Thursday, 31 January 2013

A new playground

The Scots Dumpy was first out of the house this morning.  I opened the pop hole at 8am and they were squawking to get on with their day.  The two Orpingtons seemed to struggle with balancing on their way down the ramp, they seem too heavy for their little feet and take the ramp cautiously.
All four of them went straight to the drinker but somehow Rosie who is at the bottom of the pecking order was left out so she just waited for a turn behind them.  I think I will reposition the drinker so that they can all get to it at once.
Next up was a feed - hopefully they'll get a little bit of the Flubenvet into them today - and then they all spent the next wee while preening their bellies - vain little things.
There was a slight frost this morning and it was very cold.  Only the Scots Dumpy ventured out from the roofed run and entered the caged area.
Today I was able to spend a lot of time watching ma wee hens, so we decided to let them out of the roofed run and into the netted pen area for the first time.
Matilda the trailblazing Australorp 
The Scots Dumpy follows suit
Now Didee is coming out to explore the fresh grass

Rosie took ages to build up the courage to come out and explore their new playground.  For a long while she seemed to want to come out and join the others but she couldn't find the door.

At last all four hens are out, enjoying their frosty, new playground

The Scots Dumpy came out second after Matilda our Australorp.  But later she went back in and then paced up and down the wires pecking the walls, trying to find the door to come out again - dumb wee dumpy!
They threw a lot of the pellets out of the feeder with their beaks today, so perhaps they don't like the medicine?  Oh well, hopefully they got some into their systems.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Two Blue Orpingtons

First day with the Flubenvet in their feed - hope it helps as now Rosie has a pretty mucky bottom today too.
Didee and Rosie our two bantam blue Orpingtons with mucky bottoms
Going up the ramp to bed at night wasn't easy for Didee, at first they wouldn't let her in so she came back down then tried again after a wee while.  We noticed she was kind of limping or waddling strangely.  Maybe her nails are impairing her?  Will keep a close eye on her tomorrow, as I have the day off work and catch spend lots of time with my girls!  Think I will let them out of the caged area and into their full-sized netted pen area tomorrow... wonder what they'll think of the new freedom?

Tonight I only had to lift the two Orpingtons onto the perch, as Matilda and the Scots Dumpy put themselves on - awww, ma wee hens are growing up so fast.

Two eggs today!  

One is brown with darker speckles on it , which we suspect is the Australorp Matilda's, and the other one was the little shiny white one from our Scots Dumpy.

Now that I have my hens, all I want to do is stay at home and get to know them.  They're just so fascinating to watch, I can't believe I ever lived without them.  I am sure you feel the same way about your pets.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

We have a Pecking Order!

We had an egg today!  Yay!  It was a smooth, shiny, white one and we think it's from the Scots Dumpy.  We saw Matilda the Australorp pecking at the Scots Dumpy today so this confirms that she is the head hen, with the Scots Dumpy coming in second, then Rosie the paler-necked blue Orpington and lastly at the bottom of the pecking order is Didee, the blue Orpington with the darker neck.
Pecking order, starting clockwise from top, Matilda, Scots Dumpy, Rosie, Didee

We still have runny orange poos on the floor of the hen house - they're a lighter shade of orange though.  Does anyone know what this could be?  The Flubenvet arrived today so they'll start eating that in their feed tomorrow, so hopefully that will help.
When I put them all up onto their perch in the evening, the Scots Dumpy again jumped up herself - I think she just doesn't want me to do it for her.  Wee cheeky besom.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Jumping for Cabbage

They came out of the house searching for food today with a strong appetite so my Mister gave our four bantams the chance to jump for cabbage leaves attached to the roof of their cage today and they loved it - even the two Orpingtons were jumping up for it - such a funny sight to see their blue fluffy bottoms leaping into the air.
Didee and Rosie our blue Orpington bantams

By the time I got home it was already dark so I had the privilege of watching them take themselves up the ramp.  Our Scots Dumpy went up first then after a few minutes Matilda the Australorp was followed by Rosie one of our blue Orpingtons.  Didee the other blue Orpington was last.  When I peeked in the door they were all cuddled up near the closed pop hole so I put them onto the perch myself, but the Scots Dumpy got the idea and lept on herself.

