Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

Coffee, the last of the Cream Legbars

Coffee, the last of the Cream Legbars

Yes, the ups and downs of chicken keeping continue. This time we lost Coffee, the other half of our Cream Legbar duo. She suffered a fairly major prolapse (I won’t go into details, but needless to say it wasn’t pretty), which is difficult to treat, so we decided to do the best thing for her.

The Bouvier sisters - Marge, Patty & Selma

The Bouvier sisters – Marge, Patty & Selma

In the meantime we have named our three new Speckledy chickens – Marge, Selma and Patty. These are the names of the three Bouvier sisters from The Simpsons (Marge being married to Homer, while Selma and Patty and her older twin sisters). Given two of the hens are almost identical, and one has a slightly different colouring on her neck, these names fit quite well. We’re finding it hard to tell them apart at the moment, but their characteristics are becoming more noticeable.

Cream

Cream

It seems I’m always writing about dying chickens, and today is no exception. This morning we had to cull Cream, one of our Cream Legbar chickens. She seemed to have lost her balance, particularly when standing still, and kept on having to put her wing out to stabilise herself. We suspect she may have had a minor stroke, as everything else seemed fine, and other than her balance, she seemed quite perky, and doing everything that chickens usually do, including being a good egg layer (which is more than can be said for her sister Coffee). This morning, however, she could barely stand, and although her head and tail were still up, the final straw came when she couldn’t drink properly without falling over. So Simon did the deed. We’d had her exactly three years – it isn’t a bad lifespan, and it’s the longest we’ve had any of our chickens.

 

 

 

Settling in nicely!

Settling in nicely!

In anticipation of dwindling chicken numbers, and the lack of eggs from our existing flock, we had been on the lookout for some replacements. Despite the trend for backyard chicken keeping it still seems quite hard (in this neck of the woods anyway) to find point-of-lay chickens. I did manage to track some down across the border in Pembrokeshire, so last weekend, armed with some cardboard boxes we took a trip, and came home with three new chickens. These are Speckledy chickens, a hybrid chicken, with French Maran traits, which means they are meant to lay darkish brown eggs with speckles. We’ve quarantined them from the existing chickens, just in case they have anything nasty, and they can get used to each other before being let loose. We haven’t named them yet, but the characters are already coming out, with one in particular being naughty. Several times we’ve found her on the wrong side of the fence, and she is always the last one to go to bed. We’ll give them another week before introducing them to the old girls!

Deliah

Delilah

Yes, we have lost Delilah, our Black Rock chicken. She hadn’t been well for a while, we suspect with peritonitis (which seems to be common from our experience of keeping hybrid chickens, who are bred for egg laying). But she continued to eat and drink well up until the end of the week, and seemed happy, but sadly died in her sleep on Friday.

After having discussed the disposal of chickens with a few people recently, and having read an interesting article by Alys Fowler on the Guardian website a few weeks back, we have decided to bury Deliah under a plant. As she decays she will feed the plant and add valuable nutrients to the soil. While we wait to get a suitable plant, she is securely wrapped in the bottom of our chest freezer (as per Alys Fowler’s mother’s method)!

Nora the chicken

Nora the chicken

Nora, who we adopted in December from our local farmer, died this morning. It was expected, given her age and the fact she spent most of yesterday asleep with her head under her wing. I doubt she will be missed by the other chickens, which never took much of a liking to her, but at least had begun to tolerate her. But it is always sad to lose an animal that you had been looking after, no matter if it is just for a short time.

Inspecting the dustbath

Inspecting the dust-bath

With all the recent wet weather, the chickens haven’t been able to satisfy that natural urge (and requirement) to dust-bath. Normally, they would have found a dry area under their shelter and scratched up the dirt enough so that they could cover themselves with dirt. This is their natural way of getting rid of nasties, like mites and lice, so it is important that they have an area in which they can carry out their natural behaviour. And when you see a chicken dust-bathing, you know it must be doing them good – they purr and quiver with the enjoyment! So, as it is unlikely their shelter will stay dry enough for them to create a dust-bath, we have made an specific area for them, which will hopefully remain dry(ish).

Another wooden crate was utilised, with one side removed for access, and then covered in clear plastic, so it warms up in the sun and keeps the worst of the weather out. The floor was then covered with some old sacking, and then filled with wood ash from the woodburners. The ash is meant to act as a natural insecticide for the chickens, so should work well in a dust-bath area (and we’ve got plenty of it).

Two of the chickens have had an initial look about, but as always anything new in the chicken run takes some getting used to!

Nora, our new arrival

Nora, our new arrival

We’ve just taken on board another chicken. Nora has come from the local farmer, who used to have a flock of ex-battery rescue hens, but one by one they died, leaving just one lonely chicken. The farmer’s wife is waiting for a new hen house to be built, so until that happens they didn’t want to replenish their stocks. And as they knew we kept a few chickens, wondered if we wanted to add another one to our small flock. Not being able to resist, we agreed to have her, and took her off their hands. We’ve named her Nora, not for any particular reason, although given the look of her legs, Nora is quite apt after Nora Batty.

We’ve quarantined her in the other run, just in case she’s carrying any nasties. But she is able to see the other chickens so they can get used to each other. We’ve given her a check over, and she’s got quite a lot of mites scuttling around her feathers, so she’s had a good dosing of mite powder to kill them off. We’ll follow this up with another dose in a few days to kill any other mites that have recently hatched and try to break the cycle. In addition we’re worming all the chickens to be on the safe side. She seems quite perky, and has settled in to her new home, but the real test will be when we let her in with the others and the new pecking order is established.

Delilah (back) and Matilda exploring their new home

As promised here are the new occupants of our homemade chicken house – Delilah and Matilda. We decided to go back to the place we got our original chickens from as they offer a number of different hybrid breeds of chicken, and they are relatively local. We’ve broken away from our previous rule of buying a pair of the same breed and picked out a Black Rock (Delilah) and a Warren/ISA Brown (Matilda). We were nearly tempted to get a third, but if these and the current two lay as well as they should, four chickens is plenty for our needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Trying it out for size

Another year starts and another project begins! Looking back at last year’s blog entries and thinking back to previous Januarys, this time of year always seems to herald the start of a new project. Last year it was building log stores and preparing for pigs, and 2010 had us putting up fencing for the arrival of our first animals – chickens. And the start of 2012 is no different with us preparing for more chickens, which will boost our depleted numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

Whiskey & Ginger sunbathing

It seems the fears we had that we would end up with a run full of elderly non egg-laying chickens aren’t going to materialise. In the last week or so the last two of our original four hens both flew up to chicken heaven. Read the rest of this entry »

Why are the best ones always furthest away?

The end of October is usually the time for us to harvest the apples from our one dessert apple tree. In fact this was one of the first things we did when we moved here almost three years ago, surprised to see the apples still hanging into November. We don’t know what variety the tree is (the previous owners told us their son had planted it from an apple pip), but it tastes okay and importantly they store very well. My records show we were still eating them in May! Read the rest of this entry »

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