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About Burtie14

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    Chicken Eggspert
  1. Thanks chaps. It's really sad, but we knew what we were signing up for and they brought us a lot of joy.
  2. I think chickens have their own rules of intelligence!
  3. We had a couple Fox Watches, and it's very hard to say how good they are because we didn't see a fox for a while, but on one or two occasions foxy strolled right in front of it as bold as brass. I think a Fox Watch is good to have as a supplementary deterrent, but I absolutely would not rely on them as a defence.
  4. Have just come back from the vets where our last two hens, Jim and Betty, have been put to sleep. Poor Betty hadn't been herself for a few days since laying a softie - turns out she had egg peritonitis and would only have gone downhill. She was such an energetic, demanding, naughty girl with so much personality, that to see her hunched and quiet was awful, but in a way made things easier because it was obvious she knew it was time to go. Jemima (Jim) was more difficult. She's had a pendulous crop for months, but about 6 weeks ago started doing a horrible twitching spasm with her neck, and not emptying her crop overnight. We nearly lost her, but went through a long course of treatment of making her sick every morning and poking a tube down her throat to treat the infection. It seemed to work, but then this morning she started spasming all over again, more than before. It didn't seem fair to (a) put her through it all again and (b) try and keep her going when she'd be all alone without Betty anyway. I'm sure we could have kept her alive for a while longer but couldn't face the prospect of her being ill and lonely at the same time. We'd been planning on getting new hens to keep them company before this happened, but sadly they beat us to it. Now I really don't know if I can face going through it all again. I'm sure in a bit of time I'll post a fitting tribute to both of them on the memorial page. They were really brilliant chickens with loads of character, and it feels very strange and sad to look into the garden and not see them peering back at me. Who'd have thought it possible to feel this broken-hearted about a couple of hens?!
  5. Thanks very much everyone. Betty is no longer as psychotic as she used to be(!) She's definitely mellowed with age and although she's still a bit deranged at times, she now rules by authority rather than violence. I'm optimistic that she wouldn't torment any newcomers, though one can never really tell. Actually, it's a good point about what breed they are. Jim is definitely a Speckledy, no doubt about that, and Dusty was a Blue Belle. But I was a bit non-specific about the other two - I might check up. Thanks again all, I'll let you know how I get on and no doubt share photos!
  6. Thanks for the quick replies all. I've always thought Orpingtons look lovely and will try and persuade my other half to my point of view... On that note though - would it matter that even a young Orpington would probably be as big as our existing hens? As long as they had good introductions and plenty space, would it matter than the Orp would tower over Betty and Jim like a feathery Godzilla after a few months?
  7. Hi folks We're down to our last two hens after Ginger and Dusty popped off last year, and with spring on the way we want to give our remaining girls a bit of company and liven things up. We're going to bring in 3 more, and we were thinking of getting pure breeds rather than hybrids, as they'll (hopefully) live a bit longer. Egg production isn't all that important for us. Main thing for us will be that they're quite docile and fairly hardy. Does anyone have any advice/words of caution about buying pure breeds? Thanks!
