A difficult few days

Friday

We just can’t seem to get away from egg laying problems with the girls we had from my last breeder. We lost Rusty to a second prolapse last September. We lost Apricot overnight this April just as she was coming back into lay.

Two weeks ago Dandelion prolapsed after laying two soft shelled eggs then one good shelled egg after her prolapse then took a break from laying. Freckles laid four soft shelled eggs then took a break of three weeks then laid a further three soft shelled eggs.

Yesterday both Freckles and Dandelion looked very unhappy. Dandelion had been showing signs of coming back into lay. She had a practice in the nest box the day before but didn’t lay. I dreaded that it was too soon to lay again and that she may prolapse once more.

Freckles had laid a soft shelled egg five days ago. Three days ago I found the remainder of an egg in the chicken shed which I think was her second one. Yesterday I noticed that she had a mucky bottom so I decided to clean her up. While cleaning her I realised that she had a soft shelled egg stuck to her and partly still trapped in her vent which was prolapsing slightly.

I soaked her in a bowl of warm water and with disposable gloves I cleaned her with cotton wool pads. I then gently pulled the egg shell from her pulling the last bit of it from her vent. I cleaned her as best I could and pushed the prolapse back in.

Freckles later put herself to bed early. I picked her up to check her and she was mucky again with a slightly protruding vent once more. I brought her into our bathroom the same as I had with Dandelion. I cleaned her up and then pushed the prolapse in with a gloved finger and with some honey the same as I did with Dandelion. I put her back on her roost spot in the hope that if she didn’t poop overnight it would stay in.

By this morning Freckles and Dandelion were both looking very unhappy. They both refused the morning corn which is not a good sign. I checked Dandelion’s vent and it was red and swollen with a bit of muck underneath. As the day wore on Freckles looked more and more unhappy.

Freckles is not a happy girl

Dandelion’s vent is red and swollen

At this point I decided to ring the vet for advice. I am feeling very low about these two girls. I have nurtured them through a rough winter with both of them having mycoplasma and I treated the whole flock four times with tylan in the water over the winter. I felt very close to letting them go and am now wondering if perhaps I should have.

Myco can be treated with tylan but a prolapse is mechanical and prone to recurring. I wonder what quality of life these two have if they can’t lay eggs and are going to suffer every time. Seramas don’t take a winter break either which would give some time to heal. Last year they laid up until the end of December.

I explained the situation to the receptionist at the vets and said that I didn’t want to bring them in but just wanted to have a chat with the vet to seek advice. She said that she would ask the vet that saw Dandelion to call me but didn’t know when that would be.

I checked back on the girls and Dandelion was in the nest box. I held my breath and went to collect my camera. When I got back she was just laying her egg and I was pleased to see that it had a proper shell.

Dandelion lays an egg with a proper shell

Once again Dandelion has a reprieve. I know we are not out of the woods yet as Rusty laid a good egg after a four week break and then prolapsed on the next one. I am hopeful though as Dandelion’s prolapse wan’t as bad as Rusty’s. I checked Dandelion’s vent and it looks the same as the earlier photo of her. She looks happy again so for now I am breathing a sigh of relief.

It’s not so good for Freckles though as she has remained, looking like her earlier photo, all day. I decided to wait and see if she perked up with time. If not I worry about there being some egg inside her although I felt sure that I had got it all.

And then on to the other problem. I have been worrying for the last few weeks that Blue may be a cockerel. Blue has a red comb and wattles and big feet. I have scrutinised the photos of the the other girls when we first got them from my second history of the flock.

I know that silky feathered girls develop more slowly. I looked back at Rusty who had no comb while Freckles had a comb and it was fairly red although not as red as Blue’s. I looked at the three amigos and Apricot had no comb and Dandelion and especially Cinnamon had combs and Cinnamon’s was red. Cinnamon also has big feet.

I googled how to sex serama chicks and it said that between one and two months the boys have pink combs and the girls have yellow combs. It said that the boys start to crow as early as three to six weeks. We have had the chicks for five weeks and the breeder thought they were about two months when we took them. I have been listening and can only hear cheeping so have been telling myself Blue could still be a girl.

Blue looks more like a cockerel every day

I then e-mailed the link to my blog to the breeder we got them from to have a look at how well the integration is going.

She emailed me back – That frizzle has got to be a boy surely!!!

This struck horror in my heart. If anyone should know she should. I had been reassuring myself that they were still cheeping so I went in to have a listen.

I cornered them which sets them cheeping and hunkered down to watch them. I suddenly realised that all the cheeping was coming from the two silkies. Sienna and Jasmine’s beaks were opening with loud cheeping sounds. Blue’s beak was firmly closed and Blue was absolutely silent.

This has now convinced me Blue is a boy even though not crowing yet. I wonder if they were nearer one month rather then two when we got them putting Blue at two months now rather than three. I am gutted!

This is now a real problem. My neighbours would not be happy with a cockerel and I have always said that I would never have one. But now I have a dilemma.  Because I have had myco in my flock I cant’ take Blue back to the breeder. I am sick at heart and don’t know what I can do. Blue is also my favourite coloured chick not that has any bearing on it.

I have no idea what I will do. I am feeling sick at heart at the moment.

Saturday

Last night Freckles took herself to bed early. I picked her up and she had a mucky bottom again. I decided to bring her into the bathroom and clean her again thinking that if she didn’t poop over night she might stay clean.

