Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Doves, Chooks, Pen and Ink!

Life has kept me away from my blog this past few days.  Every time I thought, yes, sit down and update the news someone has called me away, or called me up or generally distracted me.  It's all very inconvenient, you would think they would have more consideration for my literary (cough) needs.  Anyway, onto the news...

Firstly Snowdrop is fine.  I do apologise for not updating about her.  I kept expecting to get frantic phone calls from well wishers requesting news.  But no it looks like no one else is as sad as me and obsessed with my chickens!  It turned out she was trying to lay again, poor love.  When she got up the next day there was one of her little soft eggs sitting broken in the nest box.  It makes me so sad to see them, thinking what the poor little thing has to go through to lay them and they can't even be eaten.  I've got her on wet go-cat and cod liver oil as well as her layers mash and limestone flour now.  I'm also worming all of them again.  Just to be sure.

The new girls are settling in fine.  They go to bed on their own now which was a big relief to me on their second night.  They are pooping for England and it pongs.  I mean the other chooks hum a bit but in a nice chooky sort of way.  This is just plain nostril burning stench.  I am hoping that it settles down when they are eating the same as the others cos it don't half pen and ink!  It makes poo pick time most unpleasant.  I have a few suggestions to try, live yoghurt being my favourite.  I've always wanted to make my own yoghurt so now I have an excuse.  I have named three of them but am still head scratching about the fourth.  I did have a name but I'm not sure about it yet so won't officially announce their names till I have the full set.

The original girls are very interested in the newbies.  They sit outside their pen clucking away.  It was hilarious this morning to see little bullied Snowdrop squaring up to the Amber Ranger through the wire.  I doubt she would be that brave without the wire though, the other hen was rearing up and trying to kick like a cock bird! Lets pray she is a hen shall we, the way my luck goes I will have four cockerels by mistake...

I have had some lovely moments with the doves recently.  The other evening Pinky came and landed on my head which I love, it reminds me of when she lived indoors with me.  She does it every few days or so but this time when I got her down onto my shoulder May came and sat on my head in her place.  Then Daisy kept dive bombing her trying to knock her off so she could sit there.  Needless to say I was loving the attention!

They still  all roost over the road every night.  It's driving me nuts.  They spend lots of time here sitting in the tree behind the dovecote and on the bird tables but always vanish over there to roost.  Last night I went over there at dusk and caught them out.  I really don't know what they are up to, Daisy and May were sitting huddled together on a window ledge and one of the others (couldn't see who in the gloom) was sitting in one of the roof valleys.  I imagine the others were tucked away somewhere out of view.  They looked very embarrassed when they saw me!  I can't imagine the new people putting up with birds on the window ledge at night and surely when it's occupied they won't like it so much.  I just want them to come home!

"Come out and play with me"

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Introducing The New Crew!

We went and picked up our new chooks yesterday.  In typical style nothing went smoothly, Hairy Hubby left it to the last minute to make their temporary run (again in true style) and had to go to Clacton (95 miles away) to pick up a car in the morning.  Then he was late back because he got stopped by the police on the way home because they were pulling all the vans over for a check.  THEN just as he started his phone rang and he got caught chatting for about 20 mins.  Finally we had to leave the run almost finished to leave for our 4pm appointment in North Walsham at the breeders.  After a massive Satnav moment giving us a lovely ride through every country lane between Stalham and North Walsham we finally arrived amazingly pretty much on time.

We chose four.  A Magpie Ranger who is black with a bit of white on her front, a Speckledy who is grey with a bit of white on her front, a Sussex Ranger who is pretty much a smaller version of Crazy chook and an Amber Ranger who is a creamy colour.  They are all almost at point of lay, two of them are 18 weeks and two 20 weeks.  We finally managed to get them into their new home by about 7pm so they had some time to have a drink and something to eat before bed.

At first they wouldn't go to bed, they were still scratching about about an hour after the other girls had gone up to bed.  Finally they decided to roost on top of the rabbit hutch which is their temporary home for a couple of weeks while they are in confinement.  I couldn't leave them there because they would be too vulnerable so I waited till it was almost dark and went down to pop them into the hutch.  They didn't appreciate it much and squawked madly at me, the little Amber even tried to peck me which none of my girls has ever done.  But I had to get them in there fairly sharpish before they woke up properly or I would have been chasing them round the pen and as its only four foot high that wouldn't have been fun at all.  Anyway I popped them into bed and all was quiet so I was confident they would be safe and happy for the night.

