A Dreary Weekend Report

We’ve had a lot of rain the last few weeks, both actual rain and a figurative kind where everything seems to pulling down our efforts.  And weeds of all kind have been growing as the result of that rain.

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See?  Weeds!

The above weeds took up residence in my garden plots, and nurtured by all the rain we’ve had, grew and multiplied in such a way that it look me four days to weed them out.   Not four days straight, mind you, because I was doing other things all day long, too.  But for at least 3 hours every day, during the time I didn’t have to be cooking, cleaning, feeding the chickens, or running to various sports functions for the kids.  The Girl had her last track meet on Tuesday and Little Dude had two baseballs games.  So there was a lot going on in the real outside the garden.

So… four days…

It looks nice now, but I’m better I’ll be out there once more before planting because we’re getting MORE rain and that gives everything I evicted time to grow back.

The chickens benefited from the garden efforts because I would occasionally toss them a grouping of plants where the dirt just wouldn’t shake away from the roots.  (I was trying to keep good soil in the garden, after all.)  The offerings yielded leaves and flowers to nibble, big fat worms, and juicy bugs.  All of which were much enjoyed by the ladies and their boyfriends.

Tuesday was Day 14 for Pavelle and her Baby Eggs.   We celebrated by candling them again and pissing Pavelle off to the point where every time I took away an egg, she bit me.  She’s very devoted, I will give her that!

It was dark because we went later at night but here are her eggs:

Again, sorry that they aren’t as good as the first candling.  It was darker.  We did see bigger blobs inside the eggs and signs of movement.  Even that #2 Easter Egger egg I was certain was empty last time looked like *maybe* it had something in it, depending on which way I turned it.   I’m still maybe 80% sure it’s a dud, but I guess we’ll see.

Today is Day 18, and therefore tonight I will be candling for the last time before leaving Pavelle and her sweet baby eggs to their own devices.  Lock Down this weekend!

Also on Tuesday, after two days of fussing with the incubator and trying to get the temps to even out somewhere between 99-100 degrees, we placed Little Dude’s 4-H eggs in to be incubated.

But not before deciding to make an ‘experiment’ of our own, and put half the eggs in the incubator and the other half under Rapunzel, to answer the question, “which does a better job, hen or incubator?”  I’m betting on hen, because Rapunzel is very very dedicated and the humidity in the incubator keeps giving me fits.  Who knew that there was so much that could go wrong with these things?  I’m so used to just putting the eggs under the hen and letting them do the rest!

We’re going to be candling Rapunzel’s eggs and the incubator eggs today, too, because Little Dude is supposed to do it 4 times on this journey and sketch the results.  Hoping to see something, but they’ve only been in four days and I don’t usually candle until Day 7.

Wish us luck, okay?

And now… onto a bit of sad chicken news.

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was keeping my Easter Egger rooster, Luke, and because I couldn’t decide what to do about Felix, we’d try a go at four roosters.   My logic was that since we’d be doing these 4-H eggs, and would possibly have broody hens raising babies, the flock would be big enough to sustain that many roosters without problems.  And with Pavel sitting on 6 eggs and the 4-H project having 12 eggs, that seemed like a possibility.

And then Jolene got sick, and we had to put her down.

And then Maicey got hurt.  And hassled by the younger roosters who didn’t realize she was hurt and were just trying to make their presence known within the flock.

And then I started noticing that some of younger sexlink hens have started looking … abused…

AND THEN… we had a sudden drop off from 22-25 eggs a day to 14-18 eggs a day.

That’s when I came to the conclusion that my flock is NOT big enough to maintain four roosters.  In all harsh reality, until all these eggs hatch and the chicks grow up (so basically middle to end of the summer), we aren’t even ready for three roosters.  Someone had to go, for the physical and mental health of my flock.  The trouble I was running into was WHO and in what manner.

