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Easter at Twiglet Homestead

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Belated Happy Easter to one and all! Things have been all go here at Twiglet Homestead. Easter was a flurry of family time and catching up on housework, tasks and projects that had fallen behind in order to get the big Cedar Chicken Pen project completed; all wrapped up in a bundle of soggy ground. I managed to make hot cross buns. The first batch were what I like to call rock cross buns thanks to an overheated proving session in the oven, but the second batch were large and tasty. Somehow I even managed to make my own Easter eggs for the first time. They weren’t perfect specimens but they were tasty.

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The hot cross buns didn’t last long around here.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on around here. It rained A LOT. Ground got very soggy. The Father and The Little Brother-in-law helped out with outdoor tasks. Lots of family visits. I’ve been doing small projects and bits all around garden: weeding, cleaning up vege garden, pruning, selective mowing… Ground is still soggy in places but sun is shining. The Husband hurt his back again. I finally cut my hair after 4 months. Mr Bingley got sour crop. I was about to help Mr Bingley throw up when The Husband arrived home and threw up on lawn. Weirdness level: high. I’m not sure if PB, purebred chick, is a boy or girl now. His/her nutheaded hatch mate, Mr Collins, is surely a boy. Mary, daughter of Mr Bingley and the late Legolas, started laying. Even more of a difficult layer than Jane. Laid first egg in woodshed after sneaking around wire. Repeated attempts to fence/block off woodshed resulted in much hoo-ha and grand finale of Mary on garage roof. Mary finally went in coop to lay. Drama queen Lydia started singing egg song VERY loudly outside and inside coop in Mary’s face until she was removed from the scene. Must make compost bins so The Little Fulla stops pilfering rotten feijoas from the compost heap. Knitting slippers for The Little Fulla. Need to harvest more feijoas, figs and walnuts. Need to make Vege Plan for next season. Need to finish pruning fruit trees while sun is shining. Need to properly close off woodshed from chicken access. Need to write comprehensive list of all things that need doing…

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Mary is shy, subordinate and agile – all signs point to a nutty layer.

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Mr Collins (left) is a boy, or I’ll eat my hat, But PB doesn’t look as boyish anymore. What are you going to be, PB?

Also, The Husband got curious and bought some scales. My giant pumpkin weighed 42kg!

The Opening Ceremony

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Welcome to the grand opening ceremony! What an exciting event we have here today! You may not know what all the fanfare is about but you will in a minute. Alright, everyone get ready – here come the VIPs!

That’s right, folks, today you have the privilege of witnessing the official opening of the second chicken pen, henceforth to be known as The Cedar Pen. (Unless the cedar tree gets the chop. But it won’t for now.) This event is the culmination of months of tree pruning, ivy clearing, stump removing, fencing, old fort sawing and nailing, raking and rubbish removing. Countless hours have been spent preparing this place for the chickens. A proper job has been done of it. No temporary pens over here anymore. Not only do the chickens now have an alternate pen to give the other one time to recover, a decent chunk of the garden has been ‘dealt with’. It has gone from one of the bushy, overgrown corners that I was hoping to avoid for a while, to a useful area. I would like to plant some more chicken-friendly, non-escape-promoting plants in there at some point, but that is more of a fun job for later.

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The Cedar Pen is on the left of the garage and carport.

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There was a lot of wire netting in this project.

And now for a little history of the chicken pen area to see how far it’s come in two years:

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When we acquired the property, there was a mish-mash fort and a lot of bushy stuff over there in the corner.

For the record, rubbish findings in this area, aside from the usual and numerous pieces of plastic and twine, included a ball, a frisbie, a hunk of black plastic sheeting, a pair of half-degraded undies, a plastic container, a dinosaur figurine, a collection of shiny, flat blue marbles and a stainless steel set of two cups and one plate.

