I’m A Chicken

I shared most of this story on social media recently, but I did leave out a few points of interest. I say “interest” but really, most folks could care less. It’s we oddballs who love chickens whom just garner every scrap of shared knowledge about them and their world. Then the others loves who live vicariously through us. Bless em…

By The Way, I will remind you I express myself pretty bluntly. 

Sometimes Animals just baffle my brain.

I’d been cleaning the chicken yard and nesting area and coop all day. This was my end of the season pressure washing adventure. Usually, it unearths all sorts of disgusting bullshit. This time it found me screaming like a scared kid running out of a graveyard. “””shudder””” I really hate spiders.  Nope don’t like them one bit. Well, this one, which I unceremoniously blasted with high pressure water, hung on. When it finally let go, I swear I saw that monster come at me! Could she do that? I mean Fling Herself directly at me?  OH Hell, I’m not standing to find out! Off came my shirt! I’m standing in bra in the middle of my chicken coop beating the mess out of my shirt on the back of a plastic lawn chair. When I’m totally sure there is nothing on that shirt, not inside or out, I slip it back on.  Then you look sheepishly around hoping no one was around to Youtube your situation…

I flopped down and took a break in that same chair. Yes, I searched the chair to make sure that spider didn’t find a way to hide on it. While sitting, Victoria came over and wanted attention (by now you know of Victoria. If you don’t, she’s a ‘blue’ Ameraucana hen. She’s the queen of the coop), but she almost always wants attention. So I’d bend over and grab her up easy-like, and hug her and kiss her cheek and head. Yes, she loves it. Victoria2

We sat together watching the other birds. Some jumped up on my lap with us and she pecked them away (Yes, I giggled knowing she likes our time alone. I was a bad girl. I admit it…). After a few minutes, I know it’s time to get up and get moving again, before I decided to stop all together.

Victoria goes back to the ground, and she fusses at me, but back to work I go to finish what I was doing (minus the spiders.. YUCK!).

Victoria kept me in sight most of the day. Either near me or not very far off (I fuss at her if she’s under foot while I work. She knows this). Moving all the stuff in the coop and pressure washing the walls and ceiling now, and I’m about done. The stuff gets put back inside, including the large roost made of 2×4 lumber. Its collapsible so it can be removed or moved to a new spot.

I took a deep breath, told Victoria it was time for lunch (late lunch), and pick her up and kiss her. She’s making some kind of babble at me which I do not understand, and finally, I left to go eat lunch. I could hear her yelling for me as I walked off. Still, Ya gotta eat sometime…

Going back out, she’s still standing there waiting for me. I bend down and pick her up, and nuzzle her neck cooing to her. She’s such a pushover… (I’m such a pushover). Putting her down she won’t quit making that “PICK ME UP NOISE”. Then I get the image in my head of her wanting some bread. I pick her up and go back to the kitchen, she’s neatly tucked under my arm, with her legs swinging freely beneath her. We go to the bread cabinet and pick out some older slices. She’s totally relaxed and not saying a thing, waiting patiently. Setting her down, I give her the usual plate of bread pieces and a touch of water.

I realized I had left for lunch without taking her with me. I mean, she was yelling to high heaven as I walked off. I just didn’t understand what she was saying… Now, I know that’s what she was yelling about. Bread. It’s all about the BREAD!  LOL  Well, she does love the stuff…

After she had contentedly eaten the bread, she walked over and waited for me to finish my drink, then happily pooped on my floor (Disgusting; which of course, now I must clean and disinfect). Oh Happy Days.

Then I pick her up and we go back outside so I can finish my chores. I set her down and get busy picking up tools and packing up the pressure washer. It’s fairly late in the day, about 3:00 PM.

Finally, I’m done about an hour later and flop down in the lawn chair, exhausted.

Victoria walks over to me with the “noise” and I pick her up to nuzzle her and talk to her.  I sit down with her. She’s not happy at all with me. She forces her way off my lap, stands flat footed in front of me staring at me, yelling (again…).

OK, what’s going on here?

She’s still yelling and staring straight at me making squawking sounds.  Reminds me of when I scolded my kids for doing stupid crap. I folded my hands and just watched her. She finally shut-up, and relaxed her stand into a near squatting position, then wiggled down onto the ground. She nestled down further closer to my feet, resting lightly against my foot, leaned over, got comfy and took a nap… I dare not mess up her sleep time! Crap! It’s NAP TIME! I look around and the other ladies have found a nice nap-spot and had already conked out.

Good gosh! I’m a Chicken too now, and Victoria says, “It’s nap-time stupid”….

