Our ex-battery hens… Their first winter!

Ok, I’ve been dying to put some snow hen photos on. The last post I told you about Terri and her foot infection. She made a full recovery just in time for the really cold stuff.
I was a little worried I wouldn’t get her back out in time for the cold weather, but thankfully we managed it.
Sadly though, this was Terri’s first and last winter, as we lost her on New Years day. I wrote about it later on in the blog, happy stuff first!!

Here are all 4 of the girls after I’d just let them out. We had a bit of snow overnight, but this was just the beginning.
You can see them all sticking together, checking it out. 
Their feathers really started to come through as the weather got colder. 
I did clear the paths off for them, and they tended to stay on the clear bits rather than walking in the snow. I don’t blame them!

Here is Mel (again!) You can see how well she looks now! She is still missing some feathers, mostly from her undercarriage, but she almost looks like a ‘normal’ hen. 
She’s stood next to the bush sheltering from the snow, she doesn’t really like getting wet! 
You can see her face and comb are now totally red as they should be.

 Here is Mel again, being brave, as she is, and walking through the snow. 
It’s still only a dusting at the moment, but this is the first time they’ve seen snow. 
Makes me very proud to watch them taking it all in their stride. 
They had been out for a little while at this point, so they’ve split up as normal to go about their daily business!

The snow starts to come down a little faster now and the girls retreat to the safety of the pen. 
I left the gates open so they could walk about if they wanted to, but they stayed pretty close to the run and houses. 
You can see all four of them here together again. I guess as the weather changed they became unsure again and re-grouped!

 Here is Chicken 11, who I think was the least impressed with the snow…. 
This is the perch my husband made for them, just to give them something to sit on and to add some variety to their pen. 
Chicken 11 is more than happy to perch here out of the snow. 
She still has the least feathers at this point, but didn’t show any signs of being cold. They kept very active throughout the cold weather. 

Here is Chicken 11 the next morning, we had a fair bit of snow overnight (this is pretty deep snow for us here). 
Chicken 11 shows of some high stepping action as she walks down the garden. Pretty brave for her to go off on her own, I thought. 
The temperature got down to -10 here, but the girls were fine. They snuggle up and if you open the door at night, the heat coming from them is amazing!

Here is Chicken 11 coming back again, obviously not impressed…. 
I did clear the paths off for them again, which did cheer up up a little. 
She was a tough bird to please!
I loved the snow as all of their feet were sparkling clean all of the time! 
You can see how red little 11’s face and comb are now. Her comb never made it into an upright position, but it’s a lot higher than when she first came to us.

Here are the girls walking back into the run…. there’s not much to do out in the snow, so they come back inside for some breakfast.
During the cold weather, I was feeding them warm mash. 
This is simply made by buying layers mash (works with pellets but needs more mixing!) and adding hot water to make a sort of ‘Ready Brek’ for them. They really have no trouble keeping warm in the winter, but they did seem to enjoy the extra effort that I put into preparing their meals! 

I love this photo of Crispy! She has blossomed and is has all of her feathers. Look how lovely and dark she is! 
She is confident, happy and very sociable now and lays really lovely, smooth dark brown eggs. 
I can tell who’s eggs are who now, as they are all slightly different. 
Crispy wasn’t too fussed about the snow and just got on with it. 

Here is Chicken 11 (left), Terri (right) and Crispy (front) having a meeting in the middle of the garden.
The snow was a couple of inches deep by now and you can almost see them thinking, “where’s the grass?” 

But the happiness was short lived, as you’ll read below.
Sorry if anyone finds this upsetting.

The above picture is Terri. I thought she should get a large picture as this was the last photo we took of her before she had to be put to sleep. 

It was New Years day, I’d put them to bed the night before as normal, everything was fine. When I let them out in the morning, I noticed Terri wasn’t herself, she was quiet, hunched and staggering…. I watched her for a while to see if she changed but she got worse.
I could hear her making a gurgling sound as she breathed and I knew that it was serious. I sat down with her on my knee and could feel her crop was huge and filled with fluid. I knew what it was straight away, sour crop (I’ll write about it after the story!).
I tried to empty some of the fluid out by holding her upside down and massaging the liquid out of her mouth. I stopped every few moments to allow her to breathe, as just like us, they can’t breathe and vomit at the same time!
The smell was awful, it just smelt like bile and it was green. Something hadn’t cleared out of her crop overnight as it should, and had now fermented. The smell was fermented food….

I called the vet as the gurgling sound was very worrying, I feared that she had inhaled some of the liquid. We got to the vets (£80 just to see us, being New Years day!) and my fears were confirmed.
We agreed the best thing would be to put her to sleep, sour crop is quite easily fixed if caught early, but she’d inhaled the liquid and was suffering.

I was absolutely devastated….. she was the first hen we’d lost and after coming so far, gutted. I think I cried all day….. still makes me cry now just thinking about it.

We bought her body home and buried her in the flower bed where she loved to dig and dust bathe. Lucas dug a really deep hole for her, as we didn’t really want the other girls digging her up again.

So now we just had 3 hens. It was really weird only seeing 3 birds out in the garden, Terri had really come out of herself since being in the house whilst she recovered from her foot infection. Her feathers had really come through and she was a picture of health.

Sour Crop – As mentioned above, sour crop is the result of the hens crop (food pouch in her chest area, kind of a halfway house between mouth and stomach) not emptying as it should overnight. The food then ferments, resulting in a fungal infection.

It can be identified by a large crop, which feels a bit like a water balloon. When the birds beak is opened, you’ll be able to smell a putrid stench (a bit like vomit).

If you feel able, then hold the hen upside down (not by her feet) and massage the crop to encourage the liquid to come out of the mouth.

You need to make sure you give the hen a chance to breathe or you’ll suffocate her. If you don’t feel confident enough to do this, then seek help, either from a vet or an experienced friend.

This may need to be repeated a few times before the crop stops refilling.

Feeding natural yoghurt can help to return the crop back to normal as can adding apple cider vinegar to the hens drinking water.

I have also read that feeding natural yoghurt with crushed garlic cloves is also good, as the garlic is a natural anti-fugal and all round super herb!

If the bird doesn’t improve after a couple of days or gets worse, then take her to the vet as she may need something a bit stronger!

Hens can make a full recovery from this ailment. But there are some things you can do to try and prevent it.

❦ Keeping grit available at all times – chickens can’t chew… they use grit in their gizzard to grind up their food up. If they can’t grind it up it won’t go through.

❦ Avoid keeping hens on long grass – this is harder to break down as long grass is tougher and more fibrous than the short grass.

❦ Using ACV (apple cider vinegar) – this is a health tonic for hens, it helps improve condition, aids digestion. Add this to their water once a month, but more or less won’t hurt!

❦ I also feed garlic granules to my hens. I believe garlic is super, good for the blood, keeps bugs and worms at bay and generally boosts health.

I hope that you have found this useful and I hope no-one has to go through what we went through with Terri.
She has left a hole that will never be filled.

Thanks for reading.

About crispy80

I love to be active! I love to spend time with my son and husband. I'm self-employed and work whilst my son is at school and weekends when my husband is home. I enjoy drawing but don't have much time for it at the moment. I also enjoy cooking, baking and gardening. I'm on Twitter @pinwingirl if you want to find out more.
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