The chickens are absolutely loving having new ground to dig around in and a new place to explore. Mary and Georgiana were late to the proceedings. Contrary Mary got scared and that scared Georgiana, so they scuttled to and from the coop to the orchard until I closed off The Orchard Pen. Those two make each other bonkers sometimes. It is just lovely to be able to watch the feather children out the window, all happy. Except for the rainy part. The next lot of rain has hit us, bringing more surface flooding. Yikes! Thank goodness I finished the pen when I did. At least I won’t be worrying so much about their feet now that they’re away from the old, decimated, poopy, wet ground of The Orchard Pen. Jane is so excited about the new pen that she was still foraging in the steady rain yesterday.

 

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Frodo and chicks discover the new pen.

 

The other day, The Husband was asking what all my chickens names are. He got a bit lost somewhere along the way after the Bennet girls started to appear. I rattled off my Pride and Prejudice crew: Mr Bingley, Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty, Lydia and Georgiana. “Now, I just need a Mr Darcy”, I said, with a smile. He knew that I might already have a Mr Darcy in a little chick that I like to call PB.

“What about Mr Collins?” He said.

“I don’t want a Mr Collins!” I replied.

“Haven’t you already got a Mr Collins?”

Pause.

“Yes! No! Oh, no…”

The other chick, Lydia’s ‘Junior’, is almost certainly a boy, and is totally a Mr Collins. He’s a nutcase! The temporary name ‘Junior’ has all but disappeared because I can’t stop thinking of him as Mr Collins now. I have been mostly handling the chicks during the day but have moved to evening handling because chickens are more calm in the evening. A couple of nights ago I got Mr Collins out of the coop for some handling and he screamed blue murder, disturbing all the other chickens and quite possibly the neighbours. I got a bit of a shock after having just handled PB, who was nice and calm. I took Mr Collins away and even took him in the house for a little while to give him some decent handling. Most of the time he cheeped loudly, “Cheeeeeep, cheeeeeep!” He is almost 6 weeks old and is not sensible at all.

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Mr Collins has his mouth open because he’s cheeping, of course. Settle down, dude!

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PB is lovely AND pretty.

Now that I have completed The Cedar Pen, I’m not quite sure what to do next. As in, there are so many things that need to be done I barely know where to start. I have trimmed the hedge along the front fence, started weeding, harvested more walnuts and figs and made hot cross buns. And now I must get going, for the weeds are mocking me, the fruit trees need more discipline, there’s an barren plum tree to fell and the vege garden needs some love. Oh wait, there’s an ex-tropical cyclone coming. This morning I awoke to the news that yesterday’s surface flooding was just from a rain band and the actual storm was hitting this afternoon/evening and was purported to be a 50-year storm. It now sounds like it might not be as bad where we are but I’m still praying! There are poor people on the east coast still suffering from the damage of last week’s flooding who are in the line of the storm. Ok, I’ve battened down the hatches. Time to tackle some indoor tasks and projects. Opening Ceremony over!

Bitten by Pumpkins

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If you were following my blog at this time last year you may be aware of my fascination with giant pumpkins. It all began at The Great Pumpkin Carnival. Actually, I think I already had a predisposition to giant pumpkin attraction, but it really kicked into gear at the carnival. The GIANT PUMPKINS sparked something within me that would not be ignored. An interest, an excitement, a need to grow giant pumpkins.

And so, I grew a giant pumpkin. I only grew one. I planted a second plant but I accidentally removed the sole young pumpkin when I was removing small fruit off my main Atlantic Giant pumpkin plant. The thing was, I didn’t have the time to look after my giant pumpkin very well. I planted it in the compost heap, which, thankfully, fed it to some extent, I watered it occasionally, but not often enough, and I removed all the other young fruit that were growing on the vine, eventually, so all the energy could go into the one pumpkin. Otherwise, despite great intentions to tend to its needs, I did nothing. There were just too many other things to do.

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My first giant pumpkin.

A month or two before The Great Pumpkin Carnival I knew that my giant pumpkin wasn’t going to be GIANT. Sure, it was by far the biggest pumpkin I’d ever grown, but I had seen the size of the pumpkins at last years’ carnival and mine wouldn’t match up. The day before the carnival I decided that I wouldn’t bother taking it. I had pulled it onto an old chicken feed sack before it got too heavy, and I slowly dragged it onto the lawn, where it was to become an object for The Little Fulla to play with.

