoon.   I had waited, watching the sky hopefully for a let-up in the downpour, but none came.    So we sloshed our way down to the hen run and did the quickest cleaning job imaginable.  Today we shall turn our attention to the run - again.  We had put down several rolls of turf; we knew they wouldn't last long, and they haven't, but they did cover the mud for a while.  Now they are, of course, areas of mud themselves.   When No. 1 Son gets home from work this afternoon, we shall be off to buy loads of straw.   We shall cover the caged area with it and strew the rest of it round the run with gay abandon.

Most of the flock opted for an early night yesterday.   However, Rebecca (it would be, wouldn't it), lingered downstairs in the cage - she likes her little bit of "me" time in the evening.   However, her foster-mum Tu-Tu was having none of it.   She grabbed Rebecca by the feathers and hauled her towards the ramp, making it quite clear that bedtime is bedtime and there shall be no messing about! 

She's never done that before, so we assume it was because she wanted the drafty pop-hole closed up.  Then she could settle down in the warmth created by a flock in an enclosed coop, dry out and dream of dustbaths in the sun.

Friday, 20 April 2012

A tale of two Polands

Do you remember how astounded I was, a couple of posts ago, about the huge changes in Pom-Pom's regime?

"Puts herself to bed in the coop," I said.

"Gets up at the same time as the others," I said.

"Lays her eggs in the nestbox," I said.

Well delete all of the above!   She waited until that story had been safely stored on my blog and read by you, then went back to her old habits.   

I do find myself wondering about a couple of things though.   You know how sometimes you get so comfortable on the settee that, much to your surprise, you wake up to find you'd nodded off without realising it.  Well perhaps that's what has happened to Pom-Pom this last day or two - the log being her equivalent of a settee.   And to be fair, we all oversleep occasionally don't we.   So that could be why Madam didn't appear at breakfast time yesterday and blinked groggily at me when I opened up the coop to check on her.   And I'm sure there's a plausible reason why she laid her egg in the furthermost corner of the spare coop yesterday too.  I just can't think of one at the moment.

And so, inevitably, we come to Fizz.   When I let everyone out yesterday, Maggie and the two Araucanas scooted to the top end of the run to hoover up the pellets they knew they'd find there.   A minute later, Fizz dashed up after them (he'd stopped for a quick bite to eat downstairs first).   He headed straight for Rebecca, his intentions being strictly dishonourable - as if we didn't know. 

Unfortunately for him, Rebecca was breakfasting right beside Maggie and Maggie does not like to be disturbed when she's eating.   Poor old Fizz found himself being chased back from whence he came.   It was just his luck that Irene was on her way up, just as he was on his rather rapid way down.  That irritated her because breakfast was being delayed..   So there he was, sandwiched between a grouchy Orpington and a tetchy Light Sussex.   His only way was up and he made a magnificent vertical leap.

The snag with his strategic withdrawal plan was that he came straight down again and found himself in the same adverse circumstances.  Before Irene and Maggie could have another go at him, he ducked under the log and legged it across the run.  Then jumped onto the smoking shelter roof and down into the lower run, coming to a halt by me.

I stroked his back and reassured him that he was still the prettiest cockerel in the run.  He seemed happier after that and went on his way.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Follow my leader

It was cold and wet here this morning, so I decided to give the chickens a choice of breakfasts.  They could get their beaks into some warm mash, or they could munch on their normal pellets.

I put most of their food in little cups which can be hung on the outside of the cage if it's good weather, or inside the cage if it looks like rain.  I also throw a few pellets around the run so they can have fun scratching around to find them.  As it was raining heavily today, all their food went inside the covered cage area.

When I opened the pop-hole, Rebecca and Punk hurtled out as usual, got to the open cage gate ....... and hesitated.   Hmmmm.  Was that rain they saw before them?   Did they like rain?   Neither of them could remember, so they dithered around, just inside the gate.

Mad Irene had no such problem!   She ran full pelt down the ramp, forced a path between the two Araucanas and raced up the steps into the top part of the run.   The two little Lavender bantams took off after her.  After all, Irene knows best.

But confusion reigned once they reached their destination.   Where were their pellets?  There were always pellets round here in the morning!  Punk did a quick recce in case I'd hidden them somewhere, discovered I hadn't and realised she was getting wet.  So she took herself back to the cage.

