Friday, 29 May 2009

An Early Morning Visitor

Now that Maeve is in the Convent with the other girls, I have been leaving the pop hole open so that should they decide to attempt chickenicide she can escape into the run. This has worked well for the last week or so, so last night I thought nothing of leaving this arrangement in place.

This morning, I was woken at 6am by an almighty racket. I assumed it was Doris making an egg announcement, but blearily made my way down to hush them. The neighbours have been fab about the chooks, but I could see this dawn chorus ending in complaints. I shuffled out in the early morning sunshine to the coop, and opened the door. All of the girls bar Maeve were sitting on the floor, silent. Maeve was doing her best road runner impression around the run, obviously thinking that I'd come down to let them out. I sleepily muttered a 'shush!' then went back to bed.

At a more respectable hour, when I was a lot more with it, I went out to open the run. That's when I noticed that the side gate was unlocked, and open. This was my over sight, as the kids were playing out and I was too lazy to keep opening the front door to them. Coupled with having an old friend stay over with a bottle of wine, I completely forgot to secure the side gate. Looking back into the run, I suddenly realised that there were quite a lot of feathers blowing about, including a beautiful flight feather which could only have come from Maude.

With a sudden feeling of dread, I opened the coop to do a head count. All girls were present and correct, and I could see no obvious damage to Maude. I suspect that either a cat, or a fox, wandered into the garden courtesy of the side gate early this morning, and that the commotion was an alarm call. In her panic, Maude has bashed herself about and torn out a good few feathers. That'll teach me to get too complacent.

On a happier note, Belinda has been granted an early release and has gotten over her broodiness. Mini will be occupying her cell by the end of today.

One problem with this gorgeous weather and free ranging chooks are the flies. I poo pick daily from the lawn and run, but the copious droppings in the flower beds are a little harder to access. There are now a cloud of vile blue bottles buzzing around the shrubbery. This is an untenable situation.

A solution must be found.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Belinda Is Doing Time

Lindy has now been determinedly broody for 7 weeks. Apart from the fact that it's annoying, because she doesn't lay any eggs, it's also not good for her. She has lost a considerable amount of weight, and her feathers have become dull and scruffy. Belinda needs to come out of her hormonal craziness, and soon. Hence why she is currently pacing like a mad chicken inside a wire cage, constructed by the ever tolerant husband.

There are many reasons why Belinda is unhappy with this arrangement. For starters, there is no cosy nest box, just a wire floor so that the wind can cool her under carriage. There is also no shelter of any kind, so no comfy place to build a nest. There is food and water, but nothing to perch on. She can sit and she can pace, but she can do neither in chicken comfort. Plus, the others seem to take great delight on sitting on the top of her prison, or stretching out next to it in a manner which suggests mocking the poor little hen.

Hopefully, Lindy's stay in the clink will be reasonably brief. Within three days, she should get so uncomfortable and fed up that she'll go off the idea of nest sitting altogether and rejoin the flock.

And once the cell is free, Mini will be paying it a visit.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Punk Chicken

Yep, Mini has a purple mohican again. I propped open the nest box to watch my two broodies and observed Belinda basically trying to eat Mini from the comb down. Mini is in such a state of broodiness that apparently the threat of being cannibalised isn't enough of an incentive to move from the nest. As Lindy systematically noshed Mini's bonce, the resigned weaker hen merely growled in a half hearted way. I gave Belinda a poke for being such an evil little witch before reaching for the gentian violet. Mini has gone all emo.

I suspect that this deliberate attempt to slowly dispatch Mini has been caused by Belinda's belief that Mini has stolen her eggs. Before the vicious eating began, Belinda was rootling around under Mini's feathers. She stuck her head under the sitting hens wings, and even leaned against her in an effort to push her off the nest. Belinda, in her hormonal frenzy, has forgotten that she has no eggs to be stolen.

Just my luck to have two demented chooks fighting over imaginary eggs.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Mystery Solved

I wish to report a theft. Someone has stolen Mini. She has been replaced with an evil doppelganger. I am no longer greeted by my friendly little splash hen when I go out to the coop. She doesn't sit with her head to one side making that distinctive 'Brum' (kids tv programme) noise or try to sit on my shoulder when I hang out the washing. No, this new evil doppelganger does not want to be my friend.

Instead, she sits in the never-used nestbox, bum up in the air and head pulled right in to her body. If I lift the lid to check on Belinda, the Other Mini shrieks at me and raises all her feathers in a display of chicken aggression. This banshee-chicken won't lay any eggs, but will steal anyone else's. In fact, this Mini has even impressed Belinda with her hormonal insanity.

Judging by the fact that Belinda has now been broody for over a month, I suspect that my lovely friendly Mini will be on an extended holiday, perhaps showing her face again at some time in July. Yep, Mini has caught broody.

Thank gawd she isn't ill again!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Mystery Of Mini

While out pottering yesterday, I spotted Mini sat under the lilac bush. She was pale, hunched up and her eyes were closed. Uh oh. Rummaging in the undergrowth, I pulled her out and had a look at her. No obvious sign of parasites, good plump breast and no respiratory issues. Hmmm. I plonked her back on the ground, and she slowly lumbered back into the border for a little rest.

I have to admit, my heart sank. Mini has never been a particularly healthy chicken, and in the six months I've had her she's been to the vet three times. Before panicking and rushing her back to said vet, I decided to see how she went. I spent the rest of the day checking on her and fretting.

This morning, the ever tolerant husband opened the coop and let them out for their breakfast. Mini dived into the pellets, but with slightly less than her usual gusto. Again, I gave her the once over and could find nothing wrong. Hmmm.

