Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fatty Liver Disease

This is so important that I feel compelled to blog about this; fatty liver disease in backyard chickens.

Here in California, we have a wonderful service in that we can send a deceased chicken from a backyard flock to UC Davis for a free necropsy.  It give the students a wonderful opportunity to put practice what they learn.  It gives the bird owner insight into what caused their bird to parish.  And gives the state valuable data as chickens are considered sentinel birds.

I'm a member of a local chat group and have seen a number of these necropsy reports over the past few years and was amazed at how many came back showing the chicken had fatty liver disease.  And I will be honest, I scoffed at how these chicken owners could be so negligent in letting their hens get fat.  I was horrified when my first UC Davis report came back detailing that my 1 year old hen had fatty liver disease.

I am totally guilty of tossing out handfuls of sunflower seeds and other fatty seeds to my hens.  I rationalized that they would eat these things in the wild.  Which, while true, isn't exactly correct.  In the wild or even in a farm/pasture situation, hens have to work for their food.  They walk and run, scratch and dig and in the process, burn calories as they hunt for seeds and treats.

Backyard chickens by nature, already live a sedentary lifestyle.  Even if they are let out of their run, chances are, they are limited to a small backyard and just don't get the same exercise that wild chickens do or chickens that have access to a large pasture environment.

About a month ago, I noticed Coco just not being herself and when I picked her up, felt a large bulge under her.  I thought that isn't right.  My fear was that it was fat and the vet confirmed my fear.  I felt awful but he was quick to say that it wasn't 100% my fault.  And went on to explain that backyard chickens are prone to this, especially the larger breeds such as my Jersey Giant.

He sent me home with a bottle of SAMe, an herbal supplement that is known to help jump start the liver.  I was skeptical.  But the pills easily tuck inside a split raisin and she had no trouble taking it each morning.

Two weeks later, the difference in her is simply AMAZING!!!  She's much more active, and back to her chatty old self.  The difference is so amazing that I went off to the vet this morning to pick up a bottle for my other two older hens.  They were raised in the same manner so I am suspicious that they too could have fatty liver disease.  And if an herbal supplement can help improve their liver function and keep them alive longer, then I'm all for it.

It is highly suggested that you toss eggs from hens who are on any medication as they really don't know what passes through to the egg.  Although, the vet did confide in me that if you were accidentally to eat an egg, it probably wouldn't hurt you.  But we'll toss eggs for the next month or so.  The hens will each be on SAMe for two weeks and then we'll give them two weeks to flush it from their systems.

And no more fatty sunflower seeds for my girls.  Not by the fist full anyway.  If I do dole out seed treats, it's no more than once a week.  I like to stand on the patio and toss them one at a time out into the garden and let them run and find it.  I do still put some veggie scraps out for them such as spinach a few times a week.  Hens do love and need their greens.  Especially, in the winter months when many ares of the country are under snow and hens don't have access to weeds and other greens.

Watch your hens.  You know their personality and behaviors best.  If you notice a change, don't hesitate to take action.  Be aware of over treating and don't do it.  Offering a few seeds to each hen every few days probably won't hurt them.  But it is possible to over treat and none of us want to kill our beloved pets with love.

I hope you are all well and your hens are happy this holiday season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Yes, Ta Ta For Now.  I've had the worst two weeks of my life with chickens and I'm going to go silent for a while while I ponder this.

For those who don't follow me regularly, some history.  Last December I picked up 4 baby BO chicks.  We lost one after a week.  But the other three grew up healthy and strong.  Or so I thought.  At 6 months, Sugar developed a respiratory issue that was so bad, she was simply gasping for air.  We put down but did not necropsy her.

Several days later, Spice showed the same symptoms but not as severe.  And she never seemed in pain so we just let her be.  She continued to eat, drink and lay eggs.  But she was not right.  And she became a bully.  I could tell she didn't feel well and was acting out from her condition.  I tried trimming her beak, I put a pinless peeper on her and even tried giving her Prozac to mellow her out.  Nothing worked.

