Chicken Health

Poultry Worms

From time to time your chickens will get worms, and not just the juicy kind they find in the garden. They’ll also get intestinal worms. Icky. Poultry worms are a common occurrence, especially if your flock free range frequently. I realise this is a gross subject, but if you keep chickens then you should learn to recognise the signs of a worm problem in your flock and how to treat when it does occur. I’ve included a few tips on how to go about preventing them too.

How do chickens get worms?

  • Eating worm egg hosts such as earthworms and snails
  • Picking up worm eggs from the ground via infected poultry droppings

Signs to look out for:

  • Dirty feathers around the vent / diarrhoea
  • Anaemia (pale combs and wattles)
  • Visible worms in droppings
  • Drop in egg production
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of condition

Poultry worms you may come across:

Large roundworm is a very visible (when out of the body) and long worm that lives in the small intestine. We’ve come across them before when bringing new chickens in, they look rather like spaghetti – sorry pasta lovers! The worm burrows into the gut wall which causes inflammation and damage if left untreated, reducing the intake of nutrients. A bird passing live worms in the droppings is heavily infected.

chicken worms, poultry worms
Large roundworm passed a couple of days after worming with Flubenvet. I hope you haven’t just had your tea.

Hairworm is a small worm about the width of a hair, hence the name. Found in the upper digestive system such as the crop, hairworm can cause a lot of internal damage, even in small numbers. Signs are green diarrhoea and anaemia with birds hunched and looking unwell.

Caecal worm is found in the caecum of chickens. Tiny little worms, they can be seen wriggling in caecal droppings. They’re quite common and usually harmless to healthy chickens in low numbers. If a natural worming approach doesn’t clear them (see below) then a medicated poultry wormer may be needed.

Tapeworm rarely affect chickens, however they can and live in the intestine. Tapeworm segments can be seen in the droppings, they’re odd tubular things that sort of wiggle a bit, only once in all our years of chicken keeping have we seen this. The hen was treated by a vet for a stronger dose of wormer. If you are concerned your chicken has tapeworm then you should seek veterinary advice.

Gapeworm is commonly seen in pheasants and turkeys, but they also affect chickens. The blood-red worms attach themselves to the trachea (throat), causing gasping (gaping) and neck stretching as the chicken struggles to breathe. Left untreated, they can be fatal by suffocation. They can be picked up from other birds coughing up the adult worms or via hosts such as earthworms and snails.

Control and treatment of poultry worms:

  • Frequently move free ranging birds / moveable runs to fresh ground
  • Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to the drinking water to create a hostile environment in the gut
  • Inspect droppings, including caecal droppings for visible signs of worms
  • Heat, drought and a hard frost can destroy worm eggs or prevent them from maturing
  • Keep grass short during summer to allow UV from sunlight to destroy eggs
  • Include herbs in your flocks diet for a natural approach to worming
  • Feed raw pumpkin/squash seeds, they contain cucurbitin, an amino acid that can eliminate parasitic worms such as tapeworm and roundworm. There are varying opinions on this method of worming, we don’t have much evidence it actually works.
  • If worms are frequently seen in the droppings or a faecal sample is positive for worms, we recommend feeding Marriage’s layers pellets with added Flubenvet for 7 days as a really easy way of worming your flock. Available from licensed stockists.

We worm our chickens twice a year with Flubenvet, usually autumn and spring when conditions are right for worm eggs to thrive (warm and wet). We always worm new additions to our flock as a precaution. A heavy worm burden will impair the health of the bird by robbing them of important nutrients, if left for a long period of time, worms can damage the digestive tract of the birds which can lead to other infections.

chicken moult
Chicken Health

Chicken Moult

Around this time of year, when our chickens are going through their late autumn moult, coops and pens resemble a chicken crime scene. Huge bundles of feathers strewn everywhere!

For the new chicken keeper, experiencing chicken moult can be alarming! When your flock decide it’s time for a change of clothes feathers literally drop out overnight – covering the bedding on the coop floor. Sometimes a soft moult is all that’s needed, just an area of the body here and there, these partial moults often go on unnoticed, but when a hard moult is going on your chickens will look really scruffy for a while, perhaps even naked. Late summer to early winter is usually the time for moult but it can occur at anytime of the year. Your chickens may all go into a moult together or just 1 or 2 at a time.

