Heavily moulting girls and continuing with tylan

Dandelion and Flame are both moulting and looking really shabby.

Poor shabby Dandelion

Dandelion has pins on her wings

I feel so bad for Dandelion losing feathers when it is now so cold. Flame also has pins on her wings and very few wing feathers left. When she raises her wings she has just one outside feather on each wing with a bare framework of pins over the rest of her wings.

Flame has pins on her wings

Flame’s front is just a mass of loose feathers. I tried to get a photograph but she was reluctant to show me her front. I held up a spinach leaf to get her to stretch up.

Flame looks hilarious

This wasn’t the shot I was aiming for but it’s so funny that I decided to keep it in.

This is the shot that I was trying to get

In other news Smoke has laid an egg three days running, missed a day, then laid her fourth egg. Each egg has been very slightly bigger than the one before. Ebony is also still laying although less frequently.

Smoke in the nest box laying her fourth egg

I had finished five days of tylan and yesterday stopped putting it in the water. Dandelion has been spending time in the shelters and Cinnamon often keeps her company and sometimes Speckles joins them too. These original three girls still tend to stick together.

The original three girls in the small shelter

Late afternoon when Dandelion was in the shelter I noticed that she was dozing and her tail was bobbing up and down. This is not a good sign and I recognise it as a symptom of the mycoplasma.

When I checked them at bedtime I stuck my head into the chicken shed and listened to Dandelion’s breathing. She was wheezing. I decided to start back on the tylan in the morning.

I mix one teaspoon of tylan powder to one litre of water and put it in the two water dishes. To give the girls an extra boost I mixed another half teaspoon with half a litre of water and added it to four dishes of pellets to make tylan mash.

Dandelion and Cinnamon having tylan mash

Dandelion has an almost bare head

As the girls drink less water in the winter I felt that taking it in the mash as well would give them a bit extra.

I am really frustrated that we just can’t seem to shake this. All of the girls are sneezing but they are all looking okay and the fact that Smoke and Ebony are laying is a good sign. Up until yesterday Dandelion was looking okay especially as she is moulting. But the weather turned much colder yesterday and we had a heavy frost last night with the chickens’ water dishes frozen this morning.

Today the temperature didn’t get much above freezing and I think that is really not helping Dandelion. It is forecast to be slightly milder for the rest of the week so I am hoping that with less cold temperatures and the tylan plus the boost of tylan mash today Dandelion will improve again.

I just want her feathers to come in and I wish I could put a little chicken jumper on her but that is not possible. I just have to hope we can get through this once more.

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The current bedtime routine

Since I have been leaving the shed door wedged open all the girls have been getting in in time and perched up.

Dandelion, Cinnamon and the silky girls have perched on their old perch since then, the bigger girls on the back as usual and the amigos on their usual perch.

I have been staying away until the pop hole had closed and the girls were perched because I know I can be a distraction for them. If I go up when some girls are in they come back out again. If I go up when they have only just gone in I can hear bumping and squawking and it is tempting to help them settle but if I leave it until a bit later they settle themselves.  I think this is better for them and more natural.

However I have been wondering if the amigos are getting in now because they are using the opening in the door instead of the pop hole. I decided to go up last night and take some photos. It turns out the amigos are all using the opening in the door so without this I am sure they would be shut out every night.

The silky girls peck at shavings while blocking the pop hole. If one of the amigos tries to go through the pop hole they get a peck on the head and are forced back. One by one the amigos go through the gap in the door.

It starts with Sienna in the pop hole

Sienna and Jasmine are  both in the pop hole and Smoke and Vanilla have entered through the door

Through the gap in the door you can see the bigger girls perched at the back. Dandelion and Cinnamon are already on their perch to the left of the door. The amigos’ perch is to the right of the door.

Spangle wants to go in but can’t get past the silky girls

Salmon also wants to go in but is intimidated by the silky girls

Spangle goes through the door

The silky girls continue to block the pop hole

Salmon goes through the door

I have to thank David for giving me this idea. It is working really well and once I have checked that all the girls are settled I simply close the door.

