I had a feeling today that Sugar was getting ready to lay. When I checked on the girls and Sugar was missing I checked the nest boxes. Sugar was in the current favourite nest box by the chicken gate.
When I checked back a bit later Sugar had laid her egg. It had a blood streak on it like a first egg often has. As long as it’s only on the first egg it isn’t a problem.
It’s a week later than Sugar starting laying last year. I am so pleased that she has got her first egg laid successfully because after losing two girls earlier in the year I have become a bit nervous of the girls starting to lay. I just hope that Salmon doesn’t lay again this year.
It’s good to see that sugar is looking good. I know that she will probably only lay for a couple of weeks before she goes broody but we are used to that.
After the first evening that Star perched next to Diamond by herself she took to perching on the brackets of the higher perches. It was obvious that she wanted to perch higher with the rest of the girls but I felt that the brackets were definitely not suitable for her feet. I moved her next to Diamond each time but I thought the perches needed to be made suitable for her.
I decided to see if there was something I could add to the brackets to suit Star’s long toes. I went to the D.I.Y/garden centre to find something suitable. I found a piece of picket fence which had a flat side and a curved side. I thought we could cut them to size and fit them over the metal brackets. Luckily by making them a tight fit they didn’t need anything to hold them in place. They were tightly wedged and not about to move.
While addressing this I was also trying to get up to date portraits of the girls. In other news Gold has gone broody again after laying ten eggs in fifteen days. This leaves Dot as our only egg laying girl at the moment. We also had to clip Diamond’s beak again. This is six weeks after we last did it. I think it will need clipping every six weeks.
The wood for covering the brackets is two inches wide on the flat side but two and a half inches wide around the curved side. The main perches are one inch wide and one and a half inch round the curve.
I took my camera for my portrait shots and my tape measure to measure the width of the perches for comparison. I put the tape measure down while I held my camera and the girls immediately inspected the tape measure. I thought this demonstrated what curious/nosy characters they are.
Again the quality of the photo isn’t great but Star is on the corner bracket perch and has been joined by sugar. Occasionally the smaller girls used to end up on the brackets and I always mover them to the perches but now if they end up on the brackets they can stay there. You can see behind Dot the width of the bracket perch. There are now four to choose from.
Star has perched here every night since we put them in so that is a success and I am now happy with the perching arrangements.
Before showing the latest portraits I will air my concerns of health issues. After showing a bit of an interest in a nest box it turned out Diamond was just being nosy. She hasn’t yet showed any interest in laying and this concerns me a bit for her health. She also has a mucky bottom once more and I will wash it again. It isn’t all the time. When she came to us she had a mucky bottom but moulted the dirty feathers. Since then I have washed her once and this will be the second time so it’s only occasionally.
Salmon sometimes sits with her eyes closed and it always alarms me. It is probably just her age and at other times she is perky especially when there is spinach on offer. It’s just that I have read that chickens can stop laying for a year or two when at the end of egg laying and then will suddenly lay a few eggs. It terrifies me that she will come back into lay and then run into a problem and we will lose her. I know that Salmon is the most vulnerable of the girls and I must try not to worry as she has had a good innings but I can’t help myself.
Now for current portraits of the girls. It is now easy to get a close up of Star as her confidence as grown enormously both around me and around the flock. I am happy that she is now completely integrated and she no longer runs from any of the girls.
Star has some loose tail feathers. She is having a partial baby moult and dropping a few fluffy feathers.
I am now very happy with how the flock are together and happy with having the right perches for the flocks differing needs. I could just do with more than one egg layer but as long as the girls stay healthy that’s the main thing.
Since Star joined our flock she has been going in the chicken shed at bedtime without any help. She was settling in a corner. I would make sure she wasn’t under the girls where she would get pooped on but decided to leave her settling in the corner until she was more used to the flock. I didn’t want to give her too much to get used to at once.
After four nights I decided Star was ready for me to start training her to perch. Because she has such long toes I decided that Diamond’s perch would be the right size for her feet. We have broom handle sized perches for our smaller girls but Diamond’s perch is about three times as wide.
I waited until after dusk then when the pop hole was closed and all the girls were settled I lifted Star and placed her next to Diamond. I opened the door for a peak a few minutes later to check that she was still where I had put her and she was.
I did this for two nights and expected to have to continue for a while but to my surprise I checked at dusk last night and there was Star next to Diamond. After only two nights Star had got the hang of it and perched next to Diamond by herself. I was ridiculously proud of her.