It may not be noticeable, but our Brahma girls are going through their first adult moult now and looking a little scruffy in places – feet included!

Moult is necessary to replace old and worn feathers in order to be in the best possible condition to keep warm in winter. Most chickens go through a moult without any issues but for others it can be hard going, thankfully there are things you can do to help your flock through it. Chicken feathers are composed mostly of keratin (a protein responsible for the strength of wool, hair, fingernails and hooves), so it’s a good idea to increase protein intake during the moult. Our girls love protein-rich dried mealworms scattered around or mixed in with the usual feed, we like to add them to a warm mash on a cold morning. Boiled eggs cut into chunks to disguise (you don’t want to encourage egg eating after all!), peas and sunflower seeds are good for protein too. These treats should be fed in moderation as and when needed for moulting chickens and not replace the usual feed. Adding tonics to the drinking water will help give a boost in vitamins and minerals, we recommend Life-Guard poultry tonic.

A hen going through a hard moult will either significantly reduce the amount of eggs she lays or stop altogether, putting all her energy into growing new feathers rather than producing eggs. You may even find the occasional soft-shelled egg while a moult is occurring, this should correct itself once the moult is over.

chicken moult
One of our Lohmann Brown hens going through a hard moult, she shed most of her feathers within 48 hours and now she’s covered with pin feathers. She’ll look beautiful again very soon, just in time for winter.

New feathers coming through are known as ‘pin feathers’, they look like blueish spikes pushing through the surface of the bare skin. Try to avoid picking your chickens up during this time, pressure on pin feathers can be quite painful for them. Pin feathers can be very attractive to other chickens, they really bleed if pecked! Keep an eye out for feather pecking problems and use purple spray (also known as gentian violet spray ) as an antiseptic and to help disguise red areas (chickens are very attracted to the colour red, particularly blood) to discourage further pecking, separate if it becomes a real problem to avoid damage or worse.

Uncategorized

Happy Halloween 2017

Wooo it’s Halloween (eeek!) and it’s a bit chilly outside! I’m having a rummage through seed packets and giving them a sort out, then I’ll be splitting garlic bulbs into single cloves ready for planting soon. Vampires won’t bother me today *cue evil laugh*.

Meanwhile, the latest news from the garden smallholding….the hens are busy scoffing carving out the insides of pumpkins for us. But I’d better be quick to collect the empty skins!

Happy Halloween!

 

gardening, chickens
Vegetable Garden

A Quick Autumn Tidy Up

We did a spot of autumn tidying in the veg garden this afternoon. The weather has been so lovely and mild for the time of year and the garden still looks so green and full of life.

I really struggle to pull things out before the first autumn frost has a chance to claim its victims. We did just enough tidying to make life easier for when colder weather does finally arrive but not too much tidying, frogs and toads are still active in the garden and they need areas of cover. I’m not ready to put the garden to bed just yet.

Beds that lay empty were weeded and topped with compost for planting garlic and sowing hardy broad beans next month, we covered them over for now with pieces of chicken wire (held down with bricks) to prevent cats from ‘using’ them. We picked yet more beans for drying and storing and Rich cut down tired runner bean vines to add to the compost bins. There’s always a hen or two around to help out.gardening, chickens

The light started to fade very quickly due to clocks going back an hour, before long we were putting tools away in the shed and locking the chicken coops. Still, it was nice to be out in the autumn sunshine.

Chickens

Unexpected Residents

rescue hensA few weeks ago the garden smallholding gate swung open to welcome two very dehydrated and extremely hungry hens. They were purchased by some morons who thought it would be really funny to use them as part of a prank and then dump them by the side of a road, luckily this was stopped before it happened and they were brought straight here by people close to me.

Both were absolutely riddled with roundworm (passing live adults regularly) and feather lice, they also have scaly leg mite which I’m still treating them for. I don’t know much about their history and I’m guessing wildly when I say they’re around 12 – 15 months old, but I do know that wherever they came from originally they weren’t looked after there either, it seems.

