Coop Scoop

All 6 chickens roaming the full run together

All 6 chickens roaming the full run together


There’s always something happening down at the chicken run. I am, depending on various factors, amused, saddened, worried, fascinated, pleased and a whole gamut of other emotions by my 6 chickens. You can thank me now for sparing you the daily details, I realise the level of interest in my chooks is inversely proportional to your distance to their chicken run.

But, it’s time for a little update because:

IMG_5889-001a) For the first time ever, last week my 5 hens gave me 5 eggs in one day – twice! Remember, 2 of them are almost 2 1/2 years old and 3 of them are over 3 so they aren’t spring chickens any more and shouldn’t be laying every day – especially not in winter.

b) My 2 flocks are basically, almost totally, for all practical purposes, integrated.

c) Molly looks like she’s going to make it – she’s been at death’s door a couple of times in the past month and I didn’t want to write about it.

So, this post summarises what’s going on down in the coops – yes, I still have 2, my flocks may roam the run together (but separately) but they sleep in the coops they are used to. a) is obvious. For the others, I’ll try to be brief.

Lenny and Henny, together at last. Rusty remains a worry though!

Lenny and Henny, together at last. Rusty remains a worry though!

b) Flock integration. Back in May I posted about how Lenny (my rooster) beat up Henny (his sister/ex-lover) when I tried to reintegrate them after a period of separation. When Henny got her feathers back I thought we could try putting the 2 small flocks back together but Frank was overseas and I wasn’t keen to try merging them on my own. Since then, Henny broke into Lenny’s run and the 2 of them seemed like old friends again (whew). Then Molly got sick and I didn’t want to heap more suffering on the poor thing. But Frank’s trip has been extended, and Molly is in a good place so I decided to give it a go on my own.

Yesterday I opened the wire between the 2 halves of the run and watched. There was very little pecking, an increased amount of raping (Lenny was clearly happy to have a harem of 5 – I know he dreams of 10), no serious abuse (I didn’t have to use my rake once) and it all looked good. I think 3 1/2 months of staring at each other through the wire means they’ve already done most of the sizing up. Penny and Henny tend to charge and peck the little girls (smaller but older then Penny & Henny) whenever they are eating or laying or just existing nearby. But it’s a quick peck, the girls flee, Lenny steps in the middle, returns the peck, and peace is restored. The problem is the laying. The little girls settle into their box and Penny comes over to chase them out. So, for a while anyway, I’ll keep an eye on it and separate the birds for a couple hours a day if the littlies show signs of wanting to lay (no signs today – the stress of the merge might be stopping their production boon).

c) Poor, sickly Molly. On the 4th of July I went down to the run to find Molly wobbly. She couldn’t stand and had a hard time getting her head in the food and water containers because she tipped over. It was like she’d had a stroke. I started making her a mash of hot water, layer pellets, honey and  yogurt and plopping it in the run. Obviously all the chickens got the same treats (1 plop per chicken to give them all a chance – especially Molly who was chased constantly from the goodies by Holly). Everyone loved it and gobbled it all up. I gave it to them first thing in the morning and just before bed. It’s winter here and a warm crop before bed helps keep the chickens warm overnight and a warm crop in the morning helps warm them up just like a bowl of porridge does for humans. Plus all that good yogurt and honey should strengthen my poor sick girl.

Molly contorted couldn't lie down and leaned against her feeder

Molly contorted couldn’t lie down and leaned against her feeder

Molly recovered partially – at least she stopped falling down – but then started twisting up. At first she leaned a little when she stood but, over time, her body curved to the left and her head to the right so she was a tight “s” shape. She napped a lot through all of this (or at least closed her eyes) but it got very sad when she stopped lying down entirely – I assume a growth of some sort made it too painful or perhaps stopped her from being able to breathe if she laid down. Then she stopped eating and drinking for a couple of days. I couldn’t interest her in treats and if I tried holding something out to her she’d stagger to the opposite end of the run as if she just wanted a bit of peace and quiet.

Molly napping - she at least can lie down again

Molly napping – at least she can lie down again

This has gone on for over a month now; back and forth, worse then better, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Based on Lil mentioning that she gave a chicken with tumours Vitamin C, I started mixing vitamin C powder in the chicken’s water and mash – which couldn’t help Molly if she didn’t eat or drink. Then she had a bit of a rebound and started eating. Now she naps a lot and can’t seem to hold her eyes open for very long but she’s eating and drinking and scratching in the run some every day (Molly thanks you Lil). She’s not 100% but hopefully is going to make it. At one point I seriously sharpened the hatchet. I am still distressed by the incident but will say that Molly wasn’t harmed, just my nerves.

I think Molly has Marek’s disease which is apparently very wide spread, untreatable and lives in an area even without animal hosts for several months. Plus it’s spread by birds and rats so eradicating it is nigh on impossible. The upshot is that Molly will probably have ongoing bouts of bad days for her entire life which probably will be short. And the other chickens have all been exposed so will cope or not depending on their general health. Such is life.

Which is where things stand right now in my 2 coops/1 run. I have 5 healthy birds and one sickish girl. She was sickly when we adopted her and, at the time, I thought she wouldn’t live long. But she seems to be a stayer, I hope she continues to be so!




About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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13 Responses to Coop Scoop

  1. vuchickens says:

    Thanks for the scoop! From one obsessed chicken keeper to another, it’s always fun to hear others’ stories. I hope Molly can enjoy the rest of her days… however many she has, and that nobody else catches the disease. And congrats on the eggs! My kids would be jealous. Gloria’s one-ish a day just isn’t cutting it for my egg loving kids. We all can’t wait ’til the new girls start laying.

  2. And you know I love each and every one of your chicken stories.

  3. Poor Molly! But Lenny a peacemaker of sorts? Since when is he a reformed character?

    • I am not sure Lenny’s reformed. He always tried to stop any hen from bullying the others. His sisters are physically bigger than the new hens and so they do the bullying and are kept in line. I really do think his problem when I last tried to integrate them was that Henny didn’t have any feathers on her back and she looked sickly and he was doing what nature dictated, protecting his flock from disease. It’s a fairly common herd/flock thing that the weak and sick get left behind. My guess is he was “encouraging” Henny to find a new flock and leave his alone. Now that she’s pretty and healthy looking, he wants her to join his flock (but not beat up his girls).

      What’s “nice” (it’s all relative in the chook run) is that when Molly was sick, Lenny didn’t try to exile her. I was afraid he’d attack her like he had Henny. She was clearly and visibly sick (still is, but not nearly as extreme). I can only think that if you’re in his flock, he’ll protect you till death do you part but if you’re not in his flock, he has high standards to let you in. Henny was out of his flock (even though it had only been a couple of weeks) so she had to pass his test and she simply didn’t.

      So, not reformed, just the guardian of his girls.

  4. Hopefully, by now the others are all resistant to whatever Molly has. All that good food has made them strong. Amelia

    • My understanding is that the real problem with Marek’s disease is the opportunistic diseases that swoop in when the chicken is weak so if I keep them all fat and happy, maybe they’ll all stay healthy.

  5. shirehouse says:

    We lost one of our girls to a stroke last month, sounds like the same symptoms as Molly. We did have to cull her as she was just not getting any better. Glad Molly is somewhat mended!

  6. Pingback: Penthouse Dweller | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

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