Tag Archives: chickens as a hobby

Amazed Disgusted and Shocked

July 19, 2014

Amazed Disgusted and Shocked I need to warn you in advance, this is not for the faint of heart, OK? If you get squeamish easily, ya best click off and leave now.


Putting off the chicken coop cleaning was done for long enough! I’d fiddle-farted around most of the spring and the spiders and icky stuff was beginning to get to me (Insert disgusted face here (Really I wish I had one of those “insert face here” on this blog-post editor!).

Weekly, one needs to clean the shavings of poop, and then do general maintenance, of raking, picking up random bits of trash and god-knows-what, that the hens dig up in the yard. Then you have to clean up the storage area of the stuff you thought you wanted to keep and now find you can surely do without.

It’s all good, but it can wear you out. I’d let this go for several weeks now and was sort of tired with all the catching up I’d done for the last hour.

Along with the usual cleaning, I also decided to do that Spring Cleaning, I skipped doing! I’m going to hate myself in the morning, I can tell already.

When my husband brings me the pressure washer, I’m elated that I get to blast the shit out of stuff with water, but appalled at the thought of how much my arms are going to hurt in the morning. I begin by washing down the walls, back corner, then out to the front corner. After that, I blast the roof where the spider webs are! If you are as arachnophobia prone as I am, you know that you would also back out closer to the door, one step at a time, while you blast away. Just so you don’t end up with an unhappy spider landing down your shirt…

 As I finish up the coop area, I move over to the nesting area where they work their magic laying eggs. It’s pretty dusty in there and thankfully the girls are finished laying. With the exception of one hen laying claim to that area, it’s free and clear. I move the grumpy broody hen out-of-the-way, for now. She officially hates me, at the moment… =/

I take down the nesting boxes which are held in place with Zip-Ties. I can always put them back when I’m done washing the area down.

When I do that, and move a bit of plastic which had fallen down on the floor, a passel (a bunch) of baby rats scrambled out of the area. They shot everywhere! Left, Right, Between my feet, Over my feet… It was pandemonium in that place!! About that time, the hens saw the scrambling baby rats and …. well…. Nature took it’s course…

I’d never seen so many chickens running around with rats for dinner in my life! It was disgusting, disturbing and fascinating! I didn’t want to watch, but like a soap-box show on TV, you just can’t miss what’s going on. I knew that chickens ate other critters. I’d seen them devour snakes, and kill other animals who had the distinct misfortune of finding their way in the coop; like a squirrel and a few birds, and random mice. I had never seen them GULP down a whole baby rat before. Kill something yes, but Eat it? Ick… Dear God. I was now damaged goods. You just can’t unsee some things…

With that said, I was totally fascinated with how they beat the snot out of them, then swallow them head-first. The fights that broke out in the coop, I was powerless to change, except maybe push them apart; which I did. I even moved some of the small dead rats into a hole so I could bury them, but the hens took them out before I could get the others collected.  I finally gave up and said, FINE! Eat Rat!  They did….

And they ate and ate and ate….  What they didn’t eat they left half dead, and I had to finish off the little rat babies.

Can you imagine what that did to me? Dear God, I wanted chickens but not this! Just one more thing “they” don’t tell you when you decide to have backyard chickens. You can read up on this, till the cows come home but you aren’t prepared for the real life with chickens (another blog of mine).

By now I’m pretty shell-shocked and just keep clicking photos, so you can live though my experiences. It’s not always easy, lemme tell ya! Below are more (yes graphic) photos of the hens enjoying Rat, a la carte’. This tiny New Hampshire Red pullet, is only 12 weeks old and she’s a master of killing and consuming baby rats. It’s kind of unnerving to think that I could be dinner as well, if I ever passed out in the coop. =/

 This young Red SexLink was one of the most persistent and aggressive. No sooner than I removed a rat from her, she found another one, or grabbed the one I had, back in her beak. She was so determined to eat it, I finally just gave it back to her, and grabbed my camera.

OK One More… Don’t say I didn’t warn you…   You just can’t Un-See some things… ♥The Chicken Mom♥

Hug A Chicken!

If you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis, you know that I have a new flock of birds which have been maturing and becoming egg laying miracles. They have gotten to know me and I’ve gotten to know them.

