Saturday, 28 September 2013

Autumn update

Everyone has gone off their lay now as Autumn is setting in.
Rosie our bantam Australorp is our top hen but she still refuses to sleep on the perch and prefers nestling into the shavings on the floor of the house.  The last few nights I have seen her settling down for the night inside the nest box - a behaviour I don't want to encourage, so I have blocked the nest boxes up for now and will leave it like that until they start laying again.
It seems strange that she doesn't want to be up higher than the others.  It is also a bit of a shame, as Bizzy Lizzy our Scots Dumpy has lately taken to pecking at the feet of the other hens so that they jump off the perch and tries to have the whole thing all to herself.  Once it is dark I go back out and pop Whitey Didee back onto the perch - by that time it is too dark for B.Lizzy to defend anything.  I've even seen her sharpening her beak on the concrete - much like a carving knife is sharpened before ...eek.  When she pecks food out of my hand it always hurts but no blood has been drawn - so far.
We are still keeping an eye on Whitey Didee.  I let her sleep with the others at night but in the day she gets put into the isolation area so that the other two can't peck at her wound.  I do let her out with the others but only if I am out there, and I use a long bamboo stick to hover over her tail so that the other two are deterred from showing any interest.  She does seem to be knocking off some scab every day with her preening, which just causes bleeding.  The vet has said the next step could be a bucket collar but at the moment we are just trying to keep her clean and not bored.

Everyone is moulting at the moment, and it is so funny!

Balding Rosie

Whitey Didee, all scruffy and bald
Sorry, no photos of B.Lizzy as every one that I took of her she was moving and they turned out blurry.  She has lost all her tall tail feathers and now looks really stumpy.  There are a lot of her stripey feathers around but you can't see any bald patches on her at all.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Our hen has died

But it isn't the one you would think!  Our lovely Australorp hen Matilda has passed away.
After she came out of her broody state, she seemed happy enough to be the second hen.  But within a couple of weeks we noticed that she was doing some strange head rolling. At first she seemed to roll her head when she first entered the hen house or if I shone a torch into the house at night, so I thought it may be something to do with the change of light to dark that triggered her behaviour.   Then I thought it may be wry neck so was giving her water additives for strength. (Polyvisol Enfamil, vitamin E with selenium)
After a month the head rolling behaviour turned into complete fits.  She would flap and flail around in the house going backwards and stumbling around in circles.  One morning as she was about to come down the ramp she took a fit and rolled down the ramp.  I could pick her up and gently stroke her neck and it did seem to settle her quickly.  One evening I was peeking at them through their window so that I wouldn't disturb them and all of a sudden without any warning or reason Matilda flapped and flailed around in circles on the floor of their coop out of control.  I googled this condition but came up with nothing apart from electrolytes added to their water. (electrolytes are recommended for epilepsy)
We really hoped that these fits were related to an injury of some sort and that they would soon pass.  We were also intensely looking after our white hen Didee, so the sudden change from head rolling to full fits has shocked us.
After a few of these fits Matilda soon became demoted to third in the pecking order.  Due to all the flailing inside the coop her primary wing feathers gradually broke off and some of her other feathers were jutting out at odd angles - indicating a lack of grooming.  

She looked very sorry for herself with a shrunken comb and hunched down, although she always stayed with the other hens and was keen to be a part of normal foraging and scratching routines.
Matilda, top left, still part of the gang

The hen house is reasonably close to our bedroom window and one night we could hear her flailing around.  She had four fits that night which is just too many to be considered something that will soon pass, so I took her to the vets the next day.
The vet checked her over and found a small egg stuck inside her, but as the surgery was busy said she'd try to get it out after the others had all left and would phone us to collect her.  We did get a phone call but the vet said that the egg was impossible to remove and was obviously causing Matilda a lot of pain.  Along with the mysterious fits that the vet couldn't account for, the vet suggested she wasn't having a very enjoyable life and suggested putting her to sleep.  So we agreed.  We never saw our darling Matilda again.
Matilda in good times

She was a loving and kind top-hen.  Always personable and interested in her humans.  She will be greatly missed.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Hen wounds and Isolation

Our white hen Didee has been given more antibiotics - 0.4mls daily - to help her with her wound and we are still cleaning it daily.  At the last visit to the vets they removed the entire scab - underneath her skin is very swollen and puss is trying to get out through 3 of the holes normally reserved for feathers to grow through.  Poor thing.  Whilst she had no scab protecting her the smallest peck caused a lot of bleeding.  She seems to mostly do it to herself when she is trying to preen.  So it seems it is my full time job to keep her from bleeding and attracting the others.

And then to make matters worse, Bizzy Lizzy our Scots Dumpy pecked Didee in the comb and there were blood drops splattered all over the walls inside their house - possibly splattered as Didee shook her head.  But it was a right mess - so poor Didee had to have yet another bath.  But as this isn't as gross we took a couple of photos.

During the week I noticed a lot of blood drops on their house ramp, as I was walking over to them I noticed she had a lot of blood near her tail and then horror of horrors - our top hen Rosie went for her and took away a large amount of scab in her beak!  Now the other hens know all about her wound and her tail is the source of much interest.  I took her to the vet and despite the swelling having gone down it seems that Rosie took a chunk of flesh off her as well as the scab and so now she not only has her original infected wound but a newly dug-out wound to contend with.  So we won't be using that smelly anit-pecking spray anymore as it did not deter them for very long.

So now it's more antibiotics and an isolation house.  We put her in a cat basket in our house that first night and bought a new outdoor house the next day.  We already had this metal cage when we first got our hens but it was stacked away in a shed - glad it has come in handy again.  That first night in the house she was very droopy and kept shutting her eyes.  I really want to help her fight these troubles.  She is such a lovely hen.