Cinnamon after Dandelion has gone

The day after Dandelion had gone it was so sad to see Cinnamon spending time alone in the small shelter where they had spent a lot of their time together. It was if she thought Dandelion might suddenly appear in here. She spends some time alone in here every day.

Cinnamon alone in the small shelter

Cinnamon has taken to sticking very close to Speckles and to hanging out with the bigger girls.

Cinnamon sticks close to Speckles

Cinnamon with Flame and Speckles

Cinnamon dust bathing with Flame

The flock seems to have formed two groups, Cinnamon and the bigger girls and the amigos and the silky girls. I am glad Cinnamon has the bigger girls to hang out with. It’s so sad to see her without Dandelion.

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Transplanting our beans

As this is the first year of having an allotment we are on a learning curve. We were all very eager to get everything started and now realise that we sowed our runner beans and dwarf beans a bit too early.

They can’t be planted outside until there are no more frosts and we are getting frosts every morning at the moment. We are still hardening the beans off by putting them outside during the day and bringing them in at night.

What we now realised was that they were out growing their pots and the roots were coming through the bottom of the pots. If we didn’t transplant them we wouldn’t be able to get them out of the pots without damaging the roots and we want to keep the pots intact to reuse next year.

We decided to move them on to grow bags which we cut down to fit our plastic crates. This will make them easier to transport to the allotment when we are ready to plant them.

Beans hardening off

We have planted the broad beans on the left into the allotment plot because broad beans can withstand frost. The beans on the right have trebled in size and we have now transplanted them.

Transplanted beans

This has been our first lesson learned. Next year we will sow our beans at any time between now and the end of April. This means they will be able to go straight from the pots to the allotment in May without us having to do this middle stage.

We hadn’t realised how quickly they would grow and during a recent chat with my mum she said that she will be setting her beans over the next week or so. Never mind, I am sure we have a lot more to learn yet.

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Ebony and Vanilla continue to lay their eggs together

A few days after the first post I did about Ebony and Vanilla sitting in the corner of the chicken shed they settled in there together again.

Once again Vanilla settled in the corner behind Ebony

And just like last time once Ebony had laid her egg Vanilla moved it around

I removed Ebony’s egg and a few minutes later Vanilla laid her egg. Two days later they were settled together again. These two seem to be perfectly in sync with their egg laying.

For the third time running Ebony and Vanilla settled together in the corner of the chicken shed

When I checked back a little later Ebony and Vanilla’s eggs were together in the corner. I can’t believe how in tune these two are at the moment.

This was also our first, seven egg day, of the year. We had eggs from Ebony, Vanilla, Jasmine, Flame, Smoke, Spangle and Salmon.

Well done girls!

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A tribute to Dandelion

Sadly we lost Dandelion yesterday. She was such a lovely girl. She was beautiful and so friendly and was not only top serama but was joint top girl with Speckles. No one messed with Dandelion and she got on with all the girls, bigger or little, but she especially had a really close friendship with Cinnamon.

The three amigos in April 2017

An inseparable pair 2017

Dandelion in the nest box 2018

Dandelion dust bathing in the sun June 2018

Cinnamon and Dandelion dust bathing together November 2018

Dandelion was always happy to share a nest box March 2019

Cinnamon checks on Dandelion in the nest box March 2019

Dandelion April 2019

We will miss her so much and I know that Cinnamon will miss her steadfast companion. We were lucky to have her for the time that we did. Goodbye sweet Dandelion.

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Dandelion has gone

Dandelion looked so lovely yesterday so it was a shock to see her looking really poorly today. She was sitting in the run with her eyes closed and her chest was bobbing up and down with her breathing. Cinnamon was sitting with her keeping her company.

Cinnamon keeps Dandelion company

Dandelion has her eyes closed

After all the wrangling over the last few days about Dandelion’s future she has now made the decision for me. I think she was having an egg related problem.

Dandelion had laid eight eggs, laying every other day and was due to lay today. I don’t understand why she was having a problem because her eggs were tiny and had good shells but I have seen this with her enough times in the past to know that she was now having a problem.

If I had to have her put to sleep then I would rather do it while she was looking poorly like today than while looking great like yesterday. Fate seems to have intervened and made the decision for me. I rang the vet and booked an appointment as early as they could fit me in.

By the time it was our turn to be seen Dandelion was looking more stressed than I had ever seen her. Her breathing was rapid and her beak was open.

The vet was a different one to the one who had called me and who wasn’t back in until Monday. This vet was really kind and agreed that she thought it was egg related. She asked if I wanted to be present while Dandelion was put to sleep as not everyone does but I said that I would rather stay with her.

The vet got another vet to assist her. The other vet held her while the first vet found a vein under her wing to inject her. They were both so gentle and kind and I talked to Dandelion to try to sooth her. It was very quick and gentle and I stroked her and cried over her but I knew this was the kindest thing for her.

