The little girls like their shelter

The little girls have really taken to the shelter. Rusty and Freckles have been in there several times today. They either perch on the front piece of wood or they stand on the side bits, pecking around.

Rusty and Freckles have taken to the shelter

Rusty and Freckles have taken to the shelter

They seem to like it in here

They seem to like it in here

It's their new place to hang out

It’s their new place to hang out

Speckles is the only one of the bigger girls to venture in and she likes the branch perch. Pebbles likes the front perch and Rusty and Freckles like all of it. I am really pleased with the way they have taken to it.

I have an appointment at the vets tomorrow at four o’clock with Pebbles. She has been on antibiotics now for three weeks in total, a week on then a week off then two weeks back on. She is still wheezing and it doesn’t seem to be improving. She also spends a lot of her day on a perch, dozing. I am really disappointed that there has been no improvement as she has been like this for a month now.

It seems to have been one thing after another lately with several visits to the vet. I just wish we could get back to a well flock once more. This seems to have been dragging on for ages and I dread any of the other girls going down with it. I will report back tomorrow.

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Winter shelter for the little girls

Since we made the girl’s wooden table into a shelter I have been trying to get photos of the little girls perching in there. Freckles and Rusty have been in there but I didn’t manage to get a photo. I did manage to photograph Pebbles though.

Pebbles perches in the new shelter

Pebbles perches in the new shelter

Bigger girls on top and little girl underneath

Bigger girls on top and a little girl underneath

I think this will work well in bad weather and is probably a much better idea than trying to confine the little girls to the patio area and chicken shed. The perspex sheet was a bargain as it was reduced to half price. There was just one square bit left over.

The three little girls were perched together on another of their favourite perches when I had an idea for the last square of perspex. I thought that if I put it behind this perch it would provide another spot that would be sheltered from the wind.

I have fixed the perspex square behind the little perch

I have fixed the perspex square behind the little perch

Pebbles tries out the new sheltered perch

Pebbles tries out the new sheltered perch

Pebbles seems to be the girl first to try everything at the moment. The little girls often perch here together so this will give them another sheltered area. It won’t always stay dry as the rain drips in from above at this spot but when it is dry it will give shelter from the wind.

A few sheltered spots for the little girls to perch may be all the winter protection they will need. They seemed totally unfazed by the recent frosts. I am quite pleased with the new sheltered areas and the way the girls have investigated them. Happy girls makes for a happy me!

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Turning the wooden table into a shelter

I had an idea for turning the girl’s wooden table into a shelter. I thought that we could put some strips of wood over the gaps on top to make it waterproof from above.

I thought some strips of clear perspex on the back and sides would stop the rain blowing through and provide a shelter from the wind. A perch inside would give the little girls somewhere sheltered and dry to perch and provide a dry dust bath area underneath.

Whether they choose to use it is another matter but they like the perch on the side of the table and they like to sit on top of the table when the ground is cold.

The wooden table before modifying

The wooden table before modifying it

perspex added to the back and sides

Perspex added to the back and sides and planks inside which the little girls could sit on

The top of the table before

The top of the table before

The top of the table after

The top of the table after

Insitue with a branch perch inside

The table back in place with a branch perch added to the inside

Emerald and Barley are straight over to investigate

Emerald and Barley went straight over to investigate

Peaches and Speckles soon join the investigation

Peaches and Speckles soon joined the investigation

Speckles is the first to go in

Speckles was the first to go in

She tries out the perch

She tries out the perch

I put Freckles on the perch

I put Freckles on the perch

She didn’t seem impressed but I think that the the little girls need to find it in their own time. I am sure they will discover it over the next few days.

I feel sure that they are unlikely to go in the chicken shed during bad weather but perhaps they might like to perch here. Time will tell.

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Getting used to the flock without Toffee

The first day after Toffee had gone the flock seemed split into groups of the three little girls as usual and two pairs, being Peaches and Barley who have always been inseparable and a new pairing of Emerald and Speckles. I had the feeling that Emerald was missing Toffee and so paired up with Speckles for company.

Three little girls share a dish if fish

Three little girls share a dish of fish

Peaches and barley perch together like a pair of bookends

Peaches and Barley perch together like a pair of bookends

Speckles and Emerald perch together

Speckles and Emerald perch together

Three little girls at bedtime in their usual positions

Three little girls at bedtime in their usual positions

Peaches and Barley together at bedtime

Peaches and Barley together at bedtime

Emerald and Speckles together at bedtime

Emerald and Speckles together at bedtime with Emerald in Toffee’s corner

The first night after Toffee had gone

The first night after Toffee had gone

The second day after Toffee had gone the four remaining bigger girls grouped together. At bedtime they were all four together with Emerald still taking Toffee’s position in the corner.