These  girls, are so affectionate and responsive. They just enjoy company and really like to sit and talk. Sometimes they talk the whole time you are sitting with them and others just sit passively on your lap and fall asleep, or rest. Then there’s “Little Owl”.I could actually write a book about Little Owl. She’s really funny. As a baby, when she’d find me sitting, she’d hop on my knee and dive under my armpit with her head and just sort of stay there, with her rump end exposed. It was always so darn funny. I never stopped her because she was so determined to do it. If I had on my jacket she’d just hop on my knee and dive right inside my coat flap, settle down and nap. Even now, I shake my head and laugh at the memory.

Little Owl

Little Owl

What Owl did, I never really understood. One day I happened on a video of a Mom hen and her group of babies. They were all happily pecking in the dirt around her, and when they saw something which startled them, they ran headlong into the Mom’s breast feathers found a way under and hid. Some even found a way under the wings and rump. One little Biddy didn’t make it under so far and all that you saw of her was a Rump poking out from under the hens wing. I started laughing so hard. That was exactly what Little Owl did! Oh God! I really was a Chicken Mom.

Little Owl is a big girl now, and she is one of my really good layers. She’s an Ameraucana who lays light aqua eggs. I always sort of dreaded her quitting the actions she use to do. They were so genuine and real that I didn’t want her to stop. I knew she saw me as “Mom” and she was coming to me for a rest and relaxation she couldn’t get otherwise.

I never had to worry about that. Little Owl still does the “Dive”. Here’s a photo of her heading for happy Lap Time.

Little Owl Running for Happy Lap time

Little Owl Running for Happy Lap time

And… Here’s the Dive!  I think she’s loves it as much as I do…

owl-dive

Happy Lap Time!

Have you Hugged Your Chicken Today? 🙂

Hug A Chicken!

 

♥Chicken Mom♥

Peep Peep

When the little fluffy bits of wiggling, scampering, peeping down arrived in baby form, my phone rang. It was the post office. The babies arrived in the mail!! Yea!

I flew down to the post office in the closest pants I could find. It was 7:00 in the morning! It was exciting! It was terrifying…

I had no clue how this whole thing would turn out. I didn’t know how they would turn out. I knew what breed, yes, but I didn’t know if they would be nice birds or mean birds.  Blah, blah, blah… (Insert worried panic-stricken face here). I was freaking out.

After raising other older biddies. I’m well aware of the potential for  different personalities. You can end up with chickens from hell, and rue the day you ever embarked on raising any, or you can get some really sweet birds. Still, I had ordered 14 and ended up with 15. I guess that extra chick was for luck. They added her to the order for the extra body heat at no charge. Biddies can get cold traveling and need each other to maintain a constant temperature.  Either way, I was in deep and now no matter what transpired I was a surrogate Mother to 15 – 24 hour old baby peeps. God Help Me.  God Help my bathroom…

Yeah… Ya see, I didn’t think this out very well. They ended up in the guest bathtub. Unceremoniously deposited on some utility towels and given food and water. Oh Gezz! They  need heat! I ran around thinking, thinking, looking, looking… Oh Thank God! A reptile light!  – Don’t laugh. I was desperate! Then I positioned an expansion rod over them and hung the light. Whew!  They were fine and happily pecking bouncing and drinking. Amazing! That was such a long flight over and I worried about them getting here dehydrated or not making it at all.  All worries for nothing. They were bright-eyed and happily being chickens.babychickens3

I had them warm and happy, and now I was happy. Then, one of the little babies fell face forward into a pile of straw, all stretched out like she’d been shot with a cannon. Just sort of splayed like a dressed bird for dinner. Did she die?  I almost panicked. One after another they all started falling over. Just like the light clicked off on their energy field and they fell in a flat faced “chicken down”! position. I didn’t like this… My heart was racing. I’d never had little babies before. Usually the birds are a few weeks old when I bought them.  When the first little hen stretched with a big long leg stretch, I realized they were just tired and fell over from exhaustion; like my kids would after a long day playing. Sometimes the kids didn’t even get to the bed, but would land on the floor and pass out. Whatever, I didn’t care as long as they were healthy and just napping. I checked.  Yes, all breathing!

I didn’t have any sort of water container for them either. What was I thinking? I don’t know. Flying dumbly? Likely. I did figure out a make-shift one to put their drinking water in though. Here’s my idea. The cup kept them from falling into it.

waterer

That’s Georgia standing in the dish. She’s an Australorp.

So, even as ill-prepared I was for biddies, they still did just fine.  I didn’t know anything about raising biddies, especially not the tiny ones.

