The moult is progressing, slowly

It feels as if the girls have been moulting forever this year. Seramas are supposed to moult a few feathers at a time all year round rather than have a big annual moult. Well Emerald is doing a good impression of a serama moult as she has been moulting a bit at the time since June.

And the seramas are doing a good impression of a big annual moult or at least Freckles and Cinnamon are. Emerald has been dropping tail feathers over the last few weeks and has no tail at the moment. Freckles is almost feathered up back to normal and Cinnamon is tatty and two tone in feather colour.

Freckles is looking good

She looks almost back to normal with just some little feathers sticking up around her head.

Emerald has no tail

She also has some pins on her head.

Dandelion is looking good

There are just a few pins remaining on her head.


She doesn’t seem to change much but even she is still dropping the odd feather.

Apricot is looking good

She turned her head away just as I took this but it shows her feathers so I kept it. She also just has a few pins on her head.


Cinnamon has the most pins on her head and still has a way to go yet as she has lots of ragged tail feathers. Her breast has filled in though and her feathers seem to be two toned at the moment with darker feathers on her wings.

I wonder if it’s Emerald’s age that has caused such a long moult this year. I don’t remember her ever taking this long over it before. It seems with seramas that the straight feathered girls have a proper moult whereas the other feather types do seem to be more gradual.

It will be interesting to see how it goes next year. I am looking forward to having all the girls fully feathered again and won’t miss picking up the feathers every day. I am sure they will soon be pristine once more.

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Last day of tylan for now

I am going to stop the tylan once more, after seven days, this time round. Dandelion has had no more eye bubbles and all the girls seem to be absolutely normal apart from occasional, quiet sneezes. I sometimes wonder if the sneezing will ever disappear but I am sure in time it will. I hope that in spring it will fade out completely.

I had agreed before Christmas that I would talk to my vet again in the new year and we would review the situation. I left a message for her with the veterinary receptionist and she called me back for an update.

We discussed how things have been going. I told her I had stopped treating with tylan after a month and that a week later when it was frosty again Dandelion had bubbles in her eyes once more. I then treated again for seven days and after a few days there were no more bubbles.

I mentioned the recent essay on mycoplasma that I had found and the new snippets of information I have gleaned from it. I did a post on it here.

We agreed that I should carry on as I am, using tylan at any time that I see symptoms and keeping a stock of tylan at all times. My vet is happy for me to call any time I run low and get some more so that I always have stock.

We discussed that going forward I would perhaps add older girls to the flock as they would be less likely to be susceptible to mycoplasma and that I would treat with tylan at the very first sign of any symptoms. We agreed that we had both learned a lot about mycoplasma during this past year and she said that she would add the details of our discussion to my notes at the veterinary practice.

We are both happy that we are managing the situation in the best way that we can and that I will keep a stock of tylan at all times and remain vigilant for symptoms at all times.

The girls this morning

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Squirrel footprints

We have loads of squirrels visiting our garden because of the strip of woodland behind us. They use the chicken run roof, the fence and the brick wall as a runway. They run over the run roof and leap to the wall then jump down either side into our garden or our neighbours. They dig in the garden burying or retrieving peanuts from nearby bird feeders.

As I looked out of the bedroom window yesterday I could see them running along the brick wall and then digging in the veg plot. When I went up to the chickens I could see squirrel footprints on the path where a squirrel had jumped down from the wall.

I wasn’t sure if they would show up in a photograph but thought I would give it a go.

Squirrel foot prints

The back feet are very close behind the front where it has landed. The back foot prints are quite long compared to the front ones. I thought the footprints were quite interesting.

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Cinnamon was the last girl to start her moult and she is now looking really tatty. Her tail feathers are ragged and are falling out one by one. She has a few patches with very few feathers and a mass of white pins on her head.

Cinnamon has very ragged tail feathers

And lots of white pins on her head

Cinnamon eating some mash and showing the white pins on her head

She still has a red comb though and she remains very active and eats well. She continues to push her way under Speckles on the bedtime perch so is able to keep warm at night.

I look forward to seeing the girls all fully feathered and pristine again soon.

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I know that I have done a few posts on mycoplasma since it has been in my flock but I am constantly researching it as it’s been such a big issue to me recently. I thought that I had read everything there was about it but sometimes putting a slightly different question into the google search engine can throw up some slightly different information.