We have always said that Dandelion was the chicken with nine lives. We have been lucky to have her for three years. In her first summer she came back from laying soft shelled eggs, she has come back from myco during two winters and last summer was the only girl to come back from a prolapse. Dandelion was a fighter.

We are so sad to lose her and I feel for poor Cinnamon who will be lost without her. They were such a tight little pair from the moment they came into the flock. Cinnamon has been standing alone at the spot where they both were in the photos above.

I will be doing a tribute to Dandelion soon but at the moment I am too upset to say anything more.

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I have agonised over the decision about Dandelion.  I have had many tearful moments. I have gone round and round the options and keep coming back to the same thing. With no tylan available to me I can’t risk keeping Dandelion. If she relapses again with no treatment our whole flock is at risk.

I decided to make an appointment at the vets for Monday afternoon giving us the weekend with Dandelion. I will spend time with her, take photos and give her treats. She can have as many sunflower hearts as she likes.


I have just taken this photo of Dandelion. She looks so beautiful. It is breaking my heart.

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A heart breaking decision to be made

Yesterday I rang the vets to ask for some more tylan as I have just used the last of my stock on the recent treatment.  The receptionist looked up my records and I mentioned in our conversation that I now have twelve girls in the flock.

The receptionist said that she must talk to the vet first and that she would get the vet to call me back. I wondered why the vet needed to call me when I had always been given more tylan before.

The vet called me half an hour later and had a long chat with me. This was a different vet that I hadn’t spoken to before. She said that it wasn’t a good idea to keep using an antibiotic treatment. She said that things have changed in the medical world since I began giving tylan, three years ago, and that in humans and animals the medical profession are now much more worried about antimicrobial resistance.

This basically means that the ongoing use of antibiotics could cause bacteria or diseases to alter to become immune to antibiotics.

I said that I had been advised that I could keep tylan in stock to treat my flock when needed. She said that it had been assumed that I would let my flock age and die out and that it wasn’t expected that I would add new girls. I said that I wished they had had this conversation with me before as it had never been mentioned until now. I can’t believe that they made that assumption without ever discussing it with me.

I said that my research had shown that as long it is a closed flock, meaning girls don’t go out of the flock, that it was okay to manage it with treatment when needed. She said that she felt that only applied if you didn’t add new girls. She said that it was irresponsible of me to bring new girls into the flock.

She also said that I could be endangering the wild bird population. I explained that my run is completely self contained and roofed and that there is no contact with the wild birds.

She asked me if I had lost any girls to mycoplasma since I had been treating with tylan. I explained that I hadn’t. I had lost three girls to prolapse and two girls to old age. This reduced my flock from ten to five so I took it up to twelve to maintain the flock size.

I said that I thought Dandelion was the carrier as she is always the first to show symptoms during moulting or frosty weather and she is the only one to have bubbles in her eyes. I said the other girls just had sneezing and recently when Dandelion had shown symptoms I have treated them all even though none of the others showed symptoms, to nip it in bud and be on the safe side.

She then dropped the bombshell on me that she seriously advised that I have Dandelion culled, I prefer the term, put to sleep! She said that they wouldn’t give me more tylan until Dandelion was gone and we had had one clear winter without mycoplasma.

She said that she knew it sounder hard hearted but that if Dandelion was becoming ill every winter then it was not fair on her to keep her going. Without Dandelion there is a chance that myco may not return to my flock.

I was by now in tears and asked if I could discuss it with my husband later and get back to her soon.

It is heartbreaking to think of having to let Dandelion go. It’s difficult enough making the decision to have an unwell girl put to sleep but to have a well girl put to sleep is a much harder thing to do. We have talked in the past of having to let Dandelion go but she is now fully feathered and beautiful, laying eggs and is so friendly and Cinnamon will be lost without her, not to mention how much we will miss her.

But I have to weigh up the good of the flock and her long term well being too. I have wondered how many more winters I could get her through. I have been thinking that as she gets older the winters will become more and more difficult for her and maybe there is a chance that the flock would be free of this without her.

The vet made it clear that if I didn’t do this there would be no more tylan available for me. I discussed this with my husband and he suggested we could just keep her or we could say that we had culled her, these suggestions were not really serious, but we were just trying to look at all the options. My husband also suggested that I ask Dave and Sophie what they think about this but I know that at the end of the day it is my responsibility.

What I kept coming back to was that if we keep Dandelion and she relapses and I am not allowed tylan then she will get very ill and if she passes that on to the others and they get ill too then without treatment I could lose the whole flock.

The vet said it would be very irresponsible of me to keep Dandelion and that I should discuss it with my husband and get back to her. I am so upset by this but I don’t see that I have any choice.

I even considered giving her one last summer and then giving her up but if something stressed her and she relapsed I could risk the whole flock and anyway how do you decide when it should be. I can’t go through summer with this hanging over me and worrying about the possible consequences to the rest of the flock.