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Smoke has started laying

Two days ago Ebony had been in and out of the chicken shed getting ready to lay her egg when suddenly she started shouting really loudly which she hasn’t been doing lately. I checked and she was stood at the pop hole shouting her head off.

I wafted Ebony into the shed not being sure why she wasn’t going in and was surprised to then see Smoke come running out. Ebony obviously didn’t appreciate having Smoke in there for company when she wanted to lay her egg.

A little later Ebony had laid her egg in her favourite corner of the chicken shed and I didn’t think any more of it.

The next day, which was yesterday, I checked the nest boxes as I do every day and was surprised to find a tiny egg in the nest box next to the store cabinet. My initial thought was that it must be Dandelion’s egg as it was the size and shape of her eggs but it had tiny white speckles on it.

Dandelion had stopped laying at the end of October the same as the year before and last year didn’t start again until April. Coupled with the fact that she is moulting it seemed a bit unlikely that she would start laying again. I wasn’t expecting the amigos and the silky girls to lay until spring though and hadn’t seen any of them go to the nest box.

The mystery egg on the left and Ebony’s eggs on the right

Today I went up and again checked the nest boxes and was surprised to find Smoke in the nest box next to the cabinet. I went to get my camera.

As  soon as I lifted the nest box lid Smoke ran out and over the top of the nest boxes.

Smoke running from the nest box


I returned a bit later and this time she was in the middle nest box but again she ran as I tried to get a photograph of her.

Smoke leaving the nest box at speed

Leaving her warm egg behind

Smoke’s second egg on the far left followed by her first egg and then Ebony’s eggs on the right

So I now have proof that it is Smoke laying and her second egg is bigger than her first which is often the case. The second egg also had little white speckles on it. What a clever girl and she laid in the right place too! This was really unexpected as there has been no squatting from the girls but Smoke did go to the grit and oyster shell a little later.

I hadn’t expected them to start laying at this time of year as last year the little girls had all stopped laying by December. I wonder if any of the other girls will start laying. It will be interesting to see.

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Flame continues to drop an abundance of feathers

Flame is still dropping loads of feathers. She has lost even more tail feathers and her remaining feathers look loose.

Flame has even less tail feathers

She has lots of loose feathers

Poor Flame

She is heading back to the shelter

Flame has lost her confidence since she lost her tail feathers and she spends a lot of her time in the shelter which is something she has never done before. I guess she feels safe and protected in the shelter.

In other news, since I have been wedging the shed door open in the afternoons, the girls have all managed to get perched every evening so I am going to continue doing this because I think it’s better that they go in themselves rather than have me help them in.

I am treating with five days of tylan once more. I heard Ebony wheezing in the shed  a couple of evenings ago and I heard a couple of the amigos wheezing the next morning.

The girls have continued to sneeze although I thought it was diminishing. The amigos wheeze was very slight but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. Since starting the tylan I haven’t heard any more wheezing. I am frustrated that we can’t seem to kick this completely but all the girls look fine so I am just going to keep treating whenever I hear any sign of this.

Oddly enough Dandelion, who is still looking shabby, isn’t showing any signs. She isn’t sneezing which I am really pleased about. I think I just have to be really watchful and keep treating from time to time and hopefully once we get through winter this will disappear once more.

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Poor Flame

After a few nights of finding heaps of feathers in the chicken shed Flame didn’t look much different. She had a shorter tail which I thought was due to the long tail feathers falling out leaving shorter tail feathers growing underneath. This is her first moult with us so I didn’t know what to expect.

I was wrong! It must have been long tail feathers falling out first to be followed by shorter tail feathers falling out next. Flame’s tail feathers had dropped in the chicken shed last night.

Flame’s tail feathers dropped in the shed over night

Flame looked very different this morning. She had lost her tail and had also lost her confidence as often happens during a heavy moult.

I returned to the run with my camera but couldn’t see Flame. It always causes me a moment of alarm when I can’t see a girl even though I know that they can’t get out. Eventually I found her hiding in the wooden shelter and looking very sorry for herself.