I was in love…

The babies got checked all day long and I woke in the night to look in on them. They saw me and usually roused and were happy to hear me talk to them or to be picked up.

They stayed in the tub until they were 4 weeks old. Now that was fun… (not). If I do this again I will have a proper brooder pen with heat lamps outside (I think). It was really nice getting to know them and learn their personalities. I don’t think if they had been outside, I’d have had nearly the time to know them like I do.

They are now 7 months old and laying. Most of them have names befitting their personality. I think most of them still identify myself as Mom, because they are especially attentive and most are pretty affectionate. I have a couple turd-heads who just don’t want to be mucked with. Fine with me… I have lots of snuggles for the ones who want to be snuggled with!

Here are a few of them at 5 weeks. They have a wonderful outside biddy yard.

Below is Georgia Photo-Bombing the snapshot!

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Happily hopping on the little roost in the biddy yard.

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I need to post some of their adult photos and will do that another day!

Enjoy your chickens!!

The Chicken Mom

Boo-Boo’s and Funky Stuff

Boo-Boo’s and Funky Stuff

This is Honey; the 10 lb cross-breed Buff Wyandotte, Copper Maran chicken.

IMG_1076In the photo Honey is standing in a huge 5 gallon pot. Yes, my sink is also huge. I had my hand gently on her back so she’d know I was there. The explosion of feathers, feet and claws I’d anticipated did not happen. 

She was quite calm, which is still something I am not use to. If a huge thing came and picked me up carried me into some weird enclosure, and plopped me down into a big pot of warm water, I’d come unglued. However, she didn’t, and I’ve seldom had any hen that did. I’ve had the girls for almost four years now. Still no real ambivilant behavior when I soak a hen in warm water.
I’m only guessing that it has something to do with sensory overload, so they just usually relax into a passive mass of fluff.

Honey was limping on a foot when I fed the ladies this morning. I picked her up and upon closer inspection I see she has a big black growth on the pad of her foot. It’s not swollen or puss filled, but it is most certainly a thick black scabby looking something stuck there.

I tentatively tug at it with my nail and see it’s attached onto the skin. Deciding it needs to come off I take Honey into the house for a good soaking in Epsom Salts and warm water. I took oodles of photos, but mostly because I thought she’d blow up…

honey-back

I laid her on her back on a towel and was ready to cover her head, but of course I snapped a picture of her on her back first. Then covered her head so she’d relax as I worked on her foot.

I hate to show you her foot but here’s the picture.
This condition is called (in the chicken forums) Bumble Foot. Some of the situations are way worse than this, with puss filled pockets. Honey’s was not that bad.

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After a long soaking of about 20 minutes I gently pried off the scab. It took a bit of doing, and it did bleed a little bit, but she is no worse for wear. It stopped soon after I took it off.

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I cleaned it off with Betadine and then used a good topical antibacterial dressing. The kind which does not have any pain additives. Analgesics are bad for chickens. After this I wrapped her foot with Vet Wrap and put her in a private recovery area so others wouldn’t peck at her wrapper.

The prognosis is good. She stayed in the enclosure a few days and she’s not limping anymore. The bandages came off and the old wound area looks clean and closed up neatly. Now she gets to go play with her other friends.
I can’t help but wonder what in the world is going to happen next…

Here’s a picture of Honey’s Eggs. I love how different they are each day. Sometimes almost copper and other days a more natural brown egg color. I actually dated each one as they were laid, so I could take note of the daily color changes.

honeys-eggs

I call eggs “Magic”… They are Amazing!

Maintenance in the Chicken Yard

Nothing gets done automatically in a chicken yard. Oh they talk about automatic waterers, and feeders, but they still need to be washed out and kept clean. Then the shavings under the roost, collect all the evenings droppings. If you don’t clean that frequently, it just gets layers upon layer of YUCK. I could just sprinkle some scratch feed down in the general area and let the girls bury it with their digging. That would just be temporarily effective, and have to be dealt with eventually.  Maybe I’m just a neat freak and need the work out. Either way I usually clean it once a week. On the off days, I just rake some clean shavings over the droppings. They soak up any of the smelly stuff. Wed is usually the Chicken Yard day.

