The Chickens Have a Funny Idea of What Christmas Presents Are

I am extremely pleased to say that Jane is back with the flock and doing well. Her sour crop episode was intense but we made it out the other side! The reintegration went pretty well, thanks to Mr Bingley. It is so much easier reintegrating hens when you have a good rooster. Mind you, it’s mainly just Lydia who needs supervision when it comes to reintegrations.

When Jane wandered into the sight of Mr Bingley, he was most pleased to see her and went straight over to her, making happy noises and helping her to find food. Lizzie came over to Jane and seemed pleased to see her too, proceeding to just hang out in their vicinity. Everything was going well until Lydia got jealous and suddenly flew at Jane. Jane fought back and Mr Bingley rushed in to separate them. He kept Jane off in the corner for a while but Lizzie was allowed to hang out with them because she was amiable. Frodo, still with some semblance of apron strings, rushed over to some of the chicks when the fight ensued. Sidelined, Lydia came over to me and stood, pouting at my feet. Lydia is such a Lydia. Some time later, while I was working in the vege garden where I could keep an eye on the feather children, Lydia picked another fight with Jane, which Mr Bingley quickly put a stop to by herding Jane away again. He spent the rest of the afternoon sharing his time between the girls, sometimes keeping Jane away while he hung out with Lydia or vice versa. He was kept very busy going back and forth between his needy females. Jane’s re-entry coincided with Frodo’s venture back into independence from the chicks. This was probably helpful, as there might as well be two of them trying to re-enter the main flock hierarchy. After this, things settled down nicely. Lydia was still Queen Lydia, Frodo appeared to be 2IC, although she was still spending a little time away from the others teaching things to the chicks, Lizzie was third in line and Jane was at the bottom. Well, the bottom of the main flock. Jane pecks at the chicks if they are stepping over her line.

Mr Bingley gets all floofy when Jane reappears from Chicken Hospital.
Mr Bingley protects Jane with his ‘Don’t mess with me’ stance.
Jane and Lizzie, left, re-unite nicely, but look at Lydia on the right: she is having an internal fit.

So, everything sounds hunky dory, right? Nope. No sooner had Jane left the Hospital Cage than it had to be cleaned and sanitised for another chicken. Lydia had bumblefoot. Some might say she had it coming and it might have been great for the others to have a Lydia holiday, but it was not great for Lydia or myself. After a few evenings of putting antiseptic on Lydia’s feet, the infection wasn’t improving so I had to take the next step: a foot procedure. And when I say a foot procedure I actually mean three, as I didn’t get all the hard, infected core out the first two times. When you read up about how to do bumblefoot procedure, it sounds fairly straightforward, although it is very time-consuming. After soaking the foot/feet and manipulating around the dark circular scab, there is supposed to be a core of hard pus that comes out. I’m talking about the non-surgical option here. But manipulating and tweezering wasn’t getting much of a core out and I was left wondering if I had gotten everything out. It turned out that there was a tiny, sharp fragment of bone or plastic or something in Lydia’s main bumblefoot hole, which was pressing against the flesh, causing it to bleed, which I thought meant I was digging too deep. Also, the biggest core was shooting off to one side of the hole, almost horizontal to the skin, so it was hard to define and get out. I want the simple version next time, please. Wait, no, I don’t want a next time. Who needs to be a vet when you can keep chickens?

Lydia gets her turn in Chicken Hospital with bumblefoot.

Lydia is back with the flock now, albeit still with bandages on her feet. I just have to check her feet sometimes, reapplying Vetericyn and re-dressing them when necessary. She is an avid scratcher, so it’s very hard to keep her feet clean. Suffice to say, there were NO fights when Lydia re-entered the flock after a couple of days in the adjacent temp pen and Lydia has been unusually sensible. It just goes to show how docile the others are compared to Lydia. She is such a nutter, but then, what would we do for entertainment without her? At the moment, Frodo seems to be holding top spot, at least with regards to food, although Mr Bingley still prefers Lizzie and Frodo and Lizzie seem to be fairly evenly-matched. Lydia is in the number three slot and Jane, as always, is at the bottom. I am most interested to find out how and when Lydia will claw her way back to the top. I’m sure she will, for she is Lydia. I hope the chickens have finished dispensing their ‘Christmas presents’ to me now. Frodo’s early Christmas present was scaly leg mite, which she always seems to get when she’s been broody a lot or busy raising chicks. No more presents chickens, unless you can give me a golden egg.

