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It was the 13th day of Introducing new chickens to our flock when the new chickens went in the coop for the 1st time without assistance, we have made progress!! I felt like a proud parent!

I’ve been worried since we got the new chickens, the question was “why wont my chickens go in the coop at night?” I went home fully expecting to have to pick them up of the floor of the chicken enclosure and put them in the coop as normal, but I couldn’t find them. Lifting the lid of the coop I saw them nestled underneath the perch, snuggled together on the floor. The other two chickens were roosting as normal on their perch. I was so pleased!

As beginner chicken keeper, keeping chickens at home in the back garden, I’ve had to rely on books and the internet for advice, we are learning as we go along. When we got our 1st 2 chickens they learnt to go in the coop and roost very fast, so we never had any concerns about how to get our chickens in at night. We thought it would be the same this time. We were wrong!

The next question is “How long will it take our chickens to learn to perch?”

I have also started a strict routine to try and tame / train the new chickens. I let the chickens out of the coop in the morning but keep them in the enclosure, rather than letting them free range all day. This is also helping the garden recover! Every lunch time I go home at about 12.30, let the Appenzeller chickens out in to the garden, give them some treats, strokes and pick them up if I can!

I then go in the enclosure and do the same with the Silver Campine and the Vorwerk chickens. Silvie was still very timid however Goldy was always very tame. I wanted to see if I could make progress with Silvie. I go in, say “ladies” in a soft voice, and then crouch down and open my hand, showing them the corn. I constantly talk to them, and say ladies every time they go in for some treats. Silvie now has less of an issue eating out of my hand and she also lets me stroke her back very occasionally! I have tried to slip my hand underneath her the last few days to pick her up, but she flaps away instantly, She does come back straight away though. Goldie just let you pick her up, and carries on pecking the corn!

However, Over the last week or so, we have had more of an issue getting the chickens in the coop. Strange, as they now all know what to do! Take last night for instance, I went out to lock them away and Whitey, Goldie, and Silvie were all roosting the lip of the coop roof. Tufty without fail was perching. I don’t think she would ever give up the best perch! I suppose it is better them be on the roof than on the cold floor. I picked them all up and pushed them through the door.

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The snow started to fall quite hard last Friday, and none of the chickens had ever seen the snow before.  The Appenzellers were hiding in the coop (I have not seen them hide in there unless they were laying) the Silver Campine and the Vorwerk were hiding under the coop next to the food and the water.  They definitely had the better end of the deal!  As soon as we went outside to see them, they all came outside to say hi.  It was very funny watching them hopping across the snow!  As soon as they had been out for 5 minutes the snow didn’t bother them at all.  At least the garden is not getting too much of a hammering, the ground is so cold they can’t scratch about much.  I said that keeping chickens can be stressful at times but it is so much fun, the pros definitely outweigh the cons!

They were leaving the cutest chicken prints all over the garden!

Here are some of the pictures I took over the weekend of our chickens in the snow

Silver Appenzellers in the snow - Tufty and Whitey

Silver Appenzellers in the snow – Tufty and Whitey

All 4 chickens in the snow

All 4 chickens in the snow, Silver Campine – Silvie, Vorwerk – Goldie, and the 2 Appenzellers. All getting on!

DSC_7420

Goldie the Vorwek in the snow

DSC_7416 DSC_7408 DSC_7391

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.

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!

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

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.

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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