A came home from work a few weeks back to a blood bath.  Spice had gone after Honey Bear and it was awful.  I still can't believe that one bird could lose that much blood and still be alive.  It took me three hours to clean up Honey Bear and blow her dry, wipe the blood off the other hens, scrub all the blood off their waterers, feeders and their hen houses.  The fence and ramps up into their houses are still covered and serve as a constant reminder of what happened that day.

I removed Spice to a dog crate for the evening and took her to the vet the following day to be euthanized.  This time, I sent her to UC Davis for a necropsy.  The results simply stunned me.  She was suffering from moderate to severe fatty liver disease and pneumoconiosis.  She was clearly bullying the other hens for the sunflower seeds and eating way too many of them.  And inhaled DE which damaged her lungs.  Why just Sugar and Spice and not the other birds?  I'll never know.  Was it a one time incident or did this happen over a long period of time.  Again, I just don't know.  I've reached out to some people for answer but they either don't know.  Or want a fee to tell me. 

What I'm left with is my sweet Honey Bear who cries.  She is terrified to go to bed and stands outside and cries at night.  It breaks my heart.  She knew she was in for a good pecking by Spice when she went to bed and she can't get over that.  It's been more than two weeks.

I've tried to put her to bed in with the babies but she just comes right back outside.  Not sure if she knows I'm still out there or if she wants nothing to do with them.  I suspect it's a little of both.

Before I got chickens and even once I had them, I read books and plowed through the web for information.  I follow other blogs and grasped at any information I could find.  I desperately wanted to be the best chicken mama I could possibly be.  And yet, I've experienced a number of issues that no one every said were even remote possibilities.

I've learned a ton over the past two years and would do it very different if I could go back and do it all over again.  And then I have moments like I'm having this week where I wish I had never got chickens to begin with.  I'm just not sure the overwhelming heart ache is worth the bits of joy.

So with that, I'm signing off for a while, maybe for good.  My heart is just not in the right place to continue.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A little garden time

I think Coco might be starting to molt.  She's lost the feathers just under her wattles.  I don't see her losing any other feathers.  Maybe she's rubbed them off on something.

Coco LOVES a good dust bath.  She kicks up LOTS of dirt so she usually bathes alone while the others look on.  They wait for her to finish and then they all pile into the HUGE hole she makes and dust bath together in there.

Ginger loves her greens.  Their favorite is spinach.  These are the stems rough chopped to make it easier for them to eat. 
Their latest new toy.  A ladder my friend Sandy found on a corner with a free sign on it.  I sanded all of the rungs and they love to perch on it.

Sugar and Pumpkin.   The babies are still a pretty tight bunch and hang together in the garden.

Poppy has golden brown eyes.  Pumpkin has black eyes.  That's how I can tell these two blue's apart from one another.  This is Poppy.

I never cease to be amazed at how Sugar can roll around in the dirt and still be as white as snow.

This is Pumpkin.  The babies not only stay close to one another but also stick close to Auntie Ginger.  She looks like she's close to Coco too but she's not.

Big Coco with mash all over her beak.  Coco is part goat and eats like there is no tomorrow and frequently gets treats stuck all over her face.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is it just me...

Or does Ginger look like she was the model for those hen purses they sell all over the internet?

She's blond and the purse is blond.  She has a red comb and ear lobs and so does the purse.

She has the thousand yard stare with her golden eyes and so does the purse.

Okay, it's really tough to see, but she's got some back on the tip of her tail feathers and that's called "pepper" on BO's.  The purse also has a black tail.  Hmmm, I'm not so sure that was a coincidence.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Girls Gone Wild

My babies are babies no more.  They are wild teenagers.

