Photos

Three weeks in, and the girls are all socialising happily together – with the occasional fracas to reinforce the pecking order (which was fairly quickly sorted, along expected lines). But they still choose to sleep separately, new girls together in the Eglu Go, and the others in the Cube.

It’s interesting, though, that one of the bantams is throwing her weight around, just between the two of them – the disruption must have unsettled her, and she is emphasising her superiority at every opportunity!

Dorcas is crouching, and both she and Deanna have grown combs, so we’re looking forward to having extra eggs any time now. Delilah however, shows little sign of coming in to lay, neither growing a comb or crouching … she may be younger, or it may be her breed – previous Light Sussex hens we’ve had did not start laying for some months. Both Moppets are laying now … and you can see in the photo above how bright their combs are.

We are enjoying the fair weather and blue skies … spring has sprung, even if the forecast is for cooler weather this week 🙂

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7 days later

7 days later and the new girls are still … new! They are taking their time to settle in, though we are seeing progress. At night they are shut into the Eglu run, while during the day, the run is left open inside the electric fence. However, only Deanna and Dorcas venture out onto the grass … Delilah refuses to leave the run for more than a few seconds, so getting a photograph of her is tricky.

Yet they have apparently settled the pecking order already … and surprisingly, Dorcas is top hen. Deanna is clearly the adventurous one, but one glance from Dorcas and she backs quickly away 🙂

A few photos … click on any individual image for a slide show of them all … or hover over each for a caption.

First outing

Hot weather

We’ve had a mini heat-wave – up to 30C or more in the garden – and the hens have taken shelter where they can. Under the fig tree there is dense shade and it’s quite cool, but I like to see the girls around the garden,

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so I enticed them out with a tray of water and some frozen peas and corn!

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Even the broody bantams joined in for a while – until Clare gave them the ‘eye’ and they retreated. I’ve been watching the girls to see who is top of the pecking order and I can’t quite make it out – but Clare is definitely 2IC (second in command), the top hen has no need to be so aggressive to retain her position!

Carey used to be top hen, but she isn’t so well, walking with a limp and currently moulting … so she sits a lot, taking the weight off her leg whenever she can.

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I can’t see any sign of bumblefoot. It may simply be the result of scaly leg mite, but if it’s been successfully treated it should resolve during a moult and it hasn’t. So I’m mystified. And sad.

But she still gets around. Clare and Charlie are always together,

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The wooden ‘gate’ is across the back door to stop uninvited guests – it didn’t work and it’s now been replaced by a much taller wire panel, which frustrated the cats at first but now they’ve learned to jump over it from the bench!

and Carey joins them for treats or to explore something new or a shady place – water melon is a real treat, juicy and the seeds help control gastro-intestinal worms!

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We haven’t seen Connie out and about for a while now … she’s sitting firmly in the nest box, not exactly broody – at least she’s not hissing yet – but semi-recumbent anyway. She’s never really been part of the pecking order, she keeps her distance as much as she can.

Bottom of the pecking order is definitely the un-broody bantam – not in these photos, but she’s often hanging around the big girls for company and she is tolerated, most of the time. But I noticed Carey give Charlie the eye, just the once, but that suggests she has maintained her position at the top of the order. It’s all very entertaining!

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Visitors …

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This is Charlie … Clare is right behind her, but I didn’t get a good photo of them together. Since we have been letting them free range the garden, they have been getting more and more bold 🙂

Free range …

We’re down to four hens and three bantams – and one bantam is fixed firmly in the nest box on imaginary eggs. We recently fenced off the veg patches now they’ve been planted for the summer, so DH suggested that the rest of the garden could cope with two (or three) bantams and four hens … apart from the gooseberries, there’s nothing much they can eat or damage that we want, so out they came …

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It didn’t take long for them to make the most of the grass … and since the bantams have often sat beside the hens on either side of the wire, there was no friction between the two broods at all … our quickest integration ever!

The hens ranged the garden together at first (once Connie worked out how to get out of the run … )

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Since then, they’ve explored more widely, and we can’t always locate them among the undergrowth. But they are often simply to be found back in the hen garden, under the fig tree … while the bantams make the most of rooting through the woodchip in the run itself, undisturbed by the big girls.

But the changes haven’t gone unnoticed …

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The cats aren’t really bothered, they simply like to know what’s going on. Oscar has been around recently too … really quite friendly for once. But while in the past he has made a show at going for a bantam … the hens are another matter, so he keeps his distance, and leaves a wide margin even around the diminutive bantams.