I do talk a lot about Chicken Poop. That sort of makes me laugh, because my husband calls me a (should I say it?) “shit manager”. He means it in the most complimentary way. When things go awry here, I can usually make the best of it and find a way to keep going in some form or fashion.  I’m also good at pluming. When the sewer goes crazy, it’s me who rods out lines. I learned that while he worked his weird swing shifts at the Paper Mill. It seemed most stuff broke while he was gone and at night. It was not really unheard of to see me outside at midnight working on something. Like the year the pump lines froze in 11 degree temperatures. I’m outside with a blow dryer, fuzzy slippers and a house coat, coat and head muff.

He is more than willing to help and has taken share of the drama and broken stuff here. He does more than any man should have too. So, I am giving him credit for all of the good he does, trust me. I just fill in when he’s not home. Now, that he’s retired, he’s here a lot more.

Ah! Back to chickens…  (sorry).

Yesterday was work in the Chicken yard day. As you may be able to guess. Normally I write about my experiences, day-to-day. Yesterday found me winterizing the coop. It has a lot of protection, so it’s not been a very big concern for me that they would get too cold. I’m in Florida, that’s not really a hard issue, most of the time.  This year has been so mild, and it has felt more like Fall. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’ll take it!

My winterizing consist of putting up corrugated panels against the chicken coops chain link walls. The girls, are in a dog proof 10×10, roofed, box with a dog proof door. The main concern for me is the wind. It can be very windy here. I don’t know why, for that situation either. We are on the Northeast coast of Florida  and it just has weird weather. Today you are walking in Bermuda shorts and tomorrow you will have on blizzard gear.

It is January and the winters we have are worse in Jan., and Feb.. Windy and Cold. However, none of that has reared its ugly head yet. I just wanted to be ready, in case…

Thankfully, the chicken coop already had up two sides and the third side is blocked with another room, where they girls eat, protected from the wet and wind. I needed to put up cleaned panels on two walls. Then I needed to rake the whole pen area. That’s 50 feet long and about 20 feet wide. After that,  haul out the poop and get in clean shavings.

In the middle of all this working, I stopped and thought, Why in the world I was having fun? This is a lot of work. Then I just shrugged it off and kept cleaning. I must just enjoy the chickens. Actually, I do. I go out there cleaning and forget worries. I call it my church. Unless I ask for help, most just don’t bug me out there.

Chickens are a lot of work, but they are worth every bit of it if you like them. People spend thousands on their pets every year. Well, I just spend thousands of  hours with my chickens.

Alpha Chicken

Ouch&Throwing in the Towel

For weeks and weeks I’ve stumbled over the words and just decided to not say a word about the death of my little chicken love. I’m not sure how really to talk about it without bawling my eyes out. I’ve just really just tried to look at this from an outsider view of events which might happen to others…  An Onlooker I shall become, so I can talk and therapeutically exercise my heart-break.   It may work. We shall see.

No pet has ever make me laugh like Lucy (OK, I need to practice the “Onlooker” partition and disassociate myself for a bit) (I just rolled my eyes – Oh god). She was a near perfect chicken. She may have looked like a normal Buff Orpington, but from the start I knew she was something AMAZING! She proved to be just that and more.

Lucy-Morgan

Most chickens are just Chickens. Lucy was way above “Chicken” status. She’d reached favored pet, Best friend, and gave the bestest chicken hugs. Yes, I said, “bestest”. What else can you call it when a chicken sits on your lap nuzzles you close, and just puts her head on your shoulder and shuts her eyes? Yep, Bestest!

She followed me like a dog, gently pecked the beggar weeds off my shoes, and made little cooing sounds which told me she had discovered the bread in my pocket. If I was blue, Lucy was right there to remind me, ‘It’s going to be alright’.

There was a small wreck outside my house and in the rush to make sure all’s well out there, I forgot to close the gate all the way. A random dog also canvassed the scene outside the house, and found the open gate. Lucy and the other girls were out free ranging the acre, being chickens. The dog did what a dog might be prone to do in such a case; chase chickens. This he did and Lucy was dead before I could get him out of the yard. So, I feel a double whammy.  I leave the gate open, and Lucy is Dead. Of course I feel to blame.

I do know that chickens don’t live forever. I think 8 years is considered a nice long life. In trying to be philosophic here, but the sting is still burning of her being gone. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

Another stupid dog got Victoria, who I was able to save. Lucy she isn’t, but she’s a lovely, sweetheart of a hen who may just have potential… God knows, she sure doesn’t lay for crap! So, I’ll just love her to bits.

“I LOVE LUCY”  Thank you little darlin…