Category: Chickens

Adventures in Chickening – Mites and that %#$#! bird

Overall, things are going well with our chickens. The eggs have been plentiful and yummy and on a day-to-day basis, they only require anywhere between 10-15 minutes of effort and their antics keep us laughing.

Occasionally, there’s a little more effort required. Such as cleaning out the coop every six months or so and other maintenance projects. Then there are those activities that fall under the category of “things, I never dreamed I’d do”.

The birds had red bums for a while and we just couldn’t figure out why. Becky another one of the chicken mom’s had the opportunity to pick the brain of an expert. She suggested patting them with tape. If there were flecks on the tape that looked like salt and pepper, the birds had lice & mites. Since the flecks were small, I let Becky handle the taping. Sure enough, the tape had salt & pepper. Oh joy. The same expert suggested dust baths in diatomaceous earth (a.k.a. DE). DE is a substance similar in consistency to powdered sugar, but much more bitter tasting. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

The Expert said she left DE out for her birds in a kiddie pool and her birds voluntarily hopped in and took dust baths in it. We filled a cheap kiddie pool with about an inch of DE and left it for the ladies to enjoy at their leisure. Yeah, um no. Our birds had ZERO interest in this fine dusty substance in the pale pink plastic thing. They avoided the pool like it was toxic waste. Ok then, onto plan B, mandatory dust baths for everyone.

dusting chickensWe collected the birds in the pen and I captured them one at time Becky stood by the pool of doom and scooped up handfuls of DE. I held tight to a squirming squawking fowl while she covered them. Then I let go and we ran like hell to avoid being totally covered in DE. Yeah, that worked, sometimes. I dressed for the occasion including old clothes, a scarf to cover my mouth, a hat and protective eyewear. Didn’t matter, I still had DE in every crack and crevasse. Let’s just say blowing my nose was interesting for the next few days and we’re running low on Q-Tips.

These are the times that I am SO glad we are raising these birds as part of a cooperative, because dusting birds is only funny when you are doing it with someone else. If it was just A-man & I, there would have been less laughter and more “what the hell were we thinking!?”. Not that Becky & I didn’t shriek that a lot, but it was definitely more along the vein of I Love Lucy adventure.

A week or so later, we involved our third Mother Hen, Jen and subjected the birds to yet ANOTHER dust bath. Oh the indignity I tell ya! This time they were wise to us, so they were a tad harder to catch. One in particular got her feathers REALLY ruffled and got away from me before my cohorts could get even a speck of DE on her. She also REFUSED to come back in that night when it was time to round up the flock. I think it took 3 separate trips to the coop to finally corral her. Her antics have continued on and off ever since. It’s been almost 3 weeks at this point.

At first we were in a bit of a tizzy because the dogs can’t go out until the birds go in.  So we’d make multiple trips over to the coop and enlist the assistance of anyone available. Finally, I just threw up my hands and said forget this sistah! You wanna stay out, stay out.

The funny part is that she paces around the outside of the run, but when you go to guide her in, not even pick her up, just guide her towards the door so you can let her in with out releasing the others, she freaks out. We’ve taken to referring to her as DB for Dumb Bird. I’ve also taken to letting the dogs out if the majority of the birds are in. We had a close call last week, but Fish was nearby and called Dory off. STILL the bird refused to be caught.

Later that night A-man went over to look for her.

Dumb bird


He found her. On TOP of the run.

She let him catch her and put her in. Yay!! She learned her lesson!

Meh, not so much, no, she’s been “out” two of the last three nights.

Dumb bird! I fully expect we’ll be down to 18 birds within the next few weeks. This sounds cold, and I assure you we continue to try and do what we can to coax this bird in as often as possible, but at the same time, she has to do her part.

It’s a good thing the eggs are so yummy 🙂




Our efforts have begun to pay off!

Can we have (DRUM ROLL PLEASE) TA DAH!!!

A small egg all by itself in an egg carton


On the left is an egg from a mature chicken. On the right our little egg.

It’s a little small compared to an egg laid by a mature chicken, but we’ll take it. Of course the girls need to get busy!

Pile of empty egg cartons waiting to be filled.

Mamma’s got LOTS of egg cartons to fill.

Funky Chickens and Other Fair Phenomena

Pictures of Fancy breeds of chickens. Sometimes it is hard to tell which end is which.

Fancy chickens in the poultry barn. Sometimes, sometimes it was hard to tell which end was which, if you know what I’m sayin’.


Required eating. pierogies & kelbasi, funnel cakes and chili in a bread bowl

Required eating at the fair, pierogies and kielbasi for me, and chili in a bread bowl for A-man.

A ride that spins like a pendulum in a complete circle.  My crazy kid road this thing.

My crazy kid road this thing!!! What’s worse is that I let her!!

