The Meadow chicken flock has increased by two … meet Tweedle Dee and Tweedle … Deb! You thought I was going to say Dumb didn’t you! 😉 These two girls came from our local feed store. Interesting process this search for hens to add to our group. You can order ‘Ready to Lay Hens’. That means they are about a year old and … already laying eggs. When I called to ask about ordering chickens I was faced with a menu of sorts … white or brown? And then … red or white? The first turned out to refer to the eggs they lay. The second was their feather colour. I went this route because I did not want to bring home roosters that I would name, get attached to … and then … send off to a stew pot. These girls are Sex Link Reds. The males of their breed are yellow. Easy to tell them apart from hatching. I didn’t realize until I brought them home that they’d had their beaks clipped. Ouch!! And poor Dee has a long protruding lower beak. Not sure if someone missed the ‘cut’? She has managed so far. Poor girl!
Yesterday Dee laid her first egg. On the right is hers … and on the left is one of Sophie’s eggs. I believe chicken’s eggs get bigger as they get older. It will be good to have two more hens contributing to the egg collection.
We’re working on some downsizing here this week as well …
I noticed Bella was not feeling up to par. She was hanging back – trying not to have to make the trip up and down the hill between the two paddocks. She was laying down much more often than usual. And she hadn’t run or gamboled with the other two in a while. Something was up …
Our vet, Ken, is an amazing support. He was here quickly. After giving her a thorough check – and checking the other two as well – he came to the conclusion that she was suffering from congested lungs due to moldy hay. It has been a difficult few months for hay. Last year’s season included lots of rain and a new head farmer at the helm for our provider. I like that our vet continues to learn about donkeys. His daughter recently completed a placement (for her vet training) in Europe. She was impressed that their farms were feeding donkeys and horses straw. Around here straw is seen as a bedding – not feed. Seems the changing climate was making growing hay more problematic and straw was much less prone to mold in the harvesting process. I did some research on the Donkey Sanctuary UK site and found they strongly recommended feeding donkeys only straw – barley being the best.
Bella received a shot of steroids to lessen the inflammation in her lungs and another of antibiotics to fight off infection. She had another of the steroid shots today and will get more antibiotics on Tuesday. Within a day she was much improved. Phew!
The next step has been to revamp our feeding program. Ken suggested we forgo the hay altogether. Instead we’ll offer straw augmented by soaked timothy cubes. Darby was furious when I removed the last of the hay bags in both paddocks. I figured it was like coming home to an empty fridge and cupboards. She was not the least bit mollified by my offering of straw! I was relieved that our hay provider had some oat straw left. I’ve picked up ten bales to get us through the next few days. Then I found that the farmer who supplies our alfalfa hay (for the goats) does barley straw. One hundred bales will arrive tomorrow morning.
Prior to this we’ve been using the big round bales – which are stored in our neighbour’s field under a tarp … not on our property… This time I’m making room for the food right here. We’ll start with them under the tractor shed and then when the Tweedle sisters are ready to move in with the others I can begin a shuffle. I’ll put 50 bales down in the hay barn in the front paddock. I’ll move the Tack/Feed room out of its barn and into what is the Condo (currently housing the Tweedles). That will need a door. Then the remaining 50 bales can go back into what used to be the hay barn but became the Tack/Feed barn. Clear as mud? It will take a few weeks!
In order to provide some distraction as the food routines change Ede cut down some of the dead and dying ironwoods at the edge of the woods. The jennies love cleaning off the leaves and then will munch on the branches and trunks for a few weeks. I may start tracking down our local tree cutting company to see if I could pick up some of their cuttings before they shred them. Ken also mentioned that Bella needs to lose some weight… She is developing little fat pads on her rump … SO glad he didn’t mention mine! 😉 I am measuring out the timothy cubes to keep them at about 40% of her daily intake.
Changing our food routines sure has taken a whack at my confidence! I feel awful that the jennies were getting sick … and I felt there wasn’t another option for us. With my back to the wall I was able to find a supply of what we need. Hopefully the donkeys will settle down to eating the straw. My other job will be to make sure I keep them busy and active. I think I got a bit lazy in allowing them to have the big hay bags and free access to hay all day … Free access to STRAW all day seems to be what I should have tried first. Live and learn!