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Taj Mahal

March 2008 - The Chicken House

The chicken run was made from the posts and trellis from the original dog fence. The inside of the coop, including the door, were made from recycled bits of wood. The nest boxes are simple plastic baskets from a garden centre filled with straw. Karen painted most of the trellis and was sick of the sight of it by the time she'd finished! Emma and Luke also helped out cutting and drilling and making the fittings.

We got a call from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust at 4:30pm on Sunday 20th April asking us to come and pick up some spare hens that they were left with after rehoming over 400 that day. We drove over to Essex and picked up our ladies and Karen, who cried seeing then in such a state, picked out Korma from the crowd. The rest were all randomly given to us.

We didn't have any food or bedding for them so we had to beg some from the neighbours to get us by..

April 2008

Here are our ladies straight from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. After only a few days they started to show their personalities as they settled into their new life. They quickly learned how to scratch the ground, they got a taste for the outside and worked out what a perch was for.

Miss Chicken Korma Miss Chicken Korma, (aka. the Road Runner) is the by far the most inquisitive of the bunch and proving to be a real budding escape artist! She is always the first out and about.

Miss Chicken Rezela (front aka. Stupid) is probably the most stupid. She won't stop eating the sand, climbing into occupied nest boxes and sliding down the ramp. Miss Chicken Tikka (back) has yet to show us her personality, apart from being a real coward.

Miss Chicken Balti (front aka. Bully) is happy to peck anything that gets within range. We think she is trying to make sure she is the boss.

Three weeks on and they are really starting to feel at home and show us their true personalities. Tikka has completely reversed her cowardice and become the Boss, is happy to be touched and happily wanders around our feet. She has become a real bully (deposing Balti) and is by far the most feathered and rounded.

Korma is still as scraggy as ever, however she is covered in new quills that are starting to open into feathers. She is a bit of a recluse and prefers her own company but she is happy for us to be close by and is the easiest to handle when required.

Rezela and Balti are inseparable, they wander around together and even squash into the same nest box each night. However, they are still completely neurotic and don't like us to even attempt to get near them. Rezela really is stupid and very skittish.

Only Korma is happy to eat the layers pellets from the feeder, the rest still want them softened and mashed. Korma is the only one who hasn't learned to scratch yet, surprisingly.

We let them out into the garden today and Sascha was very good and didn't bother them at all. Guess who managed to escape into the bushes....Korma, aka Houdini!
Miss Chicken Tikka

Miss Chicken Rezela
Miss Chicken Balti

June 2008

After a few months they are truly recovered and providing us with more eggs that we could possibly eat. You'll see below the difference in Korma. It's great to see them charging up the field, wings flapping, when you call to them. They've stopped their squabbling and sorted out their "pecking order" and they're all easy to handle, but Balti is still a little unsure.

May 2009

Unfortunately Balti was caught and taken by a local fox who had already taken 9 of next door's chickens and 2 of their ducks in the past few months. Ironic that it was Balti who was taken as she had stopped laying almost a year earlier and had become the plumpest of the ladies. She was the last chicken to become tame and we had recently been spending a lot of time getting her used to being handled and stroked. The other ladies had obviously been spooked by the whole thing because for the next few days they wouldn't go far from the house and stayed around us when we were in the garden. Poor Balti had obviously put up a fight because there were feathers everywhere. Not a very nice end for her but that is nature and she still got 13 months of life outside of the battery cage.

Around this time Balti died Rezela started laying eggs without any shell which was very messy! After about 4 weeks of this she stopped laying altogether and now only Tikka and Korma are giving us our Sunday breakfast. Korma, our favourite who was picked out by Karen, is still the underdog and is at the bottom of the pecking order being attacked by the others when we put food out for them.

March 2010

After a long illness Rezela was taken to the vets to be put to sleep. We had tried to get her through the illness, keeping her in the house and administering water and anti-biotics regulary but unfortunately we had left it too late and she was too weak to recover. The vet seemed to think that she had salmonella but we were not so sure. They said they would send off a sample of her droppings for analysis. She did get a mention on the Paul O'Grady radio 2 show much to the amusement of Ann in Manchester.

April 2010
Tikka came down with the same illness as Rezela. She stopped eating and became very thin. This time we acted quickly and went to the vet. When we asked about the results of the tests for Rezela they said they never sent them off and their advice was to wait and see if Tikka dies then do an ortopsy! I was not impressed! They gave us some more anti-biotics but I still was not convinced it was the right thing as her symptoms suggested she had Coccidiosis. As we left they also gave us something for that which we administered regularly. I am convinced that is why she is now back to her old self.

