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 :)

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