The first egg of the year

I had a booking for a lunch delivery today. I know, it’s a Saturday, a bit of a pain but it can’t be helped sometimes. I got back at twelve o’clock and my husband told me that Freckles was in the nest box.

I grabbed my camera and went to have a look. Perfect timing. I could see that she was just about to lay her egg. She was stood up with a look of concentration on her face and a slight whistling sound coming from her beak. All very familiar and I closed the nest box to give her some privacy.

A few seconds later she came out of the nest box and when I lifted the lid there was her egg. Well done Freckles!

Freckles is just about to lay her egg

Well done Freckles!

Freckles first egg of the year next to a, medium sized, shop bought egg

This is a week earlier than she started laying last year but last year she had only just matured. This is a good sign that all is properly well with her. I was so pleased by this.

I just wish I could feel happier about Dandelion. The tip of her comb is very pale and I am certain that the really cold spell that is forecast will not be good for her.

I intend to ring the vets on Monday and order some more tylan so that I have plenty in stock. I will start to treat with it again if Dandelion gets eye bubbles once more and I will perhaps continue to treat throughout the cold spell. If I can just get her through this cold spell then maybe the weather will improve and she will get back to normal again.

I have to stay positive though because for Freckles, laying an egg, means that she is back to full health again. It will be so nice to have our own little eggs again.

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Eggs may be on the horizon

Cinnamon has become more vocal in the last couple of days and this morning I held my hand behind her and she too squatted for me. It may be a race to see who lays first between Freckles and Cinnamon.

I went to get my camera to take a photograph of Cinnamon and when I returned she was checking out the nest box.

Cinnamon checks out the nest box while Dandelion looks on

Freckles joins Cinnamon in the nest box

Cinnamon’s face and comb are as red as Freckles

At the moment I think they were just enjoying scratching and pecking  in the nest box more than anything else but they are definitely getting ready to start laying again soon. We are forecast a very cold couple of weeks though so I am not sure if that will delay the start of egg laying.

I dread another cold spell because I always worry that it will set Dandelion back again with the bubbly eyes. I may need to give another dose of tylan yet again. It’s forecast to get as low as two degrees during the day and down to as low as minus five at night. That also means having to defrost the chicken’s water in the mornings.

I was really hoping for better weather soon and this is really cold for the end of February and beginning of March. It is forecast to last for a couple of weeks and there will be bitterly cold winds as well. It’s a shame when egg laying seems imminent to have the worry of another cold spell but Dandelion has come this far so I will keep a close eye and treat again if needed.

I can’t wait to get the cold weather behind us and and start to relax about Dandelion and eggs would not only be a welcome bonus but also a sign that all is right with the girls.

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On top of the shelter

My husband told me to bring my camera as all the girls were having a group hug on top of the little shelter. As I went through the gate Speckles and Emerald flew down to greet me.

I managed to get some photos of the little girls though.

The little girls on top of the shelter

What do they find to peck at on here!

They have taken to spending time on top of the little shelter lately. It is funny the places they choose to hang out together.

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Freckles

I think Freckles may be getting ready to start laying again. Her comb is bigger and redder and she is more vocal than she has been but most of all today when I came up behind her she dropped into a squat.

Last year she started squatting about a week or so before she started laying. I looked back and she started laying on the first of March. It is forecast to get really cold again in the coming week so that may delay her for a bit but it’s encouraging to see her squatting as it means all is well with her.

Freckles has just started squatting again

See how big and red her comb is. It’s difficult to take a photo with one hand while stroking her with the other and she had just squatted for me but was just rising back up as I clicked. You can get the gist though. This makes me happy because it means she is healthy.

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Emerald and Speckles

Emerald is my oldest girl and  is top girl. I have had Emerald for four years and she was an adult girl of undetermined age when I got her, possibly a couple of years old, so she is probably about six years old now or even a bit older. I can tell that she is feeling her age these days.

When she is on the perch above the ladder and I take treats in she will be the last to come to me. Whereas in the past she would have jumped or flown down she now steps down on each rung of the ladder. In the afternoons she sometimes dozes and she is first into the chicken shed each night. She is still in good health though and is just slowing down a bit.

I have had Speckles for three years and she is second in command and surrogate mother hen to the little girls. When we got her she was already having a full moult so she was about a year old putting her at four years old.

Emerald and Speckles have become firm friends since becoming the last two remaining bigger girls. Emerald lightly pecks the little girls to show that she is top girl and to indicate that they need to get out of her way but she never pecks Speckles.

Speckles in her mother hen role never pecks at the little girls even when they do get in her way and she has never pecked Emerald. Toffee and Emerald came into the flock together and were firm friends. Speckles came in with Butterscotch but had no alliance to her and was always a loner. After these two girls had gone Emerald and Speckles gradually became a very tight pair. I dread losing one of these girls at any time in the future.

The cold weather is definitely having an effect on the flock this year. Speckles comb is getting bigger and redder but not nearly as big as it gets during egg laying and Emerald’s tiny comb and face are still very pale.

Speckles laid two eggs last February and five in March. Emerald started laying at the beginning of March and laid ten eggs. There is no sign of any intentions to lay this year so far.

I followed Emerald and Speckles today to get a few photos which show how together they are. These are without them dust bathing together as they did earlier in the day, perching in the sun together and at the food or water dish together plus of course roosting together at night.

What is in this corner!

I have no idea why they were both pecking at the back of the large shelter. I even looked behind the shelter to see if there was a mouse but there was nothing.

