Thursday, 19 March 2015

Security screen ...

The "sin bin" received another modification this morning. Nick rigged this plastic mesh (from the tip shop, where else?!) along a rope to increase the height of the dividing fence.

My original thought had been to split the girls into two groups of three - with one of the better behaved black chooks in the bigger area.  They are a bit hard to tell apart though, so both were sent to the "sin bin" last night and my new thought is to keep the current ratio.

Pooh II and Nagambie spent the night together in the original chook house.  They have been fairly close to each other at different points this morning, without any issues.  Hooray!

I'm hoping they'll start to bond over the next week or so and then present a united front to any of the reformed bullies who are reintroduced!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Chook discipline!

If at first you don't succeed, try again!

Given the chest-rub didn't have the desired effect, I did more online research about flock integration, pecking order and bullying.

Something I read suggested that rather than excluding the pecked birds, the bullies should segregated for a two-week period and then re-introduced one at a time to the rest of flock. The separation period sets them back in the pecking order and hopefully results in a much happier chook community. So that's Plan B.

In the current set-up, beneath the tree is a favoured resting place for the chookies.  It seemed to me that the mean girls shouldn't have access to the prime spot in the yard - so I pruned the tree, which allowed Erin and I to barricade the area. 

We worked during the day to thoroughly clean the existing chook-house and section off part of the old aviary as temporary quarters for the "sin bin".

During the evening, Nick organised the paling fence to divide the yard into two sections.  The smaller "sin bin" and the much larger area (with access to the tree).  The aviary door provides a small gate to the bigger area - which is neat.

We'll need to do some more work tomorrow as the "sin bin" isn't fully secure.  When we checked that all the girls were in bed, they were - but not where they were supposed to be.  Five were in the normal chook- house with Nagambie outside. 

Erin and Vaughan helped me rearrange the girls.  Mrs Floosit, Judge Judge, Shadow and Obsidian were all relocated to the aviary.  Nagambie and Pooh II have a nesting box each in the chook-house.   We'll check on them on in the morning.  I'm hoping Nagambie and Pooh II will become friends, united by adversity and take on the larger area as theirs.  After a significant break the mean girls will be reintroduced, one by one, into the larger area - but will have lost their status, so hopefully will behave much better. 

I was at the library this afternoon and borrowed several chook books.  There are other tips for introducing birds and I'll be using those also.

Chest rub for luck?!

It's almost a week since Nagambie joined our other girls. They still have not warmed to her and it's fair to say she probably doesn't feel very lucky to be here.

We've been keeping her separate or protected during the day and then locking her with the other chooks of a night.

I started researching other solutions last night - and had already decided to buy some generic-brand chest rub today.  When the girls were let out, Pooh II had obviously been pecked overnight. I think she's probably moulting but had "help" to lose so many neck feathers.

It seemed our chook bullies were getting worse, so Erin and I headed into town after dropping Vaughan to school.  We did some quick shopping and returned home, keen to apply the chest-rub and await miraculous results.

My reading suggested the pecking chooks would be put-off by the smell and stop pecking the chest-rubbed birds.  Yes, well - aside from Nagambie and Pooh II looking a bit rockabilly there was no real marked difference to the behaviour of the other chooks toward them.  Sadly.  

Monday, 16 March 2015

We need more no-knead bread!

Hamby Home(in)stead was without bread on Saturday.  We went into town that morning but I wasn't keen to pick up any groceries, so we opted to make-do with what was in the panty. 

My original thought was to make a cheat-version of focaccia for Sunday breakfast.  However, I often stay up late and at midnight remembered the wonderful no-knead bread method

Of course, it was a very late start but on reading through the notes, I saw the blogger had success with a shorter initial rise - so I dumped all the ingredients into a bowl (increasing the yeast to 1 teaspoon due to the shorter rise and cool night).  I tucked a small polar fleece blanket around the bowl and went to bed.

On Sunday morning, I set the dough into a saucepan at 8:00am. (The saucepan is smaller/taller than the bowl I'd usually use).

At 9:30am I started preheating the oven (and my Aldi cast iron pot) to 230 degrees.  The dough was lifted into the pot at 9:55am and baked for 30 mins with the lid on - then for about 15 minutes uncovered.

It was brilliant! We had slices with our bacon and egg brunch and then more slices with jam afterwards.

The recipe made a small cob loaf, which didn't last long.  Vaughan was quite adamant - "we need more no-knead bread"! I agreed and set a double quantity of ingredients into a bowl, just before we went out at 1:30pm.

The second batch of dough used 4 cups of white flour and 2 of wholemeal spelt flour that was lurking in the pantry. I used two teaspoons of yeast and a splash more water.

At around 10:00pm, I moved the dough into a tall pot to rise overnight.  This is my adaptation of the method because I particularly wanted the bread to be ready for Vaughan's lunchbox, before he left for school - and had no intention of getting up at 5:00am to achieve that aim!!

I was up at 6:30am this morning to preheat my Aldi pot and oven to 230 degrees.  By 7:00am the bread was ready to go into the oven - and fortunately the dough just fit into the pot!  I took the lid off at 7:30am and baked for a further 20 minutes, given the height of the loaf.  It looked so beautiful when it came out of the oven and has been given a score of 10.5 out of 10 by our youngest bread critic!

It occurs to me that I could possibly put my Aldi pot into the oven before going to bed and use the oven's timer to auto-start the pre-heating - then I could just get up at my usual 7:00am to bake the dough!  Hah!  Some serious googling for the oven instructions might be necessary!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Playing "chicken"?!

Jo died quietly at home in recent times, the third of our original four chooks to pass away.  She hadn't been at her best for quite a while but even so, it was sad to see her go.  (Since her death, we haven't had any soft-shelled eggs).

My nicely co-ordinated chook flock was a bit lopsided after her loss.  Two blacks, two whites and only one brown!

Our landlady called around this afternoon - and handed a brown chook over to Nick.  She'd rescued it from the highway near Nagambie where it was playing "chicken" with the trucks!  Fortunately for this chook (and us), she was rescued before too much harm had occurred.  We quickly introduced her to the rest of the girls in the Fox-proof Fowl Fort. 

Feathers haven't flown but neither was there much of a welcome for our new recruit.  She is smaller than the others and possibly younger but hopefully they'll fully accept her soon - or she won't be feeling all that lucky! 

I've checked with Vaughan and we agree she'll be called Nagambie - so joining Judge Judy, Shadow, Obsidian, Pooh II and Mrs Floosit.