  8. Ginger went to sleep on the evening of 27 December for the last time. A very small hen, we were fortunate that she lived as long as she did, having been struck down with sour crop nearly 12 months earlier, but bravely pulled through. As a youngster, Ginger was our most productive chicken, putting all her energy into egg production, and little into her own growth. Despite her small size, she was a feisty chicken, and in particular enjoyed pecking poor Jim in the head if he showed signs of getting too close to the food bowl. Due to her size, Ginger did frequently lose feathers to Betty, and as a result had a bald patch at the top of her back for much of her life - which was a shame, as she was such a pretty chicken in every other respect. What she lacked in size, she made up for in cunning. By far the cleverest chicken, she would often be the first to find a new way of accessing food; where Betty would fling herself headlong at the situation, often with hilarious consequences, Ginger would take a moment to consider the problem, tip her head to one side, and come up with a solution. Her intelligence also extended to her desire not to be held, and combined with her nimble movements and agility it meant that picking her up was always a very challenging and exhausting exercise. Once eventually scooped up, she was never relaxed and seemed perpetually terrified despite whatever soothing entreaties we made to her. She dearly loved sunbathing, and on a bright day would bask in the light and almost doze off in the warmth. Unfortunately, she struggled greatly with the concept of uneven surfaces, and so would often lay down, wing spread to soak up the warmth, only to rise moments later as she felt herself beginning to topple. This would carry on for some time, and meant that her sunbathing sessions were greatly punctuated by the constant search for a level surface. Her favourite companion was Dusty, and the two would pair up and enjoy "quiet time" together. Ginger would chatter away, while Dusty emitted the occasional growl, and together the two friends would nervously explore together, watching from afar as Betty and Jim blundered around the place looking for mischief. In early 2012, Ginger suddenly suffered a bout of sour crop, and seemed for all the world as though she would be heading to the nest box in the sky. Remarkably, she pulled through, and though she stopped laying and took life at a slower pace after the episode, she nonetheless spent many more happy months with us. However, there was no doubt that the loss of Dusty in late summer 2012 changed the dynamic of the group. Ginger seemed to snipe at Jim more frequently and more viciously, as though taking out the loss of her friend on him. In autumn 2012, Ginger underwent a full, glorious moult. Her orange feathers were gradually replaced with darker, more autumnal browns, and she even seemed to gain a bit of size. With Betty showing less interest in terrorising her, she looked magnificent - the chicken she was intended to be. However, it proved to be something of a swan-song as she frequently seemed tired, and her new, fluffy knickers were often messy to the extent that she required a weekly warm bath. Nonetheless, this ritual was something she seemed to enjoy, and in particular being dried with the warm hair dryer afterwards she was as docile and content as she had ever been. In her final days she seemed easily exhausted, but retained her appetite and alertness until the last. One evening she went to bed, and didn't wake up the next day, passing peacefully. The timing of her passing felt natural and that she was feeling a little tired and was ready to go. She is now with her old pal Dusty, and the two of them are no doubt wandering together, chatting in their own way and chuckling at the bold stupidity of their erstwhile companions.
  9. Dusty Dusty the Blue Belle joined our family along with Betty, Ginger and Jim on 28 May 2010. Her name came not only from her colour, but also her great love of dustbathing. Within moments of her arrival, she had settled comfortably to the floor and was liberally showering herself with whatever was nearby – a lovely sight that would become extremely familiar to us over the years. A very elegant and graceful hen with dark, soulful eyes, Dusty was nonetheless difficult to admire at very close quarters, as she was never fully comfortable being picked up. On the rare occasions that she consented, she would usually end the embrace swiftly with a great beat of her mighty wing, which caused almost as much injury as the reproachful glare that inevitably followed. A gentle giant, Dusty towered over our other hens, giving her a distinct advantage when it came to devouring hanging sweetcorn – her favourite treat. Her long legs also gave her the speed to keep most unfortunate earthworms to herself, though she never quite mastered the art of catching flies; something she often attempted but rarely succeeded. Despite her height, she was by no means the dominant member of the family. She had a nervous disposition, and was frequently startled by such terrors as a passing wood pigeon, a sudden gust of wind, or an unexpected leaf. Dusty’s size brought other advantages. Her powerful legs were employed to great effect to demolish any recently-planted flowers. When we had building work at the house we considered using Dusty as a means of saving money on hiring a digger; we were sure she would have made short work of the footings. Her digging wasn’t confined to her massive feet; she also used her