This morning they all came out ok so I hope they know where the bedroom is now although they have roosted on top of the box this afternoon for their siesta.  I had one major hiccup when I was poo picking thier bed.  I hadn't quite pulled the door of the run closed.  It was shut at the top which is the only bit I can get a grip on (The Hairy One's wonderful design has some flaws) but there was a couple of inches left gaping at the bottom and I hadn't realised.  Well the next thing I knew the Sussex and the Magpie were the wrong side of the wire.  I managed to grab the wriggling swearing Sussex quickly and pop her back with her friends but the Magpie who is the most skittish of all of them was really tricky.  In the end between the two of us we managed to herd her towards the door and she ran back in by herself.  I'm still blaming his design even though I know I am a total donut for letting it happen!

Sadly since that incident and me popping them in bed last night they now all think I am the Big Bad Wolf coming to get them if I go in their run now they hide in the corner and freak if I go near them.  I have to say I am gutted, I really want friendly hens who love me as much as I love them.  They were nervy when they arrived but not this bad, I was at least able to touch a couple of them.  I have been going down and chatting to them but they just give me bad looks as if I am public enemy No1.  Maybe things will improve when they are free in the garden or maybe they will always run away from me like Crazy Chook does.  Ex-Batts really do seem the most friendliest.

On a footnote I am slightly worried about Snowdrop, she has been fine all day but went into the coop a couple of hours ago and won't come out.  I offered her Pigeon Conditioner seed (Dove food) which is their favourite treat but she just turned her nose up which is very unlike her.  None of them can resist that seed because its someone else's dinner.   Maybe she just doesn't like to eat in bed.  I do hope so because she has been so well and happy.

L-R Speckledy, Magpie, Sussex and Amber (no real names yet)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A bit of a scare

I had a bit of a scare the other day.  When I went to put everyone to bed there were white feathers everywhere outside my back door.  I looked up on the roof and there were feathers stuck to the cobwebs on the satellite dish too.  My heart sank and I had a bit of a scout around for more evidence but as I didn't really want to see what might be there it was a bit of a half hearted affair.  When The Hairy One arrived home after dark he spotted them straight away saying 'Have you lost one of your doves?'  This of course took away any faint hope I might have had about my possible paranoia.  If someone else thought it too it must be true.  I went to bed with a heavy heart wondering who the casualty was and if they were sitting somewhere injured and needing help or if they had just been gobbled up for breakfast by Mrs Sparrowhawks babies.

The next morning I went outside, stepping carefully over the sad carpet of feathers wondering if I could con Hairy into sweeping them up because they were breaking my heart and I didn't want to do it.  I looked up on the roof to see if any of the little rotters had come home for breakfast (they still roost on the house opposite, more about that later) to see all six of them sitting there cheerfully awaiting breakfast.  I had to count them twice just to make sure I wasn't seeing things.  Then I noticed that a couple of them were preening and causing a flurry of feathers.  They are moulting!  All that worry for a moult!!

Hairy Hubby went over for a chat with the man who owns the house over the road that afternoon.  He does not live there, it's just his half a million pounds worth of waterfront holiday home.  He wants to live there but his wife won't (madwoman) so he has just sold it at auction.  His first words to Hairy were 'Have you lost one of your doves?'  Apparently there were feathers everywhere on his back door step!  Upon closer inspection there was also piles and piles of splatty dove poop.  To the degree that they have had to put a door mat down to cover it from house viewers eyes!  Oooops!  Maybe a canopy would be better incase said viewers look upwards and really get it in the eye!

My only worry now is what the new owners will think of having my six beloved white doves roost on their roof and splat all over their patio.  If I am really lucky they might just gently shoo them off and my wayward teens will come home to live again.  Worst case scenario is either they decide to build a dovecote for the lovely birds to live in or they harm them in some way to get rid of them.  In either case there will be hell to pay if they do.

We are off to buy some new chickens later...watch this space for more drama cos you can bet it won't be easy!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Goodnight Primrose, sleep well angel

We said goodbye to Primrose today.  She died in the night snuggled up in the rabbit hutch.  It wasn't a massive shock when I went to check on her this morning, I knew how ill she was last night.  It's still a bit of a shock though because of all my four ex batts she was the most robust and in the best condition.  She was the biggest bossiest girl in the flock, in the best condition and the undisputed Boss Chook.  I never expected that she would be the first one to leave us.

I just checked back on my calender and Primrose came to live with us 11 weeks ago today.  It seems a lot longer but it is there in black and white so it must be true.  That means she had 11 weeks of freedom after the hell of living in a cage her whole life.  11 weeks to scratch about and feel the sun on her back.  It wasn't long but I am glad I was able to give her that time.  I read recently that battery hens are only kept for 18 months before they are 'disposed of'.  That means Primrose was just one and a half years old, that's no age for a chicken.

