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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reintegration Success

Pile of Chickens

Our six girls in a chicken pile. I had to take this through our kitchen window so I didn't disturb them. There were a lot of happy sounds coming from them this morning.

We started reintegrating Elsie by allowing her to be with the others when they were all outside foraging. She would stick by herself and for the first few days we had continuing to sleep inside. The space allowed her to talk to the others, but also be able to get away from them if she needed to.

After a couple of days we allowed her to be in the pen with the others for a short time before letting them all out to forage. We allowed the time she spent with them in the smaller area to get longer and longer, and though she was getting picked on, after the first few days it wasn't too bad so we told her she would need to start sorting it out for herself.

Within a couple of weeks she had started to climb the pecking order, but she had learned some bad habits from inside. She now makes such a noise at bedtime - she got used to letting me know when she wanted the lights off and her pen covered with the blanket and I think she still expects me to be able to turn off the sun.

(written on 11/April/2011 and backdated - sorry for the long hiatus)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bandage Off

No more bandage

My little girl went to the vet again last Friday. She really doesn't like visiting him but they said she was a very good girl and didn't peck the nurse. I could hear her squawking from the waiting room, the poor darling.

Once we were home I let her have a play outside for an hour and she had a dust bath, but the arm must have been tender. She would get down in the dirt, then flinch and walk around for a bit more.

By Sunday she was feeling much more like a chicken, but she is so well trained it is more like having a little bird shaped dog following me around. We open her crate and say "come outside" and she runs at your heels to the back door. Then "into your crate" and in she jumps back to her little home. After having her outside with the others for the first time on Sunday and leaving them alone for 10 minutes I heard a squawk at the door and it is Elsie telling me she desperately needs to come inside to do her egg.

Yes I can pretty much speak chicken now. She says different things when she's bored, if her cage needs a clean, if she's hungry and if it is egg time or time for sleeping.

So far the reintroduction is slow. Green (Gladys) has decided she doesn't want a bar of her and drives her away. Elsie is happy to leave them alone and is usually by herself when we go to check on her. If there is no improvement by the weekend we'll be removing Green while she talks to the others.

Elsie's wing is drooped but we hope that will get better as she increases her muscle use.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chicken is Bored!

Feeling Much Better
I'm feeling much better thanks...

Just over a week with the bandages and my little inside chicken is a bored and noisy chicken. Sorry darling, but you need isolation and rest and can't be trusted! After several hours of noise there was sudden silence. I checked on her and found her on top of her box wondering how to get down again. Well you got up there so you can get down!

The bandage lasted a week before she managed to rip off a section that secures under her belly to hold the wing in the right position. We've patched it with clothtape which she is not happy about. She has started to walk sideways and backwards in an attempt to get the yucky bandage off.

The new dog cage is excellent for her and it folds up so we can store it easily. She has a little nest box and room to stand and walk while being completely enclosed and safe while we're at work. Her favourite time is when I open the door to clean and feed her for the day and out she pops to have a walk around the kitchen. I've moved her so that she can't see as much open space during the day to make her feel more secure but she still gets plenty of light.

To stave off boredom I bought her a mirror and some little balls (cat toys) to play with, but she hasn't been very interested in them when I've watched her. She also has a variety of food, shell grit and some grass from outside as well as mash with ground up cuttlefish for calcium at night. I also sprinkle sunflower seeds (her favourite) in her cage so she has to look for them.

She has started to enjoy having a cuddle and a scratch in the last 2-3 days. I think she is getting very itchy and frustrated at not being able to dust bath. The feathers are starting to get a bit messy.

Three more weeks till she can get the bandage off and be reintroduced to the others. The pecking order will have changed and she will have to reassert herself, but I think we're all looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lucky Elsie

Elsie's broken wing
Elsie with a broken wing

Elsie is inside at the moment because she was attacked by a cat and I have a big case of the guilts. It is mostly my fault as my other half and I forgot to close up their yard on Tuesday night as daylight savings shifted around all their times and they wouldn't go in at dinner time... but hell! Damn cats!! My pets don't go into your yard and attack your pets!!