A very sorry looking Flame taking refuge in the shelter

There goes another loose feather

She does look very odd

Tailless Flame

I can’t believe that I have been saying for days that she hardly looked any different. Flame certainly looks very different now. At least she has no bare patches at the moment and hopefully she will soon be feathered up again.

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It worked!

This morning there was another heap of feathers underneath Flame’s roost spot.

This morning’s heap of feathers in the opposite corner from the night before

I am amazed that Flame doesn’t  look any different. You would think she would be bare with this amount of feathers dropping from her.

Last night I went up to the girls at 4.00pm and the automatic door had already closed. Tonight I went up several times just before and just after 4.00pm but the automatic door was still open. It must have been a brighter day than the day before.

In the end I decided to leave the girls to it as I am definitely a distraction for them. The bigger girls that had already gone in would run out again when they heard the gate opening (even though I tried to open it as quietly as I could) just in case they were missing something.

I checked again when the pop hole had closed and was really pleased to see that there were no girls outside. However there was a lot of bumping and squawking going on. I usually go in and sort it out but I decided to retreat and return a bit later to see if they could sort it out for themselves.

I thought that if they could sort themselves out it would give me peace of mind on Sunday afternoon when we are out.

When I went up the next time all was quiet. I checked in and the amigos were all on their perch. There was a slight change with the other girls. The three bigger girls were on the back perch but Dandelion, Cinnamon and the silky girls were on their old perch.

That is fine though. As long as all the girls are perched I am happy with that. I think it’s probably because with the door wedged open a bit there was more light getting to their old perch so it was probably easier to get to that than the back perch.

Cinnamon, silky girls and Dandelion were on their old perch

The bigger girls were on the back perch

Dandelion is hidden at the end of this perch

The amigos were on their perch

I am really pleased with how it went tonight. As it was only the second evening with the door wedged open they have sussed it out very quickly. Well done girls!

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Flame’s sudden moult and an idea for bedtime

Yesterday Flame was perched above one of the ladders when I noticed feathers drifting from her and attaching themselves to the weld mesh or landing in a heap below her.

Flame’s feathers floating down to hang on the weld mesh

This morning when I opened the chicken shed there was a mass of feathers below the spot Flame had perched.

An explosion of feathers under flame’s roost spot

Flame doesn’t look at all bad but she has lost her long tail feathers

I am amazed that Flame looks so good when there have been so many feathers all around the run today. She must have been getting her new feathers in underneath already. Her long tail has gone but rather than no tail she has a shorter tail already grown in.

It is just over a week since her broody day and her last egg. Now that she is in full moult I realise that she isn’t a first year girl but is just a very good layer. I am going to record her as two years old.

Ebony has dropped a few long feathers overnight but laid today. She has slowed down and has laid three eggs in the last week. I am thinking that she will probably soon stop laying too.

In comparison to how good Flame looks Dandelion looks really shabby.

Dandelion has a head and neck full of pins

I am hopeful that she will get her feathers through before the really cold weather.

In the comments on my last post David said that he had the same thing at bedtime with the lower ranking girls being blocked from the pop hole by the higher ranking girls.

He got round this by wedging the door open to allow his bottom girl to get in.

We are going to be out on Sunday afternoon as we have our Christmas get together with friends. Usually we meet up one evening but this year it was decided to meet up for a late Sunday lunch instead. We are meeting at a near by pub at 3.30pm for drinks and are eating at 4.oopm. This cuts across the time that the girls go in (the pop hole is currently closing at 4.oopm). I am thinking that it may be about 7.00pm before we get home.

It is forecast to remain mild so I am not worried about it being cold but just a bit concerned that the amigos will be shut out in the dark when they are used to me letting them into the shed as soon as the pop hole closes.

So I decided to try David’s idea of wedging the door open. If I can get the amigos used to this over the next few nights maybe they will get themselves in on Sunday and I can close the shed door when we get home.

The shed door is wedged open

I wedged the shed door open a bit with a box of disposable gloves inside and the bucket that contains the pellets outside. I then borrowed a couple of logs to form a step.

I intended to go up before the pop hole closed and try to guide the amigos through the door. I miss timed it and when I went up the pop hole had already closed. Three of the amigos were still outside so it had partially worked.

