The current situation with our girls

Before I do an update on Shadow’s situation I am just going to run through the other girls.

Smoke came out of her broody spell after just a week. She doesn’t seem to be so committed in winter which makes sense. I just left her to it because she was getting herself out of the nest box each day and after a week she didn’t bother anymore. That was a week ago.

I have noticed lately that Flame has slowed down and it has now occurred to me that she is feeling her age. We got her in July 2017 and she stopped laying at the end of the summer and moulted. This means she was at least two years old.

Ebony who we also got in July 2017 laid all winter and didn’t moult that year so she was a first year girl. This means that Flame is at least six years old. She is showing the same signs that Speckles did as she aged.

Flame doesn’t rush to the treats but ambles over in her own time. She spends time just sitting and occasionally also dozing a little. Flame is also always the first to settle in the chicken shed at the end of the day. This was the same as Speckles so I know she is feeling her age as she is fine in every other way.

Flame having a sit, she likes to sit in a corner

Flame is about six years old, Smoke, Salmon and Spangle are four years old, Shadow and Sugar are two years old and Spot is about eight months old.

When I first started keeping chickens I had read that they could live to twelve years old and indeed some owners have girls of that age. I now realise that is like saying that we can live to a hundred years. Some people do but that isn’t the average. I have now read many times that the average lifespan of chickens is between four and eight years old and I think that is more realistic.

Speckles was eight years old and definitely had the look and manners of an old girl.

Now on to Shadow’s current situation.

Shadow this morning

I think that something mechanical has gone adrift inside Shadow. Shadow is happy, chatty, active, eating well and looking good, with a red comb and face, as you can see in the photo of her this morning.

But and this is a big but, Shadow is not able to eject her poop properly. She constantly has a mucky bottom and I am picking her up at the end of each day and cleaning the poop from her with tissue.

Yesterday as an experiment I decided to miss a day and see what would happen. Today she was constantly trying to preen her bottom. I picked her up to check and where I hadn’t cleaned her yesterday her poop had set hard as stone around the base of her feathers.

There was no way I could remove the hard ball without softening it in water. I brought her in and stood her in a bowl of warm water. I worked at the ball until it softened and I could remove it then dried her with a towel. I had only wet the feathers around her vent that I was working on.

This has proved to me that I need to clean Shadow each day. I know that if she can’t poop then it is unlikely that she will be able to lay eggs either. I feel that I have to keep doing what I am doing to have her as long as possible but when she is ready to lay again I will probably have to take her to the vets to be put to sleep unless a miracle happens.

I don’t want to take Shadow to the vets now while she has a good quality of life. Luckily Shadow is the tamest girl ever and easy to pick up and she doesn’t hold it against me. Shadow doesn’t stay away from me afterwards but just seems to accept my interventions.

If Shadow was a nervous girl who stressed at being picked up I wouldn’t be doing this . Shadow just takes it in her stride and I can tell she is happy by the way she behaves.

It is so sad but I feel that we must make the most of having her for a bit longer but must ready ourselves for this being a temporary reprieve.

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Shadow is getting better each day

Yesterday was the first day that I let Shadow fend for herself since she became unwell. She had had tylan for seven days so yesterday was the first day without it. It is recommended to be given for five days but I gave it for seven days to give Shadow as much help as possible.

I finally saw Shadow eating pellets yesterday and I gave the girls mash which I also saw Shadow have. I gave all the girls chopped tomato and Shadow was able to hold her own amongst the flock. It helps that Smoke is broody and in the nest box because she is the one to chase the girls from the treats.

I haven’t heard Shadow squeak when pooping and her bottom isn’t so mucky but there was still a blob of poop stuck to her vent which I removed with tissue. She does appear to be getting back to normal but only time will tell if there is something wrong inside her.

I have made the decision not to have any more seramas in the future. I think that they are so delicate and I feel that I can’t keep going through this. I absolutely love seramas so it’s not an easy decision but it is breaking my heart to keep losing or nearly losing them.

There are other bantam breeds that I would like such as sebright, dutch bantams or other colours of hamburgs but there are no breeders of these near us. I like my girls small, with no feathered legs or feet, no crests or beards and in a variety of colours.

So I have looked at non bantams that are a fairly small size and have found a breeder close to us that has some lovely breeds. I am thinking in the future of possibly getting a black star and an amber star. The black star is black with a gold necklace and the amber star is white with amber flecks on the back. They are hardy, easy to tame, quiet and good egg layers.

