Thursday, April 27, 2017

Good Ideas - staying hydrated

Many of us keep our hens confined to their run most of the day where they have access to their water fountains.  So staying hydrated isn't an issue.

But when you let your hens out to free range, it's important that they still have access to fresh, cool drinking water.  Especially, in the summer months when it's warm.

I fill up a ceramic bowl with cool water and put it in the shade on the patio for my girls.  If it's really warm, you can even put in ice to keep the water cool.  Put the bowl out where they can easily get to it.  And be sure to dump it out after you put your hens back so you don't attract critters who want to share your hens water.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Good Ideas - egg collecting apron

I've always struggled with how to collect my eggs.  When you have only a few hens, an egg collecting basket is just overkill.  Not to mention, the few eggs I collect roll around inside and sometimes crack bumping into one another.

And yet, I can't carry more than three eggs and still lock up the run properly.  So the dilemma of how to best collect eggs and safely get them into the house was always an issue for me.  Until I discovered the egg collecting apron.

I've seen many different styles out there.  I even saw one that someone had crocheted.  The one I'm wearing is made by Fluffy Layers and has 10 egg pockets which is more than enough for me and my 8 egg laying hens.  I bought it at TSC or you can order them online.

Let's you keep your hands free and still get the eggs back into the house safely.  It's brilliant.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Good Ideas - no waste feeder

I'm going to start a new section to my Blog called Good Ideas.  These will be short posts with things I've discovered that make my life easier.  Ideas that I wish to share with you in the hopes that they make your life easier too.


If your hens are like mine, they love to beak out their feed on the ground.  Which is messy, wasteful, and if your ground gets wet and your feed gets wet, can make your hens sick.  So it's important to keep the feed areas for your hens tidy.

I picked up these large, plastic saucers from my local hardware store and set the feeders inside of the saucer up on a block.  It doesn't prevent them from beaking out their feed, but it does keep it from landing on the ground.

Some of my hens will even eat it out of the saucer.  Or you can easily pour it back into the feeder.

The Screaming Divas

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  I have changed the name of my Blog.  The Spice Girls has served me well for the past 6 1/2 years.  And we had many Spice Girl hens over those years.  But with Coco's passing, we no longer have any Spice Girls left in the flock and I felt it was time to turn over a new name for the ladies.

The Screaming Divas is how I've referred to them lately.  And the name suits them well.

So just a quick note to let you know that you are still in the right place.  I'll spend some time this week and this weekend updating the look and feel of my Blog and I hope you enjoy the changes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fly high sweet Coco

I knew this day would come.  I had expected this day to come a long time ago actually.  But that doesn't ease the sadness and heartache I feel right now.  Easter Sunday, we had to say goodbye to my sweet Coco Bean.  

She was 6 1/2 years old and the last of my original four chickens that started this journey with me.  She made me crazy.  She made me laugh.  And she knew she had me wrapped around her little finger.  She knew her name.  She liked to dig up my rose bushes.  And nothing ever got past that bird.

When I got hens, I read that they liked sunflower seeds and cracked corn.  And I was guilty of feeding way too many of these treats.  And Coco, being an always hungry Jersey Giant, was happy to eat right out of my hands.

I think she was about a year and a half old, maybe two years, when the vet diagnosed her as having fatty liver disease.  I was devastated.  But he gave her SAMe and she rallied.  I cut out all fatty treats and gave my hens fruits, veggies, oats and meal worms as treats.  And in very small quantities too.

And with the change in diet, she did great.  She never shirked her duties as the alpha hen of The Spice Girls.  But I did notice her slowing down this year.  Sunday, she was totally off her game.  She didn't go up to the feeder at all.  And she was waddling like she was suddenly very fat.  When I felt her up, she winced and I knew that wasn't good.

I ran through what could possibly be wrong.  Her liver could have ruptured.  She could have an egg stuck inside of her.  She could be getting fatter because she's not moving around as much.  But regardless of what was wrong with her, I wasn't going to subject her to needles and exams and treatment.  I'd just be prolonging the inevitable.

So we took her to the emergency vet and had her humanly euthanized.  I cried the whole way there and the whole way home with her.  I cried the whole rest of the day and today, two days later, my eyes are still swollen and red.

We buried her in the garden next to her best buddies, Ginger, Honey Bear and Poppy Loo.  I miss her more than all of my other lost birds combined.  Fly high sweet Coco Bean.