big beak to liberally shovel porridge all over the floor, which she would then trample on to create optimum mess. When faced with a decision, she would usually pause briefly, before responding with a deep, throaty growl. This growl was her chief form of communication, and could be taken to mean "No, I'm not moving thank you", "Do you expect me to eat that?", and "What now? Can't you see I'm busy?". The growl was also her stock response to any question; we usually felt it meant she was sceptical about the suggestion we’d made, and had a far better idea, but was going to keep it to herself. The growl occasionally became a purr, usually when dustbathing on a sunny day, and seemed to express genuine chicken contentment. A mild-tempered bird, Dusty avoided confrontation despite her size advantage. The only exception to this was when Jim, ever clumsy, persisted in dustbathing on top of Dusty, despite her warning growls and glowering looks. Eventually Dusty lashed out at Jim, not only pecking him in the head but grabbing and shaking his comb in her beak. Poor Jim was momentarily confused and upset, but the altercation was swiftly forgotten and the two were once again friends. However, her best friend amongst the group was always Ginger, and while Betty’s ceaseless energy would see her leading Jim astray in search of misadventure, Dusty and Ginger would be content exploring peacefully together. She was a circumspect chicken, unlikely to attempt an escapade, and more commonly found hesitantly observing mischief than joining in or instigating it herself. Dusty was invariably first to bed every evening; she would strut elegantly up the stairs to find the most comfortable spot in the nestbox. Once comfortably settled, and confident that she had avoided detection, she would call gently but insistently for her friends, until they eventually gave in to her entreaties and nestled together for the night. Dusty passed away on 5 September 2012 after a short illness. Although we will miss her greatly, we are happy for the joy and amusement she brought us, and we know somewhere she is dustbathing to her heart’s content, stretching her long elegant legs, and hopefully catching some flies at last.
  10. I have a problem with thin eggs/egg eating, and I am wondering if my chickens are far cleverer than I gave them credit for. Only one of our four hens is laying normal eggs. The other three are laying softies - and have been for about 3 months. They're in good health otherwise, and they have lots of access to grit and oyster shell in their diet. The other day I watched the egg-laying procession carefully, and realised that while one hen (Ginger) was laying an egg, another (Betty - it's always Betty) was pecking at her sides and tummy. I'd assumed they were both in the nest box to lay, but it made me wonder whether Betty is actually following the other chickens into the nest box when they go to lay, and harrassing them so that they become a bit stressed and don't lay properly. Then gobbling the egg. I wouldn't put it past her. Betty's own eggs are completely shell-less. They're all about 2 years old, and had all been laying perfectly happily until three months ago. Perhaps coincidentally, this was exactly when Ginger had a bad dose of sour crop and was very poorly for a while. Since then, she and two others haven't laid a single solid egg between them. Shall I try rubber eggs? Is there anything I can do to give the chickens a bit more privacy when they lay? I'm convinced their diet is ok. Thanks!
  11. Hi Richard, I really sympathise, I had this problem for a long while. Betty would peck our other three hens’ feathers so that they all had various bald patches on their backs and bums. We sprayed the others, we put a bit on Betty, and we did try separating her for a while, but she got so agitated that we couldn’t stick with it. We were at our wits' end. The thing that seems to have worked – touch wood – is regular application of tar. We tarred the baldies every other day, which is a very messy, unpleasant and untidy process, and caused a lot of grumbling, but it did completely put Betty off pecking at them, and gave them a chance to regrow their feathers. After a couple of weeks the bald chickens each had a mini-moult, and now they’re fully feathered. We still give them a spray of Scarper as a preventative, but Betty generally seems to have lost interest in pecking them – which is great. Best of luck!
  12. Ok all - it's take 2. Hold onto your hats. Turns out that playing through Youtube was a big no-no because the film has a soundtrack... though that's not a problem through facebook or photobucket, apparently. Anyway, I've uploaded it to Photobucket, so hopefully you can see it. http://s983.photobucket.com/albums/ae314/Burtie/?action=view&current=Meetthechickens_film.mp4 Failing that, Facebookers should be able to see it here. https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/video/video.php?v=10150234991876156 If neither of those work... you'll just have to take my word for it!
  13. Oh dear. Technology gets the better of me once again. Right, I'll be back soon!
  14. Hi guys, Been a while since I've been on here - I've made this silly short film of my chickens for your viewing pleasure. Henjoy!
  15. Chickens simply do not appreciate the value of a nice tidy house. Any attempt to reason my lot falls on deaf ears - the moment the run is clean, they can't wait to 'Christen it' in their own special way... blooming chickens.

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