My favourite memory of Primrose was the time I came indoors and found her in the doorway of my study.  The cheeky madam had wandered in for a nosey about.  When she saw me she legged it back down the hall but missed the kitchen doorway and ended up in the lounge where she led me a merry dance trying to catch her.  

She was the Boss Chook, no doubt about that.  She kept a close eye on all her ladies, making sure they all went to bed at night, sitting up until they had all climbed the ladder.  I remember one night Blossom was faffing about and wouldn't go up.  Primrose was sitting patiently waiting for her, almost falling asleep while she did.  She looked so relieved when Blossom finally went up and she could go to bed herself.

She wasn't all nice, she bullied poor Snowdrop to the point where she left home for a while.  It pleases me that they had made it up before Primrose died so they parted as friends.  She also put Action Dog in her place on many occasions, especially if there was food about.  She would peck Action Dog to make sure her ladies got all the food and the dog didn't steal any of it.  She was always submissive to me though, squatting down when I went to pet her and eating corn from my hand.  

We buried her in the wood today, wrapped in a yellow sheet to match the yellow ring she took her name from.  I am going to miss seeing her running accross the garden, wings flapping, trying to respond to my call as fast as possible.  I wonder who will keep everyone in order now she is gone.

Sleep well my angel.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

I'm not getting up tomorrow!

Its starting to get so I dread getting up in the morning.  It's been a horrible wet day which only let up at late afternoon when it was far too late to be of use.  I let the girls out as usual when I got up.  Which was far too early I have to say.  This letting the chooks out is knackering me.  I'm losing an hours sleep every day.  I don't function well on seven hours.  Last night I got about six.  Not good, at my age I need my beauty sleep!    Anyway, when I let them out Primrose was quiet, she didn't come out right away but as it was pouring with rain and I was still 90% asleep I let her have the lie in I would have loved to have had.  Later after a shower and some breakfast (my breakfast, I give them theirs when I get them up) I noticed that she was still quiet but was out under the Laurel tree with the others so I didn't think too much of it.  This afternoon she was very withdrawn.  Hunched, eyes closed in a corner and had loose stools.  To be honest she looked at deaths door.  Panic started to set in.  I brought her indoors to the summerhouse and put her into Snowdrops old rabbit hutch to keep her warm and dry.

I made an executive decision to give her some of Owlmomma's antibiotics.  I was seriously concerned that the soft egg she laid yesterday left some deposits inside her and turned nasty.  With the words 'Egg yolk peritonitis' ringing in my ears I brought her into the kitchen and jabbed her.  It was Snowdrop's needle but thats the only one I had so needs must and all that.  She lay in my lap motionless while I did it.  Bearing in mind that this is Boss Chook who is very feisty that was not good news at all.  She seemed in far worse shape than Snowdrop had been.  I also gave her a couple of millilitres of water by syringe because I've not seen her drink all day.  That woke her up!  She was not amused at all when I stuck they syringe down her throat and wriggled and squirmed.  She looked a bit brighter when I checked on her a little while ago but I could very well be clutching at straws.  She went and hid in the sleeping compartment which means she now hates me cos I did bad things to her.  At this rate they are all going to hate me cos I have done bad things to all of them now!

Add to all this the fact that I managed to put my watch through the washing machine while washing the jeans that Primrose pooped all down when she as having her meds it wasn't the best of days today.  There is some good news though, the doves are all fine but Esme is still sitting on her empty nest sporadically, Snowdrop seems fine, oh and I made a pukka chocolate cake!  But I am still not getting up tomorrow morning, I am having a day off from disasters and stay in bed all day eating my chocolate cake.  Ok so I don't mean it but I can dream can't I?

A  purely gratuitous flower pic just to end on something nice

Friday, 15 July 2011

State of play today

Snowdrop has been up and about all day.  She has rested a few times but as she is full of antibiotics thats not surprising, they make me feel like death warmed up too.  Actually I am allergic to most of them so am being really careful not to stick myself with the needle.  The worst one was when Action Dog was on them and I had to crush the tablets and pop them on her tongue.  It's the only way I can get tablets down her because she can't spit them out if they are powder.  Anyway, one night she sneezed as I put the dust on her tongue and I got a face full.  Oh was I paranoid that my face was going to swell up and I would look like Shrek.  Antibiotics are wonderful things but they just don't agree with me.  Anyway, I am waffling as usual and not getting to the point which is not good as this is only the first paragraph!  To sum it up I am feeling increasingly encouraged by Snowdrop's progress.  I didn't hear any sounds on her chest today but the washing machine was on and that might have masked it.  To be honest I am doing everything I can so I am feeling that ignorance is bliss and I don't want to know what her chest sounds like!

