Mouse and updates

A few days ago my husband called me into the garden to see a mouse that was in one of the bird cages that holds square fat blocks.

I got my camera and held it at arms length and randomly snapped some photos. I didn’t want to get closer as I didn’t want to disturb the mouse. The little mouse didn’t seem bothered by me. Only one of the photos was properly in focus though so I am only showing that one.

Little mouse was having a good feed.

In other news Shadow has turned out to be a good layer of little, round, eggs. She is laying two days out of three. Sugar hasn’t quite hit her stride yet and is laying slightly bigger, oval, eggs once every three or four days.

Salmon and Spangle haven’t started laying yet which is quite late as they usually start in February. Smoke is of course broody.

Flame is laying well at two eggs every three days. Ebony is a strange one. Ebony laid two eggs at the end of December. She then laid two eggs in February on the 16th and 23rd and hasn’t laid since. Last year she laid every other day. She looks healthy and has a red comb.

Then comes the difficult bit. Marmite is still the same and I am finding it a real struggle to know what to do for her. I have hope every morning when I give sunflower hearts and late afternoon when I give corn. I sprinkle some in front of Marmite and she eats them but won’t compete if another girl moves in. She then sits with her eyes closed as if just eating has been an effort.

At other times Matmite is preening and she will peck at the lunchtime apple. I find it difficult to make the decision to have her put to sleep while she is still eating but it is like she is in slow motion. She does everything very slowly and doesn’t move very far. She is actually remaining no better but no worse.

This makes it difficult for me to make the decision. I know that Marmite won’t get better and I don’t want her to suffer but this is so difficult. I keep thinking that I will leave it just one more day but I know that I must act soon.

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Marmite is not right

There is a problem going on with Marmite. Last year Marmite had a problem with laying soft shelled eggs.

Marmite would look very hunched and down a day or two before laying her egg. She would then lay a soft shelled egg and bounce back to normal. Throughout this her face and comb remained a good red colour.

Marmite was laying about once a week last year. My biggest worry was that an egg would break inside her but she always managed to get her eggs laid. Once the end of the laying season arrived Marmite remained happy and healthy but I worried about the start of laying again this year.

About a week ago Marmite had the familiar look of being about to lay a soft shelled egg. I realised that she was going to struggle again this year. I had been hoping that the problem may have miraculously righted itself but I knew in my heart that this was unlikely.

As the days went by I was hoping that Marmite would get a soft shelled egg laid but she showed no sign of laying. Over the intervening week I noticed her face and comb getting paler. I know this is a bad sign.

I looked back at the photos of Marmite a week or so ago when I took some with the allotment cabbage and some with her wonky feather and sure enough her face and comb were a lovely red colour. There is something wrong.

Marmite with her flock mates

Look how pale Marmite’s face and comb looks compared to the other girls and Salmon isn’t laying yet and Speckles is unlikely to lay and is elderly but still has a healthy red comb.

I have picked Marmite up and inspected her and I can’t see anything. She looks like she does in the above photo all the time which is an unhappy pose.

Marmite is eating the sunflower seeds and corn although not as enthusiastically as usual and we have seen her pecking at the apple and drinking water and I have seen her poop. I have also seen her stretching her wings out in the sun and she is preening her feathers.

On the other hand I haven’t seen her dust bathing recently and she spends a lot of her time in the big wooden shelter where she obviously feels safe while feeling out of sorts.

I am in a really difficult position because I know the problem is egg related after last year. This means there is nothing I can do to help her and there is nothing a vet can do to help her other than to put her to sleep.

On the one hand I don’t want to let her suffer but on the other hand I don’t want to give up on her too soon. I keep hoping that she will get an egg laid and bounce back but again in my heart I know that she isn’t going to be fixed.

I know that when a chicken stops eating they have given up and that is usually the point of no return. Marmite hasn’t stopped eating so I feel that she hasn’t given up yet and therefore I can’t give up yet. Yet each day that goes by with her looking so dejected breaks my heart.

I know in my heart of hearts that Marmite is nearing the end of the road. I feel so sad for her and so frustratingly helpless. I feel that we can only give it a little while longer before we have to make the dreaded decision.

