Martin Gur­don

A dwin­dling flock

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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.

Martin Gur­don

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