Before I do an update on Shadow’s situation I am just going to run through the other girls.
Smoke came out of her broody spell after just a week. She doesn’t seem to be so committed in winter which makes sense. I just left her to it because she was getting herself out of the nest box each day and after a week she didn’t bother anymore. That was a week ago.
I have noticed lately that Flame has slowed down and it has now occurred to me that she is feeling her age. We got her in July 2017 and she stopped laying at the end of the summer and moulted. This means she was at least two years old.
Ebony who we also got in July 2017 laid all winter and didn’t moult that year so she was a first year girl. This means that Flame is at least six years old. She is showing the same signs that Speckles did as she aged.
Flame doesn’t rush to the treats but ambles over in her own time. She spends time just sitting and occasionally also dozing a little. Flame is also always the first to settle in the chicken shed at the end of the day. This was the same as Speckles so I know she is feeling her age as she is fine in every other way.
Flame is about six years old, Smoke, Salmon and Spangle are four years old, Shadow and Sugar are two years old and Spot is about eight months old.
When I first started keeping chickens I had read that they could live to twelve years old and indeed some owners have girls of that age. I now realise that is like saying that we can live to a hundred years. Some people do but that isn’t the average. I have now read many times that the average lifespan of chickens is between four and eight years old and I think that is more realistic.
Speckles was eight years old and definitely had the look and manners of an old girl.
Now on to Shadow’s current situation.
I think that something mechanical has gone adrift inside Shadow. Shadow is happy, chatty, active, eating well and looking good, with a red comb and face, as you can see in the photo of her this morning.
But and this is a big but, Shadow is not able to eject her poop properly. She constantly has a mucky bottom and I am picking her up at the end of each day and cleaning the poop from her with tissue.
Yesterday as an experiment I decided to miss a day and see what would happen. Today she was constantly trying to preen her bottom. I picked her up to check and where I hadn’t cleaned her yesterday her poop had set hard as stone around the base of her feathers.
There was no way I could remove the hard ball without softening it in water. I brought her in and stood her in a bowl of warm water. I worked at the ball until it softened and I could remove it then dried her with a towel. I had only wet the feathers around her vent that I was working on.
This has proved to me that I need to clean Shadow each day. I know that if she can’t poop then it is unlikely that she will be able to lay eggs either. I feel that I have to keep doing what I am doing to have her as long as possible but when she is ready to lay again I will probably have to take her to the vets to be put to sleep unless a miracle happens.
I don’t want to take Shadow to the vets now while she has a good quality of life. Luckily Shadow is the tamest girl ever and easy to pick up and she doesn’t hold it against me. Shadow doesn’t stay away from me afterwards but just seems to accept my interventions.
If Shadow was a nervous girl who stressed at being picked up I wouldn’t be doing this . Shadow just takes it in her stride and I can tell she is happy by the way she behaves.
It is so sad but I feel that we must make the most of having her for a bit longer but must ready ourselves for this being a temporary reprieve.