After a spell in quarantine they now occupy one of the coops and will remain here, they’re yet to meet the other girls, but I’m sure that won’t be long now that I’m satisfied with test results from my vet to determine if they’re carrying any contagious poultry diseases.

They’re both incredibly sweet-natured and seem quite at home here.

 

Product Reviews

Dengie Bedding for Chickens

Dengie Fresh Bed
Our chickens took part in a mini photo shoot recently for the British Hen Welfare Trust, they had a jolly time kicking Dengie Fresh Bed everywhere! The brief wasn’t for badly behaved hens creating a mess, but this is what the BHWT got anyway. We’re expecting their P45 in the post any day now……
IMG_5977BHWT600
Dengie Fresh Bed for chickens is a chopped straw bedding with pine oil added for its natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Developed in association with the British Hen Welfare Trust, the bedding is very soft, absorbent and dust-free, which is everything you want from a bedding. Oh, and it smells divine!
IMG_6030BHWT600
No Millie! We don’t eat the bedding!

IMG_5999BHWT600I found this chicken bedding particularly good for our older hens who prefer to sleep in the nest boxes, with the promise of colder weather conditions to come I’m confident they’ll be toasty warm during the night.

IMG_5930BHWT600
Dengie Fresh Bed is available to purchase from the British Hen Welfare Trust by clicking here http://shop.bhwt.org.uk/collections/bedding
Search for your local stockist here http://www.dengie.com/buy-dengie-feeds/where-to-buy/
Vegetable Garden

A Stormy End to 2015

So much rain. And gales. Storm after storm.

Although our garden is an absolute soggy mess, we’re the lucky ones, our home is dry and our animals are safe. We enjoyed Christmas without the worry of the weather outside our windows. Despite the many storms, temperatures are mild throwing nature into disarray. The wildlife ponds here are still heavily populated with frogs, usually they’re nowhere to be seen until February or March. I wonder if we’ll see some super early spawn? Daffodils are reportedly in flower across some counties which is crazy for December, butterflies are on the wing during dry days and bumblebees buzz angrily across the garden, looking just as confused as I am.

garlic growing
Garlic pushing up through the soil in the winter vegetable garden, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and stir the excitement of the growing year ahead. Even if the weather is awful, garlic rarely disappoints. A great crop to grow during the dreary months.

However, the vegetable garden offers the promise of food, which is always something to smile about. The first crops to make an appearance in our new vegetable garden are garlic and broad beans, constant mild temperatures ensured a successful germination ratio with the broad bean seed, just two seeds failed which is good going for me. I don’t hold a trophy for overwintering the humble broad bean.

If our broad beans make it through storm ‘Frank’ without drowning (he’s howling furiously and tipping HEAPS of rain down as I type this blog post) and the coming months too, after sowing another batch in spring we’ll be rich in beans. Rich I tell thee!

During a recent trip to a garden centre to buy a family birthday card (I know, odd choice but they do offer a great selection of cards and I couldn’t face the ‘sale crowds’ in the usual well-known card stores!) I spotted the net bags of early seed potatoes, the very thought of plunging the dear little things into our soggy garden made my top lip curl, so I passed on by, empty-handed.

light sussex pullet

I should mention the chickens seeing as the weather is so poor. They’re all doing well, even the oldies. Thankfully they’re tucked up warm and dry in their roofed enclosures although I think they’d prefer to be drinking from a muddy puddle, or pecking at the broad beans. On good days they roam, stormy days they’re in. I can’t risk them being blown over to the neighbours gardens. Just one hen going through a heavy moult at the moment, but she’s feathering up quickly rather than dragging it on, as some do. We’re collecting 4 or 5 eggs a day which is plenty for our needs, the pullets laying most days.

Well, I hope you had a great Christmas dear reader. The blog has been a bit quiet through most of this year I know, but the new vegetable garden is at last a real thing rather than a sketch on paper. I can’t wait to properly get my fingers in the soil and grow some lovely fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers for the pollinators.

Heartfelt sympathy to those dealing with flooding. Stay safe and Happy New Year xx

 

Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday

apple tree garden hen ex battery hen eggs in a wicker basket hens in a garden light sussex veg patchImages from our garden smallholding.

