The Queen arrives

The sunshine continues! We walked down to the allotment today with a list of jobs to do. The most important was to add more wire to the greenhouse door to stop any curious cats getting at the chicks. As we walked up to the greenhouse, they were all hiding in the bottom of the nest box. We opened the door at the front and walked in the back. The temperature difference from yesterday was significant and it felt far cooler inside. The combination of Cliff’s perspex sheet with ventilation holes and the new wire doorway has dropped the temperature down by at least 10 degrees. We fed and watered the chicks and Cliff lent us another water bowl as they are drinking a lot more now they are bigger. I can’t believe they are four weeks old today! Each chick is growing well and they are pretty much eating us out of house and home!

We opened up the shed and went to feed the old girls in the main coop. They were all there and impatient for their treats. I cleaned out the nest box whilst my husband fed them. This is the only way to effectively clean out the nest box without constant interference by curious spectators who specialise in getting in the way! Katie looked a bit off colour today but is keeping close to Georgie so she isn’t on her own. Katie, Georgie and Hattie are our three rescue hens. They arrived last July ragged with minimal feathers. Hattie is definitely queen of the coop at the moment. She channels Evie’s swagger combined with Fizz’s bravado.

Next, we moved onto Leia and Rey. One egg was waiting for me with Rey dithering about laying hers. I topped up their food, fed them a handful of sunflower seeds whilst my husband topped up their water. It so generous of Rachael to let us keep them on her plot. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have the emergency coop. We left our rent payment to Rachael on her back gate – half a dozen eggs – as a thank you.

Then we moved on to helping Dolly. She definitely isn’t as lively as she had been. We walked with her up to the shed and let her explore a bit. I tried to scrape out some more gunk but I think there is a build up lower down which I can’t remove. She took a few syringes of egg and lots of water. I have resorted to leaving the egg in a small container in the hope she eats more of it when we aren’t there. When we out her down she jumped up on the wormery and had a 5 minute doze. I don’t know how much longer we will have her.

With help from several strategic bamboo poles, I have tidied up the willow arch. It has burst into life and I am hoping that it will grow well this year so I can fully weave it so it’s more solid and into its final shape. Some areas are a bit bare currently but hopefully some careful tweaking of branches once they get a bit longer will solve the problem.

Before we left, we fixed the greenhouse door. It was much quicker this time now that we knew how to attach the wire to the door frame. The top section of wire isn’t attached but the rest is stretched across the door and secured to the door frame. The nuts either side of the door frame provided a useful place to hook the top of the wire. Now that the door is fully wired, it means we can keep the door open for hours, allowing the greenhouse to remain cool for the chicks.

As I left the greenhouse, I checked on the Plymouth Pear tree. It has burst into life and I now have to work out where to plant it! I daren’t plant it anywhere too wet which precludes swathes of the plot. Phil grabbed me to say that Steve had taken delivery of the Queen bee he had ordered over a week ago. Weirdly, the queen gets sent in the post!

As I wasn’t wearing suitable footwear, I decided to watch Steve and Phil add the queen to the smaller hive. The nine days since we split it will have seen the workers extremely busy creating a new queen. If we left it another 7 days, they would manage to hatch their own. The queen them flies out of the hive to mate and may be gone for 2 weeks. Provided she doesn’t get eaten by a hungry bird, she will come back to the hive and take charge. When introducing a new queen to a colony, it’s important to watch the reaction of the workers. If they have already accepted a new queen they will act very aggressively towards the new queen and will kill her. If they accept her, they will remove the fondant icing plug of the transport box and allow her into the colony. I had a good look at her while Phil and Steve were opening the hive. She has a blue dot showing that she is a new queen this year. I was surprised by her relatively small size and predominantly orange colour.

Once the hive was opened, Steve and Phil quickly removed the feeder (empty after just a few days!), took off the super and roved a broody frame. The box with the queen on is attached to the top of the brood frame and left in there for a few days. The icing plug will be eaten by the worker bees on one side and the queen’s helper bees on the other. Having her in a box protects her from the colony as they get used to her pheromones. Both Steve and Phil closed up the hive quickly as the bees get aggressive when it’s windy, and the wind was increasing. Here’s hoping the new queen is accepted into the colony!

So plan for tomorrow is to clean out the main coop. We found a couple of mites today so we need to eradicate them asap. If the weather permits, we will also dig over the plot again and start planting our onion and garlic sets.

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