I switch both sets of girls to the other side of the run

Before I start giving all the girls time together I always switch both lots to the other side first. I like to let the new girls get used to the other side of the run before I start any mixing. I took away the new girls food and water so that it didn’t get dirt scratched into it. I closed their little coop so that the main girls don’t scratch out the shavings.

Usually the main flock love to get into the area with the shelter but today they were more interested in the bottom of the run. I think it’s because it’s been wet and the soil was easy to scratch and dig.

The new girls make their way to the bottom of the run
They look as if they want to get back in to their side
I try to heard them towards the patio area

Red looks back at me as if to ask what I am doing.

Most of the main flock enjoyed digging on the other side
Mango and Cloud join them
Dot stayed up the top end
The new girls headed up the run again
I put out some apple to try to entice them to the patio area
Again they looked as if they wanted to get back to their side
I moved the apple nearer and they both had a peck

By now they had had half an hour so I decided that was enough for the day. The new girls clearly wanted to get back to their side.

It is always the hardest bit getting new girls to the patio area as it is different to the rest of the run. They need to find the patio area though as that’s where the food, water and treats are plus the nest boxes and chicken shed.

I thought it went well for a first time though. I would rather get the new girls used to rest of the run gradually and then start mixing them gradually too, just a little at a time.

There is no rush as the new girls need to stay on growers for a while yet.

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A tomato treat and updates

I thought a tomato treat would be a good chance to photograph the girls. The new girls have now cottoned on to all the treats. They love spinach, sunflower hearts and tomato.

A wheel of chickens
I spread the tomato a bit
The tomato soon disappears

I took the photos of the new girls through the wire because they would move away if I went in plus holding a camera while opening their gate and trying to keep the main flock out is a tricky business.

The new girls spot the tomato
They have some tomato, Red has a bit in her beak
They like tomato too and it is soon gone

The new girls are now used to their bigger space and have settled in well. They are dust bathing, sitting in the sun and eating and drinking well plus they love the treats.

Sugar hasn’t laid since the tiny egg in my last post five days ago. I am quite pleased she is taking a break because she usually lays six or seven eggs then goes broody. I am hopeful that she may continue not to lay but we will have to wait and see.

It has been good not having Sugar broody. I had been undecided what to do if she went broody because left alone she has in the past sat for up to a month before I broke her out of it. This was why I didn’t like to leave her broody. It takes three weeks to hatch chicks and I think Sugar would continue to sit for as long as I let her.

I feel that sitting in a nest box all the time is worse than sitting in the run. I had decided that I might leave her to sit for two weeks and then try to break her out of it. So now she has stopped laying before going broody I don’t need to do anything. I hope the tiny egg was her last one.

Cloud came back into lay again ten days ago after a two week break after going broody. Mango came back into lay again four days ago after a three week break after going broody.

I think Gold is going broody again because she is spending a lot of time in the nest box but she is still laying at the moment. She has laid fourteen eggs since her last break.

We are still getting plenty of eggs from Dot, the three game girls and at the moment Gold although maybe not for much longer.

Next year we should potentially have three more egg layers those being Autumn, Red and Snow. You never quite know though. Autumn laid in October, November, December and January then laid her last egg on the first of February and hasn’t laid since.

The weird thing is that Autumn still goes and sits in the chicken shed or a nest box every day but doesn’t lay. We haven’t come across this before although we did have Topaz (bantam gold laced wyandotte) who only ever laid an ocasional egg despite the fact that wyandottes are supposed to be good layers. I did mention to Suzanna at pipinchick that Autumn had stopped laying and she was surprised.

We always seem to get girls that are a law unto themselves so we will just have to wait and see how Red lays and if Autumn starts laying next spring. Either way we have enough girls to give us plenty of eggs.

Before putting this post out I decided to check on Gold to see if she has laid an egg today. She hasn’t as yet but cloud was in the nest box with her. I thought they looked so cute together that I decided to add a photo of them.

Gold and Cloud in the nest box together

I love seeing the different sized girls sharing a nest box. At the end of the day Gold hadn’t laid so I think she is definitely broody.

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The conundrum that is Sugar

Sugar has now laid four good eggs, laying every other day. Her eggs are very small, smaller than the game girls’ eggs. We still absolutely know that she is not right though and she seems worse for laying again.

Sugar has a lovely red comb. Twenty percent of the time she appears perfectly normal. She runs to the treats, she dust baths, she stretches out in the sun and she preens.

But the other eighty percent of the time she sits in the run which is not normal for a chicken. Before she lays her posture is like this.

