Trying to get the chicks perching at bedtime

I am surprised that this is proving so difficult because the chicks now love to perch during the day. They use the perch by the hatch and both perches in the wooden shelter. They are often hanging out together on one of the perches.

At bedtime they squeeze into the box behind the perch. They now look quite big in this space. Last night I went out late to them when they were asleep. I picked each of them up and put them on the perch. I actually managed to get a photo of all three on the perch for the first time. As soon as I had taken the photo they all jumped down and resumed their usual position. Sigh!

The chicks usually sleep in this position

This is how I would like them to sleep

I am finding that the chicks don’t like changing their habits. From when we first got them they were dust bathing in the pine shavings. I thought that once they had their own part of the run that they would start to dust bath in the dust! No, they don’t. They return to the little coop and dust bath in the shavings.

You are supposed to start them on growers pellets at around three months old. I mixed growers pellets with chick crumb to get them used to the pellets. After a week of this I decided to take the crumb away and just give pellets. They would flick the pellets out of the dish and push them around but were not eating them. I eventually gave up and added chick crumb back to the dish and all three heads went in the dish as if they were starving.

They like to sleep in a heap and despite perching during the day they do not want to perch at night.

They seem to be so entrenched in their habits that they are reluctant to change. I will just have to be patient and hope they get the hang of all these things eventually. They are funny little characters!

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A change of name

Dandelion is continuing to do okay however I am aware that it may just be a reprieve for her. If she didn’t lay until next spring she would have a good chance of healing but if like Rusty she lays again in the near future I know that there is a good chance that she would prolapse again.

We can only wait and see what the outcome will be for her but for the moment we are getting to keep her for a bit longer and must make the most of that.

Dandelion yesterday

She wasn’t too keen on me following her around and trying to get a photo of her bottom but it looks so much better.

The chicks are really into perching now and hang out together on one or other of the perches.

The chicks perching in the shelter

I thought the chicks might be ready to perch at bedtime so I went in about an hour after they had gone to bed. I lifted all three on to the perch but by the time I had picked up my camera one had jumped down again. I did this several times and then gave up as they all settled back in the box again.

The problem is that they are still awake long after they have gone in and are cheeping to each other. I need to go out late at night when they are asleep to have any chance of them staying on the perch. The other thing that might help is to try to get them used to the perch during the day. This is going to be a work in progress.

The chicks at bedtime

And now on to the title of this post. I have never changed a name before. I like to name all my girls as a description of their colour. I named Lemon for her lemon coloured head, she is on the right of this photo.

As she has grown she has completely changed in colour. She no longer has any lemon colour and is rust/gold in colour. It’s a bit like ducklings starting out yellow and completely changing as they grow up and as I have never had seramas as young as this before I didn’t realise how much their colour would change.

Lemon no longer suits her and I have decided to change her name to suit her colour. We have had a lot of gold colour girls and so I have already used a lot of the names that describe this colour and it’s getting more difficult to come up with new names.

In no particular order I drew up the following short list:

Brandy, Ginger, Peanut, Biscuit, Copper, Chestnut, Bronze, Russet, Sienna, Saffron, and Hazel.

My final choice is Sienna. My newest, three amigos, are Blue, Jasmine and Sienna. There is a first time for everything and we are now getting used to her new name. I think it suits her much better.

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Update on Dandelion and the chicks

Last night Dandelion put herself to bed early so I brought her indoors and cleaned her up. I put her prolapse back in with honey once more and then returned her to her roost spot. I hoped that if she did little or no poop overnight the prolapse would stay in.

This morning I was pleased to see one poop under her roost spot, the prolapse still inside and no mucky bottom. She seemed better in herself today too. Later I saw her poop properly and the prolapse did pop out a bit but remained clean. I decided to see if she could pull it back in herself. I checked on her a little later and was really pleased to see that the prolapse was back inside and her vent was clean. This was really good news.

I hope that she will now take a break from laying and will have a chance to heal. I worry that if she lays another egg she will be back to square one again but I am hoping that the stress of the prolapse will cause her to stop laying for a while and the longer the better.

The chicks are now using the perches in their part of the run so I am going to start training them to perch at night.

The chicks have found the perch

I decided that it was now time to remove the dog crate. I have put the water bottle on the gate to their part of the run and have set up a feeding station for them. I put a paving slab in between the metal table and the shelter and put their food dish and water dish there.

The chicks new set up

It didn’t take the chicks long to find the new position of the dishes and the water bottle. They hardly seem to notice that the dog crate had gone.

We have had the chicks for a month this weekend so they are about three months old now. I say about three months, because I think that Jasmine may be a week or two younger than the other two, as she has always been the smallest.

