Slow worms

We have always had a thriving population of slow worms in our garden at this address. Slow worms have their young from March to September. We see babies from March through to September. Through out the year from March onwards we see baby slow worms, medium sized slow worms through to large adult slow worms.

This indicates that we have a thriving, breeding, population which is lovely. I thought that I knew pretty much all there was to know about slow worms but I have just discovered something new to me about them.

Baby slow worm in September

I took this photo mid September but didn’t get round to using it. I put the pound coin next to it for size comparison.

A collection of empty snail shells

Just recently we noticed this collection of in tact but empty snail shells. At first we assumed it must be caused by a bird. I started researching if birds leave empty shells in one place like this and couldn’t come up with anything. I then researched possible causes of a collection of empty snail shells in one spot.

Much to my surprise it is a habit of slow worms. Slow worms feed on snails, small slugs, worms and insects. The interesting thing is that they suck the snails out of their shells without damaging them and they leave the shells in a pile in a favourite spot.

As we know that we have a thriving population of slow worms in the garden this must be the cause of the collections of empty snail shells. This is fascinating and I am amazed that I have only just learned of this. You live and learn!

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Repeat worming

I started worming again three days ago which is two weeks since I finished giving Diamond a double dose of flubenvet. The advice for gape worm on the internet is to repeat between 14 and 17 days so I decided to start after 14 days but continue for 10 days instead of 7 to cover both time scales. I am determined to cover all angles as thoroughly as possible because I want to be as certain as I can that I completely eradicate this.

I am giving the usual dose of flubenvet powder in dishes of mash each morning for all the girls. At the end of the day I am giving Diamond her extra dose, to make up the recommended double dose, on some chopped tomato. Last time I held the dish in front of her beak and she took it but this time she won’t take it while the other girls are trying to get it. Diamond doesn’t like to compete with the flock.

Because of this I have changed strategy. Diamond is always the first to go in the chicken shed at the end of the day. Once she is in I am blocking the pop hole to keep the other girls out and putting her dish of chopped tomato laced with flubenvet in front of her. Once she has had it I then unblock the pop hole. This is a bit of a pain but I haven’t found anything else that works. I tried picking Diamond up and offering her the dish but she refused it as she doesn’t like being held.

Worming the girls again
Dishes of mash with flubenvet mixed in

When Diamond came to us she had a mucky bottom. She now has a lovely clean, white, fluffy bottom. The cough/squeak noise is now only occasional. She hasn’t breathed through an open beak since I started the double dose of flubenvet last time.

I am hopeful that at the end of this treatment Diamond will remain free of gape worm and the entire flock will be worm free. I will be remaining vigilant.

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A fish treat for the girls

I thought a fish treat would provide a bit of extra protein while there is so much moulting going on. It’s also always a good way of getting group photos. I think the mixture of breeds in the flock is so pretty.

A fish treat for the girls
They love the fish
A good chance for group photos
The fish won’t last long

The girls really enjoyed their fish treat. They are such a pretty flock and all lovely natures too.

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Up to date portraits of the girls

I thought it might be good to do some portraits of the girls. They are at various stages of moulting.

Salmon, Spangle and Sugar have been dropping a few feathers but don’t look much different. Sugar is a little scruffy on her breast feathers.

Gold is dropping feathers and has loose breast feathers which has caused her to have a break in laying. Snowflake has lost her ragged tail and for the first time has proper tail feathers. She still has some tatty wing feathers. She has dropped her feathers much more slowly and is still laying. Storm still looks pristine but I think she is like the seramas in that she will drop a few feathers at a time.

Dot was the first to moult and now looks pristine and is laying quite well now.

Saffron hasn’t started to moult at all and still looks pristine. Diamond has moulted fairly heavily and looks quite tatty. She has lost some of her black tail feathers and her black necklace is loose looking. She has pins on her head.