This is just something I am thinking of for the future because I know it is uncertain if Shadow and Salmon will be able to lay without further problems. I don’t want to keep finding myself here again. I can’t bare to see these little girls struggle and it’s so stressful worrying if I can save them or not. It bounces my emotions up and down.

My bigger girls, Toffee, Emerald and Speckles got to a good age of about eight years. I haven’t so far had a serama for longer than four years and have lost some between one and two years. Shadow only started laying in February last year and isn’t yet two years old.

I find it so upsetting when they run into egg related problems at such a young age so this is what my thoughts are at the moment. I am still hoping that Shadow to get through this but I know that I have to ready for a possible set back when she starts laying again.

It’s a shame we can’t tell them to stop laying but nature will take it’s course.

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More hopeful for Shadow at the moment

I am growing more hopeful for Shadow. Today I haven’t heard her squeak when pooping. I have been able to clean her bottom by wiping it with tissue and there is no longer a sickly smell.

It has been frosty and I don’t want to wet her while it’s so cold so it has been good to be able clear her bottom with a dry tissue. Shadow has been eating seeds, tomato and spinach. I haven’t seen her go to the pellets today but I hope that she may be doing so when I am not watching her.

Shadow has looked more alert and this afternoon she had a dust bath. This is a good sign and I hope that she will be able to clean herself by dust bathing.

Shadow and Smoke dust bathing
Shadow dust baths while Salmon watches over her

I really want to see her without a mucky bottom to be sure that she is back to normal but at the moment everything is gradually improving day by day so I am feeling more hopeful.

In other news Smoke went broody yesterday. The photo of Smoke dust bathing with Shadow was when she took one of her breaks from the nest box.

Smoke has laid twenty three eggs in five weeks which has been a really good run for her. This is about twice as many as she usually lays before going broody.

I am still keeping every thing crossed for Shadow and taking it a day at a time but it is looking more encouraging. I will keep updating here as we go along.

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I think Shadow is on the mend

In my last post I thought that Shadow was improving and then she went down hill again. I now think she is improving again and I am hoping that perhaps she is over the worst.

Shadow had a really mucky bottom and the poop was cream coloured. I have been cleaning her bottom towards the end of each day. The day she got better then worse her mucky bottom had a very strong sickly smell.

This smell got stronger the next day and I could smell her as soon as I opened the chicken door to check on them at bedtime. I think that if she had an egg stuck or laid internally that the smell may have been due to infection.

I have been doing research even though I have done so many times before and read that it is possible that an egg without a shell can be reabsorbed into the body but the egg is ideal for bacteria to thrive and therefore cause infection which needs antibiotic to treat it. This is why I feel the tylan is so important for Shadow.

I switched up to hand feeding and giving tylan water to her beak from once a day to twice a day from then. This seems to have boosted her. The poop around her bottom has now changed to a normal brown colour and the smell has become much weaker.

Shadow squeaked every time she tried to poop and I knew it was hurting her. When I cleaned her yesterday afternoon I saw that she had a red spot on her bottom where the poop had made her sore. After cleaning her bottom I smeared vaseline on the skin around her vent to protect the skin. I will do this every time I clean her. Talk about up close and personal!

Yesterday Shadow briefly joined the flock in a dust bath which is a good sign and at bedtime I saw her eat a few pellets for the first time since she became unwell. These things make me hopeful that the worst may be over.

I have also read that if this happens to a hen once then it can happen again but I have to take this one step at a time and cross my bridges as I get to them.

This is the first time that this has happened without a soft shell that I have in the past been able to pull out. I can only surmise that this is what has happened by my research and my instincts. Either way the important thing is to do every thing I can to get Shadow well again.

Shadow having some seeds and chopped tomato on the metal table

Shadow is still struggling with pooping which isn’t good. She isn’t out of the woods yet but I am a little more hopeful than I was a few days ago and I am still keeping everything crossed for her.

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Shadow is showing some improvement

Yesterday I continued with Shadow’s treatment. In the morning I separated her on the top of one of the nest boxes and dropped chopped tomato and sunflower hearts in front of her and she ate some.

Then we syringed the tylan water into Shadow’s beak. I then cleaned her mucky bottom again with a bowl of warm water and cotton wool pads. I cleaned her as much as I was able and dried her with the cotton wool.

I decided to give Shadow tylan water to her beak twice a day until such time as I see her go to the water herself. We did this again at the end of the day.

