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No More Assignments For Twiglet

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I have been working on my assignment. Obviously, that is why I’m on my blog right now. This was my final assignment for my final paper for this course. So, my last assignment ever, unless I nutheadedly decide to do more study some time in the future. This final paper has seen me procrastinating like nobody’s business. It just doesn’t seem as relevant as looking at plants, holding chickens or watching videos with The Little Fulla of himself being himself. I found myself doing almost anything to avoid doing my assignment. Folding washing. Tidying up random things. Rearranging a kitchen cupboard. Cleaning the chicken coop. ‘Accidentally’ going on Facebook. Doing the dishes. Dishes! Doing the dishes hovers around the bottom of my ‘Things I Ought to do’ list. I would much rather clean the chicken coop. Anyway, I finished my assignment last night so now I am freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Now, I am playing the game of What Shall I do First? My options range from catching up on housework to catching up on garden tasks to getting some of my 10 million projects started to sitting around like a blob watching presentations on this week’s 2017 Home Grown Food Summit. The results are inclining towards a crazed combination of all of the above.

We were at the Auckland Botanic Gardens last weekend: a happy place that always gives me inspiration, especially when it comes to native plants.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

I could spend so many hours loitering around Auckland Botanic Gardens, but a small child on foot means everything is now done in fast-forward.

The Chickens

I have whittled my flock down to what seems like a rather small number: 8. It probably still sounds like a lot to some people but I feel like I’ve offloaded a lot of chickens in a short space of time! I sold my second black Orpington pullet last week. Now I’m back to two breeds or part-breeds: Australorps and Wyandottes. And Mr Bingley is still hanging around.

Chickens

Hello, Mr Bingley! Yup, he’s still here. Behind him are Lizzie, Georgiana and Kitty. PB is hiding behind the tree.

I celebrated my selling efforts by letting the chickens back into The Orchard Pen, which has grown back some grass and had a nice rest from chickens. Kitty celebrated by going broody and my “Look, it’s a new pen to explore!” plan didn’t prove a good enough distraction to keep her from a stint in the broody breaker. Frodo celebrated by starting to go broody too and ended up in the broody breaker straight after Kitty. I got Frodo in there early before she got too far into the broodiness to stop laying. She hasn’t missed a day of laying yet in 22 days. Wow! This is a new record for her and I don’t know how she’s managing such production in winter! I’m wondering what happens if I manage to break her broodiness before it interrupts her egg-laying hormones. I legitimately asked The Husband, “Will she explode?” I’m happy for her to miss a day of egg laying, I just don’t know how that will fit into her current system of laying every day before having a big broody break. She’s currently in a weird, quiet, trance-like, half broody state but still laid early this evening.

Orchard Pen

The chickens are back in The Orchard Pen: Lizzie (front) and Georgiana. The parts that had hay spread around when the chickens were last in there have grown some nice grass. I think I shall spread some hay in the empty Cedar Pen.

I got a good, sunny day to do a full coop clean and spray this week, which always makes me feel satisfied. Then Georgiana gave me a nice assignment-finishing present today: her first little egg. Yay! On one hand, I wasn’t expecting her to start laying in winter but on the other hand it’s about time! She is 32 weeks old today. Words like ‘slacker’ were starting to come to mind, so I am very pleased that she has joined the layers club.

Georgiana's egg

Georgiana’s sweet little egg.

PB is getting a proper name. It has been so long that it’s hard to stop calling her PB, but I’m going with something not too much different: Jane B. She is still getting bigger and is currently being super-scared of me when I’m in the pen. Partly, I blame her nutty ‘brother’, Mr Collins, but I think it’s also because I keep taking her friends away, first, Mr Collins, and then the black Orpington. Georgiana was the same when I took some of her buddies away around the same age. Hopefully Jane B will settle down now that I’ll have a bit more time to just hang out with the chickens. She still sits in my arms nicely and eats from my hand when I get her out at night but she’s scared of me during the day.

Jane B

PB shall henceforth be known as Jane B. She is almost 15 weeks now.

I have been asking members of a Wyandotte group about my SLW pullet, Lorelai, aka Slow Feather Butt, and opinions are still divided as to whether she is a boy or girl, so I will have to wait some more…

The Garden

The garden has been getting scarce attention lately owing to sickness, winter weather and that assignment. It is due for so many things and I’m looking forward to getting some quality time in my garden. The Little Fulla and I did a little bit of weeding today and the other day we had a family leaf raking session out the front, as the walnut tree has suddenly decided to dump copious amounts of leaves on the drive and thereabouts. So far, some of the leaves have been put on the compost heap and some have been dumped on top of the weeds in front of the compost heap. More raking will be needed to keep the leaves clear of the gate. I am hoping to plant my garlic tomorrow and am finalising my Vege Plan, which is a lot less orange than I thought it might be. I have been eyeing up the space out the front in front of my corokia and flax hedge as a place to plant Atlantic Giant pumpkins as well as another variety or two. I just need to deal with the weeds.

I have so many plans for things I want to do outside. I have been giving a lot of thought to shelter plant options, as we are getting a lot of wind through the backyard since a) we cleared out some shrubs/trees that were giving shelter on the west side and b) the neighbours cut down some good shelter shrubs. I am also thinking about trellis ideas along the paddock fence on the east side of the vege garden. The Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan still has stages that need to be done and I have a lot of plants that need to be planted in various places. I need to hack away at stumpy in The Herb Garden.

The Husband keeps throwing a rope up into the doomed plum tree and I keep telling him that we need to cut more off the top before any felling attempts. It doesn’t look like there’s much of it left but it is actually quite tall. The Husband has also been working on tidying up the ‘firewood storage area’ at the side of the deck. In a bid to dry out the wood that keeps getting pounded by the rain, he knocked up a quick shelter with lengths of timber and some black plastic. I am trying to bite my tongue because I know that the wood needs to dry out, but a) the black plastic is cutting out some light from the lounge, b) it doesn’t look very good, c) it keeps falling apart and d) I have longer term plans of paving the area and putting clear or white corrugated roofing above it to turn it into a BBQ and tidy firewood shelf area. We have almost used all the firewood in one bay of the woodshed in the chicken pen, so we could just move all the wet firewood there…

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Stumpy needs to be evicted from The Herb Garden. He just keeps getting wet feet.

The doomed plum tree

The rest of the yellow-fleshed plum tree still needs to be removed. Just not in one foul, misaligned swoop.

Firewood area

The Husband’s firewood area at the side of the deck. In the high winds yesterday one of the wooden supports between the black fence and the deck roof fell down and the black plastic that was covering them blew off. It’s a work in progress. Of sorts.

