As I made the preparations for Cottage Pie last week, I had this feeling, somebody was watching me.. and then I found out I was right. This is Foo. However over time, as the two white ladies usually travel together in a pack, their name has become finnfoo or foofinn.
At what point does one decide their chicken is on the mend? Is it when you place your chicken on a towel on a chair while you run to grab something and when you return you discover your chicken has decided to take off, fly down, and run over to visit with their chicken friends who are on the other side of the shadecloth? They had a lovely chicken chat.
Is it when this chicken decides it will prefer to keep the large plant pot in between itself and yourself? When you have to chase her to pick her back up? Or does one want to keep from thinking this in case of jinxing her? I’m a bit superstitious like that.
In some ways all of this progress stuff is a very excellent sign. Sure, she is not anywhere near ready to rejoin her flock. When she walks she is still a little off balance. But this time last week she was not even able to stand. She does not seem to want to eat on her own but she will eat when we offer her food held at the precise location most convenient for pecking.
More than anything else, I want BeeGee to get back to living her optimal chicken life. Having said that, these moments I am getting to spend with her, where she is sitting on my lap eating chicken crumble mash out of a bowl.. these moments are very special for me.
The hours – quite literally – that she has spent sleeping on me after a feed while I gently trace the patterns in her feathers.. the way her gold feathers reflect the light in the evening, these are all memories I am storing in my memory banks and keeping.
For now, I’m just planning to enjoy these moments. I have a lot of hope that she will get back to her normal chicken life. It may take a bit longer than any of us would like. We’ve done everything possible for her and we will continue to do so. The rest of it is up to her.
I’m not going to bore you with too many updates – non-chicken posts for this next week on the blog are already scheduled. Until she is back with her flock you may get a quick Saturday post.
This has been by my side pretty much everywhere I have gone since Friday last week. I do not know how we would do any of this without the video camera. It allows us to keep an eye on her without having to disturb her all the time. At night it is infra-red, so we can see her in the dark.
On Friday I spoke to the vet from Easter Sunday as well as the exotic animals vet, who wanted to see her at her next available appointment which was Saturday morning. I felt it was important to point out that the symptoms we were seeing on Thursday were quite different to what we saw on Sunday, where she just seemed unbalanced. Partly it is our fault for picking up on the chicken being unwell so quickly – the tell tale symptoms took more time to develop.
Saturday morning we took Beegee to the vet, who wanted to do some tests and an x-ray, she would call us in a couple of hours with any results. We returned home and energetically cleaned the delicate nirvana. I’m not good at waiting at the best of times.
The x-rays showed two different internal infections – one in the ear, and one in the last stage of the digestive tract. Either one of these on their own would be no big deal, but the two together means her chances of survival are around 30%. So we had a tough decision to make – euthanase or throw everything possible at her and see how she does.
This is never an easy decision to make. Beegee had shown me over the previous week that she is a fighter and we wanted to give her every chance, so the vet loaded her up with antibiotic injections – meaning we would not have to dose her for the next 24 hours therefore she could rest as much as possible.
Saturday evening we managed to get some good feeds into her, and she was eating beautifully. We’ve noticed she is more alert in the afternoon and evening which is not quite normal for a chicken, they usually sleep at night and you can’t really wake them up to the normal stage of chicken alert-ness.
On Sunday we focused on medication, food, and making her super comfortable. Sunday night we needed to get some good sleep, so I asked Sephyroth if he could help out by watching my chicken and letting me know if she tried to stand up AKA poop, or if anything weird happened. Above you see a screenshot I sent him so he could know what he was seeing on camera. He could message me if I needed to get up and check on her. That worked out great.
Monday we began to see some positive signs – her poops began to smell the way chicken poop should instead of OMG get that smelly thing out of here! She stood up and stayed standing up, then she took off across the room without falling over.
I spoke to the vet and gave her the link to the camera so she could see what I was seeing. She said that the standing meant we were having success on the infection in the digestive area. It did make life slightly harder for us, because we needed to find a way to best support her in sleeping and standing. An extra rolled up towel mostly did the trick.
Monday night around 11:30 we went in to check on her and she was looking a lot better suddenly. The ear infection was making her tilt her head and neck to the side – this straightened right up. When I checked on the camera feed about 2:30am, I was so freaked out by what I saw..
Beegee had decided she needed to be “up” on a roost. This was an incredibly good sign.
So we both got up and created her a roost with a piece of wood sitting underneath her, like she would be used to in the coop within the “nest” we had made her which was supporting her neck and head. We slept a lot better with the knowledge that if she did poop, she would not be sitting in it, which was the thing keeping me awake the most. Once a chicken is settled on the roost they usually stay there all night.