In other news Sugar has gone broody again. This time she had only laid six eggs in ten days. She has gone from eight eggs to seven eggs to six eggs! I will put her in the broody crate tonight and try to nip it in the bud straight away. We now have just Snowflake and Dot laying and are having to top up with shop bought eggs again.

The news on Diamond is that I now believe her symptoms were all down to gape worm and not a heart problem. Since she has finished her double dose of flubenvet all her symptoms have disappeared apart from just an occasional squeak/hiccup/cough sound. This is getting less and less and I think maybe her trachea was damaged by the gape worms and is now healing.

Gape worm isn’t common and I think we were very unlucky to have a bird come in with this. I was convinced it was a heart problem because of the sound she was making and her laboured breathing which were much more obvious than gaping.

It was the day I finished giving the fubenvet that I became certain it was gape worm. She was sitting with very laboured, open beak, breathing and making the sound much more frequently along with a groan/gurgling sound. Then she started shaking her head and stretching her neck.

I immediately started Diamond back on the flubenvet with double the dose and that very day she instantly improved. I will soon be starting to repeat the worming for the whole flock with just Diamond having a double dose.

The advice on the internet for gape worm is to repeat between fourteen and seventeen days. To cover all angles I will start to repeat at fourteen days but continue for ten days instead of seven to cover both time scales. I will give the whole flock the normal dose in dishes of mash and then give Diamond her extra dose in a dish of chopped tomato just for her.

I am hopeful that this will get rid of gape worm completely and that Diamond should then be a healthy bird. I hope I will then be able to continue worming twice a year as usual.


Sugar on her perch in broody jail

At the end of the day I put Sugar in broody jail. I thought I would show how well the spare perch works in the crate. Sugar is happy to use the perch while in here.

Hopefully the usual two nights will be enough to break her of her broodiness.

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Diamond has her own perch

When I realised that Diamond was too big and heavy to jump up to the bedtime perches I ordered a pair of free standing perches from Amazon. They only came as a pair and were described as heavy so they wouldn’t tip and suitable for any chicken.

I have to say they were inexpensive so I probably shouldn’t have expected too much from them. They were not what I would call heavy and they were much narrower than I expected. However they were perfect for the broody crate.

At the time I was breaking Sugar from her last broody spell. She hopped on to this perch and stayed on it overnight. It stayed upright when she jumped down. For a serama I would say it was perfect but not for any girl bigger than a serama.

As usual a few nights in the broody crate did the trick and Sugar started laying again four days ago and has laid two eggs so far. This means we now have three girls laying, Snowflake, Dot and Sugar. Gold hasn’t resumed laying as she is having a partial moult and is dropping feathers everywhere.

The spare perch is in the broody crate

The first night I put Diamond on the perch it had tipped over by morning when she jumped off. Luckily we had some heavy, chunky bits of wood in the shed so my husband cut a piece to size and attached the perch to this. This made the perch a bit higher and very stable.

The perch no longer tipped over but I still felt that it wasn’t wide enough for Diamonds feet. My husband then added a piece from the shed that we had left over from making perches. It was now the right size for Diamond.

The perch has been adapted for Diamond

The flash on my camera no longer works so this photo isn’t very good but it does give the gist of Diamond on her perch.

The bedtime line up with Diamond on her own perch

It was worth buying the perches as with a few adaptations we have solved the problem for Diamond and the perch in the broody crate is better than what we did before which was to jam a perch between the bars.

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Diamond seemed to improve while I was worming the flock and so I thought that her problem may have been down to worms. However as soon as I had finished worming the flock she went down hill again.

Her breathing became laboured once more and the hiccuping noise much more frequent. While sitting her bottom was bobbing up and down and she was breathing through an open beak. She was also making a groaning sound from her beak. She would sometimes shake her head as she made the hiccup sound and sometimes closed her eyes in between.

