Merging the flock update

Merging the flock update

I’ve been working on merging the flock.

On one side we have the original flock of three hybrids, Belle, Star and Zazu.

On the other side we have the smaller guys, Snowy the Silkie who was with the three big guys for a while last year, and then the newer guys, Poppy the Silkie and Polo the Polish.

The big guys pick on the little Silkie guys but aren’t fussed about Polo the Polish. I wonder what it is about the Silkies? I read something that explained Chickens can see a different range of light with their eyes than humans and what we see as a plain white chicken could in fact be a chicken with a crazy pattern to them. Interesting and makes me wonder.

At some point in the past I noticed that when one of the big guys pecks one of the Silkies, the other two come running and join in. It’s horrible to watch. But then my idea was born, I decided to separate each of the big guys in turn with all of the small guys and let them get used to each other without the others being able to join in.

I started with Star, she settled with them very quickly and I left her in for about two weeks.

I then swapped Star with Belle. I’d seen Belle be quite a bully, it took a bit longer but they all settled which was great. They were together for about a week and a half.

Last but not least it was Zazu’s turn. I should have known she’d be trouble as she’s at the bottom of the pecking order within the big guys. It took over a week for her to settle with Snowy and still occasionally pecks her. The other Silkie, Poppy is still getting harassed but I’ve noticed an improvement this evening. It didn’t help that Poppy had been mildly broody and staying in the coop most of the time, so that delayed their bonding.

Strangely there has been minimal fuss with Polo the Polish who is by far the smallest. This evening I saw something interesting. I’d let them all be together to have corn, and so I could watch their behaviour, I saw Star and Polo eating close to each other and Star did that “threaten to peck” lunge towards Polo as she obviously wanted some space. What I saw next was magnificent! Polo craned towards Star, only to receive a peck in return, Polo then jumped at Star who look a bit shocked. Belle was near by and put a quick end to it by giving Polo a light peck.

Twenty minutes together, sharing some corn

I can quite see Polo moving up the ranks! I’m quite fond of her now, she’s the friendliest and always wants me to lift her to my head height. If she’s in the garden with me she will literally run after me if I walk off. I’ve also seen her get in-between Zazu and Snowy when Zazu was pecking, seemingly to stand up for Snowy.

It feels like there’s progress towards a merged flock, ready for the new coop which there hasn’t been any progress on yet.

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First 2019 post

First 2019 post

First 2019 post – oops!

I’m going to try and cover a couple of months worth of stuff very briefly.

Eggs

We’re getting quite a few eggs but not as much as in summer where they were all laying every day.  Polo laid her first egg (bottom left in the pic below) which was quite small and then seemed to lay a few in succession but has slowed down again now.

Bedtime antics & merging the two flocks

Every night Polo would settle on top of the water bucket and I’d have to lift her into the coop with the others where she’d get comfortable and stay all night.  Some nights she would be on top of the Eglu but seemed comfier on the water bucket.

So we made an obstruction using weld-mesh to try and stop her getting on the bucket, with a similar contraption on top of the Eglu coop (I haven’t got any pics – it’s not our proudest invention 😆 ).  The first night we watched and she tried unsuccesfully to get to the bucket folowed by the Eglu and ultimately went and settled in the coop.  This was amazing.

The following night I found her like this:

Not as comfy, but it’ll do

I had to modify the contraption which was succesful and she’s since been going in the coop everynight.

That was when it was Snowy, Poppy and Polo living in the Eglu.  Since then I have moved Star in with them as I’d observed that she doesn’t pick on them but will join in if one of the other big ones does.  Star has been in with them for a few weeks and all is well.

Star, Snowy, Poppy and Polo in the Eglu

This is part of the plan to merge them all into one flock.  Whenever possible I’ve been putting them all together and it’s definitely getting better but occasionally Belle or Zazu will pick on one of the Silkies and they all join in, even Star seems to despite being absolutely fine at other times.  I’ll keep persisting.

We’ve occasionally been letting them all out in the garden together

I have even swapped the two flocks between the two seperate runs and coops so they are all familiar with both sides.  One night they had all been together and I decided to let them all go to bed in the “big” coop.  This worked and there was a bit of pecking, which Poppy took the brunt of.  But in the morning they were all out and it looked to be OK until we saw a bit of rowdiness and decided to seperate them when we went out.

A bit worrying

On Saturday I tidied up some of the garden and started to take apart the framing of the old run so I can re-use the timber.  While doing so I found a scrape mark on the timber of the door that leads into the small run.  I don’t think this is something we have done and as it is on two seperate pieces of timber, effectively the frame and door, it has definitely happened in place.

It looks like something may have scraped at it while trying to get in which is a bit worrying.  It looks like the marks I found where mice have been trying to get through a gap, but on a much larger scale.  I have checked around the run and cannot find any other signs of attempted entry.

Worrying scrape mark, is it something trying to get in?

Future plans

I have decided that the area to the right of the run, which is prepped to be a shed, will be the new coop.  It has one course of blocks and a concrete base.  I didn’t get as far as building the timber walls but that is what I’m working towards now, unless the weather turns again.  I’ll build the walls and roof, make it very secure, and have a pop-hole door that leads to the little run.  This is with a view to both flocks being merged and living in one coop.  I’m also working on a new roll-away nestbox which will be in this coop and I’ll probably re-use the perches from the big coop.  The floor will be covered with woodchips.  It should be nice and easy to clean out and keep bug free!

I cleared the area to try and progress the new coop
It’ll be a great size and very secure

Since we moved the chickens from the old run to the new one we haven’t had any cameras covering them.  I am used to it now but it’s much better when we can check on them while away.  Once the new coop is finished I will run electric and network cables so we can get it all back up and running.

