For the first time since getting our first birds two-and-a-half years ago, there weren’t any eggs in the nest box today. Even when the temperature was minus-stupid degrees C a couple of winters ago, they kept on laying – not all every day, but at least one or two – but I think the combination of their age, the shortening days and possibly imminent moults has caught up with them. There was no sign of eggs being laid then pecked/eaten but we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings – or doesn’t bring.
The day hasn’t been completely egg-less though – I found one of the new girl’s little pullet eggs in the main body of the coop. The new girls seem to have the layout of their home a little backwards – they’ve been perching on the edges of the nestboxes and the one that is laying has been doing so in the sleepy bit of the coop. I’m sure they’ll figure it out sooner or later.
In related news, I swept a whole bunch of fallen leaves into the run this afternoon. They’ll breakdown pretty quickly but in the meantime, I think six little ladies will have fun digging through them.
Do your chickens lay every day or do they have days off too?
We had our first egg from the new chickens yesterday – not bad for day two!
I’ve paired it up with one of today’s lays. As you can see, it’s smaller than the eggs we normally get – a pullet egg rather than a fully grown up hen’s one – but otherwise it’s perfect. It was laid in the main section of the coop rather than a nest box – there wasn’t another one there this morning but I’ll check again shortly, in case she’s not an early layer yet.
The new trio are settling in well. There are still some pecking order disputes to settle – snap at combs and pulling on neck or bum feathers – but it doesn’t seem too vicious when I’m down there, and there is no visible evidence of blood being drawn (from the combs) or feathers pulled out. I will keep an eye on them, of course, and I’ve added extra feeding/drinking stations so there is less contention around those places.
They’re getting used to me as well as their coop mates. They’re getting more comfortable with me holding them, and stroking them, and they’ve started following the older girls’ lead of eating seeds out of my hands. (It took our original girls about a week to get brave enough to do that.)
My big goal for the moment is getting them all to go to bed inside the coop, of their own accord. The older ones slept outside for most of the summer as they have done in previous years so they’ve needed some reminding of it too but they seem to be getting the hang of it again, and leading the new girls in too. Up until now, I’ve been having to lift them off the outside perches and place them inside (if they’re already snoozy), or push them in through the pop hole before dusk if they’re more awake. With the colder nights drawing in, I’d much prefer them to do that themselves – hopefully it’ll only take a couple more days of training.
Once that’s sorted, they have to get used to the furry members of the household – they keep freezing when they see Lily-dog in the garden at the moment but she very much wants to make friends!
Do you have any chicken “settling in” tips to share? Any early egg anecdotes?
We finally restocked the platoon at Fort Chicken yesterday.
We’d been meaning to get some more feathered friends for a couple of months. After we lost three of our girls to a mink (we think) attack in June, we’d wanted to wait a little bit to check the new fortifications were satisfaction and then I wanted to wait until we’d get point-of-lay “spring chickens” (which would have been available from mid-August-ish onwards). Since then though, we’ve just been dithering. Anyway, we finally got ourselves together last week – only to find the farmer on holiday. Thankfully he was back at his post over the weekend though, and we drove out to pick up our new girls yesterday morning.
We get them, like all our others, from Edward Boothman in Silsden. We’ve had a few different types – hybrids and pure breeds – from him but our favourites have been the boring ISA Browns, a bog-standard little red hen (apparently) made by crossing Rhode Island Reds & Rhode Island Whites. They’ve got pretty dull plumage and they lay samey brown eggs but they’ve been consistently reliable and friendly – amusingly inquisitive but also docile enough that they don’t get their vents in a twist if I need to pick them up. For most things in life, we prefer the practical to pretty option – and they meet that criteria for us.
Another thing in their favour – once we decided to restock with them, there was no other dithering about breed or colour/markings. “Three ISA Browns, please”, we said and two minutes later, we were driving away with them in the car. For indecisive people like us, this is a huge boon! ;) Two of the new girls look quite alike but the third has considerably less white in her neck feathers, so she’s the first to get a name: “Little Redneck”. I imagine the other two will follow in the ways of our original four ISAs – named after the coloured rings on their legs (as soon as I find my ring stash!).
When we’ve got new birds in the past, we’ve done so in the late afternoon/early evening so just put them straight into the coop when they’re all – old and new – a bit sleepy. This time though, since we got them in the morning, I had to put a bit more work into introducing them. I popped the new girls into our little portable run which I placed inside the big normal run, so they could meet each other through wire first. The old girls got rather noisy so after half an hour or so of listening to their bwarking, I kicked them out into the garden and let the new ones look around the rest of the run/coop by themselves. (Picture of bwarking in action. I now know the chicken equivalent of Daily Mail-style “bloomin’ immigrants!” rants! ;) )
Eventually, a couple of hours later, I called the old ones back into the run and with some weeds and seeds to bond over, let them all meet properly. There was some pecking order disputes (more flap than anything else), some more noise and a committee meeting called for the long standing residents of Fort Chicken on one of the perches (below) but nothing too worrying so I left them to it for the rest of the afternoon, before popping them all into the coop together before sunset.
They’d all been up for a few hours before I went down this morning but everything seemed to be still fine – Little Redneck was perched out of the way, stumpy tail held a little low, but she was happy to peck around my feet with the others when I started throwing corn around. When the older ones started to get a bit grumpy again, I stroked them – to make them submissive – while reminding them that I’m the top chicken around here, bwark! I also stroked one of the misc new ones and Little Redneck too – their still new “all growed up” feathers are super, super soft!
I’m hoping we start to see some eggs from them soon – because the older ones will be due to moult/are slowing down anyway, and also because I don’t want it to get cold before they start producing. I also hope they like their new home :)
* Why yes, I am currently reading Clash of Kings to stave off longing for the third Game of Thrones TV series ;)
Our home is lovely in summer – breakfast on the balcony in the morning sun, everywhere fresh and green, and then retreat from the heat and sunshine into the always cool office – but for us, it’s more special in winter.
I think it’s because we moved in at the end of September, when autumn was properly upon us before the super cold winter a few years ago. One of the first things we did was to have a stove fitted and that cold winter is marked in my memory by learning to split logs and chopping kindling, then curling up in front of the stove with the cats and John, it feeling like that warm room was the whole world.
I chopped my first batch of kindling for Winter 2012-3 a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me of that first winter again. Today I chopped some more, nearly filling the kindling dustbin, that’ll keep us going for a little while. I also pulled out the last of the tomato plants out of the greenhouse and rearranged a few things in there so it’s ready to house the less-hardy pots and plants from the garden (herbs, mostly) – another ‘the coming of winter’ chore. Meanwhile the chickens scratched through the leaves that have already fallen (surprisingly few at the moment) and John spent the afternoon fitting a hugely complicated curtain rail in our five-sided bay window in the living room. We haven’t had (or needed) curtains in there since we decorated in the spring but now it’s growing colder, they’re important again.
All in all, an afternoon of basic winter prep.
Have you been doing anything to get ready for winter this weekend?