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Archive for the ‘Silver Appenzeller Spitzhauben Chicken’ Category

The Chicken Vet in Tarporley called me this morning to say that the Chicken poo test results came back negative, so no worming needed.  That is good news, I just need to stay alert and make sure I notice any health issues or changes in the chickens behaviour as soon as it happens.  I think the risk of illness due to bringing new chickens in to the flock should have passed in 3 weeks.

I still need to weigh the Appenzellers to see what a healthy weight is.

Would I introduce chickens in the same way in the future?  No way, I would definitely build a new little chicken run and chicken coop and quarantine them for 4 weeks (see post about how we introduced our new chickens) It would save the worry!  Keeping chickens can be very stressful!

Things seem to have calmed down a lot now, the Appenzeller chickens seem to have almost accepted the new Chickens into the flock.  There is still a bit of pecking and chasing, but they only seem to be warning shorts rather than out and out bullying like it was.  They have started giving withering glares rather than the incessant pecking.  The Appenzellers definitely rule the roost!  I’m not sure which one is the boss out of those two.  They look so similar.  I might try and colour one of their tail feathers so I can tell them apart.

New perch in my chicken coop

The new chickens still don’t go in the coop to roost, they sit on the floor underneath the coop, huddling together, they never sit on any of the logs in the enclosure, just flat feet on the floor.  I’m sure it is because the Appenzellers just peck them off the perches and out of the coop.  To try and resolve the perch issue (there was only one perch in the coop) I have made another one.  I moved the existing perch closer to one side of the wall and added another perch on the other side of the wall.

Last night I went out side at about 5pm, picked up the new chickens, lifted the lid of the coop to find that Tufty was on the old perch and Whitey was on the new perch,  this is not what I expected to happen!  I thought they would both be on their original perch, leaving a whole perch for the hew chickens!  So I put Silvie the Silver Campine on the perch closest to the nesting box and Goldie the Vorwerk on the perch next to the door. I did it as quietly as possible.  Closed the lid and went back inside.

About an hour later I went back out to see what the perching situation was, for the 1st time ever Silvie was still on her perch!  Goldie had not stayed on and was asleep on the floor.  I went out again at 11pm, and unfortunately they were both on the floor of the coop.

Maybe tonight I will take one perch out, that way both the Appenzellers will sleep on one, when I got out to put the babies to sleep I can put the new perch back in.

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I got an egg out of the nesting box last week.  It was the egg laid the day before i went and got it, I forgot to take it out.  I’m pretty sure it was frozen.  However it could just have been very cold.

Should you eat a chicken egg that has been frozen?  Looking on-line today it seems you can eat frozen eggs.  If the egg freezes there WILL be a crack in the shell because the liquid inside it expands when they freeze   So if it did not crack was the egg definitely not frozen?!  Some eggs might have a hairline crack that is barely visible and other might be totally ruined, but if the membrane is still in tact you can use them!  You can put them in the freezer and use them for baking at a later date. When they are frozen you can peel the shell easily, put it in a dish to thaw.  Some people scramble the eggs that have cracked and feed them back to the chickens, and other people eat them as normal.

If you think your chicken eggs have frozen I would just use those eggs up 1st.  I ate the egg I thought had frozen, it looked an egg and tasted like an egg!

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I came home after work and went straight in to the garden to see if the new chickens had put them self to bed.  Unfortunately they have not got the hang of it, and again I found them underneath the coop.  I picked them up and put them on the floor of the coop.  On previous days I tried to put them on the coop, but I always find them on the floor shortly afterwards.  So to save any extra agro from the Appenzellers I put them on the bedding instead.

I checked the nesting box for eggs, but found nothing, which was strange as we have had at least one a day for a while now, and 2 yesterday.  As I turned round to leave the enclosure, my torch shone on an egg on the floor.  It was on a patch of earth that had no snow on it, so it mush have been fresh.  I bent down to look at it, it was a very sad looking egg.  Normal size but with a tissue paper thin shell, the egg  had splurged out of the side.  I gave it a poke, it was so soft!  From the very 1st egg we have had (started laying on Boxing day 2012) we have never had a very thin egg shell.