What made things even more confusing for Rebecca was a distinct lack of  Fizz.  By now she would normally be doing her best to avoid his amorous attentions, but he was nowhere to be seen.   He, very sensibly, had taken one look at the weather and decided that today the chicken equivalent of a Full English Breakfast was called for.

Rebecca looked hopefully at Irene; were they going back inside too?  But apparently not.  Rebecca is too young to remember the time I heard a commotion in the hen run and rushed out to the rescue in a torrential downpour.  I arrived, drenched through to my knickers, only to find it was Irene doing her Gene Kelly "Singing in the Rain" impersonation!   I was not impressed.

So Rebecca trudged round after Irene, but cast many a longing glance at the rest of the flock, all nice and dry.  It's one of the drawbacks of being an acolyte.  Where the leader goes - you must follow.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Change of tactics

Pom-Pom in her favourite place

Pom-Pom's behaviour over the past week has had us totally bewildered. 

If you remember, this is the chicken who absolutely detests laying eggs.   Her normal modus operandi has been to start grumbling (quite loudly for her size) from around 11 o'clock each morning.  She would carry on complaining, while marching round and round, until late afternoon.   Then she would rid herself of the offending egg wherever she happened to be at the time.   On one momentous occasion, she dropped her egg (literally) while she was standing on my foot!  It wasn't even too unusual for her to dispose of the distasteful item whilst still on the move!

Almost a week ago we were astonished to find one of her eggs in the nest box.  Obviously this was an oversight on her part - or so we thought.   Then blow me, we found another in the nest box two days later and a third two days after that!  And there's been no histrionics all day long, not a peep!

As if that wasn't enough of a surprise, she's changed a couple of her other habits of a lifetime too.   At bedtime, we've always had to remove her from her favoured roosting place and put her in the coop with the others.  We've found her in the tangle of honeysuckle branches or on the roof of one or other of the coops.  For some time she favoured the gate of the cage beneath the main coop.   Lately she's been nodding off on the log in the run.  But for the last three nights on the trot, we've found her inside the coop with the others, comfortably tucked up on a perch.

As if all that wasn't enough for us to contend with, she now gets up at the same time as the rest of the flock!  She may be the last one to leave the coop, but out she comes.   To be fair, she does look rather groggy as she staggers down the ramp, but there's no more of the "Don't bother me in my boudoir, it's far too early" nonsense.

We find all this somewhat disconcerting; it's not like the Pom-Pom we know and love.   Or maybe it's just that our little girl is all grown up.   Oh dear, I think I need a cup of tea while I leaf through her baby photographs.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

It's bath time!

The chickens spent a good part of last week trying to dig up my dwarf ornamental cherry tree.  For the most part it was sunny, they had nothing better to do, so why not?

Tu-Tu quietly let them get on with it, watching their progress from the other side of the lawn.   When she judged that they'd got rid of most of the grass and had churned the earth up nicely, she acted.  

Irene, Rebecca and Punk  thought they were digging for worms.  Tu-Tu, however, needed a bath and took advantage of their hard work to get one.   She settled down in a nice little spot next to the tree and began her ablutions.

Maggie thought this was a great idea and came over to join her.  Her big mistake was choosing an area immediately behind Tu-Tu because that's where she kept finding her face.  Buried in Tu-Tu's behind.  Every time either she or Tu-Tu wriggled around in the dry earth, Maggie's face seemed to end up buried in Tu-Tu's exuberant mass of tail feathers.  She tolerated it for so long, but after the 5th or 6th time she decided that enough was enough.  So she stood up and slowly walked round Tu-Tu,  thrusting her head towards the little Pekin and glaring at her.  Then she went and settled down again -  exactly where she had been before!

This bit of action aroused the interest of some of the others, who wandered over to see what was going on.

Irene gets up close and personal, Fizz nestles down beside Tu-Tu

After a moment or two, Fizz decided to have a bath too.   But as usual, things don't turn out quite the way he intends them to.

Fizz has to do things the awkward way!

He ended up with his bum jammed against the tree and his face wedged up against the compost bags!   His antics caused Titian a great deal of concern, so she came over to check that he was all right.

Titian trying to work out what on earth Fizz is doing!

Watching chickens take dust baths is always lovely - but this time it was like going to a pantomime, it was so much fun to watch.   But it must have made Tu-Tu particularly tired this time because come bedtime, look where she chose to sleep:-

Tu-Tu nestles under Irene's wing