The Broody Sisters

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“When are you expecting your babies?”

“Soon, I hope, Jemima. I’m expecting five, you?”

“Six, I believe. Not long to go now, Flo.”

At this point, Dottie shakes her head in impatience. It is the silly season again and there are no eggs, no chicks, no pregnancies, no potential fathers in the vicinity and yet three of her friends have, once again, gone ‘broody’, sitting around all day in the nesting area, clucking about nothing except their invisible pregnancies. 

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If you read my blog last year, you would have encountered a post called Brooding Buddies. I was hoping that situation would be a one-off but no, once again, we have a similar scenario.

For one day and one night earlier this year, Dottie was showing signs of broodiness.

Then she snapped out of it.

But Florence, after a hard-working spring, laying eggs every day, decided that she would like to become a mother.

So she sat down all day, every day – or she would do if her cruel leader of the pecking order – i.e me – didn’t keep taking her out and putting her next to water and food.

That’s the thing with broody chickens, all sense flies (pardon the pun!) out the window and they don’t eat or drink unless they’re taken out of their broody spot.

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I separated Florence, put her in a hutch for a few hours, gave her a bath – none of these worked. Closing the pophole meant she would look for somewhere else to brood – like a plant pot.

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And Florence hogged the nesting area unless I closed the pophole. Yes, there are other places to lay eggs but hens being hens, they like things just-so and just-right. That particular nesting area was for all of them and Florence’s behaviour was beginning to irk them.

Jemima started giving her little ‘I am the boss and you should behave yourself’ pecks.

Mabel started giving her dirty looks – which escalated to pecks when she came near her.

And then Jemima started ignoring Flo, and seemed to be more easy-going but actually it was only a precursor to having maternal feelings herself.

And you guessed it, the next morning she was huddled next to Florence in the nesting area.

Jemima had it bad last year so I was not surprised by this change from ‘head hen’ to ‘mother hen’.

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So instead of Florence being given a ‘behave yourself’ or ‘snap out of it’ peck by Jemima, the two of them would now comfortably nestled together under the tree (after being ousted from their broody area).

So now there were three sensible girls – Dottie, Ava and Mabel.

Mabel was still angry at Florence but, oddly, ignored Jemima, who she still respected.

And then one day, I went to the coop to let/take the bantams out and Mabel, up on the top as always, fluffed her feathers up and made an angry sound at me. She even moved her head around to see where my hand was, was Mabel going to peck me?

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Not you as well,  Mabel?

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I have resigned myself to a summer of lifting the three broodies out and keeping an eye on them to make sure they are eating and drinking. Little Ava and Dottie are, so far, behaving themselves … so far!

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/brooding-buddies/

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An interview with Florence

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Florence was very privileged to be interviewed a couple of months ago by Doodlepip of A Guy Called Bloke’s blog. She gained permission from Head Hen Jemima to be spokeshen for the other Bantam Girls. 

To see her interview, visit:

Petz Interviews – The Cosy Cottage Chicken Clan 76

(And if you know of any furry/feathered etc pals who would like to be interviewed, visit the above website) 🙂 🐔

A robin’s nest

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Earlier this year, a couple of robins – who usually wouldn’t go anywhere near each other – decided to set up home together and raise a family in a bird box in my garden.

It was a rather attractive abode, hand-made by Simon and painted a duck blue by myself. Last year, great tits lived in a different nest box in Cosy Garden but this was the first time The Blue Cottage would come into use.

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I noticed one, if not two, of the robins every day it seemed. They were very busy, flying, eating from the feeder, perching on a garden table, surveying their territory.

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And then one day, silence.

I didn’t notice right away. I assumed they must have been doing their business when I was out at work or somewhere else. Also I expected the mother to be sitting on the eggs so I didn’t expect to see her.

But still…

I continued to avoid the top part of the garden so I wouldn’t distract the pair.

The days went into a week and then another week passed by. Perhaps the eggs had hatched and the chicks had flown when I wasn’t around?

Eventually, I gave a little peek. Something I avoid doing as new and expectant mums hate being disturbed.

But there was no one there except five tiny eggs.

So what happened? To this day, the robins have not returned. Possible explanations I have heard were the adults were ‘killed by a cat or car’ or ‘the eggs were never going to hatch, they weren’t fertilised in the first place. So they left’.

