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One down – Minnie the Black Minorca chicken died overnight :(

Posted by on Sunday 14 November 2010 in chickens | 0 comments

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, we had our first* chicken death here on Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was the little Black Minorca, who we only brought home on Friday. Sigh.

When I went down to see them on Saturday, she was hiding under the little shelter I’d built and wasn’t interested in coming out – she was next to the drinker and I left her a little pile of food nearby. It was damp and she’d had a scary couple of days so I wasn’t going to rush her. When we got back from Southport though, she was still under there. All the others had put themselves to bed but she hadn’t.

She didn’t try to run away when I picked her up from under there – which in hindsight should have been a sign something wasn’t right. I took her to the coop and tried to place her on a perch – but she was holding her legs strangely and wouldn’t grasp it, so I placed her on the coop floor instead. I went back into the house and told John I was worried about her because she seemed really weak – and it turns out I was right to be worried: this morning, we found her dead very near where I left her.

We don’t know what caused it – she seemed healthy enough when we got her on Friday but she was small compared to the other three we got, and they’re slight little things compared to our four existing fluffers. Perhaps a scary day plus a chilly day outside left her weak.

But I’m not going to lie: it doesn’t look like our chickens are completely innocent in this. Last night, when I was putting Minnie to bed, I noticed a few of her tail feathers were bloody at the base. This morning, when we found her, she’d lost more feathers along her side. Perhaps in attempting to establish the new pecking order, she was the one to get the pecking – and because she was already a bit weak, she couldn’t take it.

But I’m not blaming our hens – I’m accept full responsibility myself. When I put her in the coop yesterday evening, I knew something wasn’t right but I thought she was just weak and cold – if I’d separated her out, put her in a box, in the greenhouse or garage, she might have been able to regain some strength and certainly wouldn’t have been subject to more pecking. And/or if we’d been here during the day yesterday, I might have noticed something was wrong with her earlier.

I am sad that she’s died – I was looking forward to her wacky lobes, her white eggs and her pure breed personality – but I’ve learnt some important lessons. Chicken rearing opinion is divided on whether they need quarantining/keeping separate when they first arrive – there is best practice and what is normal practice but works out just fine. I asked our chicken guy about it and he said it wasn’t necessary so I trusted him, but I think I would be tempted to keep them together-but-separated when introducing new, smaller birds into an established older, bigger flock. If we’d had another coop or similar available, I’d have been more willing and able to give a weak bird a time out break. And it’s a cliche, but I shouldn’t have put off until “tomorrow”, what I could have done “today” — I should have acted on my worry on last night, rather than waiting to see how she was in the morning. I will act on these things in the future so history doesn’t repeat itself.

After we found her and buried her this morning, I spent about two hours in the run – cleaning out the coop but mostly interacting with all the chickens. The existing ISA Browns (particularly Blue & the biggest bird Mrs Mauve) are giving the new ones the odd peck but the remaining three are sticking together more and staying out of the way of the others as much as possible. The blackest Black Rock still didn’t seem to have left the coop at all when I first went down there and she was tail-down unhappy, so I lifted her out into the run and showed her were the food and water are (she instantly used both), and by the end of my time in there, she was running around tail up, and along with the other Black Rock, was eating corn from my hand – something it took the ISAs a week to do.

At dusk this evening, everyone put themselves to bed, with the three new young ones in the nest boxes. I had a quick look in on them – they jumped out of the nest boxes and stood up in the coop so I couldn’t check too thoroughly but all were holding their tails in the air and no one had lost an obvious amount of feathers during the afternoon. I’ll obviously keep an especially close eye on them for the next few days too.

* I mean while we’ve had chickens ourselves, a couple which should have been ours died here prior to being ready for our own. They were being fostered by a friend and turned out to be boys – boys who were starting to hurt his girls. We ate them.

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