In the shelter together

Having some apple together

Freckles comb is getting redder whilst Emerald’s comb is very pale

Pecking at the shavings in the pop hole

I took all these photos in just a few minutes. These two move together in almost perfect synchronicity. It is a joy to see such a lovely friendship.

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Flock activities

I love the way the flock do things together. I put out some mash in three little dishes to make it easy for them all to get their share. Despite this they all crowd around one dish and each dish gets emptied one at a time until there is just one dish of mash left.

Speckles comb is getting bigger and redder

Speckles always has her trade mark little feather standing up on the back of her head. Moulting never changes this little feature of hers.

Emerald’s tail has grown back

I love to see these two at the water together

Speckles and her girls at the mash dish

Three little girls at the mash dish

Four little girls at the mash dish

I love the togetherness of the flock. Every activity is a group activity.

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Dandelion

Dandelion remains the most vulnerable of the girls to the mycoplasma during frosty spells. The sneezing throughout all the girls is only very occasional now and has almost disappeared. Freckles who along with Dandelion was the worst effected has shown no symptoms apart from the very occasional sneeze along with the rest of the girls.

But with Dandelion the frosty weather brings back bubbles to her eyes. It’s as if it is just there under the surface waiting for the frost to bring it out again. During the last frosty spell she had a crusty right eye for just one morning.

We have recently experienced, a prolonged, frosty spell. Yesterday Dandelion came out of the chicken shed, in the morning, with both eyes looking crusty. It’s almost like this has left her with conjunctivitis. As I watched her she scratched each eye in turn with a claw and removed the crust. I am thankful that she is able to remove it herself.

I decided to give all the girls tylan again, for five days, to be on the safe side. I am once again putting it in their water and making them mash from the tylan water to get as much as possible into them. This morning was frosty again and Dandelion had a little bubbling in her right eye. She usually just has it in the right eye and only occasionally in both eyes.

Dandelion seems to get the bubbles when at rest, overnight, or perching in the sun. As soon as she starts to preen she is able to blink her eyes clear.

Dandelion’s right eye has a slight bubbling

Dandelion’s eyes are clear again

I realised after I had taken this shot that  it is actually her left eye but both eyes were as clear as this.

Dandelion isn’t showing any other symptoms so I think that this eye problem is just, stubborn, rears up when it’s frosty, and will go with the better weather. I really hope that this is the last frosty spell. I feel that if we could just get to the better weather we could get free of this.

Dandelion is fine in herself and dust baths, eats and drinks and does all the usual chicken things so I am not overly worried. I think that she will always be the weakest link in the flock but I think having come through this far she will be okay once we get through the cold weather.

My husband delivered a lunch yesterday to a lady who said that her husband was giving the speech at the meeting. She said that he was a specialist, bird vet and he had brought along one of his parrots.

My husband told her about our chickens and she said that her sister had chickens and that her husband was always looking at them for her. They talked about mycoplasma and Dandelion’s eye bubbles and she said that was a sign that Dandelion was the carrier. She agreed that tylan was the treatment of choice.

I am not sure if this is true. I have  read everything I can find on mycoplasma and haven’t come across this theory before. It doesn’t really make any difference though because once you have had mycoplasma in your flock you have to treat all the chickens as potential carriers. I thought it was interesting enough to give it a mention though.

The encouraging thing is that the girls all look happy and healthy whereas in the past I could tell things weren’t right when they were dosing and looking unwell. If I didn’t check on the flock so frequently I could easily have missed Dandelion’s eye bubbles as they are only there for a few moments. I am just repeating the tylan as a preventative measure. It is better to be on the safe side.

As I have said many times recently, roll on spring!

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Apricot

I realised that Apricot was missing from my last post. Apricot is often off doing her own thing and so sometimes gets missed from photos. She is the friendliest little girl though and is easy to get close up photos of. If I bob down she comes running. If I hold out my hand she will come and see if I have anything for her. If I hold out my camera she will often come in too close like this.

Apricot is so friendly

Apricot is a beautiful girl

Apricot

Apricot is bottom girl but she is the friendliest of the girls and is such a cutie.

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Cinnamon’s tail feathers

I wanted to do a post showing how Cinnamon’s tail feathers have grown back in. For the last couple of days I have been trying to photograph her but she is such a busy girl and is always on the move. This has lead to lots of blurred and unsatisfactory photos. If she isn’t blurred she has turned her head away at the last second.

Today I gave the girls some yogurt and decided to try again to get some photos of Cinnamon. I fired off five shots in quick succession because I expected most of them to be blurred. Lo and behold all five were good so I am making no excuses at putting out all five photos.

Cinnamon’s tail has now completely grown back

Cinnamon and Dandelion’s tail side by side

Enjoying the yogurt treat

Cinnamon is back to her former glory with just a few head pins yet to open

A comparison of Freckles and Cinnamon’s tails

Freckles tail does seem quite square and Cinnamon’s tail feathers are more rounded. They are all beautiful girls though.

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A together flock

Blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately. It’s been a combination of lots of work and family stuff going on and not much happening in the chicken run.

No news from the chicken run is actually a good thing and I just haven’t had much time to take photographs but to prove that the girls are all okay here are a couple of group photos that I took this morning.

The girls perch together

Combs are getting redder

The flock is so together. I look out of the window and often see the whole group in one spot then in another spot. They do everything together. They are a really close flock which is so lovely to see.

It’s also been very cold and frosty but the girls seem to be managing it okay. The moulting has slowed to me picking up just a few feathers a day and their combs seem to be getting redder.

I do believe this is the happiest and most harmonious flock I have had yet. I would love to get more little girls when the better weather arrives but it will risk rocking their world a little.

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