The second night after Toffee had gone

The second night after Toffee had gone

I think the flock is adjusting to the loss of Toffee as are we. It still seems very strange not seeing her each day. She has left a hole in the flock and it is taking time to get used to not seeing her with her flock mates.

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Goodbye Toffee

I really wanted to do a tribute to Toffee yesterday but our internet went down for twenty four hours. I felt really frustrated as I was out of contact completely which is not good for business or blogging.

At last I am back and I have been searching for some photos that sum up Toffee’s character.

Toffee was a lovely gentle character despite being our biggest and heaviest girl. She has always been a shy and cautious girl and rose to being top girl through being the oldest and with us the longest. She never bullied and was easily spooked and would run to the bottom of the run shouting the alarm call, with all the other girls following her just in case, when there was in fact nothing to run from.

Toffee had sturdy, digger, legs and loved digging, dust bathing and sun bathing. Of all our girls Toffee was the one that liked the sun the most and could always find a shaft of sun to sit in. She would stretch out on her side with her legs out at comical angles.

Toffee came in with Emerald and they have always spent time together. Sometimes they would share the nest box and Toffee had a habit of flicking pine shavings on to her back. After she had laid her egg she would come out and have some treats with shavings still sitting in a little pile on her back.

Another of her daily habits was to moan when the morning seeds and evening corn ran out. She was the only girl to do this and twice a day she would make a mournful sound and we would say “what’s up Toff, have the treats run out again just like they do every day!” I miss this ritual.

Here are some photos of our beautiful girl.

Toffee shows off her lovely breast markings

Toffee shows off her lovely breast markings and her sturdy legs

Comedy Toffee

Comedy Toffee

This photo reminded of “the funky gibbon” from the “goodies” show. People of a certain age will know what I mean.

Toffee and Emerald in the nest box

Toffee and Emerald in the nest box together

Toffee in a typical pose with one foot raised

Toffee in a typical pose with one foot raised

Toffee and Emerald on the gate

Toffee and Emerald on the gate

For a while Emerald had a habit of jumping on to the inner gate when I came through the outer gate in the morning. Toffee soon decided that she could do this too, despite looking precariously balanced.

Toffee and Emerald doze together

Toffee and Emerald often dozed together in the afternoons

Toffee and Emerald perch together at the end of the day

Toffee and Emerald perch together at the end of the day

Sun bathing

Sun bathing girls

A heap of sun bathing girls

A heap of sun bathing girls with Toffee in the middle

Toffee poses

Toffee poses

I am so sad to lose this lovely girl but we have many lovely memories of her. She was an amazing head girl and Emerald was her next in command and so has taken over as head girl. I think Emerald is missing her. The first morning after Toffee had gone Emerald stayed close to me which is unusual. Emerald now perches in Toffee’s corner of the chicken shed.

A lovely girl, sadly missed. Goodbye Toffee.

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Toffee’s last day

This morning when I went out to the girls with the morning sunflower seeds, Toffee as usual was still in the shed. She heard me shake the tub and she stepped down from the pop hole with a wobble. She looked really weak and unsteady on her feet and she totally ignored the seeds.

She very slowly made her way out into the run and just stood there. I needed to defrost the water dishes as they were frozen solid and I had poured warm water on top of the ice so that the girls could have a drink but I wanted to defrost them properly. I took the first one indoors and when I returned I was surprised to see that Toffee had perched up by the metal table. I was amazed that she had found the strength to get up there.

Toffee perches

Toffee perches with Barley and Speckles

It shows how determined she is to perch with the girls that she had made it up here. I dealt with the second water dish and returned to check on her and she was perched in a bit of sun above the ladder with the three little girls. I don’t know how she found the strength to get here.

Toffee perches in a spot of sun

Toffee perches in a spot of sun

When I got back from my lunch deliveries Toffee was still in the same position. I think she had been here all day as there were the bright yellow spots of poop under this perch but no where else in the run.

Much later in the day Toffee hadn't moved form this position

Much later in the day Toffee hadn’t moved form this position

An hour later I checked on her again and she had gone to bed. I knew this had to be her last day. She had had no food and had spent the day on the perch then gone to bed. I realised that yesterday was her last hurrah, her swan song.

Emerald is keeping Toffee company

Emerald is keeping Toffee company

Emerald sits with Toffee for the last time

Emerald sits with Toffee for the last time

I called the vet and arranged to take Toffee after half past four when all the girls had gone to bed. I thought that this would be less stressful for her.

Toffee has never liked being handled but she was so poorly that she didn’t protest. I held her while she had her injection. The vet needed to find a vein in her wing so I cradled her with her wing outstretched. The vet said her veins were so delicate for her size that her blood pressure must have really dropped. She couldn’t get into a vein in the first wing so I put her down and turned her around so that she could look for a vain in her other wing.