Chicken Changes

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The chicken changes continue here and I know people are curious to know who has and hasn’t made the cut. A month ago I had six hens laying and now I’m down to three laying. Fortunately, these three are all still laying, despite the fact that it is winter. Frodo is up to 15 days laying in a row, so is due to go broody at any time. Kitty has only missed one egg in the last 16 days, although she briefly tried out broodiness yesterday, and Lizzie has settled into a weirdly repetitive pattern of laying for two days then missing a day, but her eggs are large or even jumbo sized with huge yolks. Georgiana still hasn’t started laying yet and probably won’t until late winter or early spring, so I don’t yet know what her capabilities are. On the weekend, two chickens found a lovely new home: Mary and one of the new black Orpington pullets. There are two more I have been trying to sell: the other Orpington and Mr Bingley. Yes.

It has been very difficult trying to decide who to keep and who to sell to get my numbers and costs down. I had to make a document with photos of all my chickens to help me decide. I knew that Mr Bingley was going to have to move on sooner or later since I was determined to make a move on breeding purebred Australorps, but decided to bite the bullet since I had a rising food bill and a nice young cockerel coming along. Well, I thought I did. This is where it got complicated! I had a sudden realisation that PB was not a sweet-natured, slow-maturing cockerel but was turning into a large, huge-footed, easy-to-handle hen. Either that or PB is going to be some sort of hooster, which doesn’t bear thinking about. I swear she tried to tid-bit me one day! While I had wanted her to be a him so I could breed some purebreds in spring (or when ‘he’ matured), it is not so bad because a) it is nice to add a sweet purebred hen to my collection and b) Mr Bingley is probably allowed to stick around for longer. I guess I’ve learnt not to count my cockerels before they crow. My breeding plans are now to acquire some fertile Australorp eggs whenever some become available in order to hatch a cockerel. Option 2 is to buy one if a good one becomes available but I would much rather hatch and raise one myself, especially if I have a few to pick from.

Keeping or selling

Keeping or selling? The harsh process of finding out the value of each chicken to me. In the Keeping section: Frodo is my number one, followed by Kitty then PB (although these two may swap places now that PB is a girl), Georgiana, Lizzie and the Wyandottes. I am curious about Kitty and Georgiana’s usefulness for breeding and would like to know Georgiana’s laying capabilities, otherwise she might be further down the list. In the Selling section we have Mary, the Orpingtons and Mr Bingley. Mr Bingley is of the least financial value to me right now plus in a small flock I really need new genetics to ensure healthy chickens. Obviously, his emotional value to me is higher than this and he is still useful for keeping everyone in line with new chickens around. The bottom line is there’s not much point hatching any more of his eggs as I would have to sell all the offspring (can you imagine me not keeping any?) due to needing genetic diversity in my flock.

Mr Bingley

I don’t know how to say goodbye to my beautiful Mr Bingley, but I know I have to if I want to move forward with breeding purebreds on a small scale. It’s kind of a relief that PB isn’t a boy now, as Mr Bingley might get to stick around for a while longer.

PB

It has become clear that PB is a huge-footed, awkward-bodied pullet. She is going to be a big girl! Now to give her a proper name…

And what of the new Wyandottes? Well, goodness, they are too precious. I feel a bit sorry that Mary lost out to some newbies, as she was a good, healthy hen. She was my only daughter of the late Legolas, but she was a lot more shy than Legolas and didn’t have the outstanding personality that I had hoped for. It was a lot to ask trying to get that personality out of a single offspring, and being the most mixed-breed of my chickens, Mary just had the least pull in light of my future breeding plans. The Wyandottes, however, have personalities that are right on-par with Legolas. They are friendly and so easy to hold, which, combined with their pretty colours, ensured them a spot on the ‘Keeping’ list. With that, I am giving them names: the silver laced girl is Lorelai and the gold laced girl is Sookie (pronounced SOO-kee for the uninitiated).

Wyandottes

The Wyandottes: Lorelai and Sookie.

Lorelai

There’s a chicken sitting on my hand. Can’t do that with the Australorps!

The Wyandottes and the remaining Orpington have been integrated into the main flock. I know it is dangerous to my selling intentions to have the Orpington in with the others but I couldn’t leave her in a pen all by herself. The integration went even better than I expected. After a few days of being in pens alongside each other I took the two Wyandottes into the run where the coop is, while the others were kept occupied out in the pen with kale to nibble and logs and cable reels that had been moved to reveal fresh digging ground and bugs. The Wyandottes got a bit of time to explore and find where the food and water vessels were while I stayed with them. Then Mr Bingley showed up. He made kind noises towards them and showed them how to scratch around a bit before one of his hens called him back with needy noises. The gold-laced Wyandotte had googly eyes for Mr Bingley.

Then all the others came around into the run and everyone met each other in a surprisingly non-dramatic way. Well, I suppose Lydia wasn’t there… They just kind of stood around for a while, then the sprightly wee silver-laced Wyandotte took a crack at Frodo, the now 2IC hen. She wasn’t too phased, even when the Wyandotte jumped on her back, and calmly put her in her place. Kitty, 3IC, pecked at the Wyandottes a couple of times and I poked her back to discourage her. After the older chickens started to dissipate without much eventfulness, 13-week-old PB had a crack at the Wyandottes. Her biggest tussle was with the silver-laced girl, which is to be expected, seeing as PB was at the bottom of the pecking order and the silver-laced girl has a dominant nature. Nothing got too heated though and after sitting out in the pen for a while watching the older chickens carry on as usual and knowing that Mr Bingley was there to keep everyone in line, I left them to it. The Orpington joined the flock later in the afternoon after her buddy left. She is almost as big as Georgiana and was more interested in foraging around, so her introduction was even less eventful. She has quite a dominant nature too so it will be interesting to watch what happens in the coming days. The integration was a good distraction, especially for Mr Bingley, from the fact that Mary had disappeared off with her new family.

 

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The black Orpington is pretty much as big as Georgiana (right). She doesn’t stand for any nonsense and looks out for her Wyandotte buddies if they’re getting towered over by the biggies.

As chicken bed time started to approach I kept an eye on the chickens out the window. I knew I would have to assist the newbies with where to go. As the others milled around the coop, filling their bellies and starting the entrance proceedings, the three newbies were out pacing the fence trying to get into their old, adjacent pen. When I went in there the Wyandottes came up to me and just stood there in front of me waiting for me to scoop them up. Aw, bless their little hearts! The only chicken who has done that before was little Half Pie, the peck-injury chick from my first hatch, during his reintegration. I placed the Wyandottes in the coop then went and caught the Orpington, who thought she could find her own way home, thank you very much. The second night the newbies didn’t quite make it into the coop past the big scary chickens again. I found the three of them trying to find a place to settle under the woodshed shelter, managed to scoop up all three at once and put them through the coop door. Once they are in there they’re alright, it’s the getting in there in the right order without offending anyone that’s the tricky part. They’re ‘supposed’ to go in first, before PB, being the lowest in the pecking order. They’ll get it eventually.

