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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Hen or Roo? The Game of PB

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As I fed the chickens at dawn this morning, I heard a bugle call sound out from somewhere across the fields. It was quite poignant and I wished it would keep going. Today is Anzac Day, the day we remember all our countrymen who fought or were killed in war. I was preparing to commence another round of Hen or Roo? with the chicks when something happened. Yesterday morning there was a different bugle call. The call of Mr Collins. Yes, Mr Collins has announced himself. What sounded like a squeaky, strangled rodent was Mr Collins declaring himself to be a boy. I will not be eating my hat. The Husband even heard it from the dining room and came out to see who was making the weird noise. His curiosity is pleasing. I had wondered if either of the chicks would out themselves while Mr Bingley is out of the flock, in chicken hospital, but I didn’t think they were old enough yet. They are seven weeks old. Mr Bingley has been crowing loudly in response from the garage. Mr Collins might be in trouble if he keeps this up. “Just wait til your father gets home!”

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Mr Collins has declared himself to be a boy. No surprises there.

In any case, this round of Hen or Roo? was all about PB anyway. I am currently highly undecided about whether PB is a boy, as I initially thought, or a girl. I thought I had a Mr Darcy on my hands but I might actually have a Charlotte running around with Mr Collins. Never mind the fact that Mary would be a better match for Mr Collins, as they are almost as silly as each other at the moment. Weirdly, Mr Collins has markedly toned down his cheeping and freaking out since his mother left them to their own devices at 6 1/2 weeks of age. He was such a needy feather child. Frodo must be relieved to have him off her back.

One small tangent before some more photos. Today we got five eggs for the first time. Five! With Frodo back to laying, all my laying hens laid today: Frodo, Lizzie, Lydia, Jane and Mary. We’re certainly not going to get five eggs every day with numbers trailing a little with the autumn season and moulting, but it is nice to know that there are five layers heading towards winter, so more chance of at least getting a few eggs over winter.

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I can even tell you who the eggs belong to today, but some days it has become a mind-boggling challenge if I don’t see who’s in the nestboxes. Clockwise from bottom: Jane, Lydia, Mary, Frodo and Lizzie.

Right, back to the game. Here are some more photos of the chicks for you to peer at. PB is a purebred Australorp, while Mr Collins is, I suspect, 3/4 Australorp and 1/4 unknown, possibly Buff Sussex, like his parents, Mr Bingley and Lydia. Feel free to announce your guesses or suspicious of hen or roo for PB.  Today, my gut is saying hen, but that is subject to change…

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Mr Collins (left) and PB (right). PB has a beautiful, fine head.

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PB has a lot of fluff.

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PB

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PB (back) ad Mr Collins (front).

Guesses? Thoughts? Wild imaginings?

 

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.

 

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.

The Chickens Have a Funny Idea of What Christmas Presents Are

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I am extremely pleased to say that Jane is back with the flock and doing well. Her sour crop episode was intense but we made it out the other side! The reintegration went pretty well, thanks to Mr Bingley. It is so much easier reintegrating hens when you have a good rooster. Mind you, it’s mainly just Lydia who needs supervision when it comes to reintegrations.

When Jane wandered into the sight of Mr Bingley, he was most pleased to see her and went straight over to her, making happy noises and helping her to find food. Lizzie came over to Jane and seemed pleased to see her too, proceeding to just hang out in their vicinity. Everything was going well until Lydia got jealous and suddenly flew at Jane. Jane fought back and Mr Bingley rushed in to separate them. He kept Jane off in the corner for a while but Lizzie was allowed to hang out with them because she was amiable. Frodo, still with some semblance of apron strings, rushed over to some of the chicks when the fight ensued. Sidelined, Lydia came over to me and stood, pouting at my feet. Lydia is such a Lydia. Some time later, while I was working in the vege garden where I could keep an eye on the feather children, Lydia picked another fight with Jane, which Mr Bingley quickly put a stop to by herding Jane away again. He spent the rest of the afternoon sharing his time between the girls, sometimes keeping Jane away while he hung out with Lydia or vice versa. He was kept very busy going back and forth between his needy females. Jane’s re-entry coincided with Frodo’s venture back into independence from the chicks. This was probably helpful, as there might as well be two of them trying to re-enter the main flock hierarchy. After this, things settled down nicely. Lydia was still Queen Lydia, Frodo appeared to be 2IC, although she was still spending a little time away from the others teaching things to the chicks, Lizzie was third in line and Jane was at the bottom. Well, the bottom of the main flock. Jane pecks at the chicks if they are stepping over her line.