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Broody

Broody

Unfortunately we’re not spending much time with the hens at the moment. It’s dark when we leave in the morning and dark when we get home.

Poppy went broody a few weeks ago which was shortly followed by Snowy going broody too. So the two of them are spending most of their time sat in the Eglu at the moment unless I turf them out. They’re not sat on any eggs as they’ve stopped laying and Polo is yet to lay.

Belle is now fully feathered again but Star is now moulting and looks like a plucked chicken bless her. Why do they lose their coats when the weather’s cold?!

When Snowy is out of the coop she’s keen to peck Polo which is disappointing although Polo is capable of getting away without problems.

The three big ones still attack the Silkies if they’re all together. Unless there’s an abundance of corn to distract them.

Plenty of corn occupies them all

We got up one morning last week to find the storm had ripped part of the corrugated roofing off the chicken coop. It was all wet inside, I suspect the three big ones had a rough night.

They could have got out or a predator could have got in.

Part of the roof had ripped away

I was due to work away and couldn’t leave it as is so had to rush to B&Q to get more sheets. The original sheets are 2.4m long which fits the dimensions of the roof perfectly, I’d got them from B&Q and intended to just get more.

When I got there it turns out they don’t do the 2.4m ones and only have 2m, that’s 40cm too short!

I bought 4 sheets and some screws, £50 unexpected spend!

Carefully placed ladders so I could install the new sheets

Once back home I found that the sheets had a different profile that didn’t lock-in with the originals, they’re totally different. It’s a bit annoying as it’s not as neat as it was before.

In the end I only installed two sheets overlapped but I’ll replace the two on the end when I have more time.

All done

I also fitted a wooden interior ceiling to the coop. I intended to do this in the summer but never went back to it. We stapled weed-stop fabric in place at the time to make it dark, I’ve removed that now. I realised how drafty it could be which needed to be resolved.

At some point I will remove the roof sheets that cover the coop and install a piece of plastic fabric between the wood and the sheets to protect the wood from moisture.

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Lagging behind again

Lagging behind again

This is a super quick post, an attempt to get up to date!

The Tylan did the trick and cleared up the illness in Polo, Poppy and Snowy.  We currently have the two separate flocks in their respective runs.  The small guys still have the Eglu Go coop, which I now dislike after the red mite drama.  It has way too many hiding places and I can confirm red mites DO reside in plastic coops.  The Nettex Total Mite Kill spray that contains Permethrin did the job and killed them off so I now put a light coat of that on as a precautionaty measure, it stinks though so you have to do it early morning so the smell goes before bed time.

After I’d moved the small guys out of the cages in the temporary hospital as per my last post, I didn’t get round to clearing the cages for about a week.  I found quite a few red mite on the cage that Polo was in, so the shed got a blasting with the Permethrin spray and I hope there aren’t any lurking in there.  The plan with that shed is to use it for storing gardening tools and garden furniture, so I definitely don’t want them horrible little things in there.

I’ve been putting all the birds together as much as I can in an attempt to work towards merging them if possible.  It’s not been so bad.

All together with minimum fuss

The little guys all get along well now despite a stage where Snowy seemed to be picking on Polo.  When they’re all together, the three big guys leave Polo alone unless she gets too close to “their” food, but they quite often show the Silkies who’s boss.  It’s not too bad now though so we might be getting there.  I’d love to have them all together.

Two groups

Polo is still insisting on sleeping outside.  She was settling on top of the Eglu coop, she’s an impressive flyer!  The last few days she’s settled on top of the water barrel.  I have to go and put her in the coop every night, I think it’s tool cold for her to be out now.

Belle has been moulting and looks quite sorry for herself.  She’s also very skittish and runs away if I go near her.  She does have new feathers coming through and it looks like they might be a lighter colour.

Looking tatty

I was working near Nottingham a few weeks ago and popped to a gearbox specialist with my van which needs some work doing.  It was in the middle of nowhere and I came across loads of chickens roaming around on the road!  As I approached they all ran the opposite way to what I was travelling, except one that ended up in front.  She then jumped up and flew over the hedge which was quite impressive!

Birds on the road

A few weeks ago we harvested everything from our vegetable patch.  We had carrots and runner beans which we’ve frozen and cook as required.  They are amazing and we’ll definitely be keeping the vegetable plot going!

Carrots!
Runner beans!

So, everything is ticking over here.  There is still quite a lot more work to do in the garden but I think we’ve settled on leaving the rest until after winter now.  I am quite happy with what we got done this year though.

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And… breath

And… breath

This is just a quick update – I’m conscious the blog has fell behind yet again.

We have had a nightmare.

First we found the red mites in the Eglu coop where Snowy, Poppy and Polo live.  Presuming they came with Poppy and Polo.  We got them under control with the help of Permethrin products.

A couple of days after my last post, so about two weeks ago now, I noticed that Polo was very lethargic, had gunky eyes and nostrils, oh no, our first poorly chicken.  So I separated her into a crate in the shed.

A couple of days on and Poppy had the same symptoms, so I separated her into another crate, also in the shed.

A couple of days later I decided to take them to the vets, he didn’t really know what it was and prescribed some (very expensive) Tylan soluble, which was what I wanted, it seems to be the wonder drug for chickens.

Then another couple of days later, Snowy who was alone in her run, also came down with the same symptoms.

So the three of them have been having Tylan in the beak via a syringe and also in their drinking water for a week each, Snowy has just finished hers and they all do seem better.

Tonight I have just put Poppy and Polo back in with Snowy for the first time in about two weeks.

The three big ones have been fine throughout, no symptoms at all and everything normal.

It was quite stressful in the beginning, having three separate poorly chickens to look after.

Hopefully it is behind us now.

The “hospital”

 

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