Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sugar is sick

The one good thing about having such a small flock of chickens and spending so much time with them is that you notice when something is off rather quickly.  Although, I'm kind of kicking myself for not catching this sooner than I did.

About two weeks ago, I notice a much smaller dropping pile under where one of the Bunkies was sleeping.  I was quite certain that it was Sugar.  And while I meant to go out at night to see where she was roosting, I never got around to it.  She was eating and drinking so I just thought it would pass.

Last week, I noticed her panting when the others were not.  It really hasn't been that warm here so I just dismissed it as her getting used to the warmer days and all those feathers.  But Tuesday night she was panting again and I sat down and picked her up and set her in my lap facing me and immediately noticed how hot her breath was and I could hear her wheezing.  Oh, the panic that immediately set in.

Fortunately, it was only 5:30pm and my favorite feed store would be open till 7pm so I fought the traffic and got to the store before they closed.  There are a number of different antibiotics out there for fowl and different ways to administer.

I chose to buy powdered antibiotic for respiratory infections and treat all five girls.  A teaspoon in a gallon of water and you are good to go.  You need to remove your other water sources to force them all to drink the medicated water.  And you'll need to mix up a fresh batch every 24 hours as the formula is only stable for that long.

But this guarantees that if she's shared her bug with her sisters, which she probably has, everyone gets some medicine and hopefully we knock out this bug for good.

The bad news, is that all eggs must be tossed during treatment and for at least 21, preferably 28 days, post treatment.  And they mean tossed.  Don't feed them back to the hens or you are just re-introducing antibiotics back into them.  Don't feed the eggs to other animals or THEY will be receiving antibiotics.   I wouldn't trust putting them into the compost bin either.

At first, I was devastated.  But after giving it some thought, I figured out a way to turn a negative into a positive.  I'm going to blow out (well, suction out) the tainted eggs and make ornaments out of them.  And I'm kind of excited about this project.

I used to blow out and paint eggs as a child.  I remember taking third place one year at the Saks Fifth Avenue Easter Egg decorating contest.  But shoot, when you have a goose, a chicken that lays green eggs and a bunch of Japanese Quail, I was kind of a ringer.  ;-)

24 hour into treatment and Sugar is no longer panting.  But I can still hear her wheeze if I put my ear up to her breast.  But at least she's not worse.  And her appetite is hardy.  She ate all the meal worms I could find out of my farm and a whole hard boiled egg last night.

And I've got four eggs sitting in the garage for me to practice emptying this weekend.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Coco laid a cholesterol free egg

I'll bet that got your attention.

Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a tabloid writer with some of the outlandish titles I come up with for my blogs.  Or maybe it's just me rebelling against all my past English teachers.  Either way, this blog really is about cholesterol.

Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years for being high in cholesterol.  I've read that eggs from hens like mine, hens that free range, have access to bugs, greens and lots of sunshine, contain significantly less cholesterol.  They say as much as a third less cholesterol than standard store bought eggs.  But I have no way of proving this.

When we go out to breakfast, I personally can't eat the eggs.  I just refuse to eat eggs when I don't know how the hens have been treated.  But my husband will easily order a three egg omelet.  And he will typically ask for egg beaters or egg whites since three eggs for breakfast, is way over one's cholesterol intake for the day, even if they did contain a third less than cholesterol.

So this morning at breakfast, the menu said that the eggs were "cholesterol free".  And that got his attention.  I explained that it must either be egg beaters or egg whites but that there was no such thing as a cholesterol free egg.  To which he replied that our hens really should learn to lay a cholesterol free egg.  I didn't really think anything of it until I came home to find that his wishes had been answered and that Coco had indeed laid a cholesterol free egg.

One of Coco's typical eggs, covered in dark brown speckles, and tipping the scale in the XL category.

Coco's typical egg on the left and the cholesterol free version on the right.

The cholesterol free egg doesn't even make the scale budge.

And the cholesterol egg cracked open.  The lump of egg white did kind of look like a super duper pale yoke but it is indeed all egg white.
Now these cholesterol eggs are not the norm, but I have seen them before.  They are basically a mis-fire and the hen's body goes through the motion of laying an egg and forming a shell, but no yolk ever joined the party.

I'm sure it's a symptom of me giving out too many treats.  Which I'm working really hard not to do.  But anytime a hen is eating something that doesn't have balanced protein and calcium, can mess up their system.  And Coco certainly likes to eat my parsley and other greens so I can see how a half hour in the big garden might be just enough time for her to get enough to tweak her system.

The term most chicken folks give them, is a "fart egg".  But I do have to be careful where I say that.  I can see me telling the neighborhood kids that my hen laid a fart egg and having them share that little tidbit at show-and-tell on Monday and, well, you can see how that would come full circle in a hurry.

I thought my husband would be pleased that indeed my hen had laid him a cholesterol free egg.  But he determined it to be sub-par and refused to eat it.  He's very much a city kid and he wants his eggs to contain a yolk.  Whether or not he chooses to eat it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A bath for Sugar

Well, it certainly wasn't on my list of things to do today.  Give a chicken a bath, that is.