One of the Orpingtons has really orange/terracotta poos - like a caramel spread, and it's really claggy.  I have ordered the Flubenvet worming powder so hope it arrives soon.  I think it's Didee.  The other poos all seem okay, Matilda's are very white, but this is normal, the white parts are like their urine.

No eggs today.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Mystery of the eggs are solved

It snowed and then rained all day today.
Our blue orpington bantam hen named Didee
When we got home at lunch time I went out to check on them and there were two eggs!  This was my first time finding the eggs myself.  Yay!  One was small, white and a bit shiny and the other one was slightly longer, matt, rough with a few pinky spotty bumps on it.  So of course I had them both for my lunch. Mmmmm
Looking at the eggs, I'd say that the Scots Dumpy lays the little, shiny, white eggs and the Orpingtons lay the light brown ones, and the Australorp must lay the milky-tea coloured egg.  I think that it's Didee who is our brown egg layer, her comb and wattles are so much redder than Rosies.

Our Scots Dumpy still hasn't got a name yet.  Today she spent a lot of time inside the hen house, so she must be the other layer.  The Scots Dumpy headed up the ramp first at bed time, then she wouldn't let Didee inside.  Didee tried twice to get past her but was pecked repeatedly for it.  Then Matilda our Australorp came up the ramp, bypassed Didee and went straight in - she's a gutsy little hen.  Didee quickly followed in after her.  When I went out to shut the pop hole door the four of them were all crammed into a cuddle right at the door step!  I had to pick them all up and put them onto the perches.

I looked up some chicken health websites and they've suggested the orange poo I mentioned on yesterday's post could be a parasite or worms and to use Flubenvet or Solut to go in the water.  I have seen Flubenvet but never heard of the other one, so I'll get some and give it a try anyway.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Poo worries

I got to spend the entire afternoon observing ma wee hens and enjoyed every fascinating minute of it.  The poor things still didn't venture out onto the snow despite my Mister scraping out a patch for them.  He then tied a cabbage leaf to the cage roof that was really close to their door to encourage them to venture out.  And out came Matilda and the Scots Dumpy to have a go at it.  Then we saw it ... the Scots Dumpy put two feet into the snow!!  Brave little girl she is.
Blue Australorp bantam named Didee

Our still un-named Scots Dumpy bantam

We had no eggs today - is it too cold?

I cleaned out the poos from under their perch and noticed one of them was very orange-y.  I'll have to check in my chicken magazines to see what this could mean.  Maybe a parasite or a worm.  Could anyone help me out?
Are these chicken poos normal?
My Mister did the night run this evening and had the two Orpingtons Rosie and Didee stayed on but both Matilda and the Scots Dumpy jumped off and had to be replaced, but the Scots Dumpy was stubborn and wasn't having any of it, so he just let her sit on the shavings covered floor.  Do you think this is okay?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Let it Snow!

It snowed last night and it was still on the ground this morning when I let the hens out of their house.  But they stopped at the doorway and wouldn't step a foot onto it!  So funny.  We couldn't even tempt them out with some suspended cabbage leaves or some wheat seeds!  Chicken chickens!

We had two eggs today! One is a bit speckledy and matt whilst the other one is white and a bit shiny, the same as the previous eggs.  We're still not sure who our new layer is - but I did spot a Scots Dumpy feather in the nest box?!

We've decided on names for our two Orpingtons.  We're naming them after my Mum - Rosie and her sister (my Aunt) - Didee.  Mostly because they're big, they waddle slowly, they're grey and they're always together.

