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A day of ups and downs!
Two eggs again today, they seem to have a morning pattern, dash out the pop hole as soon as I open it, run for food and water, eat and scratch for an hour or so then lay. Either someone isn't laying at all or they are skipping days, I haven't been around at the right times to check so far.
I have been sat with them today, an hour this morning, another couple this afternoon and again tonight (inbetween my essential human activities basically!)
Dottie chases the other two away from the feeders if she spots them eating but now I have extra feeders and drinkers she can't quite manage to be in three places at once. When she does this it's a quick approach and swift peck - if they manage to notice her coming they run away before she can peck.
One particularly distressing incident was when Jemima was snoozing in the dust bath, Dottie ran and attacked for no obvious reason, she stood on top of Jemima, pecking and pulling at her comb then her vent. Jemima just froze and it didn't seem like Dottie was going to stop, I couldn't resist intervening so I picked Dottie up and placed her at the other end of the pen. Jemima remained in her prone position, unmoving for longer than I would have liked, she seemed terrified but perhaps I'm anthropomorphising.
Later she ran to Marjory, again for no apparent reason, and started pecking and pulling at Marj's wattles.
I understand the pecking order needs to be established and that the dominant hen will guard food but I just want to be sure there aren't any underlying causes.
I'm going to try a couple of things, I have already given them all some sunflower seeds and meal worms, added ACV to the water and diatomaceous earth to the dust bath.
I have layers crumble being delivered tomorrow ready to progress them from the mash (and then onto pellets) so I think I will try a day without putting the feeders out and just scatter the mash and crumble to try to encourage more foraging - and less naughty business
In other news, Marjory managed to empty a full litre water feeder over herself by deciding to create her own dust bath directly underneath it and bonking into it repeatedly
Any finally, I went out at 8pm and all three had put themselves to bed and were all snuggled at the back of the coop in the nest box. No perches yet but I shall be trying them in the run soon to help them get used to the idea before trying them in the coop. I closed the bolted the pop hole and skipped and bounced into the house to tell hubby
It's only been a few days, it will take a while, but yes she is being a bit naughty. Water pistol or squirts bottle on her head or up the bum will warn her off and she'll soon get the message. I can stop shenanigans now with a raised voice - they know when they are being naughty!
Not sure about pecking at the vent though. It might be worth checking Jemima didn't have a softie or a trace of yolk there. Also have you checked them over for lice? I've had girls straight out of the factory with them and they lay eggs at the base of the feather shaft, specially round the vent. They may have them & they're quite harmless actually but can be treated with DE powder and ivermectin or frontline for cats at a pinch.
Of course it might have been just a stroppy new top hen an all
If you're worried, a bit of Vaseline on combs & wattles will make it harder for her to get a grip & do any damage.
By the way, you may find that they stop laying eggs for a few days as their systems adjust - any that you've been getting have been factory ones still in their systems
Good idea about the foraging. Scatter it wide, again making it harder to be in 3 places at once.
It sounds as though they are doing really well - which of course means you are too
Oh yes, I saw your other post about books. Chicken keeping for dummies I think is supposed to be good. I never really bothered with books, I learned mostly from experience and in all honesty, from the people on DTL. Any questions, just ask
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Mango, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly and Willow
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
Hi , I have books drop a note and post to you . Dummies garden chicken -plenty.
I would also mention as a thought for you , I believe one should not over do the treats . They get fat -liver troubles possibly and many other illness.
Not saying don't but just be mind full.
Others may give better advise.
Hi I totally agree with Karen and Bob's comments. When I introduced Lily to Ruby (my old girls) Ruby would not let Lily dust bath at all. She would peck and peck her until she came out. It's not nice to see, but things will improve in time. Once they get it, they get it and they are fine. It's like a process they all have to go through and that's why I and possibly most members on DTL hate introductions. You sound like you are doing really well. I noticed Bob said about treats and I think he is very right. It is very hard to not spoil them rotten (I am very guilty of that), but mealworms, for instance, are high in protein and too many can cause problems. It's all a massive learning curve this chicken keeping business. I bought books before I got my chucks and read and read. At the end of the day you learn from experiences, good and bad and to be able to share knowledge and information with the lovely people on this Forum is priceless. No matter how long you have chickens I believe there is always so much more to learn.
Such naughty, messy, adorable hens!
After trying the scatter feed technique things have improved, Dottie is far too excited to see all the food on the floor first thing in the morning to bother too much with Marj and Jem. They are also learning to give Dot a wide berth in all endeavours so things seem to be calming down gradually.
When Dot strikes in an all out peck fest, I have twice layed my hand gently on her back, this makes her wiggle her bum and shake her feathers (I read that's what a cockerel does, so I guess I'm essentially flirting with a chicken ) but she does stop immediately. This seems to give a longer break between 'peck fests' too so I feel it's working.
Jemima always comes over to me when I go in and makes a gentle, elongated cluck sound, she hides behind my legs when Dot strikes too. Dot will now let Marj eat from the same area and they all sit happily together in the mid afternoon sun against the wall, snuggled and snoozing in a row.
I am now getting paranoid that the pen will run out of worms pretty soon so the planned extension works are going to be ramped up this weekend. I'm pretty much following my instinct but I think they are ready for more area to explore. They have settled in so well, I am ridiculously proud that they now put themselves to bed, so I think we all feel ready for the next step. Plus after only a week the pen is nearly empty of pea gravel, having been flung to all four corners of the garden, so the extension is going to be bare earth (down to its wire foundations) to let them scratch a bit more naturally.
I'm checking the defra website regularly as I want to let them free range as soon as I'm allowed to. I will admit that's going to be a terrifying moment though!