They have grown so much in the last month that it is now difficult to imagine them living in the hamster cage.

The rest of the flock take no notice of the chicks at all. I am hoping that integration should be easier as they main flock are so used to their presence. Time will tell on that one though.

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Dandelion isn’t looking good

Last night once all the girls were in the chicken shed and the automatic door had closed I placed Dandelion on her roost spot. I was surprised to find an egg in the cat box.

This morning she was last out of the shed and when I checked her she looked just the same as the day before .

Dandelion this morning not looking at all happy

It’s not looking good

I cleaned her up once more and pushed the prolapse back in this time with some honey. Honey is hydrophobic, a natural antibiotic and sticky which may hold the prolapse in. It worked last year with Rusty’s first prolapse.

By lunch time when I returned from my deliveries and checked on Dandelion she looked the same once more. I was so disappointed that the honey hadn’t kept the prolapse in.

I bought her inside and repeated the process of cleaning her and pushing the prolapse back in with honey.

When I next checked on her she looked even more miserable. I am now worried that she may be in pain and I know that I can’t let this go on much longer.

Dandelion looks in pain

Speckles was watching over her and keeping her company.

I had hoped that if she could keep the prolapse in she would stop laying and would have a chance to heal. Instead she looks so much worse in herself than yesterday. I can’t bare the thought of letting her go but I also I can’t bare the idea of her suffering.

I know that tomorrow I must make a decision based on how she is then. I only have a breakfast delivery tomorrow so as soon as I return I will make the decision and phone the vet for an appointment if  she is no better.

I am feeling very heavy hearted right now.

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Dandelion has a problem

Cinnamon has now laid two eggs since her break but Dandelion has a problem. She laid her first egg after her break with no trouble. Two days later she sat in the nest box for a couple of hours and came out not having laid.

The next day we noticed that she had a mucky bottom. Last night at six o’clock I cleaned her bottom. I wear disposable gloves and use cotton wool pads in warm water so that it is soft for her. It was quite difficult to get her clean and as I was cleaning her I realised she had a prolapse. This was why she had a mucky bottom.

I recognised this from Rusty last year although Dandelion’s wasn’t as bad. It was too late to call the vet so I called first thing this morning and got an appointment in the afternoon. I cleaned her up again as best I could before taking her to the vet.

After what happened with Rusty last year I wasn’t too optimistic. I was gutted that I had nurtured her through a difficult winter and had thought her egg laying problem was fixed only to find this has happened. It seemed so unfair. I resolved that I would take her once to the vet to try to fix it but wouldn’t put her through what Rusty went through last year.

I have now lost faith in my original breeder and am so pleased that I have found a new breeder with a really good reputation. Most of the girls from my original breeder have had egg laying problems. First Rusty had a prolapse last year during her second summer of egg laying.

Dandelion laid soft shelled eggs all last year and now also has a prolapse during her second summer of laying. It is unusual for girls this young to prolapse. Apricot died suddenly overnight a few months ago, also her second summer. Freckles who laid well for two years has recently laid soft shelled eggs on her third summer of egg laying.

So far all the girls have had a problem except Cinnamon (don’t jinx this!). I feel that’s a lot of bad luck and it seems that there is a weakness with egg laying from this breeder’s birds plus the fact that he hasn’t been able to hatch any himself this year. It has put me off and I will now get all future girls from my new lady.

I took Dandelion to the vet and explained to him about all the egg laying problems last year and this year. He then lifted Dandelion up to exam her vent and she had manged to get the prolapse back in. This was good news. As we watched she was pushing it out when she exerted herself or strained but was able to pull it back in when she relaxed. He said this was a very mild case of prolapse.

The vet suggested I kept Dandelion in the cat box for the rest of the day with water but no food. This would stop her needing to poop so much and while she wouldn’t be straining it would give everything a chance to settle down.

He examined her thoroughly and said she was in really good condition. He listened to her heart, felt her crop (which was full), felt her bone structure and checked her feathers. He said he was happy with her. I was relieved.

It seemed a bit harsh leaving Dandelion without food but if it will help her get better it will be worth it. I intend to put her on her roost spot at bedtime. Last night she slept in the shavings under her roost spot so she must have been feeling really poorly.

Dandelion in the cat box

She was not at all happy to be confined in here and with no food either. I was writing this post at six o’clock and could see her in the cat box in our bathroom. She suddenly made a bid for an escape and tried to force her head through the grill of the cat box while flapping her wings madly.

This was too distressing. I took her out and she was pushing the prolapse out again. I cleaned her again and gently pushed it back in with a finger like the vet had shown me. I then used a syringe to put some water in her beak as I hadn’t seen her go to the water.