My kids in front of a monster Jeep

I take this picture every year, and the jeep keeps getting smaller. How does that happen?

Killer Instinct

Don’t let the innocent faces confuse you. These are the faces of killers.

On the left, Dory a 2 year old collie.  On the left, Mork, an almost 8 year old Collie

Three chickens in three days!

When we came home Friday evening, we closed the chickens in and tried to do a headcount, but as they are literally a moving target, I didn’t worry too much for absolute accuracy. I was aiming to be sure I hadn’t locked half the flock outside.

It was as I was backing out of the driveway headed to my house that I saw the brown lump out of the corner of my eye. Yup, a dead chicken in the middle of my Mother-in-law’s front yard. I sent the kids home and instructed them to call both dogs in. I’ll admit it, my city kid roots showed through as stood there wondering “what the hell am I supposed to do with a chicken carcass?” I called some of my experts but no one was available, so I just left it knowing A-man would be home soon.

As for what killed it, the dogs were barking their heads off when I pulled in (something I’ve become remarkably adept at blocking out). So my theory at the time was they had scared a predator off, but it was too late for the chicken. Heh, innocence is bliss ain’t it?

Saturday, I was at a karate tournament and A-man was in the barn working on a chicken door for the pen. A chicken door in the pen would allow us to leave scraps for the chickens without the fear that the dogs would nosh and make themselves ill.

Sunday we were all set to tackle some nagging chores. When we heard the dogs screeching and growling outside the back door. As I rounded the corner on the deck, I saw the telltale black and white feathers. As I texted to the other co-owners “We forcibly expressed our displeasure with their behavior.” Then we put them inside and A-man went in search of electrified poultry fencing.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!! I can hear the critics nodding their heads saying “Ay yut, coulda told ‘ja that’d happen”. I know it is instinct, but they are herding dogs. Can’t they just herd the chickens? Everybody gets a little exercise, no one gets hurt right? Yeah not so much.

We spend the afternoon installing the chicken fence. Chicken fence that is meant to be installed on flat land when we live on anything but flat land. We finally got it all set up and let the birds out to “play”. They seemed to figure out pretty quickly, not to touch it. I went home to let the dogs out and in search of caffeine. A few minutes later, I heard A-man yelling. A-man doesn’t yell. He is not easily ruffled. As I bolted down the trail between the two houses, Mork, the older of the two dogs, met me half way. I grabbed his collar and dragged him back. Seems he plowed right through the fence and snagged another chicken without even batting an eye. I guess our previous expression of our displeasure didn’t settle in. Like I said !%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For the short term, we’re on a rotating schedule. If the chickens are out, the dogs are in and vice versa.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For those who are counting, between this incident and the three we lost last weekend, we’re down to 20 birds.

. . . and Then There Were Two

A Rhode Island Red, a New Hampshire Red, (Back row), a Leg Horn and a Barred Rock foraging. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin, 2012

Our flock is a mixed flock. I’d love to tell you that the breeds were picked for their superior laying ability, but the truth is it came down to appearance, availability and egg color. Yes you read that right, egg color. You’re probably most familiar with the quintessential white egg. Here in New England we have brown eggs (sing with me now, brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh). Some of the fancy breeds lay beautiful pastel color eggs, but A-Man and eggs have not always had the best relationship. In college he experienced salmonella poisoning and a reaction so severe it required an ambulance ride and hospitalization. It’s only been relatively recently that he started eating eggs again.

Despite the fact that the perpetrator of his illness was a western omelet, something about the fancy eggs brings back bad memories. So our girls will only lay white and brown eggs. The majority of our flock are reds 6 New Hampshire and 6 Rhode Island. Our next largest population are the barred rocks then we have 3 Leg Horns and 3 sex-linkeds. well, we had 3 sex-linkeds.

A Barred Rock in the brush Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

Last week the circle of life continued. One of our flock became another creature’s lunch. One of the other Mother Hens (the human kind) was nearby at the time, but the exact details of the demise are unclear. The girls were out and about foraging for bugs and at one point there was a big kerfuffle that involved the dogs throwing a ginormous hissy fit, a flurry of feathers and lots of squawking. Things settled down pretty quickly, so no one thought much of it at the time. When we did our nightly headcount we discovered that one of the sex-linkeds was gone. A search was conducted but every other hen was in the pen and the saying “birds of a feather stick together” is true. Not to mention, that no bird EVER misses out on a bowl of dinner scraps. Holding out just a smidgen of hope, we waited 24 hours before before we broke the news to our respective flocks, but she didn’t return.

