Friday, 24 October 2008

The end of egg laying this year and chilly nights...

Much has been written on autumnality however getting home from work with clear blue skies, a certain clarity to the air, you know that cooler weather is on the way.

I got home by 1710 and it was still light so got down to the chicken run only to find a cat lurking behind the pen. A small battle ensued (bless the girls, they had removed themselves to the shed so they didn't see any of clash). I still hate cats though with a couple of scratches after today's encounter I feel it won't be back soon.

I digress. The girls were overjoyed at a late afternoon run about in the garden. They are addicted to contoneaster berries so it's a special treat to trash council planting on the way home.

The main subject of this evenings scribblings is that I now assume that egg laying has finished for the year? Mystery surrounds our egg layer(s), definitely Cybil as we saw her lay an egg, two in fact. But laying days and a difference in egg shell (though small I admit) lead me to think that there may have been another layer. Well Cybil's loss of condition has obviously been a major contributory to lack of eggs - was Cybil laying a trigger for Harriet?

Anyway, I am guessing that once egg laying stops the receding daylight hours also assist is shutting down the laying process - so unless I can get the "rooster booster" made up to work from solar power I think we have seen the last of any egg laying until 2009.

And for the first time I shut the shed hatch to keep heat in, its a cosy little shed but tonight you could see your breath in the air! Autumn is here.......

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Midweek murmurings.........with a head cold

Off work today as suffering from a rotten head cold, however another day that the girls can have a day running around the garden. The down point was getting off my lazy sick arse every now and then just to check no cats were lurking.

As ever, lots of autumnal lawn wrecking, weed scratching and insect eating, that's what being a chicken is all about.

The garden is somewhat shady so the bench is a favourite place for a lunchtime sunbathe.

Needless to say just looking at Harriet enjoying herself having a snooze in the sun, it makes giving them the run of the garden all the more worth while.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Guest Blog Spot - the Chicken Photographer Writes

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a regular slot of guest blogging.

This week has seen the weather improve and apart from chilly, damp mornings covered in dew, it's been a glorious week of sunshine for the most part. However due to the reducing daylight hours available, we're getting home to the Girls when they're all gone to roost. Today was the first day of the week when they have been let out to wander the garden at leisure. As soon as that door was opened this morning, they shot out like rockets to the moon! Harriet proceeded to dig a nice deep hole under the bananas and cover herself from head to foot in what looked like a very pleasurable dust bath....white is not a good colour for her I've decided! Whilst cleaning them out, Cybil spied some juicy woodlice and so rushed back into the coop to pick them off whilst I cleaned up the inner quarters.

This afternoon the sun has been shining and the Girls have taken full advantage of it and have been sunning themselves on the garden path. Cybil is still sneezing, although from what I've noticed, not as much as she has done. Her medicine came today, a tonic called 'Respite' so we'll see how she gets on. None of the others have it so let's hope it stays that way!

The Girls have decided that they're favourite garden plant for eating is Lemon Balm.....there used to be quitea good supply around the garden, however each and every plant has been stripped....the picture of Harriet shows her finishing off the last of what was a healthy bush under the bananas.

As I type, the Girls are making a concerted effort to get into the kitchen, but unfortunately for them I'm having none of it. The doormat is the boundary, any further and they get sent back out....I'm sure they're testing me as the minute I turn around they're back in the kitchen (when I say 'they', it's Cybil, Ruby and Margot!!!!), how they got so naughty I have no idea! What should have taken 5 minutes to type has taken nearly half an hour, what with the constant up and down to shoo them out again!!!

I am the "Official Photographer" for Hens In The City....I never knew photgraphing little bantam hens would give me so much pleasure. I hope you enjoy my amateur attempts at showing the Girls to their best....


Lower risk Avian 'flu detected in German Zoo

With the start of autumn migration of waterfowl into the UK this time of year is seen as high risk for Avian Influenza.
The case below at Leipzig Zoo is the lower risk H5N3 as opposed to H5N1

Germany: 3 Cases of H5N3 Detected at Zoo

10/17/08 ARGUS--Regional media report 3 cases of H5N3 avian influenza at a zoo in Leipzig. According to Sachsen's Ministry for Social Affairs, 2 ducks and 1 goose were diagnosed with the virus during a routine check-up. The zoo's administration announced that the affected animals were culled on the recommendation of the district veterinarian. Since wild birds are the presumed source of contamination, all of the zoo's birds must remain in their cages. A spokesperson for the zoo stated that the birds in question probably contracted the virus at a nearby pond. Results of testing conducted on all of the zoo's other birds were negative for avian influenza. According to the zoo's administration, a second round of testing will take place within the next few days.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Autumn got sunny......

