Monday, 26 May 2008

Fowl weather

The weather last night and this morning has been atrocious, and the poor Girls are very soggy.

The rain was coming in sideways into the Run, and nowhere was safe. We had some willow screen fencing left over, so DH went out in the rain and put it on one side of the run, and a little at one of the ends. This will give the Girls some shelter.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Four after all.

Funny how things turn out. All that time ago, right at the beginning when I didn't have any chooks, DH and I had aslightly public disagreement about the number of hens I planned to get. I mentioned the F word, as that's where I'd got to in my thinking, and he was still trying to come to terms with the idea of Three.

Anyway. We agreed that the gap left by Lydia needed filling, and we both agreed that it's not good practice to try and introduce just one hen, so we were both agreed, and the F word stopped being unacceptable.

I spent a lot of time over the last week trawling the internet, phoning breeders, trying to get the chooks that I wanted. My first choice was impossible to get, even Wernlas aren't breeding them at the moment. There then followed a lot of toing and froing while I tried to sort out in my own mind what two chools to get, and then to find a breeder who did both. My second combination was proving impossible, and then my third. And Wernlas weren't even taking orders for these two as their waiting list was already too long. So I picked one of the breeds and a fourth breed and tried again. And then the other and a fourth. And so it went on.

Breeders weren't very good at coming back to me (even though I asked them to call back even if it was a "no"), and I had just about decided to go and get two hybrids of some sort. And then one of the breeders called me back. Yes, I have a - but they are only 8 weeks old, she said. Blimey. Right, can I come and visit tomorrow?

When I got there, not only did she have a -, but she also had a --, one of my originally desired combinations. Blimey again. She also had a couple of other breeds, and I was sorely tempted to sneak in a third, but I resisted. There is always later in the year, I thought.

So my chicks are reserved. I didn't bring them home because they are the perfect size for my cats to want - and be able - to eat, and I don't feel experienced enough yet to take them on at such a tender age. So she's keeping them for me until they reach 14 weeks. It's going to be a looooong 6 weeks while we wait!

Frustrated chickens

Scarlett is turning broody.For the last week (?) she's been staying in the nestbox even after she's laid an egg.

The Girls get themselves up at 5am or 5.30 am, and Scarlett seems to disappear into the nestbox fairly early - and she's still in there at 9, 9.30 etc. The first couple of days she did this, I found that she was sitting on two eggs (hers and Delilah's). She wasn't belligerent, so I just took her out of the nest box.

But it's been getting worse. A few days ago she was in there for ages, but there was no egg. Poor Delilah gets very distressed on these occasions, as we now only have two chickens. This means she ends up running around waiting for her friend to finish. So, we started to slip an icepack under Scarlett while she did this.

The first ice-pack day, she laid an egg and I felt very guilty.

The second icepack day she came out within minutes of me inserting the icepack underneath her, but she was very grumpy for the rest of the day, and eventually laid an egg.

Yesterday, she was out quickly after the ice pack, and was in a foul (fowl) mood all day, being very vociferous and wingey. She didn't lay.

This morning both girls started girl-crowing at 6.30am. Usually they each crow to announce the arrival of an egg, today they were at it simultaneously. And it went on. So I rushed outside in my dressing gown, and checked for eggs: none. Both girls were sitting on the highest perch in the Run, girl-crowing. Something had presumably upset them, but I couldn't see nay evidence of a fox or anything.

When I went into the Run to see if they were OK, Scarlett jumped onto the floor and ran around doing her panicking Chicken-Licken impersonation. In the end I had to bring out half a cauliflower to shut them up. I don't want to make a habit of that, as they will quickly learn that crowing results in food.

She's a little chicken but she makes such a noise!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Huge Melon

Following on from the success with the Cucumber, and in spite of the Honeydew Melon failure, I bought a huge watermelon for the girls.

Today I cut a large chunk out of it, called the Girls and put it into the Run. Delilah was straight in there; Scarlett took a while, then started by eating what Delilah dropped. Then I had the lovely sight of Scarlett on one side nibbling daintily, and Delilah on the other carving out enormous pieces with each strike of her beak.

It didn't last long.

I've got loads left, so they can have a bigger hunk tomorrow.

Cool as a Cucumber

The other day I tried the Girls with Cucumber again. This time, I scored the cucumberl along part of the length to expose the fleshy goodness, and put the cuke on the Run floor. When I went back in, the cucumber had been mined along the ridge where i'd removed the skin, but was otherwise pretty much in tact.

So, I took it out of the Run, cut it in half lengthways, and put it back in. Result! Empty skins very quickly.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Making progress

I've tried to spend some time each day with Scarlett and Delilah, getting them used to being touched and handled again.