And this is ROSIE
I'd like to introduce you to DIDEE
At bed time the Scots Dumpy went up first, then Matilda, who then wouldn't let the other two Orpingtons into the house once they'd got to the top of the ramp.  Rosie (the Orpington with the lighter neck feathers) tried to get through but she got pecked three times and a wing feather was pulled out!  Then Matilda flapped her away with a wing twice!  Then Didee (the Orpington with the darker neck feathers) tried to go up but she gave up.  Then Rosie tried again and she was allowed through the pop hole this time, then Didee saw her chance and quickly followed in behind her.  When I went to close the door and pick them up to put onto the perch they were all sitting at the door way still!  They're so funny.

The Scots Dumpy got onto the perch herself tonight - Yay for progress!  I had to put the others on, and both the Orpingtons jumped off and need replacing.  Naughty wee things.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

My First day with our New Hens

At last! I get to spend all day with our new bantam hens.

My mister and I had bought 20+ metres of netting to fence in the hens and to give them more space, so we spent the morning putting it up.  You can see it in the background of the photo above, it's a green netting.  The posts were really easy to weave into the netting and then went into the ground easily.  The instructions called for 2 tent pegs to go in between each post, and that was the hardest bit, as our ground is quite pebbly underneath, but I got there in the end.
Next I cleaned out their hen house for the first time!  It felt nice to be laying out all that fresh bedding for my wee girls, kind of motherly.
I was able to pick up Matilda the Australorp and handle her.
Matilda our black Australorp bantam
And I got to pick up one of our Orpingtons and Mister held out a handful of wheat seeds and she ate them from his hand whilst being held! So very lovely and tame.
One of our blue Orpington bantams
I really want to get to know my hens and their characters, so today has been really useful.  I think I have a better idea of their characters now that I've spent the day out there with them and observing their interactions.
Our other blue orpington bantam

Here are some of my observations:

  • They spend almost all day scratching at the ground and pulling up all the moss from the grass, or just preening themselves
  • Once they're down the ramp they don't seem at all interested in going back into their house, they're all content to be out for the whole day
  • When my Mister tied cabbage leaves to the roof of the caged area they loved it and made little jumps upwards to reach it - so funny watching hens aim and spring jump upwards!  Matilda and the two Orpingtons were happily jumping up to peck the leaves together, but the Scots Dumpy stayed away and didn't come and peck at it until all three hens were out of the caged area and back into the wooden run.  She is either a scaredy cat or just antisocial?  Then Matilda went back out to join Scots Dumpy at the leaf but the Scots Dumpy decided she didn't want to share and went away to peck at the two Orpingtons, who successfully dodged her.
Matilda is eyeing up the cabbage leaf, ready to jump.
  • Noticed that the Scots Dumpy stands in the doorway that links the wooden run containing their house, food and water to the outdoor caged area.  This seems to intimidate the others and they very cautiously run to get past her.  Hmmm, she's a bit of a bossy one
  • Didn't see them eating any pellets from the Feeders - wonder why?
  • Saw the Scots Dumpy and Matilda drinking from the water at the same time as one another - so cosy
  • The Scots Dumpy pecked at the darker necked Orpington and she squawked and ran away, poor thing
  • The two Orpingtons always get out of the Scots Dumpy's path.  They even move away if she's just pecking the ground near them.  If they're pecking together on the ground the Scots Dumpy does seem to come over and want to peck where they've chosen and they just leave and let her take their place.  Seems a bit like a bully?  The Orpingtons don't react like that when Matilda comes towards them?
The best of friends!
  •  I've seen Matilda happily pecking alongside all of the other hens but the Scots Dumpy will not tolerate the two Orpingtons and only pecks beside Matilda or on her own.  She always sees off the Orpingtons, poor things.
  • No eggs today
  • I had to pick them all up and pop them onto their roost again.  When will they get the idea themselves?
  • Snowed after they went to bed - if it's still lying on the ground tomorrow, I wonder how they will react to it?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Two eggs in one day!