I keep clinging on to hope for a better outcome but I know that I have to ready myself . Marmite is only three years old. It is just so sad.

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Sugar lays her second egg

Sugar laid her second egg today, four days after her first egg and this time I caught her in the nest boxes.

Shadow also laid her egg just before Sugar and what with that and broody Smoke being in a nest box there was a lot of back and forth and quite a bit of shouting on Sugar’s part.

This was the first time that I had heard Sugar shout and she is a loud girl!

Sugar started off in the nest box by the gate
Sugar then moved to the nest box by the chicken shed
Sugar settled in this nest box and laid her egg

Smoke was in the nest box next door which is next to the store cupboard. Sugar’s egg is smaller than her first one but again it is oval shaped compared to Shadow’s round egg and this time no blood smear.

Well done Sugar!

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Worming the girls

I usually worm the girls twice a year in March and September. This year I totally forgot in September. By the time I realised that I had missed doing it I decided that it was near enough to March to just do it then.

I have now been giving them daily flubenvet for seven consecutive days and I haven’t found any worms in their poop so I am wondering if just once a year is enough.

I always add the flubenvet to four little dishes of mash as I find this is a really easy way to make sure all the girls get a share. The girls love mash and by the end of the day the dishes are empty and I make sure that I have seen all the girls get a share.

The first day of worming the girls
Later in the week

The job is done easily and the girls have enjoyed their daily mash.

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Sugar lays her first egg

This morning both Shadow and Sugar were very vocal. Sugar was as vocal as Shadow is when she is just about to lay and she was looking in the nest boxes too. I was pretty sure that Sugar was about to lay her first egg.

Smoke is broody after laying twelve eggs in nineteen days.

When I checked back on the girls Smoke was sitting on two eggs. I deduced that they were Shadow and Sugar’s eggs. I was disappointed that I hadn’t seen Sugar sitting in the nest box. It’s so cold at the moment that I haven’t been in the run so frequently.

The size and shape are a good indication though. Smoke’s eggs are large for a serama and round. Shadow’s eggs have remained quite small and are also round. The mystery egg was in between the size of Shadow’s and Smoke’s and was more oval in shape and also had the tell tale streak of blood on it.


On the left is Flame’s egg then Smoke’s egg, next is Sugar’s more oval shaped egg with a little blood streak and on the right is Shadow’s egg.

I hope to catch Sugar in the nest box next time but this egg is quite different in shape and that along with the blood streak makes me sure that it belongs to Sugar. There are also no other girls laying at the moment.

This is three weeks after Shadow started laying. Well done Sugar!

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Allotment greens for the girls

Nothing from the allotment is ever wasted when you have chickens. We have just been clearing the allotment plots ready for the start of this year’s planting.

There were still some cabbages that hadn’t hearted up. We decided to lift them and let the chooks have them. I put some in the run each day and take the bare stalks out at the end of the day.

The girls have allotment cabbages
The girls are enjoying their cabbages
There are just the stalks left at the end of the day

I love to see the girls enjoying the allotment produce. It gives them their daily greens but also provides them with a bit of entertainment too. They keep going back to them and pecking at them a bit more.

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Updating “The history of the flock”

Each time we have new girls I like to update “The history of the flock” page at the head of my blog. I am now on “The history of the flock part three”. This is mostly a record for me to look back on.

I like to include photos of the new girls when we first have them and if they are chicks to update it again when they are all grown up which I consider to be around the start of egg laying.

I did this yesterday but thought that I would include the photos here too as Sugar and Shadow are such photogenic girls. They are very pretty and are also very used to me and my camera and they pose beautifully for me.

We got Sugar and Shadow on the eighth of September last year and they were about three months old. They are now about eight months old. Shadow has been laying for a month now but Sugar has yet to start laying.

The chicks at three months old

Shadow has changed such a lot. Like Spangle Shadow has lost a lot of her dark feathers and like Spangle I think that Shadow has become more beautiful.

Both girls have a lovely red face and comb and both have grown in confidence and are very friendly girls.

They have settled in to the flock easily and are such lovely girls.

