karen's chicken diary

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KarenE
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karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

A little bit of history...

My husband and I decided to take the plunge into chicken keeping when we moved to the country a few years back. We'd moved into a rented house and the neighbours told us about the chickens that used to live in the stone coal store. We had sheep in the back yard who used to poke their heads through the fence and eat our plants, and that was bucolic enough for us thank you very much. But eventually we bought our own place, an old stone cottage with an extremely overgrown garden which we set about chopping and cutting back.

To our surprise, we'd ripped down a massive amount of Russian Vine to find a little old stone building with a pantile roof, badly in need of repair. We discovered it was an old Northamptonshire loo, and we talked about turning it into a micro brewery once hubby had fixed up the roof and remortered the stones. But then one day, I just thought - why not get chickens? Little did I know that, with the amount that chickens poop, we were really returning the building to its original function.

So we took the plunge - our family is a bit of a collection of waifs and strays, (well, the cat and hubby anyway!) so we decided we'd give a home to some ex batts. I found this site, and read up as much as I could about them while hubby set about doing up the new coop-loo and building them a little run (which was too small, but we figured since they were only used to a postage stamp space, that'd be fine for starters while he extended it.).

So in July 2011, Rexie, Weeps and Sage joined us. Such beautiful, characterful littel girls from the off.

Sage and Weeps survey their palatial acomodations
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The girl's run (you can see where we're about to extend, where we've dug over the ground)
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The girls soon got down to business, exploring and digging and pecking. Rexie, whilst not being the cleverest girl in the box, established herself as top hen and Weeps, ever the chancer, quickly diagnosed the power dynamics and stuck herself to Rex. Sage was our explorer, the first girl to venture out of the run, the first to try dust bathing, the first to find and eat a worm.

Sage perches for the first time. She doesn't look too happy!
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Team dust baths were a particular favourite. I'm sure I used to have flower borders once.
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And team explors were always good too!
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Good layers from when we got them, Sage soon did start slowing down but not before she'd found herself a nice cosy nest under the peony on the patio. We still call it Sage's nest now, and Nugget, who never met Sage, uses it occasionally. Odd isn't it - how would she know? Poor Sage got softies, then lashes and sadly, after only a day of looking a little bit down, passed away only about 3 months after she'd come home. We believe that she came to teach the others how to be chickens, and they then pass that on to our next lot. RIP little Sage.
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So Rexie and Weeps had us all to themselves, and they really made themselves at home. I was astonished one day when, sitting by our little pond, Weeps jumped up next to me, stared at me and then put a little foot onto my knee. I motioned her up, and next thing I knew, I had a very fat chicken making herself right at home! Lap sitters are special, especially when they sunbathe on you. Or is that just cheeky? Rexie never bothered with that, she was happy to show her affection by pecking me constantly and following me around.

Hey - we ordered breakfast in bed! Their never ending quest to get into the house continues...
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Weeps was the only chicken we know that figured out the cat flap - admittedly by accident, as hubby was carrying the cat (Jasper) out and dropped him onto Weeps when he nearly fell over her in the utility room. She squawked and squeezed through the cat flap. Luckily it's a magnetic one so we've had it set since then in case she tried again!

Jasper wasn't very good with the girls, he did tend to stalk them round the garden and jump out at them from behind ferns and stuff - he thought it a great game, till they started fighting back. Now he's bullied all over the garden by them and it kind of serves him right really, although he is much better with our 2 newest girls. There's too much oestrogen in the garden now for his liking I think.

Weeps isn't quite sure what to make of snow. She did a big fly across the garden so she wouldn't get her feet wet - she's so dainty!
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So the winter came and the girls seemed quite happy. They'd had a little moult, and were starting to grow back lovely feathers and really shaping up to be gorgeous girls, especially Weeps who preened constantly and always made herself look fabulous (mainly by having sneaky pecks at Rexie's tail feathers).

But we were down to two, so we figured it was time to get more girls in, so we put our names down for 2 more in April 2012 and along came Nugget and Cassie.
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
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aishakali
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by aishakali »

Great start to a diary Karen )t' Look forward to reading more. I lost my only lap sitter last December, Boots, nothing like it is there {hug}
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julie62
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by julie62 »

Lovely pictures - my grandad used to keep a couple of chickens in his coal shed but it wasn't as smart as yours )t'
Julie

“cockerels may crow but it's the hen that lays the egg."
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KarenE
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

Lyn, there isn't is there? I love the fact that they choose to clamber/jump up and make themselves at home. I read about your lovely Boots, she sounded a wonderful top hen. I am still amazed at how affectionate these girls are and how trusting they can be, especially the ex batts when you think of everything they've been through. I feel quite honoured to have a lap sitter.
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
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KarenE
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

So on with the story so far - bringing us right up to date ish...

After having read up on introductions here, I was expecting there to be a few problems, but oh my goodness! What a hideous nightmare experience! Poor Nugget and Cassie were shell-shocked in the coop, while Rexie and Weeps wailed and honked outside. So much for putting them all in together at bedtime - Weeps and Rex weren't going anywhere near those two new things and settled down for the night in my greenhouse. We felt terrible carting them back off to the coop. I think I was the most upset - I'd ruined my happy girls' lives!