My Appenzellers paper thin egg

I’ve just started researching what might cause a hen to lay thin-shelled eggs.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Calcium deficiency is one of the most common problems
  • The first pullet egg may be soft-shelled until her system gets into its stride
  • A shock can also make a chicken lay a soft-shelled egg, things like introducing new chickens, or a change in the weather, extreme cold, snow, heavy down pour etc
  • If it is a reoccurring problem, Veterinary advice should be sought, the chicken may have a defective shell gland.  Apparently the only option is to cull the bird from the flock.
  • Lack of vitamin D3.  This is probably least likely.  Chickens will only become deficient in vitamin D if they are not exposed to greenery and sunlight.
  • Egg drop syndrome (EDS) is a viral infection.  Chickens infected don’t appear sick, but they will lay fewer eggs, many of which are thin-shelled (and often paler in shell color.)
  • Chickens that are coming into moult or are moulting will sometimes lay soft eggs

Some solutions for paper thin egg laying chickens:

  • Give your chickens spinach and cabbage when their egg quality drops
  • Supply your chickens with Oyster grit as a calcium supplement
  • Try and make sure the place your chickens lay is stress free
  • Eggshells can be baked in the oven fr 10 mins, cooled, crushed and mixed with the food.  So they are recycling their own calcium!

If you have any other ideas or suggestions please let me know

Good reference sites for common eggs shell problems:

http://www.alltech.com/sites/default/files/alltech-egg-shell-quality-poster.pdf 

http://www.blpbooks.co.uk/articles/egg_problems/egg_problems.php

http://poultry.allotment.org.uk/advice/eggs/problems

http://www.chickenvet.co.uk/health-and-common-diseases/egg-laying-issues/index.aspx#eggshell_quality

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Off poorly again today, its also been -1 all day and has now dropped to -2.  Its frrreeeeeezing!  I feel sorry for the chickens, here I am sat in a warm house with the heating on, and they are out there in the cold.

Even though it has been cold, it doesnt stop the chickens at all.  This is the 1st day that all 4 chickens were out on the lawn just doing their chicken thing.  There is still some periods of crazy chicken chasing and bullying but things are so much better now.

My other half just got back from dropping of the chicken poop to the vet for testing.  He explained our concerns about not being able to confine the 2 new chickens, how we  had put them all together, (which with hindsight was probably not the best thing to do!) and asked about the health risk to the existing chickens.  The only thing testing the poop will show is worms and bacterial issues we think.  It wont show any other illnesses like respiratory problems.  She said that I need to be vigilant, make sure I inspect the birds regularly, check their feet, body’s,  breast bone, check for ticks, lice and mites, check their faces, eyes, ears, wattles, make sure they are eating, drinking and that they are all interested and active.  She suggested we weigh all the birds, it will be useful to know what healthy weight.  If we weigh them every week and notice a change this could be another indicator of any problems.

When we went out side to put the new chickens in the coop, taking the kitchen scales out with us (didn’t weigh the Appenzellers as we wanted to keep them sleepy as they are still not happy about having the new ladies in the flock)  While they are sleepy hopefully the new chickens wont get pecked too much!  I put the newbies on the scales, they were very calm.  Silvie the Silver Campine is 668g and Goldie the Vorwerk is 596g.

By looking at them you would have sworn that Goldie was heavier!

I might see if we can add another perch in the coop, that might alleviate the perching problem.

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I let them all out about 730am.  Both the Vorwerk chicken – Goldie and the Silver Campine – Silvie were sat in the nesting box, I assume to get away from the Appenzeller chickens!  As always Goldie was the 1st out, and Silvie got booted out by the other chickens.  They went back in to lay and she flew out of the door!

I went to work as normal, but came home at 10.30 today with a tummy upset.  So I’m sat on the sofa in front of the laptop!  When I got home I couldn’t resist going to the garden to check everything was OK.  It seems that the old two leave the new two along much more now.  They were scratching around the back door as normal as I came out.  Unfortunately for the newbies, as I walked up the path towards the chicken enclosure, so did the Appenzeller Mafia!  As soon as they saw the new chickens they chased them, but it was like they didn’t put as much effort in to it this time.  It was almost like “must chase infiltrators, this is what I’m supposed to do, but I’m bored now…”

Goldie the Vorwerk on my shoulder 2nd day running!

Goldie the Vorwerk on my shoulder 2nd day running!

So hopefully day 4 of adding chickens to our chicken flock is the day things start to settle down!  Don’t get me wrong there was still hen pecking, chicken chasing and a blatant bit of bullying but they seem to give up much faster.  At one point Whitey was chasing Goldie in the enclosure, Goldie ran straight towards me, flew up my arm and on to my shoulder again.  To my surprise Whitey tried to follow her!!!  Poor Whitey, I stepped out of the way, she flew straight past me.  I felt really cruel.  Golide stayed up there for about 10 minutes (I’m so glad my phone was in my pocket!) I wonder if she will always jump on my shoulder?  How cool would that be!