Bumblefoot-recovering Lydia, Mr Bingley and Lizzie. Happy families again.
Frodo is a scaly leg mite frequent flyer, so I have to keep a close eye on her legs.
Jane is doing well but hasn’t recommenced laying yet.

Let’s spend a moment in praise of Lizzie. I haven’t talked about Lizzie as much as the others because she hasn’t been greatly afflicted or caused any trouble. Lizzie is proving to be a great all-round hen. She was the first of the Bennet girls to start laying and is the best layer at the moment. She soon chose the third nesting box along and lays an egg in there almost every day. There was one day that someone had pooped in her nestbox so she moved the fake egg that was in there into the fourth nestbox and laid in there. Her eggs are as big as Frodo’s and she’s laid two big double-yolkers so far. She is good-natured and seems hardy, as well as being pretty. She was one of my two early favourites from the last hatch, her and Mr Bingley, so maybe I should trust my thoughts with this next lot!

Lizzie is my best all-rounder.

The 10 feather babies are doing very well and are totally independent now. They are 6 1/2 weeks old. I am having trouble deciding how many and which ones to keep. The trouble is, I really need a bigger coop. No, really! I do! My chickens are large. And Mr Bingley is enormous. I know the current coop was supposed to be big enough, but that was before I needed more hens and started raising so many little chickens… What I need to do is sell some of my little chickens to help raise money for a new coop. It’s gonna take a bit more than that though.

Siesta time: Penguin, Pearly, Leggyright, Darkie and Orange Spot.

It still looks like there are four boys and six girls at the moment, but Tiny is doing my head in. She really looks like a girl so far, but she is mean. When I get her out of the coop in the evening, whether I have her in the dark or the light, she pecks at me. As soon as she sees a hand moving near her she lunges at it. I’ve never had that in a girl before and it is most infuriating. She was a bit of a squirmer from day one, but this pecking is something else. All the other girls are very nice so far. I am going to set up a bachelor pen for the little boys soon, to fatten them up in case I can’t sell them, and if Tiny doesn’t settle down, she’s going to end up in there with them. The Leggy boys are pecky sometimes too, but I expect that from some boys. They are still very boisterous and Leggyleft has been thinking he’s one of the adults for a while, trying to sneak food while they’re eating and checking out all goings-on around the pen. Once he even stole a piece of treat right out of Frodo’s beak. He is funny to watch but is quite the little nutcase! The splash-coloured Frodo boys have nice natures so hopefully I can at least sell them.

Tiny: The mean machine.
Leggyleft (left) is still behind in his feathering and when he’s upright he looks like a right scrawny little nutcase tearing around the pen. Leggyright (right) is starting to look quite nice. Their feathers haven’t got much barring at the moment so I don’t know what colour they’ll end up.

My current keepsies list is something like this:

  1. Orange Spot: The one-and-only Legolas girl, daughter of the much-loved but deceased Legolas. She is a lovely pale blue and no longer has an orange spot. She has started getting curious, coming up to the gate sometimes to see what I’m doing.
  2. Penguin: The dark blue Frodo chick. I can’t help that I’m a sucker for dark blue chicks. This time, I think I might be lucky to have a female version! She has been very nice so far.
  3. Pearly: The female splash Frodo chick. It is nice having different colours of chickens around and she looks so lovely with her pearly white feathers. She has a nice nature too.

It’s at this point that I realise I’m only supposed to be keeping two females at the most. Well, considering the size of the coop. And that’s why I need to get a bigger coop. The coops is getting pretty crowded at the moment too. It’s just going to be pricey. Oh, the decisions. Why are all the chickens so pretty?

Orange Spot, the elegant and curious Legolas girl.
Penguin, the dark blue chick. Who can resist such pretty colouring?
Pearly, the only splash female, who looks like a fluffy little cloud.

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