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Mr Bingley gets all floofy when Jane reappears from Chicken Hospital.

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Mr Bingley protects Jane with his ‘Don’t mess with me’ stance.

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Jane and Lizzie, left, re-unite nicely, but look at Lydia on the right: she is having an internal fit.

So, everything sounds hunky dory, right? Nope. No sooner had Jane left the Hospital Cage than it had to be cleaned and sanitised for another chicken. Lydia had bumblefoot. Some might say she had it coming and it might have been great for the others to have a Lydia holiday, but it was not great for Lydia or myself. After a few evenings of putting antiseptic on Lydia’s feet, the infection wasn’t improving so I had to take the next step: a foot procedure. And when I say a foot procedure I actually mean three, as I didn’t get all the hard, infected core out the first two times. When you read up about how to do bumblefoot procedure, it sounds fairly straightforward, although it is very time-consuming. After soaking the foot/feet and manipulating around the dark circular scab, there is supposed to be a core of hard pus that comes out. I’m talking about the non-surgical option here. But manipulating and tweezering wasn’t getting much of a core out and I was left wondering if I had gotten everything out. It turned out that there was a tiny, sharp fragment of bone or plastic or something in Lydia’s main bumblefoot hole, which was pressing against the flesh, causing it to bleed, which I thought meant I was digging too deep. Also, the biggest core was shooting off to one side of the hole, almost horizontal to the skin, so it was hard to define and get out. I want the simple version next time, please. Wait, no, I don’t want a next time. Who needs to be a vet when you can keep chickens?

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Lydia gets her turn in Chicken Hospital with bumblefoot.

Lydia is back with the flock now, albeit still with bandages on her feet. I just have to check her feet sometimes, reapplying Vetericyn and re-dressing them when necessary. She is an avid scratcher, so it’s very hard to keep her feet clean. Suffice to say, there were NO fights when Lydia re-entered the flock after a couple of days in the adjacent temp pen and Lydia has been unusually sensible. It just goes to show how docile the others are compared to Lydia. She is such a nutter, but then, what would we do for entertainment without her? At the moment, Frodo seems to be holding top spot, at least with regards to food, although Mr Bingley still prefers Lizzie and Frodo and Lizzie seem to be fairly evenly-matched. Lydia is in the number three slot and Jane, as always, is at the bottom. I am most interested to find out how and when Lydia will claw her way back to the top. I’m sure she will, for she is Lydia. I hope the chickens have finished dispensing their ‘Christmas presents’ to me now. Frodo’s early Christmas present was scaly leg mite, which she always seems to get when she’s been broody a lot or busy raising chicks. No more presents chickens, unless you can give me a golden egg.

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Bumblefoot-recovering Lydia, Mr Bingley and Lizzie. Happy families again.

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Frodo is a scaly leg mite frequent flyer, so I have to keep a close eye on her legs.

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Jane is doing well but hasn’t recommenced laying yet.

Let’s spend a moment in praise of Lizzie. I haven’t talked about Lizzie as much as the others because she hasn’t been greatly afflicted or caused any trouble. Lizzie is proving to be a great all-round hen. She was the first of the Bennet girls to start laying and is the best layer at the moment. She soon chose the third nesting box along and lays an egg in there almost every day. There was one day that someone had pooped in her nestbox so she moved the fake egg that was in there into the fourth nestbox and laid in there. Her eggs are as big as Frodo’s and she’s laid two big double-yolkers so far. She is good-natured and seems hardy, as well as being pretty. She was one of my two early favourites from the last hatch, her and Mr Bingley, so maybe I should trust my thoughts with this next lot!