I hope the robins weren’t killed, hopefully this time it just didn’t work and they will be back with more eggs and a successful outcome.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

The mystery of the pixie egg

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A few months ago, I came across a tiny egg. Now bantam eggs are small compared to the average hen’s egg (maybe about half the size) but this was a tinier than tiny egg. Was it laid by a quail? Or a leprechaun’s hen? Pictured above is the pixie egg next to a bantam egg. The bantam egg is half the size of a full-size egg so can you imagine how petite this one was? 

I had never seen the like.

Just to make sure no fairy chickens had infiltrated my hens’ coop  I looked for a rational explanation in my library.

And in Frances Bassom’s Chicken Breeds and Care, Frances reasoned why this may have happened.

She said, ‘When a hen is just starting out on her laying career, she occasionally lays very tiny ‘wind eggs’. They can frequently be as small as a marble and usually have no yolk’.

Why this happens is because of ‘a small leak of albumen into the oviduct’. A shell covers this albumen, thanks to the response of the ‘egg-producing mechanism’.

Once the chicken starts laying regularly, wind eggs are infrequent, concludes Frances.

So who was the culprit of this wind egg?

I reckon Ava, as, along with Mabel, she is the youngest of the girls and had previously only laid a few eggs before this cute but remarkable one appeared.

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And no, I never ate it.

 

A little pear tree

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As I have earlier mentioned, plants and hens sometimes – often – don’t go together. Either the plants don’t like the chickens and end up poisoning them (Thankfully I think my bantams are too canny to eat poison, touch wood) or the hens like the plants – too much, unfortunately, as it can often be a case of a nibble here, a nibble there, and suddenly the greenery has vanished into thin air.

One solution is to get a fruit tree. The tree leaves should be too high for hungry hens to forage and a tree bearing fruit is always a useful plant for a garden.

So here’s a big welcome to Cosy Cottage’s conference pear tree.

No, Mabel, it’s not for you to eat.

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  • Facts of the Day 
  • 1. The conference is ‘reliable and self-fertile… It has long, pale green fruit.’
  • 2. Other varieties of pear are Jargonelle, Beurre Hardy and Marguerite Marillat.
  • 3. The pear’s ‘natural home is in the countries around the Mediterranean – it needs more warmth and sunshine than an apple tree’ if it is to fruit well.
  • Information courtesy of Growing Food by Anna Pavord

Now you see it… The case of the disappearing parsley

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Parsley is a delightful savoury  treat – for humans, guinea pigs and even for chickens. The girls had been proudly presenting me and my family with freshly laid eggs so it was my turn to treat them.  I bought three reasonably priced parsley plants in a supermarket and planted them in the side garden, otherwise known as Hen Garden.

The ladies headed straight for the herbs. In the space of less than two hours, the parsley was no longer to be seen. It had been eaten, trampled on, demolished and vandalised.

(I call them ladies but that sort of behaviour is not very ladylike really. Is it Dottie?).

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And it did make me think, my back garden is pretty much green with many plants (unfortunately many weeds and unidentifiable ones too) – Hen Corner in contrast is brown and barren except for a few lonely specimens such as an apple tree.

It wasn’t always such a forlorn desert.

Where has all the greenery gone?

Then I spotted Mabel gobbling up yet another leaf from one of the lucky plants still standing.

So that’s where they have disappeared to.

In Mabel’s belly.

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Mabel, pictured with Ava, looking for tasty greens to sample

Meet the neighbours at Cosy Cottage Garden Cafe

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Long-tailed tit. Photo by Michel Berube on Pexels.com

I often have neighbours popping into Cosy Cottage Garden Cafe. It is a self-service restaurant where customers can just help themselves to the regularly replenished supplies.

Fat balls are supplied, a delicacy favoured by the tits. The long-tailed tits come as a large close-knit family, the blue tits and great tits venture in by themselves or in pairs.

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Blue tit. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Robin is a regular, a nosy fellow, he likes to keep an eye on any gardening being done. Unfortunately, he is a jealous loner too, and doesn’t like to see others in his café.

There’s plenty of room for you all, I say, keeping the peace as cafe proprietor.

But he ignores me and shouts abuse at a larger blue tit.