They had been refusing to sleep in their coop.  Instead, they have decided that roosting in the Camellia tree in their run is more desirable.  They are still inside their predator safe run.  But they are right up at the top of the tree which is super close to the welded wire that covers their run.  A raccoon could probably reach through and nab one.

And not only do I not one to lose one to a raccoon.  I REALLY don't want a raccoon discovering that I have a run full of fat, tasty hens and to stalk it at night.

I have Solar Nite Eyes all around my run.  For those not familiar with these, they are small black boxes that charge up in the sun all day long and at night, there are two red lights that blink on the front of the box.  Predators think they are being watched by another predator when they see these blinking red lights and it can deter them.  And I believe that they work.

When I first got the hens, I would find evidence of raccoon spending time around my run.  I was also finding evidence of rats.  Which nobody wants.  But after putting up several Solar Nite Eyes around my run, not only have I not seen evidence of raccoons, but no more rats either.  So I'm totally sold on these little black boxes.

You can order them on if your local feed stores don't sell them.

Last night I trimmed the little one's wings to see if I could ground them, so to speak.  They are so small and nimble, that I'm not sure it will have any effect.  But I figure it can't hurt.

I tucked them back into their house after trimming their wings.  As our nights get colder, maybe they'll decide that sleeping all snuggled together inside their cozy little house isn't so bad after all.  And once it start to rain, sleeping in that tree is going to be, well, cold and wet and not at all desirable.

And tonight, they are all tucked into their little house all on their own.  Thank goodness.  I hated going out there after dark and trying to snag them out of the tree.  And they hated it too.  I was afraid the neighbors were going to think I was butchering chickens, the way they screamed.

So I'm very pleased with our progress.  It's a baby step.  But it's huge for me.

Sorry for not having photos.  I hate to take flash photos of them when they are sleeping.  I know I hate it.  And I've been tearing up my garden as we get ready to do some landscaping.  Which I SUPER excited about.  It will rock their world for a bit while they tear out our old, ugly cement patio.  But we're putting in some things that I think will make them very happy so stay tuned...

Friday, October 5, 2012

I don't get chickens

I really don't.  Just when I think I do, they do something that stops me dead in my tracks and makes scratch my head and go "what's up with that?".  Today, I witnessed one of those moments that I just don't get.  And if anyone out there does, please explain it to me.  Because none of the books cover things like this.

I typically only let the girls out for about an hour each afternoon, late in the day.  But today I had lots to do in the garden.  So I let them out mid-morning and they had a blast. They inspected every hole I dug and stepping stone I overturned.  They watched me prune back plants and gave me their bok bok of approval.  They had to have been just stuffed with happiness because I was digging up worms and bugs right and left which they eagerly gobbled up.

And then Honey Bear started to make that deep, guttural baawwk that told me she had an egg in her and would soon disappear off to her favorite nest to lay her egg.

One thing I find myself constantly doing with my girls, is counting heads.  I always make sure that every hen is accounted for when I go out in the morning and when I lock them back in their run in the afternoon.  I count heads if they are in the garden and I've had to go into the house for any length of time.  I only have the 7 so it's pretty quick and easy to do.

So after Honey disappeared, I found I was short TWO hens.  Poppy was missing.  I called for her but she's not one to answer like Coco.  I quickly found her two sisters but she wasn't with them.  My biggest concern with the Andalusians is that they are flyers and could EASILY get over my 8' fence.  Not that they have any desire to do so.  And I want to keep it that way.

So after quickly scanning the yard to no avail, I check the run and finally the Spice Cabinet and this is what I find:

At first glance, it doesn't appear that odd.  But that's Honey Bear in the middle nest and my 10 week old Blue Andalusian sitting in Coco's nest next to Honey Bear.

Weren't sure you saw that correctly?

Let me zoom in so you are sure you are seeing this right.  I love the innocence in Poppy's eyes.  Like this is perfectly normal and I do it all the time.

I walked out of the run and came back and thought she was going to come out of the house.

