Sunday, 31 July 2016

Chicken Diaries - Cacciatore and Snowy now laying!

In my last post we wondered whose egg that was. We found out that it was Cacciatore's egg! However, on Friday, Snowy started laying eggs as well and she has large cream eggs.

These 3 eggs on the left were Friday's pickings. The blue one is of course Bubbles, then Snowy's egg, then Mary's. You can see in the egg tray on the right there is a white egg, which is Cacciatore's egg. Snowy's egg is a lot bigger!

I weighed today's egg and it was a whopping 54g!

So it looks like we'll get 2-3 eggs a day. I am so happy, now we are fully self sustaining when it comes to eggs! No more buying eggs for us!

I have wondered - how will I tell the difference between Mary's eggs and Spotty's eggs when she starts laying?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Chicken Diaries - Another different looking egg! Who lay this one?

When we went outside this afternoon, there was an egg in the nesting box, and it wasn't pinkish, it wasn't blue, it was white!

It was a slightly elongated shape compared to our other eggs. We suspect it's Snowy who laid it, but we aren't sure!

It's a small egg, though it looks large in my daughter's hand below. Wyandottes can lay a cream to light brown egg, and I am hoping that it's Snowy who laid it. Only 2 more chickens left who aren't laying! Cacciatore sure isn't earning her keep.

I shall keep an eye out tomorrow and see who the egg laying culprits are and give them some extra treats!

We also weighed them today, though it was the end of the day, so they're probably a bit heavier than they should be. Here are this week's weigh-ins:

Mary - 2273g
Spotty - 2171g
Snowy - 1855g
Bubbles - 1780g
Cacciatore - 1371g

It looks like my two "mutt" chickens have put on some weight!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Chicken Diaries - Now Bubbles is laying eggs!

My mum is visiting and she really enjoys the chickens. She feeds them, and watches them, and on Thursday she was excitedly telling me that there were 3 chickens hanging around the nesting box. Later in the day she told me there were TWO eggs!

And, this other egg was laid by Bubbles and it was BLUE!

It looks a little green, but it actuallly is blue! I was so excited! It weighed a little over 40g, so heavier than Mary's first egg.

I have been spoiling the girls lately - I bought mealworms on Monday and they devoured them, and mum has also been feeding them leftover bread to try to encourage Cacciatore to stay inside the pen instead of flying out all the time.

Mary has been laying very well, laying 5-6 eggs per week. She eats the crushed shells I've put out for her (and interestingly Bubbles had been eating them as well!)

There have been no more lice on the chickens whenever I inspect them, which is good. Spotty is quite large now, but her comb and wattles are still pale, so no eggs for her for a while. Mum told me that Snowy has been inspecting the nesting box too, so hopefully in the next week or so we shall have more eggs again!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Chicken Diaries - Goodbye Spot and our first egg!

I haven't writtten in a while, but on the 27 May we disposed of Spot. Poor Spotty had many of her feathers pulled out of the back of her neck from when Spot had managed to corner her for mating (and she is still only a baby so she's not fertile nor ready for fertilization). He tore her comb and now it has an ugly scab on it.

The kids were informed that Spot would no longer be there on the Friday when they got home from school, and so they said goodbye in the morning. Later that morning I had to hold my pet down whilst my mum did the deed and she did all the plucking and cleaning for me. Now I know how to do it if I had to do it again.

We ate him that night and his meat was tough! I was told later that you need to leave the meat for 3 days before you eat it, or it will be tough.

Spotty has grown a lot, and is now the second heaviest chicken! Last Monday I weighed them.

Bubbles is the number 2 chicken of the flock, and I think she's stopped growing. She was 1287g last week and this week is 1282g. The previous week she was 1280g.

I think Cacciatore has stopped growing. She has been this weight for a few weeks now, give or take 10g. She is the smallest of the chickens yet she is the alpha hen!
Mary finally cracked the 2kg mark! Last week she was 1902g, and the week before she was  1855g. With Spot gone, Mary has become the number 3 hen of the flock.
I'm not sure if this is accurate. Last week Snowy weighed 1530g. I will have to do weekly weighs to make sure she's ok. Snowy is at the bottom of the pecking order.