We had had her for exactly three weeks at this point. She didn’t look right from the first day and has always had a mucky bottom. I treated her with tylan for five days and it had no effect. I then treated her with flubenvet for seven days and she seemed to improve but then worsened again on the eighth day.

Diamond breathing through an open beak
Diamond shakes her head as she makes the hiccup sound and makes a sort of groaning sound

Saffron was keeping her company.

At this point I was back to thinking that perhaps it was a heart problem after all.

Diamond then stood up and did a huge poop on the wooden block. I cleaned it up with kitchen paper and saw that it had a worm in it! I then wondered if she was so overloaded with worms that seven days of flubenvet hasn’t been enough to rid her of them.

I immediately mixed up dishes of mash with flubenvet and watched over the girls to make sure that Diamond had a good go at it. I thought that if she improved again I would know that worms were her problem. She must have come to us full of worms. I have never before found worms after seven days of treating.

I thought that I would treat for a further seven days and then again three weeks later as I had planned. I am determined to get rid of the worms.

By the following day her hiccuping sound had become more frequent and the groaning sound as well. She was also shaking her head more. We wondered if the groaning sound was fluid on her lungs and I researched if a heart problem could cause fluid on the lungs. It said that yes it can. I was back to thinking she has a heart problem and she also had worms but I wasn’t happy about the head shaking as well.

I also researched chickens being overloaded with worms and that too can cause the groaning sound and head shaking as they try to rid themselves of the worms. The more I keep researching the more I find that both heart problems and an overload of worms have very similar symptoms.

If I assume that Diamond has both a heart problem and worms then the best I can do for now is to try and get rid of the worms.

I am writing this post as I go along and I am now on the tenth day of giving flubenvet. Once again Diamond has improved a bit. She is no longer making the groaning sound and is making the hiccuping sound less often and has stopped shaking her head.

Doing further research I found that gape worm causes neck stretching, shaking the head, open beak breathing and a gurgling noise, all of which Diamond was doing. It says that gape worm needs double the dose of flubenvet. I think this means a double dose rather than a double length of time.

As a belts and braces approach I am going to continue giving for the double time of two weeks but am also giving Diamond a double dose by individually giving her extra. I am putting some powder on chopped tomatoes in one of the small round dishes and holding it in front of her beak. Being bigger and taller she can take from the dish while the rest of the girls can’t reach.

I had now been giving the flock flubenvet for eleven days when I had a bit of a light bulb moment. I realised that I don’t need to continue with the whole flock but just need to give a double dose to Diamond each day.

I had been thinking that Diamond was getting one dose along with the flock and her extra dose on chopped tomato held in front of her beak. I decided to continue from tomorrow by just giving Diamond the powder on chopped tomato twice a day to give her the double dose. I can’t do a double dose in one go as it gets too hard to keep the other girls away and then Diamond gets fed up and moves away.

Diamond is looking better in every way except the squeaking hiccuping sound. She no longer has a mucky bottom. I think this means I am getting on top of the worm problem but I still think the sound points to a heart problem. I will be more certain of this if she is still making the sound once fully wormed.

I will do five more days of the double dose for Diamond only and then as planned will do the whole flock again in three weeks time. I guess only time will tell.

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We lost Flame at the very good age of almost seven. She was a beautiful girl with a lovely nature. She saw many girls arrive and leave the flock during her time with us. Since Flame joined our flock there have been fourteen more arrivals and nine have left.

It is quite a shock to realise that in Flame’s time with us we have lost Dandelion, Sienna, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Jasmine, Marmite, Speckles, Ebony and Spot. Ebony was re-homed but died suddenly in her new home three months later.

Flame had the most gentle nature. She didn’t like confrontation and as new girls came in to the flock, no matter what size they were, she just accepted them.

Flame was so accommodating that a lot of the other girls chose to share the nest box with her and she always accepted their company.