Thus, we are back to all the chickens in one pen. I have one Orpington left to sell, before I change my mind, and a Mr Bingley, who will hopefully be sticking around for a while unless a nice home is found for him in the interim. The only thing I’m unsure about is whether Lorelai is actually a girl or a boy. Her curling tail feathers, long legs and slowness to feather up at the back end have me a bit nervous, as I really like her, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

Lorelai

You better be a girl, Lorelai, because I like you!

Homestead Update

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Well, things have been certifiably nuts around here of late. I have been sick and fatigued off and on as I try to figure out what food or foods are causing me issues. That is making it difficult to get things done and it seems time is whizzing by while I’m scrambling to get a grip. On top of that, I am looking to go back to the workforce soon, which is not something I was planning to do just yet. And as a last kick in the pants our only car suddenly became in need of major work, which isn’t worth it, so we have been trying to get our heads and pockets around acquiring a new car. Here are some updates on different things going on at Twiglet Homestead.

The Chickens

The first thing of note is that Lydia is no longer with us. She was my second egg eater. I tried to retrain her and had some success while she was in the big cage, but as soon as I put her back with the main flock, she went feral with her laying and wouldn’t lay in the coop. She laid under the shelter, ate her egg then alerted everyone else, including me, to what was going on. When I ran over some other hens were pecking around in Lydia’s hole, but, fortunately, Lydia appeared to have eaten the whole egg, as she was wont to do, so the others didn’t cotton on. But that was it. No more time and effort trying to win a losing battle with this determined egg eater. No more endangering my other hens with that habit. I could not keep her somewhere all alone. A couple of people offered to re-home her but they were too far away. There was no place for her here. I had to get The Husband to do the deed. I just couldn’t face culling Lydia. I did, however, manage to add one more chicken to our freezer collection… It is sad. Lydia was my good little layer, full of character, loud announcements and cheekiness. I had been through a lot with her: bumblefoot ops, making foam shoes, doing many, many foot dressings, watching her get demoted from top hen spot for being over-dramatic and having her pout at my feet, seeing how nutty her offspring could be (ahem, Mr Collins…). She was the only hen I’ve taken to the vet, where I learned some excellent information. She recovered so well. She was great entertainment. She was my most consistent layer. Unfortunately, she just became consistent with egg eating too. She will be missed.

Lydia

Farewell, Lydia, you crazy, cheeky chicken.

I’d like to say onward and upward, but, with our above issues, the flock is going to see some more changes. I need to cut costs and there are tough decisions going on, especially if I am to hatch some eggs in spring. Who will stay and who will go? It is a harsh decision-making process. We shall have to wait and see.

Chickens at the fence

Don’t look at me like that, chickies, I have tough decisions to make.

Ok, enough bad news already! One good thing is that the hens are still laying, some of them just a tad less frequently as the daylight hours decrease. They’ve laid 5-7 eggs in the last week. Some people’s hens are off the lay for winter so I’m totally stoked to still have some eggs! Lizzie has become almost as a good a layer as Lydia and her eggs are bigger. Kitty is a good, sensible layer, Mary has become a sensible layer too and Frodo is an awesome layer when she’s not being broody. Also, PB is doing well. He is 13 weeks old now and hasn’t succumbed to Mareks as yet, so things are looking good. The thing is, although he is big, I’m really not sure about his maleness once again. If he is a boy he has an extremely pale and small comb and wattles for his age. I have been watching him a lot and I really don’t know what to think right now! Maybe in another week I’ll know. Georgiana is PB’s buddy but PB sometimes gets to hang out with the others too. The new girls are doing well and getting handled while they’re easier to catch in their temp ‘quarantine’ pen, which has now been moved right next to the main pen so everyone can get to know each other before the great integration. The little silver-laced Wyandotte is my favourite, with a chilled out, friendly nature and lively foraging abilities. At first I was a little worried about how she would cope being the smallest, but she is a goer! She is actually the dominant one. It is funny to watch the wee thing dominate a big Orpington, however, I’m now concerned that she may be a boy. Blagh. Not another mind-battle! My suspicions are due to curly tail feathers, slow-developing rear-end feathers and upright posture. If she is a he I can swap her for another pullet but that would be a shame and it would mean more quarantine. Since Wyandottes are a new breed for me I will just have to wait and see.

Getting to know each other

“Stop digging, the human’s looking!” “No, human, we are definitely not digging a tunnel to the other side… La la la…”

New girls looking

Hello, other chickens!

 

The Garden

Much of the vege garden has been put to bed for the winter. I have been putting used chicken bedding on top of the empty beds to help suppress the weeds, protect the soil and add some organic matter for next season’s crops. There are still some crops slowly chugging along. Growth has slowed down a lot as the cold finally hit and the wet weather has continued to give little time for the soil to dry out. Just when things get sunny, the rain bounds back in again with complete disregard for my gardening needs.

Vege garden 1

The parts of the vege garden not containing crops have had used chicken bedding (wood shavings and poop) tipped on top. I will see how this works out.

Vege garden 2

There is actually still some green stuff in there! The kale is getting rather stripped as I keep feeding it to the chickens – they love it. We still have kale in the freezer from the season before when I whizzed and froze HEAPS. I put kale flakes in my scrambled eggs and we chuck it in mince dishes, rice, curries and fritters, among other things.

So, what’s still growing? There are a few carrots left. There is beetroot, which I have grown for the first time. I’ve never been a beetroot fan but in the last couple of years I’ve tasted some nice dishes with fresh beetroot in them. There are leeks. Huge leeks. A leek can go a long way so we’ve been putting them into all sorts of things: fritters, patties, various meat dishes, soup… There are still spring onions and lettuces. There is still a swathe of parsley. And there are the brassicas: bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. Annoying critters are still eating some holes in them so we obviously haven’t had enough cold weather yet. The first few frosts took down my capsicums though. And guess what? I bought my seed garlic early this year! I got some Printanor, the main good culinary variety grown here and some elephant garlic, which I haven’t grown before. It is bigger and milder than normal garlic and is actually a different species. I need to figure out when to plant them. After last season’s rust disaster I’ve been thinking an earlier planting might give them more time to get growing well, but I can’t plant them if the ground is too soggy.

