LL's chicken keeping adventures

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lancashire lass
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LL's chicken keeping adventures

Post by lancashire lass »

I joined DTL when I was considering to have some chickens and it's only taken 7 years to get there {rofwl} Some of the reasons ranged from not having the time (full time work, 2 allotment plots, garden, a dog), not knowing how to go about building a coop + run, where to find local stockists for feed and bedding and the costs involved ... but a lot of things have changed and after losing my lovely & faithful old dog just after Easter, I can't take on another pet for one reason or other so I revisited the chicken idea.

Like Danny deciding on which type of coop and set up, I gave it a lot of thought too. The flat packed coops that have been promoted looked like a quick and easy solution, but I took on board the advice from other DTL members and avoided the felt roof ones and the ones with small runs, and although I would have liked to have got the chickens straight away, decided to wait until I had built the extended run to give them more room - a decision I'm glad I took now that I've seen how chickens behave. Keeping backyard/garden chickens seems to have come a long way since I first thought about getting chickens and it is a lot easier to get hold of things that I need - there is now an online shop set up in Nottingham where prices are very competitive, and I can go and collect bulky items and avoid expensive delivery costs. So, no excuses now ...

I bought the coop and run in early August and when it arrived, couldn't wait to put it together straight away. First, clear the messy area I was going to use,

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and then put down some breeze blocks to raise the whole thing off the ground so that I wasn't bending down so much.

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I had hoped it didn't matter which way the panels were put up because I liked the idea of getting access into the coop from outside the extended run, but apparently it did when the metal arm for the sliding door was right across the door to the coop, and inside the perch was also right across the door - :? , a bit of an assault course .... okay, that doesn't work. Never mind, I was going to dismantle it anyway so that I could paint it - reading about red mite infestations, I liked the idea of filling in the cracks, joints and knot holes with filler and then several coats of gloss paint so that the finish inside was smooth and easier to clean. I also gave the outside several coats of weather proofing paint as there was no doubt the quality did look like it would quickly deteriorate even though I'd already decided to build it inside a covered roof. Now I just needed to get all the other bits and pieces together and wait until the August bank holiday when I take 3 weeks annual leave to get on with building the run.

I recycled a lot of materials especially wood that I had from the allotment. I had also acquired a heavy duty pallet, some wire mesh and a few corrugated roofing panels, and I had plenty of screws and the tools to do the job so just needed some more mesh, hinges and bolt for a gate ... work begins:

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Painting the inside white seemed to make such a difference and showed a massive improvement. Between the 2 rows of breeze blocks I packed a load of house bricks in the base and filled with ballast gravel over which I was going to fill with sharp sand and wood chips:

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Next, boxing in the cherry tree and putting the roof on was a challenge but surprisingly easier than I thought:

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And then the coop ... despite careful measuring, I still managed to get it wrong and had to cut the roof pieces on the coop and run to fit it together but finally after 2 weeks (I thought it was only going to take a week at the most), I was ready to go and get my chickens and any other smaller details could be done afterwards, such as painting and laying more paving under the nest box area to prevent foxes from digging underneath (even though there was a layer of bricks inside the run):

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I had already decided on Point-of-Lay hybrids and had been perusing several sites and opted to go to a poultry farm near Swadlincote just outside Burton on Trent. The next decision was which ones! So many to choose from! But I opted for a Gold Star Ranger:

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An Amber Star:

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A Black Star (I chose this one that had a lot more yellow):

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and a Blue:

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The students at work decided to name them the Spice Girls so have names Ginger, Baby, Posh and originally Sporty but I suggested Scary as the Blue is one mean hen and thinks she's the top hen but Posh took that role from the moment I released them into the run. So much so, Baby and Ginger seemed to be permanently on the pallet shelf and after a few days it was clear they were not getting access to food and water ... more building work, and they now have their own high rise run which made such a difference - their whole demeanour changed and they are a lot more confident and happy. Scary seems unable to fly up to the pallet shelf but I've watched them and despite being horrible to them, they are not so bothered by her and they choose to go to the high rise run rather than try to escape from her (I think they just prefer the view LOL)

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I have enjoyed watching their antics, and I never knew they had such fluffy bums LOL

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At first they were all skittish round me but it didn't take Ginger and Baby long to get used to me. Posh soon followed but I think that's only because she was coming into lay, and she has an enormous appetite - I give them all an afternoon treat of mixed corn and fresh veggies, and she really loves cabbage and hoovers up the pieces (I tried hanging a cabbage up but then she decided it was hers and none of the others were allowed near it) Instead of running away when I go to the run, they all come rushing to the door now {hug}

Within days, the first egg!