Tuesday has generally been a day of medication, feeding and trying to get her to stay in her special chicken roost bed. She is making progress. We are by no means out of the woods yet. The biggest concern is that the ear infection might spread into the brain, and that she would be unlikely to recover from.
We have hope, and for now that is enough. :) But just so you know, I am a bit sleep deprived and not around much, and I have a lot of unread posts in my feed reader. I will catch up eventually. :)
For 99% of their lives, our chickens have it pretty darn good. They are regularly spoiled with healthy treats that they love, everything from tuna to tomato to lactose free yoghurt to blueberries and watermelon and many other treats in between.
They have a large chicken pen where they can safely roam. They have a great chicken coop plus an indoor run where they can hang out if it rains, and an area underneath that which mostly remains dry where they can dust bathe even if it is raining. They have food and water inside the indoor run itself, plus several choices of water to drink from in the large chicken pen.
Most days they get to “free range” a grassed area, garden beds, and hidden away safely from most prying eyes, they have their own special leaf litter dustbathing extravaganza.
And if all of *that* wasn’t enough, they have two owners – Snoskred who loves to observe them and notes when one of them is Not Feeling Great, and The Other Half who grew up a country boy and is able to handle them very deftly when required, plus he is technically crafty and can create solutions when they need them. We have needed the latter this week and Snoskred has begun to learn more handling skills herself.
On Good Friday I began to notice something a bit off about BeeGee. She was not her usual speedy self, and seemed to be having some trouble with reaching the ground to peck. It almost seemed like her crop was swollen – the crop is the area all food goes into once it is swallowed. It is kind of a chicken fuel holding tank, before it moves into the stomach.
Most of the time when something goes wrong with a chicken the best thing is to observe. As long as they are eating and drinking and pooping and flocking, many issues do resolve of their own accord. It can be difficult as a chicken owner to know when to step in, especially when your girls are a bit flighty and catching them causes stress on its own.
The next morning – Saturday – the swelling had mostly gone down and she ate her food like a normal chicken. As the day went on, however, we began to notice that swelling again, and when I took them a treat of tomato in the afternoon she did not show a lot of interest. I figured some lactose free yoghurt might be a good idea, and she certainly did not miss out on any of that.
My general rule is, as long as they are eating, drinking and pooping, we observe and don’t intervene – and if we do have to examine the chicken more closely in that instance, we would do it at night time once all the girls get up on the roost and are less.. upset about humans because they are half asleep. So after the yoghurt, we’re back to observing her some more. There are some exceptions to this rule but this post is going to be long enough. Another time.
On Easter Sunday, she was not at all interested in the scratch mix, and I could see she was pretending to be a chicken – pecking at the scratch but not actually picking any of it up. That decided our next course of action – catch her, put her in a carrier and head to the vet.
Of course it had to be Easter Sunday, so this would be an Up Money vet visit. I’m firmly of the belief that you buy it, you bought it, you take care of it whatever it costs. We were not sure what the outcome would be or even if our well versed in chickens vet would be available – sadly she was not and the vet on duty admitted she knew a little but not a lot. As a chicken owner that can happen fairly often – many times we’ve done our research and we know more about what could be happening than the vet we were seeing.
Even if you do get lucky and have a vet with loads of chicken info, chances of getting a solid diagnosis are pretty slim. The vet did find a temperature variation with one leg, which could mean there is something going on in that leg. Chickens do a lot of jumping and they can sometimes injure themselves. But it could also be a host of other things, everything from ear mites to a stroke. She was off balance, that was for sure.
We came up with a plan of treat with anti-inflammatory, isolate, syringe feed if necessary, and see how she does. We also included in this plan to dose all the chickens with Ivomec which treats external and internal parasites aka worms, mite and lice. This is something we do from time to time, though it has been a while since we’ve done it.
We do have a zip up tent we can use for isolation. So on arrival home the tent was set up with a roost, a feeding and water station, and a cardboard base for easy cleaning.
I personally find isolating a chicken to be Tough Work, not for them, but for *me*. It is really difficult when a girl cannot be a part of the flock, out in the world living her best chicken life. If you isolate for too long they will lose their place in the flock and have to fight for it all over again, so you want them to be in the best shape possible before you re-introduce but it is difficult to know what shape they are really in when they have a small area to reside in.