I have been slowly picking away at the weeding around the garden but haven’t had much time for more exciting things like planting. The Plum Tree Garden has been weeded and is looking tidy, if a little plant-bare. The Maple Garden has a downright terrible population of weeds. It looks pretty good at a glance, thanks to the ridiculously well-growing native sedges and other plants in there, but a closer look reveals swathes of weeds lurking underneath and swamping the ground covers in there. I have started picking away at it, even though I’d rather walk past with a hand shielding my eyes saying, “La, la, la…”

Plum Tree Garden

The Plum Tree garden looks tidy, because I’ve just finished weeding it. It just needs more plants. And we need to finish chopping down the unproductive yellow-fleshed plum tree on the right. And plant the almond tree. After we dig out the blackcurrant planter box which has become rooted into the soil. Oops!

Wood Projects

We bought a ‘new’ dining table a little while back and need to sell our old drop-leaf table. The top of it was really looking worse for wear so I have been resurfacing it, just casually, as if I’ve actually done anything like that before. It may not be perfect, but it’s been a good learning experience and it looks heaps better than it did before, which will hopefully be reflected in a better price when I sell it. I have a lot of other projects to do around the house but it’s one day at a time at the moment. I will post about some smaller projects later. Meanwhile, an exciting trailer load has appeared in our yard. The Parents’-in-law found a bunch of wood framing instead of the usual pallets, and I have great visions of using them for a chicken pen, perhaps even a chicken tractor…

Dining table

The old dining table has been getting some attention.

Crafts

I am working on The Little Fulla’s green knitted jersey at the moment. Progress is very slow due to lack of time sitting still. And the fact that I chose a cabled pattern, so knitting it requires concentration and peering at a chart. Concentration is not one of my strong points at this current point in time. Let’s just say there have been more than a few re-done rows. Meanwhile, the great knitting and crocheting women of The Husband’s family have been yarning up a storm with all sorts of lovely projects popping out.

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The Little Fulla’s snail-paced jersey. The colour in this photo really isn’t right but it shows the cabling pattern well. I may or may not be about to undo a row that I did slightly wrong…

Let’s hope the madness dies down soon. Tomorrow we go car hunting…

The Changing of the Guards

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My flock has been on the move in the last two weeks, with goings as well as comings. Things are getting all-over-the-place. After the culling of Jane, I was left with an egg-eating Lydia to deal with. I spent quite some time trying various things to change her habit because I didn’t want to cull her, being one of my favourites and very useful up until the egg eating began. My efforts began with keeping a close watch on her, putting fake eggs in the nestboxes and putting dish liquid- or mustard-filled eggs in the nestboxes, to little avail.

One morning The Husband found a hen eating an egg in the coop. He showed me a photo of who it was. It was Mary. I just about died. When I went to see what the story was, Mary arched her neck and screeched at me like a dragon as soon as I lifted the nestbox lid. That was not what I was expecting! From what I can guess, she accidentally broke an egg while she was climbing around in the nestboxes turning broody. Fortunately, she only ate a little of the egg and hasn’t repeated that clumsy accident or formed an egg-eating habit. Phew. But that was it for Lydia being in the flock. The danger was too great. I promptly caught her and put her in the Bachelor Pen, aka the Fattening Pen, with Mr Collins, who had only just moved there himself.

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Lydia. If she wasn’t so smart my efforts to change her egg-eating habit might have worked.

Lydia laid an egg in there and didn’t eat it, I think because I turned up soon afterwards, but that is the only time she hasn’t eaten one since. I had to remove her from there as she was bullying Mr Collins. They were a bad combination: oh, the pair of them! A feral-minded little cockeral and his dramatic mother. As a last ditch attempt to avoid culling her I sought advice from my Facebook poultry group. Answers I could try were a roll-away nestbox and curtains to darken the nestboxes. Despite trying various things and settings for Lydia, she remains too smart for her own good. She will not use ‘that thing’, she will lay anywhere where there is bedding or just ground and then eat her egg before loudly singing the egg song, announcing the presence of NOTHING. I will see her nesting but when I come back to check I am either too soon or too late. I am currently seeing if anyone is keen to re-home Lydia to avoid the alternative option. Either way, she puts me another hen down. Mr Bingley has been most disturbed at the removal of Lydia, his 2IC, on top of missing broody hens, which is making things a bit stressful on the flock.

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Mr Bingley knows he is pretty.

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Mr Collins. Don’t let his prettiness fool you, he was the nuttiest, screechiest, most flighty chicken I’ve had.

Meanwhile, Mr Collins had to be culled earlier than anticipated to make way for some new arrivals. I forgot to mention that Frodo was in the broody breaker too. I had chickens here and there all over the place. My attempts to make one of the other hens broody only resulted in semi-broody episodes, then Frodo went broody hard-out as I was making new plans to buy in pullets rather than fertile eggs or chicks, which were in scarce demand at this time of year and would take too long before they could be companions for PB. With Jane gone and Lydia probably soon to be gone I had to get more females. And soon. With Lydia out of the flock I was able to remove the fake eggs, but not before Mary turned into a formidable, screechy semi-broody, followed by a full-on broody. Boy, that hen’s got a screech on her. She rivals Mr Collins’ screechiness. Her bark is worse than her bite though.

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Broody Frodo. No surprises here. I wasn’t prepared to let her hatch eggs so soon again and considering I want her to hatch some in late winter/spring. However, Frodo did lay for 18 days straight, which is the longest she’s laid before going broody and a brilliant amount of eggs for her! I’ve never known how good she is at laying because she always goes broody.

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This is normal Mary. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of screechy dragon-lady Mary! She is half Plymouth Rock so I wasn’t expecting her to go broody as much as the others.

Anyway, back to poor Mr Collins. He was a beautiful young thing, but so nutso, so feral. His behaviour was influencing PB too much, so I made the decision to remove Mr Collins. His pen was right next to the main pen, so he could still have some contact with the others. PB is going to be a bit lonesome for a little bit, although he still hangs out with Georgiana sometimes. The good thing is he’s now acting like part of the flock, albeit lagging a safe distance behind, instead of hiding in the bushes in Mr Collins’ scared little boys club. PB hasn’t crowed yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time… He’s still a nice boy and although he needs work out in the open, thanks to Mr Collins’ freaked-out ways, he sits very nicely in my arms and eats food off my hand while he’s having snuggles. And he’s not going to be lonesome for long…

Hot on the heels of Mr Collins’ departure and some pen cleaning and moving in the horrible rainy weather, The Little Fulla and I went on a little trip to a magical place. And now I would like to introduce you to two new members of my feather family. They are a new breed for me. They are beautiful. They are oh-so friendly that the Australorps are going to have some competition in my heart! They are a silver-laced Wyandotte and a gold-laced Wyandotte. The gold-laced girl is about 13-14 weeks old. The silver-laced girl is a few weeks younger but is a very lively forager who keeps up just fine.

