This healthy exercise uncovered a lot of chafer grubs (the larvae of chafer beetle species) and earthworms. We are learning more and more about chickens in general and the behaviour of ours in particular. We have discovered that they love pumpkin seeds, cooked potato, chickweed, bitter cress ... and chafer grubs and earthworms.
Tim makes a mash for the chickens every few days, composed of Grower pellets, vegetable peelings, and the cheapest possible pasta. When Tim handed out the mash on Sunday, he decided to leave the hen run door open. Tentatively the trio took their first steps outside.
From left to right, meet Vinnie, Blanche and Alice. Vinnie is developing rather fine wattles and comb, and holds his tail high in the classic cockerel posture. He has a fine ruff around his neck which he fluffs out at any possible opportunity.
|Vinnie with the vegetation from the Maggot bed in the background. His ruff is visible in this picture.|
The trio stretched their wings and had a good flap. As Orpington crosses they are heavy birds and need a good run-up to fly. Alice is very like her brother. They are built a lot like a true Buff Orpington, which should be a burly, solidly-built bird, but show birds of that breed are a uniform golden brown, with no white on them. Back-yard Orpingtons are built much more along Highland Games Champion lines, without the long trailing feathers. Breeding for showing has reduced the egg-laying capacity of the breed, but crosses like our three should be producing by next spring.
|Alice. All three birds have white primary feathers (the long feathers of the wing)|
Orpingtons have a thick layer of fluffy body feathers which give them the appearance of wearing baggy trousers. It also helps to insulate them against the cold. We have erected a rather gaudy windbreak that we used when we went camping, to provide a little cover from the wind.
|No wattles, no prominent comb, a hen bird in harem pants|
Finally Blanche, the adventurous one, always out of the run first. When our big tom cat came to investigate the newcomers, Blanche went on the attack, to Baron's surprise. She then made the mistake of turning her back on him before he had completely slunk away. But he withdrew, crestfallen.
|Blanche having a good scratch in the compost in search of titbits|
|Hello! There's something interesting over there....|
|You put your right leg in ... no, Alice, the other right...|
One thing they will have to be deterred from doing is picking the buds off the raspberry canes. I'm sure they'd rather have a few raspberries, given the choice, but to a chicken brain, a raspberry bud in the beak now is worth two on the bush.