On Saturday (2 days ago) and Sunday, I managed to get them to come and sit on my legs while I was sitting on the ground, and they ate their mixed corn quite happily letting me stroke them. Today, I took a small stool/step ladder thingy out and sat on that, and both of them flew up and sat on my knees eating.

Scarlett needed a bit of a bottom bath. She's needed one for a few days, but I didn't really feel up to bringing another chicken into the kitchen just yet, and I felt she wouldn't really take kindly to it this time (although she has had a bath and blow dry before, and seemed fine).

Anyway, today was The Day. I partially filled the kitchen sink with warm water, prepared two bowls of porridge, and took one outside. Scarlett did not want to be caught, but I got her without too much fuss. I left one bowl of porridge for Delilah, who was happy eating it until she realised Scarlett had gone.

By the time I had placed Scarlett in the sink, Delilah started bokking frantically. I couldn't do much, I had a soggy chicken to deal with. Anyway, Scarlett started bokking back, so I had to work fast trying to clean her up. She didn't mind being washed, and she seemed to quite like the hairdryer. I did the last bit on the floor, and she was quite happy to stand over the hairdryer while it was laying on the ground . I only have two hands, one of which is needed over her back, to stop her flapping her wings. I needed to gauge how wet her undercarriage was, and needed to use my dryer hand to do so.

Anyway. She seemed fine, did a massive poo (once again, thank goodness for Karndean), and the job was done fairly quickly. I then put her back outside with her untouched porridge, and she seems quite happy.

I think next time I'll have to bring them both in so they don't panic at being apart.

It also confirmed for me that I need to get some more chooks to try and fill the gap left by Lydia.

I got 3 in the first place in case something happened, as 1 chook left on it's own is very unhappy. Now I have two, I need reinforcements. It's also not good to try and introduce one lone chicken, as it's not fair - so I'll be getting at least 2. Maybe 3. We'll see.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

After Lydia.

Well, Scarlett and Delilah don't seem to fazed by Lydia's disappearance. They've been out almost all day for the last couple of days, and the only thing they objected to was the fact that I had rearranged the netting so they couldn't get to the bit of garden they'd occupied in Lydia's last few days. I will let them back in there, just not yet.

There are some things I have noticed though.

Firstly, they haven't escaped - despite the large gaps at the bottom of the netting at certain places. Lydia always found the weak points in any netting arrangement, and exploited them fully.

Secondly, they are so hopeless when it comes to eating "new" food. I had some melon today, and I took some out in a bowl for them. They were so unwilling to try it. Hens are very "grass is greener" creatures, and always assume that whatever another hen has is far tastier than whatever they have, even if it's identical. Prevously, Lydia would come and eat whatever-it-was, and the others would try and steal it from her beak, discover they liked it, and then they'd all settle down to eating/stealing /running off with whatever the new treat was. Today, no such luck.

After much patience on my part, Delilah deigned to try drinking the juice which was now pooling at the bottom of the bowl. I obliged by squeezing some of the melon for her (:rollseyes), and she ended up with melon juice on her comb, head, face and wattles. Scarlett just ran around bokking, although she did pick up a melon seed which she immediately spat out.

They are now happy to climb all over me when I'm sitting on the ground, and I'm making progress with the stroking.

Monday, 12 May 2008

She's gone.

She's gone.

It was obvious from about lunchtime that she was going. She found a quiet shady spot in the garden and settled down, but her breathing became more laboured. I lay down beside her earlier syringing water into her beak, but then she didn't want any more.

I spent the last half hour with her, just waiting.

My husband arrived ho
me, came out to see us, and she had a heart attack and died a few minutes later. The last few moments were awful, and I'm relieved that my DH was there with me.

She was such a lovely girl. So friendly, so willing to be cuddled; always the first to try new food.

I'll miss her so much.


Lydia Updates, Week 3, Monday

I can't believe I'm starting Week3. I thought it would all be over by now.

Last night we left the pop hole open, so the girls let themselves out this morning. They didn't make any noise, so I don't know what time they emerged. Got up at 7 and tried hiding the tablet in a grape, which worked. I've got some cucumber and melon available for when Lydia goes off grapes.

She had a beakful of porridge. We need to start weighing her again from tonight so at least we will know which direction the weight is going.

Even now you wouldn't know she was ill, if you didn't know she was ill.

16.40pm Well, they've been in the garden all day, except for an hour when I went to the vets to pick up the antibiotics. She's mostly been sat in the shade, getting up a couple of times to rook through grass or whatever.