I am seriously gushing over these girls! I’ve been admiring laced Wyandotte colours for a little while. The breeder also had blue-laced and buff-laced Wyandottes. The adults looked stunning and there were a lot of pullets to choose from. If they had cost a little less I seriously would have gotten more. I was only planning to get one, but then, Lydia… According to chicken maths, if I lose one hen, I can replace her with two. And thus, we end up at my next chicken trip, the next day…

Now, I would like to introduce you to the other two new members of my feather family: two 13-14-week-old black Orpingtons. They are so beautiful too! They are elegant, gentle and soft. So floofy! They remind me of dear Sam, the blue Orpington who was one of my originals. She had major health issues but she was such a sweet hen. Sam and Frodo’s relationship was as Sam and Frodo as you could get. I am getting myself into so much trouble. Too many beautiful chickens! So much for focusing on one breed. They do make me happy though and give me something to focus on in the midst of health issues. I’m currently in the midst of a food intolerance investigation, but that’s a story for another time when I’ve narrowed down my excluded suspects. I’m doing a lot better at the moment.

The newbies are currently in a temp pen together, where they will be ‘quarantined’ for about two weeks. This means I can observe them and treat anything if it comes up before they meet any of the others, while they get used to eating new food, grass and other goodies they find on the ground. So far, they have been very pleasant towards each other, which is a nice change from some of my dramatic Australorps. Names are yet to come. I can’t wait to introduce them to PB. He’ll just have to wait a wee bit longer.

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Mr Bingley Returns

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Mr Bingley has finally returned. I want to say returned to Netherfield, and I even pondered changing the name of the pen to Netherfield Park, but let’s just leave it as The Cedar Pen for now. Mr Bingley was in chicken hospital in the garage recovering from sour crop. He didn’t have it as bad as Jane did but, being a rooster, he was a little more difficult to treat. He is a good boy but he started pecking me at one stage so I’m not sure how he’ll be towards me from now on. Hopefully it was just because he was sick and didn’t like being cooped up in a cage.

While Mr Bingley was away, the hens got rather frisky and some challenged each other. I saw Frodo having a stare-off with Lizzie, which Lizzie won, Frodo took on a noisemaker role again and Georgiana was having more licence than usual to chase the chicks. There was one interesting episode that occurred while Lizzie, the boss hen, was laying. The two chicks were having a sparring session. Kitty came over and joined in. Georgiana came over and started chasing them. Lydia, 2IC, came over, swiftly pecked Georgiana on the neck, and that was the end of all that. I was surprised, as this was the first time I’d seen Lydia do something responsible with her leadership. It is a far cry from her days as a fight starter. She is the smallest hen but she packs a punch. At the moment, the hen’s pecking order goes: Lizzie, Lydia, Frodo, Jane, Kitty, Mary and Georgiana. Mary used to be at the bottom but her status has been on the move since she came of age and caught Mr Bingley’s attention. When Mr Bingley left, Georgiana was keeping her distance from him and the other hens like a shy teenager.

Mr Bingley’s return to the flock was fascinating to watch. The first thing he did was dance for and mate with Frodo. Interesting. Then he had to re-establish his dominance and let the girls know that he wasn’t going to take any nonsense. The hens all flocked around him like a pack of schoolgirls, checking him out and vying for his attention. The big surprise was Georgiana. She couldn’t get enough of Mr Bingley. She got as close to him as she could and lapped up any attention and morsels that he gave her. However, Mr Bingley has not maintained an interest in her and she is back to hanging out with the two youngies or off to the side. Mr Bingley has been very busy looking after all those needy females.

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Mr Bingley gets mobbed by females.

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Mr Bingley didn’t get much breathing room on the day of his return.

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Georgiana (back), who hasn’t started laying yet, was totally smitten by Mr Bingley.

Another interesting thing to note is that 8-week-old Mr Collins has kept crowing his little crow and Mr Bingley’s response is to do nothing. Maybe that puny little chicken is not a threat to him or maybe Mr Bingley is too busy with his girls, but whatever the case, peace is good.

Another Hospital Admittance

Another chicken event that happened was that one of the hens pulled up ill and lame one afternoon. It was Frodo. She had been standing in the same spot for ages, looking very sad and droopy. When I went to check on her she was limping badly on one leg. It didn’t take much to catch her at all. My heart sank. Frodo is my most precious hen, being my only purebred female (little PB’s gender still being unknown), my faithful broody mumma and the only hen I’ve had from the beginning. I couldn’t see or feel any leg injuries. This was almost deja vu with last time Frodo was unwell with what I think was a toxic reaction, except this time her comb was still red. That actually made me more nervous, as I suddenly realised it could be Marek’s, with leg paralysis, like what happened to dear Legolas. It was still a little early for the heightened ‘Marek’s period’, which usually kicks in when the chicks are 9-10 weeks old (they were 8 weeks old), but I was scared. I syringed vitamin water into her then put her in the hospital cage. She ate a lot, drank a lot and ate a lot of grit, so that was good. In the morning, what do you know, Frodo had bounced back to her normal self. Phew! There was no sign of limping. And so, a toxic reaction is what I’m suspecting again. I caught it early, as Frodo had been full of beans earlier that day.

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Frodo is my steady girl. She may not have been so steady in her younger days but we understand each other now. Except when I try to touch her babies.

Egg Stealers

Yet another thing going on with the chickens is an egg issue. Both Jane and Lydia have been caught red-handed eating eggs. This is very bad! I’ve had a few issues in the past with egg eating, which I never got around to writing about. In the early days of laying for Lizzie, Jane and Lydia, I found a few egg messes in the coop and eggs missing after I’d seen a hen in the nestbox. Naturally, I suspected Lydia, because, well, Lydia. But one day I caught Jane sharing her egg meal with Mr Bingley in the coop. I used a combination of blown eggs filled with dish liquid and hard fake eggs to sort that out. Plus collecting eggs often.

Back to recent times, I thought Lydia’s reduction in laying was due to the decrease in daylight hours as we head towards winter. Apparently not. There have been a couple of times when I’ve seen her in the coop but then there’s been no egg. I thought she was just bossing around Mary or Kitty. Apparently not. Yesterday, Jane ran out into the pen with egg shell dangling from her beak, making a big noise about what she’d found. Lydia quickly grabbed a piece off her and the others were gathering fast. I ran in, grabbed the egg remnants off Jane, then went for Lydia, but Lydia had already eaten her forbidden morsel. Now I know both of them are at it. Today, Lydia ran out into the pen with some eggshell and ate it before I could grab it off her.

