Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Soft shelled eggs

The last couple of days we have noticed a soft shelled egg in the hen house.  It hasn't been in the nest boxes but instead underneath the perch.  The first morning that I saw it there, Didee our new white hen was standing there with her beak in the yolk!  So I think it may be hers.  Then today another soft shelled egg and my Mister saw Didee hanging around the door of the house when he had spotted the soft egg.

But at least they are ALL laying!

If you count today's soft shelled egg, then all four hens have laid an egg today!  This is our first time ever that all four of our hens have laid an egg on the same day!  We get two white-ish ones, and the shinier one is the Scots Dumpy egg.  The milky-tea coloured egg must be our new hen Rosie's egg.  If Didee starts laying firm shelled eggs, then we may be in business!

Whitey Didee is still escaping to a tree at night - I have to go and collect her and carry her into the hen house after dark as they still won't let her into the house.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Establishing their Place

Our two new hens are making good progress in our little flock.

Whitey Didee and Rosie are getting along well.  Our Scots Dumpy named Bizzy Lizzy is still acting threatening towards Didee, but not too violently, so I think she is getting used to the new hens being around.  Didee doesn't seem to be too bothered about being with the other three darker hens.  She does go to the same general area that they are in, but never really in amongst them.  Her confidence in her environment is growing, but she knows her place and seems not to mind.

Matilda our black Australorp is still the top of the pecking order, but she is a sweet and gentle leader, who only gives a quick little warning peck to the others if they get too close.  She seems to accepted her look-alike Rosie very well, and they are spending a lot of time together - Rosie following Matilda around wherever they go like a desperate best friend.  It's really sweet to see.  Rosie does have a few feathers missing from the back of her neck - from the rooster that she had been with before she came to us.  Hopefully this will grow back in soon, if not we will have to wait until the Autumn moult.


This week I have been putting any eggs laid by our two new hens aside, just in case somebody becomes broody, then I could put their fertile eggs under a broody!  Sadly, it has been a week now, and still nobody is showing signs of wanting to stay in the nesting box, but I'll keep them for a little bit longer - apparently if a hen has been with a rooster they can potentially be producing fertile eggs for 12 days.

Early on in the week, when we had only had our two new hens for a couple of days, our new hen Whitey Didee was walking around croaking loudly.  So I guessed that she wanted to lay an egg but didn't know where to go.  I picked her up and put her in the nest box where Bizzy Lizzy's egg was still sitting and she laid straight away!  I have also had to pick up Rosie and put her into the nest box when she was crowing loudly, and she too laid quickly.

Night time

At first, night time was a nightmare!  Nobody seemed to want to go up the ramp, and then when somebody did go up, they wouldn't let anybody else in.  Then they'd come out, and someone else would go to the top of the ramp and block the entrance.  Whitey Didee was so distressed at all this that she flew up into the nearby trees!  A lot of to-ing and fro-ing as it was getting dark, so we coralled them in like sheep in a pen and they went into the house.  I had to put the two new hens onto the perch myself - but Rosie just won't stay on and jumps off immediately every time.  Ugghh!  I hope they get better at night time SOON.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sorting out their new Pecking Order

We have been supervising the hens outside today - a nice way to spend World Earth Day.
Our Scots Dumpy was really going for our new white Australorp hen Didee.  She jumped onto her back, pinning her down and tore out some feathers a couple of times.  This is just awful to see, and we didn't let her continue.  But all the books say that they do need to sort out their pecking order, so we didn't want to interfere too much and gave them plenty of space to escape one another.

So far our new Australorp Rosie has been hanging around with our other black Australorp Matilda a lot.  It's really hard to tell them apart too.  Good to see that Rosie is happy to give the Scots Dumpy a peck now and then - very pleased that there is someone else to keep Bizzy Lizzy from being such a bully!  If only whitey Didee had established herself higher as well, then life would be better for her.

Rosie and Matilda

Rosie's comb and wattle are becoming redder, so the only way to tell her apart from our other black hen is that her comb is slightly bigger than Matilda's.  Mind you, Matilda is used to us and comes up to say hello quickly, so that makes it easy to know it is her we're feeding.
Matilda was doing a lot of squawking this afternoon - I hope it doesn't annoy the neighbours in their gardens?  But she did eventually lay an egg, so that must have been what she was telling us about.

Sleepy time Surprise

We were out late tonight, and when we got home it was dark.  I checked on the hens and Matilda and Bizzy Lizzy were on their perch as usual and the new Rosie decided to sleep on the floor behind them.  But there was no Whitey Didee!!!!  I looked all around for her and found her high up in one of the spikiest thorn trees that we have!  Poor thing!  She wasn't even inside the enclosure - she'd flown over it and up into a tree for safety!  I picked her down from the tree and put her into the house.  I hope she gets used to the night time routine soon - maybe that naughty Bizzy Lizzy wouldn't let her into the house?  At least I'll be home tomorrow night to watch the shenanigans for myself.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Our New Arrivals

We went for a long drive on the weekend and collected two new hens!  We have one new black and one new white Australorp bantams and they are just lovely!  Apparently they have both been with a rooster and so for the next week-or-so their eggs will be fertile!  Oh I would love it if one of the hens became broody, we'd have eggs for her to sit on!!