I am a self-admitted rooster addict. I love them.  I love their bright plumage and handsome faces.  I love their bold as brass attitudes and the little nuances of their courtship rituals.  I love the duality of a bird who will rush to defend his hens with harsh cries and sharp beak, wings beating the air like a male ape beats his chest and yet turn around and eat feed from my hand one piece at a time.  The savage and the gentleman all rolled into one beautiful creature.  I love their awkward first crows and every crow that follows… and a happy morning begins with a chorus of multi-voiced “Rr-r-Rr!!!” loudly proclaiming that the sun is up and so are we!

Knowing this, and reading my blog regularly, you know how much I love my roosters.  How could I possibly decide?

I had four roosters:

Double Dots, the Flock Papa who has been here since the very beginning.

Pip, our first born chick and the 2IC.

Felix, Pip’s skittish and flighty son.

Luke, the Easter Egger I fought so hard to get and wanted to be a hen so this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

I’ll start by saying there was NO WAY ON EARTH it was going to be Double Dots on the chopping block.   It ought to be, given him being the oldest, and father/grandfather to all of my Gen 2-ers.  He’s too good a rooster, too well behaved, too well liked by his ladies, to just get rid of without a LOT of thought.

Someday, it will be his turn, if health and/or predators don’t get him.   But that day was not this weekend.

Even still… this leaves Pip, Felix and Luke to consider.

Well… Pip and Luke to consider, because Felix?   I have known for a while that I wouldn’t be keeping Felix. He’s too skittish and flightly and around me.  Not mean, but not accessible.  I began to worry that if we kept him, with age and hormones, would he be the one to someday turn on me in the barnyard?   Could I trust him not to hurt me or Little Dude?   Also, I can’t pick him up, which makes checking him for injuries and caring for him harder.

But Pip?  And Luke?

I agonized and agonized over the whole thing for days, weeks even since the rain made it impossible butcher roosters.

I made lists on paper and in my head of both their pros and cons.  Who was the “nicer” personality wise. Who worked best with Dots and other hens.  They both brought something different to the table, each valuable in their own way.   I asked Mom, Dad, DH, the Girl and Little Dude for input and preference. I agonized some more.

Yesterday, DH said he wasn’t going to take care of the roosters until today.  Last night, he decided to do it then, so he could hunt turkey this morning.

While he butchered Felix, I agonized over Pip and Luke some more, and almost started crying.  DH came back inside the coop and I told him “I can’t do this.  You decide.”

So he walked into the coop and grabbed Pip off the roost.

I couldn’t even watch, and writing it right now is the hardest thing ever.   My little Pip Chick is gone.  I know I’d be feeling the same way about Dots, or even Luke given how much I’ve been invested in the little non-Sith, and I’m trying to remind myself that we needed to do this for the hens.   Because we did, because they are being stressed too much, that’s not fair to them.

But Pip is gone and I want to cry.

Farewell, Baby Boy.  Gramma will always love you.

And good-bye, Felix/Felicia, the little cinnamon colored chick who managed to live despite his hatch-momma’s crazy child-rearing methods.

Rooster Mani Pedis 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that one of my hens – a spirited and friendly little girl named Maicey – was injured, presumably by a rooster spur.  We have roosters, two of which have spurs, so this is a good likelihood.

Given that Maicey’s favorite rooster is our main rooster, Double Dots, I’m going to assume that it was him.  Dots is a 2 year old golden comet rooster, also known as a gold sexlink.  He does have long spurs, but thankfully not overly long.

Over the last couple of days, in between treating Maicey’s wound and shuttling my son to baseball games, I have been researching the best methods of trimming or removing rooster spurs.

The first is the Baked Potato Method, in which you basically shove the spur into a hot baked potato and keep it there for two-or-so minutes.

This method is demonstrated here:

Another good method is with a pair of pliers, twisting the spur off at the base:

You may also grind them down with a dremel tool, as demonstrated here:

None of these are the method I used. Not because they aren’t all good, but because I knew it was just going to be me and my Girl doing the trimming.

Instead of full removal (baked potato or pliers methods), we went with a simple trim, with dog nail clippers and a metal nail file, and followed the basic instructions, outlined here, by the Chicken Chick, to remove 1/4 – 1/3 of the nail.