This is going to be tough to deal with. The hens don’t sing or yell the egg song until after they come out of the coop, and by then, the egg could be gone. I kept checking Jane again and again as she sat in the nestbox today. After a while, it became evident that Jane was actually exhibiting broody behaviour. Although she didn’t squawk, she raised her hackles fiercely and pecked at me fiercely when I tried to move her. Sheesh, one day egg eating, the next trying to be broody. She did actually lay in the end and didn’t eat the egg. Phew. I am watching her very closely. Jane will never be allowed to hatch eggs so if she becomes fully broody she will be straight into the broody breaker. Even if she wasn’t an egg-eater, Jane is my most neurotic hen (Mary has settled down somewhat) and she has tested my sanity too many times. If I ever get unemotional enough to sell or cull hens that aren’t useful enough for laying or breeding, Jane will be the first to go. That sounds harsh, but, now that I have a good number of chickens and not a whole heap of space, I do have to start thinking about drawing lines, especially when egg-eating is involved. Lydia is lucky I like her so much and she is a very good layer. This is going to be a tricky issue to deal with and I must nip it in the bud or I will end up with more egg-eaters and no eggs.

The Youngies

While we’re talking about the feather children, we better have another look at the youngies. They are 8 1/2 weeks old now. I have almost given up handling Mr Collins because it’s probably doing more harm than good. He freaks out all the other chickens with his terrible screeching when I get him out of the coop at night and he struggles so badly that it’s hard to pat him or do anything with him, even at night! His sole purpose in life is keeping PB company until he is big enough to go to the other side of the rainbow. If more chicks had hatched I was contemplating culling any Lydia boys as soon as I knew they were boys. Now I really know that Lydia + boy = beast of terror. Well, at least his existence has been good for PB.

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Mr Collins scares the crap out of me already.

PB is still being mysterious and I am still changing my mind a lot about whether PB is a girl or a boy. However, my gut keeps going back to girl. PB gets a little more agitated than when he/she was younger but doesn’t seem to be raging with hormones and will still eat from my hand and sit in my arms nicely. Looking at all PB’s feathering, I think girl, but his/her feet are big. And PB is big overall. As for PB’s comb, it was big initially, but it hasn’t changed much recently. I have also noted that photos on the breeder’s website show Australorp hens with large combs and wattles, bigger than any of my girls. This doesn’t really help give me any clarity though! I just hope PB isn’t going to be one of those weird mixed-gender chickens that pop up sometimes, like a ren or a hooster…

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Mr Collins (left) and PB (right).

The Chicken Madness Starts to Settle Down. Or Does it?

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Things are a lot better in the bumblefoot department these days. Boy, bumblefoot is a pig to deal with! It has taken so much time to treat the girls’ feet and there are so many facets to it, but I have learnt a whole lot and am more confident in dealing with it now. Lydia, Lizzie and Jane are still hovering around the end of the recovery phase. None of them have shoes on anymore but they still have taped and bandaged feet.

Lydia’s ‘bad’ foot looks remarkably different to what it did a few weeks ago. It just needs to be gently reintroduced to normal function again while it’s all soft and fresh. The other foot got readjusted too quickly and got a couple of lesions, which freaked me out briefly until I realised they were just abrasions from too much pressure on a soft foot while the other foot was in a shoe. I am now just putting haemorrhoid ointment on Lydia’s feet to help toughen them up, and tonight I moved to just bandages with no tape underneath. I am slowly weaning the feet back to normal life as I check them every few days. On another note, Lydia has just finished a 16-day egg-laying run. Woohoo! Today is only the second day this month that she hasn’t laid an egg. Her egg-laying really is something else.

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Lydia (front) is doing much better and is enjoying being back with Mr Bingley. Mr Bingley (centre) is currently moulting, most obviously in his tail feathers, so he isn’t looking as regal as usual. I’m trying not to laugh at him.

Lizzie’s feet are doing much better too. There is just one small spot on one of her toes that is still looking a bit suspect and is getting antiseptic put on it, but otherwise the rest of the feet are getting haemorrhoid ointment, tape and bandages.

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Lizzie is also sporting purple bandages at the moment so now I have to look harder to tell her and Lydia apart. For a while it was ‘the one with two shoes’, etc.

Whereas Lydia and Lizzie have gotten more chilled out in the handling department, Jane has gotten more nutty the more I’ve treated her. She’s very quiet but hates having her feet looked at and just wants to run away and hide, which she expresses by jerking her feet a lot, like Lydia used to do at first. While her bumblefoot was much less advanced than the others it has taken longer to get her feet to the same point in recovery, partly because I didn’t crack down hard enough on it to start with, partly because we went on holiday and partly because I went the route of avoiding antibiotic ointment and just used the strong antiseptic, Crystaderm, instead. This is because I wanted to keep eating her eggs so we had at least some semblance of a supply and also because I was curious to compare how the different treatments would work. Antibiotic cream and use of foam shoes is definitely the fastest way to go, aside from oral antibiotics, but it is preferable to avoid the antibiotic route if you can. Plus, antibiotic cream isn’t available over-the-counter here as it is in some other countries.

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Jane has purple bandages too. Her and a certain other blue youngster are getting harder to tell apart now, especially in the dim mornings, so at a quick glance, Jane is the one with purple feet.

To avoid rambling on and on, here are some ‘basic’ points on what I’ve learnt about bumblefoot:

  • You must crack down hard on it. Until lesions have healed (unless shoes are on with antibiotics), half-hour iodine foot soaks must be done at least daily; twice daily is more effective.
  • Treat each chicken, each foot and each part of foot according to it’s presentation. Treatments like iodoine will debride skin, so you don’t want to use them on skin that’s healed of the bad brown bits. E.g., if doing foot baths, keep healed skin covered.
  • If one chicken has bumblefoot, it’s very likely that more will get it. Check ALL the chickens.
  • Whether there is a distinct core or multiple erupted pieces of pus (like small, hard shafts or stringy bits), get out as much as possible, within your capability. Tweezers are essential. Bits of rough, brown, cracking skin, which comes before a distinct lesion, can be gently removed as they soften after foot soaks.
  • Keep feet as clean as possible. I wash with water and chlorhexidine solution on paper towels and dry before treating and dressing. Taping and bandaging well is essential to keeping dirt out.
  • Foam shoes greatly reduce pressure on lesions. They must be bandaged then taped on very well when chicken is outside so they don’t come off or get full of dirt. Strips of waterproof tape need to cover bottom of bandaged shoe.
  • Adjust feet slowly. Treated feet get soft and can’t handle life on the ground straight away. Don’t move straight from a foam shoe to just tape and bandages. First, use a small piece of foam of 3-5mm thickness to pad foot underneath tape and bandages. Slowly decrease amount of taping and bandaging.
  • Investigate source of wounding and deal with it. Are there sharp objects (pinecone scales, pine needles, stones, sharp branches, etc.), hard surfaces (rough concrete, bricks, etc.), high roosts or other things in the chickens’ environment that could cause abrasions on the feet?
  • Investigate source of infection and deal with it. Scrub and sanitise roosts or other commonly-used surfaces, clean the coop, rake the ground and cover ground with some sort of substrate to distance poop from feet.

