Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Monday, 8 June 2015

Frodo the Fierce

Our new chickens and our old chickens aren't getting on too well, so when Stella returned with Doris we kept them apart from the old hens, re-introducing Meg after a week and a week later they were getting on pretty well.

The older chickens are in the old run on the patio and we would quite like the patio back. We'd had hopes of the odd barbecue.

So, we took the old hens up to visit the new ones some evenings the week before last and last weekend we decided to integrate Fudge and Frodo (should that have been Freda?).  We let them make their own way up, but they did get a bit sidetracked.

Eventually we managed to pick Fudge up and Frodo started to follow.

Unfortunately Doris in particular was getting it in the neck quite badly, literally. Frodo and Fudge have both been tugging at her neck feathers, sometimes jumping/flying up for greater effect/pain. So, Fudge went back to the old hen house on Monday morning. At least Doris would only have half the stress and we hoped it would reduce after a week. I don't want another young chicken with a prolapse. Also, we've kept Fudge on short rations - plenty of pellets and some cabbage but reduced worms and corn - as she could do with losing some weight.

Unfortunately by the end of the week things seemed to be getting worse, not better, as we noticed Frodo seemed to be chasing all the young chickens back and forth, so that although we'd put a feeder and a drinker at both ends she seemed to be stopping them having enough to eat or drink.

On Friday I gave the young birds some extra worms and pellets after shutting Frodo back in the run and they had a good feed. They always love worms, but they usually find pellets pretty boring when there is grass to eat, so it did seem they were more hungry and usual. Also we had no egg from Stella for 4 days and I noticed small black dots on her comb, hopefully a sign that she was being pecked there and not that she was dehydrated. I must admit I've forgotten to check since.

So on Saturday morning we took Frodo back to the old chicken house on the patio. At least Fudge has some company and I think Frodo herself may prefer what she knows. It's possible she finds the young chickens stressful, although her eggs have got a bit smaller since we moved her.  In time we hope to make the pen around the hen house on the grass big enough to put the old ark in, without the extra run. Then at least the old chickens can get out on the grass and enjoy a dust bath again.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Stella's first egg

I went to visit my parents yesterday, so our daughter collected the eggs and Stella rewarded her by laying her very first little egg, weighing just 40 g, although not especially small for a first egg.

If Stella had stayed on the antibiotics prescribed by the vet, Baytril, we might not have been able to eat Stella's eggs yet because you have to wait 15 days from when the chicken comes off that medication, although possibly not at the dosage she was prescribed, which was quite low. This is because it takes 15 days for an egg to develop.

However, we had trouble getting her to take the antibiotics and so were very pleased when Caroline at Surrey Poultry offered to look after her for us as she had lots of experience with poorly chickens and getting antibiotics into chickens. As it happens Caroline uses Tylan, which does not require a withdrawal period. Yesterday was only her 9th day since finishing the antibiotics.

Today there was only one egg in Stella and Doris' nest box. It was smaller than the eggs Doris has laid recently, only 50 g, although quite a jump from Stella's tiny egg yesterday, but I suspect it is her 2nd egg and the tiny white feather on it makes me think that is even more likely. Doris has laid about 6 eggs in a row, so a break from laying is quite in order. As she is a Speckeldy I think she is meant to lay less eggs than Meg who is a Columbian Blacktails and so she is likely to have more rest days than Meg.

Altogether we had 3 eggs today. One very large one from Frodo, one medium egg from Meg and one small egg from Stella.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Chicken antics

As rain was forecast today I thought I'd let Stella and Doris have a run around on the grass while it was still sunny this morning.

Stella is still the tamest chicken we have ever had. She doesn't mind getting so close she touches me and is happy to walk over me if I'm in her way. She also doesn't mind me touching her and stroking her, so is very easy to pick up.  Doris is still very nervous of us, but I'm hoping if I spend enough time with her she will get used to us, as Meg has done. We couldn't pick Meg up to begin with but it's much easier now.

After a while Doris went upstairs to the nest box. It looked like we'd have a third egg. When she came down a bit later there was no sign of an egg. She probably decided she didn't want to miss any fun. However, Stella hopped into the run as she came down, so I shut them both in.

As she had already laid her egg, I thought I'd let Meg have some time on the grass too, but not long after I had put her in the pen she flew over the fence and onto the top of the rockery, without even jumping up onto the top of the run first.  Perhaps she didn't like being on her own, or maybe was afraid of the two in the new ark after the way they treated her when she was on the grass with them yesterday evening. They jumped on her and pecked her back a few times, although never for long as we separated them as soon as we noticed.