Sugar sits with her wings held out
She has a humped back shape
After laying her last egg she was sitting with her head under her wing

Next time I checked on her she was up and about again.

The twenty percent of the time that she looks normal I think we must just and wait and see how she goes on. The eighty percent of the time that she sits, even when her posture isn’t as bad as at the moment, I worry about her quality of life.

We just have no clue what to do about her and keep coming back to feeling we must just wait and see.

Edit

About an hour after I had put this post out Sugar got her fifth egg laid the day after her fourth egg. It is super tiny like some of her eggs at the beginning of last year.

Sugar’s three most recent eggs with today’s egg on the left
Today’s egg is tiny
Next to a pound coin for size comparison
It appears to have a yolk but it’s the same colour as the white

This is just adding to the mystery of Sugar. There is definitely something adrift with her. We have never come across this before.

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The new girls get a bigger space

The new girls have now been with us for five and a half days. Their space is quite small so I decided to separate off the rest of their half of the run and give them more space.

I did this in the morning and once I had opened the hatch I left them to it and waited to see if they would explore. By lunch time they still hadn’t stepped over the threshold.

After lunch I decided to encourage the new girls to go out into the new space. I wafted them through the hatch with my hands. I took a couple of photos through the hatch then went through the gate to take a couple more.

I guide the new girls through the hatch
They move further down the run
This is as far as they get
I know they want to return to their space

At this point I went back through the gate and the new girls went straight back to their space. For the rest of the day they stayed in their space.

I have decided to leave them too it and wait until they get braver and venture out by themselves. They obviously feel safe and comfortable in their smaller space for now.

Edit

The next morning when I let the new girls out they went straight out into their new space. They have been spending half their time out there ever since and are often next to the rest of the flock on the other side of the wire.

They have also started drinking from the water dish so I have now removed the water bottle. They seem to be coming on really well.

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Sugar lays an egg and the new girls find the water bottle

Over the last few days Sugar has been going to the grit and oyster shell. We wondered if she was getting ready to lay again. I felt a bit of trepidation about the possibility of her laying again in case it would be her downfall.

Sugar had struggled with laying last summer. She usually starts laying in February so is quite late to start this year making me think that she might not lay at all.

After going in and out of the nest box Sugar eventually settled down in the nest box. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Sugar in the nest box

Later while I was in the garden I heard Sugar’s egg shout. I went and checked and there was her egg and it was perfect. Sugar was out in the run scratching and digging and looking fine. Sugar had also not looked poorly before laying either. The only indication she was coming back in to lay was that she was going to the grit and oyster shell.

Sugar’s perfect egg

Sugar’s egg is her normal size and has a good shell. I am so pleased. It seems like Sugar is fixed apart from the fact that she still sits an awful lot.

Yesterday I put a water bottle up for the new girls as I was still worried about not seeing them go to the water dish. I thought another water source couldn’t do any harm and may encourage them to drink.

As soon as I put the water bottle up the main flock girls started pecking at it from their side. Mango and Cloud were pecking at it the most. This caused it to drip on the new girls’ side and eventually seemed to show them what to do.

Before long Snow had got the hang of the water bottle. Red is a bit slower at everything and put her beak over the spout instead of under it but now she knows where the water is I think she will soon get the hang of it.

The main flock show the new girls how the water bottle works
Snow gets the hang of it
Red puts her beak over the spout instead of under it

I am feeling happier now that the new girls know where there is water. I will continue giving them mash each day until I see them drinking from the water dish as the mash gives them a bit more water.

Last night when the main flock had gone to bed the new girls had settled in the corner between the the little coop and the chickens’ patio. Snow was nearest the little coop. This meant that it was easy to scoop her up and put her in without any fuss. I then put Red in.

I hope they continue to settle here at bedtime because it makes it really easy to put them in. I think they are also getting used to me going in to their part of the run. It seems to be going really well.

Next day

Cloud has just laid after just over two week’s break. We now have five girls laying, Dot, Gold, Storm, Sugar and Cloud.

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New girls

At quarter past four yesterday afternoon our new girls arrived. I had got their corner of the run all ready for them the day before. I put them in and we waited for them to get settled.

I decided to call the buff laced wyndotte Red and the chabo Snow. As usual I worried that they weren’t going to the food or water but after last year’s experience with Autumn I am trying to be more chilled about it.

Red is fourteen months old and Snow is eighteen months old. I will have to keep them separate until Red is old enough to go on to layers pellets.