The Chicken Mom

 

Hens Personality

The way a chicken behaves daily changes, DAILY. Truthfully, the same joyous happy hen today, can be a pain in the ass the next day. I don’t even know why, but they do swap moods frequently.

For instance: Thelma, a normally standoffish New Hampshire Red loves me to scratch her waddle but if I go to pick her up, she’s not happy about it. Now, all of a sudden she’s following me around talking to me as I do chores in the pen, begging me to pick her up (Go figure)… She’s a three year old now.

Victoria2

Then another hen, Victoria; a blue Ameraucana. She’s a babe and my sweetie, but let me tell you, she has a mood. When a hen molts, they get very angry if you want to pick them up. I mean heck, I likely would feel the same if 70% of my feathers were off my body and I had these little stick-like quills poking me,  pressing into my body, when someone picks me up. OUCH!!  That has to hurt.  You think that the mood would pass after the molt passes, but nope; it does not. Until their hormones return to normal and they get the urge to lay again, you can pretty much forget any loving feelings they might have toward you. During this molt, she eyed me suspiciously and ran every time I wanted to kiss her little chicken face.  Poop! What a downer.

Shnewhampshireredirley, my LOUD MOUTH New Hampshire Red, has become a love bug. She’s never been overly affectionate but she’s sure the one to watch. She likes being picked up and nuzzled. That’s another one I couldn’t have called. She has been a real pain in the butt, up till now.

I could go on an on, with each hen getting rated on behavior, but really, most of them have changed significantly. I don’t really know why. When I sat and thought about it, I realized that most of my ladies are three years old this year.  There must be some maturation which occurs in the three-year old category, which just makes them more likable.  Then again, maybe they just like me more after three years.  Ha! I’ll never know…

With all my pondering on this subject, I find few facts. I just go on personality and habit. How they act, as opposed to how they acted last week or month or year. Victoria is in a very cordial mood this year, so far. She’s not molting and she must feel good. All she wants is for me to carry her around and talk to her. I’m not going to get too secure with this, because I know that next week or even as soon as tomorrow, it can all change.

I can’t even get into discussing why now, Cleo (A Cuckoo Maran) thinks I’m demon spawn… cukoomaranShe runs from me like I tried to make her my dinner. I did not!!  I can’t convince her that I’m a nice lady. What change after her molt, I can’t fathom either. She was such a sweet girl, but now she’s not a happy camper. Although, I don’t miss her trying to eat my freckles…

No this is not Cleo. She wouldn’t be still for a pix!

(This image from -http://chickenpic.blogspot.com/2008/03/maran-chickens-cuckoo-marans-chocolate.html)

Anyway, I really wanted you to get an idea that you can’t buy a chicken breed and think you will have the perfect hen. They change personalities like the wind. You can buy the type you ‘think’ you might like most, then spend a mega amount of time with that bird, from baby to adult, so it gets use to human contact, and hope it comes out nice and docile.

None of my birds peck. OK, just one (come to think of it). That’s a Barred Rock hen who I got from a 4-H youth as an adult hen. She never had any personality but she lays like crazy, so I  kept her. However, none of the others peck. They are all cool and if they don’t want me to pick them up, they just struggle to get down. I get that… I would too. Most of them tolerate my desire to kiss their face, and nuzzle their neck (and likely, hug a bit too much). I can’t help it…

A lot of new backyard chicken keeping folks, get frustrated when the hen they have turns out to be a scratching pack of feathers and a beak. This ideal bird, which is pictured in the youtube videos and the photos of children holding them, you see in the web, has been cultivated and nurtured. The Natural behavior of a chicken is to run like hell from humans or anything else.

So, in closing. If your child or yourself decide on a chicken. Spend time finding out what you like, then also what is a good fit for your family. Then spend time talking to folks about chicken breeds. Decide to spend a goodly amount of time with that chicken from the time they hit the door. … By The Way, They Poop. Get over it…

Yes, I’ll answer your questions if you have any! I’d be happy too!

The Chicken-Mom

Rats and Chickens and Leptospirosis

Most of the time, (and I mean “most”), we are rat free and have no problems with them. Almost unavoidably at times though, we do end up with some happy little critter who overrides  my attempts at keeping it that way.

With that tagline established, lets go ahead now with… My yesterday.

Honestly, I felt magical yesterday and with that energy in place, I felt like I could undo the whole worlds problems. I decided to go ahead and clean the chicken coop. This is not an easy task. It had about 8 months of smutz which needed to be cleaned.