Flame when broody had a very strong instinct to be a mother and I am sure she would have been a great mum. When she went broody at the same time as the smaller girls she wanted to mother them. While this looked very sweet it was annoying because I had to break this behaviour or it may have gone on for a long time but it showed how easily she would have taken to being a mum.

Flame was friendly to us and the girls alike and was easy to handle as she had no objection to being touched or picked up. She had a totally placid nature and she was elegantly beautiful.

Flame when we first got her

August 2018 – Flame and Ebony share a nest box
April 2019 – Flame and Cinnamon in the chicken shed together
May 2019 – Flame having a dust bath
June 2019 – The bigger girls like to perch together
July 2019 – Flame mothered Vanilla when they both went broody together
August 2019 – Flame with our flock of nine having a fish treat together
April 2020 – Flame and Smoke share a nest box
April 2020 – Flame is broody
April 2020 – Flame and Salmon share a nest box
May 2020 – Flame, Smoke and Marmite share a nest box
June 2020 – Flame and our flock of seven share some mash together
November 2020 – Flame having some winter cabbage
March 2021 – Flame and Sugar share a nest box
April 2021 Flame mothering Sugar when they both went broody at the same time
April 2022 – Flame with our flock of eight having some mash
June 2022 – Flame and Storm in the chicken shed together
July 2022 – Flame looking beautiful
July 2022 – Flame with no tail looking like a large quail
August 2022 – Flame with our flock of ten having a yogurt treat

After losing her tail Flame grew her feathers back in and her feathers looked pristine again in this photo.

Goodbye lovely Flame, you won’t be forgotten.

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Flame has gone

I can’t believe that in the comments of my last post I had just said that Flame was brighter. I think it was her last hurrah! This often seems to happen with chickens. They seem to have a last day or so where they perk up before the final decline.

At the weekend I felt that Flame was ready to go to the vets and then on Monday she seemed much brighter. By Tuesday she was back to standing with her eyes closed or her head under her wing. By the afternoon she went and perched in the chicken shed and didn’t come out again. I knew this was a sign that she was ready to go.

Flame in the chicken shed in the afternoon

We had only just been talking about when Toffee was ready to go and that she went and perched in the chicken shed. They only perch in the chicken shed during the day when they are their end. I knew it was Flame’s time.

I rang the vet and they had no appointments last night but could see her at half past eight this morning. At bedtime I rattled the sunflower hearts but Flame didn’t move. I held the container in front of Flame’s beak and she had a few sunflower hearts.

The vet said that she had never seen a chicken as old as Flame. She said that I had given her good life and this was the last kind thing I could do for her. The vet took Flame out of the room to give her some gas and then put her in my lap so that I could hold her and talk to her. She gave her the anesthetic while I held her and Flame gently went to sleep while the tears streamed down my face.

Flame was such a lovely girl and it so sad to see the run without her in it. The only consolation is that she did live to a good age.

I will do a tribute to her soon. I have many years of photo of her to look through. Goodbye Flame. You will be very much missed.

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I have known for a while that Flame was coming to the end of her time. I have been putting off posting about this and putting off making a decision about Flame.

Throughout this summer Flame has spent a lot of her time sitting in the big shelter. We have had her for a further three months since she was first closing her right eye. After the eye drops stopped working and we saw bubbles in her eye I treated her with tylan.

I have now treated Flame three times with tylan and have now run out. After the first treatment her right eye was closed again after a month. After the second treatment her eye was closed again after three weeks. After the third treatment her eye was closed again after only a week.

Flame has her right eye closed again
Flame spends time with her head under her wing

It has been so sad to see her like this. I know that this problem isn’t going to go away. I know she feels really poorly when she has her head under her wing. Before the weekend I was certain it was her time to go.

Then Flame had a dust bath and I had a bit of hope. By now it was Saturday afternoon and I decided to give her one last weekend with us and make the decision on Monday.

