5 Feb, 2012
The chickens have been quite interesting with the snow. First we had some frost and only Maisie would venture briefly out.
We had some heavier snow yesterday.
I found we have some kind of small mammal that has done circuits around a lot of the garden and ventured into a flowerpot. The cat moving through the snow apparently didn't catch it.
Again Maisie has been the only chicken in the snow. They have had a bit of a peck at the snow for moisture.
Maisie has been a a bit put out as she drinks her own bodyweight in water and it keeps freezing. They all lept on the liquid water when I put it out.
I did peep out earlier to find all 4 chickens perched together on top of the eglu which was really cute. Hetty and Abbie have been wobbling a lot swaying on their feet and using their tail and in Abbie's case wings for balance. They both gave up and sat down on their backside. Katy has been perched on the level bit rather than the narrow bar and has not wobbled once. They have been quite amicable and not pecking each other except a) when they saw a chicken's tail/backside in front of them and b) when they tried moving position as they were packed together quite tightly and precariously balanced.
Hetty is still scared of me and runs away when I go near her. Maisie still follows me round but Abbie doesn't anymore.She is still occasionally escaping, although not to the same degree now that I havehidden most of the bins behind a fence where she can't use them as a platform.
We are getting loads of eggs and have the unfortunate position of having no egg boxes to give away eggs as we are not buying eggs and people tend to take eggs in a box and don't return the box. I was proud to produce a tasty lemon meringue pie this week as it uses 6 eggs although seems unfeasibly unhealthy. The yolks turned the lemon section very yellow.
28 Jan, 2012
Again I got a bit delayed posting. My camera has broken but luckily I have moved onto the world of smart phones and can now take pictures on my mobile and upload easily. I just got delayed actually uploading!
Anyway. We are now getting lots of eggs.....(from the 2 new chickens).This is my egg skelter. It's felt a bit silly up to now as only got a few select eggs from Abbie!
I think we did get one from Abbie but she has some kind of secondary head moult now she's recovered from her annual moult. and I think can't be bothered at the moment. I did also get an interesting spiral break in a boiled egg which was a bit strange.
I do wonder what the chickens do to them sometimes. Today I found an egg under the roosting bars. I've no idea how it got through the bars, but was a bit cracked.
The newbies experienced their first frost recently and went out exploring. The oldies kept both feet firmly in the run (except when I put out some pearl barley) and just looked a bit grumpy.
I was trying for the shot above and managed to capture Hettie mid flight. A bird flew over and she freaked out and flew about 2 foot in the air. You can see a grey blob over the run if you look closely! There are not many photos of Hettie as she is scared of me and run away every time I go near her! I put a rake into the run while she was there and she jumped into the air like she was being attacked. Katy just turned round slowly and looked completely underwhelmed.
We've been having a lot of escapes from Maisie. She flies onto one of the bins then uses this to fly out of the run. The bamboo fencing in front keeps collapsing. It is quite amusing to see her freeranging and she generally runs towards me when I go out of the door, and squats which is useful for returning her. It did get to about 4 escapes in half an hourlast Sunday.
The corner plant is a favourite with the newbies and John has resorted to fencing it off at the point where they broke a giant chunk off it. It was a present from his parents! It is quite surprising as it is very waxy and not very edible and yet they seem to like nibbling on it. Here they are with the piece they pulled off and dragged across the garden.
Here is Katy modelling the eglu.
27 Nov, 2011
Maisie has increasingly started following me round. I go into the pen and she is first there. I walk out of the pen and nearly trip over her. I walk back to the house and she is first to follow me along the fence. She pecks me if I stay still long enough. Today I tried seeing if she would follow me outside the pen. She did mostly, apart from getting distracted and going onto the veg patch and trying to eat the new rhubarb leaves. I also had to stop her drinking the poultry shield water for cleaning the eglu. Three times. I hope it is not toxic! They are surprisingly resilient for eating tiny amounts of random things.
Abbie has been going through her moult recently. This is surprising as it is fairly mild weather (10-12 degrees) and the feathers are growing back really quickly. Maybe she doesn't want to wear the chicken jumper again!
I made the mistake of leaving out some kitchen compost and the chickens have been facinated ever since and stealing bits of grim leftovers and running round the garden.
Here are the other 2 for completeness.