New girls’ first afternoon with us
Red and Snow
Checking out Cloud

At one point they checked out the little coop and I hoped they might go in at bedtime but no such luck. They settled on top of the shelter. I waited until after the main flock had gone in before attempting to put them in.

I easily picked up Red and put her in but Snow flew away in panic. I decided to wait until she was settled back on the shelter and try again. Again she panicked and when she was trapped in the corner by the gate I picked her up and put her in.

It seems that Red is going to be like Autumn and easy to handle but Snow like Snowflake before her not so easy to handle. I don’t want her to remain unfriendly like Snowflake so I am going to try to stay as hands off as possible.

I will spend time in with them but without touching them to get them used to me. At bedtime tonight I am going to wait until it’s dark before putting them in and I will try to pick Snow up first before she has time to panic.

This morning I opened the little coop and waited for a minute but they didn’t come out.

First thing this morning

Eventually I put my hand in and Red came out. I waited for Snow to follow.

Venturing out
And both girls are out
Close up

I made a dish of mash to try to encourage them to eat. We also had some more spinach that had gone to seed at the allotment and I put a small stalk in for the new girls. They have been pecking at the spinach all day.

They had a little mash but I was still worried about them not having water. I put another dish of water by the gate and after walking through the water dish they did have a few pecks. I would like to see them having more water but am hoping that as they settle in they will start eating and drinking properly.

During the afternoon they have had a dust bath and have spent time scratching and pecking so they seem happy enough. The other girls haven’t taken much notice of them but they do want to follow me through the new girls’ gate. I have to distract them with treats and slip through quickly.

I feel as if their first full day with us has gone well although I always feel happier when I see them drinking the water. They are very pretty girls and will give us a very pretty flock when mixed together.

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Storm gave us a scare

I knew that Storm was ready to start laying again after her broody spell as yesterday she was very vocal and looking in the nest boxes. It has been two weeks since she last laid which is when she usually starts laying again.

This morning I had a shock when I went out to the girls. Storm was collapsed in the front of one of the nest boxes. She was laying on her side with her legs out to one side. I picked her up and her legs were not working at all. She couldn’t stand.

I put her in the cat box and bought her indoors to the bathroom. I put a dish of water and a dish of food in front of her. I made some mash and put sunflower hearts and chopped tomato on top and a tiny bit of sugar to try to keep her strength up. She was eating which I felt was a good sign. I had checked her vent and it looked normal.

I rang pipinchick and left a voicemail and also started e-mailed them explaining what was happening and asking if there was anything else I should do.

I also googled it and found that it could be an egg up high pinching the nerves. As I knew she was about to lay I thought this must be what it was. It didn’t give advice or possible outcome though.

Storm was eating well and picking off the tomato which I thought was a good sign.

Storm in the cat box
Storm is eating

While I was writing the e-mail I saw Storm stand up. She had pooped which looked normal. I took her out of the cat box and stood her on the bathroom floor. She then took a step.

I decided to put her back in a nest box. I added this to my e-mail and went back to check on Storm again before sending it.

Storm was out in the run with her egg beside her and was back to normal. I was so relieved. It must have been the egg pinching her nerves. I added this to the e-mail and sent it.

Suzanna at Pipinchick e-mailed me back saying she was so glad she had recovered. She said it can happen with these little girls when they haven’t laid for a while. I have never had this happen before.

I also had an e-mail from pipinchick saying my new girls will be delivered on Friday between one and four o’clock. They will be bringing me some calcium to add to the water too, which can help with egg laying.

I was so panicked when Storm couldn’t stand and thought I was going to lose her. I am so glad to see her running around as usual and can’t stop keeping checking on her. I hope this was a one off.

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Update on broodies and egg layers

Gold as usual only took a one week break between going broody and starting to lay again. She then laid two days running missed a day and laid again this morning.

Storm gave up being broody after a couple of days. Mango and Cloud being broody together has caused them to take longer to come out of it as they egg each other on, excuse the pun! However a few days later Mango gave up and a few days after that Cloud has almost given up. She stays out in the run all day but sits in the corner of the chicken shed at bedtime. I lift her to the perch and she stays there so I think she is almost through it.

Both Dot and Gold are laying two days out of three so we are getting enough eggs to keep us going.

I always feel a post is a bit flat without photos so when I was ready to give out the end of the day treat of sunflower hearts I took my camera with me. The girls all run to me in expectation. I had to keep stepping backwards and then quickly click but got a good group photo.

