Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The New Hens and Eggs in Winter!

Our two new hens have been settling into their new environment fairly well.  They've been pecking at their house door in the mornings, eager to get out and enjoy the day.  We can hear it from our bedroom window so I've been getting up early to let them out so as to give them a gentle and calm way to start their day.  I wouldn't want them to become anxious.  It has been really wet and miserable for their first days at our house, so I put a large piece of chipboard over the top of their cage to provide a little shelter, but they spend all their days out under the rain, I haven't spotted them using the shelter at all.
Our other two hens, Rosie and Bizzy Lizzy have been doing a lot of squawking at the new girls in their caged area.  Bizzy Lizzy is a flighty hen (she's a Scots Dumpy) and has been doing some new alarm call noises that we've not heard before.  And yet she seems to spend a lot of time near the new girls cage anyway?
Rosie is keeping her distance but as she is already laying eggs again, perhaps it is just that she wants to stay near her house.  I have even resorted to keeping her in the house with a rubber egg to remind her of what her body wants to do and where it needs to be done.  Last summer we had to hunt for eggs hidden around the garden in mystery nesting spaces, and we don't want to go through that again!
The littlest of the new hens laid her first egg for us today - and it is much darker than any of the other Australorp eggs we've ever had.  It is smaller too.  Eggs still amaze me!  Like little gifts from our dear pets.
Eggs from Left to Right:
Rosie - Australorp x2 eggs, new bigger Australorp lays a light brown egg, new smaller Australorp lays a little brown egg, Bizzy Lizzy - Scots Dumpy, a shiny white egg.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

News - Some Sad and Some Happy

Our darling little white hen has been an excellent patient these last few months, every second or third day I've have cleaned her scabby wound, but sadly she has now died.  Last week whilst cleaning her tail I was finally able to remove the huge scab.  Once wet it came away quite easily, apart from two feathers that were still attached to both her and the scab.  I think that when I pulled the scab away and these two feathers were plucked out too, that the shaft hole that was left behind allowed a pathway for the puss that her tail was so swollen with, to finally get inside her blood stream.  Upon removing the scab her flesh was so tight and red and you could see she had some large swollen yellowness underneath the skin.  Her comb and wattle went very pale, so I kept her warm inside until her feathers dried.

I wish I had taken her straight to the vet once the scab was off, but we were just so happy that she was finally back to some sort of normality, that I didn't think it was necessary at the time.  Apart from the swollen tail and pale comb she looked so much better.
Two days later she was back outside with the others, and when we came home we couldn't find her at first, but after a quick search we found her passed away, hiding under some foliage.

RIP Whitey Didee

Nursing our little Whitey Didee has been one of my favourite experiences since keeping hens.  She became so tame and seemed to enjoy being petted and picked up.  I got to see her close up and got used to feeling a hen's body quite intimately.

So Now for Some Happy News

Being down to only two hens didn't seem right to us, the hen house is really too big for them to stay warm with only two bodies to cosy up with, and I have never been able to get Rosie to sit on a perch, so poor Bizzy Lizzy was sleeping on the perch all by herself.
We went on holiday for two weeks and took our hens to a hen hotel in Fife, Scotland, and asked the breeder if she had any bantams available that she could introduce to our little flock of two, and then we'd be able to bring four hens home.  Unfortunately she had two but wasn't sure if they would turn out to be roosters, and by the time we came home from holiday she was sure they'd be roosters, so we brought our two little girls home and tried another avenue.  I am a member of the UK Australorp breed club and we receive a booklet every year that includes breeders details, so we found a couple that live about an hour away and arranged to buy two new black Australorp bantams from them.  They are 2012 Spring hatches.
Scaly leg girl on the left, big girl with unusual comb on the right

One has an imperfect comb, with two prongs quite close together and she is too big to be called a Show-perfect bantam, and she is the only one of our hens who has ever sat on eggs and hatched out chicks - apparently she was a Mum to 10 chicks!  At the moment her feathers are still missing from her tummy and her rear feathers are also plucked - they do this to make it easier for the rooster - but they'll grow back.
The other hen they gave us is small and has had a wire brush applied to one of her feet - she must have scaly leg mite - I really don't want to introduce a new illness to my garden, but we didn't really get offered our pick, as they seem to breed for showing and were giving us the ones that they couldn't use, and I guess she'd probably get put down if we didn't take her.  Apart from her sore feet, she looks just lovely!  We bought some vaseline on the way home and I already have some scaly leg mite spray at home so I've started treating her already.

We brought them home and are keeping them isolated for their first week.  I've doused them with mite powder and set up the wee house and cage to keep them in view of the others but separate.   Both Rosie and Bizzy Lizzy had a face-off up against the netting on the first day.  At night our new girls didn't seem to realise what the wee house was for and instead snuggled up with each other next to the waterer outside, poor wee things.  So we picked them up and popped them into the wee wooden house and closed the door.

Now to start thinking of names!