Tending the flock

Since our little Charlotte departed, we have been very busy tending to our small flock. Cricket (our other little chick who came to us with Charlotte) was also sick, although we only noticed after inspecting her closely — she seemed to be perfectly well, and growing bold amongst the other chickens.

We took Cricket up to the vet and came home again with a bag full of medicines: antibiotic pills, antibiotic liquid, and some worming liquid. The vet showed me how to do administer the pills and squirt the liquid, but I don’t mind telling you this was pretty nerve-wracking to do! His advice was to keep her warm and separate from the flock, so I needed to make some housing quick smart.

Enter, the upstairs bathroom:

Cricket installed in the bathroom, with a perch and mirror for company.
Cricket installed in the bathroom, with a perch and mirror for company.

That picture was the “modesty” version taken early in the piece. After a week of living in there, you can imagine how bad it looked! The key thing to remember here, is that chickens can fly and they like to roost up high (think windowsills). They also have no control over where they go, so there’s no chance of using Kitty litter!

Luckily this bathroom is not our only shower space in the house, we also have an ensuite shower. It was an interesting week!

Stephen and I managed to give the pills and liquids by opening her beak and popping the stuff down. On the second dose we almost choked the poor thing with a pill going down the wrong way, and after that every dose for me was like an execution. I hope I don’t have to do that again anytime soon!

Our efforts were rewarded, though. Cricket started out weighting 950g and a week later had put on 100g — 10 percent of her body weight! Very nice. She was also pretty keen to get out of the bathroom, as you can imagine.

Chickens don’t like to be solitary, so we made sure she had a mirror in there. That way she had someone else to hang out with, even if they were an irritating copy-cat friend. The perch was for entertainment, and she did spend a lot of time on it. But by the end of the week she was sleeping on the windowsill and flying around, ready to be out and about.

Cricket back outside in the orchard
“Hi mum, watchchya doin’?”

She is much friendlier now! She comes up to me and runs around my feet just like Raven does (the boss chook). Hand-rearing is wonderful for bonding! 🙂

Meanwhile, in the coop, our other chickens seemed well, although a few days into Cricket’s confinement I was alarmed to see a lot of this going on:

Feathers covering coop floor
Feather explosion?

Turns out that Harriet was off the lay, and losing feathers amazingly fast!

Roosting chicken with bald patches and no tail
See the big bald patch? Where is her tail gone?

Parts of her were starting to resemble a supermarket chicken, but googling revealed that this is just their annual moult, albeit a dramatic one! She very soon started to show new feathers on her bald patches, so I ceased my worrying and started taking amusing pictures of her feathers growing back in. Check out her tail! She lost it completely, and then it came back pretty fast:

She is starting to look a little more plush, now. But they sure look ratty during the moult! Matilda (our white leghorn) is now doing the same thing, and she looks like she’s been dragged backwards through a bush. Worse – some of her fluffy wing feathers are gone, leaving just the really long flight shafts. She looks like a zombie chicken! (She is very hard to photograph, being very skittish, so no funny pics for you!)

Both the moulting chickens have chosen to sleep in their nest box whilst they have hardly any feathers, and I don’t blame them! This means I’m cleaning out the nest boxes a lot more than usual, as they are doing their night soil in there. *sigh*

Cleaning up all that muck has given me a poop-exhaustion. Lucky I don’t have to wipe any one else’s bottom, right?

Wrong! I also had to clean up our visiting bunny rabbit, who was having sloppy poos everywhere. Turns out he was so picky with his diet that he was only eating the ‘treat’ food, and not eating any hay or greens at all! I’m not very familiar with rabbits (well, I wasn’t then) so I took him up the vet to have him checked, and realised I needed to change his diet.

I came back home this time with a much cleaner and slightly trimmed rabbit, plus a powdered probiotic (basically, rabbit yoghurt) to help him rebalance his insides. Ayee, what a couple of weeks it has been!

Rabbit playing with scrunched paper on the lawn
Here’s Charlie playing with some scrunched paper, on the lawn

Here he is, enjoying some outside grass time, with our children’s play pen and some make-shift cardboard toys. He seems to be much better now, with normal looking poop. Yay!

Phew, no more wiping bottoms, right?

Wait, I still have a toddler in day nappies. >.<


3 thoughts on “Tending the flock

  1. I was going to have some chickens after we finished building our new home but now I don’t think I am up to it!! How stressful it must have been

    1. This was a stressful week, but this is the first time I have had problems in five years and it was because the two chicks came sick from the breeder. I will be more careful choosing healthy birds now to avoid this! Also, they were little birds the full grown girls are more robust. 🙂

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