Sunday, October 30, 2016

Carving pumpkins with chickens

This may come as a surprise to some, but I don't like carving pumpkins.  Probably stems out of an accident I had as a child where I sliced open three fingers carving a pumpkin.  But I feel a sense of obligation to do at least one every year to show we are open for Trick or Treating on Halloween.

This year I have a thousand things going on in both my personal and professional life and as Halloween approached, the thought of carving a pumpkin was simply one more chore on my list.  And then I thought, I wonder if I can get the hens to carve it for me?

So I took the big pumpkin off the front porch and used a melon baller to start the eyes, nose and mouth and put the big gourd in the chicken run.  My past batches of hens have shown no interest in pumpkins what so ever.  But this last batch of babies (who are not six month old I should add) did show some interest in the pumpkins in the garden, so thought what have I got to lose.

Turns out, nothing!

Pumpkin freshly set in their run with the eyes, nose and mouth started.

The babies immediately showed interest in the gourd.

Even Coco got in on the action.  She's molting really hard right now and not at all herself so I was pleased she felt up to giving it a go.

This was the pumpkin about 24 hours later.

This is the other side of the pumpkin 24 hours later.  I thought I'd give them two sides to carve.  One, to give everyone access to the gourd without fighting and two, to make sure I got at least one good side to display.

And heres the finished product.  Most of the seeds and guts are gone.  They didn't do such a good job on the mouth.  But why bend over when the eyes and nose are right at their eye level. 

I also dressed up the chickens in their halloween costumes.  They went at Chickens of the Sea this year.  For my foreign followers, we have a brand of tuna here in the States called Chicken of the Sea.

I bought a lobster and a shark costume.  The lobster wasn't as big of a hit.  I think the big hood was hard for them to figure out.  But the shark was a scream.  Several hens tried it on and gave it a go.

But I couldn't get them to pose together in their costumes.  Oh well, they were still super cute.

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So we're ready for Halloween here at my house.  Pumpkin is carved.  Chickens are fat and happy and full of pumpkin seeds.  Oh, and my run and garden are covered in orange speckled poops.  Probably TMI but I thought it was funny.  Good reminder that chickens really are what they eat.  And what they eat in turns makes for some really yummy eggs.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Update on the babies

The babies are 17 weeks old tomorrow.  Woo Hoo.  One more week and we can start to co-mingle them with the big girls.  They all get along just fine.  I keep them separated so that the babies don't eat the big girl food yet.  Or at least I try.  They still manage to get their heads under the bag I put over the feeder and get in a few bites.

It will be nice for me and for them to have them exist as one big, hopefully happy, flock.  It's more work for me to have everything in duplicate, 2 feeders, 2 kinds of feed, 2 waterers, 2 coops to clean out, etc.  And it will give the babies more real estate.

I took a bunch of photo of them today in the garden just to show how big they are today.

Penny seems to think my chicken sculpture is the perfect perch for her.

Big Coco is still the Queen of the flock.  She'll be 6 years old in October.

Penny is turning out to be a beautiful bird.  I love the green sheen on her black feathers.  I can't wait for her to fully mature so I can see how big and fluffy she ends up being.

Bella is another beauty in the garden.  I wish you could hear her walk.  She sounds like a lady who's wearing her trousers too long as those long feathers on her feet drag on the ground.

Peaches has begun her first ever molt.  She was fine one day when I left for work.  I came home and it looked like a chicken had blown up.  

Peaches on the right and Pearl on the left.  Pearl hasn't started to molt yet and you can see how tight her coat is still.  But she should begin molting anytime now.

Peaches up close.  She has some bald spots.  The pin feathers are three days old so you can also see how quickly those new feathers come back in.

Peaches has a totally bare bum.  She had really soiled most of those feathers any way when she had vent gleet that went untreated for so long so I'm happy that she's going to finally have a fluffy, covered bottom once again.

The babies having snacks on the patio.  They are so big that sometimes I have to look twice to tell them from the big girls. 

The babies working their way through my flower pots.

And a little sun bathing on the warm patio. 

Rocks and pieces of broken pottery work great for deterring chickens from beaking out soil from flower pots.

Wire rings help protect plants from hungry beaks till they can get established.

I planted hens and chicks in my strawberry planter and it's finally all filled in.

The babies are losing their juvenile feathers and growing in their adult feathers.