I left them all to it, and went in the house to relax.  I had the odd look out of the window, but never really saw the new chickens in the garden.  So at about 2pm I went and locked the Appenzellers in the enclosure and let the other two out in the garden.  It didn’t take them long to do their chicken thing.  It’s nice to see them walking along in a couple, scratching and pecking.  Silvie is still timid but she is showing signs of getting braver, she will not run off quite so fast as you get close, she also follows Goldie a bit more now, which is a good sign.  She doesn’t run away from her at all, in fact Goldie jumped over a bush and landed slap bang in the middle of Silvies back and she didn’t bat and eyelid!

I think Goldie knows the sound of my voice already, I was trying to coax the Appenzellers away from the enclosure, so the new chickens could eat their corn in peace.  I walked down the path and shouted “ladies!”  the Appenzellers instantly turned around and ran down the path.  I shouted it again and there was Goldie, running out from the enclosure towards me.  As soon as the Appenzelers turned around and noticed her, she changed direction and went back the way she came!

I have just picked up the new babies and put the on the perch, Lets just hope they learn how to go to sleep in the coop sometime soon!

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We increased our flock by 2!  We now have 4 Chickens: 2 Silver Appenzeller Spitzhaubens, 1 Silver Campine and 1 Vorwerk.  Their names are all very descriptive, Tufty, Whitey, Silvie and Goldie!
I got the 2 new pullets from a chicken breeder in Whitchurch, Cheshire http://www.halghtonholdings.co.uk/
Our new chickens are between 10-15 weeks old, and they are so beautiful.

Goldie the Vorwerk chicken

Goldie the Vorwerk chicken

Silvie - Silver Campine chicken

Silvie – Silver Campine chicken

Saturday – Day One:
We brought the two new chickens in to the coop in a cat box and I left them in the box for a while so the other chickens could see them.  Then I let the new ones into the enclosure and left our existing chickens in the garden.  They definitely wanted to show who was boss as they strutted their stuff up and down the fence, puffing themselves up.  Just to see how things would go I let our chickens in with the two new ones for 10 mins.  They were so gentle, almost like they knew they were younger.  The new chickens didn’t really act like chickens until the Appenzellers came in, I threw corn down and then they seemed to perk up, all having a good scratch and a peck.  Prior to this, they were stood totally still like statues.  So we took this as a good sign that things would go ok.  Just to be on the safe side though, I had a fall back plan of borrowing a spare coop that our Aunty and Uncle have.  So separating the chickens, we left the Silver Campine and the Vorwerk in the enclosure and the Appenzellers in the garden.

The chicken enclosure is on the left just below the shed, the chicken coop is inside.
The chicken enclosure is on the left just below the shed, the chicken coop is inside.

We drove from Nantwich to Biddulph to get the coop, we arrived to discover that there was no way it would fit in the car!  I showed our Uncle the video of the tender chicken introduction and he said we were worried about nothing.  They would get on just fine.  He put his Appenzellers straight in with his  chicken flock, there was a bit of hen pecking and a pecking order to reaffirm but nothing to worry about, so we went home.

It was almost dusk when we got home, the Appenzellers were pacing up and down the garden, they wanted to perch, but the door of the enclosure was closed.  We let them in, there was a bit of hen chasing but it calmed down quite fast and our existing chickens went in to the coop to roost.  Tufty – the boss – kept coming in and out, like she was making sure the two new chickens knew that it was her house! In the end, the Silver Campien – Silvie and the Vorwerk – Goldie, snuggled down together under the coop on the floor and went to sleep.  I left it half an hour, then picked the babies up and put them on the perch next to the Appenzellers.  So far so good.  I hung around a bit to listen to movement but everything seemed fine.

Sunday – Day two:
I got up early, I was having nightmares of chicken fights!  I went straight outside and let them all out.  I had a cup of tea with me, but even that didn’t help against the cold.  Everything was frozen, the ground, the greenhouse, the chickens water, even their food was frozen.  Luckily I bought a new feeder from the chicken breeders and had filled that, I put it in the shed so it was frost free.  I put a bowl of water out and defrosted the water feeder in the kitchen sink.  It was bitterly cold, I even had foot warmers in my shoes.  It was 1 degree, but it felt so much colder!