Katy has become a matriarch migure watching over the new chickens (or maybe waiting for them to find food so she can swoop in and steal it). They do still get quite a lot of pecking. Abbie doesn't really peck them and they often go round safely in a three, although more often in two pairs. Abbie looks a bit miserable and silly with all her feathers missing but used the other chickens to keep her warm at night -piled round her on all sides. She has also taken to getting up late in an effort to keep warmer longer. She is the one that can open the door.
Hetty is very timid still and when I go in the pen she goes off on her own leaving me with the other three. She does still attack the plant in the corner with the others. They weigh down one of the branches and peck it. It's quite waxy and not really edible which is surprising.
Finally I have added more plastic to the eglu run as it looked a bit pathetic with bits of plastic bag and omlet covers falling off, and was not exactly waterproof. Here is Maisie pecking it.
23 Oct, 2011
Well Maisy and Hettie are staying put. I've noticed their flying is a bit worse since clipping the first 4 flight feathers on one side. We even went out for a bit and came back and they were still in the pen.Maisy had the world's longest dust bath and emerged as a much skinnier chicken.
They have been spending a lot of time all together in the eglu run. They are generally OK. Abbie has accepted the newbies and they tend to group together in a 3. Katy is being anti-social and even today chased Hettie around the pen a few times. At night Abbie arranges herself with a newbie on each side of her and they face the opposite way to her and burrow their faces into her feathers to try and hide. If you open the egg port and peep in she starts pecking them as if it is their fault it is open!
Yesterday I managed to put the newbies away in the pen without a net! I put some pearl barley at the back of the run and managed to tempt 3 of the chickens in. Hettie is too scared. I ended up opening the run door and going round the eglu so that she moved away from me and towards the open door and she did actually go in.
Katy is still gaping a bit and hunching a little every day. I have decided to try Flubenvet again for 2 weeks as think they may have picked up the gapeworm again from the ground they are on. I have put some shellstim in the water every day and Abbie's eggs have much better shells-darker and less fragile.
On the other side of the garden there is some healthy new grass in patches since removing the chickens.
13 Oct, 2011
The new chickens are settling in a bit more. Abbie continues to socialise with the newbies but Hettie is stil a bit scared of her. They can feed together in the run. The oldies will get first run at the food in the morning and the other two will keep a distance away. Maisy is a lot bolder and will come forward, Hetty is timid, even if the chickens don't actually mean her any harm. Katy is a bit of a grouch and tends to be on her own while Maisy is with Abbie and Hettie hiding at the back on her own. I think Katy would like Hettie if she made the effort and Hettie was a bit braver.Katy tends to feed on her own while Abbie and the other feed at the other side. She also sleeps in the nest, while Abbie is snuggled upwith a new chicken on each side. Katy still does an occasional gape and is a tiny bit hunchy late afternoon still. She's having a bit of a moult and seems otherwise healthy.
I have been keeping them trapped in the run as the newbies always escape and I can't risk going out and them going next door. I really need to get my act together and clip the wings. I don't think we took enough off Maisy as I know if I go too far there is a blood supply and don't want to take too much off. On the other hand it would be nice for the chickens to stay put. Today Maisy flew down, freaked out Hettie who though she was being attacked and Hettie then flew out of the run. John says it was proper flying. She then couldn't work out how to go back. Maisy also escaped for me and tends to run away in fear which makes catching her hard. I managed to open the run door and eventually drive her back towards it. When challenged she does go up and down the netting looking for a way back in. Sadly for her we've chicken proofed it.
1 Oct, 2011
I thought the newbies were doing so well and not escaping after Monday's fiasco....
You can see they are over the level of the first floor window. The garden is raised to the height of the window ledge. I came back home to find Abbie doing her chicken has escaped body language parading up and down the garden, calling out. I checked in the eglu twice to find only Katy. The second time was in the hope they were small enough to be hiding somehow and hadn't escaped. I am never going out and leaving them, they are a nightmare! I'm not sure how they got there as the hedge is very high. Hetty made it up to the hedge, I think using something as a mid point and they must have then walked all the way along the hedge to the other end and perched on the fence. They did look concerned like it was too high to get down. We got a ladder and John lifted Maisy down. Hettie followed her little friend by flying down into the chicken run.
They were doing well earlier as well. Katy was still going for them but Abbie was friendly. Maisy sat down in the sun and Abbie went to sit next to her. I got a camera, but because I stood in the window Maisy had moved to the front of the run to come and see me.All 4 got terrified earlier when Maisy flew down followed by Katy and all 4 freaked out at the flapping, thought they were being attacked, and ran/flew to the opposite end of the run where the old ones tried to look noncholant.