BeeGee is an incredibly sweet girl though she has always been of the opinion that humans should stay a respectable distance away from her. Since becoming ill she has decided humans are not so bad, and is quite happy to sit on us and be given medication or food. During her sick tent time thus far, we have had many discussions – she talks in chicken which I can speak. Of course I have no idea what I am saying, but she does not seem to mind.
By Easter Monday we were able to get some fluids into her each time we gave her medication, and she was eating watermelon, tuna, sweet corn, and soft chicken crumble mash.
One minute you think things are going well and she is eating up a storm which is always a great sign, the next minute you are not so sure, the following minute you think something really terrible and unfixable is wrong with her due to a new symptom you spot or – warning tmi – a not so great poop. We think the medication is the cause of that.
On the Tuesday after Easter, we were starting to feel like she needed a bit more space to move around, so The Other Half looked for a large box while at work, and we set up Sick Chicken Palace. This box is huge!
First we laid in a plastic table cloth. Chickens can be messy- everything from spilling water to food to pooping – and we wanted to protect the base cardboard.
Really, there are only two things missing in here – a dustbathing box, and some turf, and you would have everything a chook needs in one convenient spot. And considering that she might be here long term, we may well add those things in.
Wednesday she was eating and drinking on her own. She was still not very steady on her feet, but she was now able to reach the ground and peck and eat.
In the afternoon I went out and sat her on my lap and offered her all manner of treats but the only thing she wanted was chicken crumble and water, and she ate a fair bit of that which made me very happy. After she finished eating I sat there with her for an hour, with her falling asleep and me supporting her head with my hand. I’m getting very attached to this chicken by now.
Things took a turn for the worse over the weekend but it is a bit of a long story, for another blog post. Right now on Sunday evening, Beegee is resting in a smaller box indoors and we are keeping a very close eye on her mostly by a video camera stream so we don’t have to bother her too often in between her regular feedings and waterings.
We do have a diagnosis – it is an ear infection, plus another infection internally. If it were just one of those, there would be a good potential outcome but the two together makes it less certain.
Not much sleep has been had in Snoskredland the last two nights, we’re both pretty exhausted. This chicken is a fighter and we will do everything we can to help her win. She is comfortable, she is receiving antibiotics and pain medication which is helping her and she has everything she needs close by plus two doting humans to attend to her every need.
Please keep a good thought for my lovely Beegee. :) I will update on Wednesday.
Any chicken owner who has built a chook pen of any kind will tell you all the things they would do to improve it next time. I have a list of things so, so, SO long. Some of them we have already done – you see the winged roof we added to protect the run a bit better from rain. There is just one thing I would never change..
That one thing I would never change is the type and colour of the paint we chose to paint it with – both the exterior and the interior.
I first heard about Taubmans Endure on the TV show Selling Houses Australia. I’m not usually one who follows recommendations but the folks on that show explained enough about how the paint works plus I read the tin when we bought it.
Seven years later, this chook pen has been out in the weather 24/7 and we have only had to replace one door just a couple of weeks ago – due to our bad design water runs straight off the roof onto the nesting box lid and due to a poor choice of materials water collected there and ended up, eventually, after a heck of a lot of abuse, causing a small area of rotted wood.
I chose my favourite shade of teal green for the exterior and a pale yellow for the interior. Here you see some recently painted batons which we used for the sarlon screens with my most recent manicure in the foreground. Is it coincidence that they almost match? Nope. Not even a little bit. I love that shade of green. ;)
We have just replaced the door with a new one – this time we are using marine ply, and we are protecting it better with some plastic tablecloth material, instead of the leftover linoleum flooring we used from inside the chook pen.
You really cannot tell the freshly painted door from the 7 year old painted parts. There are some areas where a good clean of the surface might be required however for the most part it looks as good now as it did when we first finished it.
And that is quite a feat considering the amount of dirt, rain, dust, chook poop, and that one time Rosie tore off a toenail and splattered blood all over an interior wall. Lucky for me I already knew what to do after that one time I cut her toenails – you dip the toe into cornflour and it stops the bleeding.
That roost in the photo above is where the chickens sleep at night – you would expect it to be a lot more dirty from 7 years of chicken sleeping and pooping but this Endure paint is a bit awesome.
Anyway, if you have something you want to paint once really well and then forget all about it, I can’t recommend Taubmans Endure highly enough. They rather sadly are not paying me anything to say this.
If they happen to stumble upon this post and wish to offer me another tin of paint I will take it, in the exact same colour of green – and that is another point. We are still able to use the leftover green paint from 7 years ago. I’m sure that is probably a big No No and not supposed to be done, but it works for us. :)
Writing about the older girls always makes me worry I am putting a jinx on them somehow. But they deserve their moment in the sun just like the new girls.