Inside the coop, I also have a small enclosure for my quail. It’s four feet by nine and six feet tall. Its a pretty secure pen with a walk in door. I established this area to keep out vermin, of one or more types… One type was rats. They would happily eat quail. Those little tiny bundles of feathers (not the brightest birds I’ve ever had either), just do not have any real defenses other than running. So protecting them was up to me.

I do not care what you do to try to provide a safe environment, something along the way is going to show up and piss on your party. Trust me…  You will have to rethink almost everything you do, every single time you (erroneously) think you have a good workable plan. Usually this happens way after you have already built it or made it or purchased supplies, then realize you screwed up, yet again.

Inside the chicken coop area, a happy little animal was making a nest, right next to the quail pen. Now, come on, it’s only about 2 inches wide!! That tiny space? Well, crap! Id’ watched it being built a little at a time. I wasn’t really sure what was doing it, but I sorta figured it was a rat. I wanted to get it moved before they could establish a home. Rats are not good for the hens, and not good for any human who goes inside the chicken coop.

I need to give my husband real credit for not wanting to murder me. Mostly because, everything I ask him to help me build, is either moved, or changed within six months. Ah well…

I point to the ever increasing nest which is being slowly built and tell him, “Honey this wall of the quail pen has to come down”. He exclaims how much effort that will take (and I assure you, long before I asked his help, I had already calculated the effort it would take, and the backlash of words I’d have to hear about it, before it got done).

He finally sees no way around it either, so we begin the massive undertaking, that meant we had to remove a full third of the pen to get to that 1 wall. Sigh…

Finally, the wall is down and we can begin to pull out the sticks, leaves, feathers, and debris, the animal had collected. Then out came the rats! AH! I actually, laughed but my husband was freaking the fuck out. He screamed loudly something I didn’t understand, and I was giggling as I was saying, HEY! RAT! LOL He said, “don’t yell!”, “I’m not yelling honey… I’m laughing at you dancing around”!  This wasn’t my first time experiencing this problem, but it was his. I usually handle things like this myself. LOL  (Yes, I’m actually laughing-out-loud now, for real). You would have laughed at him too. Especially, when he realized he was the one yelling and not me. (ha ha ha)…

The rats ran. He danced. I giggled and lifted up my foot as a rat dashed under me. Hens chased rats and cackled loudly. Yep, it was pure pandemonium. Mass confusion in one second broke out. I was still smiling. I’m not sure why, except this scene reminded me of something ridiculous, Lucy would do to Ricky on the old TV show, “I Love Lucy”.

With the rats gone, we were free to keep cleaning out that mess. Finally; it was all gone. Ah, good; now to keep taking down those other walls. With the frames of wire carried outside, I began to wash them off and free them from urine and poop the rats left behind.

This took me a while, and when I was busy washing them off, I heard quite a commotion in the chicken coop. When I went to investigate, it seems the hens found a bunch of little rats. Well, crap. I didn’t see them! Come to find out, they had become subterranean. Well, there wasn’t anything I could do about it now. They were goners.

This is where I add a little note of warning for you.

Even as lighthearted I try to make posts, this one is very serious. Rats can be carriers of a bacteria, (Leptospirosis is caused by spirochaete bacteria belonging to the genus Leptospira.) which can kill you. It is transmitted to humans by coming in contact with infected animals, usually through urine or feces. Which is why I was washing off everything…

” Rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts—but a wide range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals carry and transmit the disease as secondary hosts.”

Just imagine touching everything in your chicken yard. Yep, a Rat has likely walked on it, or peed on it or pooped on it. Kind of disgusting, but it’s the facts. It is also why I wear gloves and cover my feet. No Flip-Flops!

Also, another reason I am typing this out, is so that you know, and protect yourself and your family, and pets. I wish we’d known sooner than we did. My Father died from complications from Leptospirosis. That’s another story, from long ago…

OK folks!  Get RID of those Rats Nests!

 

The Chicken Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Self Sufficient Farm

The Change of Life…

So, (and yes, I know it stinks to use the word “SO” in the beginning of a sentence), let me tell you guys about the crap I’ve been mentally working through. Yea, it’s about killing a chicken to eat for dinner or any other meal.

If you are a meat eater (and yes I am), I think at one point or another the lovely, paisley colored mental pictures, which are painted of ‘life on the farm’, fade into common sense, and the thoughts of the real world hit you.  It comes down to the honest day-to-day working of a farm of any kind. I mean, are you actually going to use this as a Self-Sustaining farm or not? That is my dream, yes…  These little turd making critters are lovely and wonderful, but at what point is it no longer just a hobby? When is it a real farm? When do you make the change over? Is it when you see yourself spending copious amounts of cash on food for them? Or perhaps it’s when you see the prices of food you buy at the grocery store, going up and knowing that poor hen you just cooked for dinner lived life in a grotesque way.- The sort of life that makes your soul ache.

