A dwindling flock
They’re also laying regularly. Nobody is under four years old, and Slasher, now about 10, is spectacularly ancient, although she doesn’t look it. However, even she is regularly producing, although the eggs she lays have bleached white rather than the blue/green shells that were once her hallmark.
Those shells are good and solid, and we now reckon to get upwards of 10 eggs a week, a vastly better figure than with a flock that was more than double the size of our current trio. I suspect it’s a combination of summer, lots of light, and a lack of stress.
This hasn’t meant a vet-free month though. Noodle, one of our three Indian Runner ducks, began to look like a skittle on legs, thanks to fluid retention that was diagnosed as, yet again, egg peritonitis. Noodle is pretty ancient and hasn’t laid anything much in years. Changing this was clearly a mistake. I’ve been trying to post tablets into her, which she resists, or packaging them up in bread pellets which she eats with enthusiasm. She’s better than before but has so far cost £80 at the vet.
When I started keeping hens in the late ’90s, things were cheaper. I’ve been going through the proofs of my very first book, Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance, currently out of print, but is coming back in revised form next year, and discovered that one of the birds it features needed medical intervention that cost me £12.50.
Things have changed a lot since then. Birds and their medicaments have become vastly dearer. If you wanted to buy new chickens they were readily available, and nobody was talking much about bird flu, or it having the potential of being an annual, unwelcome visitor, something being openly discussed now.
Still, the sun is shining, the birds we have seem delighted with life, and with a bit of detective work, we’ll find them some fresh new chums.