Just after this my husband came back from the allotment with a huge spinach plant that had gone to seed. We put it in the run and I took another photo.

The girls run to me
Allotment spinach that has gone to seed

The girls loved this and were pecking away until bedtime. Today they have stripped the spinach and just left the stalk. Happy girls.

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A tomato treat for the girls

I think chopped tomato is the girls’ favourite treat.

The girls have a treat of chopped tomato

But what this post is really about is getting new girls. I have been looking in on pipinchick since we lost Salmon. Eight or nine girls is my favourite number and thinking that Sugar is a bit vulnerable I thought it would be good to get a couple of new girls.

Last year pipinchick had bantam copper maran and bantam splash maran on their books which I really fancied but none were available. This year they have disappeared and I e-mailed to see if they would be getting any. It turned out that the hatchery they got them from had retired.

I have researched to see if I can get them or any bantams locally and there isn’t anything that I want. I like my hens without crests, beards or feathered feet, what I call “clean” chickens. There are plenty of the sort of bantams I don’t want locally but none of the clean variety. I also can’t find any other breeder that delivers.

I even thought of relenting and getting seramas again but my husband is adamant that we shouldn’t go down that road again. We have lost far to many of them.

I had been e-mailing back and forth to pipinchick and had said that I would like a bantam buff laced wyndotte but couldn’t come up with another clean bantam. Suzanna suggested a chabo (Japanese bantam) would be perfect for me but I said that I had been put off by losing Snowflake to egg peritonitis on her first spring and that she wasn’t friendly like the rest of the girls and was also very noisy.

Any way after giving it a lot of thought I decided that I had probably been unlucky with Snowflake and that perhaps I should try having another one.

After a phone call to Suzanna I felt better about a chabo. She said it was unusual for them to have egg laying problems and that they were usually friendly birds. I said that whereas the other girls are vocal before egg laying and sometimes give the egg shout after laying that Snowflake always shouted for a while before laying. Suzanna said that probably indicated that Snowflake had a problem from the start. She said she could have been shouting before laying because she was uncomfortable. Snowflake did used to lay quite large eggs for her size.

Anyway I decided to have a bantam buff laced wyndotte and a chabo and although the wyndottes wouldn’t be ready until May I said would like to buy them now as they are selling really quickly. The website shows how many of each bird they have in stock. While we were in the process of doing this Suzanna said they could deliver them to me on Friday 10th May so I will be getting them in less than two weeks.

My husband said I could have them as my birthday present as my birthday is in May.

At the moment five out of seven of my girls are from pipinchick and soon it will be seven out of nine. I am gradually moving over to a pipinchick flock. This will be the third year running that I have had their girls and I have been really impressed with their service.

I am so excited at the prospect of getting my new girls.

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Lots of broody girls

As I suspected in my last post, Gold was about to go broody. Gold had laid nine eggs in twelve days. We had one day of five girls laying before Gold went broody. As usual Gold wasn’t committed and after a couple of days of me lifting her out of the nest box each time I went in she gave up.

Gold has had a break of five days and usually has a break of seven days so I am expecting her to start laying again in a couple of days time.

A few days later Storm, Mango and Cloud all went broody together. This has left us with only Dot laying at the moment. Thank goodness Dot never goes broody.

Storm has laid seventeen eggs in twenty seven days. Mango has laid nineteen eggs in thirty three days. But here’s the thing, Cloud has only laid four eggs in six days. It feels like Cloud is just broody because Mango is.

From the minute Mango started sitting in the nest box all puffed up Cloud was right next her and they have been inseparable ever since. I lift them both out and they both go to food or water or a dust bath together and they return to the nest box together.

Storm sits in the chicken shed and returns there after I lift her out for a break. I can’t quite believe that all three game girls are broody at the same time.

Two broodies together
Later in the day after I had lifted them out for a break
Storm is also broody

Yesterday Dot was the only girl to lay. This morning I closed all the nest boxes and blocked the pop hole to the chicken shed. As Dot laid yesterday afternoon I knew no girl would need to lay and it would be best to try and break the game girls out of this before Gold starts laying again and the nest boxes would be needed.

Storm is a bit more determined than usual because whereas she would usually perch at bedtime she was sitting in the corner of the chicken shed last night. I lifted her to the perch and she stayed there.

The sooner I can break the girls out of this the better or the abundance of eggs we were getting will slow right down. The game girls usually take a two week break so it shouldn’t be long until we are getting plenty of eggs again.

It’s just unfortunate that they all went broody together but hopefully it won’t last long.

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