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And since then there have been a little present for me every day from Posh, but since Monday there have been 2 a day ... I suspected Scary was next as she looks more mature but it looks like it might actually be Ginger.

So begins the chicken adventure .....

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KarenE
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by KarenE »

Wow, that is a fantastic setup! Brilliant job at building it yourself, you must be chuffed!

And the girls are gorgeous. The pallet shelf is a great idea. Do they roost alright in their coop or are they tempted to stay on their shelf?
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by lancashire lass »

KarenE wrote:Wow, that is a fantastic setup! Brilliant job at building it yourself, you must be chuffed!

And the girls are gorgeous. The pallet shelf is a great idea. Do they roost alright in their coop or are they tempted to stay on their shelf?



I am chuffed thank you - there wasn't a plan but just one task at a time and see how it went up. I have a few diy skills as both my parents used to do a lot of stuff themselves rather than pay for someone to do it, so I learned along the way of what you can do but even so, when it comes together and you think, wow - did I build that?

They all roost fine now but the first few days were a worry. Rather than a day by day account, let's just say Ginger wasn't for going in. Posh may be the top hen but she likes the others to go in the coop and will keep popping back out and give the bedtime call until they all come in. One evening she even jumped on to the pallet shelf (not something she normally does) and had nestled up to Ginger {hug} I kind of warmed up to Posh after that. Since building the high rise run, the difference in Ginger and Baby's behaviour though really is amazing - Ginger is now one of the first to go into the coop all on her own but still the last to come out (when I open the coop door to let them out, the others rush to get to food and water whereas she likes to wander down at her own pace like a little madam, and no she's not frightened of Scary any more although she does get out of her way pretty sharpish LOL)
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

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Since Friday there have been some subtle changes in the flock's behaviour - Scary the Blue is still a bully but I think she is starting to lay and the pecking order established so less inclined to go chasing the other two but still likes to show dominance. Normally she runs away from me as soon as I enter the run (and no, I haven't done anything to her LOL) but recently they have all been crowding up to the door as soon as I approach and clearly associating me with tasty treats even though I only do this in a late afternoon to make sure they eat their layers pellets first.

Baby and Ginger used to fly up to the pallet shelf and on to their new high rise run soon after a quick feed and drink first thing in the morning without any prompting from Scary but on Friday, Baby had decided to spend more time with Posh and Scary. As I did my last visit before going to work to check on the girls on Friday morning, Ginger was alone on the top run and sitting on the ledge looking for Baby {hug} She looked a little lost and seemed to be missing her friend. Over the weekend, Ginger spent more time on the ground and last night I noticed the feeder and drinker on the top run had been untouched (normally the water gets dirty and the feeder upturned and the pellets everywhere - the consequence of getting some cheap dispensers to make sure they had something to eat and drink) so it looks like the top run has been abandoned. I'll leave it a bit longer to make sure they are happy with the new arrangements before building climbing perches so that they can all enjoy the extra space in the main run.

I have a routine where I get the run ready the evening before as soon as they are all in the coop and settled for the night, filling up the feeders with fresh pellets and scattering some around the run ready for the morning rush to feed and taking the drinkers out to fill up with fresh water the next day. As soon as I let them out, I get on with poop picking the coop and nest box and replace bedding so that it is clean for the rest of the day - this is working at the moment because the mornings are still light but may have to modify it as winter approaches. Yesterday (Sunday) the girls decided that they wanted to visit the coop before I'd finished even though I let them out the same time every day ... Baby is the noisiest of the bunch but she seemed particularly more chatty than usual and kept going in and out of the coop. I had noticed similar behaviour when Posh was about to lay.

Meanwhile, Scary was also visiting the coop ... with going back to work last week, I've missed out on the gossip although I knew there was a second layer as I had been finding 2 eggs in the nesting box when I got home - having saying that, the occasional small brown egg, and a much larger pale brown egg along with Posh's pastel egg. Will this be a 3 egger day? I watched for a while, Posh quietly making her way into the coop and after stomping around the nest box had settled down. In the end I had to leave to go to the allotment but when I got home, there were 3 eggs in the nest box )t' I told them they were all good girls and thanked them for their eggs ... I'm sure my neighbours think I'm getting a bit batty in my old age LOL.