I came home after the gym and went out to collect eggs and found one smashed in a nest.  It didn't look pecked and eaten, it was clearly smashed.  I had my suspicions on who it was but before I went checking for sticky chickens, I got a big tub out and filled it with warm soapy water.

Thank goodness I've read enough other blogs about giving chickens a bath and had the foresight to keep a bottle of Dawn in the back of the cupboard.

The whole time I was gathering my supplies Sugar kept coming into the door of the garage and looking up at me with this face.  This face that said, "Mom, something's wrong.  Mom, will you make it all better, please?"

So I filled up my tub with luke warm soapy water and went to go pick up Sugar.  She does not like to be held.  Never has.  And I've never pushed it with her.  I don't want to upset her.  So I knew something was amiss when she just stood there.  I reached down and felt her tummy and yep.  All sticky and gooey.  So into the tub she went.  And she really didn't protest.

At one point she slipped and then she protested.  So I'd definitely add a little rubber mat to the tub next time.  But I didn't want to risk leaving her there so I just her her up with one arm and rubbed her belly till she was clean.  A quick rinse and on to the drying cycle.

I'm surprised that the noise from a hair dryer doesn't freak out chickens.  But it doesn't.  She stood there with no protest while I dried her.  Getting the tummy is tough.  It would have helped if she'd lay on her side.  But I didn't want to push it with her.  So I just dried her the best I could and then took her outside.  But not before a little hand fed treat for being such a good patient.

It was nice and warm today and she finished drying in no time out back with her sisters.  I checked her about a half hour later before I put them back into their run.  I didn't want her heading for her favorite dust bathing hole with a damp tummy.

I wish I had photos to share but hadn't planned on giving a chicken a bath today.  And while giving a chicken a bath can easily be a one person job, getting photos of the event, unless you have a hen who you trust will stay put in a tub of water while you back away, well, getting photos will require a second person.

I hope this was a isolated, random event.  Not sure if the egg was thin shelled or why it broke in the first place.  They do seem to eat more oyster shells than I think hens on layer rations should eat.  I know I'm guilty of doling out too many treats.  I suppose that could be a possible issue.  But I guess we'll just have to wait and see on this one.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Given Name or Nick Name?

Our chickens are pets and pets need names.  So we spent lots of time coming up with a theme to give us some guidance when we first got out chickens.  And as you know, we settled on The Spice Girls, and have named all our chickens after items you'd find in your spice cabinet or in the spice aisle of the grocery store.

Today, we have Coco, Ginger, Honey, Sugar and Spice.

But I have to wonder sometimes why we bothered because we've come up with dozens of nicknames for the girls and rarely call them by their given names.

Coco was by far the cutest baby, almost all black with a white rump.  I still can't get over how tiny she once was when I look at her today.  All 7lbs of her baawwwking and telling me how it is.  And as you know, Coco is the only one who will answer to her name.  I'm not really sure whether knows that's her name or if she just knows that when she hears me call Coco, she'll get a treat.  But either way, it's pretty cute.

Coco as a baby chick.  LOVE her white fuzzy rump.
Coco was always staring at me.  I should have known she'd grow up to be the boss.

We also call her Big Girl, Jersey Girl, Bug, Coco Bug, Coco Nogalis and Snooki when she's bad.  Coco Naughty is uttered quite often.  She is a digger and can excavate out a hole the size of a toaster oven in a matter of minutes.  And we sometimes refer to her as The Boss.  After all, she is the boss.

Ginger probably has the most nicknames.  We called her Turbo when she was a chick.  She could motor through three inches of pine shavings down to the bottom of the brooder in seconds.  We also referred to her as The Pillow.  She would always push her way in between two of the other chicks to sleep and one would always wind up falling asleep on top of her.  And she is still referred to as the Baby because she's always been the smallest and kind of whiny like she wants her mama.

The yellow blob just under the thermometer is Ginger.

 Today, Ginger is called; Bug, Ginger Bug, Love Bug, Pill, Fatty, Blondie, Pineapple Princess, Grumpy Butt, and sadly, the Crazy Bitch.  She's had a terrible time accepting the three new baby Orpingtons into her flock.  And to this day, she still pecks at them.  Not quite as much and not as viciously as when I first introduced her to the babies.  I keep telling her that she needs to stop that because these babies are from a different blood line and are a good pound if not more bigger than Ginger.  And one of these days, they are going to realize this and peck her back.  And it breaks my heart to see Ginger bullied.
The babies are HoneySugar, and Spice.  They are referred to as The Bunkies most often.  They've been called the Three Amigos because they have been tight with each other since I brought them home.

Photo of The Bunkies about 3 weeks before they started to lay eggs.
Sugar is easy to pick out.  She in the middle in the above photo.  She's always been the biggest and today, has a set of wattles on her that would make many roosters jealous.  She does not like to be picked up or touched and lets you know it.  I call her Sugar Pie.  Sugar also bites.  I mean, really bites and has drawn blood on me a few times.  She'll grab a finger and hang on and pull.  She jumped up last week and bit me on the thigh through my pants and I was really bleeding when I got back into the house.