Today was one of those rare occasions when I was actually quite busy this morning, so I didn't check on Min again until lunchtime. Stepping out of the back door, I spotted three greedy hens scoffing my geraniums (thanks girls). I assumed that the others were in the coop, so went to investigate. I found Lindy pancaked in the nest box with Maude wedged in beside her, grumbling away at the lack of privacy and floor space. Interestingly, I also found Min.

Mini was sat in the middle of the coop floor, on the droppings tray. When I put my hand in to stroke her, she shrieked at me and went for my fingers. Her comb seems to have shrunk back a bit, and she has a glint in her eye I don't much care for. Now, Mini is either poorly, or broodiness is coming over her.

Watch this space.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Drastic Measures

Belinda is refusing to leave her broody state. Despite me shutting her out of the nestbox and dumping her on the grass repeatedly, she's not giving up. When the nest box is unavailable, she grumbles and complains before making herself a nest under the coop. Or sits on top of it, glaring at me in defiance. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

From her pancake state on top of the coop, she observed me rummaging about the garage in search of a bucket. She gave me the evil chicken eye as I took said bucket to the outside tap and began to fill it. Suspecting that no good could come of this, she started yelling her head off. Undeterred, I grasped her firmly and advanced on the bucket. Cocking her head to one side, she eye balled me in a manner which suggested 'don't even think about it, mate'. Taking a deep breath, I plunged the grumpy hen bum first into the frigid water.

At first, I think she was too shocked to react. She froze, beak open, as the cold water soaked into her drawers. As the cold reached her skin, she shrieked and set about trying to peck me to death. I held her still for a count of ten, then put her on the decking. She took off like a rocket, head down and bum up, running in that funny waddling manner that pekins have. All the while, she shrieked her displeasure. The other girls stopped eating/dustbathing/pooing to watch the soggy Belinda run laps around the garden. I felt hideously guilty, but dunking in cold water can provide the shock that the broody hen needs to snap her out of her futile state.

Ten minutes later, she was scratching about the garden, while Doris inspected her soggy knickers and clucked sympathetically. I actually thought it might have worked. Suddenly, she clocked me watching her from the kitchen window. After observing me for a few seconds, she very deliberately waddled back to the coop, jumped up on top of it, and went pancake.


Friday, 8 May 2009

The Aftermath

Well, Maeve got a pecking. I got back from the school run to find her stood on the ramp, a tiny cut on her face. The others were ignoring her and scratching about in the easibed, trying to look innocent. As soon as I opened the door, Maeve shot out of the run and high tailed it down to the greenhouse, jumping at the glass desperate to escape the little monsters. The others sauntered out, scratching and pecking at the lawn, swaggering with evil chicken pride. Maeve had been put in her place.

I loathe introductions. It's stressful, horrible to watch and can so easily turn into chicken murder. However, it pays to persevere. Maeve may have a small cut, but she might have easily done that herself in her attempts to escape. I haven't witnessed any really nasty attacks, and this seems more like an initiation than full on intent to maim. So, at school run time she's going back in.

Now the question is, will she ever forgive me?

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Well, I've bitten the bullet. Maeve is currently shut into the run, and Maude, Mini and Belinda are in the nest box. The other two are munching around the flower beds. After initially panicking, Maeve has settled down to scratch around the easibed in the run. I'm just waiting for the fireworks once one of the others comes down the ramp.....

This Means War!

Now, I love my girls. Their chickenny pottering makes me smile, and their chicken chatter soothes my life frazzled nerves. I love standing at the sink, doing some dull domestic task, and glancing out of the window to see them tearing about the garden chasing whichever one of them has caught a worm. It still makes me laugh the way they turn their heads to the side to look up at the rain, only to run around in a panic when a drop hits them in the eye. They are brilliant, magnificent pets.

However, they have zero respect for my other great love: gardening. They poo copiously over my lawn. They eat my favourite plants, or sit on them. My beloved greenhouse is pebble dashed in chicken poo and feathers. Maeve has taken to sitting on my seedlings when she wants a nap. Enough is enough.

The feeble barrier around the Convent is getting an overhaul this weekend. I'm not sure how yet, but I will devise a way to keep the little vandals contained. A concerted effort is going to be made to move Maeve from my greenhouse, so that instead of growing mounds of droppings, I can start growing my salads. A broody cage is in the process of being obtained so that Belinda can be returned to her slightly less psychotic laying state.

In short, I'm taking back control.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Back Again

We spent the bank holiday weekend in Dublin, visiting the ever tolerant husbands family and generally jollying about the place enjoying ourselves. Despite the youngest sons attempts to smuggle Belinda into the back of the car, we had to leave the girls behind and our lovely animal loving neighbour took charge.

The afternoon before departure, said neighbour popped around to receive her instructions. I seriously doubt that even a neurotic first time mother leaving her tiny babe for the first time would have been so precise and detailed. I wittered on for some considerable minutes about food preferences, social dynamics and the fact that Belinda was doing her best cow pat impression in the nestbox. Realising that my audience was beginning to glaze over, I cut to the chase.

On the morning of departure, I spent a frantic twenty minutes sorting out food, water and checking that the gate was locked and bolted. Then checking again. Then once more for luck. At this point the ever tolerant husband frog marched me to the car, determined that we would not miss our ferry because of his obsessive compulsive wife.

A lovely time was had by all, despite the youngest sons assertions on day one that he wanted to go home right away because he missed his chickens. While secretly sharing his sentiment, I jollied him along and he contented himself with drawing endless portraits of his beloved Lindy.

On arriving home, the first port of call was the coop. With relief, I saw Mabel, Maude, Mini and Doris clamouring at the door, bokking their little hearts out. Lifting the nest box lid, we found Lindy hopelessly trying to incubate some eggs. Maeve leaped from the greenhouse like a rocket and ran around our feet in joyful circles.

I sneakily fed them all some cherry cake, just to celebrate our home coming.