Treats - I try to give them a balanced diet as I'm aware they should eat their layers pellets to get all the right nutrients, and treats are reserved as a last feed of the day. I introduced a few veggies with their mixed corn but they clearly like these and now every visit to the run is met by the girls crowding at the gate begging for more. It started off with a little shredded cabbage and as the apples were dropping off the Discovery tree, a bit of fruit. Since then they have had tomato, sweet corn, courgette/marrow and plums but the first thing they do is look for the cabbage and hoover it up. The diced marrow goes down well too as I think they like the seeds.
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by Katiki »

Wow LL. You have certainly got off to a great start. Your girls sound like an exact replica of my four although the temperaments go to different colours lol.

Am a tad concerned that you ready the run in the evening. Having had mice eating my layers pellets in my shed and today noticing new signs. Ie they are now knawing at the underside of the door after we blocked their access. I feel leaving the chooks food out at night is asking for problems. I get issues by putting it away but at least that keeps the rodents be they mice or rats away from my girlies.

Hope you continue to enjoy your girls as much as I do mine. We really do appear to have picked an identical mix!

K
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by lancashire lass »

Katiki wrote:Am a tad concerned that you ready the run in the evening. Having had mice eating my layers pellets in my shed and today noticing new signs. Ie they are now knawing at the underside of the door after we blocked their access. I feel leaving the chooks food out at night is asking for problems. I get issues by putting it away but at least that keeps the rodents be they mice or rats away from my girlies.


hmmm, hadn't considered that - we don't seem to get rodents round here (squirrels don't count as the estate is well established with trees in gardens and being near the local park/woodland) so I've taken that on board and put the feeder ready filled into the feed bin so all I have to do is lift out and put out. There are quite a few cats round here (the neighbour has 2) but makes sense not to invite problems )t'

Katiki wrote:We really do appear to have picked an identical mix!


LOL - I had a peek at your diary and yes, they do look and sound very similar.

Mine have been very entertaining of late - I would never have thought chickens could make me laugh but my tummy is still aching from laughing after recent antics. Last night when I went to the run with their afternoon treat, they were all at the gate making a racket and shouldering each other out the way to be seen and be the first to the treat - lovely to see them so eager and attentive rather than shy away or pecking each other. I had built my gate so that it opened out (one, because I didn't have space for the door to swing into the run, and secondly, I visualised a fox trying to push a door in so I built the door frame to stop that) Of course that means as soon as the gate is opened, they all came spilling out of the run. Trying to stop them going further, trying to hold the gate from getting too wide so that I could close it behind me when I got in, and trying to carry the little tray of treats needed more hands than I had - before I knew it, Posh had managed to push right past me and was suddenly in the garden. I managed to close the gate in time and tried to guide Posh back which wasn't difficult as she had found herself alone in this new found freedom but when I opened the gate and she dashed back in, out popped Baby ... oh flaming Nora! Eventually I got them all back in by tossing the treats into the run but Ginger and Scary seemed to think I must have had tastier treats and were not for moving LOL.

This morning's episode still has me tittering. Nothing remarkable about their morning dash for food and water and I went back indoors to get ready for work. I always go out and do one more check that all is well and the run is secure before leaving and ... it was quiet. Too quiet. I got to the run and peered in but not a single chicken to be seen. I came down into the garden to check under the high rise run and then I heard them nattering inside the coop. Odd, what are they all doing back in there? Baby must have heard me and she was down the ladder and up to the gate in a flash, quickly followed by Ginger and Scary Blue doing their "what ya got what ya got" dance. Posh must have been in the middle of laying but I could hear the panic squawk from inside the nest box that she was missing out on something {rofwl}
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by Katiki »

I am laughing at the thought of you trying to grow extra arms like an octopus. Brilliant. Really made me smile.

Liking the idea of popping the feeder in the feed bin. I'm going to steal that one if I may. Feeder inside feed bin inside shed should hopefully curtail my mice activity. Although when we gutted the shed 3 weeks ago (after losing almost a whole new bag of layers pellets that had been knawed into }hairout{ ) we found at least 3 nests that the mice had constructed. Ruining my garden chair cushions in the process {warn} So not entirely sure how long they had been resident. I had been putting knawed bin bags down to my garden hedgehog but am now wondering if I was doing poor hedgie a disservice! Perhaps it's been the mice all along. I really shouldn't dump the bag by the back door when unwilling to get my slippers wet of an evening but I'm a creature of habit and always move it in the morning....

Keep the updates coming they make great reading :-D
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by lancashire lass »

Katiki wrote:Feeder inside feed bin inside shed should hopefully curtail my mice activity.