For the last couple of hours she's been sitting very quietly with her eyes shut. I put a water bowl right by her beak, and put down some porridge on the grass. She recently started breathing quite heavily - well, I could see her breathing IYSWIM. I've just come back from lying on the grass next to her, where I've been syringing water into her beak.

She looks quite peaceful, and isn't hunched up, but she really does look like she might be going soon. I'm now wondering whether we should just stop the antibiotics, maybe they are just prolonging the "inevitable" and so in a perverse way making it worse for her. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else, it makes sense to me.

I'll see how she is later when it's time to give her the evening dose.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Neglected girls

Well today I decided to spend some time with Scarlett and Delilah; I've not been doing much of that as Lydia is taking all the available time at the moment. S&D were having none of it. They didn't want to be stroked, and they most certainly did not want to be picked up.

So I went back to the beginning, and spent some time sitting out on the grass with a bowl of corn, trying to get them used to me touching them. I made some progress with Delilah, but little with Scarlett. I'll try again later.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Lydia Updates, Week 2 (merged)

These were originally separate posts, one for each day.
MONDAY 5th MAY 2008

I can't believe it's been a whole week.

This morning she was again very reluctant to come out of the coop. I know why, it's because she has to negotiate the ramp to get down. Today, as soon as I had opened the pop hole to let the others out, i could see that she was really hesitating, so I took the back of the Cube off and picked her up myself.

Brought her into the house, gave her her penicillin on a quarter grape, then offered chick crumb which she started eating. Also offered growers pellets, which she refused. The chick crumbs take ages to eat, so although she spent a long time at the bowl, the amount she consumed was miniscule. She was also easily distracted, so I ended up having to hold the bowl while she ate. After hours, well, twenty minutes, by which time I was lying on the floor, DH came down and offered to take over.

He spent another 20 mins with her encouraging her to eat and drink. He's so good with her, and so patient. I've lost count of the hours he's now spent sitting or lying on the floor with her over the last week.

Eventually she was finished, but the quantity she had actually consumed was still very small.She's still bright eyed, and seems ok in herself, but has gone back to sitting in the Run. She's not hunched up or anything. I'll phone the Vet tomorrow and get some more penicillin.

1700 Brought her in at 12.30 for penicillin and food. Another long, slow session, with not a lot eaten really. She also ate a miniscule amount of Growers porridge. Back in at 16.30 for penicillin and food. Same old, same old. At the end of this session when she refused to eat or drink anymore I offered her mixed corn which she ate with gusto. I also put down some Growers pellets mixed in natural yoghurt, and she ate some of that too. Back out again, one more try before chooky bedtime.

Oh, the other two girls are getting a bit concerned that Lydia keeps coming into the house. I don't know if they are concerned or jealous. Anyway, I gave them a bowl of layers porridge to eat while she was in this time, out of site of the kitchen so Lydia couldn't see. They gobbled it up.

TUESDAY 6th MAY 2008
Sorry, I couldn't post last night, I was too upset.

She ate hardly anything, drank a little water, and had lost more weight. She wouldn't even eat grapes. When the others had gone to bed she just sat under the ramp, and I lifterd her up and posted her through the nest box.

This morning, she wouldn't eat and did a slighly sloppy poo, followed by something that looked like bits of poo in glue. She drank a bit. I phoned the Vet and got a 940 appointment.

Vet suggested trying a different antibiotic, so she's on a fairly large dose of Baytril. Brought her home, gave her the first dose in a quarter grape, and then offered various piles of food. She ate some mixed corn, drank some water, and I also put down a bit of roast potato, and she ate some of that.

Girls had a lovely afternoon out in the garden. Lydia happily setled in a shady place. Still not eating much. In the evening gave her the antibiotic, then tried to get her to eat. She ate some mixed corn and some peas, drank a little, then wanted to go back out.

Fairly large weight loss.

7.10 Opened up early as DH is going to work, and the girls were making a racket. Brought Lydia in and have spent the last 40 minutes trying to get her to eat anything so I can give her her tablet. She wouldn't even eat the quarter grape. I cut the half tablet into quarters, and tried stuffing it in a pea, a piece of sweetcorn, a piece of grape. She wasn't having any of it.

Eventually at 6.55 she ate a piece of grape and spat out the tablet. I persisted with a pea again, and eventuallyshe ate it. Ten minutes later she finally ate a second pea, so she's had her morning dose. She wasn't interested in anything else, not even water. I've let her go back to the run and will try again later.

