Friday, 26 February 2010

Raiders Of The Lost Bok-ARK!

It's very blowy here today. At last the snow has gone, unfortunately it has left this dull drizzly weather behind it. Usually in such conditions the hens would stay coop-bound, but after all the rotten weather it probably seems positively spring-like to them today. They have all ventured out to scratch about in the flower beds except the babies, who are incarcerated in the garage and engaging in a dirty protest.

Maude is determined to spend some time outside today, even though the others are beginning to flag. One by one, the other hens have conceded defeat to the strong gales. Being a small, light, but very feathery hen can have severe disadvantages in very windy conditions. In attempting to amble nonchalantly across the lawn in a straight line, you can find yourself incomprehensively half running in a diagonal trajectory aimed straight at a wall. Mabel suffered this indignity, peeled herself away from the wall and legged it for the safety of the coop. Even the silkies can only take so much wind battering. However, Maude is grimly determined.

She attempted to sit on the bench, only to be taken by the wind, over shoot her landing site and disappear through the gap in the back. She strolled out a few moments later, as if that had been her goal all along. Hens hate to lose face. However, she has met her ultimate wind related nemesis.

The children have a light plastic football which the hens are always suspicious of. In the lightest of breezes, it can wobble threateningly. When this occurs, the girls congregate together and mutter darkly. Out on her won, Maude didn't stand a chance. As she sat on the lawn, stubbornly ignoring the rain, her nemesis began to move. Coming from the opposite flower bed, it managed to get up a fair bit of momentum. Seeing it thundering towards her, Maude leapt up and ran as fast as her short pekin legs would carry her. She veered to the left in an attempt to shake it off! But, no! In a weird twist of fate, the wind also gusted in the same direction! Maude began sprinting towards the back door, where I have to confess I was hysterical with laughter. All I could hear in my head was the Indiana Jones theme tune. Give that hen a hat and a leather jacket and she could be a star! Skidding to a halt before she ended up splatted against the glass, she took off again for the Convent. The ball harmlessly bounced against the door frame. Maude eyed it from the door of the run, turned around and sauntered inside.

The comedy value alone makes hens brilliant.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Breaking Out

The new chicks are proving to be little upstarts. Not content with their lot in the garage, the little madams keep making bids for freedom. Now, initially, I would return Purdy (head trouble maker) to the brooder, and there she would stay. No more. She has recruited Celia for her escapologist escapades, and now there is no stopping them.

I am not a killjoy, and ordinarily wouldn't mind too much. When you're trying to sell your house, though, and have to show prospective buyers the garage, you'd rather that the mini poo piles were restricted to their designated area. Instead, little dollops of chick poo are turning up in the most unexpected of places. Like my welly. Or on top of the poultry spice. Eugh.

Now that the chooklets are 12 weeks old, I am turning the heat lamp off in the day (they're never in the brooder to use it, any way). Therefore, I can cover the top of the run. With a flash of inspiration, I covered the roof of the brooder with some trellis. Considering the problem solved, I peered down at the new recruits with a hint of triumph. Purdy assesssed this development silently. I returned to the human quarters feeling quite pleased with myself.

An hour later, I went to the garage to find some string and found Purdy and Celia sitting atop the garlic powder, which is itself atop the mini coop. Purdy then dropped a curry poo to punctuate the point. I have no idea how they escaped, and can only visualise ladders and a pulley system.

Chooklets 1, Human 0.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Maeve Has Lost Her Mojo

So, I've just been back and checked, and its been 16 days since I first noticed that Maeve wasn't herself. There is still no obvious sign of illness, and she is eating and drinking. However, she seems quite half hearted when running for treats, and is generally pretty quiet. This is most out of character.

She pootles about the garden with the others, but retreats to the coop every so often. Sometimes I find her in the nest box, but she's just as likely to be perching. Her crop appears fine, as does her vent. There is no discharge or smell from her head, and I've noticed no unusual droppings in the coop. She hasn't lost weight.

