Martin Gur­don

It’s all go­ing on with Martin’s flock

Your Chickens - - Contents -

News from his flock

It’s been a busy month in­volv­ing sick­ness, death, a pos­si­ble com­ing out of re­tire­ment and a trial sep­a­ra­tion. Let’s get the sad stuff out of the way first. We now have two hy­brids rather than three, as Bea, phys­i­cally the healthiest look­ing of the trio of birds we were given in the spring, sud­denly started look­ing peaky and sank fast.

Along with every­one else, she’d stopped lay­ing eggs but hadn’t ac­tu­ally got round to moult­ing and grow­ing new feath­ers, which tends to be the pre­cur­sor to fresh egg pro­duc­tion. One day she spent most of her time un­der a bush, didn’t bother to turn up for sup­per and of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance when I scooped her up and put her in a hos­pi­tal cat box. Nor­mally a greedy an­i­mal, she turned up her beak at sweet­corn and raisins, so I knew things were se­ri­ous. The next morn­ing I took the now wretched look­ing bird to the vet who agreed and we had her dis­patched.

A di­ag­no­sis wasn’t of­fered, but my sus­pi­cion was egg peri­toni­tis, which would have meant an egg-lay­ing at­tempt, and the egg break­ing in­side her sys­tem with poi­sonous re­sults. It’s a pat­tern I’ve seen be­fore, and hy­brids, who are prodi­gious lay­ers, seem quite prone to this. Four­teen days on, no­body else is ail­ing, which makes me think this is the most likely ex­pla­na­tion. On the egg lay­ing front af­ter a bar­ren few weeks we’re start­ing to see one or two a day, with Col­lider the Marans a reg­u­lar per­former. I was also very sur­prised to see Slasher the Arau­cana clamped to the nest a few days ago. Never a great layer, she hasn’t pro­duced an egg for a very long time and is now head­ing for her ninth year. A few hours later I found a neat egg that was the right shape, but pale off white rather than the blue/ green that is a sig­na­ture of Arau­cana eggs. Ei­ther the bird was fak­ing it, and this was some­one else’s egg, or the coloura­tion goes from Arau­cana eggs when the layer gets very old.

Fi­nally we come to Hestletina the Pol­ish crested ban­tam, who had some egg bind­ing prob­lems ear­lier in the year but now seems to be in good health. How­ever, she’d taken to hid­ing all day in the chicken run she shares with Wonky, a cock­erel with a de­mand­ing li­bido and a crude se­duc­tion tech­nique.

To give her a break I erected a large metal dog crate un­der our pear tree, added food and wa­ter and in­serted the bird into this bi­jou playpen. She seemed to en­joy it, mak­ing happy noises, scratch­ing and eat­ing, some­thing that was re­peated the fol­low­ing day, but on day three she suc­cess­fully evaded cap­ture and has since spent a lot more time out­doors with Wonky, even help­ing him preen. Frankly, it’s more than the filthy brute de­serves.

Wonky is a cock­erel with a de­mand­ing li­bido and a crude se­duc­tion tech­nique

ABOVE: Wonky, left, and He­seltina

Martin Gur­don

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