Today, the sun was out, the sky was blue and I finally managed to clean out both chicken coops at home. To thoroughly clean both Omlets, get them dry and put in new bedding took the same amount of time as it takes to clean the wooden coops on the allotment. I know Omlets are really expensive, but knowing the chickens can have a clean, dry nest box in half an hour is brilliant. Cirrus was not impressed with being shut out of the nest box for an hour as I worked. She shouted at me almost without drawing breath for the entire time, joined intermittently by Stratus who loves the sound of her own voice and requires no reason to use it!
The Ancient Ones were much more patient, having the wisdom that comes with age. They know it will be worth the wait to have a clean nest box with scrubbed perches and fresh bedding. Mavis is particular is getting more friendly and will often come right up to the run door to say hello. I hope that once Flockdown is lifted, I’ll be able to hand feed her and Maude. With both coops complete and residents let back in to inspect, I went inside to get Asperitas.
Poor Asperitas has had a lonely time since we got her. She has been in isolation for nearly a month while we try to cure her sneezing. A range of different bedding, different foods and even a spa day hasn’t stopped the sneezes. I wonder if she is actually just a sneezy Silkie? Apart from the sneezes, there is absolutely nothing else wrong with her. She eats heartily, drinks and potters about like any other chicken. The last few days I have been worried about her as she has been quite quiet which I put down to being lonely. Chickens are flock animals and need others to keep them company. The introduction to the other silkies seemed necessary and without further ado, I placed her outside the run.
The ideal scenario for introducing chickens is to put the new one/s in a coop next to the established flock. They can see and smell each other but can’t attack through the fencing. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough coops (or space in the garden!) to do this, so I placed Asperitas by the closed run door. Nimbus came up to investigate, dragging the others behind her. Asperitas was very interested in the others and seeing as they showed no signs of aggression, I placed Asperitas inside the run. Nimbus was the most interested and kept approaching Asperitas, clucking at her then running away to speak to Stratus and Cirrus who were busy destroying the bedding in the nest box. Poor Asperitas had her back to the corner and adopted a submissive pose whenever Nimbus came close. Aside from one significant fight between Nimbus and Asperitas, they seem to be tolerating each other quite well. Stratus and Cirrus are curious but not particularly threatened by her so it’s relatively calm all things considered!
Down on the plot, I had only enough bedding to clean out the Little Weed Destroyers. Poor Roxy is absolutely livid that I refuse to let her wander around the plot. But with Flockdown still likely to be in place until the end of March/beginning of April, she will just have to wait a few weeks more. Leaving her to stew, I walked over to the new coop to check on the chicken war. Flora and Leia were out in the run and all five bantams were hiding in the nest box. When I walked into the run however, everyone appeared, eagerly waiting for their treats. My first job was to refill the food which gave me space to thoroughly clean the water bowl before filling it with fresh water. The addition of Flora and Leia has made a huge difference to the food and water consumption in the new coop!
Over in the main coop, Tommy greeted me by a sharp peck on the wellies. Rolling my eyes, I told him off and laughed at his confusion over his beak bouncing off my boots. Two eggs in the Nest House which shows the girls are increasingly coming into lay meaning we should get more eggs over the coming weeks! A repeat of the food and water drill from the new coop, a quick clear out of the Nest House and onto the next coop!
I made sure the Omlet door was shut with the Little Weed Destroyers kept in the run before I began. As I dismantled the nest box and began to clean it, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Somehow I had a feeling I had done this before! Due to the mud on the allotment, this Omlet took quite a while to clean in comparison, but it looked brilliant when it was finished. Fortunately, the sun was still out so everything dried really quickly. I threw in the perches, some bedding and reassembled it just as my back began to complain about being bent over for such a long time! Typically, not one of the Little Weed Destroyers showed any interest in their clean nest box. Grumbling under my breath about “ungrateful birds”, I took out their food and water bowls. I pottered off to clean the water bowl and refilled it, pleased at my hard work. When I came back however, I discovered to my horror that Roxy, ever a wily bird, had managed to sneak out of the run door, taking Trixie and Foxy with her!
What followed needs only the briefest description. Trying to corral three bantams to go back into a coop they have been stuck in for weeks single-handedly was difficult, frustrating and nearly impossible. I eventually caught Trixie and Roxy after circling the coop endlessly, in true cartoon style, leaving Foxy. Normally, she is easy to catch or if the other two are in the coop, she can be persuaded to go back in of her own accord. Would she today? No. Not a chance.
I ended up cornering her and once I had hold of her I checked her feet. Feathery feet are stunning but significantly problematic in winter or wet weather when the feathers get clogged with mud and may hinder movement. I spotted several feathers which were caked in mud and grabbing a pair of scissors, I carefully cut these off. Surprisingly, Foxy behaved well, I think she must have known I was trying to help her! Back in with the others, I checked and rechecked that the run door was secure before heading over to the greenhouse.
The greenhouse has needed a cleaning out and although I needed to go home for dinner, I managed to do a quick sweep, getting up the worst of the old bedding and rejected food. I cleaned out the water bowl and left it out to dry. Pleased with the day’s work, I locked up the shed, did a final walk round the coops and headed home in search of food.
Back at home, once it was properly dark, I went out to check if Asperitas had taken herself into the nest box. Flashing on my torch, I immediately spotted a small white lonely lump of feathers near the run door. Thankfully, she was easily reachable from the door, and I picked her up. Being woken up by a giant in the dark was clearly not on her list of favourite ways to wake up! She wriggled all the way up to the nest box and only stopped when I put her into the nest box. Perching nervously where she landed, she was clearly unsure what to do. Sighing with exasperation, I picked her up again and put her next to Nimbus. Sniggering slightly at the sight of all four silkies sleeping in a row, I headed back inside.
So hopefully Asperitas will spend the night warm and cosy with the others. The real question is, what will happen in the morning when the door opens!