By Sunday Flame wasn’t opening her right eye at all. She would walk around the run with one eye open and one eye closed. I felt that I knew then that I had to phone the vet on Monday. It’s her time to go and it’s the kindest thing to do for her now. Even so it’s so hard and it’s breaking my heart to have to let her go.


After resigning myself to taking Flame to the vets today I was surprised to find her looking brighter this morning. She had both eyes open and seemed perkier. Just when I had made the decision I was wavering once more.

I had started worming the girls on Thursday so I am now half way through the seven days. I might just wait until I have finished worming before making a decision in case that is effecting her.


When Diamond came to us she already had a mucky bottom. This had steadily got worse over her time with us and she had been doing very sloppy poops. As she was struggling with her breathing and making the hiccuping noise I thought she had a heart problem.

Since I have started worming the flock Diamond has steadily improved. I didn’t want to say anything too soon in case it didn’t last. Her bottom is looking cleaner and she has gradually been making the hiccuping sound less and less. Her breathing has returned to normal.

I am now wondering if her problem was an overload of worms. I looked up symptoms for worms and it says – diarrhea, dirty vent feathers, lethargy and gasping which perfectly described Diamond. On the second day of worming I found one worm in a poop. I am surprised that I haven’t found more than this but I am becoming more certain that Diamond’s problem may be down to worms.

In my research it says that if you have an overload of worms it is best to worm the flock again three weeks later to be sure to be properly rid of them. I have noted this on the calendar and will be worming again three weeks after finishing this course of seven days.

In my twelve years of chicken keeping I haven’t come across these severe symptoms from worms. The good news is that it is treatable and means that Diamond should be able to have a normal life span with us.

So it is a case of mixed feelings with the flock at the moment. The situation with Flame continues to hang over us but I don’t want to give up on her too soon. The situation with Diamond may be resolved and I will report back again at the end of worming.

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A yogurt treat for the girls and the latest chicken news

I thought it would be fun to give the girls a yogurt treat and try to get our first group photos of all ten girls.

A yogurt treat for the girls
A chance for a group photo of all ten girls
They love a yogurt treat

Since the weather has cooled Diamond has been sitting less often. It’s only when sitting that her breathing is laboured so now that she is sitting less she is looking better and making the squeak/hiccup sound less frequently. I am now more optimistic that we may have her for some time.

The day after Snowflake went broody Sugar also went broody. I felt a bit cheated as Sugar had only laid six eggs this time instead of her usual eight eggs and once again we had two broodies together. Sugar had laid her six eggs in nine days which must be her record before going broody again. This left only Gold and Dot laying and once again I had to buy some eggs.

Dot laid every sixth day when she first came to us in May. After three eggs she moulted and stopped laying for three months. Since she has started laying again her laying has improved. She laid her second egg on the fourth day after the first. She then laid two days running and then laid her next egg on the third day after her last.

It seems that Dot is hitting her stride now. She also lays big eggs. When Snowflake and Gold first started laying Snowflake’s eggs were bigger than Gold’s eggs. Since then Snowflake’s eggs have remained the same size while Gold’s eggs have got bigger. Dot’s eggs are even bigger.


Gold’s egg is on the left with Dot’s egg in the middle and a medium shop bought egg on the right for a size comparison.

Snowflake isn’t a committed broody. Snowflake perches in the chicken shed overnight which is what I think makes her less committed. Sugar will not perch when she is broody. After five days Snowflake gave up being broody.

At this point I decided to break Sugar of her broody spell because I know that otherwise she will just stay broody indefinitely. Last night I put her in the broody crate. It only takes two or three nights to break her.

Once Sugar is through her broody spell I plan on worming the girls again. I usually do this in September and the two new girls haven’t been wormed yet so it seems a good idea to do this now. I gave the girls dishes of mash this morning to get the new girls used to it as I find that flubenvet powder in mash is the easiest way to worm the girls.

The new girls now recognise the little white dishes as treats and soon got stuck into the mash so I think this will work well. That is all the news from the chicken run for now.

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