The vet said she must be really poorly to accept this. I kept talking to her and told her what a good girl she was, as I know she is used to the sound of the my voice. The vet finally managed to get into a vein and Toffee was gone instantly.

Toffee had a mucky bottom and the vet could see her bright yellow poop. She agreed with me that this meant she most likely had a kidney problem. As usual I was crying and the vet left me holding Toffee for a few minutes before returning and wrapping her in a towel.

She probably wouldn’t have lived more than a few more days but I knew the time was right. She is my first elderly hen to go. Her breast bone was very pronounced and I think that she hadn’t been eating properly for a while. It was just that yesterday, when she perched in the sun and ate a few bits, I thought she still had some will to stay a bit longer.

Today I knew it was time. I feel so sad to lose her. She was such a character and we will miss her.

I want to give her the tribute she deserves and find some photos that capture her character so I am going to do that tomorrow. It will take some time for me to find the photos I want and tonight I felt it was more important to let everyone know that she has gone. Once again I am swimming in tears, she was a lovely girl and tomorrow, I will say goodbye properly to her.

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An up and down day

As usual Toffee was the only girl still in the shed first thing this morning. I gave out the morning sunflower hearts and she came out. She picked up two sunflower hearts then had a flick about in the pellets dish. I saw her eat one from the patio then she had a little water and then returned to the shed.

I checked back a little later and once again was surprised to see that she was perching in the sun with her flock mates. I took plenty of photos because I always have it in mind that they could be her last and also I was surprised to see the little girls on the same perch as the bigger girls for the first time.

I took one through the wire because Rusty was on the top of the ladder and not in view from inside the run.

The entire flock of eight girls

The entire flock of eight girls

Six girls but Rusty is hidden

Six girls but Rusty is hidden

Rusty is in the background

Rusty is in the background and Pebbles is on the right of Freckles just out of shot

Speckles and Peaches are on a different perch

Speckles and Peaches are on a different perch

The little girls perch with the bigger girls

The little girls perch with the bigger girls

It is so lovely to see the girls all perching together and once again I felt it was too soon to make a decision about Toffee. I want her to have these moments in the sun with her flock.

The next time I checked she was back in the shed. She seems to want to perch with the flock in the mornings while there is some sun but once the sun has gone she returns to the shed.

At lunch time I took in some melon and pinned the shed door open so that Toffee could see that I had bought in a treat. She came out and pecked at the melon more enthusiastically than I have seen her peck at anything for a week. I was encouraged by this and dropped some sunflower hearts in front of her and she ate a few.

I decided while she was eating I was offer some dishes of fish and chopped grape, giving protein and sugar.

I felt excited when she ate some grape and fish.

Toffee has some chopped grape

Toffee has some chopped grape

She eats another bit of grape

She eats another bit of grape

I sprinkle a few more seeds beside the dish.

She has some sunflower hearts

She has some sunflower hearts

I felt really encouraged to see her eat for the first time in days. I started to feel a bit of hope. But then I saw more of the runny, mustard yellow, poop and I knew that all was not well inside. The poop alarms me the most. It indicates that she is not going to get better and yet she still looks good.

She returned to her perch in the shed and didn’t come out for the bedtime corn. I felt so pleased to see her eating something but I remember feeling like this with Sparkle. She would have moments of eating when I thought there was hope for her but then later would refuse to eat again so I know that I must not get my hopes up.

I still feel glad that she has perched in the sun with her flock and eaten a few bits of treats. I still feel that I must follow my instincts and that I will know when the time is right to intervene. Each extra day is special and she actually looks good and doesn’t seem to be in any pain. I know that chickens hide it well but she isn’t hunched and miserable looking and her comb is a winter pale pink but not grey and shrivelled.

I feel that I have enough experience and that I know my girls well enough to be able judge when the time is right so I shall continue day by day even if that is only for a few more days.

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Toffee has another day

This is going to go one day at a time now. This morning when I went out to the girls first thing I felt sure this was Toffee’s last day.

She hadn’t come out of the shed but came out when I gave the morning sunflower hearts. She looked at them but didn’t have any.

She sat on the patio between the little coop nest boxes and the store cabinet. I have never ever seen her sit on the patio before. I thought I would move her to the shed where she would be more comfortable as it was a cold morning.

Toffee sits on the patio

Toffee sits on the patio

When I went to move her she made her own way to the shed. She wobbled as she went up the step to the pop hole. She looked at the perch as if she wanted to get up there but didn’t have the strength.

I move her into the chicken shed

I move her into the chicken shed

Some of the girls keep her company

Some of the girls keep her company

I expected to be taking her to the vets in the afternoon but when I checked back on her she was perched in the sun at the end of the run with her flock mates.

Toffee perches in the sun with her flock mates

Toffee perches in the sun with her flock mates

I was amazed that she had managed to get to here. I felt that this meant she hadn’t given up yet. I couldn’t deprive her of some last moments in the sun with her flock.