My Mister found an egg in the house today! It was on the floor near the door!  It was the same size and colour as the last two we've had.  So now that we are in production he decided to have two of them for his lunch.
Then after lunch he went outside to check on them and there was ANOTHER egg - a smaller one and this time layed correctly in the nestbox!
As for myself, I didn't get to see them much today, as by the time I got home it was already dark and they had all gone up the ramp.  So I picked them all up and popped them onto the perch and said goodnight.

The best thing is that I do not have to work tomorrow and so am free to stay at home, watch my hens all day and really get to spend time getting to know them properly.
There will be LOTS of photos tomorrow!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

And the Names Begin!

We have decided to name our bantam black Australorp Matilda.  A good Aussie name from the song "Waltzing Matilda".
Matilda in front

When I came home tonight to put my hand full of wheat into the cage, three of the hens came running to me and fed out of my hand!  Oh I just love it!  The Scots Dumpy wouldn't even come into the cage area at all to begin with, but after a while she came in but stayed well away from me.  I watched them take themselves up the ramp into their home, but none of them put themselves onto the perch yet, so I did it for them.  I wonder if anybody will stay on the perch all through the night and still be there in the morning?

My Mister's Observations today:

  • Three hens were still on the perch this morning, and Matilda walked over to the door to greet him
  • Scots Dumpy and Matilda spent time in the cage area today and were the first down the ramp
  • The two Orpingtons stayed in the wooden run under the shelter as it rained all day.  They are really pretty inseperable
  • Matilda and Scots Dumpy really seemed to pair up today
  • Matilda was doing a lot of scratching up the lawn today
  • Matilda was the first to feed out of his hands
  • We need to raise the feeder and the drinker up higher, as the hood/lid seems to get in the way of them reaching down to eat in one smooth action (yes, the chicken magazine suggests having the feeders at the same height level as your chicken's back)
  • No eggs today.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Hens introduced to Cats

I have had to work today, so didn't get home until it was almost dark. But of course I went out to see ma wee hens before they took themselves up to bed.  All the magazines suggest giving them a small handful of wheat and seeds before they go to bed to help keep them warm during the night and to fill up their gizzards before bed.   So I reached my hand into the cage with some seeds for them, but the Scots Dumpy didn't come into the caged area for seeds at all.  She just went up the ramp, then down the ramp, up then down.  Such a funny thing.  The other three fed out of my hand - it was such a nice feeling!
Scots Dumpy and Australorp

Two blue Orpingtons

These are the Mister's observations from today:

  • When he opened the door he found all of them on the perch, except for the Australorp who had waddled over to greet him
  • First down the ramp was the Australorp
  • Our two cats met the hens for the first time!  They had a good look at the hens through the window first but then the cats got a bit bored with them.  When the cats were let outside, one of them was a bit astonished at first by the sight of chickens close up (with the cage was still separating them).  All of the hens huddled together and stood staring at our cat.  When the cat suddenly rushed towards them they all four scattered into their wooden roofed run for protection, but they didn't stay there long.  Both cats seemed to get along with them and soon got back into doing their own cat-like things
  • Colin tried them on a few bits of lettuce but they weren't interested
  • Australorp was croaking a lot today and spent most of the morning inside the house
  • later found our second egg in the nest box!

Possible names:

Queenie   Jumpy   Scratchy   Becky-pecky   Bubsy   Lizzy  Mary   Minnie   Penny   Maddy   

Matilda  Vegemite   Winnie   Daphne   Doris   Bessie   Mary & Martha   Daisy & Maisy

What do you think would make a good hen name?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

We have Photos!

I went out to visit ma wee hens this morning and they greeted my sudden appearance at the door with confusion. Why didn't I have any seeds in my hand, ready to scatter amongst the floor bedding?  I think I shall have to break them of that expectation pretty quickly.  I then went around and opened up the nest box lid to see if any eggs had appeared overnight when all of a sudden the Scots Dumpy who had been sleeping there jumped up and ran straight towards the newly opened door and escaped down the ramp.