29 Sep, 2011
The newbies continue to make progress. On Monday I missed my fitness class because I couldn't catch Hettie in time. I managed to net Maisy. Hettie on the other hand got stressed, ran away really fast and ended up flying onto the hedge with next door. Confronted with a net she flew over and at that point I knew I wouldn't make my class. I turned up feeling silly with a giant net that didn't even get close to her. She ran really fast amongst brambles and in all the really hard to reach areas e.g. behind the shed. I only caught her as she settled in the hedge and allowed me to extract her and carry her back home.
After seeing Maisy escape once or twice into the garden I have started just keeping all the chickens shut in the run. I let out the oldies and actually they generally just sat in front of the run where the newbies were trapped and seemed to want to be near them. That seemed like a step forward.
24 Sep, 2011
The newbies seem to be settling in nicely. Thursday was fun as Maisy managed to fly out and fly into next door's garden and wander round so John and I had to go round and retrieve her. This involved much chasing, and she even flew onto the window ledge at one point. The next house along was surprised to see a chicken being carried past their kitchen window but found her cute.
Yesterday I had to leave them all in the run and was worried they would hide in the eglu all day and not eat. I tried pushing them out 3 times and failed as they kept looking to escape through the egg port and shoving didn't really move them. John said an hour or so later they were all in the run together.
Today I looked out and they were at the back of the eglu run. They are not quite feeding together but once or twice I have caught one of them side by side with Abbie eating or drinking and she just walks towards them to push them back. She doesn't seem to be bothered really. Katy seems more determined to peck them. I went out to the run and was greeted by all 4 chickens running over to the gate, for the first time ever, although in 2 groups still.
Katy still continues to be perky in the morning and tired and hunched late afternoon. Maybe she is just tired/old?
22 Sep, 2011
Maisy the amazing flying chicken
Maisy is developing her flying skills. She can fly from the ground on one side to the ground on the other over a 5-6 foot chicken wire fence.
The first time she flew out of the pen and managed to return through a chicken sized hole in the fence which was bad on 2 levels. This morning I glared at her through the upstairs window and she flew back. Still it solved the collundrum of which chicken has the runs!
This afternoon she flew out again and by the time I was outside she was perched on next door's wall considering going next door. I managed ot lure her safely onto our property with some pearl barley, but she is so fast I couldn't grab her before she ran off. I got her cornered in the end and managed to grab her and deposit her on the right side of the fence.
I've been doing some reading, it's a bit grim but the runny poo is apparently caecal poo. It is like butterscotch sauce and very smelly. It can be produced before laying eggs. This coupled with her growing comb makes me wonder if she will start laying soon. Normally it is occasional, rather than constant. I still think it is stress. I'm continuing to give her yoghurt and bran, although I've been feeding it Hetty in error for a few days as she seemed quiet and slightly hunchy. It turns out I am worrying over nothing and they are both healthy. Poor little Katy seems to be fluffed up every afternoon though despite 4 days of Baytril. I do wonder if it is just old age. She puffs out her crop, rests her head on it and closes her eyes.
Here she is. It does look quite cute as she is resting on Abbie who is also dozing a bit.
20 Sep, 2011
I noticed Katy bobbing her head about strangly, then when I watched her realised she was planning to fly out over the fence (again). I filmed her through the window and was lucky enough to actually catch her taking off and flying in the next video. You can see her think about taking off once or twice at the end, but then she changes her mind.
I nearly forgot that in fact this was an escape and not just a cool wildlife video.
You can also make out Abbie in the eglu run munching away oblivious to Katy.
18 Sep, 2011
I'm a bit wussy about handling the chickens and tend to get John to help. I'm trying to be brave so embarked on bathing two of the chickens on my own. Really I want to do this in the day so they are not going to bed damp and cold.
I got a bowl of warm soapy water and a dishwashing brush. I contained Hetty in an area (after struggling to grab her, flapping and chasing for a while). She has the runs and it seems wrong that she doesn't have a spotlessly clean new chicken bum like Maisy's. If I can train her young it should also be easier to do this as needed rather than Katy being subjected to it in later life.
