Time to say Goodbye to Luna

Luna, one of our original chickens has sadly died.  She was a great chicken, she laid well, was friendly and a good leader (not that I know what makes a good chicken leader!).

I was chatting to a friend on Wednesday evening and we were discussing how chickens are such unpredictable creatures.  You can care for them as best you can and they’ll suddenly get ill for some unknown reason and you’ll be caught in this loop of ‘call the vet or not call the vet’.  No one wants their chickens to suffer, they are like pets but equally finding a chicken vet in a town is not the easiest thing – whatever the vets say!

Around Christmas time, Luna suddenly went lame on one leg.  She just wouldn’t put her right leg down.  I did my usual web searches and turned up nothing relevant – the main suggestion seemed to be Bumblefoot but with that you tend to get a large brown/black sore of the foot.  Being a docile chicken she didn’t protest at us looking at the foot and cleaning it up but Luna had no marks on her feet at all.  She had some Scaley Leg which I’d been trying to treat with the usual over the counter sprays and dips but this didn’t seem to be so bad that it would cause her to be lame.  Her comb was still lovely and red and straight and she hopped about quite happily, slowly but progressively.  She ate well and would still fight for the treats.

After a week or so,  I decided I needed to find out if she was suffering as I really didn’t want that to be the case.  I called a few vets and asked if they treated chickens,  two said they did so I picked one and booked an appointment.  My daughter and I duly got the cat box out of the loft and put a bit of straw in it.  Luna hopped on in and off we went to the vets.  It was a strange experience, sitting there in the vets with a chicken in a cat box.  The dogs tended to ignore her and their owners gave me slightly strange looks.

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When we were called into the consultation room we were met by a vet who looked like he’d just left school.  Maybe it’s my age and I haven’t seen any policemen recently to compare him to but he was very young.  Very lovely too, although he did admit that he hadn’t seen chickens in there before.   So we took Luna out of the cat box and what did she do – put both feet down on the counter!  I felt such a fraud!  We gently tried to get her to move and instead of her usual hop, wing out wobble she just walked a little.  Grrr – she wasn’t helping!

Eventually the vet popped out to consult a colleague – he tried to persuade her to come in but it seems she wasn’t keen.  So he came back and we had a good look at the foot, prodding and poking it to see if Luna would move, flinch, squeak – anything.  Of course, she did nothing.  So we were advised the best route maybe to give her some pain killers and see if that would help (kerching to the vets).  Being soft, I went along with this and spend the next few weeks measuring tiny quantities of dog pain killer onto mealworms and keeping the other two away from the medicine.  Did it make a difference – well, yes, my purse was lighter but as for Luna.  She still hobbled about on one foot.

As the chickens roamed the garden, Luna would try to follow but didn’t really get into the dust bathing any more.  She was quite adept at hanging out close to the shed and looking appealing so I gave her extra corn and mealworms.

I spoke to some farmers we know and they were just amazed that we’d kept a chicken who doesn’t lay at all!  They were obviously much more matter of fact about it all and other than just putting her down, they had no better suggestions.  My husband did discuss with them how to do the evil deed and got some theory training but we just couldn’t do it whilst she seemed so content.

This morning though when I let down the ladder, Luna tumbled down and landed on the grass.  She just couldn’t get up.  It seems that her ‘good’ leg had failed her and she just kept trying without success.  I gathered her up, brought her inside and just held her in the warmth of the kitchen for a while.  She wouldn’t even eat mealworms, she just lay on my lap with her head hung low and her eyes shutting.  We had a family conference and decided that she wouldn’t last long so we should end her suffering.  My daughter and I said our goodbyes and my husband calmly and bravely did the deed that I just couldn’t.  So Luna is no more.  She had a good life with us for 3 years.  She saw out two other younger chickens and helped us deal with scraps, slugs and caterpillars.  Thanks Luna.

Nice Biscuit

Saturday Morning Pyjama Gardening in the Rain.

What is it about us gardeners – we just have to pick, pluck and plant at all hours.

This Saturday I was up early as usual and went down to let the chickens down.  It was pouring with rain and being a practical girl I put on a fleece, let the girls out and came in for my morning cuppa.

I then had to go to the garage to get some more juice and saw a few snails on my last PSB plant.  I looked a little closer and there were slugs and snails all over the veg patch.  I had used some Nemaslug a few weeks ago and really hoped that this would help the plants get ahead.  Unfortunately looking at the Broad Beans I realised that whilst they had grown they were pretty miserable specimens.  They were about  a foot high, some with a good range of flowers but not many leaves whilst others were just eaten away.  It was time to take action.  Out came my daughter’s bucket and in the space of about 5 minutes I must have had  a good 3″ deep  of slugs and snails.  It’s ridiculous, I just don’t know how I’m going to get any veggies this year if I have to fight this hard to keep anything alive.  I’ve never know a large vigorous plant like PSB to get so decimated – if they’re going for that then any small seedlings just don’t stand a chance.  Interestingly the bulk of the creatures are large snails this year.  I’m used to the tiny slugs and snails getting past my barriers and causing decimation but this is a first for me.  It must have been the mild, wet winter and spring.  I’ve said it before but it’s obvious we just needed a cold spurt to clear out some of the creatures and give us gardeners a chance!

So I’m off to order a few more packets of Nemaslug and I’m going to leave you with a few pictures of my collection (but I’ll leave you to work out what I did with them!)

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And finally, we’re friends (most of the time)

After almost three weeks my girls are finally friends.  Last weekend, I decided that I would remove the barrier between the run and the coop and let the girls mix.