I then covered the cat box with a towel. I have read that if you put them in darkness they will sleep as if it’s night time. I am hoping that this time plus overnight will be enough to help the prolapse settle back in. Once again only time will tell.

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Updates

After four soft shelled eggs Freckles has stopped laying again which is a good thing. Hopefully a break will sort her out.

At the same time Cinnamon and Dandelion have started laying again so that is good news. Emerald and Speckles have stopped laying and Emerald is already fully into her moult. It seems early but this is normal for her. I am picking up feathers from the chicken shed and the run.

The chicks have grown in confidence and have now explored all around their part of the run. I am leaving the dog crate in for now with the door open all the time as they seem to like to return to it as a place they feel safe. They have all perched on the rungs of  the metal table and blue has perched on the shelter perches.

The chicks on the edge of the shelter

The chicks in the corner of the run

They have moved on to sleeping in the trough so I am thinking that they will soon be  ready to learn to perch at night.

The chicks settled in their trough

This is the new bedtime habit. They look so cute in the trough. The next step is to move them to the perch once they are asleep and try to encourage them to perch at bedtime.

There was one other concern which I had and I had a conversation in the comments with David but didn’t get round to mentioning it here. We noticed how much quicker Blue’s comb was developing compared to the other two and worried that she might be a he. I know that silky girls develop slower and went to the “history of the flock part two”, scrolled down to the bottom and checked the photo of the three amigos when we first got them. Dandelion and Cinnamon had combs whereas Apricot had no comb at all.

We told ourselves the breeder must know what she is talking about. I then had the bright idea of googling how to sex seramas. This really put my mind at rest. It says that by two months it is clear that the girls have a yellow tinge to their comb and the boys have a pink tinge. By three months it showed a boy and the comb was big and red and obviously a cockerel comb. It also said that boys start to crow as early as six weeks and definitely between two and three months.

Our girls are now three months and all three are still cheeping so I am glad to say that it is certain that they are all girls.

Blue is also getting a fluffy bottom at last. They are looking good and doing really well.

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I misidentified the caterpillar in our garden

I recently did a post about an unusual caterpillar in our garden. I put a description into google and came up with Eastern black swallowtail. The caterpillar looked very similar and this was the only result that came up so I took it that this was what it was.

Caterpillar

In the comments Jenny said that she had had it in her garden last year and that it was a mullein moth caterpillar. I then googled mullein moth and sure enough she was right. Thank you Jen!

I couldn’t look at them side by side so I sketched the pattern of the black dots then went back to my photo. Sure enough it was a match. The black dots on the Eastern black swallowtail are in neat pairs whereas these black dots are more frequent.

This makes much more sense, although less exciting, as it says that the caterpillars are found in southern England in May and June and feed on, among other things, verbascum.

The moth has light and dark shades of brown that blend into woody stems.

So, not such an amazing visitor after all, although it is the first time we have seen one. I felt that I must post again as I don’t want to give out incorrect information.

I would like to credit this post to Jen as I wouldn’t have known of my mistake without her comment. Once again, thank you Jen.

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The chicken’s dandelion strip

Even the girl’s dandelion strip is looking good at the moment. I decided to add some self seeded plants last year to bring a bit of colour to their patch. The self seeded antirrhinums (commonly known as snap dragons) are the prettiest colour we have had so far. We have never planted these, they just randomly arrive each year.

The chicken’s dandelion strip

The yellow poppies in the background self seed all over the garden too. There is still a row of dandelions next to the weld mesh which are hidden in this photo.

Every evening when we visit the girls after dinner we pick some dandelion leaves and offer them through the weld mesh for the girls. My husband refers to them as “crack cocaine for chickens”. The girls go mad for them no matter how much spinach they have had during the day. They absolutely love dandelion leaves!

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Freckles latest egg

Freckles laid her fourth, soft shelled egg, yesterday. She has been laying every other day and as before looked unhappy and took herself off to bed early once more.

When I went to check a bit later her egg was laying by the food dish. I imagine she came back out for a top up of pellets and laid it then. It obviously catches her by surprise when it comes.

Freckles latest egg

I find it difficult to understand how Freckles has gone from the best shells to these soft shells. I am not seeing her go to the grit like she used to and wonder if this is why. I don’t know why she isn’t going to the grit though.

I really hope she improves soon as it is sad to see her laying eggs like these. I guess only time will tell.

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Our rose is at it’s peak

I think that our rose is better than ever this year. It is absolutely laden with blooms.

Our rose has reached it’s peak

The arches are lovely

Another of the arches

And another arch

This rose is so crammed with blooms

It’s so beautiful

Looking in the other direction

I think the garden is at it’s loveliest at the moment. I love spending time in the garden.

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