It worked well having her facing left and having her head under my left arm which was wrapped over her right wing. I could then use my right hand for washing. Once held she is actually very compliant. I used the brush and fingers to soap up her feathers, then patted it down with kitchen roll to take off the worst of the water. I left her with a bowl of organic wholemilk pro-biotic plain yoghurt mixed with a little ground oat bran (from the supermarket you're supposed to put on cereal to make it healthier) and put some pearl barley on it to entice her in. I'm hoping this might help with her digestive issues.
With Katy it was a lot more traumatic and a bit grim. There was an unhappy noise when I lowered her backside into the water. I had to catch her again and tried putting the water on with the brush and my fingers. Actually what worked well was pouring water from a large jug over her which could even be done when she was running off. The feathers are fairly waterproof and it takes a while for water to penetrate. She ended up bare showing the skin on her bum with punky feathers standing on end. The feathers stuck together into fine strands. I went to get some clean water (tip have this and kitchen roll ready). She then hid in the eglu run where I couldn't get her. I fed some pearl barley to cheer her up. I ended up having to catch her a 3rd time and trying to pat down/rub water off with kitchen roll.
She is quite hunchy today. She is sitting with her crop pulled up to her chin, resting her head on it and closing her eyes. I looked at my early blog entries and worked out that Katy is 6 in December (Abbie is 5 this month). I am just wondering if she is getting very old and there's not a lot I can do i.e. she's not as robust so it's not that my worming is wrong.
I'm feeling very guilty watching her out of the window as not really pleasant subjecting her to being caught in the daytime and being washed and dried on top of that. She has been doing a lot of preening and Abbie has pecked some of the offending feathers a few times.
18 Sep, 2011
I finally got the newbies to eat pearl barley and not just run away! I fed the oldies, then put some barley on top of the run where the newbies were hiding. Hetty after some hesitation started pecking it up.
Maisy on the other hand went the opposite way and started pecking at the bag! Sadly she was pecking at the plastic. I removed it and she went to find the other food.
By this point Katy had worked out what was going on, flew up and strutted down the run to displace the newbies.
Maisy did get closer today and even went to the point of pecking my boot which was quite brave!
I have realised that not only does 4 chickens mean more poo (and not twice as much but somehow exponentially more) but soon there will be 4 hungry gannets surrounding me begging for food. I pushed Abbie back a few times, she looked disgusted but kept surging forwards. Maisy shows signs of being similar as likes to peck things and is inquisitive and comes towards me.
Today I tried spotting ivernectin on the skin of the other 3 chickens. I held the newbies and with 1 hand lifted back a layer of feathers to discover they just had layer after layer of feathers and fluff and are actually so very well feathered I couldn't find skin, just a feather shaft. Hoping the got the wormer OK. Maisy did get very impatient after several attempts, buried her head in my arms and started pecking. Hetty was very chilled, but I had much less furtling round with her.
17 Sep, 2011
I decided to take Katy to the vet as she's had lots of niggling things for a long time. I think mainly it was for reassurance. She had the wheeze and some gaping and occasionally sits fluffed up with eyes closing as if she is ill. She's active and normal mainly and I know she's quite healthy. She has the raised scales where her foot meets her leg and that hasn't improved much with vaseline or Just for Scaley Mite spray. She is also missing a lot of neck feathers and a lot of feathers are scraggly with rough ends like half the feather is missing. I have not found any parasites on her though and checked the eglu vigilantly.
I went to http://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/find-a-vet/ to find the nearest vet listed as poultry. It can be a minefield finding a poultry vet. The other thing is trying to establish their experience from the receptionist who has probably limited/no experience of chickens. I have found there is a vet specialising in only poultry about an hour away. I tried one listed on the website half an hour away who does large animal work (i.e. farm animals). They did say if they would refer to a a specialist such as the one an hour away if they felt they couldn't help and I talked to a vet for 10 minutes on the phone. The majority of vets do not specialise in poultry or avian work but quite a few are interested i.e.know a little bit, or keep chickens. I've not found them to be helpful in general and mostly avoid the vet and treat at home if I can. Often we turn up and they say encouraging things like usually the only way of diagnosing a chicken is from autopsy after they have died! They always prescibe baytril which is a liquid wide spectrum antibiotic. Generally they don't know what the problem is but will prescribe this and it is an utter nightmare to put down a chicken's beak. To be fair it probably is hard to diagnose a chicken and there aren't many resources as with dogs/cats because vets are set up for commercial giant flocks where you would probably cull sick birds, rather than nursing a pet chicken. Also they wouldn't see many in practice.