Goldie was the 1st out after the Appenzellers.  She is brave, bold and full of character.  Within about 5 minutes of her getting up she was eating out of my hands and just coming straight over to me.  Ridiculously easy to pick up, at one point she dozed off in my hands!
Silvie however did not want to come out of the coop, she is so timid and scared of everything.  The only time she came out was when the Appenzellers went in to lay and chased her out!

Our Appenzeller Chickens had definitely led us into a false sense of security on day one.  They were not nice to the newcomers at all on day 2!  They chased the new chickens around the coop, pecked them, pulled their feathers out with their beaks, feathers were flying everywhere.  The new chickens took shelter behind the coop, next to the shed. The Appenzellers are almost too big to get in there, so they had a bit of peace.

The Appenzellers seemed to work as a team, real meanies but I suppose that’s what chickens do, after all they need to know who is at the top of the pecking order.  They were like a chicken Mafia   I have also read that you should try and not interfere with the pecking order antics, so I just made sure there was no damage done but that was it.

I never thought our Appenzellers could get any noisier, but during the commotion of getting to know their new flock members the volume lever went through the roof!  I have never heard them make so much noise as they did that morning.  It was deafening!  I dread to think what the neighbours must think.

When all 4 chickens had been in the coop for about an hour it seemed unfair to keep our Appenzellers in the enclosure, they started to pace up and down by the door, they like it in the garden more I think.  Also the new chickens were getting a fair bit of abuse.  So I let the Appenzellers out for a while and started to get the new chickens used to me.  I constantly walked around the enclosure, making noise and talking to them all the time so they get used to the movement and my voice.  Silvie didn’t stop being timid, but her frantic fear reaction definitely reduced throughout the day.  Goldie is just always under your feet, just not bothered by your presence at all!

Meal worms are definitely the key for taming your chickens.  (see my page on how to tame your chicken) Once they knew what they were, even Silvie ventured closer to me for the tasty treats.  Goldie wanted more and more, she even resorted to pecking at the mealworm box, she could see they were in their through the plastic!   As it was so cold I treated all the chickens to a small amount of hot porridge.  The Appenzellers loved it and demolished the food in a heartbeat.  Silvie and Goldie had a bit but were not that fussed by it at all.

Throughout the day I also tried them on grapes, they were also a hit!

Later on in the afternoon the Apenzellers went on another rampage against the new Chickens.  I was sat on the deckchair just observing, Goldie shot out of the enclosure, ran straight over to me, looked up at my knees almost like she was going to jump up, and then ran behind me, the next thing I knew, she had scrambled up my back on to my head!  I sat dead still.  Without making too many sudden movements I fished my phone out of my pocket to call the other half, but he didn’t answer.  I didn’t think he would believe me so I took a video!  How funny, she must have thought it was a good safe place to be!  She is such a character.

Silvie doesn’t seem to get so hammered by the Appenzellers, maybe because she just stays out of the way.  I think she is just after a quiet life.

We also noticed that the new chickens were drinking loads of water especially Silvie.  Much more than I have ever seen the other 2 drink.  Looking online it seems that could be a sign that they have worms, also they have runny poo.  So to be on the safe side I have called our local Chicken Vet – www.birchheathexoticvets.com and they suggest taking 3 days of poo sample of all the flock, put it in a sealed bag and they will test it for anything nasty.  If they don’t have worms then they don’t advise just treating them anyway.  So I’m poo picking tonight and for the next 2 days!  Its only costing £25 and its best getting any problems sorted sooner rather than later.
To find your local chicken vet go to – chickenvet.co.uk

Monday – Day 3
Got up super early, it was still totally dark outside.  Overnight it had started to snow, so there was a bit left on the floor, the garden looked really beautiful. Opened the coop at 7am, the Appenzellers came out 1st, then Goldie, Silvie was not coming out.  I waited about 30 mins, then checked through the nesting box to see if everything was ok, she was in there, stood up just looking frightened.  I gave Goldie a stroke, made sure they had food and water and then went to work.  I left the enclosure door open so they could all go in the garden if they chose too.  It also meant that the new chickens had somewhere to run away!

I went back home at lunch to find the Appenzellers in the garden and the door shut on the enclosure, the wind must have blown it closed.  The new chickens looked fine, but the Appenzellers blatantly wanted to get in to lay.  I opened the door and the chaos began.  The noise levels went though the roof again, they puffed up all their feathers. I’ve never seen them look so lovely!  They looked like show birds!  Tufty went in the coop to lay, and Whitey stayed in the enclosure like a guard dog.  She wandered off again and I got chance to tame my new chickens!  Again the meal worms went down a treat, even Silvie came straight over to take some of the floor – she got much closer this time and seemed much more comfortable.  Goldie was as bold as ever!  Hopefully Silvie will learn from her and get to be as brave.

