Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Dawning Of A New Year....

Well, here we are. The hundredth post. As I look back through my ramblings, I realise just how much has happened in my chicken keeping adventure this year. I have suffered my first losses, handled introductions, dealt with illnesses beyond count, got to grips with broody hens and coaxed the flock through it's first major moult. All in all, it's been an intense learning experience.

Mini is hanging in there, and has rejoined her flockmates. Her eye is hideously swollen and, I now know, irretrievably lost. Sad as that makes me, I can't help but smile as she potters around the garden, offering the odd 'meh-meh!' into the general chicken chatter.

Kiki is still stubbonly broody, although she is a gentle wannabe mum, and not as psychotic as some of my ladies. I unceremoniously dump her on to the freezing lawn a couple of times a day, where she sits for several minutes in her broody trance, resembling a russian hat.

My mighty Mille's are ruling their roost as usual. Both girls have had a fairly radical makeover since their moult and are absolutely stunning. Mabel watches over her flock with a keen eye, and if she detects any mutiny in the ranks waddles over to the offending hen and sits on her. Maude occassionally assists her in rounding up offenders.

Doris is still moulting, so is keeping herself under the radar. She sometimes has a half hearted bok, but the enthusiasm isn't there. I'm guessing that she'll find her voice again in the spring.

Maeve is still a small chicken with a big attitude. When I think back to the small ball of feathers we brought home, I can hardly believe that it's the same bird. I'm quite nervous at the thought of a broody Maeve, to be honest.

Margot is the hardiest hen I have. Whatever the weather, Margot can be seen goose stepping around the garden. Whether this is because she genuinely doesn't mind the wet, or whether she has simply forgotten how to get back to the coop remains open to debate. Bless.

I have many plans for the new year. We aim to be moving in the spring, and that means transporting my girls. It also means new lodgings for the chooks, and I have many ideas I can't wait to put into practice.

Maybe I'll even get my frizzle pekin....

Happy New Year, from the madchickenlady, and the chooks! x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Chilled Chickens

The weather is bitterly cold. It hasn't got above freezing for several days, and I have to break the ice in the girls' drinker several times a day. We had a smattering of snow which has now frozen solid. The decking by the back door is like an ice rink. Every so often, a small hen goes whizzing past the glass with a confused look in her eye. Chickens do not like snow, ice or anything else which is damp and cold.

For the most part, the girls are staying inside. Margot seems the least bothered by the weather, and is often seen skidding about the garden. Maeve and Doris venture out for brief periods of foraging, but retreat to the coop after a while. Mabel and Maude are having none of it, and other than quick trips to the food and water, stay perched up high in the Convent, muttering.

Kiki, for reasons best known to herself, has decided that this cold spell is the perfect time to go broody. She sits in the nestbox, guarding her eggs, and growling if anyone gets too close. I am unceremoniously dumping her on the cold lawn a couple of times a day.

Mini is still holed up in the greenhouse. She spends a lot of time in her coop, but comes out periodically for a scratch about and dinner. I tried to encourage her to explore a bit further today, and she made a beeline for the Convent. Maude chased her and grabbed a beakful of tail feathers. It is not ideal to have the bottom hen out of the fold. Mini scarpered to the border, and sat looking miserable. I scooped her up and put her back in the greenhouse, where she wont be picked on. Feeling sorry for her, I also roped in Margot, and the two hens are now snuggled up together in the little coop. I am considering rotating the gentler hens, so that Mini is not without allies when the time comes for her to return to the main coop. Kiki and Doris should be friendly enough.

Mini's eye is looking worse by the day. The gunky stuff has now covered her eye, and appears to have blood vessels through it. I would bet money on it being a cyst. It is swollen, but doesn't appear to be causing her pain. I think that the eye is irretrievably lost, and that saddens me, but I hope that she'll adapt and have many years ahead of her.