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The Little Fulla has a new plaything. Until I figure out what else to do with the orange mass.

At the carnival on Sunday, when I saw the size and small number of entries in the open class for Heaviest Pumpkin Under 200kg, I was kicking myself. Duh, it wasn’t just my lack of nerdy pumpkin coddling, the season had been bad for everyone! And almost every kind of vege in the garden. The sun did not play his part well and the bees said, “Well, if the sun’s not going to perform, we’re not going to perform either!” Upon sizing up the pumpkin entries against the memory of my own, I figured that my giant pumpkin was probably 20-30-something kg and could possibly have gotten third place. Oh well! Next time, I will take everything that has a chance.

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The open class for Heaviest Pumpkin Under 200kg was less competitive than I thought it would be this year. I was eyeing up the 27kg one on the left trying to figure out if my pumpkin could have beaten it.

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The Pumpking strikes again with his GIANT PUMPKINS. His heaviest was over 100kg less than his record breaker last year, so the lacklustre growing season has affected everyone.

But, never fear, for I did enter two other competitions: Best Mature Miniature Pumpkin and Lightest Mature Miniature Pumpkin. My entry for lightest was noticeably bigger than its pumpkin counterparts, but I didn’t care. Best Mature Miniature Pumpkin was my only real shot. I had wanted to enter some pumpkin baking but didn’t have time to do any.

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My entries for Lightest Mature Miniature Pumpkin (left) and Best Mature Miniature Pumpkin, which I was considering entering in Most Perfect Pumpkin but I thought I might have a better shot with just the minis.

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Checking out the competition. Can you tell which one is mine?

We were going to The Parents place for lunch and by the time we left they hadn’t started judging the competitions I entered. I wasn’t feeling super confident, but they had my contact details if I did happen to place anywhere. Finally, on Sunday night, the results went up online and as I scrolled down my name popped out at me. Best Mature Miniature Pumpkin (Open Class) – 1st place. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My lovely, smooth little pumpkin that I had been eyeing up in the garden and handling very carefully and that I considered my best shot at anything had done me proud. I didn’t know what I’d won or if I would get anything but I didn’t care. This was the first time I’d ever entered any of my produce in a competition and I had done something well!

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My lovely wee pumpkin, fruit of my garden and joy of my heart.

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It is nice to have something to put on the wall. And The Husband and I might be having a pie date at Wild Bean Cafe.

I suppose it would have been nice to be at the prizegiving, but I hadn’t planned for a big win. Then again, maybe it’s better that I wasn’t there to receive my accolades in person. I might have squealed, “Wheeeeeee!!!” and bounced around like a crazy person. I don’t know if the pumpkin people are ready to see how nutty I can be. But maybe they will next year…

After discovering my winning result I somehow found myself looking at pumpkin seeds online. I had conquered one category this year, but there were more categories and there was next year. I wanted to conquer more categories! So many pumpkin varieties, so many options. Somehow, I have ordered seeds of another two pumpkin cultivars, and have one more I am planning to get. Add those to what I’ve already got: Crown, Austrian Oil Seed (although I have yet to try one to see how useful the seeds are), Atlantic Giant and Wee Be Little, and I have a lot of pumpkins that need a lot of space. What is going on? I have been bitten by the pumpkin bug. I want to be the Pumpkin Queen. I want pretty, perfect pumpins, I want GIANT PUMPKINS, I want mini pumpkins and I want tasty pumpkins for baking.

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This man may be Pumpking of the Heaviest Pumpkin Over 200kg every year, but I want to be the Pumpqueen of everything else! Ok, this is starting to go to my head…

This is what my crop rotation plan is roughly supposed to look like for next season:

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And this is what it might end up looking like:

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Although, I think I need more orange spaces…

My ‘Busy Season’ in Pictures And Very Few Words

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Assignment: Finished. One more.

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Second chicken pen: Much work. Slow progress.