As far as I can tell, there is no bullying (who would dare?). She's just not herself. I've been putting poultry spice and garlic powder in the pellets, in the hope of boosting her a bit. No change, as far as I can see. She has come through her moult now, but is not yet back in lay. She's about a year old.

Any ideas?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Step Away From EBay

Winter is returning here to the midlands. For a blissful few days, the sun has shone and allowed us to dream of daffodils and blossom. No more. The snow clouds are gathering, and we are expecting the white stuff at some point late this afternoon. The girls are making the most of the dry weather and busily burrowing in to my giant plant pots. Tsk.

The babies are snug in the garage, and have made a few forays in to the garden during the sunny spells. The big girls have watched developments cautiously, but so far no feathers have been pulled and no chicks have been flattened. I like to think that the older flock members are now a little jaded by introductions, and just can't be bothered. Still, it pays to keep a close eye on things, at least until CeCe and Purdy are of equal size.

The house remains unsold, frustratingly. I have made enquiries about a walk in run, and am eager to get my hands on it. I know that there is no point in rearranging my set up here, yet I find myself drawn to ebay. I find myself entering 'incubator' and 'frizzle pekin' in to the search bar. In the latter's case, cute, shuttle-cock type pictures pop up, making me go 'Awwwwww'. The ever tolerant husband ignores this activity, although he has one eye on the paypal account.

Probably wise.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Hormonal Harpies

Spring is definitely in the air. I am averaging one egg a day now, so laying has recommenced. Maude and Doris are definitely in lay, and one of the silkies was, I suspect. Probably Kiki, as she has once again decided to go broody.

Maude is an intensely private chicken, and likes to lay alone. She will tolerate Mabel in an emergency, but gripes about it. Therefore, she is not impressed with Kiki's best russian hat impersonation in her favourite nest box.

There was much bokking and grumbling from Maude yesterday, which is quite unusual. She strutted around the garden beaking off, quite clearly narked about something. Every time I go outside, she crouches in front of me. Very inconvenient when you're carrying heavy feed bags or young chicks. I have barely avoided stepping on the brazen hussy on a number of occassions. She isn't generally noisy with her hormonal upsurge, though, so I realised that something was afoot.

The rest of the flock were interested in Maude's singing, but not enough to investigate. That would mean moving from their 'flattened from above' sunbathing positions on the decking. I noticed that Kiki was missing, and found her pancaked in the nest box. Now, a flattened, broody pekin still leaves room for a determined, non-broody flock mate to squeeze in beside her to lay (and deliver a few disgruntled pecks). A broody silkie does not. Kiki's prone form oozes in to the very corners of the nest box, and she will not move.  Maude kept wandering in to the coop, yelling at Kiki, pecking at her a bit, then storming off down the garden, with much bok-ARK-ing and flapping of wings.

Sometimes I intervene in these matters, but I rarely do any good. So, I decided to let them get on with it. A good hour later, there arose an almighty clamour from the Convent. Maude had finally given in, and gone in to the least favoured nest box to lay. The militantly broody Kiki had attempted to steal the egg before it had totally left Maude's rear end. There are some indignities not to be borne, and not surprisingly Maude went a little bit velociraptor on the daft silkie. I rescued the egg, removed Maude's talons from Kiki's fur, and deposited both hens on the ground. Maude grumbled, strutted, and delivered one more swift peck on Kiki's bouffanted bonce, before stalking off.

Kiki ignored all of this, she is so deeply in the zone.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

First Free Range

If you could call it that! It's fairly mild here today, so while I cleaned out the brooder, I thought I'd let our latest additions have some fresh air. They stood very still for five minutes, and ambled about in a circle for another five before I popped them back in. I had already secured the rest of the flock in the Convent grounds (much to their disgust), and Mabel patrolled the fence, making her 'I'm the boss! What are they doing here?! I didn't sanction this!' etc noises. The rest of the girls watched intently.