I had only been saying recently what a lovely flock we have now and that I think it’s the best it has ever been. This has come as a shock and a huge blow. I keep getting tearful about this and yet I know in my heart of hearts that I don’t have a choice.

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The bigger girls and little girls together

Vanilla’s, fair sized, beige, eggs are laid in the corner of the chicken shed and I often find them next to Flame’s or Ebony’s eggs.

Yesterday Ebony was in the corner of the chicken shed and Vanilla was also in the shed being very vocal. I wondered if Ebony was sitting on Vanilla’s egg but Vanilla kept getting closer and closer to Ebony.

The next time I checked in on them Vanilla had managed to squeeze into the corner of the shed behind Ebony.

Vanilla peeking out from behind Ebony

A bit later Ebony was out in the run and when I checked her egg was in front of vanilla who was moving it around with her beak. I removed it and when I checked back again Vanilla was out in the run and her egg was in the corner of the shed.

It is definitely proof that in our flock there is no problem at all with bigger girls and little girls being happy alongside each other. It is heartwarming to see this.

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All change

I had a feeling that Marmite’s broodiness was weakening. Yesterday morning she was out in the run, when I went in first thing, rather than me lifting her from the nest box for the morning sunflower seeds. She returned to the nest box but she stayed out in the afternoon for a communal dust bath just like the day before on my previous post.

This morning she was again out in the run when I went in first thing. I checked back an hour later and she was still out, hurrah! Marmite stayed out all day. After exactly a week she has come out of it.

For the last few days Smoke has been looking as if she was getting ready to lay again. She has been going to the grit and checking out the nest boxes. Late this morning Smoke settled in the nest box. When I next checked on her she had laid an egg after a two week break.

Smoke in the nest box

Marmite has stayed out of the nest box today

Then to my surprise this afternoon Jasmine was in the nest box. A few minutes later she laid her egg in front of me with no time to get a photo of her.  Jasmine has only taken a one week break from laying. As I have found before the shorter time they are broody, the quicker they come back into lay.

I am surprised that I am still able to tell which girls are laying, at the moment, for my egg record. There are several reasons for this. Speckles has given up after one egg and Ebony has beige eggs and Flame has white eggs so the bigger girls are a doddle.

Of the smaller girls there are usually three on a broody break at any given time so that narrows it down. Sienna, like Salmon before her, hasn’t really got going properly yet. Cinnamon has only laid one egg so far this year.

Dandelion lays tiny eggs, every other day and Smoke and Vanilla lay bigger and rounder eggs but Smokes are white and Vanilla’s are beige. The rest of the girls lay longer, beige, eggs but lay every other day so are fairly easy to predict.

I am also here a lot of the time so I can usually catch them missing on parade and they tend to be quite vocal before hand. Even when we are out like Sunday when we were at the allotment for five hours I can predict who will probably lay.

Ebony lays every other day so I knew she was due to lay and Vanilla was being very vocal and in and out of the chicken shed before we left. Salmon and Spangle also lay every other day and on the same day so I predicted they would lay too.

On our return Ebony’s and Vanilla’s biggish, round, beige egg, were together in the corner of the chicken shed. Salmon and Spangle’s eggs were in the nest box. It also helps me predict because most of the girls have a favourite place to lay their eggs.

A selection of eggs

To demonstrate this Flame’s egg is on the left to give scale. Next is Dandelion’s tiny egg. Next is Smoke’s round, white egg. As it is her first one back in lay it’s not quite as big as usual. It would usually be the same size as Vanilla’s egg, which is next and is round and beige. On the right is Spangles egg which is beige and a longer shape.

It is fun being able to tell who is laying but I expect there will be times in the summer when we are out all day and it may not always be possible. It is good to have Smoke, our best layer, back in lay again and no broodies for the moment!

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Communal dust bathing

Marmite is a determined broody. I lift her out from the nest box each time I go in the run but most of the time she just goes straight back in again whereas Smoke used to have a quick dust bath or food and water or a scratch in the run.

Sunday we were at the allotment from eleven o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon. I expect Marmite had been the nest box for the whole time we were away because when I lifted her out, on our return, she actually went off to the run for a dust bath which was good to see.

It wasn’t long before it turned into a communal affair.

A heap of dust bathing girls

It’s a communal affair with Smoke spectating

The girls are having a lovely time

Marmite was the first to leave but did have a quick preening session before returning to the nest box.

Meanwhile Cinnamon perches with the bigger girls

If Cinnamon is not with Dandelion then she will be with the bigger girls. Cinnamon spends all her time with Dandelion and the bigger girls and has nothing to do with the amigos or the silky girls.

Cinnamon dust baths with Dandelion or with the bigger girls but not with the others whereas Dandelion mixes with all the girls. It is interesting to watch the changing dynamics within the flock.

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