After you have decided on a method that works for you and assembled the tools you will need, you need to consider your rooster.  You know him the best, after all.  The videos above are all done in the day time, but a lot of people recommend going to get your rooster at night, in the dark after he has gone to roost.

Why?  Because he will be easier to catch and handle when he is sleeping.

In the case of Double Dots, this is not so much of a consideration.   He is quite possibly the gentlest rooster ever.  I can walk out into the pasture, scoop him up in my arms and carry him around like a toddler.    Pip and the other boys are a bit different, so I’ll have to figure out what works best with them.

img_2095I started by plopping Dots in the sink and washing his feet and spurs.   I also took the time to examine his feet for sores or anything else.  You might as well, while you have access to clean chicken feet.

As you can see, Dots just stood there like he was king of the world.   He’s not even bothered that he’s not with his hens, or that he’s in the kitchen, or just had his feet washed.

He’s not causing a fuss or anything.

His spurs are not as big as some of the spur-removal videos out there, but the one is/was really sharp and pointy.

I sat in a chair, wrapped Dots in a towel, and my Girl did the clipping.  She did about 1/4 of each spur, and then used the file to blunt them so they weren’t as sharp.

My Girl wanted to paint his toe nails, too, because he was just so chill about the whole thing.

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Clipped and rounded down.  🙂

I do not anticipate the same experience with Pip.   He lets me pick him, but only if he’s on the window ledge or a roost.  I can’t just walk up and tuck him under an arm like I can his papa.

So again… please take your rooster’s individual behavior and personality into account when you prepare for this.  You know him best.

You may also want to have a styptic powder or corn starch on on hand.  If you cut too far on the spur, you can cause them to bleed, kind of like a dog’s nail will if you cut past the quick.

 

Maicey Update 1 

It’s Sunday and Maicey has been in the med cage since Friday afternoon, being treated for her wound – most likely a spur injury – with Scarlex oil , vitamin B and lots of rest away from the Boys.

It looks like her wound is healing nicely.

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This is how it looks this morning.  It appears to losing nicely and even though I haven’t treated it since last night, I was able to touch it without her showing signs of distress.

Compared to what it looked like Friday, I’m calling it good and on the mend.

As of last night, Maicey was back to acting like herself and not the scared little rabbit I described in the last post.   She spent most of her exercise time trying to get back into the coop with the rest of the flock, as well as trying to fly into the rafters.

Because, let’s face it, chickens are social animals and she’s been kept away from her family.   Even if it is for her own good.  Which it is, because if we put her back with them before she is better healed, she could get re-injured.

As a compromise, I’ve decided to start letting her out into the tunnels during the day time.  They were built, as you may recall, to help last spring’s brooder babies to integrate with the big ones.   We had them split on the other half of the coop, and the tunnels gave them a place to go outside in a safe an protected environment until the Integration.

Mostly, now they are a place the chickens rarely go.  A change of pace or a place to explore with curiosity.

But for Maicey, they could provide her with more space to walk in, a pace to dig and dirt bathe, green stuff to eat … and yes, access to her friends while she heals.

The curious thing is, her flock mates have kept her company today. A lot. I’ve been down to check on them several times this afternoon and there have been chickens in the run communing with her all morning.

Also, Dots got his mani-pedi today, too.  I’ll post something about that later.  🙂

 

 

How Did I Miss This?

Aka, the post in which I admit I’m not as observant as I’d like. 

A few posts ago, back in March, I posted that I had a possible broody hen.  Our little Maicey spent more than a week debating whether or not to commit to sitting on eggs, but in the end, did not.  

One of my constant readers, however, noted in the video I posted that Maicey was limping.  

I confirmed, yes she was, but I couldn’t find an injury and after a couple days of pretending to go broody, the limp had stopped.  

Flash forward to this week.  A couple of things have been happening. 

1) Both Felix and Luke has been ‘feeling their oats’ as we say.  That is, they are hormonal young cockerels trying to steal a couple hens away from big papa Dots or big brother Pip.  

2) Luke has become fixated on Maicey, much like Pip did Riley last year.  