She is a lucky lucky little girl and only ended up with a broken wing and a mild case of shock. The poor little darling was so scared - scared double after we ran out screaming to scare the cat and I grabbed her and rushed inside. When she realised she was safe she cuddled right into me and didn't want to get up when we had a safe box organised. We've never had a cat go for them before even when we've been a little late shutting them in. >:(

We got in to see an Avian vet on Friday. I was really impressed - he was a very attentive no fuss man who focused on her and thankfully could set the bone so she didn't need an operation or amputation. It is lucky she is a non-flight bird or it would have been worse. She has tape holding the wing in the right position and a vet bandage over top and the poor little girl looks uncomfortable and off balance. She has a little area in the chicken yard to be near the others, but they want to peck at her bandage which is why there is netting over the temporary fence and I have to ensure she doesn't pull it off or move it herself. In a month she has another trip to the vet to remove the bandages and check the healing. Until then, isolation and preventing her from doing to much with lots of calcium suppliment.

Ysterday she was a little brighter, but we have to keep an eye on her. When it gets too much she likes to come back inside and sit in her box by herself. She was hunched and withdrawn for about three days. I was glad the shock didn't last too long though. Its lucky she is used to being handled!

Anyone who lets their cat roam at night shouldn't have a cat!!

If you ever have an accident with one of your birds and need to treat for shock the best thing is to organise a box or darkened cage where they can be by themselves in darkness and quiet. The first 24 hours is the most critical to keep them quiet and safe. Offer water and food - a bird in shock will often drink a lot of water but won't take food.

Elsie took few seeds on the day after her injury. I made a mash from pollard and natural yoghurt which she ate slowly. It wasn't much, but it was something in her stomach which is a positive sign of recovery.

For her calcium suppliments I am grinding up cuttlefish and adding it to a small mash nightly for her. She is currently eating well again and starting to perk up and look happier.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Egg Accident

Soft Shelled Egg

We had our first "accident" today. I found this egg in the coop instead of the nest box. I'm not sure if it was laid there or if it was kicked out of the box by someone. It looks odd in the photo because it has a soft shell. It is squishy because the yolk and white are covered only by a membrane.

Oh well, these things happen. Noone will own up to who had the accident. These kinds of eggs are normal and only an issue if you are getting them all the time. My girls have plenty of shell grit, all sorts of food (spoilt!) and have been free ranging a lot lately.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Question Answered for Karen

Three Stooges
Three Stooges :D

Karen recently asked a question, and my reply was turning into an essay so I thought I would make a post about it.

Karen asks:
I stumbled upon your blog this morning, sadly im looking for some chickens as mine dissapeared last night leaving behind just a few feathers, it looks like a fox may have been the culprit. I noticed that your chickens seem to be quite friendly, do they let you pick them up? if so what breed are they? (im deciding what type of chooks to get, looking for a friendly/docile breed that would be fun for kids)

Thanks for the question Karen! Sorry about the fox. My mum unfortunately had a fox incident herself recently and lost hers too. Heartbreaking! :(

My girls are Isa Brown hens. They are very laid back, though a couple of our girls are much more friendly than others. You need to spend a lot of time handling them - hand feeding, patting and picking them up - to get them used to the treatment, but it is worth it.

We try to remember to give everyone a cuddle every day even if it is only a quick one. All their little personalities are so unique so a couple of the more outgoing ladies ended up with more attention than the others and love a longer cuddle, sometimes sitting on a lap for up to 30 minutes! If you listen to their body language you can guage when they want the attention to stop so they don't get too stressed and gradually increase the time they're held. If you can start the handling when they're chicks or pullets you'll have more success too, and take them little nice treats like sunflower seeds to handfeed them.

I think my girls would be great with kids, with supervision of course, as chickens do love to peck at spots or shiney things and still give my earrings and freckles a go if they notice them. I always loved my parents chickens when I was a kid.

Just today I had a lovely cuddle with one girl purring in my lap and another came over and snuggled beside us. We have one girl in particular that will gently peck our pants or shoes to be picked up for a cuddle if she wants it. But of course, they'll all try to avoid a pat if they're too hungry or busy to be bothered too. It's quite amusing having a flock of hens following you around the backyard hoping for a treat.

I'd say that most chicken breeds can be tamed with patience. When I was a kid I loved chickens and would spend a lot of time with my parents hens and the favourites of the bunch would end up being tame enough to pick up and carry around.

Chicken cuddles are the best kind of cuddles!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Much is the Chicken in the Window?

Window Chicken
Nice Perch...

Standing on the cupboard wasn't good enough for our Purple to watch their dinner get mixed... She decided to check out the little rooster on the window too.

We're still experimenting slowly with what it is the girls need. We've switched back to a part pellet diet incase the mixed grains are not enough now that there are no greens at all for them to eat. I'm making my own pellet and grain mix because of previous experience with the pre-mix from the fodder store.