But no, not only did she go back in, but this time is perched on the edge of Honey Bear's nest with her head right up next to her mama's.

Was tough to capture this tender moment but you can clearly see Honey Bear just beyond Poppy.

I snuck around and opened the big door to capture this one.
I thought Honey had kicked her babies to the curb about 10 days ago.  She no longer feeds them and doesn't really hang out with them.  She no longer sleeps in the same house with them.  She's gone back to sleep in the big house, the Spice Cabinet, where Coco, Ginger and Spice sleep.

But clearly, some teenagers still need their mama and Poppy has a special bond with Honey Bear.  She stayed in there quite a while with her.  But not for the duration.  Her sisters began to call for her and she came out to go play with them.

Anyone else ever have a hen raise babies and a teenager who just wouldn't leave her side?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I got a white egg

But my Andalusians are only 10 weeks old.  There's no way it came from one of them.

We're having a little heat wave these past few days.  Which is common here in the fall.  We call it our Indian Summer.  But this one came on very suddenly and it's been super hot, close to 100 degrees.  And none of my girls like the heat.

I've been putting ice in their water and giving them cool fruit to eat.  I was worried about getting soft shelled eggs from giving them too many cool treats.  (It's happened before.)  But instead, I came home to this today.  A nearly white egg.  

Coco's normal brown spotted egg is on the right.  Today's bizarre white egg is on the left.

The egg was in Coco's nest and none of the other hens typically lays in Coco's nest.  She's my alpha hen and rules the roost.  She's also a Jersey Giant and being such a big girl, she is the only one that fits in that nest.  At least when she's in it.

It has some small spots on it and Coco is known to decorate her egg with spots.  So I'm pretty sure it's hers.  And I've read that the color is the very last layer that hens put on eggs before they lay them.  So I'm thinking that it was so hot that she just decided to lay the egg and skip the color today.  Odd to think that they can do that.  But it's amazing what their bodies will do as a survival instinct.

Tomorrow should be cooler.  Hopefully, we'll all get back to normal.  If I get more of these, I'll be sure to post photos.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Peace and harmony lasted 8 hours

I was so thrilled last night when everyone tucked themselves into their houses safely for the night and I had finally achieve peace and harmony.  I knew it wouldn't last forever but I was hoping for a few weeks.  I got 8 hours.

I go out this morning and everyone is up and about.  Always a good sign.  Honey Bear is at the feeder and Pumpkin (one of her ex-babies) comes up to eat next to her and she chased her off.  But it doesn't stop there.  She pecked her, pulls out a feather and eats it.  OMG!!!

I'm standing there in shock, disbelief and absolute horror at 6:45am in the morning.  What just happened?!?  My sweet Honey Bear never even pecked at my hand when she was broody.  She's never pecked at ANYTHING!  And she just pecked at one of her babies!

But I'm starting to understand this as normal pecking order.  I mean, they call it a pecking order for a reason.  But it is SOOOOO very difficult for me to watch.

I love my babies and I kill them with kindness each and every day.  I hold and hug the ones who want that affection.  I hand feed them treats.  I scoop up poop twice daily.  I buy carrots with the top on because I know they like to eat those.  You see where I'm going.

But no matter how you raise your hens, there has to be an alpha and then an order of dominance from her down to the one who is at the bottom of that order.  That's just how it is in the chicken world and I'm never going to change that.  They come hard wired that way.

So Coco is my alpha, and then Ginger.  They are the two oldest in the flock.  Spice commands the third spot and Honey Bear is behind her.  Those two being the second oldest members of the flock.  And obviously the three Andalusians are at the bottom of the pecking order.

But what's really interesting, is that those three always seemed to be on equal footing with one another.  I never saw any pecking or chest bumping between them.  Until this morning.  And now the three of them are chasing each other around the run chest bumping right and left.  Clearly, they understand that they are no longer mama's babies but members of the flock and had better figure out their order.