Look at all the feathers missing off poor Spotty's neck! They are growing back, but she still looks like the most juvenile hen here, despite being a good weight. Last week she was 1675g, and the week before she was 1450g. She may also be going through a teenage moult, but she is eating well.
Today I went outside to clean the coop and I found an egg!

I was very excited and made everyone else come out and look. You can see the nesting boxes in the background there (amongst all the poop) and I had blocked them off because the youngest pullets were in there sleeping and pooping. Now I've taken the boxes and soup pot out and put a dummy egg in one in the hope they will lay inside the nesting boxes.

It's a tiny egg!

We made pancakes out of the tiny egg, and the yolk was very pale. The shell wasn't too thin, it seemed ok. I'm wondering who laid the egg - I suspect it was Cacciatore, but it could have been Bubbles! Both of them seem to have matured and reached maximum weight (so they must be bantams!). Now I have to go find some shell grit to give them so my eggs will have nice strong shells and nobody gets osteoporosis!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chicken lice - treated with Pestene and Imidacloprid

I blame myself. I didn't check the chickens properly when I brought them home and I introduced them to the others on Friday and all day Saturday!

We had some practice social experiments, where we put the Wyandotte with the others and she was immediately bullied by Cacciatore, but when we put Cacciatore in the small cage, Cacciatore was bullied by Spotty, our Speckled Sussex!

So on Saturday I added them all together and watched them like hawks, separating Cacciatore when she was too vicious to Snowy (which is what my daughter named the Wyandotte). As the day went on I was happy to see them eating well, drinking well and walking around the enclosure. Bubbles was quite placid with them and Mary avoided them, hiding up in the coop.

I had dismantled the puppy pen to make an extension of the enclosure, and whilst I was inside I heard chicken squawks of distress. I run outside to see poor Snowy with Spot mounting her back, his beak holding onto her neck (like roosters do when mating) and she was entangled in the fence. I ran outside to disentangle her and as I parted her feathers I noticed tiny creatures on her skin scurrying away as I parted her feathers. I nearly dropped her in horror. Were these mites or lice?

After I separated Snowy, I grabbed Spotty and examined her - she had lice too! I put her with Snowy and examined Spot, who had no lice, and Cacciatore who also had no lice. I needed to find something to treat them straight away! Off I went to Petbarn to get some Pestene which I applied to the two chickens, though I don't know if I did it correctly.

I had never done it before so I went to youtube to see if I could find somewhere to show me how to do it, and this video was quite helpful.

We went out for dinner and I returned home and did the rest of the chickens, and it was quite easy to catch them as they were all in the coop already. They didn't like it but it needed to be done (and in fact I did it in the sandpit)

Now, I need to go and clean out the rest of the cage, and pick up all the loose feathers I had left lying around on the ground. I will redust the chickens in a few days but hopefully that will treat them. I don't think the infestation was bad - I didn't see clumps of nits on any of the feathers, but I will have another look at them tomorrow.

Edit: I take that back, there were nits - I felt them last night but didn't realise they were nits!

I wondered if you could use those flea things on them, like they do on cats and dogs with the drop on the back of the neck. I saw that someone had asked the same question on Backyard Poultry Forum, and they had used them. I went to the pet shop and got some Advantage, where the active ingredient is Imidacloprid (a very effective pesticide).

I got the formulation for kittens, which is a 0.4mL dose of a 100g/L imidacloprid solution. I figured that there are about 8 drops in 0.4mL, which means each drop contains 5mg.

Imidacloprimide is moderately toxic if ingested and low in toxicity via dermal exposure. Toxicity can be seen in 50mg/kg doses ingested (in rats) and this is way below that so it shouldn't be an issue in the chicken meat. However, the thought is rather sobering.

It lasts for a long time in the ground (and apparently is used in tree pesticides and is taken up by trees rendering them toxic to a number of insect pests, such as locusts). However it is also very toxic to bees, and in some places it is not allowed to be used due to the affect on the local bee population.

So from what I can find on the internet, it seems to persist for a while, lasting up to 4 weeks (which is good in that when the nits hatch they will die) but that's a long time for it to hang around!