Primrose had some trouble this morning.  I noticed she had a bit of a runny bottom and that she had something nasty looking dangling from it.  I won't put anyone off their tea and describe it.  I went and got my rubber gloves (thank you to whoever invented them), grabbed her, tucked her under my arm and had a good look at the area in question.  What I found was a soft egg shell half in and half out of her vent.  I wasn't really sure whether to leave it alone to come away naturally but in the end I decided to gently pull and see if it came out, which it did.  It was all rather gory and a bit bloody, poor girl.  When I went to clean the coop I could see where she had laid the egg because there was some watery blood and the contents of the egg on the floor.  I was happy that it hadn't broken inside her because that would cause peritonitis and she would probably die.  At least now I know who is laying the other soft eggs.  I've ordered some Cod Liver Oil from my friendly local pet shop.  It's meant to help with calcium absorption.  Cross everything!

I was advised last night by Owlmomma to remove Esme's egg for her own good.  I felt like a baby thief when I dragged a kitchen chair down the the dovecote,  She looked me in the eye as I climbed up and made me feel even worse.  She didn't fly off when I slipped my hand underneath her into her nest (heck this is starting to sound like a bad porn story!) She didn't even peck me, just looked worried.  I took her warm little egg away and she just sat and watched me.  It was horrible.  I was shocked when I saw the egg.  It was tiny, half the size it should have been and the poor girl has sat on it hopefully for weeks trying to have a little baby.  Honestly the whole thing broke my heart.  To make absolutely sure I wasn't a child murderer I candled the egg, even though it was obvious there was no chick.  Unless she had stolen a blue tit's egg that is.  She is still sitting on the nest now.  If she doesn't get off in the next few days I will have to shoo her off and pull the nest itself out which will make me a home wrecker as well as a baby snatcher.

On the left, Esme's tiny egg.  On the right a dummy pigeon egg of the correct size.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A ray of hope

My little madam has been much more active today, out and about with the other girls, scratching and munching bugs.  She did go indoors once that I know of but it was pouring with rain so I don't blame her, I'd have gone in too if I had been out there!  It is certainly heartening to see her acting more normally even though I still have concerns about the sounds on her chest.  She hates having her injection but so far hasn't started running away from me when she sees me approaching with a towel to wrap her in!

Talking of the sounds on her chest I had a thought earlier.  I can't hear the noise at all when I am in the garden, even if she is in my arms.  You don't realise how noisy it is out there with the wind in the trees and the cars on the road at the front.  This gave me a slight ray of hope that maybe, just maybe she has always had a wheezy chest and I just didn't know about it.  Not ideal obviously but if the chest is normal for her then its not the cause of her being so withdrawn for the past few days.  That would mean that seeing her trolling around the garden as if she doesn't have a care in the world means she is getting better.  I may change my mind about all this tomorrow but at the moment its a happy thought and any happy thought is to be treasured!

The doves have been about more today, I think its due to the horrible wet cold weather.  That high roof is very exposed so they are probably much more comfortable in their nice sheltered garden.  I have said all along that they are like stroppy teenagers staying out late.  Eventually all stroppy teens realise there is no place like home and nothing like Mum's cooking.  

It's lovely to see the doves flying about and think to yourself that you knew them as little babies.  Especially Pinky because she was so tiny when I took her from her abandoned nest.  She still lets me pick her up and stroke her and has landed on my head a few times in the garden.  Daisy and May are a little more reserved but I made a point of making them more independent than I did with Pinky.  Sometimes I watch them fly and know they are doing it just for the pure joy of flying.  They swoop and dive like jet fighters, circling round the roof and over the trees.  They are getting on great with Harry, he is with them constantly.  Poor Esme I wonder what she thinks about her husband going off and leaving her with the egg.  I think I am going to have to take it away from her.  Unless she has laid another it has been far far too long and no way is it going to hatch.  The trouble is that she is always on the nest and I just don't have the heart to shoo her off and steal her little egg.  

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Snowdrop Update

My relief was short lived.  This morning Snowdrop didn't want to get up again.  She only came out when I poked my head through the nestbox hole to see where she was.  I took the opportunity to grab her and take her indoors to give her some calcium and antibiotics.  My first time injecting a chicken.  I'm not sure who enjoyed it least, her or me.  She wriggled and I cringed.  Actually it wasn't too bad for me, I found tube feeding Perky earlier this year much more scary, probably because he was so small and fragile.  Mind you I had to put the syringe for the calcium so far down her throat to miss her tongue hole it was almost like tube feeding, and no, she didn't enjoy that either.  I think my technique is not as practiced as Owlmomma's so it must have been like being treated by a junior doctor.  Poor Snowdrop.  What really worried me was that she seemed to have a click in her lungs and a little wheeze.  It wasn't there yesterday.  All I can say is thank goodness she is on antibiotics.