For instance when I asked the question of whether chickens could get colds I found the information saying that they don’t have colds like we do but have a respiratory disease such as mycoplasma and that it must be treated as it won’t get better on it’s own.

When I got Caramel and Pebbles and this disease first showed itself in them I was put off the scent by the breeder telling me that seramas are prone to colds. Even this time round I could have treated a few days earlier if I hadn’t had this thought in my head when I first heard Freckles sneezing. After asking this question in my research I now know to treat at the first sign of sneezing. It makes me think that if the breeder believed that seramas were prone to colds then she unknowingly had it in her flock and wasn’t as knowledgeable as I would have imagined a breeder to be.

Goodness knows how many other chicken owners have landed up in my position through buying chickens from her. She used to show her chickens too so it could have been passed around this way and was perhaps how it came to her flock in the first place.

Anyway what I am leading up to is that I have just put a new question into my search. Because I have been treating my flock for so long now I asked how long chickens could live with mycoplasma. I didn’t really get an answer to this exactly but it did throw up an interesting essay on mycoplasma that I hadn’t seen before. It has actually made me feel a bit more positive about my situation.

This is the gist of what I found. Mycoplasma is a very challenging disease. Chickens become reservoirs of the pathogenic organisms. A hundred percent elimination involves culling the entire flock.

Mycoplasma has four pathogens in chickens but they all have similar symptoms and the same treatment so it’s not important to identify the particular one. Mycoplasma causes chronic respiratory disease, coughing, sneezing, sinus infection and ocular and nasal discharge.

Mycoplasma are very unique bacteria. They are the smallest living organisms on the planet. They are five times smaller than e-coli. Unlike most bacteria they often infect the inside of cells as opposed to the outside of cells.

They lack a bacterial cell wall which would protect them from the environment. Therefore they are extremely sensitive to the outside environment and do not survive outside of the host for very long.

That bit of information is good news because it means that there is no need to worry too much about disinfecting the chickens surroundings.

Many antibiotics work by inhibiting cell wall growth. Therefore mycoplasma is naturally resistant to antibiotics that inhibit cell wall synthesis. Tylan is one of the recommended treatments.

Mycoplasma is contracted vertically or horizontally. Horizontally is from one bird to another via respiratory droplets. Vertically is from a hen to embryo before the egg is laid. Therefore if one bird has it they all do even if they don’t show symptoms. Older birds rarely ever die from it.

Breeders must therefore cull their entire flock but as I will never be breeding this bit will never apply to me. Farmers who are not breeding cull the birds showing symptoms.

Back yard chicken keepers may need to do nothing except keep a closed flock as in not pass any birds on or will need to treat as symptoms occur.

This has given me some hope. It seems that Emerald and Speckles are not effected because they are older birds rather than bigger birds as I had imagined. It means that seramas are not more likely to suffer from symptoms because of their size but only because of their young age. Even with my four seramas only two have really been effected and as Cinnamon is the tiniest and the least effected that seems to back that up.

Sadly it means I will never be free of it because there is no way that I would ever cull my entire flock meaning that Emerald, who is my oldest and a great favourite of mine, and a well bird, would have to be sacrificed and that is never going to happen.

I couldn’t contemplate adding no more birds either as the flock could live many years and I could end up with one sad and lonely girl at the end of that journey. But it means that when I do add new girls I have to be super vigilant and treat at the first sign of any symptoms. I could maybe add older girls to lessen the chances of it effecting them.

It has given me hope that although I have had a bad run recently there could be times where it doesn’t rear it’s ugly head for long periods of time. If I can get my girls into spring and eventually a bit older they may not relapse.

I will now always keep a stock of tylan and having a vet that knows my history makes this easier to do. I will always treat at the very first sign of any symptoms. I can’t turn the clock back to a time before this was in my flock but I have learned an awful lot about this and I am now armed to do my very best to keep the problem as low as I possibly can.

I know this has been a long and heavy post but every new snippet of information helps me with this and if there is any chance that it could help anyone else then it is worth documenting.

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Dandelion seems a bit better

This morning when I let the girls out Dandelion didn’t have any crust on her right eye. I haven’t seen any eye bubbles today. This is a good sign.

This morning Dandelion’s right eye was completely clear

She went straight to the tylan water then the tylan mash. I think that perhaps getting them back on the tylan straight away has nipped this in the bud.

