Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Ladies Move Down In The World

Fate is a cruel mistress. For two years, my girls resided in the small but quaint Convent. It was easy to clean out, looked great in the border, but severely limited my flock size. So the Palace came to be. And for two years, they lived mostly harmoniously in a flock of ten. Yet, after some untimely deaths and a few girls moving to pastures new, my small flock of four began to look rather lost in their giant house.

So now they are going to live here.

This is a perfectly pleasant, back garden coop. It is not dissimilair to the Convent. Once the Palace has been taken away by its new owner, I'm sure I will embrace it with happiness and love. But as it stands in the garden, and the Palace is sill here for comparison, my heart sinks a little. This is a step backwards and there's no denying it. Yet I console myself with the knowledge that my ladies won't freeze to death in their cosy new dwelling. If this coop is a warm little flat, the Palace is a draughty stately home.

This afternoon, I moved the pekins from their old home to their new one. They reacted much as chickens will, and didn't notice for at least an hour as they were too busy scoffing toast. Then, they noticed. Maeve and Hilda, still deep in their broody psychosis, took it the hardest. They wanted a nice dark nest box to dream in, and the change in location means that their tiny bird brains can't work out how to find one. So they stand, frozen with indecision, and stare in to the middle distance. Mabel and Maude, the much more sensible mille's, spent the time pecking about at the much smaller perimeters of their new home. Once nest box angst and exploring were exhausted, however, they grouped together in the middle of the run and looked perplexed. Much chuntering ensued. They observed the puppy wandering around inside the Palace's grounds, and chuntered some more. After a brief huddle, Hilda attempted the ascent in to the house.

She managed to get half way up before her ascent became a descent. Slowly, she began to slide backwards. She greeted this development with mild surprise which quickly turned to alarm as she picked up speed. Landing on the floor in an undignified heap, she squawked her displeasure. It seems that this ramp has a steeper gradient than the Palace's.

When I next looked out, the run was empty. All four birds had found their way in to the new premises. I peered through the perspex window, and four curious birds peered back. They tested out the perches and pecked at the aubiose. The pup ran around the coop, looked in through the pop hole and made eye contact with me through the window. This blew his tiny spaniel mind.

All in all, I don't suppose they will mind the reduction in their circumstances. I'm sure I will mourn the pekin empire dream more than they will. And in the end, I know that they are well cared for and will see out their lives in comfort. This new house needs a name, though, so all suggestions are welcome.

I hope the house warming is a quiet affair.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

We're Baaaaaaaaaack!

Oh, sweet, sweet broadband! After three months without a phone line, we are finally back in the technological age. And oh, dear reader, I have so much to tell you. So much in fact that I'm bound to forget something and need to add stuff. So please bear with me.

Firstly, some very sad news. I lost both my beautiful serama. Betsy went down with a mystery illness at the end of April. She was hunched and not eating well, so I brought her inside in the warm and nursed her. At first I thought maybe she was just depressed at being bullied, as she was very much the bottom hen. But then her neck was starting to go wry, and she was missing her food bowl when trying to eat. I suspect it was some kind of neurological condition. I treated her with baytril in the hope that if it was a bacterial infection she might pick up, but sadly she passed away on the first of May. None of the other birds seemed ill, but I added a tonic to their water and scrubbed the coop anyway.

We were away on June 5th when my lovely chicken sitter found Vera dead in the coop. There was no sign of illness, although her vent was a little mucky. However, this could have happened at the time of death and she was in fine form when I saw her two days previously. Her weight was good, there was no sign of injury and all in all it's a head scratcher. The other birds were afected by her passing, as she'd had the audacity to cark it infront of the pop hole. Pekins have such stumpy legs that they couldn't clamber over her corpse and had to wait until the chicken sitter's mid morning visit to get breakfast. I like to think that she did it on purpose. She had spirit, that little bird. Losing both girls inside of a few weeks was very disheartening. I now have four pekins left, Mabel, Maude, Maeve and Hilda.

As I watched my four remaining girls pootle around the garden it occurred to me that I have gone a full circle. I started off with four hens, and now I am back to four. Now that we have the nutty pup, I am not prepared to go through the trauma of new introductions to such an established group. So my new plan is this.

My remaining girls will live out their lives without getting to bully any newcomers. But they will do so in a smaller residence. Yes, with a heavy heart I have decided to sell the Palace. It's far too big for four birds, and in the winter they'd freeze. So I have purchased a smaller coop, not so different from my original Convent, which they will find cosy yet still adequately spacious. In fact, said coop has just been delivered in two enormous boxes. I am going to landscape around the new coop with the aid of a garden designer and make it a feature of the border. Hopefully.

And so, the girls. You'll be pleased to hear that my magnificent mille's are still going strong at 4 years old, and even still laying the odd egg. Sometimes very odd. One of them layed an egg last week which looked like it had been shot. There was a perfect, round hole at the blunt end, surrounded by a black ring which looked singed. I actually cracked it to see if there was a projectile inside. The egg itself was perfectly normal and the membrane intact. I checked both girls, too, and found no hidden laser stashed under anyone's bum feathers. Another strange chickenny mystery.

Hilda has been broody for a month now. I kick her from the nest regularly, dunk her in water and basically wait for her to snap out of it. If last year is anything to go by, that should happen when she moults. So around August, then.

In much scarier news, the fearsome ASBO Chicken has also fallen under the broody spell. So narked is she if disturbed that she has taken to lunging at the pup through the mesh of the run if he gets too close. I swear there's some rottweiler in that bird's DNA.

It's good to be back.