So, last weekend was wet and miserable! And my mood to match.

The past week however has been glorious - much needed sunshine if only to assist in creating some gorgeous autumnal colour on the trees and a chance for the girls to do some sun-bathing. It's also ripening up our chillies and peppers, a far better success than tomatoes this year.

Cybil still has a bit of a "cold". She occasionally sneezes and has a little discharge from her nostrils but she's better than last week and her wattle is now returning to its upright form. Saying that she still hasn't resumed egg laying but I think that is also seasonal and not sure if we will get any more eggs this year, who knows.

Chicken war's still between Margot and Ruby. It's only when they first get let out of the run. Everybody has a good flap around the lawn and then hackles up as the two of them try to work out who is number two to Cybil. Of course its all bluff and as soon as they have a jump about and chase each other around the garden for a couple of minutes it all comes to a stop as the two of them suddenly espy a snail or other tasty morsel and carry on as normal.

Margot has now completely taken over Ruby's role as the "rush and bluffer". With nothing to visible trigger such behaviour she will suddenly rush up to any of the chickens and raise her hackles or give them a little peck. With Harriet and Cybil she runs up to them but both Harriet and Cybil instantly fluff themselves up and Margot stops abruptly then runs off again. With Ruby as described above, normally a few hackles rise and a bit of chasing and that its. Lottie and Margot though have an odd relationship. Sometimes Margot does intimidate Lottie a little but on two occasions now Lottie has fluffed up and tried to raise a silkie type hackle and Margot really does run off proving she is all bluster at the end of the day.

It is the time of year all the girls are moulting. Yes, you don't need to be genius to guess what's going on as there are feathers all over the place! Margot is by far the "worst" moulter as she looks as if she has had the back of her head plucked - its only the huge amount of pin feathers emerging tell the real truth in that Margot just had a major head feather moult!

I have now got to the point of hating cats. Not only have we had at least one concerted attack (somehow it just had to be Lottie) but while we were actually sitting in the garden a damn cat made a run at Lottie (again). Now I am fairly confident that the rest of the girls would flap and make enough noise to deter a cat but I'm not so sure about Lottie as she seems to be the one being targeted and apparently I'm not allowed to shoot the cat if it comes into the garden (almost joking here)

What are the options?

Do those sonic scarers really work? Opinions seem to be divided as there is at least one make recommended by the RSPB though in truth I think the RSPB will just about endorse anything as long as they get some money out of it. Some reports from personal experiences seem to report that sonic scarers are next to useless?
Also looked at the Scarecrow water jet pack but it's
(1) £60+ and I'm skint at the moment
(2) again if you did lay out that amount of money, would it be effective?
The downside is that at the moment I just don't feel save leaving the girls out when we are not about so although they do have a hen run with all mod cons I would have liked the option to leave them running around the garden when we out.
As our garden is classic London clay we took the decision to place the chicken run on the deck. Not only would it not get wet and horrible over the winter months (or summer for that matter after the amount of rain we had) but with thought that a layer of bark chips would allow us to clean out the substrate on a regular basis and minimise the parasite worm loading within the run. What I think we really needed was woodchip (not the little stuff like shavings but properly chipped wood) as opposed to bark. In truth the bark was okay but even playgrade began to break down quite quickly and it wasn't easy to extricate feathers, straw, etc. The last thing we wanted to be landed with was expense of buying regular bags of substrate and also we couldn't find wood chips as opposed to the bark. Near our allotment there happens to be the local council yards and while having a wander there I noticed that two local tree surgery companies use the area to chip material from their work. A miracle as there was heaps of freshly chipped wood! Soon a large bag was acquired, completely free of charge, and it makes a great flooring medium for the birds. The girls love it as there is also a very small portion of leaf matter in the woodchip which they soon eat and gives hours of entertainment scratching through it, and now that we know there is a readily available free supply we can change it as frequently as we like - result :)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Autumnal ramblings

Sod it - autumn is bloody miserable. Okay, I fully take on board the beauty of autumnal foliage, misty mornings, mellow sunlight and ripe fruits. Well what the hell happened? Its wet, wet, wet and windy, soggy, grey and grim. The worst thing is getting up and going to work in the dark, the only saving grace this week is that starting work really early I can get home for 1730 hrs so the girls can at least have 30 minutes scratching about in the garden.