3) There has been a noticeable change in Maicey’s behavior.  She’s not a shy hen normally, but is now skittish, running away from all the roosters, even Dots, hiding in corners, and squeaking like a scared rabbit whenever they approach.  This is not like her at all.

I thought over-mating, and have been debating that I can’t keep all four, and which two should be the ones to leave.  

I decided to put Maicey in the dog crate I use for medical separation or broody breaking, to give her a break from the elbows and hoping that, in her absence, Luke would find someone else to fixate on.  

Later on, yesterday, I took outside for supervised exercise, and just sat watching her and watching the others.  She sat on my lap for a while.  Luke came over and made a play for her attention and I told him to go away. 

He did, and she eventually got down off my lap in her own and went to forage.  

I watched her for a long time.  And then, I noticed her limping again.  She hasn’t done it for a while, but when Dots approached and tried to wing dance for her, she squeaked and ran, well limped away.  

So I go over, pick her up, and purely by chance, my hand brushed the underside of her fluff, down by the start of her legs.  

There was something hard and dried on.  I parted the fluff, and see – much to my horror- a huge gash in her side, just above her leg.  

I’ll post a picture in a minute, but let me warn you, it’s NOT pretty.  

I have been asking myself HOW did I miss that??? Never mind how it happened – we think a rooster spur injury, and are planning for Dots and Pip to get mani-pedis soon – but literally HOW DID I NOT SEE this big an injury on a chicken I handle every day?  How?  I can’t even – I don’t have words to describe the guilt I feel over missing it. 

I immediately took her into the house, plopped her in a sink of warm water and try to clean up around it so I can see.  

There is caked on dirt and other stuff, and something that looks like an advanced stage fungal infection.  All likely.  

It smells gross, it looks grosser.  

She stood rather still and took most of my efforts at cleaning rather well.  Maicey is good girl.  I kept telling her how sorry I was and how good she was being.  She really was.  Anyone else would have pecked me, scratched or tried to get away.  

I kept up until I hit a point where the deepest dirt was.  When I touched her there, she cried they squeaky rabbit cry, and tried to get out of the sink. 

A little cleaner, but that is where it hurts her the most. 😓


 My poor Maicey Grace!!! 

My inquires on Facebook yielded the possibility that this is a spur related injury.  

I’m treating with Scarlex Oil spray, vitamin B (orally) and if she continues to have pain, I can add penicillin and baby aspirin.  

She is going to be in the dog crate for a couple of days, but I will also be taking her out for supervised exercise, so I can ensure her safety.  

And yes, the boys with spurs are getting mani-pedis soon.  

I’ve also begun checking the other hens for injuries, now that I know where to look.  So far, this is just her.  

My poor Maicey after her bath/torture.

I’m still upset over not seeing this.  How do you just not see that big an injury on an animal you see and hold every day?  Maicey is one of the favs.  My lap hen who likes to sit in my lap and get petted.  How did it go undetected this long, especially when I checked her over back in March?  

I’ll keep everyone updated on her status, and how it heals.  

And also the Boys and their mani-pedis.  

Broody Suite

Spring is beginning to look like a reality here in northern Pennsylvana. The snow from our mid-March blowout is starting to melt, the grass is turning green, there were robins in the front yard… and the chickens had gone from 5-9 eggs a day (January/Feb) to 18-22 eggs a day. My average for the month is 17.something per day. I have few who stagger, so it’s highly possible every one is laying.

The next thing you know *cough*it’s already happened*cough* someone will go broody.

I have this vision in my head of the ultimate chicken coop. Sadly, I have a limited space to work with in the barn. My own allotted chicken space and that’s it. Unless I convince DH to build a second coop, we’re pretty much working with that same space. But I’m constantly trying work in changes and tweaks that might result in something closer to the ideal of my imagination.

We’ve been remodeling the house, and last spring, we did the kitchen, tearing out all the old cabinetry that has been there for close to 40 years.

This full sized until had an old dual oven in the empty spaces.  Today, I gotto looking at it and realized that it would make a good ‘maternity suite.’  Kind of like last year’s ideas to put them under the laying beds, or the cat carrier idea (which worked, although it was cramped due to height constraints.)