I also have some quick recommendations for anyone interested:

  • Tape: Nexcare absolute waterproof tape. It is easy to manoeuvre, you can rip it with your fingers, it is soft and it is waterproof. It won’t stick if you get ointment all over it with your fingers though. More stiff waterproof tapes are fine for using around a foam shoe but aren’t flexible enough to keep dirt out from around a chicken’s leg or foot.
  • Bandages: A roll of cohesive bandage 10cm (4 in) wide can be cut into a piece about 18-20cm long (for a large breed chicken), then cut into three strips. The best one I used was Vetrap, but not being able to find any the next time, the next best was a non-branded one found in the horse supplies section on Trade Me, followed by Prairie Horse. DO NOT buy a cohesive bandage made for humans because they don’t cut it for chickens. They just don’t stick.

The girls coped well with the comings and goings of various hens. But having Lizzie taken away from Mr Bingley and kept in another pen brought out the rescuer in Mr Bingley and he escaped numerous times to come and talk sweetly to her. Mind you, she kept calling to him. Those two are so in love with each other. We kept doing makeshift adjustments to the two smaller gates that he was jumping over until he stayed put. He got Lizzie back soon after that anyway and hasn’t escaped since. Except for the day The Husband left the gate ajar and Lydia and Mr Bingley had a brief elopement in the vege garden…

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Mr Bingley is VERY pleased to have Lizzie and Lydia back.

The three excess pullets: Darkie, Bluefro and Tiny, finally went off to their new home at The Sister-in-law’s place 1 1/2 weeks ago. It was hard to say goodbye to them, for me and their sisters, after having them around for so long. Darkie was the easiest-to-handle of all the Australorps or mostly-Australorps I’ve had so far. But they have a good home and we will get to visit them. And so, once again, we are left with the chosen ones, eight feather children, the youngest of which have new permanent names: Mr Bingley, Frodo, Jane, Lizzie, Lydia, Mary, Kitty and Georgiana. Orange Spot, the Legolas girl, is now Mary, for she sings to her own tune and is often off by herself in her own little world. Pearly is now Kitty, for she is energetic, noisy and curious and Penguin is now Georgiana, for she is quiet and amiable. Georgiana was the most-affected by the removal of her other three sisters and is a bit bitter about it at the moment. She was very sociable with her sisters, always in the middle of a sleepy chicken pile, and used to be very easy to handle, but has since started pecking me on the arm sometimes when I hold her and has been a lot more flighty. I really hope she settles down with more handling. I won’t keep youngies for that long again, unless they’ve been separated earlier, as it’s just too disruptive.

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Tiny, Bluefro and Darkie spent a day in the temp pen before they got picked up by their new mum. Bye bye, chickies.

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The three chosen youngies (left to right): Georgiana, Kitty and Mary.

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Kitty, previously known as Pearly. She isn’t as white anymore but is a lovely, floofy-looking thing.

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Mary, previously known as Orange Spot, one-and-only daughter of the late Legolas. Being half barred Plymouth Rock, she looks more streamlined, with tighter feathers. She is off in la la land half the time. I suppose she’s going to be the loopy one of the flock. Mind you, Jane’s pretty loopy.

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Georgiana, the prettiest and one of the sweetest youngies, is currently bitter at me. Hopefully not a permanent thing…

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There isn’t too much size difference between youngies and ‘oldies’ now. Georgiana is on the back left and purple-footed Jane is the blue hen on the right.

There’s just one other small matter. Frodo is sitting on eggs. Yes, again! Well, she was super broody when we got back from our short holiday. Plus, I was kept busy enough with the bumblefoot trio without having to be attentive to a Frodo in the brooder breaker. Plus, I was wanting to hatch some more eggs anyway… The thing is, this hatch is going to be nowhere near as successful as the others. It’s actually a lesson on what not to do. I wanted some purebred Australorp eggs but fertility levels had dropped all around. Except with Mr Bingley. That studmuffin. A breeder gave me six Australorp eggs for free to try anyway, which I thought was exceedingly nice of him. He said fertility was as low as 30% in some breeds so I wasn’t setting high hopes at all. Then I managed to get four Lydia eggs under Frodo the day after, giving Frodo a total of 10. Two of the Lydia eggs had been laid in the Outdoor Chicken Hospital pen while we were away, quite some time after Lydia was last with Mr Bingley, but her other eggs before that were still fertile (more on Mr Bingley’s stellar fertility later while I do some maths) so I thought I’d give them a shot. The other two Lydia eggs were the first two laid after being back in the main pen with Mr Bingley.

The weather has been stinkin’ hot. And two of the Australorp eggs were lost in the first few days. The first one cracked while I was getting Frodo off the nest for one of her daily eat-drink-poop-run off screeching breaks. She had dug her nest too deep without me realising and as the egg moved just a little it cracked on the wooden bottom of the nestbox. The worst part is that it was fertile. The next day I lifted Frodo to find that another Australorp egg had cracked under her at some point, leaving an eggy mess everywhere. Perhaps those two just had too-thin shells. Frodo or someone else had cleaned up the shell but there were hard bits of egg on all the other eggs. I scraped off what I could and cleaned out the nestbox, but that is really not good for the health of developing embryos. And then tonight, my low expectations were realised when The Husband and I candled the eggs for the last time. It appears that only two of them MIGHT be viable, one of Lydia’s and one purebred Australorp, which is a dark egg so it was very hard to tell.

Ah well. I am determined to be happy if I can get just one to hatch! Plan B is to source a couple of day-old chicks to fulfill Frodo’s mothering process. The hatch doesn’t matter so much this time, as I’m not desperate for hens for once. But it would be nice to not have a total failure of a hatch! The other bad part is that the eggs are due to hatch next Friday evening or Saturday. We have a wedding on Saturday. Worst timing ever! Silly, silly Twiglet. The Parents might have to do some checking for me… Note to self: Calculate hatch day and consult calendar before setting eggs. Further note to self: Don’t try to hatch eggs over the hottest weeks of the year. Further, further note to self: Just be more patient next time! Now, would Autumn please arrive?

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Frodo is sitting tight in her usual nestbox, screeching at anyone who bothers her.

What’s a Holiday Without Pre-holiday Nuttiness?

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We went on holiday, The Husband, The Little Fulla and I. We don’t manage to go on holiday very often and this was the first holiday we’d had not staying in someone’s house since The Little Fulla was born. We stayed in a cabin at the beach. There was much to do and much to take.

