Saturday, October 29, 2011

Easter Eggs

Unless you have chickens, you are probably just used to the white or brown eggs that most supermarkets sell.  But chicken eggs come in a wide variety of colors from blue, green, pink, brown,  dark chocolate brown and some have spots.  Like Coco's eggs.

No two are ever alike.  Some have lots of spots like the one from today.  And others are nearly all brown with no spots at all.  She's been laying eggs for 6 months now and I still scamper outside when I hear her sing the egg song.  I can't wait to see how she's decorated her egg for the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What does Moulting look like?

Here is one of my favorite photos of Ginger, fully feathers out and looking gorgeous.

And here is Ginger missing all her tail feathers.

Notice the hole at the back of her neck?  She can't reach back there to nibble off the keratin wrapper around those new feathers so those will take longer to blossom out.

She's just so sad looking.  I was really worried that she was loosing weight too.  But she HATES being picked up while molting.  Experts say that it's rather painful as pin feathers push out the old feathers.  So I've tried to oblige and not pick her up.  But I did tonight and set her on the scale and she's holding tight at 4 1/2 pounds.  Which really is a relief to me that she's not loosing weight through this process.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feathers, Feathers and more Feathers

Ugh, I think Coco might be moulting.

For those chicken novices, moulting is the process chickens go through each fall where they shed their old worn feather and replace with new ones.  And the books all say that chickens don't moult their first year.  So I wasn't quite sure what to expect for my girls as they are just a year old now.

When we returned from vacation a few weeks back, Ginger was dropping feathers and fast.  Clearly, she was moulting, but was it her regularly scheduled moult or was she forced into it due to stress and shock from being bullied away from food by Pumpkin while we were away.  We'll never know for certain.

Regardless, of whether it's a stress induced moult or a regular one, she's moulting and going through the pieces.

I don't think she'll do a complete moult this year as she's not losing lots of feathers. At this rate, it would take her a whole year to replace all her feathers.  But the new feathers are coming in nicely.  She doesn't want to be held and I can understand why.  She feels like a porky pine all covered in pin feathers.  She spends her days nibbling away a the keratin coating around those pin feathers to release them.  Sometimes when I go out to visit she's covered in bits of keratin and it looks like she has dandriff.

This morning, there were four black feathers from Coco.  These two are tight and I honestly have to wonder if one isn't inspired by the other to mimic their behavior.  I do hope that Coco has just lost a few worn feathers and is not going to moult this year.

It's a stressful process for chickens and they will stop laying eggs for the duration which can be anywhere from 2-4 months.  Coco is the only one laying eggs at this time and it would break my heart if both were to stop laying.

I know it should be old hat by now but I still get so excited hen I find an egg in one of their nest boxes.  They are little gems made with love just for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Baby needs Corrective Shoes

Ginger is pigeon toed.  I'm not quite sure when or how this happened.  When she was a chick, we used to call her Turbo because she was the only one of the four who would scratch and dig her way through the pine shavings in their brooder all the way down to the tarp.  She loved to motor around that big brooder and kick and scratch anything and everything.

I never thought that she would be the one to grow up and have no interest in scratching in the garden.  But she doesn't.  And I've come to the conclusion that it's because she's pigeon toed.  She walks around just fine but when she stops, she's usually standing with one foot on top of the other.

You can see how her feet are pointed towards each other in this photo.

And since she doesn't scratch, she doesn't wear down her toe nails.  I've trimmed them a few times in the past but she REALLY doesn't like it.  And I feel so bad doing it to her.

So today, I took her to the vets office for a professional toe nail trimming.  They did a lovely job.  And they also gave me the confidence to keep doing this myself.  Hopefully, every other month will be often enough to keep them from getting out of control.  That's six times a year.  I think I can commit to that.  The question is, can I get Ginger to buy into that plan?

While her feet are not crossed in this photo, you can see how they are pointed in towards each other.
Maybe if I bribe her with a big tub of meal worms after each trimming session I can convince her that getting her nails trimmed is a good thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Think your chickens don't recognize you? Think again!

Check out this adorable video.  I know, it's of a goose and not a chicken.

I will admit, earlier this year, I wasn't so convinced that my own chickens recognized me as opposed to any person who came out to say hello and bring them treats.  They just don't show emotion like dogs with their wagging tails or cats with their meow-meow-meow.

But that all changed when I took Coco to the vet earlier this year.  Coco was never a lap chicken.  She doesn't like to be touched or held.  But she'll let me pick her up.  And you can tell she doesn't like it, but is merely tolerating it.

So at the vet's office, I had her up on the table but right next to me so I could stroke her to keep her calm.  But when the vet tried to pick her up, she took flight, did one lap around the room and very deliberately landed in my arms burying her head in my shoulder.  It was very obvious, she wanted nothing to do with the vet and that she trusted me.

Ginger will also very willingly run into my out stretched arms for me to scoop her up.  She doesn't do that for anyone else.

