Fighting Cats

I’m going to get in trouble for this one but hey, I like to live dangerously!  I want to talk about the cats and as you know they’re technically my daughter’s pets and so I have to be careful what I say or she’ll come after me.

Jingles has been sneaking around and meowing loudly, as he always does.  Actually, how can he sneak and meow loudly?  Maybe you’ll understand more at the end of this blog.

Our cats (or probably all cats) are strange creatures.  So independent and yet so needy at times.   Jingles is the noisy one – he ‘talks’ constantly.  He meows when he comes in – to announce his arrival of course!  He meows when he wants food.  He meows when he sneaks into the rest of the house and realises he’s alone.  He meows when the kitchen door is open slightly and he can see a world of opportunity beyond.  So frankly, he meows most of the time.  I can’t remember if I’ve told you before but I do think he’s a human in cat form.  Unlike 90% of cats, he likes water.  If he’s lucky enough to be in the house and one of us is in the bathroom he goes bonkers when we flush the toilet.  He wants to get in and have a look at the water.  He’s even been fishing in the pond –  not with a rod and line but with his paws.  He’s come in with his fore legs completely wet from his reaching in to stir up the water and try to catch tadpoles.
His sister on the other hand is a little minx.  A true tortie she definitely has a vicious streak.  We have a cat scratching post with a platform on top.  It sits by the cat flap to allow Izzy to keep her claws wonderful and sharp (Jingles has no interest in it).  Many a day, you’ll find Izzy on top of the platform with one paw lazily hanging down.  As Jingles comes in through the cat flap she swipes him and starts a fight.  I really haven’t worked out who’s boss in this relationship.  Izzy is definitely the stroppy one who picks fights and I think Jingles plays the adult ignoring her and usually getting out of her way, but just occasionally giving in and retaliating.  Having said that though, if there is food about Izzy doesn’t get a look in – Jingles will push her out of the way and happily stuff his face whilst Izzy waits patiently for her bowl to be filled.

I actually think that most of their fighting is just attention grabbing – it’s the ‘feed us or we’re going to keep this up’ action.  Do cats have a Pavlovian response?  Will they learn that meowing brings attention and fighting can sometimes bring food?  Or can they just not help themselves but meow and they fight when they’re hungry just because they’re crabby?

Why do I keep trying to understand illogical creatures?  I guess it’s human nature – it’s certainly my human nature to try to understand the world around me and change aspects that I’m not keen on.  So, I must leave now and try to work out how to stop cats meowing and fighting!


Worrying about Chicken’s Health

I guess it’s the same with any new creature (pet!) – you need to learn about it and adapt your behaviour to theirs.  Why wasn’t it the same when we had cats?  I guess because I’d had cats as a child so knew what to expect from them – not a lot, they’re in control!

In general, cats come in, eat food, sleep, go out, hunt, come in, eat food, sleep all on an endless cycle.  They’re only demanding when they want food and then they try every trick in the book to trip you up or annoy you so much that you feed them just to shut them up.  Yes, we have one cat who likes to talk – Jingles.  He is constantly ‘talking’ to us.  As endearing as it can be – it’s also very annoying and at times pitiful.  Actually, I have to be careful talking about the cats – they’re officially my daughters and so she’s very protective of them and shields any negative comments.  We love them really!

Anyway, back to cat’s health – in general they’re robust creatures.  Bar a visit to get a leg gash repaired and monthly flea treatments they’re pretty healthy and they come and go on their own terms.

Chickens, however, worry me.  Maybe it’s because they’re relatively new to the household or because I can’t ask a neighbour what to do if I have issues or maybe it’s just because they’re prey animals and so hide illnesses until it’s too late.  Whichever it is, it’s made me hypersensitive to the slightest change in behaviour.

Cho, is our biggest and youngest bird and our prettiest (oh, I feel harsh saying that – you’re not supposed to have favourites!).  After Tonk’s demise I’m especially wary of anything Cho does out of the ordinary.  Afterall Luna and Ginny have been around longer and Ginny has made it through some illnesses so they’ve shown their toughness.

Cho has had some fleeting moments of inactivity which always sets me worrying.  Maybe as a heavier bird she likes to take it easier and rest at little, rather than the relentless scratching and foraging of her comrades.  Maybe as a more select hybrid she has a more delicate constitution? She has had a couple of phases of laying soft eggs, this will usually last for 4-5 days and then she gets her rhythm back.  As a bigger bird, does she need more grit in her diet?  I try to make it available constantly, although find it hard to keep in the bowl as the chickens do like to step on their food bowls and tip everything all over the floor (good job they like to forage!)  Cho’s inactivity definitely coincides with her producing soft-shelled eggs, so her body must be telling her to sit and take it easy until it’s produced.  I imagine it’s a wierd feeling to pass something soft through your system when you’re used to moving hard objects. It’s just always un-nerving and gives me a restless night of worry.

As with Tonk’s death, I’ll never know all the answers. I can only observe, search, research and deal with what I see.  I just wish I didn’t have to have the worry to go with it.

Curled up Cat

Our cats do like to hang out in the greenhouse on those days that have some sun but the air is still cool.  I guess the warmth of the greenhouse is just delightful.

This used to be the domain of Jingles, the larger black cat who I’d regularly find curled up on top of various compost bags, growing potatoes etc.

However, this time, we found Izzy, curled up in a ball in a small round trug.  She looked so snug I just had to photograph her.