And some of Peaches feathers for comparison.  Hens typically molt when they are about 18 -24 months old.  Peaches is 29 months old.  So way over due to replace her worn feathers before winter.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

This week in the garden

It was a pretty quiet week this week which is nice.  I prefer no drama.

Peaches finished her medicine for vent gleet yesterday and I do see a big improvement in her.  Unfortunately, her bottom feathers were so badly soiled that I had to trim quite a few away.  So I'm eager for her to molt and go back to having a nice fluffy bottom again.  I'll spare you the photos as her bottom is not very attractive right now.

The flowers are all blooming in the garden.  The roses are performing well.  And my Hens and Chicks are dividing nicely.
Beautiful Bella just continues to get prettier and prettier.  Penny is the black hen in front of her. 
The hens love this ceramic bowl of water on the patio.  I suspect because I fill it with cold water each time I let them out.
My big girls haven't taken a dust bath in the garden in three years.  They have a huge dust bathing ring in their run and I think they really like it.  But the babies are still learning what's what in the garden and run and they have taken to dust bathing in the garden.  It's fun to watch them out there.
The babies are now 14 weeks old.  Just four more weeks and I can open up the fence that keeps them separate from the big girls.  They get along just fine out in the garden.  I don't let them mingle in their run because I don't want the babies eating the big girls layer feed until they are 18 weeks of age.

They are getting big and I'm ready to let them all be one big family.  It will make it easier on me to get in there and tidy up the run each day if I don't have to work my way around their fencing.

I'm really happy with this batch of chicks.  They are so curious and fun to interact with.  Penny, my Black Cochin is a little more shy and timid than I was prepared for.  Not sure if that's just a Cochin thing or if something has happened to her to make her a bit skittish.   But she sure is sweet and hopefully she'll come around.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Trust your instinct

Peaches has struggled with a dirty bottom for about a year now.  A very long and frustrating year.

When I first discovered her dirty bottom, I tried to treat it myself.  I would give her a bath every few days to get her clean.  I trimmed back her bottom feathers.  But she continued to have a dirty bottom.

I did some research online and came to the conclusion that she must have Vent Gleet, which is a yeast or fungal infection in the bird.

I tried to treat her with some of the online suggestions such as yogurt and ACV and while that seemed to help, it didn't clear up her issue.

I took her to a vet (not my regular vet) and explained her symptoms.  The vet looked at a dropping under a microscope and said she didn't see yeast so ruled out Vent Gleet.

Well, fast forward over a very frustrating year and this week I noticed that her bottom was now red and very irritated from the dropping sticking to the skin.  I knew that would go south fast so a trip to the vet, MY VET, was in order.

I explained all her symptoms and the vet explained how you might not see yeast in the droppings but that doesn't mean she didn't have Vent Gleet.  She examined some of her badly soiled feathers and indeed there was yeast.

So now Peaches has medicine to treat the yeast internally.  She also has some special soap and will get a bottom bath every afternoon and after she's dry, she has some special ointment to help sooth the red rash she's sporting.

I'm angry at myself for not pushing this issue harder.  I know my girls best and after 6 years of having hens and doing research, I know a few things about chickens.  I knew she had Vent Gleet.  I just knew it.  I should have taken her to MY vet a long time ago.  I just assumed that if one vet said, no yeast, that it must be something else.

I'm glad we're on the right track to getting her healthy and happy again.  And just ahead of when she'll molt so hopefully, this all gets resolved, she molts out those nasty, spent feathers and sports a beautiful, fluffy bottom for the rest of her life.

My point to all this is to Trust Your Instinct.

Yes, veterinarians went to school for many more years that I did.  But that doesn't mean they always know better.  Most vets are generalist or avian specialists.  But each bird species has it's own unique set of issues.  And sometimes those issues come in many different forms, not just the worse case scenarios that were detailed in text books.  Don't hesitate to ask your vet, What about this?  And why not that?  I'm sure they hate it when you say, well, I read online...  But there are people online who are quite knowledgeable about chickens.  Yes, there's a lot of misinformation out there too.  But information is power.  If you don't have a vet that you can have an honest discussion with and ask these questions, then find a new vet.

I adore my vet.  I really do.  I'm so glad I found them and have a relationship with them.

And just one day into treatment, Peaches' bottom already looks better.  I'm so thankful that we finally are on the path to resolution with this issue.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Chickens are the best medicine

Anyone who doesn't laugh at their chickens every day, well, they simply don't have a sense of humor!

My birds crack me up every day.  I'm always laughing out loud at the goofy stuff they do and wondering what on earth must have been going through their little brain.