Lizzy was recently at the top of the pecking order – she seems to have been overthrown by Dark Comb now – and she is truly the mean girl of our chook yard. If she were human I would have nothing to do with her.
I understand why she is the way she is – anyone who has watched Wentworth or Orange Is The New Black knows you don’t get to be “top dog” by just chilling out and eating bon bons while your fellow chickens fan you with fern fronds. You have to work hard to be Top Chicken, and that means chasing the other girls away from the treats by pecking at them – though generally she never makes contact.
Lizzy can also be pretty nasty when she is broody, there are times when I have had to use a stick to push her out of the nesting box because she has pecked at me, but there are also times when I am able to pick her up and remove her with no trouble.
Kitty is Lizzy’s sister – they are both Pekins – and presently third in the pecking order. She also rules with an iron fist but slightly less meanly than Lizzy does. The two of them have been broody for a while now which does give the other girls a break from their beaks, and when they are not broody the newbies have been broody.
Both Kitty and Lizzy were brought up with Twiggy who had serious nutritional deficiencies – this we discovered when we sent Twiggy for necropsy as we were concerned about respiratory symptoms she’d had. Both these girls are not expected to live as long as a normal chook due to that – the damage was done before I knew them and it cannot be repaired now. However I suspect their diet since arriving here has helped them somewhat, and I do hope they will be with us for a while longer. Their time with us will involve as many treats as they can enjoy and they will be nutritionally excellent treats.
If I were allowed to have a favourite, Dark Comb would win that competition hands down. This chicken! Where do I even begin to explain all the awesomeness of this chicken? I do not believe there is a combination of words that will express it. She makes me laugh all the time, then she makes my eyes water thinking about how she is the last girl of our original flock still standing and how our time together is now limited. She is nearly 8 years old. That is like 100 in human years. There will come a day when she is no longer with us and just typing this is causing salt water to form in my eyes.
She loves blueberries more than, well, anything else on the planet. She also likes watermelon, spinach and strawberries, but if I arrive at the back door with the blueberry container she runs up to greet me and it is the cutest thing. I will have to try and get The Other Half to capture it on video.
She is extremely friendly to humans and loves to be near us. I think she believes we are her flock and if the rest of the chooks are out free ranging she will sometimes ignore them in order to be near us. If we are not in the yard she likes to sit or stand on the windowsill near Dust Bath Central where she can look in the house and see what we are up to.
It has surprised me greatly that she now is Top Chicken. I’m not sure whether it is because four of the newbies are broody right now, or whether it is because Lizzy and Kitty have recently returned from a long stretch of broodiness, or whether it is because 6 out of our 8 chickens are now English Game Hens, or if she just convinced them all to accept her as the leader. She is the only chicken to be found on the inside roost at night now. She does not rule in a mean girls way, more in a “I am your leader and therefore all the best treats are for me” kind of way.
She does spend more time sitting down chilling than she used to, especially on hot days. I try very hard not to completely freak out at this. As long as she fronts up anytime I appear with the blueberry tray, I will be happy.
Here is Dark Comb with her two English Game Hen duckwing sisters when they first arrived in Cluckingham Palace. Red Comb and Purple Comb sadly went to Rainbow Bridge in 2015/2016 and are now both buried in the garden near the lemon tree – . All of our girls at Rainbow Bridge are much missed but especially the last three as we had them the longest, that is Rosie, Red Comb and Purple Comb.
So every moment with Dark Comb is extra precious now, and she does get specially spoiled with blueberries. She knows me well enough when the blueberries are being fed, I will throw some off in another direction to send the other girls running, then drop a couple near my feet just for her.
On two recent nights, terrible indignities have been occuring to our chickens. Thursday night last week they were dusted with powder that prevents nasties like lice and mites.
One who does not own chickens might be curious about this process. First up you want to wait for the girls to put themselves to bed. That process begins around twilight and can take up to an hour or more to be completed. Especially when you have new girls who are still working out their place in the flock.
There are two times of day when you will notice who sits where in the scheme of things. Feeding time, where the “lower” girls will be pecked away from the “good food” by the higher girls. It is not usually actual pecks, just acting like they are about to peck is enough to send a lower girl running away. This time of day is easy to document with photos and video.
The other time of day is bedtime. Lesser girls will be told in no uncertain terms to get off the roost of the higher girls. The girls have three roosts to choose from. At present we have two roosts in use – one inside the coop where the higher girls sleep – one in the run where the lesser girls sleep.
Apologies – I will not use flash at night if chicken eyes are aimed at me. So this is a dark time photo!