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Ivy on cedar: Ha! I’m winning.

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Donkey Farm.

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Chicks: Growing. Boys.

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Hens: Minor foot issues resurface.

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Kitty: Floofy character.

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Mr Bingley: Moulting.

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Second chicken pen: MUST FINISH.

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Jolly camellia: Get it out.

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Rain: Too much.

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Vege Garden: Soggy mess.

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Beans: Fun shelling.

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Pumpkins: Giant. Mini. More later…

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Walnuts: Harvesting time always soggy.

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Feijoas: One harvest. More now.

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Sludge = feijoa chutney. Hopefully.

 

Chick Update

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Things have been particularly busy at Twiglet Homestead lately, but I thought I better do a quick (haha ‘quick’) post about the chicks. Because everybody needs some cuteness. The two chicks are three weeks old tomorrow. How did that happen?! They are doing well and Frodo has them all over the pen now, teaching them her expert foraging and general life skills.

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The chicks: Junior (front) and PB (back).

There were a few little challenges to Frodo when she started hanging around in the pen, more notably from Kitty and Jane. Kitty is the dominant one of the younger three hens, who are now 20 weeks old. So, it was kind of natural for Kitty to have a crack at Frodo to see if this not-really-new-but-hasn’t-been-around-with-us-properly hen could be put beneath her in the pecking order. Nope. Especially not while Frodo’s a protective mother. It did surprise me, however, when Jane had a wee crack at Frodo. I dare say Jane is enjoying having three younger hens beneath her and it has gone to her head. Jane was swiftly put back in her place.

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Kitty is a very pleasant hen. But she is boss of the younger hens.

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Lizzie (back) and Jane (front). Jane has gained some confidence from having subordinates, plus getting to hang out with Mr Bingley more while Frodo is otherwise engaged.

Frodo has been more protective about these babies than her others, whether because there are only two, because there are more curious and potentially threatening hens around or both, I’m not sure. This has made it more difficult to handle the chicks. I have to corner them somewhere away from her, often only possible in the big cage, otherwise she quickly rushes over and pecks my reaching hand. I have been holding them briefly almost every day but I really need to spend more time with them.

The chicks have a decent amount of feathers coming through now. PB, the purebred Australorp, has lovely dark lacing and is looking more boyish to me. Junior, the Lydia-Mr Bingley 3/4 Australorp, doesn’t have the same definition in lacing at the moment, but we shall see. I’m still not sure whether Junior is a he or a she, but I’m still hoping she. He/she is still very handling-shy and clingy to Frodo and not as curious as PB, which I’m hoping points to being a girl, but I’m not so sure about his/her current comb size. PB is also bigger and is feathering up faster.

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PB is curious about the world. Junior is scared of the world.

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Junior barely stays still and is hard to get good photos of.

These feather babies are so cute. It’s hard not to get lost in time just watching them. This evening, I was a bit slow to go out and re-open the big cage for Frodo and the chicks. I found them in the coop, chatty Frodo on the roost and the confused chicks running around on the floor. Erm, I don’t think they’re big enough to get up there yet, Frodo! A few curious hens poked their heads in the door to see what was going on and got assaulted by Frodo from above. I haven’t gotten a bigger coop yet, so Frodo and the chicks will be better off in the big cage for a while longer.

And some photos from last week…

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Frodo teaches the chicks how to get into the main coop. It didn’t take long for once. It is so much easier to get two chicks up the ramp than 10! And these two are smart. I didn’t have to help at all.

So, it Takes a While to Knit Things in Summer

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Summer is hot. And busy. So it’s perfectly acceptable to take a while to knit things over Summer. As long as you remember that they are going to take a while and factor that into your vague timeline for the never-ending list of knitted projects that keeps gathering more projects and more yarn like an out-of-control tumbleweed bumbling across the countryside. It took me 2 1/2 months to knit The Husband’s Christmas stocking. That is perfectly acceptable, right? Right. Here it is, in all its finished glory. I just won’t show you the little ends that I couldn’t be bothered weaving in on the inside…

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The Husband’s Christmas stocking.