At this moment the vet called me. I shut myself in the bathroom and put Freckles on the floor where she promptly pooped. I updated the vet and said that although that morning I had been ready to give up on them I now felt there was still a chance of improvement. Freckles seemed to rally a bit and jumped up on to the toilet seat (closed of course).

He said that as long as I was willing and able to clean them up and put any prolapse back in then I could continue to do that but the moment that I felt that their quality of life was compromised he would be happy to step in and put either one or both girls to sleep.

I felt a little more optimistic and was glad that I had discussed it with the vet. I returned Freckles to her roost spot.

This morning Dandelion looked brighter and joined in with the morning corn but Freckles looked worse and didn’t have any corn.

Freckles on Saturday

Freckles remained hunched with her eyes closed. I decided it was time to call the vet again. The same vet had a slot mid morning so I took Freckles to be put to sleep. I couldn’t let her suffer any longer. The vet said that I had done the right thing and had done my best for her.

He said that sometimes the shell making gland can go wrong for unknown reasons and then can’t get better again. Dandelion has a chance as her last two eggs have had good shells but Freckles eggs had all been soft shelled for some time now.

I know it was the right thing to do but I left the vet in tears and sat in my van and cried before I could drive home. I will do a little tribute to her soon but at the moment I am too upset to write any more.

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10 Responses to A difficult few days

  1. Jenny says:

    Oh Carol what an awful few days. There seems to be a real spate of bad luck in Chicken keeping at the moment – I do wonder whether the heat is exacerbating things.

    Horrid as it is you definitely did the right thing for Freckles. I’d say the stock they were bred from shouldn’t have been used for breeding at all. Fingers crossed Dandelion will rally now and be OK.

    As for Blue – I don’t know Serama’s but he/she definitely looks male compared to the other two. I know what you mean about trying to convince yourself they’re hens because I’m still doing it with my chicks (scouring Google for photos of chicks that look like them but turned out to be pullets) even though in my heart of hearts I know they’re boys. The whole myco thing does make everything a lot more difficult. Do you know anyone, or could you find anyone who has a flock that has been exposed to it and so could take him? Long shot I know.

    The other thing I would say, is that although having an animal put to sleep is hard for the keeper, as long as it’s done in a painless and stress free way, it’s nit bad for the animal, and certainly better than living an unhappy life.

    Sorry again about Freckles.

    • Carol says:

      Oh Jenny, your kind words just made me burst into tears again. Not what you would have wanted I know. I definitely think the stock they were bred from shouldn’t have been used and I wonder if that’s why he has been unable to breed this year. I wanted to hold Freckles but the vet said he uses a sniff of gas rather than an injection and needed to take her out the back. He said it is instant and she wouldn’t know anything about it. I held her and stroked her before he took her and told her I was sorry. He asked if I wanted to take her home but I have a rule that only the girls that die at home get buried at home. Once they are gone they are gone. To add insult to injury it costs more that way because they have to cremate them. The bill was fifty pounds. Twenty pounds to buy a chicken and fifty pounds to put them to sleep but what can you do!

      I am with you about the boys. I too have constantly been scouring google for photos of chicks and yet you know it can’t change anything. I doubt it would be possible to find someone who had myco in their flock. I would think most people wouldn’t want to admit it anyway. I will keep Blue as long as I can and cross my bridges as I get to them.

      I have had to write this through my tears but it is good to know that someone knows how I feel, thank you.

  2. marion.pharo says:

    I was so sorry to hear your news, you certainly are going through a bad patch,
    I looked at the picture closely, and can see what you mean about Blue, he /she certainly
    looks very different to the other two girls. Hope it is not so, such a shame if you can not keep him, if he is a boy.

    • Carol says:

      It has all been so upsetting. I have decided that I will keep Blue as long as I can ie until there is a problem with the neighbours and then will cross that bridge when I come to it.

  3. Flock Mistress says:

    Oh, I am so very sorry. I really wish I could give you a big hug.

  4. Sophie says:

    I’m so sorry Carol to hear this. 🙁 You did your very best for Freckles as you always do for your very loved birds. I so hope Dandelion can beat this and you know we are all rooting for you.

    As for Blue i think you are right to cross that bridge when you come to it. Serama cockerels sometimes have light crows and you may find your neighbours are ok with it – you could bring him in at night in your cat carrier and put him back out at a reasonable hour.

    I ditto Flock Mistress and wish I could give you a big hug.

    xx

    • Carol says:

      Thank you Sophie. I am getting my head round Blue now. Today I noticed the downward curve of Blue’s tail feather making me more sure than ever. My husband said I named him aptly – Blue for a boy. I have to say Blue is a good cockerel name. I have read on the “Down The Lane” chicken forum of people housing a cockerel separately at night to let him out later. I have already thought that I could move him from the main chicken shed at night to the coop that the chicks are currently in and perch him on that little perch. The main shed pop hole opens at Five o’clock at the moment but I could then let him out at seven or seven thirty. This is way in the future because it will be winter and the pop hole opening later by the time the chicks are fully grown. It would only be a summer problem. I am hoping as you say that maybe he will crow lightly. I appreciate the virtual hug. xx

  5. Sophie says:

    I think Blue is a lovely name too and being a cockerel he will make future introductions easier as he will intervene in any spats. xx

    • Carol says:

      My mum said the same. Whilst I would never have chosen to own a cockerel I am now thinking that you have to cope with the hand you are dealt and I am now trying to look at the positives. xx

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