I still have three feeders and three waterers scattered around their run.  I don't want anyone to be bullied away from food or water.  And I will keep a close eye on everyone to make sure that they are not pecking to the point of drawing blood or pulling out so many feathers as to create a bald patch.  I'm fortunate to have a rather sizable run for my small flock with a small tree and LOTS of places to hide, perch, get up out of the fray, sunbath, take dust bathes, etc.  So I'm pretty sure this just normal pecking order clarification and that Honey Bear hasn't turned into a bully.

But I was so brokenhearted to witness that this morning. Especially, on the heals of my feel good post last night.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Honey Bear relinquishes her title as Mama

The baby chicks are babies no more.  They are two months old and fully feathered.  They are just as cute as can be too.  And Honey Bear is done raising them.

I knew this day would come.  I've read it can happen as early as 2 weeks and as late as 6 months, with 2 months being the most common point where mama is done being a mama.  The babies are able to fend for themselves.  They are fully feathered and able to stay warm at night.  And they know where to find food and water and who to stay away from.

I knew this was coming about 10 days ago when I offered Honey Bear meal worms and she gobbled them up all for herself.  She would normally call her babies over and share.  But nope.  She was no longer sharing.  She had lost quite a bit of weight and was even loosing feathers.  Probably more of a stress induced molt than a regular molt as she's not even a full year old yet.

And this past week she was squatting for me, a sure sign that she's ready to come back into lay.  And today there was a perfect, tiny egg in one of the nests.  I know she was a bit confused about where to lay.  I put two plastic Easter Eggs in all of the nests.  Even the outdoor nest that Spice uses.  I know this can encourage them to lay there as they see the eggs as a sign that it's a safe place to lay.

I just went out to check up on everyone after dark and Honey put herself to bed in the big hen house with the big girls.  The babies are all snuggled up together in their house.  So for a very brief moment in time, we have peace and harmony and I'm loving it.  Now I just have to wait patiently for my babies to lay me beautiful white eggs.

Took this one last night of my three amigos hanging out together in the run.  Sugar on the left.  Pumpkin in the middle is bigger than her sister and has completely black eyes.  Poppy on the right is a smaller than Pumpkin and had golden brown eyes.
Close up of Pumpkin from last week when they were still sleeping w/ Mama Honey Bear.

Honey Bear was positively the best mama ever.  It was my first time letting a hen raise babies and I can't find one thing I'd criticize her for.  I think she's raised some really well adjusted and happy babies.

And just another shot of mama with her babies.  Just so very cute.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Space Shuttle

Okay, this post has NOTHING to do with chickens.  Well, almost nothing.

Today, the Space Shuttle Endeavor took its final flight over California before heading to Southern California where it will be on display at a museum.  And it was quite exciting to see.  I work in a building that is less than a mile from NASA Ames and Moffett Field so I was reasonably sure I'd get a good look as it flew over.

And sure enough, as it approached San Francisco, work in Silicon Valley came to a screaming halt as everyone headed outside to find a good viewing spot.  There were people lining the windows of my building and people on the roof.  People lined up on top of the parking garage and on top of the local hills and just about anywhere and everywhere to try and get a good view.

My husband even texted me that he got a pretty good view just standing in our driveway.

Probably my best shot as it cruised slowly over Moffett Field.
Some people got out of their office for a better view.
I wish this one wasn't so washed out but I was shooting into the sun and it wasn't the clearest of  days here.
And as I watched the shuttle disappear south riding atop its mothership, it got me thinking...

Maybe my little Sugar knows something about how to fly efficiently.  Just hop on top of a bigger bird and get a free lift to your next destination.