I was in floods of tears, so hubby hauled me off to the shops. Back in an hour, and total silence in the coop, all 4 girls tucked together nicely. Little beggars. So we had tears before bedtime, and then next day we had handbags at dawn - only a bit though, as Rexie pulled herself together and exerted top hen authority. Weeps remained useless, and Nugget and Cassie slowly came out of their shells to become friendly and confident little souls (although absolute so and so's with my latest round of intros. Honestly, you'd think they'd remember their own trauma!)

Nugget, the teensiest chicken we'd got, determined not to be bottom hen even though that's where Rex wanted her to be, so she seemed to spend most of her time trying to get above Weeps to 2nd-in-command place. Rex was having none of that so poor Nugsy remained bottom hen until we lost Weeps and Rex earlier this year. Weeps was too daft really to defend her place, so seemed to spend most sorties from Nugget panicking and running to me for a hug. Cassie mastered the art of camouflage and just melted into the pecking order, quite happy with her 3rd place (until the newbies turned up last month)

Nugget is also a lap sitter. I think I'm very fortunate to have had 2. In fact, they would fight over my knee, sometimes I'd have one on each. And the cat at my ankles too. Cass isn't a lap sitter - she's tried a few times but doesn't really get it, but she is a massive snuggler and loves to curl up next to me.

Nugget and Cassie take time out from their busy schedule for a bit of snuggling.
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Weeps shows the 2 newbies round the garden
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Weeps enjoys a bit of dustbathing...
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This winter was a sad time for us. First Weeps got sick in january - she and Rex had started another moult, so I missed her symptoms until it was too late. I was devastated when she was put to sleep. She was my favourite hen, such a silly affectionate girl and I miss her every single day and cried my eyes out for days after.

Weeps
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Rex missed her terribly, and I had her straight into the vets the day after Weeps was put to sleep in case it was something contagious. She went onto baytril and seemed to rally, then went into a moult proper so I thought that must've been it. But within 2 months, she was also gone, with pretty much the same symptoms that Weeps had.

Rexie
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Both had some sort of internal infection I think, but it was more likely their little systems had taken such a beating from the cages that maybe the hard winter we'd had just was too much for them. All 3 of our first girls had seemed to have egg related problems - all had laid softies, even though Weeps and Rex had given up laying once Nugget and Cassie came in to do the job for them. So they are all buried together in a favourite part of the garden, our little first flock reunited. We do miss them all.

Nugget and Cassie seemed to love being by themselves (just as Weeps and rex had done) but seeing how quickly things could turn - even though Nuggsy and Cass have been fit as fiddles from day 1 - we put our names down for 2 new girls and last month, Gabby and Toffee joined us.

Introductions were hell. Nugget was just moving into a moult but was determined to be top hen this time (I'd been really worried about the lack of an established top hen in these intros) so she threw her teeny weight around from the off, fighting Toffee through the wire. When she wasn't fighting she would dash to me, cry to be cuddled and insist on sitting on my knee for hours, obviously not feeling well at all. She's fine now, little tinker, and looking like an exploded pillow. And she's top hen, although she can't quite believe her luck and forgets sometimes. She even had an accidental fight with Cassie, the daft pair forgot who they were squaring up to.

This is Toffee, who is a big gorgeous girl and almost perfectly feathered.
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This is Gabby, our poor little persecuted bottom hen, very shy and scared of them but very friendly and chatty and a brilliant hunter. Gabby has slightly wonky legs but manages to zip around catching insects and can't half shift when there's grapes to be nicked from under the other girl's noses
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So we're pretty much there now, they potter about the garden together and only fight and bok each other when there are treats to be had, so I'm keeping them to a minimum until they behave. I'll know we're definitely okay when they sun and dustbathe together, we're not quite there yet although they do seem to cooperate with digging up the garden nicely.
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
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sandy
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by sandy »

Karen what beautiful girlies and lovely photos of them. I do love Rexie and Weeps waiting for their breakfast, classic )t' I can understand the names Sage and Nugget but please tell me how you decided on the other girls names, think I might guess Rexie! Lovely to know my girls are playing in such good company with Sage,Rexie and Weeps {hug} Looking forward to the adventures of your 4 gorgeous ladies
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Blossom,Merle-Oberon & Lauren-Bacall ,Cyd-Charisse,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Myfawny & Monica-Rose
The Peds…Suranne,Miriam,Jennifer,Nancy,
Vorky Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky

Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
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KarenE
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

It's a great picture isn't it Sandy? All of my girls apart from Sage have been desperate to get into the house, probably cos they know that's where the treats live. Mind you, they live in my garden shed too (corn and mealworms). Let's face it, treats are everywhere for girls!