I am aware that this means it’s probably lingering just under the surface and isn’t clearing up completely. Dandelion is the most vulnerable of the girls and I think any cold spells will probably bring on a relapse.

What I hope to do is to treat at any time there is a relapse and try to get the girls safely through to spring in the hope that that will bring about a complete recovery. There is no way of knowing if they will completely recover as only time will tell but I hope that once we get to warmer weather there will be a good chance of recovery.

All the girls including Emerald and Speckles still sneeze from time to time but they don’t seem to be showing any other sign of this. I can only continue as we are and keep hoping that we will come through this.

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The first day back on tylan

When I let the girls out this morning Dandelion had more of a crust on her right eye than yesterday. We assume she must have had eye bubbles during the night and like conjunctivitis they form a crust by morning.

Dandelion has a crusty right eye

At this moment she scratched at it with her claws and managed to dislodge it.

Dandelion managed to scratch the crust away

Dandelion had a good drink of the tylan water and some of the mash also made with the tylan water. I didn’t see any more eye bubbles during the day.

I am hoping that putting the girls back on the tylan may have nipped this in the bud quickly. I will continue with the tylan for at least seven days and reassess then.

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Here we go again

I have been keeping a very close eye on the girls in case there is any sign of a relapse with the respiratory disease. The sneezing has become less frequent and quieter but not gone completely.

However there had been no dosing in the afternoons, no wheezing and no eye bubbles. The girls have been active and eating well.

Then yesterday I noticed that Dandelion had a tiny white speck on the top of her right eyelid. I picked her up for a close inspection and while I held her as still as possible my husband touched it with a cotton bud to see if he could remove it. He said that it felt crusty and it didn’t move. We decided to leave it alone as we don’t want to risk harming her.

I tried to photograph it but it is difficult to see as it is tiny.

Dandelion’s eye lid

It is the tiniest white speck on her eye lid in the top corner nearest her beak. I wonder if she has had an eye bubble that has formed into a crust. I decided to keep a very close eye on her.

Dandelion a bit later in the big shelter

A bit later I checked her again and she had bubbles in her right eye.

Later in the small shelter her eye had cleared

I went back a little later and she had moved to the other shelter and her eyes were clear. I wondered if my husband had loosened the crusty bit and with blinking away the bubbles she had removed it as it was gone completely.

Later back in the big shelter

She now had bubbles in both her eyes

When I next checked on her she now had bubbles in both eyes. This is not good. It looks as if the problem has come back again. Both Freckles and Dandelion were dosing and not looking so good. They have had one week off the tylan and have remained well for one week.

I feel heart sick about this. I had really begun to think that we had beaten this. I plan to put them back on the tylan. I am aware that I can’t keep medicating them forever.

I will see how another course goes and make a decision later about what to do long term. I don’t see what else I can do at the moment but return to the regime and keep hoping for the best.

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The bedtime line up

Recently the bedtime line up has been exactly the same every night. Cinnamon is always tucked very closely under Speckles wing. She always looks completely squashed in. As she is the smallest girl and moulting at the moment as well it is a good way for her to keep warm at night.

The current bedtime line up

Cinnamon is tucked under Speckles wing

I think Cinnamon must push her way under Speckles wing and Speckles being the good surrogate mum that she is, allows her to. This picture is the exact picture I see every night. I am pleased that the girls are staying cosy together.

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A patch of sun

Today the girls lined up together on the big, branch perch, above the ladder in a spot of sun. If there is any sun to be had at this time of the year it is in this spot and the girls will always find it.

In fact sometimes Emerald will wait in this spot for the sun to come round. The little girls join Emerald and Speckles once the sun is on the branch.

All the girls together in the sun

It’s difficult to get all the girls in shot because of the dividing wire and Freckles gets bleached out with the sun behind her but it shows their togetherness.

Perching in the sun

I don’t like taking photos from behind the weld mesh but I thought I would make an exception to show all the girls together. I love seeing them perching together like this.

Today I have only heard a few, very quiet, sneezes. The sneezes are becoming less each day which I am really pleased about.

Freckles looks a bit scrawny with her lack of feathers and Cinnamon looks a bit tattered. All four little girls have pins on their heads. I look forward to seeing them fully feathered again soon and I am pleased with their progress of getting back to normal.

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