At lunch time she was perched in the shed again but she had managed to get up to the perch. I gave the girls some ripe pear and Toffee came out and had a peck at the pear. She had a flick around in the pellets but I am not sure she actually ate any. She had a quick drink of water and then settled back on her usual spot on the perch in the corner of the shed.

She stayed there until the rest of the girls went in. I know she is near the end of her days now and I mustn’t leave her too long but I don’t want to rush into it if she still wants to sit with the flock.

I was so sure this morning that she was done but when I saw her perched with her flock I didn’t have the heart to end it yet. I will see what happens tomorrow and take this a day at a time. I feel that I just have to follow my instinct for when the time is right.

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Toffee

Sadly Toffee is deteriorating quickly. We think she is coming to the end of her days. I researched yellow poop and it says that it can indicate a kidney problem.

I was happy to leave her as long as she was eating. Today she has spent most of her day in the chicken shed. When I gave the morning sunflower hearts she came out and picked at a few but with no enthusiasm.

At bedtime tonight she wouldn’t join in with the corn. She looked at it and returned to the shed. I put a dish of sunflower hearts in front of her in the shed and she hovered over it as if about to take one but it was if she couldn’t bring herself to. After a minute she returned to her corner of the perch.

She is pooping a lot of water or yellow poop. Emerald has been sitting in the shed with her at times yesterday and again today. These two came in together and it’s as if Emerald knows there is something wrong and wants to keep her company.

Emerald keeps Toffee company

Emerald keeps Toffee company

Toffee and Emerald

Toffee and Emerald

I feel so sad at the thought of her going. As long as she was eating I was going to leave her but if she is going to spend all her time in the shed and she won’t eat then I know we will soon have the dreaded decision to make.

I know from past experience that when a girl won’t eat she has given up and it would be cruel to let her starve herself to death. We feel we must make the decision over the next few days.

Toffee is top girl and has such a lovely nature. She has never bullied the other girls and has always been a shy and cautious girl. She always had the habit of being vocal when the treats ran out. Every day she would make her mournful sound when the seeds or corn ran out which makes it even more sad to see her refusing them now.

I have a lump in my throat right now so I am going to end here but I knew I had to write this post tonight.

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The medicating and worming regime

I have got the regime down to a fine art now. Pebbles has her sticky baytril on some seeds in the the cat box twice a day. I am keeping the cat box on top of one of the little coops.

Pebbles has her medicine

Pebbles has her medicine

She tucks into seeds with baytril

She tucks into seeds with baytril

The three little girls perch together on the high perch

The three little girls perch together on the high perch

Catching a bit of sun

Catching a bit of sun

At lunch time the little girls have some seeds coated in a little olive oil then topped with flubinvet worming powder. I gave the bigger girls a dish of mash on the patio and put the little girls and their dish on top of the little coop and guarded them to stop the bigger girls getting up.

Worming the three little girls

Worming the three little girls

The little girls have seeds with flubenvet

The little girls have seeds with flubenvet

Yesterday I gave them the flubenvet on chopped grapes but Pebbles wouldn’t touch the grapes. I then gave her some on chopped melon and she ate that. I hadn’t realised she didn’t like grapes. All the other girls love grapes. Today I thought I would go with the easier option of sunflower hearts. I worry they are getting too many sunflower hearts at the moment but I figure that’s the lesser of two evils.

Freckles on a different high perch with no ladder

Freckles on a different high perch with no ladder

This was the first time I had seen freckles on this perch. She is a really good flyer so is probably the only one of the three little girls that can reach a perch this high with no ladder.

toffee in her usual corner in the afternoon

Toffee in her usual corner in the afternoon

Toffee now has her own routine of spending her afternoons here. She has the morning treats and has had some pellets and mash. She perches with the rest of the bigger girls in the mornings. After the lunch time offering of apple or pear she settles in the chicken shed and always sits in the same corner .

Her poop has been quite yellow which is a bit of a worry. I think she is suffering from age but the colour of her poop is the most alarming thing to me. I think this indicates that there is something going wrong inside of her.

She is eating and doing all the normal chicken things until lunch time when she goes to perch in the shed. She comes back out for the bedtime corn before returning to the shed. As long as she doesn’t appear to be suffering and she continues to eat I am inclined to just leave her be. I know that there is nothing a vet could do for her and I feel that I will know when she needs help.

Pebbles is still wheezing slightly but I think it is getting better. I think we just need to keep going with everything and wait for improvement. I have done some research and it said that the sooner you catch it the better the outcome and that sometimes it is a case of antibiotic roulette and you need to try a few different ones until you find the one that works.

The encouraging thing is that Pebbles is getting better rather than worse so I am hopeful. She seems fine other than the wheezing and she is eating well. It seems that these things progress slowly and we must just keep on medicating and keep our fingers crossed.

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