Well, none of my chickens are laying, so that's not so bad. HOWEVER, we were planning on eating Spot this week, so perhaps I shouldn't have dosed him!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 19

I had my first aggressive interaction from Spot on Monday.

I had cleaned the coop in the morning, but I had come out again to do some general gardening and play with the chickens, and I was also talking on the phone to my mother. Mary was hiding up in the coop again, so I went to go check on her and I noticed a huge chicken poop so I went to go get something to clean it up.

Something bumped into my leg. It was Spot. I thought he was walking backwards again. But no! He had his hackles raised, and he leapt at my leg, with his claws outstretched, kicking me and squawking! He did it not once, but four times! And it was uncomfortable, not painful but rather uncomfortable that I admonished him for it. He stopped and then went back to his normal self, but that was surprising.

I was upset that he was so aggressive which only strengthened my resolve to dispose of him, but when I read up on the internet, I started to feel a bit guilty.

Roosters can be teenagers too, with raging hormones. They can have periods of aggression intermittently as they try to get used to their hormone urges, and as they mature, these urges settle and they may or may not become more docile. Also, with these raging hormones, they are trying to mate with all the females as well - some of whom are not quite mature enough yet to be impregnated so they go running. Sounds a lot like what Mary's doing doesn't it! Sussex chickens are slow to mature, and Mary is younger than Spot, so has been clearly trying to avoid Spot's amorous attentions. I have seen him strutting around the other two and demonstrating himself, so he's definitely playing up to the ladies.

And now I'm slaughtering him for it?

I don't know if I want fertilised eggs. Eating fertilised eggs seems wrong! And when he attacked me, surely he would do that to other attackers too, like cats and birds of prey? But, he is noisy, and it's only a matter of time before the neighbours kick up a fuss.

Bubbles only put on 27g this week (compared with 66g last week). At 1213g, maybe she is slowing down in terms of weight gain, meaning she might be a bantam!
Cacciatore put on 26g this week (compared with 28g last week) and is now 1039g. Still putting on a little bit of weight! Definitely a bantam!
Look at Mary, now weighing 1635g. She put on 76g this week (compared to 114g last week)
Spot is hard to keep still. Here he is running away! But the stable weight was 1805g, which means he put on 78g this week, which is about half of what he put on last week (141g last week)
So on Tuesday I went to Misty Gums Poultry to go get another chook, as a replacement for my rooster who will soon be soup. Paul said he had some Speckled Sussexes that might be the right age, as well as some White Wyandottes.

I was pretty keen for a Speckled Sussex, so Paul gave me one of his girls, who still looked quite young, but a decent size. As I turned to take my treasured pullet away, he asked me if I couldn't be tempted to take a second one? I shook my head with a smile, and he sweetened it with the offer of a discount, a large discount. I hesitated. What was wrong with her that he was selling her so cheap? He took me to show me - it turned out this little White Wyandotte had deformed feet, but was otherwise perfectly healthy. Reluctantly, I shook my head, but when he knocked the price down to $15... I decided I'd take her. So I ended up with TWO chickens!

I have them separated so they won't be killed as they establish a pecking order. I read that you should keep them separated but be able to see each other and then gradually introduce them. Also, I should keep them separated in case of parasites or diseases. I hope to integrate them on the weekend!

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 18

We have come to the conclusion this week that Spot needs to go. He has been terrorising Mary, who won't come out of the coop unless he's not around, and we ended up having to give her free range time OUTSIDE the fence so that she could forage in peace without being hounded back into the coop by Spot. Spot with his collar loosened has put on weight again, so I will not tighten the collar again as we are now in the process of fattening him up for slaughter.