Once the girls have found their spot, they settle in and sleep. They usually remain asleep until about an hour before sunrise, at which time they start to wake up. Some early birds will be up and about, looking for food, water and early morning bugs to eat.
That is, unless they receive a surprise visit from two crazy lunatics who shake dust onto their feathers. In that instance there is much squawking and outraged clucking, some reshuffling of half asleep hens, and all the girls placed onto the internal roost inside the coop just so we know who has been dusted and who has not. I do not have photos for you of the dusting – that is a time when you need your wits about you and you can’t be trying to take photos.
On Saturday night there was another surprise visit – this time to do some feather trimming. The new girls have been here with us for two weeks now and it was time to allow some free ranging. These girls can really fly and BeeGee, Queen and Diana are more flighty than our usual chicken so we wanted to make sure they would not take off over the fence into parts unknown.
We did not bother with wing trimming our older girls – they have been living here for a long time and also are less athletic than some of our newbies.
On Sunday, the chicken enclosure door was placed in the open position, and we collectively held our breath hoping all would go well. AKA the girls would find their way back to the coop at the end of the day. Because Queen and Diana have been having a little trouble with that even inside the enclosure, often ending up on top of the coop rather than in it.
The girls had a grand time wandering about and exploring new areas they had been gazing at longingly since arriving. The grass was a big hit and much enjoyed, but the garden beds were also a source of happiness. They also found the secret dust bathing area where the cats can watch them from inside the house.
While the girls wandered, The Other Half got to work on building them a new way into the coop. He took apart an old fence we had lying around, and created something pretty awesome out of it – they now have an impressive ramp and they are enjoying it a lot. There are times when standing at the top is The Place To Be.
Brussel Sprouts are either nowhere to be found or extremely Up Money. We’ve had to improvise. I decided to use baby spinach in our Meatball Mix the other night. The result was somewhat odd, as the spinach turned everything green, even after it was cooked.
It was still delicious!
The new girls have settled in well for the most part, however the flock layout has turned out totally different to expectations. At the very top of the flock are Dark Comb, Lizzy and Kitty. Dark Comb was clearly determined to be the Queen Bee. Just under them is Foo and Finn. BeeGee is next, followed by Diana, and Queen is at the very bottom of the pecking order.
When we took Rosie in to see the vet, who was not our normal vet, she was surprised to find how observant we are and how quickly we had picked up on Rosie not being her usual self. The vet said many flock owners do not notice anything is wrong until things are *really* wrong. This can be of great benefit to the chooks if something is wrong, but it can also be to our detriment.
Last Saturday around lunchtime, Foo separated herself away from the flock and was standing inside the run on one of the roosts. By 2:30pm we were starting to get quite worried as this was not like her and it was contrary to the usual chook routine, normally Foo and Finn are inseparable, or sometimes they split up a bit to hang out with some of the other chooks but they are usually within each others sight line.
We suspected she might be egg bound, and thus we tried the spa treatment. She hung out by the laying boxes for the next hour and a half, with Finn coming in to check on her pretty regularly. Finally to our great relief she laid the larger than usual egg around 4:30. More than likely this would have happened quite naturally without any intervention or worrying on our part at all. But who knows, maybe the spa treatment helped her out. ;)
Most days the girls get at least one treat. In the past week they have had a variety of awesome new things to try. They pecked some cauliflower into a new alien landscape.
They were unsure at first about yoghurt but they soon discovered it was brilliant. It has to be lactose free for chickens. You also want to make sure to have at least two separate feeding stations so if the girls lower on the pecking order get chased away from one container they can visit the other one. I can cut these egg cartons in half so they have 4 locations to choose from.
BeeGee has discovered blueberries – she has one in her beak there, it is a bit hard to spot – and they are her favourite treat so far. She used to run away from us whenever we went out to the enclosure – now she waits to see if we have her most favourite thing. My expectation is that she will eat them out of my hand within a couple of weeks.
Last weekend was a long weekend here. We’d been talking about our fire plan and also preparing our home. The dry leaves were all raked up and placed in the chicken pen where they will be an endless source of amusement until they compost down.
The house gutters were cleaned out. Gutter guard was installed on some of the house guttering, this job will be completed next weekend as we ran out of gutter guard.
The cats enjoyed plenty of outside in the yard time, where Grumpy was fascinated by the moving leaves in the small birdbath pond, and Happy spent some time getting to know the new chooks. We did not get out for any Jervis Bay walks over the weekend, however plenty of exercise was enjoyed right here at home. Everything is much tidier now.