I shepherded the remaining three through the gap in the doorway so that perhaps they will know where to go tomorrow.

I then helped them to get perched and closed the door but left the logs in place so that they can get used to them.

I have a couple more evenings to try to get them used to this. Tomorrow I will try to get the timing better. As always these things are a work in progress. It will be interesting to see how tomorrow works out.

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A demonstration of what is happening at bedtime

Tonight I went up to check on the girls before the pop hole closed and to take some photos of what is happening at bedtime.

This is what is happening at bedtime

The silky girls are blocking the pop hole

What happens is the amigos wait outside for the silky girls to perch. By that time the pop hole door is closing and some of them are not making it in.

When I opened the main door the amigos wanted to play too

This is where I become a distraction. By opening the main door it just encouraged the amigos to peck in the shavings too. Eventually I closed the door. The pop hole closed and I opened the door a little bit and put the silky girls on the back and the amigos on their perch.

I swept the patio as they had scratched shavings out and checked back in. Salmon was sat on Vanilla’s back! Honestly, these girls! I put her back on the perch next to Vanilla and closed the door once more. I waited a minute then looked back in and took two more photos.

The girls are now settled at the back

The amigos are settled at last

As it was dark it was a pot luck photo but I didn’t want to unsettle them by taking more than one.

I think that I make it worse when I go up at bedtime so I will check on them when the pop hole has closed and just put the stragglers in. I don’t think bedtime is going to get any better than this for now.

If the silky girls and the amigos were all part of one group I don’t think there would be a problem but because the amigos are below the silky girls in the pecking order they don’t have the courage to get past them when they are blocking the pop hole.

We had talked about trying to train the amigos to go to the perch on the other side or making a perch on their side that was the same shape as the one on the other side but in the end I think that nothing will solve the problem because it is down to Sienna and Jasmine blocking the pop hole.

At the end of the day it is a pecking order thing and that won’t change any time soon. By next year the dynamics of the flock may have changed but for now I will just have to put the stragglers in each night.

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Bedtime is not working so well

Tonight and the night before last Marmite had been shut out on her own at bedtime. Last night both Marmite and Spangle were shut out. They were both sat on top of one of the nest boxes and tonight Marmite was on top of the nest box on her own.

I felt so sorry for her. She whimpered as I went through the gate and I picked her up and placed her on the amigo’s perch.

Marmite is shut out again

I checked on them near to bedtime last week and this is what I think is happening. It was getting dark and the bigger girls and Cinnamon and Dandelion were on the back perch. The silky girls were pecking at shavings in the pop hole and blocking it so that the amigos couldn’t get in.

I don’t think this is particularly intentional. They just enjoy pecking at the shavings before settling and it’s by the pop hole that it’s light enough for them to do this. The amigos being lower ranking have to wait for the silky girls to perch at the back before they can make their way in. By this time the door is closing.

On the day that I saw this happening two of the amigos got in in time and three got shut out. I think that because Marmite is firmly bottom girl and is timid she is the one who mostly doesn’t get in in time.

All of this wouldn’t happen if they went in earlier and I am not sure why they are leaving it so late. I think it is going to be inevitable that one or more girls are going to be shut out each night. I will continue to go up to them either just after the pop hole has shut or just before the pop hole shuts to make sure that they are all in.

I had wondered if I was a distraction for them and if by going to check on them later they would have more of a chance of going in but this clearly isn’t the whole story. Luckily I will always be here to put them in so it’s not a huge problem it’s just a bit annoying that they can’t work it out for themselves.

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Dandelion’s moult continues

Seramas don’t usually moult very noticeably but Dandelion is very obviously moulting at the moment. Seramas are said to lose a few feathers at a time all year round so that you would hardly notice. I have never seen Dandelion looking as tatty as she does now.

The only good thing about this is that it is mild at the moment. Dandelion feels the cold the most out of all my girls so I just hope that she gets her feathers back in before the weather turns really cold.

Dandelion with only pins on her head

And pins on her neck

I really hope those pin feathers hurry up and open. I can’t wait to see Dandelion fully feathered again.

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