 

 

Chickens

Pretty Pullets

pulletsWe collected a Light Sussex and a hybrid pullet named after the rather posh Clarence Court eggs from our friends at Cock and Pullet last weekend. Our Light Sussex is laying and there’s a chance of a green/blue or very dark brown egg from the other pullet when she begins laying soon.

hybrid pullet

They’re both friendly young ladies and settling in well. Welcome, Buttercup and Daisy, to our garden smallholding.

Plans

New Year New Garden

garden smallholding

As the new year gets underway, my mind is full of plans for the new vegetable garden. Ideas and designs have spent the best part of 2 years in a sketch pad, I really can’t wait to finally put these long and thought out plans into action. However, garden tools are now retired to the outbuilding/shed until spring arrives with drier weather. It’s been a mild winter so far and this area has missed out on any snow, but the ground is too soft to continuously walk on.

shed

I mention the outbuilding. It sits alongside the greenhouse, sharing the plot where the new vegetable garden will go, and it really needs a make over. Rendered concrete construction, 2 metal doors and a small wooden window, it currently looks tired and unloved, to be honest it’s a bit of an eyesore. But I’m sure I can bestow some magic upon this very useful storage space. A clean up, lick of paint (I’m thinking soft cream walls, white doors and window frame), window box, rustic pots and planters, perhaps a climbing rose to scramble over and a few garden accessories should make a huge difference. I might even treat it to some pretty floral bunting in summer.

In other news, I’m collecting 5 – 6 eggs a day from the hens and of course the pullets are really helping to boost the number, it’s their first winter and they’re in great condition. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a productive winter from the hen houses, I’m baking more than usual that’s for sure! The older hens appear to be doing well, although a winter moult is expected soon.

eggs

Allotment news! Garlic is growing well, and for the first time I’ve planted some elephant garlic too. I recently removed a young rhubarb crown that I planted last year, this was taken home in a large container of compost and will start off the rhubarb patch in our new vegetable garden very soon, can’t wait for that. That’s about it for now with allotment planting, I’ll sow some hardy broad beans soon (at the allotment and potted up in the greenhouse in case of failures) and then think about which tomatoes I’d like to grow. I have Charlotte seed potatoes in trays to chit in the unheated conservatory, and I’ve sorted through my seed packets.

I’m ready. Roll on spring!

Plans

Work Starts on The New Kitchen Garden

chickens in the garden
Our little gardeners

We started work on the new kitchen garden recently, mainly clearing up, cutting back and deciding where everything will eventually go kind of work. And the chickens got involved too, especially the two rescue hens who’d rather be by my side than exploring with the others. Chickens are great at scratching and turning over soil with their enthusiastic feet, and excellent pest control too.

chickens

It’s been almost 2 years since we moved house and left our productive kitchen garden behind, container gardening and our plot at the allotment providing us with seasonal produce ever since. The very bottom of our new garden was earmarked early on to be the spot where the new kitchen garden would go, and now, after watching where the sun rises and sets, identifying sunny and shaded areas throughout the seasons, we’re ready to start putting our plans into action. The section of garden we’re working with is a good-sized space and will easily accommodate a number of raised beds for vegetables and soft fruits, a bed near the compost bin has now been dug over and cleared for our new rhubarb patch.

chickens in the garden
Chickens helping to dig over the new rhubarb patch

Before winter takes a firm grip we’re concentrating on clearing perennial weeds, old woody shrubs, bramble roots and large stones from an area in front of the fencing (which will probably become a gravel path), the rest will be easier because it’s lawn, and that’s where the raised beds will go. On rainy days and when the weather turns bitterly cold I’ll gather inspiration and design ideas from my Pinterest board.

The area isn’t very interesting to look at right now, I’ll take photos once the raised beds go in, probably during spring.