I long for this to have a happy ending.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Prognosis

After deliberating, I decided to contact Retfords again about Mini. They were lovely, as always, and very helpful. It is more than likely that Mini has a cyst behind her eye. In order to fix this problem, it is very likely that the eye would have to be removed. The cost for this surgery is in the region of two hundred pounds. It is also not certain that she would survive the anaesthetic. All in all, the worst news possible.

So, I asked the lovely vet what would happen if I simply left Mini, stopped messing with the eye altogether, and just kept her well fed and watered. The answer is that the eye will shrivel up and heal over, although this may take several months. However, she will live.

So, as I see it, I have two options. Risk Mini's life on the operating table, and pay several hundred pounds more towards treatment, or leave her be. Either way, she loses the eye. One way, she may die because of a quick fix. The other way, she may be in pain (although the vet can't be sure) for some time.

Rock and a hard place anyone?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Health Update

Well, the course of antibiotics finished yesterday. Mini still has a fat eyelid, and some stubborn thick pus. She seems ok-ish in herself, but is avoiding the others. When let out to free range, she sticks close to the coop, only venturing out of the covered run if chased. However, she is still eating and drinking. All in all, she is an enigma. Every day I brace myself to find her dead in the coop, and every day I am greeted with a squinting, dirty chicken warbling 'meh-meh!'. Perhaps if I plead with her, she'll spontaneously recover? It might be worth a shot, I've tried just about everything else!

The weather has turned decidedly cold, here, and the girls are unimpressed. My sensible pekin ladies take themselves into the warm, dry coop at the first sign of inclement weather. The silkies tend to stand in the middle of the garden, getting soaked through before they realise that it's happening. A soggy silkie is a very sorry sight. Quite amusing, though.

Today I collected three eggs from the nest box. So, as well as Maeve and Kiki laying, I suspect that Margot is joining in. I'm not certain, though, so for now the 'mystery egg' remains layer-less in my egg chart.

Although it has been added to the egg box going to one of the children's teacher's for christmas.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Incarceration Is Not Desired

Well, today is day three of the new medication. I have taken pity on the girls, and allowed them an hour free range a day. They are not happy with these arrangements, and can be seen pacing the run during their incarceration. If they catch me spying on them, they take up a chickenny version of 'Let us out!'. My guilt is enormous.

I wish I could say that Mini seems better. She is eating and drinking, but for the most part sits in the coop. Even during the 'exercise hour', she shows no interest in roaming. I am still wiping her eye daily, and she tolerates this with increasingly bad grace. I am trying to convince myself that she feels a bit poorly because of the medicine, or that she is the sensible hen, staying out of the cold and damp. Deep down, I can't believe it. I will persevere with the antibiotics, and hope for a miracle.

As an aside, Doris is also a bit quiet. I have found her nestled in the coop alongside Mini, avoiding the others. Doris has just gone through a moult, so is probably a bit low anyway. I am hoping that is all it is.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Hooray For The Cavalry!

Yesterday, Retfords called me back to tell me that they had identified the bacteria causing MIni's infection. It has almost certainly originated from wild birds, who presumably have been using the back garden as a giant latrine. Most importantly, it is treatable. The extremely efficient person on the end of the phone ran through various antibiotics with me that would be effective, and once we had settled on one, promised to post it immediately. This morning, Mini's medicine arrived by courier.

She has been prescribed a medicine licensed for pigeons, called Soludox Doxycycline, which is to be added to the drinking water for seven days. The other girls are also to be dosed, as the vet feels they are likely to be infected. Mini appears to be like a canary down a mine; she shows symptoms, where as the others hide theirs. I have been warned that this particular antibiotic tastes foul, so I have also been sent a tonic to flavour the water with. I am literally joyous with relief, and will confess to doing a little dance holding said medicines above my head as soon as the courier left. I'm hoping he didn't see me.