I'm gonna have to keep an eye on her.  I think she's got a bit of roo in here somewhere making her more aggressive.  But she lays eggs so she's definitely a girl.

Look at those wattles.  Does anyone have a BO with bigger wattles?  I swear they are nearly two inches long.
In the photo of the three of them, Spice is on the left and Honey is on the right.  Honey is also called Honey Bear.  That's really where her name came from.  She's the most affectionate and cuddly of the trio and you just can't help but want to squeeze her.  And Spice, we call Spicy.

The Bunkies don't have as many nicknames as the two adults but they will in time as their personalities really begin to develop.

Do you have nicknames for your hens?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A perfect score of 5!

Well, as you know The Bunkies started laying eggs a few weeks ago.  Always a major milestone in a hen's life.  I figured the last major milestone was the first time they all laid an egg on the same day.

And it happened yesterday!

Photo Credit to Sandy

Photo Credit to Sandy

I have a plastic Easter Egg in each nest so don't let those bright pink, purple and yellow eggs fool you.

I read that if you put a fake egg, golf ball or basically anything egg shaped in a nest, it will encourage hens to lay there.  The thought being that a hen will look and think, "Hmmm, someone laid and egg here and wasn't eaten, so it must be a safe place to lay an egg."

I never removed the fake eggs.  Sometimes, I'll have two hens fight over the same nest.  And lots of hens will share a nest just fine.  I'm sure mine would too if there was room.  But my Jersey Giant Coco fills up an entire nest and then some.  So if I catch someone pining for Coco's nest, I'll put her fake egg into another nest and suddenly, THAT nest with the 2 fake eggs becomes highly desirable.  You'd think that it would make it more uncomfortable to sit there with two lumps under you, wouldn't you?

Yes, one set of nests has sand.  I like sand for the floor of my hen house as it makes it super easy to quickly scoop up dropping each morning.  And then I have pine shavings in my nests.  I did the same set up in The Bunk house about a month ago.  But the hens were eating the pine shavings.  And really going to town on them.  I don't know why.  And only in The Bunk House.  I catch them eating a pine flake here and there out of The Spice Cabinet.  But I've never seen any significant quantity disappear.  But with in a few days of setting up The Bunk House, I was looking at bare floor in the nests.

So I replaced the shavings with sand in The Bunk House.  But obviously, the hens prefer the pine shavings because two of The Bunkies lay in the big girls house aka, The Spice Cabinet.  I don't really care where they lay.  Provided, they are A. Not fighting and B. Laying in a nest.  And it appears we have success on both fronts.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Treadle feeder progress

Well, I haven't given an update because I haven't had one.  The problem is, my girls are such big hens that they just stand behind the platform and reach over it to get to the food.

I will say, I like the larger size feeder.  Especially, now that I have 5 hens instead of 2.  They can really chow through feed.

I've reached out to the man who made the feeder who gave me a few things to try but they didn't help.  One was to prop the feeder up on something.  Well, it's heavy and I had to go buy two cinder blocks because I wanted it to be super stable and not fall over.  But they were STILL able to reach the feed w/ out stepping on the platform.

So I put it back on the ground and just left the brick in place to keep it open.

Recently, I'm catching the Bunkies stepping on the platform (even though it doesn't move) to get to the food.  So I suppose I should try again and remove the brick and back off some of the tension to see if I can get them to get the hang of it.

In the mean time, I've read up about crumbles vs. pellets and how much less waste there is with pellets.  I had bought a bag of pellets about a year ago, but they wouldn't eat it.  Now it was a different brand which could have been the issue.  So I gave up and haven't tried since.

Fortunately for me, my local feed store sells all it's feeds, seeds, and treats in bins where you can scoop out just what I need.  Or buy it in the 50lb sack.  I'm sure you pay more that way.  But it's a great way to try a pound or two of something before committing to a big bag.

So I brought home about 5lbs of pellets, the same formula as their crumbles, and mixed it in.  And it disappeared.  But I wanted to be sure everyone was eating it so I then put the pellets in a separate feeder and have watched them all eat from both feeders.   I'll mix the two until I finish up all the crumbles I bought and then transition them over to pellets only.

The good news is, I've seen no evidence what so ever of rats in the past two months.  I finally resorted to sliding a tray of poison way underneath the Juniper bush that is closest to their run.  I'm so embarrassed to admit that.  But after trying just about everything else, snap traps, sticky traps, peanut butter balls mixed with plaster of Paris, Critter Ridder spray AND an electric rat zapper, etc., I caved.

And honestly, I drove myself nuts w/ all of those things.  I wish I had just shoved that poison in there to begin with.  It's far away and on the outside of where my girls live so they'll never get to it.  And clearly, it worked.

I also bought several pair of Solar Night Eyes and have them covering the tops and gate of my run.  They say that they will scare off rats and maybe they really do.

So things are good here these days and I'm not going to rock the boat.

We had our first 4-egg day the other day.  And I'm hoping we have our first 5-egg day in the next week or so.  I'll be sure to blog about it.