Running a bit late today, so not enough time to take photos this morning, but when we got home it was still light enough to take a few shots of them in their house.

We decided to open up the caged area of their run, as we were now there to supervise, and were even able to hand feed them!  This is so exciting!

The black Australorp was the first to venture into the new area.
They all began happily pecking around on the ground for seeds.
 The Scots Dumpy was scratching up a grass storm!  So funny - she scratches with one foot then the other before taking a peck at the ground every time! Scratch scratch peck, scratch scratch peck.
 It must have been her who kicked up all the moss from the grass within their house yesterday! Can you see inside the wooden structure all the moss that's been lifted?  We didn't put that in there - two days ago it looked exactly the same as the green grass inside this caged area.  So funny!
 They all took themselves up the ramp to bed, but nobody put themselves onto the perch, so I lifted them all up.  Wonder how many times I am going to have to do this until they get the hang of it themselves?  The Scots Dumpy kept jumping off, so I left her alone.

When I peeked in later, the Australorp and the two Orpingtons were on the perch, with the middle Orpington covering the other two with her wings! Soooo sweet! The Scots Dumpy was on the ground very near to them though, so I am sure she was being kept warm enough too.

No eggs today.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

First day

It was so windy last night - I woke up in the night and looked out of the window just to check that the hen house roof was still attached. - First time mother being overprotective.

This was my first morning being a hen mother and I couldn't wait to go out and start my new morning routines.  When I opened the hen house door to say 'good morning' they were all huddled into the furthest away nesting box.  I removed the water and the wet shavings that they'd spilled - won't be doing that again.  I put out their layers pellets and water inside their run and then opened up the pop hole for the first time... but nobody came out.  Maybe it' still too dark?  The Scots Dumpy seemed to be busy getting in and around and between the other birds, so I hope she'll be ok and not get squashed, as she is the smallest.

They had a lot to do today: explore their new home, get used to one another and establish their pecking order.  Sadly we couldn't be here to watch them as we had previously committed ourselves to other plans for today.

When we got home the grass on the ground had been completely kicked up!!!  They'd also torn up all their bedding inside the home!!  But at least they were all inside the house - they'd put themselves to bed.  The perch had been knocked out of it's holding brackets so we'll have to get them permanently affixed somehow.

Within the first five minutes of checking on them in the semi-dark the Australorp pecked the Scots Dumpy and the blue Orpington had shoved her into a corner and then dived in head first underneath her and scooped her up and over her back!  They are going to be so amusing and entertaining little girls!

And we got our first egg!
After typing this I went out to check on them and to put the food away in the shed (don't want to attract any rodents).  I carefully peeked inside and saw the two Orpingtons side by side with the Scots Dumpy hunkered down underneath them - it was so sweet!  Poor little Australorp was all by herself on the far side of the house.  Oh I do hope they become friends soon.

I wish we didn't have plans this weekend, but unfortunately we do, and by the time we got home today it was too dark to take any photos.  We're away all day again tomorrow but I'll try and take some in the morning.

Friday, 18 January 2013

What a night!

My Mr picked me up from work and the car was all packed with muffins, coats and ventilated boxes ready for our trip to Lanark near Glasgow for the Royal Scotland Poultry Show!  We went the wrong way really, and it took longer than we thought. Sent a few texts forward and back to our first collection, and when we arrived we waited in the carpark with our big yellow umbrella so that the hen breeder named Toddy would be able to recognise us.

She came walking towards us at dusk and in the rain and wind carrying a quiet little Scots Dumpy tucked into her arm - so lovely!  Toddy put her into our box in the boot of our car, and Mr reached in to giver her a pat when she suddenly jumped up and flew out of the box!!

Toddy had to go through the front door then into the back to try and find her to rescue her - and she was hiding on the floor of the back seat.  Toddy said she was a bit dazed but ok.