Last night I went out to check up on the babies who only learned how to roost last week.  My Black Cochin Penny doesn't want to roost.  I don't know if there's something wrong or if she's just a late bloomer.  You really can't see her but if you look through the legs of the Buff Orpington who's standing up, you can see black and that's Penny.

But what really had me laughing out loud, was how Belle managed to get her self up on the roost but tucked neatly behind the nest box curtain.  I love the look on the BO's faces.  It's like they are asking each other, What's she doing?  Is that how it's supposed to be done?

I scooted back into the house to grab my camera and fortunately she was still in the same spot when I came back outside.

I reached into the coop and scooped up Penny and put her up on the roost next to Bella.  But I don't see any droppings under the roost this morning so I suspect she got right down and tucked herself back into the corner of the coop behind the BO's after I left.

Anyone else have a bird that refused to roost?  Did they eventually learn to roost?  I supposed it's not the end of the world if she chooses to sleep on the floor of the coop provided I keep her out of the nests.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Naughty hens

Sometimes I think my hens are going to all think their names are Naughty.  I don't yell at my chickens.  I don't even try to discipline them.  Anyone who has chickens gets why this is.  You really can't train them not to be naughty.  They are going to do what they want to do.  What cracks me up is nearly all of the video's I have of my girls, I'm telling one hen or another that they are naughty.

I went out to tuck everyone in and discovered that the babies had knocked down the cardboard divider I had put up to keep them from sleeping in a nest box.  And here they all were.  All 6 of them jammed into a 12" by 12" nest.  Naughty!

Coco is nearly 6 years old and doesn't get enough calcium to put a hard shell on her eggs.  So each afternoon, she gets 1/8 tsp of powdered bird calcium w/ vitamin D mixed into a tablespoon of mash.  She knows this and expects it and gets very excited when she hears me in the garage mixing it up.  The other day, she jumped up on the sink to get to if faster.  Naughty!

I let the babies out of their half of the run into the garden for a few hours each afternoon.  But what do these two decide to do?  Explore the big hens coop.  Naughty!

I grew some forage blend grass for the hens and put it in the babies run to see what they would do.  Of course, one hen has to stand right in the middle of the pot of grass instead of nibble at it from the sides.  Naughty!

And this has nothing to do with being naughty.  I had a few things I was no longer using for the hens and offered them up on our local chicken chat group.  This sweet lady from one town over took all of the items and gave me eggs to say thank you.  At first I thought it was strange to give eggs to someone who has hens.  But I have brown egg layers.  She has green, olive and chocolate egg layers.  I'm in love w/ the colors in this egg carton.

And while I've grown used to this image, it is also naughty.  The three big girls make their lap around the garden when I let them out.  Then they Trick or Treat at the back door.  Pecking at the threshold or wiping their beaks on the screen to get my attention to come give them raisins.  Notice how I've had to flip my rooster door mat over to the rubber side.  The hens are very naughty!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Graduation Days

Well, believe it or not, but the babies are 6 weeks old already.  And this week was a big week of graduations.

They graduated supplemental heat last week.  And last Friday I moved them from their brooder box in the garage out to the small coop in the run.  I do have them separated from the big girls.  And while I'm happy to have them outside, I will readily admit that I miss hearing their peeping chatter from the kitchen.

They learned how to from from the run out around their protective barrier and into the garden when I open the gate.  And the three big hens are very accepting of their new minions.  Which makes it easier for me.

One of the Buff Orpington hens out in the garden.
Five of the six babies.
Penny is watching a bird fly over trying to decide if it's friend or foe.
I finally got a new flower pot for my wire chicken planter.
Peaches has the most intense stare.
Coco hanging out next to my chair on the patio.
The babies make their way up onto the patio to explore.
Penny is the black hen on the right.  Bella is the brown one on the left.  Bella is the smallest one by far.  But she'll likely grow up to be the biggest of the batch.
The big girls most favorite spot is by the sliding glass door.
Coco can't understand why I've only given them half the bag of chopped spinach.  She wants the rest of the bag.
Pearly digging her way through the Wooly Lambs Ears in the garden.  There's good bugging in there.
I still need to teach the babies to come back into the run when I call them.  That's going to take a little more work.  And they also need to learn how to roost at night.  They still sleep in one big pile of birds.  But they had a really big week last week so we'll save roosting for next week.

Can't wait to see them grow into all those feathers.