Spot weighing in at 1727g this week (1586 last week) - at least he put on 141g this week compared to not putting on any weight in the previous week! If you ask me though, he looks a bit thinner, but that could be just how his feathers are sitting. I still think he's a handsome chook. I am thinking that 2kg is the ideal weight for eating...
Bubbles is looking very sleek lately! I used to think her feathers were a bit all over the place (like messy hair) but now she looks smooth and tidy. She weighs 1185g this week (1119 last week) has put on a nice 66g since last week.
Finally Cacciatore is over 1kg weighing 1013g (985g last week) ! She put on 28g this week. I am wondering if she is a bantam she seems to put on very little weight compared to the others.
My big girl Mary has cracked 1.5kg (1549g) when last week she was 1435g. She has put on 114g this week. Which is good since she only put on 28g the previous week.
We are onto our 2nd big bag of chook feed - we're still eating pullet grower. They are still loving their oat grains and I am still a big failure when it comes to getting them used to the treadle feeder - I am starting to think that was a waste of money.

There are a ton of earthworms underneath the coop! I don't know how they survive there without the chickens eating them! I was moving the bricks around (they are stepping stools for the chooks to get to the feeder) and when I lifted up the brick a whole bunch of earthworms wriggled back into the ground. The rest of the coop is still littered with feathers and some droppings as well as a fair dose of hemp (I have been sweeping old hemp litter into the coop to put on top of the dirt). I was wondering if it was bad if I didn't clean out the inside of the coop because of all the worms eating things in there but I realised that not many people put their chicken coops straight onto dirt because of the risk of burrowing predators and rodents. So far we have been very lucky

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 17

I was happy that the chickens were happy and well after we were away on holidays for 2 weeks! Everyone who looked after the chickens mentioned to us that Spot was crowing, despite his collar and we even had a recording of it.

We ended up gettting a No-Crow collar, which has mesh and looks like he will have more flexibility in his neck.

It took two tightenings to get him to be quieter but still able to eat, but he keeps running backwards with his head down to the ground, as if he's trying to get out of the collar. I could still slip the tip of my little finger under the collar so I thought it was ok.

They grew a lot in the 3 weeks since I last weighed them. So this was their weights at 16 weeks:

Spot - 1596
Mary - 1407
Bubbles - 1076
Cacciatore - 974

I think Spot looks quite handsome. But Mary is a whopper. She has grown a lot, but I worry she's a bit of an isolated chook. She hides up in the coop until all the others chooks are out, then she comes out. And she is the first one back into the coop for bedtime. She doesn't really roam around with the other 3 chickens, and just today, when it was raining, I noticed her out in the rain foraging, whilst the others were all sitting inside the coop. It smacked of sad high school behaviour! However, at least she is still eating well and not starving or stressed, she has all her feathers.

Cacciatore has been an escape artist since we came home. I found her eating my vegies again! I clipped her wings because she was flying onto the coop roof then hopping out, but I don't think it really stops her. I'm sure she didn't eat any of my vegies when I was away.

This week I weighed them and I was concerned because Spot had LOST weight, which is a concern because of the collar.

Spot - 1586
Mary - 1435
Bubbles - 1119
Cacciatore - 985

I have seen Spot eating and fed him myself. The collar he has on is lighter than the other one, which would mean he hadn't put on any weight this week.

If he loses weight again for another week I will loosen his collar, but then his crow will be louder, which means the council will come for him. Sigh, it might just be better if we had to eat him. I know many would say why don't I give him to someone who will take roosters - but I think that I had already considered the possibility he could be eaten and so I should show my determination and do what I had thought may need to be done.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chillies - Amazingly resilient YET difficult to grow

My history with growing chillies has been a lazy gardener one. My mother gave me a plant when I first moved into my own house and it seemed to survive not being watered, looking like the dead then reviving in spring with minimal care. In fact, after too much minimal care the poor plant did move on to plant heaven.

My next lot of chillies drowned when I left them at my sister's house to be looked after when I was on holiday. They could not be resuscitated - I suspect the roots rotted or grew fungus.

Then I had a gift of two chillies from hubby's secretary. They were in pretty ornamental pots with no drainage and they too suffered from drowning. However, I took them out and dried them off, and they looked very miserable and sad and I thought they were lost. However, in the spring a few leaves began to show and they came back to life, only to be brought to the brink of death once again when I transplanted them to the side of the fence hoping they would never suffer from being drowned again, but the gardener thought they were weeds and beheaded them with the whipper snipper just 10cm above their base. Amazingly, they grew back with a vengeance and were tall and flowering!