Weeps was the first to venture into the house, Rexie was rubbish and used to wait on the step, calling. Nugget is a little tinker - she, Cass and Weeps used to charge in, chattering away until they were shooed out, so Nugget learned to creep in quietly. often the only way we knew the little beggars were in was from the tapping on the cats bowl as they pecked up the bits of food he'd left. That's why we call her the ginger ninja.

Sage, Rexie and especially Weeps were lovely little tinkers and I'm sure all our girls are having a great time teasing each other and stealing treats off each other. I think AJ and Weeps would get on famously.

Rexie we named because she was top hen (Rex as in King) and also because she looked just like a T Rex as she stalked around the garden. Sage because she was clever, Nugget is Chicken Nugget and Cassie is Chicken Casserole. Weeps - well my husband named her after some character in a Canadian novel (a dog I think), he said she was just like him.
Gabby he named, after Gabrielle from Xena, because she was little and blond and a chatterbox. He wanted to call our other new chicken Xena but I was having none of that. She's a redhead. So she went by various names until we settled on Toffee, because she's a lovely toffee colour.
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
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Kuikentje
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by Kuikentje »

Such an interesting story and I look forward to the next instalment.
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julie62
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by julie62 »

I love reading about all their relationships - they're like a minature soap opera aren't they ... I've learnt a lot about chicken behaviour since I've had them. Never knew they were such fascinating creatures.
Julie

“cockerels may crow but it's the hen that lays the egg."
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Kuikentje
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by Kuikentje »

It's fascinating the way creatures with a brains the size of a hazelnut can be so various and full of personality.
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sandy
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by sandy »

I guessed right then about Rexie's name. Girls do make a very distinctive noise when they are eating from a bowl don't they. Have you seen my girl's names in my diary? I am really sad and they have middle names too. Georgina is Georgina Gabrielle from the same source as your Gabby and when Gwen got a bit wobbly after her rescue her middle name became Xena to give her strenght :-D
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Blossom,Merle-Oberon & Lauren-Bacall ,Cyd-Charisse,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Myfawny & Monica-Rose
The Peds…Suranne,Miriam,Jennifer,Nancy,
Vorky Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky

Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
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KarenE
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

creatures with a brains the size of a hazelnut


Yes, I'm a bit worried one of mine's might be more like a walnut, as she's definitely developing more deviousness. The ginger ninja was nowhere to be seen in the garden yesterday, and as i came down the path to the back door, I spotted Cassie nonchalantly hanging round the bins - if she could whistle, she would have been. Clearly she was on lookout, obviously left her orders by Nugget who had sneaked into the house and was happily wandering around the living room, eyeing the couch. I swear she was a minute away from being on it, stretched out with the sunday papers and a cup of tea.

She left a little pressie in the kitchen as she was shooed out. I think it was deliberate.

Sandy, I noticed your girl's names and I figured you were a xena fan. We are (were) too but we have no xena like chickens so that name was a non starter. I asked for a blonde and a brunette at the rescue, to match my blonde (Nugget) and brunette (Cass) but I ended up with two blondes as i couldn't resist Toffee's face. She just reminded me of Weeps so much, in the face and expressions. Hubby reckons she's as daft as Weeps ever was too.

We had a barby yesterday, it was such nice weather. The girls love a barby. They nicked a hot dog roll out of hubby's hands, then ended up chasing each other all over the place to get prawns. The poor cat doesn't get a look in, Nugget nicked a bit of burger right out of his mouth.
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
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sandy
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by sandy »

Oh my, you have entertainment at your barbies too )t' Wish you had video'd that I bet you would have won £250 on YBF easily, think how many pellets you could buy with that {rofwl} I reckon Nugget is resembling Joxer becoming a lookout?
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Blossom,Merle-Oberon & Lauren-Bacall ,Cyd-Charisse,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Myfawny & Monica-Rose
The Peds…Suranne,Miriam,Jennifer,Nancy,
Vorky Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky

Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
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sandy
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by sandy »

I MEAN CASSIE not Nugget
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Blossom,Merle-Oberon & Lauren-Bacall ,Cyd-Charisse,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Myfawny & Monica-Rose
The Peds…Suranne,Miriam,Jennifer,Nancy,
Vorky Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky

Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
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KarenE
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Re: karen's chicken diary

Post by KarenE »

Yes cos I think Nugget is more like an early years Calisto!!! yike*

I did try and get hubby to get the camera because it was so funny, but we just couldn't move for laughing.

I do feel sorry for my poor cat, so I thought I'd post a couple of pics of him up. He is such a handsome boy and almost quite good with the girls (okay, quite naughty actually)

Jasper has a moment in the bucket. Guess what else that bucket is full of? He'll need a good scrub when he's out...
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Jasper loves the girls so much, he just wants to be one!
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Toffee's been with us just over 5 weeks now, she's settled in nicely, loves digging and eating things
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Gabby also five weeks in, she's still a little shy but is coming on really well. She's put on a bit of weight, chatters away to us and appears to be enjoying life, although she's still very wary of the others and is still picked on a bit
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Nugget and Cass are sun worshipping and snuggling up next to me (Nugget the blonde on the left and Cass the brunette on the right)
[center]Image[/center]
Karen
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper

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