July 2010

We have a new recruit who has joined us, Bella, who was injured when she was initially rescued. She wasn't able to walk and was cared for by Anne and her daughter for 4 weeks before I went up to collected her. They've obviously spent a lot of time with her because Bella is very confident and has no problems being handled.

It is facinating to watch the balance of power change in the run. When Bella first arrived the other two were not sure at all, they left the run and spent hours making loads of noise. Bella started off by attacking our ladies who were basically evicted from the hen house and they stayed out side keeping their distance. Whenever Bella attacked Korma, Tikka would pile in and all three of them were jumping all over the place. Eventually Tikka seemed to take everything in her stride, not paying much notice of Bella, while Bella avoided her. Then Korma decided she wasn't going to be bottom chicken and attacked Bella, swiftly followed by Tikka joining in the bundle. Bella now seems to be accepting her newbie status and is avoiding the other two. She actually hides behind me if I go into the run to watch the proceedings. We will see how long it takes for peace to resume. Things got so bad that we were forced to section off the run so that the chickens could get used to each other from a distance.

Unfortunately, one morning when I let the chickens out one morning I found that Tikka had died in the night. We don't know if it was age or illness but now we are left with Korma and Bella who I am glad to say are getting on better after a couple of weeks.

August 2010

We picked up three more ex-battery hens to join Korma and Bella. On the afternoon of Mark’s birthday we set off for Foal Farm, the Kent branch of the British Hen Welfare Trust, to collect a new batch of ex-batts. What should have been a 40 minute journey turned out to take a lot longer as Foal Farm, near Biggin Hill, is not at all easy to find! The set up was completely different to the Essex branch and the collections were scheduled in specific time-slots throughout the day. We were due to collect our Ladies between 3.00 and 4.00pm and were getting more than a little nervous that we were going to miss our slot and find that they had run out of chickens! However, we needn’t have worried as there were still lots left when we arrived on the dot of 4 o’clock.

We’d expected to choose our own, but Anne (Bella’s foster-Mum) picked three out for us. Although we were pleasantly surprised at their condition – our first batch had been in such a sorry state and really deserved the unfortunate nick-name “oven-readies” – we would have liked to pick out some of the sorriest-looking ones. These three have considerably more feathers, especially the largest, Maddie (Miss Chicken Madras). The other two are a little smaller and both have crossed-over beaks - the top part had been clipped into a V shape to stop them pecking out feathers. Lulu (Miss Chicken Vindaloo) and Ruby (Miss Ruby Murray) have fewer feathers – Ruby has very pretty light ginger feathers and a very scrawny bare neck and breast – Lulu has much darker feathers and a very bare bottom!

Miss Chicken Ruby Murray (Ruby)
Miss Chicken Vindaloo (Lulu)
Miss Chicken Madras (Maddie)

Having had the recent harrowing experience of introducing poor little Bella, we were under no illusions that the introduction of these three newcomers was going to be easy. Sure enough, Korma and Bella had plenty to say when they stood outside the gate of the run and saw the impostors for the first time! Maddie was the quickest to acclimatise to her new surroundings, being the biggest and most confident. Poor Lulu (Loopy-Lu) seemed to be a few feathers short of a chicken and just stood around pecking her own legs! Ruby, by far the gentlest and most timid, just wandered around looking confused and hiding under the ramp.

The next day was the Day of Reckoning when it came to establishing the new pecking order. As we suspected, Korma was quickly deposed by Maddie after a full-blown stand-off and fight. Korma fought valiantly, but was no match for the much bigger Maddie. Maddie, now Top Chicken, allowed Korma to run away and nurse her bloodied comb at the other end of the run. Brave little Bella put in a very quick and rather pathetic bid to rule the roost, but quickly gave up and went off to commiserate with Korma. A few days on, things are still changing, with Lulu aiming to be Number Two Chicken and picking on Korma and Bella whenever she can. Poor Ruby is definitely bottom of the pile as even little Bella has taken to pecking her when no-one is looking.

As far as egg-laying is concerned, the newcomers haven’t yet learned to use the nest boxes and you have to look where you are walking in case you step on an egg which has been dropped (and cracked) at random. Poor Ruby hasn’t laid properly at all yet – just shell-less eggs, leaving the paper thin membrane sticking to her bottom! (Saw Maddie enjoying one of these as a nice little snack – yuck!) Hopefully she will settle down and things will improve. One small consolation for Korma and Bella is that they are allowed out to play while the others will be confined to the run for a good month until they know where home is. Letting them out will be the next adventure …