Sounds like you are doing so well - the chooks and you. My run is bare earth and it works very well for me. They make their own dust baths, so there are a few holes in the ground that I have to be careful not to fall down. I fill them up sometimes and let them start all over again making dust baths. I used to fill the holes with sand, but that soon disappears so I leave them with just the soil. Enjoy your girls!
Another quick update (I'm sure real life will catch up with me soon and I won't post so often!).
Absolutely no peck fests this afternoon, I have been in the garden or within sight of the chooks all day and aside from the 'normal' pecking to assert authority, Dottie has been a darling.
She does seem to prefer her own space and it's is more often than not Jemima and Marjory at one end of the pen with Dottie at the other. There was a particularly cute moment when I saw Marj pecking bits of left over earth from Jemimas feathers (after a dust bath), she was so gentle, a completely different activity to Dotties peck fests, Jemima even lifted her wing for Marj to clean underneath
We (hubby and I, confidence in numbers lol) have picked each hen up and inspected for mites and lice etc, plus checked their vents. All clear on all scores.
Treats have been put to the back of the cupboard after their mealworms the other day, i had read protein deficiency can cause feather pecking and eating so just wanted to give them a boost incase that had been the cause of Dotties behaviour - you live and learn! Where would I be without you lovely folks here
I will now admit, rather sheepishly, I am going to view a coop and run tomorrow (the very popular eBay ones) second hand needing refurbishment. I'd like to say it's for use as a hospital coop should I need one but it may also get used if I decide I might like to add one or two friends to the flock
You can get the low plastic tubs to provide dustbaths, I have an old childs paddling pool in for my bantams. You just know you will be adding to your little flock if you make their living area bigger dont you
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Blossom,Merle-Oberon Cyd-Charisse,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Myfawny ,Monica-Rose
Vorky Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky
Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
I think it is a good idea to have a run that's big enough for 2 or 3 more but NOT to fill it.
A) it gives them more space
B) if you get all your hens at the same time they will all be old and not laying at the same time. If your hens are 'pets' not 'livestock' you won't want to cull (and most rescues say you must keep them for life). So you'll be buying eggs.
Think about adding in a year / 18 months time, keep up the flow of eggs.
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
Mo you are totally right, I had decided on getting a spare, small coop/run combined so I could sit out, potter around and refurbish it (an excuse to spend more time in the garden I guess lol).
On a serious note it would be for emergency medical situations, re integration or for next years use for quarantining/integrating any new additions. Even if I never needed it for these reasons I feel more prepared with one on hand and we have space due to quite a sparse garden anyway.
I am currently planning a whole reorganisation and revamp of the garden ready for the ladies when they can free range, I'm dumping all of my unwanted pot contents (I only have pots as the garden is all paved and gravel) onto the compost heap, fencing off the pond, making a rain shelter and worm beds.
I even made the hubby screech to a halt whilst passing a fly tipping site so I could bundle an old chair into the van to use the wood for some ground perches and some old bits of decking board that may prove useful for bare earth worm beds
So any new additions would be carefully planned, as these three were. I'm really not bothered about egg production, my friends free range, their mixed country based flock provide us with eggs weekly if we want them, free, so we are very lucky.
I do like dreaming though
Some wonderful progress with the chooks this weekend
We continue to get two eggs per day, on Saturday we even got three. Way more than I hoped for in the first week, I am expecting them to go off lay any day
I started them on crumble mixed with pellets. Hubby saw the open 20kg bag of pellets the other morning and was up before me so he mistakenly gave them a scoop of that for their breakfast - surprise surprise they gobbled it all up. They still have crumble in the feeders but it looks like they already recognise the pellets so the changeover should be fine.
I ordered some feeders from BHWT, the beaky ones on legs, plus a water feeder - they are brilliant! Can't recommend them highly enough, both top access using lids, so no fiddling to aim the feed scoop to fill and no wet feet when filling water then quickly tipping like with the old dispenser to avoid spills. The legs mean they are well clear of the ground so much less contamination too. Fab - buy some now!
Made the decision to try them on cabbage, sweetcorn and spinach yesterday. I dutifully added cabbage and sweet corn to the bird feeder I bought to suspend in the pen - no interest whatsoever. When I went in to sit in the coop I took some spinach.......
I was MOBBED Jemima took it from my hand immediately, the first hand feeding she has done, then she jumped up onto the chair arm to get closer and stole some from my hand, THEN she jumped on my arm!! I never, ever expected that but it seems spinach is definatley a big hit. Marj was second to start taking it from my hand and eventually Dottie plucked up the courage too.
Utterly delightful and quite a surprise. Although now when I go in it's me getting pecked all over, I made the mistake of going in wearing flip flops and my toes got a pecky battering. Jemima pecks at my clothes and stretches her neck to see if I'm holding anything - I never realised hens could learn so quickly
The big thing I have noticed is that Dottie doesn't tell the other two off when they are eating from my hand, it's every hen for herself, jostling and stealing from each other's beaks but no arguments at all.
So pleased, I simply adore these little characters
In other news, I am going to be accompanying a friend to a poultry 'show' breeder this week, she is adding to her flock and has invited me along for the ride. I do believe my heart will stay with ex batts but I'm looking forward to seeing all the different breeds and also watching how my friend organises her integrations.
Signing off for now, one very happy chooky mama
We have heard this before - be strong and enjoy the posh breeds at 2nd hand.
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
I shall be, nothing can live up to these girls, or replace them in my heart
This afternoon the ganged up on me and tried to steal my engagement ring, I wasn't even bearing food, they must be posh birds deep down, they obviously like sparkly things
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