Tag: Backyard Poultry

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 🙂

 

Eggstatic

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

IT’S AN EGG!!!

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.

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.

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.

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.

They’re HERE!!!

We picked up the chicks on Friday!

Their new home in a bed of wood shavings in a big plastic bin. Three pictures of kids holding chicks.

They were really cute balls of fluff. I say were because they are growing like mad and are beginning to enter that awkward teenager stage. They are eating/drinking/pooping machines! But they are super cute.

This is a cooperative project between four families. Almost everyone has met our feathered friends and some have even been initiated (ahem pooped on). I think the award for most excited for their arrival goes to Becky. We’re pretty sure that K, (Becky’s youngest girl) has handled each of the 24 chicks at LEAST once :). It is cute to watch the kids take to them. We are carefully handling them so that they will become very used to humans. Before you ask, we instituted strict hand washing policies!

Fish is super excited and has requested that caring for the chickens become a permanent chore of hers. Mim hasn’t shown a ton of interest, but he’s held a few chicks and that’s good enough for me. A-man keeps asking them when he’ll get some eggs.

Last weekend we went away for one overnight and Becky and her husband stepped up to care for them. It really is pretty straightforward but they do require regular attention, so the only way this would work for us is if it is a group effort. We’re lucky to have such awesome neighbors!

This will not become exclusively a chicken blog, but watch for more chicken posts in the near future.

It’s So Eggciting!

Chicks waiting for pick up at our local AgwayWe’re getting chickens.

I blame Cammy.

Cammy keeps a small brood of chickens in her backyard. A few years ago, she gave me some fresh eggs. My life was never the same. If you’ve never eaten eggs laid by chickens NOT raised on a commercial farm, it is hard to describe the difference. The yolks are more yellow. The flavor is richer, eggier if you will. Now when I have store bought eggs, they just taste watered down. Local eggs add a subtle depth to the flavor to any recipe.

I’ve mooched Cammy’s eggs for three years. She’s very generous and I’m exceedingly grateful. Early on, I thought of keeping hens, but we like to go to the lake in the summer and we tend to travel occasionally the rest of the year. Chickens need daily care and attention.

A chance conversation with some neighbors changed that. There are four families involved and we figure the chance of ALL of us being gone at the same time are slim to none, plus, my experienced chicken whisperer Cammy has offered to pinch hit if necessary.

I’ll order the chickens on Monday and the chicks will be in late next month. I’m really not sure where this will lead, but I’m excited for the adventure and for the fresh eggs!