Luckily, when the argumentative Robin flies on to another cafe, my customers come back. But despite his bad behaviour to other clients, he is a favourite regular and is always welcome here.

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Robin. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Blackbird prefers the ground seating to upstairs. As well as scatterings from the bird table, he may be lucky enough to catch a juicy worm for dessert. He too comes by himself, but is happy enough to share the edibles with the other birds.

Pigeon too, is a regular customer, sometimes he brings his mate and they munch on tasty leftovers, dropped by messy eaters from above.

Fat balls aren’t the only item on offer. There are coconut feeders and an array of healthier seed is also available, although the fat balls are the most popular. A drinking area with water is also set aside for my clients.

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As well as regulars, there are the more flamboyant visitors. A bullfinch and his mate have hovered in the nearby trees, a nuthatch paid a visit on a couple of occasions, sampling the goods, and a Jay has also been a colourful client, staying a short while. Sparrows, starlings, a coal tit and a shy little dunnock, who prefers not to be noticed, have all sampled the delights of Cosy Cottage café.

It is a pleasure to serve such a diversity of characters. Do you have a ‘cafe’ in your garden?

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Bullfinch. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Facts of the Day

1. The tail of the long-tailed tit is more than half the bird’s total length.

2. The great tit is the largest member of the tit family in Britain. More than 50 distinct calls and songs have been identified.

3. Coal tits are the smallest tit in Britain. Its favourite habitat is coniferous woodland.

Information from Reader’s Digest The
Best of Wild Britain.  

Our World: Being green in 2019

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How easy is it to be green? I think it’s about being organised and consuming less and being more aware of what we buy.

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I’m not a militant green who has forgone all unethical goods. I’m just me, who can only do a little at a time. Maybe it’s not enough. It probably isn’t. And maybe I’ll get judged for still doing this or that or the other.

But surely it’s better to do something, no matter how small?

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Every year I come up with new year resolutions, usually broken by the middle of the year. But what if this year, 2019, was different? What if that was the year in which I kept my environmental resolution?

So here goes, five green resolutions.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Check for palm oil in ingredients. Making palm oil as commonplace as it is these days has unfortunately come at a high cost to the rainforests – and to animals such as orangutans who live there.

For more information: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/surprising-everyday-palm-oil-products-13588303

2. Cut down on plastic. This may mean buying fewer bottles of water and Irn-Bru. One thing I did this year was drink water from a cup at work, rather than getting plastic cups from the water machine. There is so much plastic in our seas that the less we use the better for the planet.

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3. Drive less. Get the bus, train or walk. Might do my waistline some good too!

4. Renew my membership of The Woodland Trust. They create and maintain woodland habitats for wildlife, vitally important at a time when we humans are destroying their places to live at an increasingly rapid place.

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Start writing to MPs about green issues such as loss of wildlife habitat.

Are you doing anything green for 2019? 🙂

Too many babies *

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

* Aloe Vera ‘babies’ that is.

I remember a nursery rhyme from my childhood, the first couple of lines read:

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. 

And so it is at Cosy Cottage, okay, this is a little house and not a shoe (Thank goodness as I don’t think even the guinea pigs could fit in one).

And, yes, okay, these are not human youngsters.

They are plant ‘babies’. Aloe veras to be precise.

Aloe veras reproduce like rabbits.

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Aloe veras

My first aloe vera, given me by Simon, ironically died. Even more ironically as he claimed I couldn’t kill this plant as they didn’t need much watering.

But he persevered, giving me another. I now realise this wasn’t of the goodness of his heart but because he had a surplus of the fleshy succulents which needed rehoming.

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Aloe veras

And this aloe vera thrived, maybe a little too much as she decided to have a ‘baby’, and then another, and another.

There appears to be no ‘father’ but there are plenty of young aloe veras, and now I have lost count of how many there now are and they all need new homes.

New pots at any rate.

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

Facts of the Day

1. Aloe Vera is a succulent and an evergreen perennial. Its leaves are fleshy and thick.

2. It is found in products such as skin lotion, tissues, traditional medicine (as a skin treatment), drinks, ointments and cosmetics. It is used as a moisturiser.

3. There are records of the use of aloe vera from the 16th century BC (Ebers Papyrus).