By the end of the day Shadow was looking brighter. She was vocalising again and actually came up for some sunflower hearts with the rest of the girls at the end of the day.

I am now wondering if this is not egg related after all. I have to say I think tylan is a miracle cure and I am so glad that I still had some in stock and that I decided to give it a try. I am now feeling cautiously optimistic that Shadow can get better.

This morning Shadow came to the sunflower hearts with the other girls.

Shadow joining in with the seeds

I decided not to separate her for feeding as she had some seeds but we did give her the tylan water to her beak again.

Shadow is looking better but has a very mucky bottom again

Again I cleaned Shadow’s mucky bottom with warm water and cotton wool pads and dried her feathers as best I could.

For the first time since Shadow had looked unwell I saw her go to the water herself so there was no need to give her a second dose to her beak. We are not out of the woods yet though. I have yet to see Shadow go to the food dish and having a mucky bottom is a sign that things are not right with her.

I am more hopeful than I was a few days ago though so I am just keeping everything crossed for her. I will report back again soon.

EDIT

I think I may have spoken too soon. I just went out to give the bedtime seeds and Shadow didn’t come up with the other girls this time. Shadow is sat on a log looking very miserable and her eyes are closing.

I am back to thinking that maybe it is an egg problem after all. Maybe the tylan just gave her a boost. This is so sad. We will have to see what tomorrow brings.

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Shadow has a problem

The day before yesterday Shadow was in the nest box for most of the day. She had been in there all morning so at lunch time I lifted her out and gave her some sunflower hearts. Shadow returned to the nest box until the end of the day but there was no egg.

I assumed that Shadow had got her timing wrong and didn’t think any more of it but yesterday morning when I gave out some sunflower hearts Shadow didn’t come running with the rest of the girls. She was sitting on a log looking miserable and hunched. I realised she was having an egg laying problem.

Shadow’s egg shells have been a bit thin recently and this is typical of a soft shelled egg. At the end of the day she put herself to bed and I hoped that there would be a soft shelled egg in the shed in the morning.

Today there was no sign of an egg. Shadow wasn’t able to compete with the girls for the treats which is always the case when they are feeling out of sorts. I checked Shadow and she had a mucky bottom which is also always the case with an egg problem.

In the past when there has been a bit of an egg shell showing I have been able to pull it out but there was no egg shell showing. I am heart broken at the thought of losing her. Shadow is a favourite. She is so pretty and so friendly. She has a lovely nature and is the easiest girl to pick up. I don’t know why this is happening to her when she has never had egg laying problems before.

I know that if I do nothing and she has an egg stuck we will lose her so I felt that I had to try to help her. I decided on a three pronged strategy. First I wanted to get her to eat something to help keep her strength up. Secondly I decided that as I still have some tylan, that is in date, I would put that in the water for five days. I have read that occasionally an egg can be reabsorbed and an antibiotic could stop an infection. Thirdly I decided to give her a warm bath.

I have never found that the bath treatment has worked for me but other people have had success with this and I felt that I had to give it a try plus it would clean up her mucky bottom.

First I separated Shadow on top of the metal table and gave her chopped tomato and sunflower hearts which are her favourite things. She wouldn’t take them from the dish but had some when I dropped them in front of her.

Shadow having some tomato and sunflower hearts

Next I got everything ready to bath her. I also used a syringe to put some of the tylan water into her beak as she isn’t going to the water at the moment and I felt this would give her a start on the tylan.

I bathed her in a bowl of warm water making sure her vent was in the water. The muck had set hard on her feathers so I gently got that off. I couldn’t see any sign of egg or shell in her vent.

I wrapped Shadow in a towel on my lap and dried her as much as possible before using a hair dryer on the lowest setting to finish drying her. I put her on a towel in the bathroom to wait a bit until I was sure she was fully dry.

Shadow after her bath
After her bath with her dish of treats

Shadow didn’t move from this spot and I was worried that she was traumatised so I decided it would be best to return her to the run. I put her in the nest box but she immediately came back out so I left her to it.

Only time will tell if she comes through this. I am very down hearted about it at the moment but there really isn’t anything else I can do for her.

I will be keeping a close eye on Shadow and checking her vent regularly. I am willing her to come through this. Please, please, please, get past this Shadow. I can’t bare the thought of losing her.

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A fish treat for the new year

Yesterday I gave the girls their first fish treat of the new year.