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Lizzie is my best all-rounder.

The 10 feather babies are doing very well and are totally independent now. They are 6 1/2 weeks old. I am having trouble deciding how many and which ones to keep. The trouble is, I really need a bigger coop. No, really! I do! My chickens are large. And Mr Bingley is enormous. I know the current coop was supposed to be big enough, but that was before I needed more hens and started raising so many little chickens… What I need to do is sell some of my little chickens to help raise money for a new coop. It’s gonna take a bit more than that though.

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Siesta time: Penguin, Pearly, Leggyright, Darkie and Orange Spot.

It still looks like there are four boys and six girls at the moment, but Tiny is doing my head in. She really looks like a girl so far, but she is mean. When I get her out of the coop in the evening, whether I have her in the dark or the light, she pecks at me. As soon as she sees a hand moving near her she lunges at it. I’ve never had that in a girl before and it is most infuriating. She was a bit of a squirmer from day one, but this pecking is something else. All the other girls are very nice so far. I am going to set up a bachelor pen for the little boys soon, to fatten them up in case I can’t sell them, and if Tiny doesn’t settle down, she’s going to end up in there with them. The Leggy boys are pecky sometimes too, but I expect that from some boys. They are still very boisterous and Leggyleft has been thinking he’s one of the adults for a while, trying to sneak food while they’re eating and checking out all goings-on around the pen. Once he even stole a piece of treat right out of Frodo’s beak. He is funny to watch but is quite the little nutcase! The splash-coloured Frodo boys have nice natures so hopefully I can at least sell them.

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Tiny: The mean machine.

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Leggyleft (left) is still behind in his feathering and when he’s upright he looks like a right scrawny little nutcase tearing around the pen. Leggyright (right) is starting to look quite nice. Their feathers haven’t got much barring at the moment so I don’t know what colour they’ll end up.

My current keepsies list is something like this:

  1. Orange Spot: The one-and-only Legolas girl, daughter of the much-loved but deceased Legolas. She is a lovely pale blue and no longer has an orange spot. She has started getting curious, coming up to the gate sometimes to see what I’m doing.
  2. Penguin: The dark blue Frodo chick. I can’t help that I’m a sucker for dark blue chicks. This time, I think I might be lucky to have a female version! She has been very nice so far.
  3. Pearly: The female splash Frodo chick. It is nice having different colours of chickens around and she looks so lovely with her pearly white feathers. She has a nice nature too.

It’s at this point that I realise I’m only supposed to be keeping two females at the most. Well, considering the size of the coop. And that’s why I need to get a bigger coop. The coops is getting pretty crowded at the moment too. It’s just going to be pricey. Oh, the decisions. Why are all the chickens so pretty?

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Orange Spot, the elegant and curious Legolas girl.

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Penguin, the dark blue chick. Who can resist such pretty colouring?

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Pearly, the only splash female, who looks like a fluffy little cloud.

Short Chicken Tales: Mr Bingley

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Mr Bingley Goes to The Other Side

One day, Mr Bingley was fidgety and decided to see what was on the other side of the fence. While his human wasn’t looking, he got himself over the fence and into the paddock next door. It wasn’t quite as exciting as he thought it would be, as all his ladies seemed to be stuck in the orchard and couldn’t follow him. “Well,” thought Mr Bingley, “I don’t want to be in here by myself so I better announce to the world that I’m stuck.” Mr Bingley’s human was greatly shocked to find the rooster strolling along the fence, crowing, on the other side. “Don’t worry, Mr Bingley, I’ll save you!” She ran off to get the net and place a ramp onto the fence by the orchard. Mr Bingley did not want to go up the ramp. He didn’t want to get caught with the net either. He could see that there was a short space of fencing down the other end by the house that had some openings in it. He thought he might be able to get through. After the human tried to make him do weird things up and down the fence a few times he took matters into his own hands and shot through the fence between two wires. His human looked surprised and pleased and as he trotted off towards the pen he heard her say that he was smarter than his father. Mr Bingley was secretly chuffed about this. He was trying very hard to be a good rooster. He just had some crazy urges at the moment.

