Gold lays her first egg of the year

Gold has a habit of trying to join me as soon as I open the chicken gate. I pick her up and put her back inside the gate. For the last week she has been squatting every time I do this. I wondered if she was getting ready to lay but thought it was a bit early in the year.

Gold has a lovely red comb and has become a bit more vocal too. This morning Gold went into each nest box in turn and scratched out some shavings. I have recently cleaned out the nest boxes and put in fresh shavings ready for spring egg laying to begin so I thought that may be attracting Gold to them.

This afternoon Gold was missing so I checked the nest boxes and sure enough she was settled in the nest box by the gate. I came back in for my camera but by the time I got back out to the chicken run she was already laying her egg.

Gold is laying her egg
Gold has just laid her egg
Gold’s first egg of the year on the right next to a medium shop bought egg for comparison

It is amazing how often I catch the girls actually laying. Her egg is long and slim. The girls usually start laying mid February to March so I wasn’t expecting eggs just yet. Gold is a first year girl so that may be why the early start. She stopped laying at the end of August when she had a partial moult.

Snowflake has also become more vocal and has a red comb but she continued to lay until the end of November when she had a partial moult. It will be interesting to see if Snowflake starts laying soon too.

Storm only has a three month laying season which is May, June and July so I don’t expect her to start any time soon. Diamond is still dropping feathers every day so I am not expecting her to start yet either. It’s a good job she is a very fluffy girl.

Sugar usually starts laying half way through March. Salmon didn’t lay at all last year so I think she may be finished and Spangle only laid four eggs so she too might be finished. We only got Dot in May so I don’t know how early in the year she will start.

It is interesting to see when the girls start laying again and it was quite a surprise to see Gold lay today. Well done Gold!

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I love the togetherness of our flock. Despite being all different breeds, apart from the three seramas, the flock are always together in every thing they do.

I took most of these photos while I was collecting the portraits for my last post. The exception is the dust bathing ones which I took yesterday.

The girls amongst the spinach
Gathering at the food and water
Sharing the same food bowl
And sharing again
Gathering around the shelter
Dust bathing together
Communal dust bathing

The girls are never far apart from each other and it’s lovely to see the way they interact together. I just love this flock!

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I thought it would be good to do some up to date portraits. Most of the girls have their pale winter combs. Slow moulting has been going on for ages.

Dot seems to have been dropping feathers for a very long time. She has recently been dropping tail feathers but her comb has started to get a little pink. Snowflake has also been dropping tail feathers. She has gone from looking as she was through the moult to now having some tatty tail feathers.

Sugar has been dropping small feathers for a while and Diamond has been dropping fluffy white feathers for ages but never looks any different and has kept her red comb.

Snowflake remains the most nervous of our girls and doesn’t like the camera so is the most difficult to photograph. Gold, Storm and Diamond are the easiest to photo as they are happy to have the camera in front of them.

Gold is the easiest of all and in fact made it more difficult to get photos of the other girls as she constantly photo bombs. She was so close to the camera, as she takes an interest in anything in my hands, that I had photos of her face, eyes, beak, so close that it was ridiculous. Gold also has a very red face and comb.

I decided to pick two photos of each girl to give the essence of them at the moment. I will do this again when they have started laying and have their red combs.

I am putting the photos in age order.

Salmon – five years old
Spangle – five years old
Sugar – two and a half years old
Dot – two years old
Gold – one year old
Storm – one year old
Snowflake – one year old
Diamond – one year old

Although we got Diamond later in the year than Gold, Storm and Snowflake, she was older when we got her. This puts them at a similar age.

Salmon and Spangle are the oldest seramas we have had so far. I am hoping that as they are probably done with egg laying they will remain healthy.

With the rest of the girls being younger I am really hoping that the current flock will be long lived. It would be so lovely if we could keep this flock as it is.

It will be interesting to see how well Diamond lays and what size her eggs are. She is the only girl yet to start laying.

I am looking forward to the start of egg laying, probably around March, but you never know they could surprise me with an earlier start.

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Happy New Year

I gave the girls a yogurt treat for New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve yogurt treat for the girls

I would like to wish all my readers, their families and their girls a Happy New Year. I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2023.

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Happy Christmas

As usual I gave the girls a Christmas Day, fish, treat.

A Christmas Day treat for the girls
One dish seems more popular than the others
The girls are loving their Christmas treat

I would like to wish all my readers, their families and their girls, a very Happy Christmas and New Year. I would also like to thank you for continuing to read here and leave comments for me which I really appreciate. I hope everyone has a lovely day today. xx

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A yogurt treat for the girls

After two weeks of freezing there was finally an overnight thaw for us and the snow has gone. I thought the girls deserved a treat. Their patio area is mucky after the thaw but I didn’t want to add more wet to it.

I usually let it dry so that I can sweep it but may have to mop it tomorrow. I will make a judgement tomorrow but for now I am leaving it as the girls will only walk more muck on to it.

A yogurt treat for the girls
Dot has a yogurt beak
The girls love a yogurt treat

We are now forecast a lot of rain but I am just grateful the freeze is over for now and I am sure the girls are too.

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Trimming Diamond’s beak

Today we trimmed Diamond’s beak. I had been dreading doing this but it turned out to be easy. Diamond had been struggling to pick up the sunflower hearts. She would drop about two thirds and pick up a third. I decided that we really needed to get to grips with this.

I chopped some tomato as a reward for afterwards and chose our biggest nail clippers and an emery board. I picked Diamond up and put her in my husband’s arms to hold firmly.