Needless to say, the drinker has been medicated. At the moment, my ladies are strutting around the garden. However, they will be incarcerated shortly, and fed dry toast in an effort to make them drink the faintly luminous water.

For the first time in weeks, there is hope.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Housekeeper

I was late letting the girls out this morning. As I stood by the back door pulling on my boots, I witnessed a remarkable thing. At first, I assumed that it was a hen bobbing about in the pop hole. Then, I realised it was newspaper.

The newspaper rustled about a bit as it was wedged through the doorway, before flopping onto the ramp. It was followed out of the coop by Maeve. She fussily pecked at the rubbish, before stepping over it and proceeding to drag it down into the run. Once she had reached the ground, she trundled back up into the coop.

Feeling somewhat bemused, I approached the Convent to find shredded paper all over the run. Maude was engaged in ripping the paper into long strips, an activity she has always enjoyed. I opened the coop door, and peeked inside. Maeve was back on the perch, and gave me the beady eye. She was clearly trying to have a bit of a snooze.

Now I'm left pondering whether the fussy hen has cleaned the droppings from the night before because she was offended by the smell, or taken the paper outside so that Maude wouldn't keep her awake with her frankly mental paper tearing. After ensuring that I wasn't going to bother her further, Maeve turned around on her perch and went to sleep.

Quick update on Mini: The poultry lab called me back to say that they have identified a bacterial infection, and that they should be able to find the best antibiotic to kill it by tomorrow lunchtime. All of the birds will have to be treated.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Chicken Origami

Yesterday the swab kit arrived from the poultry lab. I roped the ever tolerant husband in to help, and restrained a miffed Mini. The ever tolerant husband approached Mini with trepidation, as I wrestled open her beak. I rather snappily told him to take the swab, rather than tickling her with it. We then moved on to the frankly, grim, eye cheese. Tentatively, he swabbed her gunky eye, and twirled some of the vile cheese-like substance from her eye socket. Neither of us felt like breakfast. This done, we posted the swabs to the lab. I confess to muttering a little prayer.

After a hasty Christmas shopping trip, we grumpily returned home. As I stepped out of the back door, I glanced into the run. What I saw made my heart sink. A jumbled mass of white, with some darker smudges, lay at the bottom of the ramp. I froze. Something in my posture brought the ever tolerant husband running, and as he too saw the crumpled mass in the run, he tried to console me. Very close to tears, I approached the Convent, fully expecting to see a very dead Mini, possibly duffed up by the rest of the flock. What I found was a screwed up layer of newspaper, that I use under the perch in the coop. Maude has a habit of taking her frustration at being incarcerated out on this layer, taking great pleasure in tearing it to pieces. As I breathed a sigh of relief, Mini stuck her head out of the coop, and muttered her trademark 'meh-meh' in greeting. I have never been so glad to see her.

The ever tolerant husband remarked that perhaps the flock had taken up origami to stave off boredom. Or perhaps to teach me a lesson.....

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Little Heartbreaker

Despite regular eye drops, cleaning and wiping, Min's eye shows no improvement. Out of desperation, I have contacted a poultry infection laboratory, and will be sending them swabs tomorrow. They will test for a few different infections, and the hope is that once identified, they can then prescribe the most effective antibiotic. The other possibility is that she has a cyst behind her eye, in which case we're talking surgery. I never thought I would feel so upset about a small, dirty hen.

Today I pulled more of the horrible, rubbery substance from her eye socket. This necessary treatment causes Mini untold stress, and left her gasping. I loathe having to do it, but am hoping that I'm giving her eye a chance at retaining some function. However, at this stage I would happily see her lose the eye if it meant she would have a good quality of life. Plenty of chickens get by with only one eye, and I have no doubt that Mini would cope. She has effectively been one-eyed for nearly 6 weeks now, and has no problem eating, drinking and navigating the garden.

I am trying to be positive about the lab identifying the problem. I cannot even consider surgery without a very heavy heart.