We decided to give our new hens the same names as our passed away hens.  So here they are:
The new Rosie and Didee!
So far we have noticed that our Scots Dumpy Bizzy Lizzy has flown right up and come down directly onto Whitey Didee's head!  Twice!  So we put her out of the enclosure with food and water so that the three Australorps could have some time together under the house.
I had to go out today and when I arrived home Whitey Didee was perched on top of the drinker - so strange!  Perhaps she wanted to get up high and away from the others?  Then poor Bizzy Lizzy, she couldn't get inside to the nesting boxes so she had to lay her egg outside in a shaded part of the garden.  Then I noticed an egg had been laid by one of the Australorp's on the ground inside the enclosure.  I really don't think our Matilda would suddenly start not laying in the nest box, so it must be one of the new Australorps!  It could even be fertile!
Whitey Didee

It is such a relief to have four healthy hens again.
Here is a photo of all four of them together, under supervision of course.  I must keep an eye on Bizzy Lizzy's head jumping!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Our poor ill hen has died.

We have had the sun out a little lately and it is so nice to spend some time with our hens in the garden.  I am really enjoying watching them and getting to know their behaviours.  In the sunshine they lie on their side and splay their wing out!  Such a strange posture really, but comforting to know that they feel so relaxed with us present that they are happy to sit themselves in such a vulnerable position.
Rosie when we first got to know her.

Rosie's Health Deteriorates

The day after my previous post I was worried about whether Rosie wouldn't come down the ramp to greet me the next morning, but I was very relieved to open the hen house and see her sitting up on the perch.  She ventured out after the others and had been eating pellets throughout that morning.
I took her to the vets, as I didn't want to see her go the same way as poor Didee and to see if it was something we could help with.  The vet couldn't be sure of what was causing Rosie to be unwell but suggested a few things we could try to feed her just in case it was a digestion problem.

So we fed her some milky bread and even some fatty beef trimmings - it was a miracle to see her zoom in, snatch the beef and run off to eat it by herself.  Her appetite for wheat seeds in the evenings has increased.  I've also read that beef-flavoured cat food can help if there is something not right, so I have fed her some of this too.  It certainly gave her more solid poos, which was an improvement, as I have needed to give Rosie a few bottom-feather baths lately. (and was so surprised to find that she loves the blow dryer!)
Her comb was looking more red by the weekend, although when she tried to get up onto a stone she stumbled and fell backwards.  I think she misjudged the position of the rock shew was trying to stand upon.  So she still didn't seem to have a lot of strength.  The others did leave her alone which is kind.

Although we have had some sunshine, it has clouded over again and is bitterly cold.  Two days ago I had Rosie in the house on my lap and fed her some cooled scrambled egg, which by the end of the day she had eaten the entire thing, so I was very hopeful that she may regain her strength.  But when I put her back into the house with the others she could stay on the perch and fell off.  So I put her into the nest box for the night.  I did notice that her comb and wattle was looking a very blue, red colour - referred to as 'hearty'.  This can be a sign that her systems are under a lot of strain.

Then yesterday she stayed in the nest box, wouldn't eat anything, was still looking hearty and shaking her head quite a lot.  Sadly she died in the afternoon.  Poor little thing.
I really loved our two blue Orpingtons and really wanted to have them as friends for a very long time.  I wish they had not been the first to leave us.
Rosie hated the snow.

So... looking to the future

We were planning on getting a new hen to replace our Didee this coming weekend, so I shall phone and see if we can collect two hens instead.  I think I will call the new hens Rosie and Didee too.
So hopefully the next post will be more cheerful to read and I can introduce two new hens.

Monday, 1 April 2013


The sun is really trying to come out today, so I will do all that I can to encourage it by thoroughly cleaning out the hen house.  We let the hens out into the garden today whilst cleaning, they just love exploring every nook and crannie.


Bizzy Lizzy our Scots Dumpy and Matilda our Australorp are laying eggs regularly now.  We've had 2 eggs a day for 3 days in a row, then only 1 egg from Matilda (Bizzy Lizzy must have been having a day off) then both layed again today.


Today I noticed that Rosie had a really puffy face - poor thing.  The first thing I noticed was her eyes were squinting instead of being fully open.  Then upon closer inspection I saw that her face was all swollen and a lot paler than usual.

Perhaps she has eaten something bad today whilst out in the garden?  We do have a mouldy log up under our cherry trees...  At least there is something physically wrong with her, makes me think that there will be something I can do to help her.  I had thought she might be pining for her sister Didee who died recently, and if that were the case I wouldn't know what to do to help.  So I'll start looking into puffy face symptoms this evening and see what I can do to help.

Rosie took herself off to the nesting box and went to sleep, so I let her stay there.
Oh I do hope she'll still be there in the morning.