And the bantams? Well, they don’t seem to mind being around the hens … they give way quickly if challenged, but you can often see them together, busy at some treat or other.

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🙂

Out and about

Connie is out and about again … but she has never been ‘one of the crowd’ so is often on her own somewhere, and usually runs in the opposite direction if you throw some treats in the way of the hens. Her legs look as if there might still be some scaly leg mite around, so one evening, when they’re settled in the coop, I will take them out one by one and dose them with Frontline*. I smothered Connie’s legs with Vaseline a while back, which is said to help, so I might do that as well, at the same time.

Two of the Moppets are now broody, though one isn’t as committed as the other! So when I look out into the garden, sometimes there are three and sometimes four …

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It was a very windy day … !

It’s taken a while, but the Moppets have now learned that there may be treats when I appear at the back door (and that I’m worth investigating even if I’m not calling them!). They still don’t come close, but they do come running … quite a sight.

The long-term broody bantam was a lightweight to begin with. She weighs no more than her feathers now. In the past I’ve gone to great lengths to break a brood just for that reason, but it’s not always practical, so this time we decided to let nature take it’s course. Certainly, when I lift her out, her crop seems reasonably full and is still soft, so she must be eating something.

Sadly, we had to cull our last ex-batt … she had a prolapse. So now we are five of each. The bantams are elderly, at least as far as we know – we have had them over two years and they were supposedly 3 or 4 years old when they arrived. While the hens came a year later at point of lay, about 4 months old, so must be around 19 months old now … just past the age of commercial viability. And certainly their egg quality isn’t as good as it has been.

We’ve no plans to get any more hens for a while (we had thought last year that we might be moving house and the idea of moving a dozen hens was really quite daunting). And indeed, with our regular chicken-sitter out of action, it’s been difficult to get away as often as we are used to. But DH loves his girls, so we are content. Perhaps I should investigate a house-swap with some like-minded chicken keepers somewhere … ?!

* Not licensed for hens, but effective in treating mites and lice. However, in our area, Frontline is no longer effective against cat fleas, which is it’s primary purpose. 

Still going strong …

We still have five Moppets, though some of them are now nearly 6 years old …

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One of the Moppets has been broody for over a month, though another gave up after a few days …

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Connie (Gold-laced Wyandotte) is also still going strong … must be five or six weeks now …

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The climbing frame is in use as a bird feeder …

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The Moppets’ first stop in the mornings is beneath the feeders, lots of fallen seed there makes for rich pickings …

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The hens have always loved dandelions …

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The garden has always looked lush at this time of year …

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And finally, the apple tree is as magnificent as ever …

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Garden Hens

I took the camera out with me today, as I changed nest boxes etc. I also took some cooked veg from Sunday lunch and some sprats from tea!

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The vegetables, roast potatoes and fish disappeared in a flash … of course!

Porridge

There’s nothing like a bowl of porridge on a cold, frosty morning …

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OK … so the porridge is spread out on the stones, but then it’s easier for them all to get some!

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Actually, I did put the Moppets’ share in a bowl, but none of the photos were any good!

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It lasted only a matter of moments … weetabix and porridge oats mixed with warm water and limestone flour … yum! We’ve had a couple of softies from an ex-bat (I assume) coming back into lay, and one of the Moppets is laying thin shelled eggs, hence the limestone. It may not make any difference as they are both rather elderly, but it’s worth a try. We’ve had a steady stream of eggs over the winter … 2 or 3 hen eggs a day, and 2 bantam eggs every other day … just enough for the two of us now that we’re empty nesters, with left overs to sell (or bake cakes for the church coffee mornings!).

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From the left, Camilla, Clare, Charlie, Bertha, Babs, Carey and Connie

  • The Hen House Archive

    Our original hen keeping adventure came to an end in January 2013, when a fox took our entire brood of hens. But don’t let that put you off … you can find the story at The Hen House Archive where there are still lots of stories, photos, and information about keeping hens I hope you'll find useful.
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    March 2017 ... All change in the hen garden as the fruit cage run is retired in favour of an electric fence, the veg beds are relocated to put the hens on fresh ground, and the new girls arrive, Dorcas, Delilah and Deanna.

    January 2017 ... Bird flu outbreak and all domestic foul are quarantined until the end of February.

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