However, they had a near brush with death again.

Hubby was setting up some irrigation and doing some digging and one of the chilli plants "fell over". I'm not sure HOW that happened, but here I was with an uprooted 40cm tall plant who had been lying in the hot sun all afternoon. It looked very sad. I quickly planted it in a separate spot and heavily watered it and fortunately it seems to have taken. There was a notable paucity of lengthy roots which tends to make me think the plant was yanked out rather than "fell over". Anyway, it's still going.

In between all these traumatic chilli events, I had been given some Trinidad Scorpion seeds and Scotch Bonnet seeds by my sister who was hoping we could grow them. I was unable to germinate them, and I even bought another batch of chilli seeds hoping to try again, but remained unsuccessful. I think I'm not keeping the seeds hot enough - they need to be about 28 degrees Celsius to germinate.

So I decided to try and BUY a fully grown plant so I could get my chillies, and found one on Gumtree - except this was a full on BUSH, not a little 20cm plant.

It was difficult to transport and I was using a friend's car, and we had to put the plant sideways to get it into the car and of course all the soil and water tipped out into the carpeted boot, much to my friend's dismay. His poor brand new car...

I also ended up with a bunch of freebies. I got some Habaneros and some Jalapenos and they more than made up for my poor uprooted plant. So now I have 8 extra chilli plants! The seller was pleased to see that the chillies were going to a good caring home (how could he tell that by looking at me!) and wanted me to take some more of his chillies or they would be destroyed as he was moving interstate. He also told me that the chilli likes to be kept moist but not flooded. There was one fruit on the bush, and a number of flowers too. So it looks like I'll be able to harvest a few super hot chillies in the next month or so.

My sister is excited that I have a plant and is looking forward to getting some chillies. If I have too many I might have to look at making my own chilli sauce!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 12

Cacciatore is still the little escape artist - we are constantly having to catch her and put her back inside the pen. I wish she would grow a bit bigger so she couldn't get out so easily!

Bubbles has put on 66g this week, which seems small compared to the 82g she put on the previosu week. The kids have been picking her up more, I hope that it doesn't cause her too much stress.
Cacciatore has put on 70g this week (she put on 81g last week) and is looking like a very slim chicken. I don't think she'd be good for eating!

Mary is still laying on the weight and has put on 139g this week and next week will break the 1kg mark.

And here is spot having put on another 125g this week. He's pretty consistent with his weight gain. I wonder why the girls have weight gain all over the shop.
I found out they LOVE to eat oats - the whole oats that I had been trying to sprout. Since they sprout very poorly, I have been using them as a treat to feed the chooks and try to get them to be more tame again. It's also an effort to get the kids to stop picking up frightened chooks, but they are getting better. Actually, even Spot has stopped squawking so much when cornered and picked up by the kids, compared to before. I still don't think he likes it though.

My son has been helping clean the poo out of their roosting home! I was really impressed when he took the poopascoop and the bucket and took out all the poo and put it into the compost. What a good boy!

I'm thinking I might quit the weekly weighs and switch to fortnightly. I'd like to keep weighing them till they start laying though!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Recycling Infant Formula tins and reusing vegetable "castoffs"

My sister had a pyramid of formula tins at her house and I told her to fill them up with kitchen food waste and I'd put it into my compost. I ended up with a whole lot of tins, and she ended up with a lot less junk in her house.

My mother told me that her sister (my aunt) would get old tins and use them as planters. Her whole garden was filled with them, so I thought I'd give it a try.

First you have to drill drainage holes in the bottom. I didn't have a drill at the time but I used a hammer and nail to make holes. But now we have a drill and I drill the holes.

Then I put a small layer of dry leaves and some shredded newspaper at the bottom, so that I wouldn't have so much dirt falling out the holes.

I filled it up with potting mix and depending on whether I had any worm castings, I'd add that when the container was about 3/4 full. Otherwise I'd mix in some blood and bone into the potting mix when the container was 3/4 full.

I had tried a whole variety of different things in the tins, but on the internet, people tend to stick to herbs. Obviously some of my experiments are not really good for the plants. I've tried a few things!