The flash on my camera no longer works but I took a photo anyway to give the gist of it. Sorry it’s so blurred.
There was also plenty of poop under Star’s roost spot in the mornings so I am happy that she is eating properly.
Star is growing in confidence day by day. She now runs down to the bottom of the run with the other girls when I go up the path to them. She then runs up to the patio area when I go through the gate. She will also sometimes stay on the chickens’ patio while the other girls are there and she joins in with the morning spinach. I think Star is settling in really well.
The first afternoon Star joined the flock she spent most of her time in the chicken shed and just came out for food and water. On the second day she spent time sitting at the pop hole looking out. We think she was used to being kept in a shed and so this was where she felt at home.
By the third day Star stopped going in the chicken shed during the day and started finding the different parts of the run. She perched in the wooden shelter with the other girls and found the top of the shelter and also ventured out into the bottom section of the run.
For the first time Storm has gone broody. She has laid eighteen eggs. Gold also went broody recently but I didn’t blog about it because it was when Snowflake and Spangle were poorly and I had stopped blogging as it was so upsetting.
Gold had laid fifteen eggs. She wasn’t very committed and after three days of closing the nest boxes once Dot and Storm had laid she gave up. Nine days later she started laying again. I am hoping the same will be the case with Storm because once I have lifted from the nest box for a break she stays out for a few hours before returning.
Today is Star’s fourth day with us and I had begun to worry that she wasn’t eating properly. The other girls don’t bully Star but she is so timid that if she goes to the food dishes and another girl then goes to the dish she moves away.
Yesterday I put four dishes of mash on the chicken’s patio spaced apart. Star would have some mash but as soon as another girl went to her dish she would move away.
Today I decided that I needed to put some extra feeding stations in the run to help Star. I have done this in the past with new girls and it has always helped. I decided to put a dish of mash and a dish of water in the shelter and another dish of mash behind the hatch to the bottom part of the run. As both spots are slightly hidden it should help her to feed without being noticed.
Star soon found both feeding stations and this really helped her to get her share. Gold is my regular helper whatever I do in the run so she helped show off the extra feeding stations.
After having a good feed Star perked up and joined in a communal dust bathing session albeit on the other side of the wire from the rest of the girls. This is the first time I have seen her dust bath and dust bathing girls are happy girls.
Sometimes they do look a bit weird when dust bathing but they do enjoy it despite the look on Star’s face.
Gold really likes to help with everything.
I have now added a page with a description of Star’s breed and history. I couldn’t add it to my page – some information about my bantam breeds – because Star isn’t a bantam. So instead I added a new page – my first non bantam girl since I started keeping bantams – it’s the first line under my header photo if anyone wants to have a look or click on the link highlighted in purple.
Dot and Storm have been laying their egg on the same day recently. Sometimes I lift Storm to see if she has laid and find that she is sitting on both Dot’s egg and her own.
This morning I checked on them and found them in the current favourite nest box together. They looked so cute that I had to grab my camera.
Both girls later got their egg laid.
I have been a bit worried about Diamond because she hasn’t started laying yet but I am now thinking that she may be getting ready to lay. Diamond spent all morning hanging around the nest boxes. It seemed as if she didn’t know where to go if she wanted to lay. She did look in one of the nest boxes and she did look in the chicken shed.
By lunch time Diamond seemed to have given up but I think this is a hopeful sign that she may be getting ready to start laying. I would love Diamond to lay an egg just to prove that she is healthy. She has had a clean bottom since I washed it so am feeling encouraged that she may be okay.
Over the last week I have been thinking about adding a new girl. The flock of six feels small and we only have three girls laying so eggs are not as abundant as they could be.
It suddenly came to me that it would be great to add another Flame. Toffee and Flame both had lovely natures and were good egg layers, non broody and long lived. I rang the breeder a few days ago and asked if he had any of the brown and gold game birds to sell. I was disappointed to hear that he had given up breeding the game birds.
I then remembered that last year I really fancied a black star. In the end I found pipenchick and got Gold, Storm and Snowflake. My friend Jackie, many years ago, had a black star and I loved her and remembered her being quite small. Although not a bantam they are quite a small breed and when I researched weights, a bantam light sussex, Diamond, weighs seven pounds and black star hens weigh five pounds so I thought that now we have one bigger girl another bigger girl would fit in quite well.