I made up the colour pattern as I went along, making it the same colours as The Little Fulla’s Christmas stocking, but a different pattern. I also made the cuff and the leg a bit longer. Was it because it looks proportionately better or because bigger people need bigger presents? Maybe both.

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Now The Little Fulla’s Christmas stocking (top) has a friend.

I am also going to knit a Christmas stocking for myself, to make the collection complete. But first, I have other projects to do. I have started knitting a little baby bear hat for The Little Sister’s incoming ‘walnut’. Surely that shouldn’t take toooo long, she said, while thinking about the impending assignment due date and the need to finish the second chicken pen. And then I have to knit a jersey for The Little Fulla. Which may or may not end up knitted in a size for next winter. Or being knitted next winter. I also want to knit some slippers for The Little Fulla, which will probably jump the queue in front of the jersey. I’m supposed to be knitting a cardigan for myself, but I know not when that day will come. I dare not look at the rest of my projects queue at the moment as it would frighten my knitting needles out of the house. And then, of course, I must not forget to knit my own Christmas stocking before Christmas arrives…

The Chicks go Exploring

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The chicks are growing by the day and they are one week old now. I am enjoying the fact that I only have two to manage and handle. They are like chalk and cheese at the moment. The Lydia chick is like a little nutcase, but are we really surprised? When I try to catch it it runs around peeping like mad and when I do catch it it struggles and peeps like mad. Lydia has turned out pretty well after a lot of handling though, so there’s hope it might calm down. I am calling it Junior at the moment, since it’s Lydia Junior. Hopefully in the fullest female sense of that name… As I guessed, it is going to be a blue. Yay! The purebred chick, aka PB, is the friendliest chick I’ve hatched to date. While it isn’t super keen to be caught, it doesn’t have a fit and settles down in my hands quite quickly. Even more surprisingly, when I then put my hand down to the ground, PB sometimes just stands there on my hand, looking around. What’s up with that? Why isn’t it running away from me? Oh, that little blue chick has got my heart already.

With new young cats around that aren’t used to chickens, I am being more cautious this time, which is easier with a small number of chicks. Most of the time, Frodo and the chicks are still in the big cage in front of the woodshed and once or twice a day, while I’m working nearby, I let them out so Frodo can have a dustbath and slowly teach them about the world. She usually leads them back to the cage after a while when there are too many other big, curious chickens hanging around or because the weather has been decidedly wet.

The flock is coping well with the new additions so far. All three older hens have been behaving themselves this time. They are more interested in sneaking into the big cage where the super special secret food source is, led by Mr Bingley. I have to make sure the girls don’t go in there and eat it, since it’s got a coccidiostat in it, with a withdrawal period of 2 weeks before consuming eggs. The three younger girls have been exceedingly curious about the wee chicks though, and are learning the hard way that Frodo will chase and peck them when they get too close.

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Frodo, as always, is an awesome, patient, protective mummy.

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Mr Bingley and the older Bennet girls come to see what all the fuss is about as the chicks venture out for the first time. These girls know to stay in line this time. And I’m about to close the cage door before someone starts stealing the super special secret food source…

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The younger girls, on the other hand, want a close look at these tiny chickens. Pretty Kitty says hello to PB.

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Then contrary Mary gets way to close for Frodo’s liking. A second after this photo was taken, Mary received a sharp and sudden peck as Frodo lunged out of her dust bath. Mary did not return for another look.

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Family time. Mr Bingley is the only one who is allowed to stay close to Frodo’s babies, although he’s usually too busy looking after his other needy girls.

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Mr Bingley photo bombs my fluffy bum photo.

And now, shall we play a round of Hen or Roo? It’s early days but we might as well start having some fun now. Here are some good photos of the chicks. See if you can figure out what they’re going to be. The answers may be a long time coming so no guess is a silly guess!

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Junior (left) and PB (right).

PB – the purebred Australorp chick from a breeder.

Junior – the Lydia-Mr Bingley chick.

My first guesses are… PB: roo and Junior: hen. Time will tell!

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