I went back inside and watched from the upstairs window.  Whitey wandered back over to the enclosure, she started sunbathing in the doorway of the coop, then she stood up and started chasing the little chickens around and around the coop, they must have been so dizzy!  I’m so glad the little ones are so fast.  To alleviate the problems I shouted “ladies” out of the window and she came hurtling down the garden.  They are so easily distracted, which is a Godsend!

Just before I came back to work I went out and picked some fresh poo to take to the vets.

After work, about 5.45pm, I went in to the garden to find the chickens, again they were huddling together on the floor.  I picked them up and put them on the perch.  I’m sure they will get the hang of it soon!

 

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Over the last few months I have had a few questions about my chickens.  Will my chickens be warm enough?  Will they carry on laying eggs in the winter?  This is my first winter keeping chickens so I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions!

When we had the cold snap before Christmas the water was frozen solid in their drinker, and the food must have been really cold to eat too!  Looking at the weather forecast It seems that there is another cold snap on the way!  So based on me being concerned about my back garden chickens (Silver Appenzellers) being too cold over night, I though I best do some research!

Here are my findings and some suggestions on how to keep your Chickens warm in the cold winter months, I’m sure there are many other ways of keeping your hens warm so please get in touch with other suggestions!

  • Get more chickens!  A single 5 lb laying hen produces around 10 watts of heat, so having 10 chickens in the coop could be the equivalent to running a 100W light bulb!
  • Don’t fill the water feeder all the way up, if it freezes it may split, so only half fill it.  Bring the water feeder indoors at night so it is not frozen in the morning when you take it out to the chickens.  I also have a small water bowl in the coop just in case!
  • Make sure the coop is draught free or reduce heavy draughts coming through
  • Draughts are bad but ventilation is key, even if it is really cold don’t close all the vents, you still need to get rid of moisture build up.   Chickens create a lot of moisture, from poo and breathing.  If the air is moist the risk of frost bite increases.  The best place for vents is above head height.  You then have the option to close upwind vents when necessary and leave the downwind ones open. Vents above the chickens head will get rid of the warmest most moisture filled air, this is the most effective way of dehumidifying your chicken coop.  This should protect them from frostbite
  • In cold (below freezing) weather put Vaseline on the ear tips, wattles and combs to help keep them warm and safe from frostbiteCheck the waterproofing of the chicken coop, I recently felted the roof of the nesting box as it was damp on the inside, this has solved the problem and they are much happier
  • If your chickens roost outside sometimes, definitely get them in the coop at night time
  • Make sure you check your birds regularly, when you let the out in the morning stand and watch them for a little while, make sure you get used to normal chicken behaviour  then you will be able to spot unusual chicken behaviour   This is especially important in winter, keep a look out for any changes in body weight, odd colouring to their wattle and comb, check feet and legs for skin conditions which may need treating
  • Put extra bedding in the chicken coop to help them snuggle down in the warmth, I use loads of shredded paper, really thick!  Extra insulation in the coop can make a coop surprisingly warm, even in really cold climates
  • Some people say put some old carpet with plastic over on top of the housing making sure not to block ventilation.  I haven’t tried this
  • Install a heat lamp – Do chickens need a heat lamp?  I could do this as the chicken coop is next to the shed and that has power, but people have kept chickens for hundreds of years without it!  Also I suppose a heat lamp will increase the risk of fires
  • Feed your hens corn before they go to roost, A little extra corn before bed will give them something to digest during the night, producing internal warmth.  They will love the teat before bed!
  • Some people set the coop up so the chicken poop drops to the floor over spring, and is left to compost giving off heat in the winter, I think it is called the deep litter method, but I think this sounds unhygienic!
  • Make them a sun room, conservatory or greenhouse!  My ladies love to be in the green house as it is warmer, so I think I will extend the run and make the new section enclosed in plastic sheets so they can warm up and stay extra dry if they like!  I think I will slope the plastic so the rain and or snow will slide off.  I will make the plastic sheets removable so it does not get too hot in the summer

I tried not to worry too much about my chickens as they will acclimatise to colder weather and can create a lot of warmth just huddling together.

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