I wonder if the shed might be a problem? A nice dry and secure place for them to nest and feed, with no predators to worry about. Now I know everyone recommended getting galvanised metal bins but after spending more than I had anticipated on building the run and getting the basics, I couldn't justify the cost so I went for heavy duty plastic bins (like builders use) - if they didn't work out, I was always prepared to give it a re-think and by then, hopefully should have recovered financially to afford them.

Anyway, I have my bins outside the shed/greenhouse opposite the run, and built a little cover over the top so for the most part should remain dry (and me when filling the feeder/getting bedding from the other bin) as well as prevent pigeon poo from landing on it as they seem to take delight on sitting on the neighbours tree that overhangs in my garden and pooping on anything underneath. The neighbours cats have free access to that bit (it's a bit of a short cut for them into my garden where they do their worst but I might let them off if they can keep on top of rodent problems) )t' Also, I intend growing tubs of peppermint round there - apparently mice don't like the smell of peppermint oil (whether this is a myth or what, I still like the idea of having some fragrant plants and herbs near the run to sweeten the air a bit as well as help to deter pests and flies during hot weather)

Ignore the wood pile - this was just temporary and to keep it dry while still building the run etc. I need to put some sort of screen/barrier at the base of the greenhouse roof as heavy rain will wash off like a waterfall straight on to the bins LOL:

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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

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Since Sunday, there has been 3 eggs every day )t' The number of eggs I have now is building up quite rapidly and faster than I am using so time for plan B which was to offer some of the eggs for sale as I've had lots of offers from friends, neighbours and colleagues. Better still, I noticed the egg size are also getting bigger and I'd say are close to shop bought medium-large size.

lancashire lass wrote: Over the weekend, Ginger spent more time on the ground and last night I noticed the feeder and drinker on the top run had been untouched (normally the water gets dirty and the feeder upturned and the pellets everywhere - the consequence of getting some cheap dispensers to make sure they had something to eat and drink) so it looks like the top run has been abandoned


I might have been a bit premature - during most of this last week, the girls seemed to be getting on a lot better and I presumed they had sorted out their pecking order and settling in. However, Ginger has shown another side to her that I hadn't seen before. She is the bottom ranking closely followed by Baby - both getting nasty neck bites and tail pulling from Scary (Posh taking on the top hen role seemed indifferent with just the occasional "get out of my way" peck when it came down to food) so the group was split and the reason why I built the high rise run in the first place. All of the girls are growing up and showing larger combs and wattles - Scary looking a lot more adult than the others, and turning into a very large hen. Then on Friday, Ginger and Baby clashed - both eyeing each other up and Ginger being more aggressive. This went on for most of the day, on top of which even Scary had decided the truce was over and started getting bolshy again. Today I noticed Ginger was once again on the high rise run all by herself ... what went wrong? Hopefully just hormones.

On another note, I think I've identified who lays which eggs as I think they are all laying now - as Posh the Black was the first to lay when I was on leave, I know her eggs are a pastel shade (almost pink) There is a larger cream coloured egg and I think Scary the Blue is responsible. Brown eggs have been appearing but I didn't know whether it was Ginger the Ranger or Baby the Amber until this morning when there were 2 brown eggs in the nest box LOL. It makes sense that Amber might lay brown eggs as I've noticed her plummage is less white than before with a lot more pale brown patches coming out. She is also beginning to look much more mature, taking on a heavier shape and looking gorgeous. Ginger on the other hand is still looking athletic and slimline (must be with having to dodge Scary's attention the most)

Meanwhile I've been doing some more research as I'm not convinced the girls eat the mixed grit that I put out. I had wondered about egg shell thickness as the eggs I used seemed very thin compared to shop bought - I'm sure it is more down to their age and just coming in to lay so not at all worried but wondered if I needed to supplement their feed to be sure. I like the idea of re-using egg shells but what else. Leafy greens are a good source of calcium and they sure like their cabbage so maybe I'll leave it for now. Meanwhile, it was worth noting that calcium uptake is dependant on vitamin D which is normally present from absorbing sunlight or supplemented with fish oils. The run gets sunlight from about midday for a few hours so hopefully will be enough. I don't fancy adding oils as this will taint the eggs, but all other sources suggest dairy or, believe it or not, eggs as in yolks :? Yesterday I made myself some pilchards on toast and I don't like the crunchy bones so was picking them out and thinking that I would normally have given these to the dog (another reminder of how much I miss my Pepper since I lost her earlier this year {cry} ) Then I thought about the chooks - what a good idea to give them a treat and know they'll be getting a source of calcium! They did enjoy them mixed with their afternoon treat and I might just cook up the odd egg now and again too.
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by KarenE »

Hi Lancashire Lass

Try limestone flour - it's a good source of calcium and many of us use it to help give the girl's shells a boost if they're thin. You can get it from country stores or horsey places, probably online too although postage might be £££.