When I took her back to the coop area she had a few mouthfuls off food and went back to bed till early afternoon when she got up and wandered about the garden eating and scratching as if nothing had happened.  Also I couldn't hear a wheeze or a click.  I can't make it out.  She put herself to bed early again tonight.  It's obvious things are not right but I can't work out for the life of me what is going on.  Maybe its morning sickness?  

The lovely lady from Animal Tranquility sent her more Reiki today, I'm sure its that which is giving her the afternoon boost to come out and play.  She has been so kind and supportive, she has chickens herself and knows how much they mean to their owners.  The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

All the news, hot off the press!

Well its been all go here lately.  Some news in brief before the juicy bits.  

Snowdrop is sleeping with everyone else EVERY night now.  It may have helped that I kept the door locked on her rabbit hutch since she had that one sleepover!  The rabbit hutch annex has now been removed so things are permanent!

Blossom (aka Crazy Chook) is laying at last.  She only lays tiny eggs so far but they are eggs and things can only get better!

Hairy Hubby discovered that chopping down blackberry bushes is not a good idea if they have a wasp nest in them.  I have never seen him move so fast.  Much Piriton and antihistamine cream later he attacked the wasps in his own unique way using a can of fly spray with a nail banged in it.  He threw it like a grenade and ran like hell.  It worked though!

The big news is that my doves are free flying at last.  I took the net off on Sunday and hoped for the best.  It had been on for six weeks which is what the experts recommend but that didn't help me last time did it?  They sat for a while looking bemused until suddenly WHOOSH they all took off together and few about.  Pinky and Jed landed on my roof and stayed there all afternoon but typically Daisy, May and their new best friend Harry went and sat on the roof of the house opposite.  Is this sounding familiar yet?  They liked it so much they slept there for the night.  And the next night.  The little rotters only come home for something to eat!  They treat this place like a hotel!!  Admittedly the house opposite is worth half a million plus and has views of the Broad but thats not the point, the ungrateful little things!  Seriously though, although they roost over there they seem to spend the afternoons chilling out in the big Sycamore behind the dovecote and have played on my lawn a few times too.  And been chased off by Crazy Chook who seems to object to any bird being on HER grass especially if they are white like her.  I am hoping that they will soon realise the roof over the road is not as warm and comfy as their nice dovecote and come home at nights.  The dirty stopouts!

Snowdrop was poorly yesterday.  She wouldn't get out of bed and when she did she hid behind a flowerpot.  I had a feeling she was trying to lay one of her soft shelled eggs and looked up the treatment for eggbound hens.  This gave me a happy afternoon of bathing, steaming and rubbing olive oil into a chickens bum.  I found the latter a bit odd because I have rubbed olive oil into so many chickens bums but always eaten them afterwards.  But let's not go there...  Anyway this morning she wouldn't get up again till Rosie booted her out because she likes to have the whole place to herself when she lays her egg.  I think Rosie is the only one who lays every day actually.  I thought Snowdrop looked a bit more lively but she still went right back in the coop when Rosie came out so I popped her in a recycling box and took her off to The Haven with me.  Conveniently it was my regular day there anyway.  It makes a change for one of my birds to do something at a convenient time.  

Owlmomma gave her some oral Calcium and an antibiotic jab just incase.  She seemed a bit brighter after that and enjoyed ten minutes or so wandering round the hospital trying to terrorise Acorn the Little Owl who is so unbelievably cute that he has never had anyone be mean to him before in his life.  He actually spend half the day sitting on my foot playing with my shoes while I was working.  I kept expecting him to nip my toes but luckily for me he didn't, unlike Sid the Parakeet who tried to take a chunk out of my finger!  Anyway, I am waffling, I must get back to the point.  Now Snowdrop is home she seems pretty much back to normal.  She is walking round the garden with the others and feeding happily.  I have to say I am relieved.  I still have to give her Calcium drops once a day and (oh lucky me) an antibiotic jab for the next five days.  I can't say I am looking forward to that but after all my years or ear piercing and electrolysis I think I will cope.  Snowdrop was also lucky that an animal healer sent her lots of Reiki.  I am positive this helped her loads too.  How lucky am I to know kind people who will help my baby girl?

Crazy Chook, the poser

Snowdrop, aww bless!