Today I was advised that the main problem was gapeworm as she had wheezing and the comb was bright and red and she was active which she wouldn't be with a respiratory infection. He did say that even though we'd been treating for a week with Flubenvet they could still gape from sores on the throat left from the worms. Also they would keep reoccuring if we treated and it was still in the environment.
Katy got some Ivernectin spotted on the back of her neck which treats worms, but also lice and mites. As soon as the vet left the room she went to preen this. He didn't seem concerned about the raised leg scales and said they could get damaged and that they weren't encrusted. He did say that the Ivernectin would kill any mites if she did have any. He examined the feathers for mites but couldn't see any, and I have not found any. I need to spot 0.1ml on the skin at the back of the neck of the other three. Maisy has gaped once or twice, and Hettie has the runs a bit but then she has been under stress.
She also got a Baytril injection to her leg. Unfortunately we have to give her Oral Baytril for 4 days starting from tomorrow. We will pick her up when she is roosting and at her quietest.
She was easy to get into a box. I just basically picked her up and put her in without any evasion or struggling. She was quite well behaved at the vet too. She mainly stood still, preened, pooed and made occasional noises. The vet picked her up to put in the box obviously fooled by her good behaviour and maybe not heeding what I said about her not liking being handled. She then flapped violently in an explosion of wings while a slightly taken back vet forced her into the box and I secured her.
She should be better in a week or so and I feel reassured that I am not just neglecting her. She is back in the run and has already chased the newbies a little bit.
17 Sep, 2011
Trying to persuade the new chickens they want to shelter from the rain. Sadly they just tend to run away from me and the shelter.
It is like some kind of pantomime watching the newbies avoid the oldies. I look up and see the newbies jogging across the front of the eglu followed by Katy, and Abbie will look up from her food but is not threatened and rarely chases them. Katy on the other hand regularly chases them, but is quite a pacifist and walks off when she has got them to run away.
You can't keep them away from constantly flying onto the eglu run and walking over the heads of the others. I counted 4 times in an hour 2 days ago. They get quite close if they come to the front. Maybe it is some kind of novelty that they can fly for the first time or they like looking down on things, or maybe they have realised it is safer as the oldies rarely fly and quite poor at it.
I have been trying to lift the newbies out at night to practice handling them. I trap them in the eglu as they go to bed early. They struggle a lot at first but then sit quietly while I stroke them. I went to put Hettie down, she flapped, so I just let her fly off rather than replacing in the eglu. Sadly she landed in the path of Abbie who chased her as soon as she landed!
Maisie comes toward me so I have tried feeding her once or twice. I got her to take a leaf through the fence held at a distance with her neck craned as near to it as she could. She grabbed it, dropped it, and walked off dissinterested. She comes towards me, but if you try to go near to her she will run off. Hettie is generally nowhere to be seen and will just run off if you (find! and) approach her.
12 Sep, 2011
Came back from work to find new chickens hiding in the eglu. I'm unsure if they were in the run or not during the day. Still I definitely saw them eat when I released them into the pen which is the important thing. I'm trying a tougher approach in the hope they will sort it out. I'm starting to worry that they are not integrating and just avoiding each other.
When I went out later Maisy seemed happy to see me and was weaving in front of the fence, although inching closer to the others so Katy kept pushing her away. She then showed some impressive flying to escape Katy and flew onto the 5-6 foot chicken wire fence and perched there. She didn't mind being stroked and made a move to fly out so I guided her back towards the run. There was none of the awkward flapping, she just flew up. She is living up to the stereotype of white chickens being flighty.
The newbies went to bed about an hour before dark. I tried offering some pearl barley to them in the eglu but they tried to run away, saw the other chickens blocking their escape into the run and just stood frightened in the eglu. I put the oldies away in the run as it would be dark when we got back and didn't want Maisie flying away if she got chased out of the eglu.
We are convinced Hetty doesn't get bullied as they can't see her! As a grey chicken she is camoflauged and fades into the background both literally and by hiding quietly behind Maisy who is a bit more inquisitive. She seems to be doing much better out of the bullying and Miasy is getting most of it. In fact mainly it is Katy bullying, not Abbie who doesn't seem fussed, maybe as they are no threat to her as young and frightened.
When we got back they were all safely away which was good although opening the egg hatch always gets Maisy pecked and John said she was acting as draught excluded pushed against the egg port away from the others.