Some also given a dose of cod liver oil as this apparently helps absorb calcium.

Good to hear the girls are doing well, and you're probably seeing the pecking order changing and settling down ()sounds like your bottom hen was making a break for a higher position). It'll take a while before it all settles down, and do be prepared for sorties whenever the opportunities arise. hens are nothing if not adaptable!
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by Chookaholic »

Fab diary )t'

your run is great I cant wait to finally get ours done before winter sets in im so impressed you did it !

your chooks are lovely and i love the spice girl theme :-D !
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by lancashire lass »

KarenE wrote:you're probably seeing the pecking order changing and settling down ()sounds like your bottom hen was making a break for a higher position). It'll take a while before it all settles down, and do be prepared for sorties whenever the opportunities arise. hens are nothing if not adaptable!


it does seem to be going in swings and roundabouts at the moment - one minute all quiet on the western front, then a bit of sniping before going to bed early to spite all the others {rofwl}

KarenE wrote:Try limestone flour


I decided to give it a try and bought some from e-bay (99p/500g + £1.75p p&p) which arrived this morning )t' I do want to sell my surplus eggs for a little income to go towards the girls feed and upkeep, and it kind of bothered me that the shells were on the thin side. Hopefully it'll do the trick and I'll give the cod liver oil a try too thank you.

Chookaholic wrote:Fab diary

your run is great I cant wait to finally get ours done before winter sets in im so impressed you did it !

your chooks are lovely and i love the spice girl theme !


{hug} thank you. Today has been the first really serious rain in ages (heavy downpours) and the roof and run was well and truly tested - it's still standing with a few damp patches especially near the back fence. I on the other hand, will need some waterproofs LOL

Since Sunday, there's been 4 eggs a day! Actually there were only 3 on Monday but it looks like the girls are laying at their peak now so ...

lancashire lass wrote: The number of eggs I have now is building up quite rapidly and faster than I am using so time for plan B which was to offer some of the eggs for sale


... yesterday I brought some of the fresher eggs into work but not a single offer for any (and I was selling them individually and below shop prices so as little or as many eggs as you like) A very disappointing start. This morning I brought the little basket of eggs in again with a couple more fresh eggs and just happened to mention to a friend that no-one was buying any {cry} Whether she was being polite or what but said she'd buy a half dozen to save her going to the shops today. I took them down to her desk and while she had a peek at them, have to admit the brown eggs did look very pretty under the strip lights and before I knew it, I got 3 orders for the next batch of eggs when ready )t' I just hope my girls don't decide to stop laying now ...
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by sandy »

My goodness what a palace you have made )t' Nothing less I suppose for the Spice Girls! Your ladies are absolutely gorgeous, really enjoying reading their stories
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Norma-Jean,Dora & Janice
The Peds…Suranne,Jennifer,
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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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by lancashire lass »

In recent days I started to notice Scary was upping her bullying to a whole new degree and had moved on to feather pulling and eating them }hairout{ It's hard to believe that Posh is the top hen as she now has a very bare bum. I watched Scary become almost predatory in positioning herself to whichever hen and nipping off the downy feathers while they were all busy eating. Today has been the first chance I've had to get hold of some anti-pecking spray and I gave all the girls a dose in all the usual neck peck, tail pulling and bum feather sites I could see. Ginger was the easiest to treat as she was on the pallet shelf, Baby was suspicious and evasive but not too much trouble. Posh on the other hand was not for having it but she got a light spray under the tail feathers. I'd hung the last of the cabbage head up as a treat and left them to it ... and there was Scary going in for a bum feather, changed her mind, then made another attempt and nipped off a feather but it clearly didn't taste nice and she went back to attacking the cabbage. >fi< hopefully I've nipped that problem in the bud.

KarenE wrote:Try limestone flour


)t' it worked! I only put a small amount in their treat for a couple of days and the egg shells are definitely much better thank you

sandy wrote:My goodness what a palace you have made )t' Nothing less I suppose for the Spice Girls!


{rofwl} I like the "palace" / "Spice Girls" connection
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Re: LL's chicken keeping adventure 2013

Post by sandy »

I am thinking Scary may have to be renamed Mel? Maybe that may change her character {rofwl}
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Norma-Jean,Dora & Janice
The Peds…Suranne,Jennifer,
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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