9,45 Decided against bringing Lydia into the house for feeding. Instead I made up Layers porridge (yes, Layers not growers) in three bowls and took it out to the run. Scarlett and Delilah were delighted. Lydia was hesitant but did eventually decided to peck at some. A little later, Delilah and Scarlett had retired to the nest box, and Lydia was still slowly pecking at the porridge. At this stage, I don't really care what she eats, I just want her to eat something - and I was thinking she might eat if she sees the others eating. I can't risk putting Growers porridge out for the others (remember the softee last week?), so it has to be layers.

12.30 A little more porridge, a little corn and some grass. She's also had a dustbath. She's now sitting in the shade having a doze.

18,50 Well, she ate some corn, a tomato, lots of grass, and a small amount of porridge earlier this afternoon. Just brought her in to adninister Baytril tablet, and she won't eat anything. Not a grape, not a corn kernel, not a pea. Eventually she ate a pea, and we walked her back to the run. Inside, the Baytril was presumably setting to work (it was already dissolving in the grape/kernel/pea), and she ate some grit and some porridge.

I didn't weigh her. I know I should have done, I just couldn't face it.

Tommorow we'll do what we did today: bring her in twice a day to give her the Baytril tablet, and put fresh porridge in the Run several times a day in the hope that the others eating it will entice her.

This morning she came down the ramp, albeit slowly.

I went to get her in to give her her anibiotic, and it was a dreadful palaver. I had cut the half tablet into two, on the basis that if one dissolved I would still have the other half. She wouldn't eat anything. Not a pea, not a sweetcorn kernel. She just started honking like a duck.

In the end I opened a tin of sweetcorn (previously she had been eating defrosted frozen) and she ate that with the pill in.

Mid morning I put some pellet porridge in the run. It was all gone when I went back, but I only saw her eat a little of it.

Let them out at about noon as it was so lovely, and she ate some grass. About 1pm I put down some cream of pellet soup (pellet porridge which is blitzed to smooth consistency, and then has natural yoghurt stirred through) which she deigned to eat. A bit. The others ate a lot.

Had to get them in for a while when we went out, she came when I rang the bell and ate a little mixed corn.

Second serving of pellet soup, I didn't put yoghurt in this time and she ate hardly any. She did try to eat my finger; I was sitting on the grass leaning on my hands and she toddled up and put her beak around my finger. Maybe I need to try and get some live mealworms from somewhere?

1815 Just got back from PetsAtHome: they had some live mealworms in stock and didn't shut until 6. Went out into the garden to give Lydia her antibiotic - which she ate in some tinned sweetcorn - and then she hungrily ate the mixed corn. I noticed that all the afternoon soup had gone, don't know how much of that she ate. Then I offered mealworms. Yummy yummy. She ate loads. They are an excellent source of protein, and are a bit fattening so normally it's best not to give too many, but I was so pleased to see her eat something that I let her have quite a lot. Delilah and Scarlett had plenty too.

FRIDAY 9th MAY 2008
I can't believe this.

Last night she was quite bright and chirpy and, if you didn't know she was ill, you wouldn't know she was ill.

This morning she took a few sips of water and then nothing. She refused to look at sweetcorn, meaworms, anything. After struggling for some time in the Run, we brought her in, put her in a box. She refused anything. We left her alone for a while.

For the next three hours I kept trying to get her to take something. Anything. I syringed water into her beak, which she accepted. This tells me she's really poorly, as she normally won't let me do this. Wityh a chicken, you can't really force feed her, she'd probably have a heart attack.

At just before 10am she gave in and ate the sweetcorn kernel which contained the antibiotic. I carried her back to the run, and she jsut stayed sitting on the floor in what can best be described as her broody pose. I went out a few mins later, hoping the antibiotic would have kicked in, and put some mealworms in front of her. And a but later, some cream of pellet soup for her and the other girls. Nothing.

She doesn't look distressed, she's not hunched up, but she really looks like she's slipping away now.

SATURDAY 10th and SUNDAY 11th MAY 2008
Saturday Awful, awful, awful. Lydia wouldn't eat anything that we could hide the pill in, so we had to "force" a sweetcorn kernel in. She drank some, and then wandered back to the Run. We were out all day, so I had put extra Avipro-laced water out, put out mealworms, veggies, etc. Back in the evening, another pill, same routine. Afterwards I let them all out for an hour to eat grass etc, and she seemed relatively perky.

Sunday She was reasonably well when she came out of the coop this morning, scratching around. Same old, same old with the pill. She ate a cherry tomato and some pasta. DH got the pill in, and she's back in the Run now.

Let them all out at lunchtime, Lydia settled in a shady spot. Gave them some corn, which they all ate; some grapes, they all ate; some porridge, they all had some although Lydia only managed a beakful or two.

Went out to administer pill, hidden in grape. Managed to trick Lydia into eating it, so no trauma tonight.