I gave Toddy a card of thanks with £20 inside and 6 homemade cupcakes as a treat.  Then she and I went into the showroom where breeders were all setting up and putting their birds into cages to help me find the other breeder.  He doesn't use mobile phones so we had to locate him the old-fashioned way, by asking around.  Toddy asked a few people and the second person she enquired after knew him and said "he's right there" and there was Colin, in the very next row, putting a hen that belongs to a friend of his into a show cage.

So I met Colin and he led me out to his car to give me our Australorp.  Colin said he's given me a "lovely bird there."  So I ran back to the car for another 6 cupcakes and a thank-you card with a £5 note inside (all that he wanted). Colin had packed her up for us, into a box with holes and tied up with string.

Then we had to wait for Richard to arrive and that wasn't going to be until 7:30, so we had a quick walk through the sheds to have a peek at some of the hens - so many massive birds!  They're so alert and the rooster noises were amazing!  Richard phoned to see if we still wanted them (I think he didn't want to come really) and because we weren't going to be able to make the show tomorrow, he said he would still come out tonight.  It was raining by then and pretty cold.  He drove in about 7:45 and had two blue Orpingtons in a box ready for us!  He took them out and showed them to us - lovely and much bigger than I thought!  We game him a thank you card with the £60 asked for.  We asked their age but he said "honestly couldn't tell you.  We've so many in the shed, I just grabbed them.  One is in lay now.  Are they just pets? They've a breeding gault, but that won't worry you then."

So that was us.  Driving back in the dark and rain with our four lovely hens!

We just got home and fed them some mixed grain whilst they were still in their carrier boxes in our utility room and we could hear them peeking away happily.
Took out the Orpington first and and carried her in the correct way out to the hen house and put her on the perch.  Then took out the other Orpington - she pecked my hand when I reached into the box!  They're so warm on their underside - I was surprised at that.  Then Mr took the Australorp out without any trouble at all.  The Scots Dumpy wasn't happy at all and flapped around lots, even when we just peeked at her through the lid!  We decided to leave her in the dark for a while and have a cup of tea and a chat.  

Went outside to visit the other three girls.  Threw in some seeds for the girls to peck at in their house and put some water inside the house for them to have a drink before bed too.  Then Mr decided to go into the Scots Dumpy's box from above and she kind of flew up into his arms!  After all that, when he put her into the hen house she walked in calmly.  They were all making happy noises and pecking at the ground, so look happy enough after a stressful and long day.
Can't wait to watch them tomorrow - Goodnight!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

We are Expecting!

We decided quite a while ago that we would quite like some hens. Well, I decided, and my Mr is keeping me company on my band-wagon.
We have sourced the hen house from the internet, coated it in several layers of animal-friendly wood preserver and set it up in a sunny spot in the garden. 
The feed and water containers have been bought, as has the food pellets and bedding.
All we need now are some chickens!
I read over and over a couple of books about chickens, and have already been receiving a monthly magazine subscription for backyard chicken keepers. We decided on our favourite hens, but noticed that most breeders live in England... So after all this reading I came up with a plan: contact the breeders directly on the phone and see if they have what I'd really like the most, and then see if they happen to be coming up to the Scottish Poultry Show to compete! My cunning plan is that if they are travelling all the way up here anyway, then there'd be no harm in sticking one extra bird in their car.
And all three breeders said YES!!!!

So, we are going to meet, clandestine fashion, 3 breeders in a carpark.  A breeder of Scots Dumpy hens, a breeder of Australorps and a breeder of Orpingtons, all on the Friday night before the weekend-long Poultry show.
Am so excited! It's this weekend!!

I got these pictures off the internet, and it is what the birds we have lined up should look like. A black, beetle-green sheen on the bantam sized Australorp, two bantam sized blue Orpingtons, and a cuckoo coloured, bantam sized Scots Dumpy.
Hope they like us!