Chickens

How To Hollow Out a Pumpkin The Easy Way

pumpkin collageEach year I grow a couple of extra pumpkins to carve for Halloween. Instead of scooping out the insides myself, I give the chore to my chickens. But I guess it’s not really a chore to them, considering how eager they are to help.

chickens eating a pumpkinEach pumpkin is hollowed out in record timing, flesh and seeds vanish (I’m careful to remove the pumpkins soon after, otherwise they’ll eat the whole thing before I get the chance to carve crazy scary faces). This saves me a bit of time and the hens get a healthy afternoon treat containing a natural wormer.

pumpkin hollowingUncooked pumpkin seeds contain Cucurbitin, an amino acid that can eliminate parasitic worms such as tapeworm and roundworm.

chicken eating a pumpkinEven more reason to get your flock involved with pumpkin carving!

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain x

garden trug
Chickens

Chicken in a Bucket

chickens dust bathing Ok, it’s actually chickens in a garden trug, not a bucket. I just couldn’t resist the blog title. The muddy young pullets taking a dust bath are the chicks my broody ex battery hen adopted in June. Oh how they have grown. They are Lohmann Browns, a sex link hybrid commonly found in commercial egg farms (all types of management ie caged, barn and free range) for their high egg production.

brown chickenFirst up we have Binky, she appears to be the boss of the group and started laying super early at 15 weeks old. She’s a deep glossy brown and very vocal. Oh and she likes her food. Greedy she is.

garden trugBinky and her ‘sisters’ broke out of their shells in a hatchery supplying pullets to caged farm systems, at 2 days old they came home with me in a tatty shoe box and I tucked them up safe and warm in the soft feathers of a broody hen.

Pictured below is Cheska, the blonde bombshell of the group. She’s a light buff colour that I’ve seen only once before in ex battery hens I re-home. She’s quite stocky with a shorter neck and smaller head than her sisters, not quite Buff Orpington stature but similarities are there.

garden trugMillie is laying too, her big head-gear an indication. She’s heavily patterned across her back and quite leggy ( anyone spot the name theme going on here yet?).

garden trugLast up we have Phoebe-Lettice, I just call her Phoebe. She’s very fond of my shoulder or the top of my head and hitches a ride every morning as I drink my morning tea.

garden henNow that they’re all grown up their mum doesn’t wish to roam with or raise them anymore, she prefers her own company as she did before going broody. I’m grateful for the experience of watching the chicks learn from her; how to eat crumb, scratch the ground, bathe in the dirt and catch flying insects mid-air. How she called them when she sensed danger and how they disappeared in lightning speed into her feathers for safety, their little faces peeking through her feathers to see if it was safe to come out. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

hen and chicksPumpkin did a fantastic job of raising them, I could see how much she enjoyed the role of being a mother. I’m happy she had the opportunity to fulfil yet more of her natural instincts, strong buried instincts denied to her throughout her time as a caged laying hen.

Allotment, Chickens

Recycling and Chicken Therapy

feeding chickens

A shed business adjacent to the allotments allows us to take away their scrap wood, they’re happy to let us in the yard at the back to take what we need. Today we rescued some wood from a potential bonfire, which is where the wood ends up if nobody claims it. In the yard there’s a flock of free range hens, they belong to the owners of the shed business. They’re friendly girls and followed me everywhere, I must be a chicken magnet. I enjoyed feeding them little bits of grass, they stayed close and gobbled down earthworms sheltering under planks of wood as we removed it. Clever girls.

feeding chickens

Thanks to the kind folk at the shed business we have plenty of wood to make more raised beds for our allotment, and I enjoyed spending a bit of time with their chickens. It cheered me up a bit, I’ve been feeling low ever since losing Hermione (my Columbine hen) to a heart attack yesterday. She passed away in my arms and it was the most upsetting thing to witness. She appeared healthy prior to yesterday so it was a bit of a shock.

chickens dustbathing

columbine chicken

Goodbye my princess, our garden won’t be the same without you strutting around with your fabulous hair do x

Chickens

Goodbye My Honey

ex battery hen

Yesterday I lost one of my beautiful ex-caged hens. Honey was rescued and spared slaughter last August by a wonderful hen rescue organisation called Little Hen Rescue. She came to our garden smallholding with 2 other rescued hens and spent the rest of her time as free as a bird. She was quite a character, quickly securing position as top hen within the little flock, even trying her best to intimidate my Coral hen housed next to them, through the wire.