Black stars are docile, quiet, hardy, usually non broody and good layers of a good sized brown egg. Their eggs range between chocolate brown and pale brown in colour but I don’t care about egg colour as any eggs are good for me.
I researched breeders close to us and found one half an hour’s drive away. I rang the breeder and it turned out that he had just one black star left. She is four and a half months old. I asked if we could collect her straight away and he agreed.
I had run out of black/gold names so I decided to name her Star. I put her on the chickens’ patio area and she went straight to the food and water.
I was really pleased that she found the food and water straight away and that the other girls didn’t take much notice of her. She later went in the chicken shed and had a good mooch round and then went in a nest box. I was happy that she had found all the most important things. I wasn’t bothered about her finding the run as she will in time and that’s not so important.
Star didn’t seem bothered by me or the camera which is great.
Star has feathers down the side of her legs stopping at her feet. I was sure that when I researched black stars they should have clean legs. I googled it and it says they don’t have feathered legs. I’m not sure if they will go as she matures or if she has a bit of something else mixed in her breed to give feathered legs. Either way it is what it is and she doesn’t have feathered feet so I am happy with that. I don’t like feathered feet because they get muddy when it’s wet.
A bit later I checked in again and Star had made it as far as the log. She has very long toes.
It looks like Star is going to fit in very well. I wondered if she would go in the chicken shed at the end of the day but as she had already checked it out I hoped she would.
At bedtime I checked and all the girls were in except Star. She was looking around by the chicken shed and nest boxes and sounding upset. Then suddenly she was through the pop hole without me helping her. She settled under the girls where she was right in the poop line.
I picked her up and put her on Diamond’s perch but she was straight off and settled in the corner by the door. I decided that was fine as she was now out of the way of being pooped on.
I am very happy with Star’s first afternoon with us. She seems a bright girl and has got the hang of everything very quickly. I feel certain that now she has gone in on her own tonight she will find her way in tomorrow night.
It may take a while to teach her to perch but for now as long she goes in at night that’s all that matters to start with. I am very pleased with her. I am happy with our flock of seven.
I wasn’t sure whether to do a tribute to the two girls separately but decided that as they went together I would do this for both of them in one post.
In my title I have put Spangle first as we have had her the longest. However I will do my tribute to Snowflake first as it’s shorter and was much quicker to find the photos as we only had her for a year and she was the one girl who hated me taking photos of her.
We had Spangle for five years and she has seen a lot of girls come and go in her time with us and she never minded me taking photos of her.
We got three new girls on 25/2/22. Snowflake was a chabo, Gold is an ardennaise and Storm is a modern game. They were three and a half months old. From the start Snowflake didn’t like being handled and photographed whereas the other two were not bothered at all.
Snowflake’s time with us was all too short.
We got five seramas in August 2018 at two and a half months old. I called them the five amigos. They were Smoke, Salmon, Vanilla, Marmite and Spangle. Sadly only Salmon is still with us.
Spangle is the girl that has most changed in her appearance out of all the girls we have ever had. When we first got her we thought she looked like a turnstone. She had lots of brown feathers. As she moulted she gradually lost her brown feathers. First the feathers on her back disappeared and then gradually her tail feathers. She ended up with just a few brown diamonds on her back. I think she got more and more pretty as she changed.
Spangle is eating from the bowl on the left. She now has no brown tail feathers and in fact very few brown feathers.
With all the girls laying there were times when all the nest boxes were occupied. I knew Spangle wanted to lay so I made a temporary nest box from a crisp box which Spangle immediately took to.
Spangle is now white with a few small brown feathers. I thought she was a really beautiful girl. She also had a lovely friendly nature.
We were lucky to have a good five years with spangle. She was a beautiful girl with a lovely nature. She is very much missed and will never be forgotten.
I am writing this post in hind sight because I have been too upset to write it as it was happening. Yesterday, Thursday, I had to take both Spangle and Snowflake to the vets and they had to be put to sleep. I have never had this happen to two girls at the same time before and it has been heart breaking.
It was on Sunday that I noticed both Spangle and Snowflake were very inactive and were sitting with their eyes closing. I thought that maybe Spangle was feeling her age as she was five years old, Salmon and Spangle being the oldest we have got seramas to. What I couldn’t understand was Snowflake acting exactly the same at only one year old.
Then I remembered that Snowflake had been very vocal a few days before and I had thought she was about to lay. She then stopped being vocal. I realised that both Snowflake and Spangle were probably both about to start laying when they had run into a problem.
