Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hellos and Goodbyes

I haven't had anything much of interest to post lately, and if any of you saw the recent weather reports for us in the UK related to The Beast From The East and Storm Emma, you can imagine life was a little more complicated for a few days.
But despite nothing of interest writing and SFR wise, I know some of you like my chicken updates and there's been quite a bit of development there, so I thought I'd do a quick recap on that at least.
First the bad news...

Farewell to Pitch
Of course the snow storm would hit us just as we moved the girls to a new coop and run. With the coop being plastic (which I always feel lacks the warmth of wood) and bigger with the intention to house more chickens, I fretted over whether my girls would be able to keep warm in the sub zero temperatures. Fortunately there are wiser people in several of the chicken groups I belong to, and after taking some precautions - extra bedding (deepening the layer of wood shavings and adding straw), sheets of cardboard for insulation plus a couple of thick blankets over the top to conserve heat and cut down any drafts - my girls appeared to keep cosy and dry throughout. My main concern was my two older girls Kairu and Scoop - non-farmed chickens tend to live 5-7 years and these two retirees are currently 4.5 and 6 - and younger, smaller Firefly. But everyone was happy and apparently healthy. The snow cleared, I removed all the insulation, and all seemed fine...until I opened the coop the morning of the 7th to find Pitch had passed away in the night. She was just two years old, still young for a chicken. She'd shown absolutely no signs of illness or distress the evening before, enjoying a brief romp in the garden with the flock and eating her share of bedtime corn. Chickens, like most creatures, are capable of hiding any signs of weakness to the point where they are often too sick to save by the time they show it, but when you know your pets well you can usually pick up that something is not quite right. We didn't.
You can't help but feel to blame in this situation with a young bird. We haven't lost any of them since a fox attack two years ago, and one to old age before that. Pitch was always such a feisty, lively character who liked to be in the middle of anything we mere humans might be up to, especially if she thought food might be involved. She hatched and raised two beautiful chicks last year, one of whom is Firefly. She was joint second in command of the flock, sharing seniority with our two oldest girls. She'll be missed.
Pitch when we first brought her home
"Are you sure you don't have food, human?"
Doting mama

Testing out the new coop a couple of weeks ago

Fun in the snow
Baby Firefly Is All Grown Up!
On a happier note, we have cause to celebrate. Baby Firefly has laid her first eggs! It's always a concern for the first one - chickens can get egg bound, which can prove fatal, or can suffer a prolapse which involves things you probably don't want to know about. So a successful first lay is a relief. We thought she might have been responsible for a tiny egg two days previously, but I didn't catch her in the act until she laid her second.

BTW, those aren't both her eggs - Mama Pitch had been in there laying with her. Bless!
Hello Girls!
And despite the weather and distance (sometimes it feels like fate is throwing everything in your way, doesn't it?) we were finally able to pick up my two new girls: a pair of lemon millefleur sablepoots (also known as booted bantams). I've been trying to get hold of these for a while as I want to expand the breeds of bantam we have, and it hasn't been easy! Sablepoots have a reputation for being friendly, though these two apparently need more handling since they won't even take food from me right now. And if you think the Pekins are small...these darlings are almost half the size! We've taken a break from the TV/film character names for these two and gone for yellow flowers instead: Saffron and Jasmine. Saffron is definitely the boss, and the noisier and more active girl in the video.

"What this shiny thing, Hand That Feeds?!"

These two are currently in quarantine - I haven't done this before, but with another avian flu outbreak and now having the facilities to cordon off new birds, and with Pitch's passing too, it seemed wise. The two flocks can see each other to get used to the sight, sound and potentially smell as well before I introduce the new ones. I suppose at least now I'll have room for an extra hen further down the line...

The Great Chicken Run Build
While the coop is done and the main construction too, I still need a roof. The wet weather, followed by heavy snow, followed by more wet weather has not only prevented me from working on that but proved I might need to scale up my ideas more than I planned. I found myself using a broom to try sweeping the melting snow off the temporary roof I'd put up because it was fountaining into the run and soaking my girls, so something better needs to go on. Just as soon as I get some dry weather to do it. O.o I'll finish with some photos of the big freeze!

Kala: "Stay put, girls, the damn Hand That Feeds let all that cold, white stuff in the run again!"

A nearby park
Firefly: "Nope, going to sleep through the white stuff, night night!"
Kala: "Why you let this nasty white stuff in, Hand That Feeds?"
Phasma: "Maybe if I stand really still, no one will see me..."


  1. Sorry to hear about Pitch, Pippa, but your new ones seem lively and feisty. Fancy girls, too. And I still love the name Phasma. :)

  2. Thanks for the updates, Pippa! I'm always fascinated by the details and new information (love the photos). SAD about Pitch though :(


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