Yes, that’s when the energetic switch hit me. I can’t condone in any way how chickens are treated in mass chicken farms. I squint in pain just thinking of the poor things. Sort of like you do when you suck a lemon….

Yea, that face…

funny-old-women

Yes, I’m a animal lover and spoil my hens rotten. I love my girls, and they are the source of great joy for me. If you have read my blog for all these years, you know this already. I do need to change things though…

I think this is where my Mom would say, “Crap or get off the pot” (Sorry Mom, you know you would).

If I’m going to contribute to, and count myself as one of the  ‘chicken eating federation’, then I really have to be honest with myself and be accountable to this process.. What process? Butchering a Hen for dinner…

When I say that, I’m always reminded of my Great-Grandmother Lopez, who comes from a long line of chicken eaters. She loved her hens too, and would defend them ferociously! Yes, don’t get in her way. She also would cull a hen who crossed her, without even a hesitation. If a hen was one of those who picked on others and pecked or fought, they didn’t make it back into the coop that night. They were dinner. Even a hen who crowed had a short life-span! She said, they were bad luck. Yes, hens will crow… Not nearly as amazingly as a Rooster does, but yes, they still crow from time to time. Either way, they were dinner if they did.

OK? Well, if you say so…

I do have a hen that crows, and secretly, I hope it’s that mean-ass Golden Comet. She is not a nice bird. If another hen is eating she starts a fight and beats them up and pushes them away from the feed. She has a lousy personality. She’s even tested me a time or two and she loses, but really, at times I look at her and think, “Dear, just keep pushing me”…

***BA-GAWK***  Oops….. One less hen.

golden-comet-hen

I think, her days might be numbered… She may be the catalyst that brings this event into reality.

Out of the birds I have, I can’t really think of any I would enjoy butchering. No, not in the least. Actually, my gut wrenches just thinking of me having to do something like that.

It is how our Grandparent lived though… I’m still battling the thoughts which go into this. I’ve been Vegan, Vegetarian. I didn’t like it, nor did I enjoy any aspect of it. Yea, no lectures please. I have a delete button.

We all have to make our own choices on this topic. I’m just sharing with you my transition, if there ever becomes one.

Perhaps for me, the solution is to have a different area where birds are raised for meat exclusively with my personal interaction limited. OK, not like that’s going to happen. I really love to interact with the animals here. So we’re right back to square 1…

I hear voices in my head saying, “But you can buy those hens who live good lives, in “free range farms”; over there in the freezer section”…  Yea? You really believe all that hokey? It’s still mass marketing at its finest. Germ infested plants who handle my food…  Nope. No thanks.

So you’ll be getting a sequel to this post.

As always.. I love you guys and gals!

PS… The reason you don’t see a bunch of blips and bleeps of blinking advertisements here, is because I don’t sell my blog to advertisers… This is therapy for me. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poop

line art1

Are Chickens For You?

With the daily life of dealing with 20-30 birds consistently, you really learn about them with hands-on expertise. What’s called OJT. Yep. No book is going to train you for all the stuff you will face with raising chickens. However, read them!

If you are squeamish, chickens aren’t for you, unless you excel in bravery, then you might get past all the poop-cleaning and sickness birds ‘sometimes’ have.

The first time I got poop on my hand I almost threw up. After five  years of chickens, I look at it and think, “Okay, I need to go wash that off” then get distracted and forget. Sort of like a Mom does with babies. After a while, you just aren’t moved much by it. You do what you  must do…

I do still make Stink Face though…. We all have one.

mama-june-stink-eye

(I love this face)…

So, while I’m on the topic of POOP. . .

You are going to find yourself looking at a lot of it (POOP) willingly. Yes, you will! (Don’t make that face at me. 🙂  You’ll want to know what’s happening inside the bird, and frequently, that means looking at POOP. What does it look like? Runny? Solid? Wormy? … Who’s doing the squish bottom dance? They sort of walk funny when they have diarrhea. Just like anyone else who feels lousy, it shows in their walk and how they hold themselves. Yes, you are going to befriend the bottom of any chicken you have decided to keep.

The Happy Rump

The Happy Rump

Believe me, no one will come running to aid you in looking at the bottoms of your hens. It’s a YOU and THEM process, and you will become so adept at reading chicken asses, that you can tell almost instantly who’s not doing well,  who needs wormed, who needs medicine, who ate too much of the wrong thing.