The girls are loving their sand pit and spend most of their time in it. Harriet is still the one with the most issues, spending most of her time sitting in front of the food bowl, but surprisingly usually also the one with the least in her crop at the end of the day. We've been thinking about them when it comes to our own meal planning - ie. If we make a stir-fry we can give them some carrot and cabbage scraps!

We've got no other ideas what to do at the moment. Most places seem to suggest a calcium deficiency, however adding calcium suppliment didn't seem to pick them up. The liquid multi-vitamins had the most positive effect, but I am hoping the pellets have some of that stuff in them too. I'm looking forward to winter when we have more greens to give them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chooks up to scratch as pets?

Chooks up to scratch as pets? Yep, I think so and so does the local paper! To read the whole article click here.

I'll be doing a bigger update soon. We've been trying out a whole lot of things to help out our girls through the summer. You can see their new sand pit in the background behind Gladys.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Grape Season

Delicious Grapes

Here is the latest obsession for the girls. Everything that is up to a certain height has been eaten. They have been jumping up to reach the lower grapes with no thought for whether they will land on two feet or end up caught in the fence instead. This is possibly how the girls are hurting their feet, but how I can stop them when they're growing up their enclosure is beyond me.

The grapes are delicious though. I have been spending the evening eating them straight off the vine, spitting out the seeds and the few sour ones for the girls to eat. They'll be getting all the small ones as we reach the end of grape season as well, so it is a good thing they like them so much.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Harriet Rejoins the Coop

Eating Apples
Harriet eats an apple

So you can see that Harriets week as an indoor chicken has done her very well. She told me she was ready to go back outside on the 11th when she jumped out of her little cardboard surrounded corner, however since it was over 40°C we kept her inside until the cool change came through the next day.

She continued limping for a couple of days and slept on the floor of the coop for 2 days before hopping back to the perch. Her toe is still a little fat, but not as swollen and the scales are flexible again now. I believe the problem was a broken toe.

Today I haven't noticed her tiptoe and she runs around and is inclusive with the other chickens. She is so fast now that she is usually hard on the tail of Gladys who squeezes through the backdoor when we come inside. I think she wonders why she can't come back to her inside area whenever she wants to.

Hazel has also been a worry for a couple of days as she now has a limp. She has a sore on the bottom of her foot so she is getting the foot baths now. It is healing up nicely and she still wants to perch with the others. I don't know what she has managed to hurt herself on, but I don't think it is anything to worry about.

Elsie eating an apple
Elsie eating an apple

Today I cut up an apple and the girls are trying to work out how to eat it. They absolutely love fruit. Infact I've found that all of the lower grape bunches on our vines have bite marks and I caught Doris jumping up to get at them yesterday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inside Chook

The Patient
The Patient

Harriet was isolated yesterday so we could keep an eye on her. After a couple of hours she seemed to feel better and was trying to walk around so we put her back with the girls in a shady corner of their pen where she could still be isolated but close to the others.

After researching just about everything that could be wrong with chicken legs over the last couple of days I had a terrible thought that perhaps she may be egg bound and was ready to take her to the vet. Isolation was initially to see if she would lay an egg which would cancel that out. From what I've read and from what others have said I don't think that is the case though. She is bright enough and is eating (and pooping). She doesn't have a swollen abdomen or any mess around her vent.

This morning I don't think she'd moved, but when I offered food she was interested yet the others got over enthusiastic through the divider fence. I brought her inside where she ate and drank under the airconditioner and noticed that her middle toe on her left food is swollen.

She is now camped out in the corner of my sewing room happily sitting in a box with straw. She has also had a foot spa (soak in warm salty water) and aloe applied to her sore foot.

I hope that is the issue and we can get her back on two feet again soon!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Cutest photo ever!
Gladys having a Cuddle

Happy New Year everyone!!

It was over 40 degrees yesterday, but it is much cooler today so the girls are busy enjoying themselves in the nice weather... except for Harriet who seems to have done something to her foot/feet and is limping around though I can't see anything wrong from the outside. She is spending a lot of time sleeping under the tree and won't move so I guess I will be checking on her every hour today to make sure she has enough water and she may get a special meal seperate from everyone else today.

Hazel surprised me when I was patting Gladys. She came up to me clucking and had a lovely pat while standing super still and lapping up the attention. Usually everyone except Gladys will want to walk away after a couple of strokes. She got a lovely cuddle and even closed her eyes while in my arms. They're all very cuddly chickens today.