Celia and Purdy's first taste of freedom. They were distinctly underwhelmed.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Purdy, The Web Footed Chicken

While checking over the new girls, I came across a curious thing. Quite how I missed it, I don't know. Purdy has fused toes. On both feet, her second and third toes are joined quite closely together by a thin web of skin. Also, her second toe on one foot is slightly twisted, so that her nail is vertical rather than horizontal. None of my other girls have ever had this odd deformity, but by a weird coincidence 'Practical Poultry' magazine features an article this month on pekins. Apparently, this is a major fault for show birds, and should be avoided if showing is your intention. Luckily for Purdy, the closest she will get to a show will be parading around the garden and being judged by her flock mates.

Purdy and Celia continue to eat their way through their growers pellets, and produce their own weight in poo. They are getting used to my comings and goings, and try to escape whenever they have an audience. I have taken to leaving the garage door propped open while I attend to all my girls, and Purdy likes to sit on the edge of the brooder looking out. The inevitable happened just a few days ago. As Purdy enjoyed staring out in to the garden, Doris wandered in to view. Both birds saw each other at the same time. Purdy offered a tentative 'meep' at the older hen. Doris took this in, then turned tail and waddled up the garden, squawking loudly to the others.

I think it's safe to say that my girls now know about the new arrivals.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Few Sunday Pics

I've been outside today scrubbing the Convent, and managed to get a few pics of the girls. Enjoy.

Purdy ad Celia in ther bizarre, glowing red world. The heat lamp is above the shavings in the corner. They remain suspicious of the ramp in to the mini coop.

A close up of the two newest recruits, busy getting bigger.

Kiki, the nosiest silkie, who would quite like to eat the camera.

Maeve, aka ASBO Chicken, posing artfully. She is not totally through her moult yet, as you can see by her less than full cushion. Some of her new feathers have very feint white tips, but her mottled gene must be regressive. Gorgeous beetle green sheen to her feathers in the sunlight.

Doris (who is very camera shy), Maeve and the magnificent Maude. Doris only seems to have had a partial moult this year. Maude's new plummage is even more beautiful than last year, although technically she's the least perfect example of the pekin shape.

All of the established flock. Mabel and Maude on the bench, Margot lurking under the cherry tree and Maeve, Doris and Kiki giving me a watchful eye.

When You Can't Stand The Heat....

I've never had chooks on heat before. When the other girls came to me, they were tiny balls of feathers, but had been weaned from their heat lamps. Purdy and Celia, being winter hatchings, are not, and I can't find any succinct instructions on how to manage the process. Yesterday, I raised the lamp by approximately two inches, and lowered the temperature by about 5C. They aren't huddling under it shivering, so I assume that this is fine. Hmmm.

Purdy made a break for it on Friday, necessitating the removal of the washing up bowl basking area. It was too convenient a launch pad. Curiously, she doesn't attempt her daring escapes unless I'm in the garage, which makes me wonder if she's just doing it for attention. Celia is less inclined to leave the confines of the brooder, and meeps frantically if her flock mate disappears from sight. She is a good, rule abiding chicken.

I noticed in the week that Purdy had a very long upper beak. Usually this would be worn down while the hen foraged about the garden, but as I knew that it would be several weeks before Purdy got that chance, I had to do something about it. As I couldn't hold the small hen and clip her beak, I roped in the ever tolerant husband.

I asked him to fetch the nail clippers, trying to sound casual. He was not fooled, but went and got them. When he returned, he found me clutching Purdy. With a great deal of cajolling, he brandished the clippers, timidly clipping at thin air. I managed to get a grip on Purdy's tiny and fragile skull, and growled at him to just get on with it. With a wince, he removed the overhang of her beak, although this was more luck than design. It's hard to judge such things with your eyes closed. Purdy snapped her beak together, sounding very much like Spanish percussion as she tested out her new chops. I returned her to her anxious sister, where she spent a good twenty minutes filing down the rough edges on the concrete floor.