The girls have some new year fish
The first fish treat of the year
They love some fish
This won’t last long

Smoke and Shadow are both still laying. Smoke has had a good run and I keep expecting her to go broody any day now. Smoke has been laying for a month which is a really good run for her. Shadow has been laying for two months.

I have noticed that Spot’s comb is beginning to get pink. It’s not red like Smoke and Shadow’s comb but it was grey up until now and is now getting a slight pink tinge to it.

Spot’s comb is getting a bit pink

It will be interesting to see how soon Spot starts laying and how well she lays. It will also be interesting to see what size her eggs are. I am looking forward to watching her mature and start to lay.

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End of year egg count

I thought it would be interesting to compare this year’s egg count to last year’s. In general our girls lay less each year with some girls as much as halving their egg number each year but there are always anomalies.

There has also been a theory that I had that has been blown out of the water. I thought based on a sample of one, being Smoke, that perhaps a serama serial broody was more likely to lay through the winter.

Sugar turned out to be a serial broody too but hasn’t laid this winter. Shadow who has never been broody has laid this winter. I have now amended my theory.

The thing that Smoke and Shadow have in common is that they lay a lot more eggs than the rest of the girls. My new theory is that it is the seramas that are the best egg layers that lay in the winter. You will see this with the egg numbers.

So I am going to first list last year’s egg number for each girl followed by this year’s egg number starting with the oldest girls and working through to the newest and youngest girls.

I am including Ebony first because although we re homed Ebony in October she had already stopped laying so her number of eggs is still complete for this year.

Last year Ebony laid 115 eggs and this year she laid 59 eggs.

Last year Flame laid 138 eggs and this year she laid 77.

Last year Smoke laid 117 eggs and this year she laid 121 eggs. Smoke is the anomaly laying 4 eggs more this year than last.

Last year Spangle laid 59 eggs and this year she laid 31.

Last year Salmon laid 71 eggs and this year she laid 47.

Shadow started laying in February of this year and has laid 107 eggs.

Sugar started laying in March this year and has laid 57 eggs.

We got Spot in September this year and she hasn’t started laying yet as it was too late in the year. She should start laying in the spring.

The total eggs laid last year was 564 and the total eggs laid this year was 442

Smoke and Shadow have laid a much higher number than any of the other girls. It will be interesting to see how the pattern progresses next year.

It will also be interesting see if Spot turns out to be a good layer as hamburgs usually are. We no longer have Ebony but now have Spot so we will have another egg layer in the spring.

All that remains for me now is to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and to hope that 2022 will be a better year for everyone.

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Treats for the girls on Christmas morning

I always like to give the girls treats for Christmas morning. This morning they had yogurt which is one of their favourites. I have also stocked up on some fish for them over the festive period and they have had sprout tops from the allotments too.

Sprout tops yesterday
They love their daily greens

Shadow and Smoke are still laying so we are lucky to have some eggs from them although it will only be a matter of time before Smoke will go broody.

There hasn’t been much to blog about recently as everything has been going along nicely in the chicken run with no drama which can only be a good thing.

We have had all our Christmas veg from the allotments with sprouts, parsnips and carrots plus beetroot for our salads and the girls have enjoyed the tops from the sprouts, carrots and beetroots.

Christmas yogurt for the girls
Yogurt beaks all round

I would like to wish everyone a happy Christmas and here’s hoping for a better 2022 for us all.

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A fish treat for the girls

I thought it would be good to give the girls a fish treat and get some photos as I haven’t had much to blog about them recently. Mind you no news is good news as they say and it is good to have a happy flock.

A fish treat for the girls
They love a bit of fish
Spot shows off her elegant long neck and long tail
Spot has big feet which I also think are rather elegant

After all the moulting a bit of extra protein is good for the girls as well as being a well loved treat.

Smoke promptly started moulting after she came out of her recent broody spell but she has stopped dropping feathers now. I think they are now all through the moult. Smoke started moulting just as the rest of the flock stopped dropping feathers. I seem to have been picking up feathers for a long time this year.

Smoke may start laying again now that she has stopped moulting. It is three weeks since she last laid.

Shadow continues to lay. She has laid eight eggs in three weeks so far. She started laying every fourth day then every third day and now every other day so she has hit her stride.

It will be interesting to see if Shadow continues to lay through winter or if she will take another break. It would be good to have both Shadow and Smoke laying at the same time to give us a few more eggs but any eggs at all at this time of year are a lovely bonus.

It is also lovely to see all the girls fully feathered for the rest of the winter.

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