So for those who think their chickens don't recognize them, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm up to 2.3 Chickens

I'll bet that title got your attention.  How on earth do you get .3 of a chicken.  Well, THIS is how.

Mr. Bird - the girls new mascot.

We stopped by my favorite little nursery over the weekend and they had a new batch of metal chickens out front.  I've been eyeing these guys for years and just couldn't find one that screamed, "take me home with you" till now.

Coco and Ginger seemed indifferent to the newest addition to their garden which is fine with me.  I really don't want to do anything more to rock their world right now.  I think Mr. Bird is just what they needed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Little Update

Well, it's been a wild week indeed.

Coming home from vacation to three hens not getting along was tough.  Giving Pumpkin away was even tougher.  But I didn't realize how traumatized Ginger was.  She wasn't eating.  She wouldn't eat out of my hand and wouldn't go for treats.  There were no droppings under her roosting spot in the hen house.  None.  When this happened two days in a row, I couldn't take it.

I took Ginger to the vet who thoroughly examined her, did a blood panel and even checked her dropping for parasites.  He could fine nothing wrong with her.  He said to give her what ever she'll eat to get her to eat and hope that it passes.

So I picked up a bunch of meal worms and ordered a bunch more online.  She ate a few one day.  And then ate a whole tub of 100 the next day.  Although she scarfed through those pretty quickly and I have to question if I really got 100 in that tub.

Last night I picked up a 100 live crickets and separated her from Coco and sat there and hand fed her each and every last cricket.  If you'd never held a live cricket, you have no idea how much those things stink.  And I have a poor sense of smell.  Anyway, she still seemed hungry so I gave her another 50 giant meal worms and checked on her after she'd gone to bed.  She was snuggled up next to Coco and all seemed right.

This morning, I was alarmed because there were no droppings under where she slept.  I thought how can that be?!?  I stuffed her before bedtime.  But then I noticed 4 HUGE broody droppings over by the gate and I'm guessing that those had to be hers.

This morning she readily ate out of my hand and side by side w/ Coco.  Which is a challenge.  Because Coco is like a giant Hoover machine.  She won't peck at Ginger for her food but she'll take it right out of her beak.  I had mixed up a bunch of meal worms in some powdered feed and was giving Ginger the worms and Coco just the feed.  Well, Coco is very smart and was suspicious she was getting a raw deal.  She stood up tall and peeked into my treat bowl and saw the wriggling worms and just went gonzo.  So I just let the two of them at it.  Coco got most of it, but Ginger got enough to get something in her tummy to get her going.

I feel as though we're past the worst of this and Ginger is coming around.  Coco doesn't seem to miss Pumpkin which is good.  I know those two were buddies.  And Coco and Ginger seem to be bonding well and my hope is they become best friends so that I can add two additional birds in the spring without much issue.

I'm still trying to decide what breeds to add.  I really want docile hens and I keep reading how much they like to be with a buddy who looks like them.  So I'm heavily leaning towards another Buff Orpington like Ginger and a Black Astralorp.  The BA would look like Coco but have the docile nature of an BO.

Would love to hear comments from those with Astralorps and Orpingtons and hear what you have to say about their personalities, are they docile, do you have pecking issues, do you have one of each and do they get along well, etc.

On a side note, I did get an email from Pumpkin's new owner who said she's settling in nicely.  She's clearly at the bottom of the pecking order and doesn't get super close to the other two hens.  But that is all to be expected as they figure each other out.  Hopefully, the newness wears off soon and she starts to lay her beautiful green eggs.  I know they will love her like I did once they find one of those emerald little gems in a nest box.

Monday, October 3, 2011

And then there were Two

I went away on vacation for a week and my worst fears came true.  Pumpkin started picking on Ginger again.  I'm not sure when it started but when I got home, Ginger had some blood on her comb from a good peck and there were some feathers in the run.  When I went to scoop up Ginger to cuddle her, she ran away from me.  It broke my heart.  She's always run to my open arms and begged to be cuddled.

Pumpkin has always had it out for her.  And I've tried a number of things to break her of this naughty habit, my fear was always that if their Flock Mistress went away, would the naughty habits return?  And they did.

I probably should have recognized and addressed this fact a long time ago.  I was really naive when I thought I could pick up four different baby chicks and those would be my four for many, many happy years.

So I'm about to go out and pack up Pumpkin to take her to her new home.  I'm sick about this.  I have tears in my eyes as I write this.  I feel like I'm giving away one of my children.  And that I failed them as a mother.

But Pumpkin has a stronger connection to her Asian Jungle Fowl roots.  She's always been wily and feisty.  She never liked to be held.  Not even as a chick.  But we loved her just the same.

I regret letting my desire for a colorful egg basket determine the breeds of chickens I chose.  I wish I could go back and start all over with two Buff Orpingtons and two Barred Rocks or Cochins.  But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  And I have to believe that this has happened for a reason.  What?  I don't know.  And may never know.

We love you Pumpkin.  And we always will.