Today was definitely a "feel good" kind of day.  Didn't matter if you were Democratic or Republican, anti-this or pro-that.  Everyone was walking around with a smile on their face and it made me feel good.  We need more days like today.  And I'm guessing that today was just like any other day for my girls.  Wake up, eat breakfast and get a drink.  Get busy scratching and laying eggs.  Stop work for a dust bath and preen session with your sisters.  And line up at the gate for the afternoon release into the big garden.  And tomorrow, they will do it all over once again.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bedtime Photos

Spice in the foreground.  Coco behind her.  And Ginger way in the back hiding in a nest.  She is a bully at bed time and pecks at Spice and I just spritzed her with water so she's pouting.

Mama Honey Bear and her babies, Sugar on the right, Poppy and Pumpkin on the left.  They still snuggle under her wings at night even though they are fully feathered and would really be just fine on their own.

Beautiful Poppy.  Love, love, love her blue color.  Just can't wait for them to grow up and start laying eggs.

And one more cute bedtime photo.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Positive Progress

Okay, I'm a softie.  I admit it.  I felt awful putting the peeper on Spice and took it off three days later.  I've seen her go after Honey a few times.  But I'm not seeing any feather pulling.  And while Honey usually moves out of her way, then she'll stand right next to Spice and preen or today they took a nice, long dirt bath together.

Spice is on the left and Honey is on the right.

There was one stare down.  And I heard an outburst and I think Spice pecked Honey.  But I didn't see it so I'm not sure.    And Honey didn't move so I'm not sure.
And big Coco.  She was chatting me up begging for treats.
And this is a terrible photos but way back on the left behind the lemon bush is Auntie Ginger and next to her are the babies taking a dirt bath.  I was afraid if I moved in any closer, I'd interrupt them and make them get up.
I'll spend some time out there this weekend.  I have a few projects to work on and hopefully, I can get some better photos and a better idea of whether or not they are getting along better.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ugh, I'm struggling again

I just don't understand why my spoiled hens can't just get along.  Spice has been a pill ever since Honey went broody.  It was only the week before that when we lost Sugar so looking at it from her perspective, she lost both her flock mates and I can see how that would be upsetting.

But she's been lashing out at Honey ever since and she's getting more vicious.  She's not drawing blood but she's ripping out feathers right and left.  And my big concern is that she'll teach this naughty behavior to Honey's babies.

I finally resorted to putting a pinless peeper on Spice.  Which I really hate to do.  They seem so cruel to me.  And yet, they do work.  And so many people swear by them.

But now this has given Ginger the confidence to peck at Spice.  And that's not right.  So what do I do?  Let nature take it's course and let them all work it out?  Or try and intervene?  I'm really torn.

If anyone has any advice for me, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

We're 5 weeks old today

The babies are 5 weeks old today and getting SOOOOO big!  Mama Bear (Honey) is still mothering them and comes when they call her.  She still gives them the best treats when she finds them.  And they are still sleeping under her at night.

But their head and neck feathers are coming in fast and furious and don't think it will be long before they will be comfortable roosting next to her instead of sleeping under her at night.  At least I hope.  

Today was quite warm and I let them out into the big garden.  The sprinklers ran earlier so it was still quite damp and cool.  But where does Mama Bear show them where to hang out, right by the back sliding door where Flock Mistress comes and goes from and might bring treats.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A little home movie

Just a little home movie of the girls, their run, the new hen house, etc.  I've just come from my morning swim and I've got my weekend grubby chore clothes on.  I'll have to be more fashionable for my next video shoot.

But gives you a good chance to see the girls in action and what goes on in their world.  Oh, and this is from last week.  Or maybe the week before.  Time gets away from me.  I'll try to get a more up to date one this weekend.  The babies are getting SOOOOO big!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Woo Hoo

Honey Bear put herself to bed in the right coop tonight!!!

Clearly she likes her new ramp up into her hen house.  There was all kinds of drama last night getting her up there so I had very low expectations tonight.  And I purposely waited until right when I knew she'd be headed to bed before I went outside.

As I entered the gate, I could hear her chuck-chuck-chucking to her babies who were peep-peep-peeping back to her.  But I couldn't tell which house she was in until I went up to her house and sure enough.  She was all tucked in with her babies right next to her.