My husband was away for most of the week and with me at work and my daughter at school I was slightly nervous about this but felt that we’d made huge strides and maybe we had to crack the nut by forcing them together.  When I let Luna down in the morning, the two new girls decided that they were still nervous and hung out in the top of the coop.  Well, that’s what I thought.  After half an hour or so I went to have a look and opened up the side of the coop.  Somehow, one of them had moved the cardboard base layer over the escape hole.  I shifted it aside and a short while later then both came down.  All looked good.  They could get close to Luna as long as they didn’t go for any food.  I left them for the day and thankfully my daughter reported all was good when she got home.  She then let them out into the extra run and they all had a good scratch and explore of the plants.

Fleur Duck and Molly have got into the habit of not coming down early.  They leave Luna to play downstairs and they hang out for another half hour or so – maybe they’re typical teenagers who just don’t want to get out of bed!

One day no one was down straight away so I had a look in the nest box and sure enough there was Luna pretending to lay an egg (it never appeared).  I looked in the other end to see why the youngsters hadn’t come down.  Funnily enough they were both next to the nest box looking in.  Maybe they were wondering what Luna was up to?

So, another week down and the girls hang out together occasionally and Luna is generally happy with them around.  It was more effort than previous introductions but definitely less painful.  Fleur Duck is still nervous and quite skittish but I think that’s her character.ImageImageImage

Chicken Training – end of week one

And so my first weekend dawned and my plan was to seal the friendship amongst the chickens so we could leave them altogether happily.

As ever with chickens, it didn’t work quite as I hoped but I did see some glimmers of hope.  Every morning I’d do the chicken shuffle…let Luna down and try to get the youngsters away from the coop and into the run.  Luna was showing signs of wanting to get back into the coop to the nesting box so I’d get her back in as quick as I could and she did scamper back up.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t laid an egg yet – in fact, our last egg was on 3rd May.  I’m hoping that as things settle down with the girls, she’ll get back to laying.

It’s become pretty obvious that Molly is going to be number 2 and super-cheeky and sociable.  She’s already tried to swallow my daughter’s finger (not sure if she thought it was a fat, wiggly worm or just thought treats were permanently attached to it!).  Fleur-duck is still very twitchy and chatty and usually keeps well out of the way of Luna.  She’s cautious with humans too but if you keep still she’ll quite happily eat from your hand.

Both girls have now eaten from the same hand as Luna so they’re getting less cautious.  Luna’s attacks are much less meaningful – she’ll chase the girls away but it’s without the aggression seen earlier in the week.  More a case of ‘get out of my way’ than ‘I’m coming to get ya, stranger!’

On Sunday I did some gardening and let the girls run free.  The youngsters tended to stay around the coop but Luna was her usual nosey self, coming to wherever I was digging and looking for extra worm treats.  Molly ventured by, at one point, and gobbled up a worm – strangely enough she suddenly seemed much more interested in gardening after that.IMG_4934

Feeling bad…

It may only be 7.30 but I’ve already been out gardening (in my pyjamas!)

I’m not sure if it’s the husband or chicken influence or just because the weather is so lovely this week and I was stuck inside yesterday. Anyway as usual I was up at 6 to let the girls out.

I had a cup of tea with my husband and then as he left to do the weekly shop, I popped into the greenhouse to check growth and slugs. Well, you know how it is…one thing leads to another and so I checked the seedlings, watered the newly grow-bagged tomatoes, made sure I still had some Cosmos left (major snail fight that one!) and then decided to plant out more potatoes.

Off I went to the shed to get some more bags (I don’t have enough land to have potatoes in the ground). The bags were tucked away from last year and as usual I had to move aside various bits of chicken paraphernalia. I reached and tugged the bags and saw that one of them seemed to have some laundry fluff and straw in it. Unfortunately that wasn’t all it was. A little mouse scampered away rapidly and I realised I’d inadvertently broken up her nest. I couldn’t see any evidence of babies but I do feel bad!

I thought we had mice under the shed (the cats often sniff a round the bottom of the shed) and I knew that a new peck block I’d left in there for a week had mysteriously been chewed on but I didn’t realise the shed was actually a mouse residence! Amazing what you learn at 6:45am…guess I’d better go get showered and into proper gardening clothes!

Chicken Training – Days 3 to 4

And so we settled into a new routine with me getting up early to let Luna out, wait for the new girls to come down and then separate them for the day.

My husband would give treats during the day and check the barrier stayed intact.  My daughter would get back from school and sit in the run for a period offering the new girls treats from her hand.  I’d then return an hour or so later and do the same.  Molly would take treats from our hands immediately,   Fleur took a few days but if you kept your hand very still and didn’t move a muscle she would have a go.  They’d mill about the run, ignoring us but quite happy with us sitting there.  Izzy, our tortoiseshell cat would also come to say hello.  She’s always liked coming to talk to the chickens and will hover about the chickens looking on protectively (well, that’s what I like to think as she’s never gone for one of them).  I didn’t have my camera with me one night when she peered through the top of the run to say hello – very cute.

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At dusk, I’d let Luna go to bed, then lock the girls under the coop so they could go up in their own time.  Luna didn’t seem to come and scare them away again but the new girls wouldn’t head up the ladder.  So I’d wait until they’d huddle together by the end of the coop then I’d pick them up and put them into the nest box end.  Molly seemed to head towards the roost bar but Fleur would stay in the nest box (blocking Luna in the morning and of course, filling it with chicken poop).

The forecast for Thursday was horrible with heavy rain for a large part of the day.  So with some husbandly ingenuity we rigged up some wooden panels to hang off the top of the run so the new girls would get some shelter during the day.  Thursday dawned and it started off with drizzle but by 7.30am it was very heavy.  The girls were settled but did get bedraggled and wet (a bit like me after walking to work!).  The plan was almost perfect but the food did get a bit wet so we’d have to improve it for the next rainy day.