The birds exiting the pen in the morning. The Sex Linkeds are the two on the far left with golden brown feathers on their breast and black feathers on their backs. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

So now we’re down to 23 birds. I suspect this will not be the last time this happens, nature of the beast as they say. The birds go off in the woods to forage. The collies have decided that the birds occasionally need to be herded. If the hens move too far away from home base, Mork, the older one will circle them back in with calm and patience. Dory, the younger one demonstrates no finesse whatsoever and just runs at them barking until they move back to where she thinks they should be. However, the dogs are limited by an electric fence. If a chicken strolls beyond the fence they will lose their protection detail. “Oohhh I’ll take a jolt in the neck to chase a chicken”, said no dog ever.


Peaceful Coexistence

The chickens have grown and the time has come to give them some freedom. You know, let them fly the coop so to speak. It’s time to let them free range and get their fill of bugs and the oh so delectable weeds we raise here in Skeeterville. It’s better for their health and heaven knows it is better for our wallets. Free ranging also makes for happy chickens, they are less restless in the coop.

It was always in the plan to let them free range as much as possible. The challenge was going to be integrating the fowl with the canines. We have collies, who are herders by nature, but still, there was some uncertainty about how things would play out.

We started by letting the chickens out while keeping the dogs in. This was fine in the hazy hot and humid days of summer. The dogs would much prefer to be inside in the shade. However, the ultimate goal was peaceful co-existence.

Today, it appears our efforts paid off.

One collie laying down with a chicken wandering beside him the other watching a group of birds off camera.

Escape From Skeeterville

Last week when I heard my slider open, I was a little startled. Both kids were in the house (one still in bed) and my Mother-in-law (the only other person to come through my sliding door during the day), was away. Turns out it was Dave, my husband’s cousin with interesting news.

Two chickens in the coop many more outside the coop. “Are your chickens supposed to be out?”

“Well, yeah, they have the automatic chicken door.”

“No, I mean out as in all over the yard out.”

“Um, no.”

We think it was a combination of things, when the coop door is closed, there is er was a gap just wide enough for a curious chicken to squeeze through, but we’re not 100% sure that the coop door was 100% closed. I headed next door and with Dave’s help, herded the wandering fowl back inside the fence. A quick head count and we determined everyone was fine, no harm no well, you know.

Eventually, we hope to let them free range some, but they need to be a little bigger to hold their own with the dogs. That said I swear they are doubling in size every day!

Life is never dull in these parts!

one bird looking in from the outside.
We think this guy is a rooster. I picked him up but as we got close to the door, he flew out of my hands. Once everyone else had made their way inside, he went willingly.

Time Flies

We recently went to let the chicks have some time outside pecking at the ground and enjoying the fresh air. The only problem was somebody had sprinkled our flock with grow dust. Overnight it seemed they’d doubled in size! We moved a few of them outside and quickly realized this wasn’t going to work as they’d grown enough to fly out of the fenced in pen we’d used in the past.  We quickly rounded up the supplies we needed to move them to their permanent home. Finally, it was moving day!

Just like the commercial airlines, we packed them in a tote like sardines. We made sure to bring the food bag, and then it was just a short limo ride next door and we released them into their permanent Casa De Poultry. It didn’t take long for them to ahem, make themselves at home.

Three photos, 24 chicks in a rubbermaid tote, the tote in the back seat of my car and chicken poop in the wood shavings.

They hung out inside for a few days while A-man made their run predator proof (or as close as he could get). When the day came to open the door and let them roam, there was some trepidation on their part. Three of them stood in the door way and peeked out, then looked at each other and the rest of the flock and back outside. The conversation seem to something along the lines of

“After you.”

“No, after you.”

“Oh no, I insist, after you.”

Eventually they all made it outside and decided things were acceptable. We’re letting them get use to their new surroundings and grow enough to stand their ground with the dogs. Once their a little bigger, we’ll let them free range and see how everyone adjusts to that. In the mean time, their living the good life!

We go back at night to make sure everyone made it inside before the chicken door closed and without fail, they are inside, snuggled up and sharing pillow talk by about 8pm. They are sound sleepers too, if we go in to fill food or refresh water, no one makes a peep (literally).

So far so good!!

A few chicks like to sleep on the cross beam of the knee wall, but most are huddled in the corner softly peeping.

New Home

On Saturday morning I went down with fresh water for the chicks and was greeted by one of the barred rocks sitting on the lip of the plastic tub the chicks were calling home. She (oh how I hope they are all Shes) just sat there and looked at me like “yeah, and” until I got close enough then she flew, FLEW down into the bucket. It was time to relocate the birds to larger living quarters.

Ladies and gentle fowl, I give you Casa De Perro, Chez Canine, or Chickens in a Dog Crate. 

A large dog crate with a heat lamp in the back and lined 1/3 of the way up with cardboard.

Along with more space and a full containment field, the new digs also offer a roosting pole. I *think* they’ll be able to stay here until we transfer them to their permanent home in a month or so until they are fully feathered and can maintain their body temperature.