Coco was the most adorable baby chick.  And was ALWAY watching me with those black eyes.

She had the most adorable white, fluffy bottom.

Always watching me.

My most favorite photo of Coco.  Standing tall and regal and watching over her domain.  

She wasn't a big fan of hugs and cuddles.  But she tolerated me picking her up from time to time.  Provided I'd tuck her feet up under her.

Always watching Mama.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

She beat me

Tipping the scales at 4 lbs, 13 ounce and probably more feathers than muscle, she beat me.  With a brain the size of a pea, she beat me.  And with a beak she isn't afraid to use, she beat me.

Who beat me you ask?  Well, her name is Bella.  She's a darling little Partridge Cochin who makes me crazy more often than not.

I always thought Cochins were adorable but worried about keeping their feathered feet clean.  But when I went to the feed store last April to get more Buff Orpingtons and heard they had Cochins, well, I had to have a few.  So Bella and a Black Cochin we named Penny came home with us.

Turns out, keeping their feet clean was the least of my problems with this little one.
I knew the Cochins would likely be the bottom of the pecking order but the BO's are typically pretty mellow so I thought this would be okay.  And while it was clear pretty early on that they Cochins were indeed the bottom of the pecking order, there wasn't too much pecking.

Bella is totally food obsessed and constantly comes up to peck at us on the patio and see if we have treats.
I'm fortunate that I have two coops in my run.  A big one and a little one.  So I trained the Cochins to sleep in the little coop.  Everyone else slept in the big coop.  And eggs were equally laid in both coops.  But it all worked out.

Look at that darling face.  And those beautiful feathers.  What's not to love about this bird? 
Then a few months ago, I noticed that Bella had decided to sleep in with the big girls.  My initial concern was that Penny was all by herself.  But it doesn't get cold where I live and Penny seemed fine with is so I let it go.

I finally had to fence in my flower pots to keep her out.
But what I didn't realize, was that Bella was getting pecked mercilessly by the big hens who didn't want her in their coop.  It was awful to listen to.  So I set out to retrain Bella to sleep in the little coop with Penny.

For the first few nights, I plucked her out of the big coop and put her into the little coop.  Then I stood at the big coop pop door and let the big hens in but closed the door when Bella came around.  I tried to guide her over to the little coop but she wasn't having it.

One night, I sprinkled raisins on the roost in the little coop thinking if she discovered treats on her pillow, she'd be more encouraged to go sleep there.  Sadly, that was the one night that Penny decided to go to bed early and I heard her eat every last one of those raisins before I could get Bella in there.

Another night, I got all the big hens put up to bed and closed off the big coop pop door and went back in to watch Bella on the monitor.  She ran back and forth and desperately wanted back into the big coop.

Bella has the most amazing feathers and I love the way her feathers on her feet drag on the patio when she comes to visit.
So after a week of standing outside in the cold, wind and rain, and trying to get Bella to see that sleeping in the little coop is much more desirable, last night, I just gave up.  I had a rotten Monday and was exhausted and I just decided if she wants to get pecked and is up for that kind of abuse, then let her have it.  I've showed her an alternate option.  It's now her choice.

She bee lined into the big coop when I finally opened the pop door.  I didn't hear too much scuffling as it was already quite dark and the big girls had mostly settled down for the night.  This morning, there were about 6 brown fluffy feathers on the floor of the coop.  Did the big girls pull those out?  Or did Bella shed them naturally?  I don't know because I don't have a monitor inside my coop.

I'll pop out at bedtime tonight to listen and hear what goes on.  But I'm done trying to change Bella's mind about where to sleep at night.  She won fair and square and that's the end of that game.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Bedtime Drama

My babies are going to be a year old this month.  I can't believe it.  When I went to the feed store, I had planned on only getting more Buff Orpingtons as they have been a good breed for me.  They are generally mellow and hadn't done too much damage to my garden.  Well, till this batch.  But that's a different blog.

While at the feed store, I heard they had Cochins and I had to have some.  So I bought a black and a partridge Cochin, Penny and Bella.  And it was clear from the beginning that they were more mellow than the BO's and would likely be the bottom of the pecking order.

But the nice thing about my set up is that I have two coops, a big one and a small one.  When I first moved the babies outside, they all slept in the small coop.  But as they grew, they eventually out grew the little coop and I moved the BO's over to sleep in the big coop.  And left the Cochins to sleep in the little coop.  And that worked out well.