The ever tolerant husband took about the same time to recover from the horror of chopping off a bit of her face.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Paranoia Sets In

I think it's fair to say that I have had a terrible run of luck with my birds. It started last March with Delilah, continued almost monthly with Mini, and then we lost Belinda suddenly back in August. I have been through my husbandry routine with a fine tooth comb, and am as sure as I can be that it's not anything that I'm doing wrong. However, every so often I doubt myself.

Just as everything seemed to be on an even keel after the death of Mini, Maeve has decided it's her turn to give me a few grey hairs. She is perched in the coop, and shows little inclination to join the others marauding around the garden. Her comb isn't very red, but she is still coming through the last phase of her moult. Her crop is fine, there is no abdominal swelling. Her nostrils and eyes are clear and odour free. Yet, still I'm fretting.

In order to get a hold of Maeve, I had to put on protective gear (gloves and a thick coat). She pecked me with gusto as I reached in for her, and gave an indignant squawk as I wrestled her from the perch. While I gave her a thorough health check, she muttered and eye balled me. I suspect that if I could understand her chook speak, I would be blushing. Baffled by her apparent healthiness, I released her. She turned around and pecked my foot, gave herself a shake (no doubt ridding herself of lowly human germs) and strutted back in to the coop.

I am left with two possible conclusions. Either Maeve is beginning to ail, is still recovering from her moult, simply doesn't like the damp, or is in some other way not totally fit. Or, Maeve is a master of mental torture, and is enjoying my anxious attentions.

I wouldn't put the second option past her.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Overturning The Democratic Process

I know, I know, it's shameless behaviour. However, someone on the Omlet forum suggested the name Purdy for the gold partridge chick, and I've fallen in love with it. Thank you to everyone who voted and suggested names, it was much appreciated. Will you be appeased if I tell you that at some point, I will almost certainly use all of the names?

So, Celia and Purdy are settling in well. They have got over the initial shock of being moved, and are now happily pottering about the brooder. I make a point of stroking them and talking to them whenever I go in, and they have stopped freezing with terror. In fact, during my last visit, they both had a curious peck at my wedding band, a sure sign of pekin attitude. Purdy is definitely the more feisty of the two, and I have caught her eyeing up the side of the brooder. I am expecting an escape attempt any day now. Celia is of a quieter disposition, and might well be a contender for new bottom hen. As a result of these observations, I will be very careful about introductions.

The big girls are going back in to lay. I found an odd shaped egg in the nest box yesterday with Maeve, but I doubt very much that she had laid it. Hopefully, they will all stop free loading and get on with what chicken's are supposed to do best.

Harmony reigns supreme amongst the flock for a change. I'd like to think that they have reached an understanding, but in reality I suspect that they are united against a common enemy. They are not yet sure as to what form that this new enemy may take, but they have their suspicions and are staking out the garage in pairs.

The Things That Meep In The Garage.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Babies

Finally, some pictures! They are not the best shots, but I didn't want to stress them too much. They have settled well, and despite sneezing occassionally to freak me out, seem healthy. They are certainly making a dent in their growers pellets. Already, they are beginning to get used to me coming and going, and have stopped trembling as I approach.

This is the nameless little gold partridge chick.
(Get voting people!)

                                          Introducing Celia, or CeCe, the silver partridge chick.

The big girls know that something is up. When I emerge from the garage, I am usually surrounded by several suspicious hens. If I leave the door open while I attend to the babies, their cheeping can be clearly heard. Mabel froze, cocking her head to one side, and made a long, drawn out 'Boooooooooooooooooooooook' sound. It had an element of 'Oohhhhhhhhh, I don't like the sound of that!' about it. Since this incident, the flock have been keeping a vigil by the garage door. Luckily, the babies are not concerned about the big girls chunterings.

I suspect that it will be some weeks before the two groups can lay eyes on each other.