ex battery hen

A couple of weeks ago I noticed Honey had problems with her crop emptying properly, I kept an eye on the situation and helped her by massaging the crop contents and administering an oil to lubricate (suitable for poultry), to move the blockage along. This is important to prevent the crop contents from souring, or, becoming completely impacted. Usually this is enough to remedy the problem and for a few days it seemed to be working.

ex battery hen

Honey started to withdraw from the flock again and the crop felt doughy on inspection, I checked her over and discovered a hard lump or mass underneath her which felt a bit like an egg (although she wasn’t displaying any signs of being egg-bound). I took her to see an avian vet to be examined, the hard mass that I felt was her gizzard which was now completely blocked. We agreed to see if we could try to shift the crop and gizzard contents along by giving her Metoclopramide injections, along with a probiotic and medication to prevent sour crop. I was told that it was most likely a tumour rather than infection or any other factor causing the blockage but I wanted to try a bit longer to see if we could turn the situation around. I brought her inside permanently to keep her warm, looked after her and prayed for a miracle.

ex battery hen

Despite my best efforts of nursing Honey, she deteriorated very quickly within a few days. Her crop and gizzard contents had not responded to treatment and she was frightfully thin and very weak. Another appointment to see the vet was made, after seeing and examining her again the mutual decision was made to give her sleep to end any suffering, allowing her to pass away peacefully and humanely.

ex battery hen

I’m comforted by the fact that she escaped the egg industry and a grisly ending, that she free-ranged and felt the sun on her back and grass between her toes. Anyone who gives a home to these girls knows they have unique personalities, you want them to live an unusually long and happy life.

Honey when she first arrived from the egg farm
Honey when she first arrived from the egg farm
chicken orchard
Honey looking much healthier just a few weeks later

Goodbye Honey, thank you for the laughs and cuddles. You were one funny, feisty little hen. Fly free x

To find out more about Little Hen Rescue, forthcoming rescue dates or how to donate to help fund rescue running costs, please visit their website: http://littlehenrescue.co.uk

Chickens

Feathering Up for Winter

ex battery hen

The new rescue hens are growing their new feathers, just in time for the cold winter months. I guess this is a good excuse to reveal how they’re looking now.

ex battery hen

Pumpkin has completed a dramatic make over, growing all her feathers quickly not long after rescue. She’s a tall hen with mid-brown feathers and a white tail, her neck feathers have a white pattern. She was a very nervous hen a few months ago, now she’s confident and relaxed. She’s bottom hen of the trio, I only know that from watching the pecking order being sorted, otherwise you’d never really know. They’re a peaceful little group, unlike my other flock of ‘posh’ hybrids who still insist on inflicting the occasional peck.

ex battery hen

Bramble is taking her time to change into her new clothes, she still looks a bit scruffy. Her new feathers suggest she’ll be a darker brown hen overall and her face and comb have a nice pink colour too (although I’m failing miserably at capturing her face colour in photographs, so you’ll just have to take my word for it).

ex battery hen

I’ve kept many rescue hens over the years and they’re always pale and sickly looking from being kept in the caged farms, ‘colouring up’ after a little TLC. Bramble has been the palest hen I’ve ever seen, her face and comb almost white when she first arrived.

ex battery hen

ex battery hens

Honey’s feathers are a lovely honey-blonde with white patterning over her neck and back. Her new tail feathers haven’t come through yet, so she looks a bit stumpy. She’s a confident hen and very friendly. Every morning she jumps up on top of the hen-house as I lean over to clean it of overnight droppings, placing herself alongside me and straining her neck to see what I’m doing. This little routine always ends up with her jumping down inside the hen-house, straight into the plastic bag stuffed with yucky stuff! Every morning is the same, every morning I giggle at her silly antics.

This looks like a good place to lay an egg
This looks like a good place to lay an egg, much nicer than the cage I used to live in

I recommend keeping some rescue hens for comedy value if nothing else!

Chickens

Beet Leaves, Anyone?

speckledy hen

Between the allotment and garden, I seem to have grown rather a lot of beets this year. Because the girls love helping themselves to whatever I’ve grown if they can get to it, I decided to turn a blind eye to them tearing strips off the garden beets.

white chicken

Of course, eating MY veg is much more fun than foraging for stuff growing wild.

speckledy chicken

I think they quite enjoyed picking their own.