But a few months ago, I realized that Bella had decided to go sleep with the big girls.  I pondered this for a while as I felt bad that Penny was all by herself.  But everyone seemed to be okay with the arrangement so I let it be.  But I was never really comfortable with the sleeping arrangement.

Recently, I've been going out at bedtime and only then realized that Bella was getting pecked mercilessly by the big hens.  She would try to go to bed first and get a spot on the high roost in the back.  But that's also where the big girls sleep.  I was surprised that she willingly went in there each night and didn't go back to the small coop.  

Well, tonight was just too much for me to bear, and I pulled Bella from the big coop and put her back with Penny in the little coop.  She really didn't protest at all.  I think she appreciated the break from the pecking.

I know I'll probably have to go out there for a few more nights and redirect her to the little coop before that becomes her new routine, but I'm cool with that.  I kind of wish I had done this sooner.  But I just wasn't aware of how much she was being bullied and that she would willingly subject herself to that abuse.

Bella is a Partridge Cochin and is a beautiful bird.  Don't you just love those feathers?

Penny is just darling.  She has these soulful eyes that just stare right through your.  When I have a rough day, I come home for a Penny hug.

I love watching Penny go to bed in her little coop as it's just her size.

This is the big coop.  Notice Bella is on the back roost with her back to everyone in her best attempt to avoid the pecking from the other hens.  My old hens get the higher roosts and leave the younger BO's to the low roost.

And Penny in her little coop on her tiny roost.  She's just so darling.


Friday, March 24, 2017

I'm a chicken whisperer

I think I can officially call myself a chicken whisperer.

This morning Coco was bagawking.  She'll only do that when there's a problem.  So I go outside and she's standing at the top of the ramp, looking into the coop and is clearly very upset about something. But what?

So I peek inside the coop and found each nest occupied by a hen quietly, laying an egg.

So I go back inside the house.

But Coco will not stop bagawking.  And each time I go outside, there she is at the top of the ramp, looking inside the coop.  You're probably thinking, she had to lay an egg and was yelling at them to hurry up.  But Coco hasn't laid an egg in months.  She's 6 1/2 years old and probably done laying.  So I knew that wasn't the problem.

Coco loves to talk to me so I went out and knelt down to get at her level.  I asked her what the problem was and she gave me an ear full.  So I got that there was a problem.  But what?!?

I went back in the house but she was still screaming about it so back outside again and this time I brought treats.  Which she readily ate.  But continued to scream.

This went on for over an hour and when I went out for the hundredth time, both of the Buff Orpingtons had finished laying and were back out in the run.  But Penny was still in her nest.  And when I went to feel under her for an egg, she screamed and pecked me.  Ah, Penny has gone broody.

And Coco does NOT like broodies.  Not sure what her issue is there.  Does she not want anyone to hog up a nest?  Or does she really understand that a broody could bring in babies and she doesn't want any more minions to have to boss around?  But Coco does not like a broody hen.

So poor Penny is now in the broody breaker in the garage.  And Coco has finally calmed down and is quite.  It took me a bit to sort out what she wanted, but finally after 6 1/2 years of listen to Coco speak, I feel I can finally understand what she's trying to tell me.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Birthday Hug

I got a big hug from my sweet Coco for my birthday last week.  She's such a sweet bird.  She's not really cuddly but she'll tolerate me picking her up every once in a while.  Which is difficult for me to respect because she's by far the softest bird in my flock and I just love petting those glossy, black feathers.


She always tucks her feet up under her when I hold her.  My other hens let their legs dangle down but not Coco.  Maybe she feels safer that way.  I'm not really sure why she does this.  But she always does and so I try to get them up under my arm so she feels more secure.

And then we left Coco and her sisters behind for a few days while we went to Yosemite to celebrate.  Below is a photo of me trudging through the snow.  It's so beautiful to watch when you don't have to be anywhere and don't have to drive in it.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

No chickens in the house

We don't wear shoes in our house.  I want to be able to walk bare foot in my house and still have clean feet at the end of the day.  Not to mention, you can track in all kinds of stuff from the world into your house on the bottoms of your shoes.

So naturally, we don't let our hens inside the house.  For anyone who has hens, you know they have no boundaries and will step in poop and just not care.  Not to mention, they will poop in your house too.