All the magic happens on that end of the hen…  aqua egg
Study up on the reproductive tract of chickens, and also the digestion issues they have, and basic illnesses.  This is so much easier now that we have the internet! I mean the whole world is at your fingertips. Study, Study, Study!   – I did not study enough before launching myself forward, but here I am 5 years later, still with hens and for the most part, I haven’t killed any yet. 🙂 I’m studying a lot more now.

So, this isn’t my most glorious post about hens but let me tell you, it’s quite honest…

Much love to you readers out there!!

Chicken Mom

Internal Cracked Eggs

internal-cracked-egg

This Egg has been cracked while in the Oviduct of the hen.

Weird things happen to eggs while they are in the Oviduct of the chicken. I’ve posted a lot of photos of weird eggs but this one is one of the weirdest I think.

The hen who laid this egg got a heck of a jolt while the egg was making its way down the oviduct. A jolt hard enough to break the egg while the shell was forming. The hens body went ahead and patched the shell for her before it was laid. That is not always the case actually…

With hens, an egg cracking inside can be certain death. When this happens, if it’s not expelled by the hen, but is stuck inside, peritonitis usually kills the bird fairly quickly. You can look up peritonitis in the internet easily. It’s a nasty situation.

That is not the case with this lucky bird!  She is still laying those cracked eggs though…  I’m puzzled as to what is happening. I think I have an idea, but not certain if that’s the problem. I have one nest which is really high off the ground. The girls love that nest. I think she’s too heavy for the job of staying in the nest when others want in. She hops down before she has laid her egg, and it’s getting cracked before it’s out. Evidently, it’s not so badly cracked that the body can’t mend it when it happens.

Here’s what happens inside while in the laying process.

ovaduct-hen I’m still learning on my journey, and I do like to share with you what I learn…

♥Chicken Mom♥

Communication in Pecking

When I go see the girls which is many times in one day. They all have a different way of behaving. Some are the “in your face” sort of happy (and demanding) to see me. Others can be a bit more “meh, you again”… Usually most of them are within touching range, and are quite inquisitive. If I sit down, I’ll have a lap full of chickens in a moment. They love to sit and talk to me, or groom me… I’ve had little bits of stuff pecked off so gently, I hardly feel it. Then there’s those obnoxious pecks…

Cleopatra - Cuckoo Maran

Cleopatra – Cuckoo Maran

One of the things I am just getting to understand is pecking. Not all pecking is bad. Imagine that! I figured pecking of any sort should be stopped immediately, but the more I am around them, I realized that they talk with not just the noise factor and body language, but with the pecking they do.

Cleo, will peck me just because she wants me to pick her up, or wants attention in general. She’s an odd bird who’s quite happy to have attention period. Even negative attention. She doesn’t seem to care, either way. Pecking is equivalent to a human tapping on your shoulder to get your attention.  It doesn’t hurt; normally.

There’s as many peck types as there are chickens. I can’t take photos of pecking very easily, so bear with my personal descriptions.

Types of pecks:(I get)

OMG! Is that Food??? (peck)

let me get that schmutz off!…(peck) 

Hey! Look at me! (peck)

Pay attention to me! (peck)

Do Not Pick Me Up! (peck!)

It’s MY LAP TIME! (peck other bird) 

I’m going to eat your hand off!! (pecking hard)

I’m Broody Leave Me Alone!!!! (PECK – CACKLE – PECK)

Hey! Are those long hairs edible??? (testing peck- Nope! Dayam)…

Um, Sasquatch Hair-legs? I can help you with that…. (PECK) Me: OUCH!

Scratch my Waddle… (peck)

I need a Hug… (peck)

MY CHIN ITCHES (PECK – RUB)

Ooooooooooooh Buttons! (PECK)

Ooooh Ring Shiny and Edible! (PECK PECK)

A BUG!!! (peck)

~~~~~~~I think you can see that this list goes on and on. ~~~~

However, with all that typed out above, few of those pecks are out right mean. Most of the pecking I initiated myself when I encroach into their safe zone or was just not behaving according to Chicken Decorum. They do have rules in the chicken yard and those are things I have learned or get pecked.

The pecks are seldom mean pecks. They are just small reminders. I’ve never been out right attacked by any of the chickens. They know better. I am the Dominant Hen, and master of their world. I do have a couple of hens who test me…  Georgia who’s always ready to step into my dominant hen shoes if I submit. She’s gotten backhanded a few times. (Below)  Another Australorp.

georgia

Then there Maggie, who reminds me daily that she’ll eat anything on my body which she deems edible… There is NO teaching Maggie. She’s an insistent and incorrigible Australorp; named after my Grandmother, who acts nothing like Maggie. I promise! 🙂

Maggie

Maggie

The Chicken Mom~♥