I couldn't be more proud of her.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Coop modification

Having chickens has really challenged my "handy-man" skills.  Of which I have very little.  Not to mention arthritis in my right hand and a lack of power tools, well, you see where this is going.

So when it came time to get chickens, building a coop was simply out of the question.  Thankfully, there are PLENTY of kits and pre-built coops to choose from.  But sometimes, they require a little modification to make them work just right.

I would give anything to go back and do this all over again because I'd buy the same coop I first bought, only the next size bigger.  These Amish built coops are REALLY well built.  And for the money, they are a great value.  But you put in one Jersey Giant and two HUGE Buff Orpingtons and suddenly, there's no more room at the inn.

My Amish built coop.  Big enough for 3-5 hens but I wish I had gone bigger.  I could have built out a separation pen inside.
Out of desperation, I bought a temporary coop for the Bunkies which solved my issues at the time.  But the one problem I continued to have was not having a place to separate babies or a bullied hen.  So I recently bought one of these Handcrafted Coop kits and put it together.  And I like it for my environment.  It's also on the small size and I wouldn't trust it in the snow or a really cold environment. There's no room inside to put food or water.  But as a nursery for a mama and babies, it's perfect!

But Honey wouldn't go in it.  If I opened up the big side door used for clean out, she'd hop right up inside.  So I knew she didn't hate it.  I finally came to the conclusion that the ramp was too steep and the foot bars not big enough for her.

So off to the local lumber yard.  And thank goodness we still have one of those old fashioned places that will offer advice AND cut the lumber for you.  When I told the guy what I wanted to do, he asked what kind of chickens I had.  And when I told him Buff Orpingtons, the guy in line behind me piped up that he too had BO's.  Small world.

Honey Bear coming down her new ramp.  It's much wider and more stable and she has no trouble with this one.
So here are my handy skills at work.  And I must say, I'm quite pleased with myself.  The ramp is no where near as steep as her old one and those foot bars give her something to step on as she goes up or down.  Using meal worms, I got her to go up it several times with no issue at all.  But when I went out last night at bedtime, she once again had decided to bunk in the big girls house.

I do think it takes them three times to learn something new so I plan on going out there again tonight and tomorrow to encourage her up her new ramp.

Here's a side shot of the old ramp on the bottom and the new ramp on top.  You can see how the angle is much more gentle for her to get up and how much bigger those foot bars are.

Side view showing the old ramp and the new one on top.  I can't pull it shut like this but since it's inside my predator proof run, it's not necessary to close them in.
And one shot of the babies who are growing up SOOOOO quickly!  I believe most hatcheries hatch their chicks on Monday's so they can ship them out in time for their arrival before the weekend.  And if that's the case, then she'll be four weeks old tomorrow.

Her wing and tails feathers are coming in nicely but her head and breast are still covered with down.  Giving her that awkward teenager look.  Which I happen to think is adorable.

A full tummy makes just about anyone sleepy.
My only disappointment with having a mama raise babies, is that they imprint on her and not on me.  They are scared of me and won't come near me unless mama is there.  I did get one to eat out of my hand today which was a first but they are super leery to do so.  I'm afraid I've missed my window of holding and hand feeding them to get them used to me.

Oh well, I suppose there are worse things.  I still have my Buff Orpingtons who love to cuddle in my lap.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A serious discussion about flies

I subscribe to a local chicken chat group and read that someone had to put down a hen the other day due to Flystrike.  I had never heard of this until now and after a little research, felt compelled to blog about it.  Especially, because it is so preventable.

Flystrike or Myiasis, is a condition that can affect many animals including rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and chickens.  It occurs when certain species of fly lay eggs on another animal.  The eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal's flesh.  It causes serious pain and suffering and as we know from above, it can be fatal.