I then held her beak still with my left hand and snipped a little at a time with my right hand. It was as easy as cutting nails. I then smoothed with the emery board but it didn’t much as it was a straight cut. It was just to make sure there were no snags. I then set her down and tipped the tomato on to the patio area.

At first Diamond seemed to have just as much difficulty picking up the tomato as before but I think that was because she needed to adjust to the different shape of her beak. I then sprinkled some sun flower hearts in the run and Diamond picked them up much more easily. She then had some water and was soon hoovering up the rest of the chopped tomato.

I then put a dish of mash on the patio and Diamond started eating it straight away. I was so pleased to see her eating easily.

Diamond’s beak before trimming
Diamond’s beak after trimming
Diamond’s beak from the right side
Diamond’s beak from the left side
Diamond’s beak straight on
Diamond eating mash

I am so glad this is done and that it was easy so that I won’t worry about having to do it again in future if needs be. I hope this will make it much easier for Diamond to eat.

Our special needs chicken has recovered from gape worm, has got used to her specially modified perch and now has had her beak trimmed. While looking after Diamond’s needs I have grown very fond of her.

Diamond has such a lovely nature and seems to take everything in her stride. We sometimes affectionately call her “big bird”. Despite being the biggest girl and top girl Diamond is never aggressive. I only know she is top girl because none of the girls ever give her the, pecking order, peck. Diamond never harasses any of the girls.

Diamond is a lovely girl and I hope that she will soon be feeling more comfortable as she gets used to her changed beak shape.

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We have snow

We have had a spell of frost and freezing temperatures along with the rest of the country. I wasn’t expecting to wake up to snow this morning though. It hadn’t been forecast for us and it took us by surprise.

We woke up to this, this morning
We weren’t expecting this

The chicken run is a bit dark. Apart from the seramas this is the flock’s first experience of snow.

I have been emptying the chicken’s water at the end of each day and filling it in the morning as it easier than defrosting it. Over the last few days I have had to defrost it half way through the day as our daytime temperatures have barely got above freezing.

I will be glad when this cold spell is over and I am sure the girls will too.

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Diamond’s hooked beak

From when we first had Diamond, she came to us in August, she had quite a hooked beak. We always thought it looked a bit like an eagle’s beak. Recently though we have felt sure that it has grown longer. I have just looked back through photos of her and have realised that it has definitely grown longer.

Diamond has a hooked beak
Diamond’s beak in September
Diamond’s beak in October
Diamond’s beak now

I have just been researching this and it says that it is a deformity. It’s medically referred to as mandibular prognathism or commonly parrot beak. The top part of the beak grows longer than it should.

It says that if the bird is struggling to eat then it will need trimming with nail clippers and filing smooth. But once this has been done it will need to be done periodically throughout the rest of it’s lifetime.

Diamond has really turned out to be a special needs chicken. First she had gape worm then we had to modify a perch especially for her and now she has a deformed beak.

I have been watching her eat and she has a little more trouble picking up sunflower hearts but manages some and drops some. She has no trouble pecking at apple and eats greens easily. She manages pellets easily. She manages the water with no trouble. She preens okay and she poops plenty.

I am a bit nervous of clipping her beak and having to do it on a regular basis. It says you must not go too far as you don’t want to cause it to bleed. A little at a time is the best way to proceed.

I am going to keep a close eye on the situation. If she manages as well as she does now and it gets no worse it may be better to leave her be. If it gets even longer and really hampers her eating and preening then we may well have to try clipping it.

This is a problem we haven’t come up against before now. It seems that are always new problems to be encountered. I will keep a close watch on her and report back as and when but I am coming round to the fact that we may have to clip. The saving grace is that the tip is thin.

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End of year egg count

Last year I did the end of year egg count in January because Smoke and Shadow laid throughout December. Sadly we lost them both this spring. Snowflake stopped laying at the end of November and Sugar had stopped laying at the end of October so we have no girls laying now and I don’t expect any eggs until spring.

It’s been a sad year for losses with Shadow, Smoke, Spot, Flame and Saffron all departing. Only the three seramas remain from last year. New comers are Storm, Gold and Snowflake in February. We then got Dot in May and Diamond in August.

Last year Flame laid 77 eggs and this year in five months she laid 49. Flame stopped laying at the end of June and we lost her in September.

Last year Salmon laid 47 eggs and this year hasn’t laid at all.

Last year Spangle laid 31 eggs and this year laid 5 in April and May.

I think that at five years old Salmon and Spangle have probably reached the end of their egg laying days. I am not sorry if this means that they remain healthy and they are now the oldest seramas I have had.

Last year Sugar laid 57 and this year laid 53. She has been the most consistent due to her monthly broody spells. She averages 8 eggs per month.

Storm laid 55 eggs in three months as her breed has a short season. She laid in May, June and July.

Gold laid 86 eggs and stopped laying at the end of August.

Snowflake laid 137 eggs and is way ahead as our best layer.

Dot laid 20 eggs over a five month period while moulting in between. She is in her second year.

Saffron laid 17 eggs in one month before we lost her.

Diamond hasn’t started laying yet. I have read that when her breed matures late in the year they usually start laying the following spring plus she had gape worm when she came to us which took a while to get rid of.

Last year we had a total of 449 eggs. This year we have had a total of 442 eggs.

I have just been researching Diamond’s breed and it says that they don’t go broody and lay well. They lay pale brown eggs that are a good size for bantam hens. I am looking forward to seeing how she lays and am hopeful that she will take over from Flame with some bigger eggs.

I am really hoping that the flock will remain settled now and that we can keep these girls healthy and happy and won’t be needing to add more girls for a good while. Even with very few serama eggs we have enough girls to keep us in plenty of eggs next year and I am grateful for all the eggs that they lay.

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