Frodo had distracted me, by looking like she had plans to fly out of her pen. Just before I took this photo she had been flapping her wings a lot. On reflection, I think this may have been her asserting herself as top chicken.

So I picked Meg up and took her back to her home with the two older chickens. We want to integrate them all eventually, but are going slowly so the two youngest don't get stressed.

Today was our best day in a long time for eggs. Meg and Frodo both laid eggs. Meg laid 10 eggs in a row and then had a well-earned rest yesterday. Frodo lays for a few days and them might have a few days off, although I think it was only one day after laying for five days this time. Both laid bigger than usual eggs for themselves. Meg's was 70g, her more recent eggs having weighed 60g and Frodo's was 90g, where last week her eggs were 80g.

Doris also laid another egg in the nest box, which we believe is her fourth. It's quite a dark one compared to the other's and very slightly speckled. Hers was 60g whereas Meg's fourth egg only weighed 50g, but I think Doris is going to be bigger than Stella or Meg.

A Speckeldy seems to be the same cross as a Blue Belle, but with the opposite parents. In other words the Cucou Maran is the mother in one hybrid and the father in the other. I presume the other parent is a Rhodes Island Red, but I'm not sure.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Stella comes home

Yesterday we had a new poultry ark and run delivered, and assembled on the patio for us. It is very much like the ark we had from Forsham, but we got it from Cherry Acres, run by Dan who used to work for Forsham. It looks sturdy and well-made, with some improvements on the old ark, such as more protection from bad weather for the hens.

So this morning hubby and I took both parts up the steps and put them where our 6-year-old is in the second picture. We also needed to make one or two minor adjustments. I think they are designed so that the built up sections fit together, but we like the protected areas to be at each end as they are also better for food and water, which need easy access.

We'd thought of leaving our chickens in the old hen house to the side of the new one while we went out, but Meg wanted to lay an egg and was clearly not happy with the slope so we ended up putting all three chickens in the new chicken ark and run.

It was therefore almost midday before we left the house, popping into town to do a few errands before going to Surrey Poultry Farm to fetch Stella home with her new friend, Doris who is a replacement for Cindy.

We found them both in a much larger pen than the one we'd left Stella in, two weeks earlier. Apparently she hadn't taken too kindly to Doris initially and had actually attacked her, which was very different from the way we'd ever seen her behave: a sign that she's feeling stronger and more assertive now. Stella has clearly been well-cared for and is looking so much better and healthier. We were told she came off the antibiotics on Tuesday and she looks a whole lot better. Her eye is still very slightly swollen, but you have to look very carefully to notice. You may notice a slight redness and swelling behind her right eye compared to her left eye.

Doris isn't used to us yet, so won't let us get too close, unless we're keeping still and she approaches us, but she ran even when I moved my feet out of her way. However we did manage to pick her up just now. The dozy pair had gone to sleep downstairs, so we had to pick them both up and put them upstairs.

The old chickens are back in their old ark and run down on the patio, with a new fence around them, having had a good run around on the grass for most of the afternoon.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Chickens: a pullet's eggs and treating vent gleet

I don't know if I've already mentioned that I've given up work. What with that and Spring being well under way, I'm out in the garden more and so am taking more notice of the chickens.

One thing I've noticed is that our older girls, Fudge and Frodo, have mucky bottoms.

They've been like that for a while, but now I've got more time I started to think I should try and do something about it.   I read on-line that muck around their vents can result in fly strike.  I also read that improving the bacteria in their gut by giving them some live yoghurt can solve this problem, so that's what I did.

I think I may need to given them yoghurt a few times before they're likely to get better. I've also read it's a good idea to give them cider vinegar in their drinking water. So, let's see what happens.

Meg wasn't interested in the yoghurt, so she probably hasn't come across it before. I think she had a little taste at the end, so she might be more interested next time. Meg was much more interested in the grass.

Meg started laying just over a week ago and hasn't had a break so far, so we've had 8 eggs from her to date.  They've started nice and small. The one on the far right is from Frodo.

Some days we are lucky enough to have 2 eggs now.  Frodo takes a few days off from laying and then lays for a few days.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to have some exciting news.

Monday, 4 May 2015

How our garden is growing

We're a long way from self-sufficient, but we manage to grow some fruit and veg. We have an apple tree, blueberry bushes, a few raspberry canes, a blackcurrant bush and some strawberries.

Hubby planted potatoes back in March, which are doing well.

I've weeded and fed my asparagus and what is there is growing well, there just isn't enough for me to take any for myself, even though some of the plants are several years old.  Perhaps if I feed them this year I'll get a better crop next year.

Our onions, also planted in March, are doing well, too and overall the veg garden is starting to look nice and green. There are peas and rhubarb in the far bed.