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“Repeat to self: I am a good rooster.” “I am a good rooster.” “I am a… wheeeeeeeee!!!!!”

Mr Bingley and Lydia Elope

The next day, Mr Bingley was feeling very sprightly again. He could barely contain himself. Lydia suggested that they could go on an adventure together, just the two of them. Mr Bingley was a little reluctant after his adventure the previous day, but Lydia insisted that she would go out by herself if Mr Bingley did not accompany her. And so it was that the two of them found themselves in the vege garden. The human had been spending a lot of time in there and now they could see why: there were beds full of fresh, loose compost, all ready for digging in. So, this is what the human had been keeping to herself! Alas, before they could get up to too much mischief, they were discovered by the human. She did not look happy. She opened the gate and tried to make them go back into the pen. “This is not fair!” said Lydia, pouting. “I don’t see why I have to go back in there with my sisters. It’s much more fun out here.” “Oh, come along, dear,” reasoned Mr Bingley. “It’s not the same now that the human has discovered us anyway.” And so, the eloping couple were made to go back into the pen instead of indulging in the pleasures of the wider world.

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Mr Bingley and Lydia make questionable plans.

Waiting For The Pitter Patter of Tiny Feet

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Today I took Frodo off the nest for the last time for her mandatory eat-drink-poop break. Now she is in lockdown and won’t get off until the babies have hatched. Frodo is proving her mothering skills once again. She’s been such a determined sitter that I’ve had to get her off the nest every afternoon so she gets some nourishment and poop time. Initially, Mr Bingley was running a fine line with his assertiveness towards Frodo and the other girls. The first couple of times when I put Frodo out it was like he was telling her off, chasing her and grabbing her roughly. The second time he drew blood on her comb while I was elsewhere so I started shutting the gate into the run so she could do her things in peace. But she started jumping over the gate and running off into the orchard like a crazy fluff ball and after a few days, thankfully, Mr Bingley calmed his farm. Now I can put Frodo down beside him and he’ll just stand there, guarding her, while she crouches low down, putting hay on her back with her beak until she comes out of the nesting trance and gets some food. Mr Bingley was chasing and pushing around the other girls way too much as well, until he started to realise that they would hang around him more if he spent more time feeding them and doing nice things instead of trying to force them to do what he wants. Hopefully he remains more chilled out. He was starting to make me nervous with his craziness but I suppose that’s what you get for having a cockeral mature right on the start of the breeding season! Jane is still a little scared of him in the morning, being slow to come out of the coop and then running for the hills when she does. Hopefully she realises he’s calmed down a bit.

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Broody Frodo had her fight face on today.

Frodo was feistier than usual today, hoeing in on the treats bowl I put out and chasing all the other girls for getting too close or just because. She almost jumped on Lydia at one point. Mr Bingley stayed near her and kept a look out. Last night The Husband helped me to candle half the eggs. I mainly wanted to check the three we were unsure about the first time, plus the second undated egg, and we also did Legolas’ other two eggs. All of these looked good, so fingers crossed! They are technically due to hatch on Tuesday evening and Wednesday, so now we wait…

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Staunch Mr Bingley stands guard while Frodo preens herself.

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Mr Bingley is learning how to be a good rooster instead of a nutcase. Jane, Lizzie and Lydia (out of shot) stay well away from Frodo as she currently is a nutcase!

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And one more photo of Mr Bingley, just coz. He has the most beautiful big, dark eyes.

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