Flies are attracted to the soiled or wet area around the chicken's backside.  Although, any area of the body can be affected, especially, if there is a cut or wound.  And it only takes one fly!

It's more common in the warmer months and so we're in the peak of that season right now.  And a little prevention here can go a long way in protecting your flock.  First off, keep your runs clean.  DE can help so be sure to sprinkle some on the floors of your coops, in your nest boxes and in your hens favorite dust bathing holes.  I have a compost bin just for the chicken droppings and when it gets warm, I do notice more flies.  So I'll sprinkle a good dusting of DE over the top layer to help discourage flies.

I even went out and purchased a fly trap to hang in the run.

These fly traps work great and are just a few dollars at the hardware store.  You simply cut a hole in the top and pop up the yellow plastic trap, attach a string to the top and fill with water.  It contains a non-toxic attractant that lures the flies in where they drown.  It doesn't contain poison and you simply toss it when it's full.  I must advise you that they do stink.  So be sure to place them away from windows and doors.

I would also recommend that you regularly give each hen a good once over and check their backsides.  For those with seriously fluffy butts, don't hesitate to take a sharp scissors and trim away some of the down.  You'll be amazed and how little you need to trim off to help keep them clean back there.

I like to do this in the evening after eggs are laid and the girls have full tummies are a little tired.  I gather up the hen and hold her in my arms until she's calm.  Then I lay her on her side in my lap and cradle her close so that she feels safe.  I keep talking to her through the whole process which usually consists of just two good snips.  It's also a great time to check the bottoms of their feet for bumble foot.  And then I like to give her a couple of meal worms as a treat so she has a positive association with the whole process.

If you do find a hen with Flystrike, you need to take immediate action.  I will recommend that you Google how to treat for this but basically, you will need to smother the maggots.  Some do this by soaking the hen in saline water several times a day.  I've read other recommendations to smear their backsides with Vaseline.  I would advise seeking the advice of a vet for further guidance in this area.

And remember, happy, healthy hens, lay more eggs.  So a little effort on our part can go a long way in keeping our flocks happy and healthy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A busy day

Today was a busy day.  I built out the new coop for Honey and her babies.  And sadly, I didn't get a photo of it.  But I can say she's safely tucked inside for the night.  There was confusion about where to go to bed.  And I thought this might happen.  So I went out to the run around bed time and sure enough she was moving around the run and not going into her new coop.  She finally went into Spice's outdoor nest and her babies all scurried right under her.  Which made it super easy to scoop up everyone and tuck them into their proper nest.

Spice likes to lay outdoors so I put this box out for her.  I need to find a proper basket or something for her but just haven't found the right thing.  
I let the girls out into the big garden while I did my work in the run.  Spice as usual managed to get her face filthy dirty.  I've started calling her Pig Pen.  I usually give her face a good wash each week.  And I'm not sure why.  Because she stays clean for about a day before she looks like this once again.  And she's SOOOOOO pretty when she's clean.  But she clearly seems to be more happy looking like this.  Oh well.

And everyone settled down for a good old fashioned dirt bath after foraging in the garden for a bit.  The babies had to dust bathe right up next to mama.  Which didn't work out so well because Honey was tossing dirt all over the place.  But they are so cute following mama around and trying to do everything she does.

I called everyone back into the run and I like to do a head count to be sure everyone is accounted for before I lock the gate.  I could hear the babies, but I could only see one.  They other two did not sound distressed so I wasn't worried.  But I couldn't find them.  I looked inside the house, not there.  I looked under mana, nope, not there.  Then I noticed the Camellia tree was moving.  And yep, there were two little ones up in the tree.  I'm going to have some flyers when these guys grow up.  That could be a problem.

Sweet little blondie up in the tree.  One of her sisters is next to her up there.

Okay, super hard to see because the two of them are more in the middle of the tree.  But two babies are in that yellow circle and one more is on the very end of the 2 by 4 up against the fence, behind mama.