Spangle laid five eggs last year and I had hoped that she wouldn’t lay this year. Snowflake laid a hundred and forty seven eggs last year between March and November.
In February last year we lost Shadow due to an egg stuck and Smoke due to peritonitis. The frustrating thing is that this caused me to make the decision not to have any more seramas due to so many egg laying problems. I chose bigger, hardier breeds and at the end of February added Snowflake, Storm and Gold. Storm and Gold are laying along with Dot. It seems so unfair that this should happen to Snowflake as well.
Having read everything I could find in the past and again now I decided to do my very best to save the two girls or even possibly one of them. I read that if you treat them with antibiotic it can possibly stop the infection of peritonitis, or a broken egg inside. I had tylan in stock so started it in the water and in dishes of mash on Monday morning intending to give it for the recommended five days.
I examined both girls as best I could. I couldn’t see anything wrong with their vents and couldn’t feel anything in their breast. I had done the same in the past though and hadn’t been able to see anything.
I could see that both girls were not going to the water so I gave them tylan water to their beaks, with a syringe, twice a day. I also gave them sugar water and tomato juice with sugar dissolved in it to their beaks. I hoped that it might help start them eating again.
I had moments of hope as Spangle was pecking at the mash and I thought she was eating. Watching her closely I realised that she wasn’t actually eating it but just pecking at it, pretending to eat.
This was day three of giving them tylan and they both still had red combs. By day two Snowflake wasn’t perching at bedtime and by day three Spangle wasn’t perching at bedtime. I knew they were getting weak because of not eating.
On day two and day three there was a puddle on the chickens’ patio that was mostly pale yellow but with some orange streaks of egg yolk. When I cleaned it up with kitchen paper it was the consistency of egg white. I felt a little hopeful that one of the two girls was expelling the egg and had chances with the antibiotic of pulling through.
By day four, yesterday, Spangle spent all day with her head under her wing. Snowflake was weak and wobbly. Both girls’ combs had also changed colour. They had gone a muddy colour.
As the day went on Spangle had her head under her wing and Snowflake stood next to her with her eyes mostly closed. This was so sad to see. I knew at this point that I couldn’t let them suffer any longer and I rang the vet.
I got an appointment for six o’clock yesterday after four days of trying to treat them. I felt bad to take them to the vet in such a poorly state but I had felt that I couldn’t give up on them until I had given it my best shot at trying to get them through this.
The vet examined them both. She said that Snowflake’s breast felt hot from egg peritonitis. Her crop was very empty. She said that Spangle probably had passed the liquid egg that I had found but that she was too weak to recover. She said that I had done my very best for them and that I had done the right thing to bring them in to be put to sleep. It was the only kind thing for them.
I usually hold them while they are put to sleep but felt it wasn’t reasonable to do this with two of them. I asked to see them once the vet had put them to sleep. She said they went very quickly and quietly as they were so ready to go.
I am totally gutted by this whole thing. Sometimes I feel that we are so very unlucky. I was in tears at the vets and again writing this. I had been dreading writing this post but I owed it to the two girls to tell their story.
I will do a tribute to them soon when I can gather myself and look through my photos. The flock feels small having dropped from eight to six in one day and I am feeling so sad right now.
Since we have had three girls laying every single egg has been laid in the nest box by the chicken gate. It’s the favourite nest box at the moment despite being the least used one last year. My theory is that once one girl starts laying in a certain nest box the other girls think this must therefore be the best nest box and so is the one that they want too.
A couple of days ago we had our first, three egg day, of the year and today our second. Gold and Storm often lay on the same day but twice now Dot laid too. Gold and Storm seem very in sync with their egg laying and often while one of them is in the nest box the other will be standing on the ramp waiting her turn.
Today when I checked on them Gold and Storm were in the nest box together. They looked so sweet that I took a photo.
I love seeing the girls sharing a nest box. I also love having enough eggs not to need to buy any. Well done girls!
We used to have difficult neighbours, next door, last time this tree was tamed. Luckily we now have lovely neighbours next door. They moved in quite a few years ago and intend to stay. This has been great for us as before them we had a succession of neighbours that didn’t settle.
Recently they had their huge tree pruned which is really good for us as it was overhanging our garden and blotting out light in summer. I decided to take a before and after photo.
We are very happy with this tree being reduced again. A great job done.