Chicken Keeping Tips, Chickens

The Magic Pink Tray

Our hens cannot resist the lure of the brightly coloured pink tray, often filled with yummy things, it’s an easy way to get the hens back to us quickly should we need to or for getting them back into the hen run safely to lock them in for the night. Beats chasing them around the garden!

I hope you enjoyed the short video I made, if you’d like to subscribe to The Garden Smallholder YouTube channel, visit this link https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGardenSmallholder

Chickens

And Then There Were Three

garden hens

Still feeling shaken by the recent and sudden loss of Myrtle (bluebelle hen) to neural Marek’s disease, I’ve been watching the other girls intently for signs of illness or anything untoward. Generally, they seem well.

garden hens

However, I’ve recently noticed a shape change to the pupil of Ginny’s (Speckledy hen) left eye and slight pigment loss to the iris with a grey area. The pupil no longer round and uniform in shape as it previously was, I could of course be worrying over nothing but then again it could be early stages of Ocular Marek’s. If it is, the reality is certain blindness and whatever else the disease decides to throw at her. I have been testing eye reactions whenever possible and the pupil dilates and contracts as normal, meaning that she still has sight in this eye.

chicken eye problem
Blurry photo I know! A closer view of the pupil to show the shape change

On a lighter note…. We visited a great poultry place in Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire today called Cock and Pullet (love the name!). They have a fantastic range of traditional hand-built (on site) coops, none of the flat pack flimsy rubbish I often see being sold at ridiculous prices that won’t even last a winter. They hatch their own pure breed and hybrid chickens, ducks and geese and there’s a feed and bedding shop too (I bought a sack of Marriage’s layers meal, having heard great things about it). Helpful and friendly staff, we were given a tour around the farm. They really knew their stuff and I was really impressed with how they kept their animals, particular the very spoilt ducks and geese who even had their own lake!

speckledy hen

So that’s the latest on the girls, as you can see they seem pretty happy and healthy, fingers crossed things stay that way.

Chickens

My Old Brown Rescue Hen

Old Emily hen
Old Emily hen
This is Emily. Her life as a laying hen started in a barren cage roughly the same size as an A4 piece of paper, caged with many other hens to lay cheap eggs for the consumer and food industry. I rehomed her (along with 5 other hens) via Bedfordshire based hen rescue Free At Last on 20th April 2008. That was 5 years ago.
Emily rotavating soil in the veg garden
Emily rotavating soil in the veg garden
At 15-18 months old, Emily and many hens like her are considered ‘spent’ (meaning she was in her second year of laying and egg production tends to dip slightly), mass production units such as battery farming simply replace spent hens with younger ones. Emily would’ve been sent to slaughter if it wasn’t for the great work of hen rescues up and down the country. Barren cages have since been replaced with enrichment cages (a perch, nesting material and slightly more room) but it’s still a cage at the end of the day.
Emily quickly became part of the family
Emily quickly became part of the family
Emily with her favourite friend
Emily with her favourite friend
Emily blowing a kiss
Emily blowing a kiss
Emily enjoying a dustbath
Emily enjoying a dust bath
Homes are always needed for hens like Emily, if you’re interested in rehoming some ex-caged hens please take a look at Ex Battery Hens – The Hen Rehoming Hub to find your nearest hen rescue. Emily is the last of my original ex battery hens, outliving the many others that I rehomed over the years and that makes her extra special to me. Sadly, she isn’t in the best of health at the moment and I know deep down I have to do the right thing by her and let her go with the help of my superb avian vet. It’s breaking my heart into million pieces, I’m not good with these situations and it never gets any easier. I know she’s had a long life for a hen that was never bred to be a happy garden hen, but I always want more for rescue hens, for me, it’s never long enough.
ex battery hen
Thank you for reading her story and for your interest in rehoming hens just like her.
Chickens

Wordless Wednesday

Eh? What the?!
Eh? What the?!
Well it isn't mine, hrmmph!
Well it isn’t mine! Hrmph!