This was my first experiment with zucchini. As you can see the zucchini did well for a bit, but then soon it began to look rather sickly. It had plenty of water, and I put it on the ground in case roots wanted to dig into the soil to get more space. Next time I'll put them into a big pot!

These are dwarf beans on the left, and on the bottom right are some Thai Basil. The top right one had one rainbow chard seed, which is actually multi-germed and produce a few seedlings from each "seed."

Here is the base of a celery that I planted in one of these formula pots and it began to grow! I"m not sure how big it will get or whether I will get any usable celery from it, but it was a fun experiment. In the background is curly leaf parsley.

I also had one crop of coriander which I have already harvested. Gotta grab them before they bolt to seed though!

I had seen other people recycling their formula tins, and painting them first so they weren't so ugly to look at.

Onions are the other thing that I had planted to see if I could grow and they did sprout, but did not do well after that. I read that they need a lot of nitrogen, so I may have to fertilize a little more frequently!

It's solidly into Autumn now so I still have time to plant and get a crop before winter. I did make a raised bed in the middle of the chook area, but I wasn't sure what I could put in it that the chickens won't scratch or eat. I found this list on

  • Garlic, Onions and Leeks
  • Potatoes
  • Squashes
  • Legumes
  • Chives, Mint, Rosemary, Tarragon and Sage
  • Rhubarb (they will occasionally eat the young leaves but don’t seem to get ill)
  • Climbing beans once established
  • Currant Bushes (established and without fruit)
  • Asparagus (once in leaf)
  • Lavender

Here's hoping! It's weighing day tomorrow, so I hope the chickens have put on some weight!

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Chicken Diaries - Week 11

Not much to report, except the kids chasing the chickens around all the time has made them a little wary of being picked up! Slow movements are not too bad, I can get Cacciatore and Mary with slow movement but the other two are like little squawking rocket chickens!

But nobody escapes me and so I wrestled the chickens for their weekly photo.

Bubbles weighing in at 795g this week (put on 82g this week compared with 113g the previous week) is looking very Araucana-ey with the little cheek tufts. I inspected her comb again and it definitely only has the one row, so I'm hoping we have a girl. She is very loud with her chicken grrawww noise compared to the others who still have a bit of baby cheep.
Cacciatore is trailing the pack by a big margin now - she weighs 744g (and has put on  81g this week compared to 91g the previous week). It wouldn't surprise me if she was a bantam except that she came from the same hatching as Spot and Bubbles, so maybe she is at the bottom of the pecking order or something.
Gorgeous little Mary eats like a champ and is now a whopping 821g (having put on 155g this week compared to 124g last week). Though, when we went to the easter show and saw the size of a full sized light Sussex they were VERY BIG CHICKENS!
Spot has cracked the 1kg mark! He's put on 125g this week (pretty much the same as his 124g the previous week). I had a hell of a time chasing him around the yard and coop, he's a slippery little sucker!
We went to the Royal Easter Show on the weekend and spent a lot of time in the Poultry Pavillion, with the kids thrilled to see chickens and eggs. A comment made by HK when he was looking at the chickens was "Why do the egg laying ones look so much healthier than the meat birds?" The Hy-Line egg layers were brown and the meat breeds were white, and the meat ones just looked young and maybe not fully feathered. They probably WERE young, since meat birds are supposed to be ready to slaughter at 35 days, whereas egg layers need 18 weeks at least before they can start laying. Those meat birds did have big legs, but the purebreeds were lovely to look at, I think. No wonder everyone keeps bantams in their backyards!

I have been thinking about what breeds of chicken I would like to get, and if the Sussex temperament are anything to go by I'd love to have a whole flock of them!  Look at the marvellous colours they come in!

Buff Sussex
Speckled Sussex
Silver Sussex
This is like Lego.. you can't have just one, you want to get more!

Even though I clipped their wings, Spot is still flying onto the roof of the coop! Well, just the egg part, and so far he hasn't run away or tried to escape (though I have been told the chickens have been jumping and squeezing out through the higher, bigger holes in the Omlet fence, but running by themselves back in again). Hopefully he won't fly away!