best layer of the month # January

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It’s 31st January already . . . time to tot up the egg count and see who wins the award for “best layer of the month”!

As you can see from the above photo, hens are all in fine fettle.  Miranda has finished her moult and grown all her lovely red feathers back.  Combs are all bright red . . . and hens are currently enjoying having 100m2 to roam around in.  Since the new gals joined the flock, they’ve all been playing at Houdini, escaping from the net enclosure on a daily basis.  So we decided rather than trying to fence them IN it was easier simply to fence them OUT of the areas we don’t want them scratching (ie strawberry, raspberry & potato patch).

Anyway, egg count this month is as follows.  Miranda – 5;  Miss Moneypenny – 6; Mauricette – 26 and . . . Miss Plumpton – 28.

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By my calculations, that makes Miss Plumpton the winner, and a total of 65 eggs for January. 

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winter vitamins

We are very lucky to have a well-established kiwi vine in our back garden . . . so even during the cold winter months, we can fill up on vitamin C just by reaching up and  harvesting a handful of fruit.

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In previous years we did the harvest all in the one go, and ended up with way too much fruit to store.  This year we’ve just been harvesting as we need, and neighbours have all had permission to come kiwi picking too.  No way can we eat all that yummy fruit, so it makes sense to share.

Blue skies and sunshine today,

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which has made a lovely change from the recent rain.  You probably heard that certain areas of Paris are under water . . . well in our part of France, flooding has been quite serious too.   One area of our village was flooded earlier in the week, with the river Ain flooding out of its banks.  Several families had to be evacuated.

And our little stream, which looked like this in June

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Looks like this today

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If Gibbs had been in the second photo, his entire body would be immersed and hubby would have water in his wellies lol.

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Luckily, there’s no risk of our little stream flooding out of its banks, but the current is very impressive, as it flows to join the river Ain.

best layer of the month #December and best layer of 2017

woo hoo!

The new gals have started laying!

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This photo was taken when they first arrived, in October, but since, their combs have developped and turned a nice healthy red.  And the laying began!

Which means, we had 26 fresh eggs this month – mostly small ones, but they were still very nourishing.  Miss Moneypenny only laid 1 egg this month . . . Miranda laid 7 rather large eggs, but with very strange shells

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After googling, we think these are called “body marked” and the strange shell surface is probably due to lack of daylight, but they were whoppers and very yummy.  Miss Plumpton, our Sussex laid 8 eggs and Mauricette

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our French Blue is this month’s winner with 10 eggs – yay!

And just because I love statistics . . . I’m now going to do a tot up for the entire year of 2017 to see who the “best layer of 2017” award goes to!  Are you ready?  Okay in 2017 there were 530 eggs laid in total.  The two new gals come in last place, since they only just started laying this month

Miss Plumpton in last place with 8.

Mauricette second to last with 10.

Miranda came in third place with 149.

Our lately departed Miss Marple came in second place with 161.

And the 2017 award winner is . . .

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Miss Moneypenny with 202 eggs!  Way to go Miss Moneypenny lol.  I suspect that the coming year will see a change in the regular monthly award winner.  Miranda and Miss Moneypenny have been with us since Spring 2015 and are probably passed their best laying days.  Which is why Miss Plumpton and Mauricette came to join the flock – let the old ladies rest, and let the young ones do the laying.

what a clever boy!

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A rather blurry Gibbs in above photo, but a very happy Gibbs.   We’ve been taking him to the park/obstacle course every day since July.  And I am pleased to say, he can now do all the obstacles on the course!  Hurdles and tunnels are easy peasey . . . what took more work, and concentration is

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the see-saw.  Learning to wait until weight redistributes so it swings down before jumping off is the difficult part.

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Then there’s this “bridge” which needs to be taken quite slowly since the plank is only 10” wide.

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And for a young energetic dog who always wants to run, Gibbs has to learn to walk more sedately across this one. 

Gibbs is now 14 months old and a very healthy 38 kilos of glossy coat and muscle. 

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Unfortunately, he’s also got a bald patch on his pretty face again – 2 vet visits later and a swab done, he’s on anti-biotics and anti-inflammatories because the area is now infected.  We hope it’s just a minor infection that will sort itself out, but vet wonders if there isn’t a “foreign body”, like a thorn, stuck inside.  If things don’t right themselves with medication she is going to have to sedate, and go exploring. 

