Bank Holiday Weekend - Post Massacre Menagerie

I didn't want this post to be about chickens, AGAIN.  However, what can I say, but, it has been a month of avian adventures.  #socountry.

After the Ash Cottage Massacre, we had one depressed chicken and 2 depressed children so I called the lovely family at Handpecked Chicken's.  They are a local business from whom I've been buying my chicken related paraphernalia, feed and bedding since I got our first hens.  Lovely, lovely people, they answered my "emergency" email despite being on holiday in Turkey and on the following Friday the little foxes and I went to pick up a new buddy for Astrid.  Her name is Cecilia, she is a pretty little brown hen.

little brown hen
However Astrid, had other ideas.  She was not nice to Cecilia and, despite being much more friendly towards me than she had been prior to the Massacre, sticking close to Ash Cottage when not in her pen, peering in the windows at me and following me around the garden, she had no interest in making her new buddy feel welcome.  In fact there was a lot of chasing and a fair amount of pecking.  After a weekend of bad tempered co-existence I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.

The children and I were devastated at the loss of our old hens, Agatha, Anoushka and Ashley.  I moped a bit so for my birthday friends offered to buy me 2 new chickens.  The following Monday I was back in the car with my buddy Rochelle, driving back to Hertford with my friend Gail's cat travel box to pick up 2 more chickens.  Clarice (a beautiful Bluebell hybrid) and Caitie (a fiesty little Skyline who might lay blue eggs) joined the new flock much to Astrid's further disgust.

bluebell chicken
All is not idyllic in the garden.  Cecilia, Clarice and Caitie get chased off their food, pecked if they come too close, there are serious mind games to be played by chickens to decide who, in what order and where to roost when it comes to going into the hen house at night.  We've had to get the bright purple anti-sceptic spray out for the first time - apparently hen's can't see purple and so it stops them pecking at the wounds.  The children like the idea that with "hen vision" it actually makes the part of the hen sprayed invisible.  Anyway, there have not been any real injuries so far.

skyline chicken
However, putting the hens back into their run has been quite testing again, after nearly a year of it being a simple case of calling; "Chook, chook, chook!" and shaking a scoop of food.  This was not helped last week by my dog Bea barking constantly and incessantly throughout the whole palaver.  Particularly stressing was that the tone of her bark was that of a terrier who has found something to chase in a bush, and in my state of massacre paranoia I assumed this had to be a fox hiding in said bushes, waiting to jump out on my new chickens.  When I had finally got my unhelpful hens in their run and gone to investigate what Bea was barking at I found her with a hedgehog.

The hedgehog had, sensibly enough, rolled into a ball of defensive prickles, and I never saw anything other than this state of affairs.  There was a little blood and the dog had probably been worrying at it for a good 10 mins so I feared the worst.  I popped the hedgehog into an empty rabbit hutch that we were renovating for the quail and ran to pick up the children from school.

On my return the hedgehog was still tightly balled and prickly and the little foxes and I were straight off to one of their after school classes.  I took the hedgehog to my nearest vets en route, a hedgehog specialist (Who knew?) and promising to give details over the phone later and pay up should the hedgehog have received any dog related injuries that need fixing up.  Hedgehogs are becoming quite rare you know, and our indigenous wild-life needs preserving.

It turns out our little hedgehog was absolutely fine, no injuries sustained and I had just found myself a very nice vet who does a lot of hedgehog work.

quail with head injury
Skip forward a week and my quails seem to be under attack from something (mouse/rat) getting into their cage at night, eating their food and taking a chunk out of them to boot.  One had a nasty wound on her back and the other a large cut over her left eye.  Back to the hedgehog vet's, this time I managed to forget my purse, who nevertheless did a great job patching up Squeeky Cheese and Amber - or "Staple in Her Head" as we are now calling her.   All I can add to this is that it is not easy to get a quail to take antibiotics twice a day.

maran chicks

Over the bank holiday weekend we re-jigging our avian accommodation to; give our adult hens more room to roost at night; get our seven increasingly smelly young Maran chicks out of the house; protect the quail from attack and lower their stress levels in case the injuries are being inflicted on each other by over stressed birds.  The quail now have a much bigger pen with outside space, safely housed inside the main run.

quail house

I now have one much loved but aggressively, domineering adult hen, who is a wonderful layer (Astrid), 3 young POL hen's who live in terror of the old girl (Cecilia, Clarice and Caitie).  Three, purple streaked, stapled quails who have just come into lay - Yum, yum, (Amber, Sleepy and Squeeky Cheese).  And 7 Maran chicks whose gender we constantly debate - we think we have 3 roosters and 4 hens.

Oh, and 2 hives of bees; one doing great shakes, the other has not really built up numbers since winter and is bad tempered and mean.

However, I must admit that in the last week I have spent more than one very satisfying evening sat in the sun watching the hens negotiate their new world order.  Pecking squawking, chasing aside it is all very simple and understandable and quite amusing to watch.

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The Maran Chicks

We are restocking the adult birds, post our fox visit and much to Astrid's disapproval, but I simply cannot go without fresh eggs.  Friend's clubbed together and bought me 2 new hens.  I'll add some photos of our new girls, Cecilia, Clarice and Caitie, once they have settled in a little more.

Meanwhile our Maran chicks are growing like weeds.  It's been over 10 days since the photos above were taken and we are just taking some new photos to document their development.

So they went from these, lovely dark brown Maran eggs, from Highfield Marans:

To this in 21 days:

And to take the photos above there was a lot of this:

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