Naturally, things got nuts before the holiday. Lydia had her second vet visit for bumblefoot, for which I was thankfully only charged the script fee. I have become rather attached to that nutty chicken. Her foot wasn’t making much progress and we suspected there was still some deeper core in there. Lydia was a bit off her food too and losing a bit of weight. I wasn’t at all certain about her future at that point and I started to prepare myself in case I had to make a tough call before we went away. I would not pay for her to have surgery. My helpful avian vet told me how to make a foam shoe and sent me off with some printed photos and another week of antibiotics. The Husband then helped me make her the shoe out of a pool noodle and I had a last-ditch attempt to dig out some core, in which I managed to get out an awkward piece wedged down the side of her lesion, without cutting everything else out. Wait, a pool noodle? Yup. We cut a piece long enough for Lydia’s foot with claws resting over the edge, then cut it in half, then sculpted out hollows for the toes to rest in. Next, I cut a hole lining up with the foot lesion, held the shoe in place, stuffed the hole with antibiotic cream, then bandaged and taped the shoe on with a cohesive bandage and waterproof tape. Well, that shoe is genius! With that plus the bit of core I dug out, her behaviour changed the next day. She was eating well, she was moving around a lot and she was more chipper. She continued to look well until I took her shoe off for the moment of truth after a week. The progress in her foot matched the progress in her behaviour. Phew! It still had healing to do but the swelling and hardness had gone down and the lesion was red instead of the brown or black that typifies bumblefoot infection. After putting the shoe back on with more cream, Lydia was moved to Outdoor Chicken Hospital, courtesy of the little boys’ departure, and she celebrated with a gloriously long dust bath.

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Lydia turns the tide in Chicken Hospital. Yay!

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Lydia celebrates her move to Outdoor Chicken Hospital with a long and glorious dust bath.

Meanwhile, I was not taking any chances with Jane’s small bumblefoot lesion, so she got taken out of the coop every evening for a foot soak in a cage on an iodine-watered towel. Her foot then had antiseptic cream applied and was re-bandaged.

Five days out from our holiday the little cockerels were sold. Hooray!

Four days out from our holiday my assignment was due… and finished.

Three days out from our holiday The Little Sister-in-law got married. It was a lovely day, great to spend time with family and friends and we are so happy that The Little Sister-in-law and The Little Brother-in-law found each other. Warm fuzzies all around. Until that evening, when the last of my pre-holiday chicken check-ups revealed that Lizzie had bumblefoot on both feet. WHAT?! I can barely describe how I was feeling. Mortified. Puzzled. Hard-done-by. Dejected. Hopeless. Now all three Benett girls had bumblefoot. I hadn’t noticed Lizzie limping but I had been so busy with Lydia and Jane, plus all the other things, that I was behind in Lizzie’s check-up. Both her feet were crusty and swollen on the underside. That night and the next two days she got iodine foot soaks and bits dug out of her feet. Her case was different from Lydia’s, with lots of crustiness but no one lesion as big as Lydia’s. However, there were lesions on the main toe of each foot as well as the soles of the foot, so it was hard to say if it was ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than Lydia’s. Iodine foot soaks are really helpful for the crustiness. The problem is, we were going away, so after the third crack at her feet, complete with a non-complying, quick-to-bleed toe lesion, the foam shoes got a new challenge. I stuffed the shoe holes with antibiotic cream then bandaged Lizzie’s feet with the last of my bandage AND tape supply and re-introduced her to Lydia in Outdoor Chicken Hospital. Note to self: Do NOT run out of bandages and tape when feather children have bumblefoot. Skimping on bandaging and tape = dirty feet. There was a very small amount of fighting as they decided who was boss, and, interestingly, Lizzie remained boss.

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The two blackies, Lydia and Lizzie, get reacquainted in outdoor Chicken Hospital. They were a sight to see with their funny shoes on.

I thought Lydia was nutty but Lizzie was almost wild to handle at first. She made determined (and even once successful) attempts to escape and when I wrapped a towel around her to prevent flapping she screamed blue murder and it really sounded like she was squarking, “HELP! HEELP!” It was not doing anything to help the situation. But at least once I put her on her side she shut up and didn’t kick and claw as much as Lydia. I should have been handling her more as she got older.

After cleaning the coop, hospital cages, water bells, feeders, towels and cloths, the chickens were as ready as they could be to be left for a few days. I was nervous, with full consideration to the fact that last time we went on holiday I lost my favourite hen, Strider. But things were different now. I knew a lot more and I did everything I could to prepare the chickens for time without me. I hoped everyone behaved themselves, but really, they were bound to get up to something. I was imagining Mr Bingley getting out and having a little vege garden-wrecking adventure, one or more chicken shoes being forcibly removed and Frodo being found in the coop being broody.

The morning of our holiday was spent speeding around finishing the packing, loading up the car, watering the pots and vege garden, making sure the animals were all set with heaps of food and water and making sure everything on the lists, which seemed to be invisible to The Husband, had been packed or done. It was suitably nuts, and The Husband had helpful comments to add like this: “What are you doing?” “I’m getting ready.” “No you’re not, you’re just drawing on your face.” Needless to say, the beach holiday was characterised by much blobbing around and restful disregard for whatever else was going on in the world.

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Some serenity at the beach before more nuttiness. Don’t let the clouds fool you, it was stinkin’ hot!

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Upon arrival back home I was surprised to find that the only things amiss were that Lizzie had lost one of her shoes and Jane had lost her foot bandage. They still had food and water, thanks to The Big Sister-in-law topping everything up, and no-one died! Chicken check-ups revealed that everyone was fine except for the three Benett girls with their varying stages of bumblefoot. Jane’s had gotten slightly worse without her bandage and foot soaks, but Lydia’s and Lizzie’s were improving. And so, we continue with the foot soaks and funny shoes. Except that we went away again for two days a few days later… It is nice to go away and catch up with family and friends but I’m looking forward to a little bit less nuttiness now and having the time to get the chicken’s feet sorted out properly, as well as many other things around the place. Lydia rejoined the main flock this morning, still with her shoe on. I will check and re-do it every now and then until the lesion heals. Mr Bingley is extremely pleased to have Lydia back, although he has been escaping to try and rescue Lizzie from Outdoor Chicken Hospital. It doesn’t help that Lizzie keeps calling for him. Those two are smitten with each other. But in the mean time, Mr Bingley and Lydia have been very close. Poor Jane is just over there somewhere again. And Frodo? Well, there’s the matter of the broody Frodo that I had to leave in the coop when we went off for our second, overnight holiday, who is now super-broody Frodo…

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Mr Bingley and Lydia are back together again.

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Mr Bingley has his cute face on.

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Orange Spot, my #2 pullet, daughter of beloved Legolas. Because she missed out on being in the last blog post!

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