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Flame lays her first egg of the year

This morning while Smoke was in the nest box Flame decided that she wanted to lay her first egg of the year. Of course she really wanted to do this in the same nest box as Smoke.

I knew that Flame was ready to lay as she always makes quite a mournful sound when she is about to lay. Flame had taken a look in all three nest boxes and the chicken shed but she kept coming back to the one that Smoke was in.

Eventually Flame settled next to Smoke and Smoke allowed her to share the nest box.

Flame and Smoke share a nest box

A little bit later I checked again and knew by Smoke’s behaviour that she had laid her egg. I reached under her and removed her egg. A little later still I checked back again and Flame was out of the nest box but Smoke was still in there.

I lifted Smoke out and found that she had been sitting on Flame’s egg. I wondered if she was about to go broody again. She has laid nine eggs in fourteen days.

Smoke shouted very long and loud after I had lifted her out but she didn’t return to the nest box. Maybe she will lay for a bit longer. A little later Shadow laid giving us our second, three egg day, of the year.

Four girls’ eggs

On the left is Flame’s white egg and next is Ebony’s beige egg, next is smoke’s egg and on the right is Shadow’s egg. Flame’s eggs get bigger once she has been laying for a while.

In other news I have now solved the mystery of what happened to Marmite’s feather. I said in the comments on my last post that Marmite’s feathers were back to normal but that there was no sign of the feather in the run.

The next day Marmite’s feather was sticking out again but not quite as much as before. I thought that she must have preened it back into place. A bit later that day it was sticking out just as much as in the photos I had put on my last post.

Today I saw Marmite preening on the bottom rung of the ladder. Her feathers looked normal again and I thought that she must have got the feather back in place again.

I then went in to poop pick the run and there was her feather just underneath the bottom rung of the ladder. It appeared that it was annoying her after all and she was intent on sorting it out.

One thing that it has shown me is that the girls are able to sort this kind of problem out by themselves so in the end I did the right thing by leaving it be. I am glad that it has resolved itself without my help.

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Marmite has a feather sticking out

Marmite has had a feather sticking out at right angles for about a week. A few times I have tweaked it to see if it is loose. Then I picked her up and gave it a bit of a tug. It’s not loose, it is firmly, attached.

Then I picked her up and attempted to push the feather back in place. I put her down on the patio area and she shook herself and the feather popped back out again.

Marmite has finished moulting and this feather isn’t loose. I can only assume that one of the girls has grabbed her by the feather and it has got twisted.

It doesn’t look great but it’s not bothering her. I don’t feel as if I can pull it out as that seems cruel and she might not be so happy around me if I did that to her.

Marmite’s odd feather
Marmite’s feather from behind
Marmite’s feather

Has anyone else experienced this and would you pull it out or leave it be?

In other news a few of the girls are looking in the nest boxes so there may be more eggs soon. Sugar will go in the nest box and peck at the shavings.

Sugar in the nest box

Flame, Spangle and Salmon have all been looking in the nest box too. Even Marmite briefly had a look and so did Speckles but that probably doesn’t mean anything.

It’s definitely a sign of spring though and more eggs to come soon.

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Shadow laying her egg

Yesterday I went up to the chicken run with my camera and just happened to catch Shadow laying her egg. This was her fourth egg, in just under two weeks, since she started laying.

This time she was in a different nest box. Shadow was in the favourite nest box next to the store cabinet. When I checked on her she was already in the standing position ready to lay.

Some of the photos are a bit blurred because I had to take them very quickly and this doesn’t allow time to focus properly. Shadow was so quick to lay her egg and leg it out of the nest box, instantly, that I didn’t manage to get all of her with her egg. By the time I clicked the camera she was already moving out of shot.

Shadow is just about to lay her egg
Shadow is in the egg laying position
As soon as her egg was laid she made a hasty exit
Shadow’s egg on the left and Smoke’s egg on the right for size comparison
Smoke’s egg on the left and Shadow’s egg on the right

The first eggs are always small and usually gradually get bigger. I think she laid it quickly as it was small but I was surprised how quickly she left the nest box after laying.

Once out of the nest box Shadow briefly gave the egg shout. It was the first time that I had heard Shadow shout. She is now a proper grown up girl. Well done Shadow!

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