The veg garden does get a lot of shade, so there isn't all that much space for crops that need a fair bit of sunshine. For this reason we're growing our broad beans lower down the garden this year.

Today I was pleasantly surprised by this little frog that hopped out of a plant on the rockery, luckily not in reach of the chickens.


Saturday, 2 May 2015

From Joy to Sadness in a Week

What a difference a week makes and this last week the difference has not been good.

We had thought our new chickens were settling in well with the two older Black Rocks. There hadn't been the outright conflict we'd seen in the past, but on reflection this could have been because these chickens were younger, and so less assertive, than the last 2 lots of chickens we'd had to introduce to older hens. There had been a certain amount of pecking, but nothing too bad until last Sunday when we noticed Cindy being pecked on the head in spite of her being in a very submissive position. However her head didn't seem to have come to any harm and she seemed happy enough after that.

Monday I was excited because Cindy's comb had grown a bit and, along with her wattles, had turned distinctly red.  When she went up to the nest box around 3 pm I was optimistic that she might lay an egg, but none materialised. It seemed she'd had a false alarm, or maybe a dummy run.
RIP Cindy, right, seen here enjoying a dust bath

Around 6.30 pm I noticed she and Stella had gone upstairs, so went to see what was going on.  I noticed the small, bloodstained egg on the ground first, so it was with a certain amount of foreboding that I peered in and as feared, there were clear signs that she was bleeding and it was obvious that she'd had a prolapse. This was something that had happened back in 2012 with 2 Light Sussex hybrids we'd called Anna and Bella, but they lasted at least 6 weeks. We knew there wasn't much hope for a pullet that has just come into lay which has developed a prolapse. Every time she lays an egg it will all be pushed out again.

As it was evening, we took Cindy indoors and made her comfortable. Tuesday morning I took her to the vet, who reluctantly agreed there wasn't much she could do, and I didn't see any point in prolonging Cindy's suffering, so left her with the vet. It was very sad as she was an attractive, friendly bird and otherwise seemed very healthy.

Wednesday afternoon as I was on my way home from my parent's my daughter phoned to say there was something wrong with Stella's eye and breathing.

Stella's swollen eye. Her other eye was fine.

She and hubby took Stella to the vet the same evening and came home with some antibiotics to be administer twice a day. Do you know a good way to get antibiotics into a chicken? We were unable to follow the vet's advice. There was no way Stella was going to let us poke a syringe of nasty tasting fluid into her mouth.

We made a little indoor pen for Stella, so she doesn't have to go back into the cat basket when we can't watch her every move.

She sipped a little diluted antibiotic on Thursday morning and evening, but we didn't have any success on Friday morning, before going to Surrey Poultry to fetch a chicken to replace Cindy.  Caroline, who runs Surrey Poultry with her husband John said we should bring Stella to the farm and she would look after her for her, feeling sure she could get the antibiotics inside her, so we went back home collected Stella and gave her into Caroline's care. If she is successful and Stella recovers, we shall take her home with a Speckeldy friend. 

Here is where we left her, in her own "private room" at the chicken hospital/nursing home. Even half of it is much bigger than the cat basket. She tucked into the food as soon as she arrived, which hopefully will encourage her drink plenty of the water containing antibiotics.

So we are waiting to see what happens and hoping very much to have our sweet, friendly Stella back home with us fairly soon.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

April, a Good Time for New Chickens

So, we are still keeping chickens and have been for 6 years now.

At the beginning of this year we had 2 Black Rock type chickens, Frodo and Fudge. Fudge hasn't laid an egg for over 2 years and Frodo stopped before Christmas, but thankfully has now started laying again.

Fudge is the one with the golden neck behind Frodo

We've had Fudge 3 years now, and Frodo, 2.  We bought them each as a pair of chickens. Fudge came with a Bluebell called Smokie and Frodo came with a Columbian Blacktail called Bilbo, neither of whom lasted very long. Smokie convulsed and died dramatically before our eyes and Bilbo also seemed to have a heart attack.

Last Saturday morning we decided to buy some more chickens and went to Surrey Poultry in Ockham where all the chickens, including the pullets, were free ranging. We decided on three young girls, 16 to 18 weeks old, so not quite ready to lay.

Cindy seems to be the eldest of the three as her comb is pinker and better developed. She is a Speckledy, so is a cross between a Cuckoo Maran and a Rhode Island Red.

Stella, our Amber Star is very tame. This breed is based on the Rhode Island White, or Red, or maybe both. It's hard to find out on-line.

Last but not least is Meg the Blacktail, with Rhode Island Red and Light Sussex in her parentage.

All three chickens from Surrey Poultry