But I also like fresh air in the house so I like to have the slider open when I'm home.  Which means we either need to keep the screen door closed or only crack open the slider 4 inches.  No more.  Any more, and we'd have chickens in the house.

Marigold is my problem hen and desperately tried to come in and see what's cooking.  You can see here that she's nearly able to squeeze through.  But not quite.

I'm sorry sweetie, but you need to stay outside with your sisters.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blue Poop

If you feed your hens purple cabbage, they will thank you with turquoise colored poop.  It even stained the pine shavings in the coop as they were eating it before bed last night.  Blueberries will also give them blue poop.

It's a good reminder that what they eat really flows right through them.  And into their eggs as well.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Turkey Mom

Anyone who's ever had a broody knows exactly what this is.  It's when a hen puffs up every single feather on her body to make her look three times her normal size and is used to intimidate the other hens.  Someone on my favorite chicken Facebook group described it as "Back the Cluck up Bitch" mode.  And while some may find that offensive, it really is a great description of what the hen is thinking.

This is Marigold yesterday.  She was on day two of being in the broody breaker trying to get her to rethink her broody ways.  I put her out in the garden to stretch her legs and hang out with her sisters.  I also wanted to see if she would attempt to get back into her nest box.

Today is day three and while she's still making the broody, chuck, chuck, chuck sounds, I did get her to roost with her sisters tonight so I think she may be over it.  Fingers crossed that she's back out in the run like normal in the morning.  It breaks my heart to isolate her in the broody breaker.  But letting her brood when there's no chance of her having babies is even more cruel.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

First broody of 2017

I came home from a work trip to one VERY broody hen.

Marigold is 9 months old.  For the last 3-4 months, she has walked around making the chuck, chuck, chuck, broody mama sound.  She'll even puff up and go all turkey mom on any of the other hens if they get close.  But she never quite tipped over into being fully broody.  She continued to lay eggs and roost at night.  So I just let her be.

But last week I felt she was acting a little more broody than she had been.  And I was right.  When I got home last night, she was nestled into a nest box as happy as could be.  I scooped her out, gave her a big hug and put her up on the roost.  Ten minutes later, she was back in the nest.  I thought, it wasn't quite dark and now that it's dark, I'll try again.  Nope, off the roost and back into the nest.

So this morning, I moved her to my dog crate/broody breaker in the garage.  It breaks my heart to isolate her like that.  But I'm not in a position to let her brood, so breaking her is probably the most humane thing to do.

I suppose I should get used to this as I've got 3 more young Buff Orpingtons and 2 Cochins and all are prone to going broody.  So as we head into spring, this is not the last time I'm going to have to deal w/ this.

I know people say you should tip the dog crate onto its side but I've always had good luck doing it this way.  They like to stand on the big block and it kind of blocks them from nestling down into the towels.  Hopefully, she's over being broody in a day or two and I can get her back out with her sisters.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy New Year

New Years resolution - blog more.  I always feel I need to have a specific topic to blog about and fabulous photos to go along with it.  And the reality is, sometimes it's just statue quo around here.  So in the new year, I promise to blog more.  Doesn't mean I'll necessarily have these deep informative insights to share.  It's more just what's going on in my yard at the time.

And speaking of my yard, it's trashed.  We FINALLY got rain this year and lots of it.  And I don't even live in the wet part of the state.  But we needed it.  I think most things are enjoying this really good soaking we've received.  I hope my garden survives it.  Unfortunately, what's surviving is also being eaten by the hens.


I have a bunch of these wire rings around the garden.  The problem is I need about 25 more to protect everything.   I did replant my patio pots and put up some temporary fencing around that to keep the ladies from grazing "the salad bar" and it's working.  

Coco is nearly 6 1/2 years old.  And her age is starting to show.  But she's still the queen of the flock.
We nearly lost Peaches last year from a crop impaction.  Every day I thank the lord that I was able to save this bird and she's still with us.  She has these soulful eyes that just stare right through you.  I really love her.

And a photo of my three older gals. That's Pearl at the top. She's the least friendly of the bunch but I still love her.

This is Marigold.  We call her Squirt.  She's small, wiley and can squeeze through the tinniest of spaces.  I've found her in OUR house a few times cuz she just slips through the 3" crack I leave the door open so I can hear them.
And Bella, she's a Partridge Cochin.  She is darling.  Just came into lay at 10 months of age.    Not the best photo of her.  She has the most amazing feathers.

So that's the latest from here.  More photo to come.