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best layer of the month # October

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All I can say is “Hourray for Miss Moneypenny!”  If it hadn’t been for her, we’d have been very short of eggs this month.  Total egg-count is at an all-time low with only 33 eggs from the coop in October.  Miss Marple laid 7 of those (before she died earlier in the month); Miranda, who is currently moulting, laid 8 . . . and Miss Moneypenny  laid 18.  Here she is again

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The star of the coop!

The two new gals have been settling in . . . and I haven’t noticed too much bullying recently.

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Mauricette and Miss Plumpton tend to stick together, but they are out and about scratching and getting lots of fresh air.

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A close up of Miss Plumpton, our young Sussex.  And a close up of Mauricette

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who is a French Blue and has a gorgeous black head & collar but smokey grey body. 

Oh and we’ve moved the guinea fowl to a slightly different set-up.

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They’re now inside the larger plastic green-house in the veggie patch.  Not sure if this is going to be viable solution as the nights get longer and colder.  It keeps them dry and safe from draughts during the day, but it gets pretty cold in there at night.  Guinea fowl being guinea fowl, they refuse to use the straw-lined sleeping quarters I have provided, but choose to perch on top of the mini-green house with only their plumage to keep them warm.

and then there were two . . .

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Miss Marple (above) is now pecking & scratching in chook heaven.  I’d noticed she was under the weather a few days ago, and I probably didn’t react in time.  By the time I did  react, she was suffering from an enlarged crop (so google brought up various issues like “impacted crop” and “sour crop” for that).  Husband contacted a few vets in the area.  None of whom seemed to know much about hens so it basically became a DIY lesson in hen health (or ill-health), sifting through various articles/videos on the internet to find out what to do.

We isolated her from the other gals and adminstered a small amount of olive oil in the first instance, hoping this would help the blockage.  This was then followed, by some gentle crop massaging to help her vomit and empty her crop.  I thought I had got the hang of things, and was managing to help her bring up lots of foul-smelling gunk . . . but sadly, it was a case of too little, too late.

Miss Marple will be remembered as a very prolific layer, a very good-looking black & tan hen with a bit of an attitude. 

So for now, there’s just Miranda and Miss Moneypenny in the coop  . . . but hopefully, it won’t be long before a couple of new chooks come to join them.  I need to phone our local breeder to find out if there’s still time to reserve a couple of birds for this month, or whether I’ll have to wait until March next year.

In the meantime . . . guinea fowl are growing and seem to have settled in well.

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Here they are, aged 9 weeks, sunning themselves in the back garden. 

We’ve been having an Indian summer this past week with temperatures around 23°C and gorgeous blue skies.  An opportunity to take a few colourful photos

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of what’s flowering outside . . . and one, just for laughs, of what Ducky is up to indoors.

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I know it doesn’t look like it, but he’s actually fast asleep, with his eyes wide open lol. 

best layer of the month #September

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Autumn is on its way, therefore hens have been moved back into their enclosure in the veggie patch.  Here they are, enjoying all the fresh grass and vegetation that grew while they were in the orchard.

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The coop-move didn’t put them off their laying at all . . . and total egg count for September was 65 eggs!  18 from Miranda, 20 from Miss Marple and 27 from Miss Moneypenny.  She’s the Marans Cuckoo hybrid to the left of the following photo.

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I’ve got more mouths to feed here, with the arrival of

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Young guinea fowl, 6 weeks old in this photo, who, like last year, will be fattened up in time for the festive season. 

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We’ve had to be inventive after a lot of fun & games the other day.  Young guinea fowl are so small that they can escape through the net fencing enclosure as we soon discovered.  I reassure you, all ended well, but not before Gibbs got to try out his retrieving tactics and a few feathers were lost.

Anyway, the temporary set-up is: young guinea fowl inside a small plastic greenhouse.  It’s far from perfect, but it allows them to stretch their legs and eat grass, keeps them dry and safe from draughts (& Gibbs), and prevents any future Houdini episodes.  As soon as they grow big/fat enough, they will be allowed more freedom.