That cat again…

I think that I may be falling out with my daughter’s cat.  Jingles has been cheeky again!

I popped out at dusk to see if the chickens had gone up.  They hadn’t but were inside the coop, eating up the last of the corn treat I’d sprinkled earlier.  I thought I’d be clever and close up the coop and then pull up the ‘ladder’ later on.  Silly, silly me!

I shut the coop up and went back to my printing.   Thankfully, my office with the printer looks out onto the garden so as I went to refill the paper I noticed Jingles by the coop.  Cheeky cat I thought.  Something about it made me go for a closer look.  I soon realised that he was INSIDE the coop with the chickens!

Thankfully, he was on one side and the chickens huddled on the other.  They didn’t seem overly distressed and he was just sat there watching (I think he may have been as wary of the chickens as they were of him!).  Nevertheless I did rush over and open up the coop to shoo him out.

The girls came out as well, so I let them have a bit of a roam as I checked out the coop.  It looks as though Jingles had decided that the nest box was a lovely, warm place to curl up for the afternoon.

So, now I have another challenge – how do I keep Jingles out of the coop whilst the chickens still have access and sanctuary?  Time to plot…

Jingles – the chicken botherer

Our dominant male cat Jingles can’t quite let the chickens be.  His sister, Izzy, just loves to sit in the middle of the lawn and be part of the action, watching the chickens move about the garden. The chickens just wander about, ignoring her but not getting too close.

Jingles, on the other hand, is more predatory.  He’s not actually attacking them, he doesn’t even go into full, slinky, stalk mode.  However, he does like to walk cooly past them and send the girls sqwarking away with slight concern.

Recently, I’ve found Jingles on top of the hen coop, quietly watching the girls underneath.   He was so caught up in the moment that I could get a load of photos taken.

Tuesday evening, I went to put the girls to bed and was surprised to find them on the patio well past dusk.  I turned to the coop and there was Jingles sat on the small extension and so effectivley stopping the girls going back inside.

So, all in all, I know it’s instinct but I’m going to have to keep an eye on Jingles and try and control his taunting.

Just when I thought things were better today…

Day Two with the new chicken – Tonks – and things seemed to be going much better.

We kept them separated in the coop and coop extension for the morning and then had a real comedy moment.  My daughter had let out Ginny and Luna and my aim was to let Tonks walk from the ‘extension’ to the main coop and stay in that run for a bit longer whilst they all got used to each other some more.  We duly, placed cardboard on either side of the extension and tilted it up so Tonks could walk on into the main run.  She did that quite well but my sense of victory was short lived as we realised that the other end of the main run had been left off, so she’d just walked straight out into the garden.  Doh!  That changed my plans for the day as I really wasn’t comfortable leaving the three chickens alone together in the garden.

They did seem to get on much better.  Tonks followed the other two at a distance.  She was occasionally scared away – into the veg garden!  Though thankfully, she’s not a scratcher (yet?!) so I could get her out without damage to her or the veggies.  Generally though she seemed to be getting braver and the others were more accepting.  It wasn’t quite so good when the cats were out.  As with the other two chickens, our Tortoishell cat just sat on the lawn and watched the chickens with mild interest.  However, the larger cat, obviously sees Tonks as a new weakling and someone he needs to conquer so he definitely needs an eye kept on him.  I look forward to Tonks getting brave enough to fluff up and squawk at him to end this!  Have a look at this stand off picture…

The second time I had to rescue Tonks from the veg garden, she obviously decided that she didn’t want to be picked up and so flew up out of the garden and into a nearby bush.  This reminded her that she can fly and so when she came to check out the patio and the back door, she flew up onto a tall package by the utility room and then after some indecision up onto the top of the door!  Oh, goodness – I really am going to have to clip her wing.

I’ve read quite a lot about this, there are pros and cons and I’m not keen on spending money or doing things that aren’t wholly necessary but with a dog on one side and small children on the other I really can’t have Tonks bounding our fences so I think tomorrow she’s going to have to get more stressed as I clip her wing – wish me luck!

Feeding chickens

So what do you feed these little lovelies to get them to lay beautiful eggs?

I’ve been giving them mainly Layers Pellets which seems to be a good mixed feed which incorporates sufficient protein and other nutrients to help the chickens produce eggs.  The funny thing I read was that chickens should be treated like children – they’ll eat most things but will always eat the less nutritious stuff first.

So it’s been Layer’s Pellets first thing.  I then get a bit soft towards the middle of the day and usual put some leftovers in the coop.  I’ve been told they eat most things: pasta, rice, meat.  I’m not so sure about that – it just doesn’t seem natural.  So I’ve been giving them the odd leaf from my broccoli plants or uncooked veg scraps.  I tried them on leftover apple but they didn’t seem to like that.  Similarly, they haven’t gone a bundle on beetroot tops. I am a little wary of giving them tomatoes, as I do grow some outside and didn’t want to encourage them onto my veg plot.

I also brought a bag of corn and boy, do they like that.  It’s great for getting the chickens to feed from your hand.  Well, I say chickens but actually it’s still only Luna who’s brave enough to do that.

Of course, when they’re out of the coop they eat constantly.  They pick through the mulch and find juicy tidbits – time will tell if they’re going for slugs and snails in their various forms.

I also learnt that they like frogspawn so our pond is remaining covered for now.  The poor tadpoles have enough of a challenge each year with our cats taking a tasty slurp without adding chickens to their fight for survival.