We are still looking at getting some form of lighting for the run but its not that close to the house and finances at present don't go as far as major electrical work. Soon we will be going to work and returning in the dark so as a very short term measure I got some wall mounted battery lights. At least we have a facility to now service the birds with ease as it gets darker. Needless to say the Sussex took instantly to the lighting and no problem. Silkies? both looked at the odd round bright things and didn't go in for 10 minutes on the first occasion as I think they were waiting for the light to set - bless them!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Wet and soggy Sunday

So the weather forecasters said the weather was going to be bad - and for once they were right! It rained and rained and rained. However the girls needed cleaning out and even though it was tipping down they raced out of the pen but big cheats headed straight for the kitchen!

There are serious ground rules about house entry. All chickens are allowed on the steps and on the door mat, and that's it. And amazingly they stick to it (Cybil accepted). It's all part of being a member of the flock.
Well, there had to be a time when even kitchen duty gets boring so of course the most unwater-proof of hens had to venture out to decimate flower beds and attack unsurprising snails (and trust me with Lottie they really do have a 50% chance of escape).
And yes, Lottie got a brand new feather cut.

Harriet wasn't far behind

As Cybil didn't get the daft hair style she decided that she would get a cold and felt sorry for herself all day. So bad in fact that no egg was produced and all titbits had to be virtually hand fed as she couldn't possibly pick them up herself. Me thinks that a couple of days tlc will rectify the problem.

Of course, its only a rainy day and you might be a a damp silkie but if you're Ruby, you can preen up a treat.

And let me tell you, you don't get this gorgeous without lots of hard preening!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Deserted chickens.....

Well a bit of a week really. Not that you need to know but my Mother has been down to London for the past seven days with her dog Penelope. Okay, so bantams and a wire-haired terrier and never going to be a good mix!

That said, the girls spent more time in the run that they would normally and although the run is more than adequate for keeping them we did feel guilty at having to keep them in when in truth they could have been free-ranging around the garden.

On top of that we had our first full on cat attack when Lottie got grabbed. She lost of few feathers but was unscathed however all the girls were somewhat upset (as you can well imagine!).

After a week of being away from us the girls as really stand offish - we are not flavour of the month any more though they do still come over when I call (apart from Margot)

Margot has become the chicken from Hell since she got her sight back! Completely distant, she is really spooky and legs it as soon as we appear if she is free in the garden. She is also giving Ruby a hard time.

We have been getting 2 eggs every three day however nothing now for three days so either the receding daylight or the cat attack has disrupted production.

So, with evening light arriving earlier and earlier, do we invest in lights as at this rate we are only ever going to see them at weekends!

Who's who - MARGOT

The very classic colouration of a Sussex, the light Sussex, that's our Margot

Margot is I guess the youngest of all the birds that we have.

Highly inquisitive, the commonest view of Margot is her backside and she delves into everything. A championship standard scratcher, she is the lawns greatest foe however probably the best snail and slug remover we have. She unfortunately has the ability to empty the pellets from the feeder so I think we will end up having to suspend it stop the spillage.

Margot has caused us most worry as after a couple of days she was keeping her left eye closed for a lot of the time. A quick catch up showed that the eyeball was somewhat diminished though no discharge.

Poor Margot couldn't see properly (only light and dark from what we could work out) and got depressed, a sad sight, and she wasn't doing too well in the leadership battle. We caught her up and washed the eye with a saline solution and kept it clean. Vet advice was sought and we did the right thing and as the eye stayed clean and no discharge or obvious infection were observed. Needless to say, lots of treats were given and she was very calm, pigged out on mealworms after her treatments and really tamed up.

The eyeball healed and refilled. Her sight, as far as we can ascertain, is fairly good and she can see more than just dark and light.

Positive points: on good days, the loveliest bantam in the world.

Negative points: Is this one the lightness and the dark. Since Margot's recovery she has successfully taken out Ruby as number two chicken and is currently running a campaign against Lottie. Taken up the Ruby habit of rush ambushes on Ruby (now there's revenge) and chases her a bit too much. Has gone from the lovely chicken who was happy to sit on your knee and scoff mealworms and corn to a spooky bird that comes nowhere near us and is currently the most distant of all the birds - I am just hoping that previous behavior will return soon........