But this?  Could be ideal because could remove the doors, hang curtains for privacy and it was was wide inside to put both a decent sized nest AND a feeder/waterer.

After getting permission from Dad (whose cabinet it is) and asking DH to cut it down, this is what we came up with:

And… as luck seems to have it, I might actually have a broody hen.

 

 

This is Maicey. She is My Girl’s favorite hen out of all the others. Maicey has never gone broody before, but it sure looks like it.  I’m going to give her a couple of days to see is she sticks with it and give her some of the barnyard mix. I’ve saved out one of Abby’s and Hershey’s (I was there when they laid them luckily) and hopefully some of Pavelle’s.   I don’t buy specialty eggs (from breeders or hatchery) for new broodies. Too much of a chance they will be like Ashley, or mean to the babies.

If she stays broody, Maicey will be the first to try out the new broody accommodations.

Broody Watch 8 – Disturbing Turn of Events

I’ll start with the happy bits- some pretty pictures of enjoying her daily respite from the nest.

Abby is so pretty this morning.

I tried to get s picture of her preening kn the rock but she knows somehow and moved

This has been a frustrating week for the broody hen.  When she goes outside, Dots chases her.  He would probably like to mate but Abby is having none of it.

In addition, since the Boys all went to Freezer Camp, the pullets formerly known as the Littles have been squabbling amongst themselves and the older hens for their place in the flock.   Abby, being broody, has been absent for a while and missing all of it.  Stacey picked a fight with her yesterday.

Stacey did NOT win.  Who saw that coming?  Abby is, broody or not, the queen of our flock, and those young’uns better not forget it.

Thirteen eggs might have been ambitious for her second hatch.  Friday or Saturday when I took her off the nest for her morning routine, I noticed that one of the eggs was missing and several of the remaining eggs were covered in dry gunk.

Several possibilities go through my mind, all of them not good.

  • It could have been broke/eaten by another hen while Abby was off the nest.
  • She could broken it getting back in the box.

And now the other eggs were dirty.  They aren’t supposed to be dirty because of bacteria which could kill the baby embryos.

I can’t clean them off because you’re not supposed to wash off the protective bloom for the same reason.

Argh!!!  What to do?

I finally decided to take a clean, dry rag and buff off the worst of the dried on gunk.  Hopefully, that wouldn’t damage the chances of her losing the babies.

And hopefully, neither will yesterday.

I have no words for yesterday.  It was a screw up all the way around.

The Girl had an interview for her first job, so we were rushing around to get mornjng chores, breakfast and showers.  I took Abby off the nest as usual, but didn’t stay to watch her to see if she got back on.

I also failed to check if none of the other hens snuck into the barn.  They aren’t allowed to wander in the barn.

And it was a very long day for us.  We went from the interview (she got the job) to buying the clothes she would need for work to buying spray paint for Little Dude’s soapbox derby car.  Then lunch, and then I had to start cooking dinner when we got home.

I sent Little Dide down once with veggie tidbits from the salad I was making dinner, but he went through the gates and not the barn.

In short, no one checked them out.

At lock up time, I found Maicey inside the barn.  Not the coop.  She’d been locked up all day.  No access to food or water.  She destroyed my partial bale of straw looking for a place to lay her egg.  Straw everywhere!  Also, poop everywhere.  She must have pooped every three steps she took!

I picked her up and plopped her in the coop where she literally stuck her whole head in the water dish to get a drink!

And that’s when Little Dude discovered the worst part of Yesterday.

Abby was not on her nest.  She was in a laying box underneath her nest, sitting on two other eggs.  Totally broody tranced.

Her eggs were cool, but not cold.

I picked her up and put her back, but she barely noticed.  Just settled in and went back to silently buck-bucking.

It’s possible another hen was on her nest when she got back to the coop.

It’s also possible she was so broody-tranced she just picked a nest and climbed.

I have no clue how long the eggs were left uncovered.

Google tells me that eggs can go 10 hours without a hen and still hatch.

I’m crossing my fingers.  She made it back to the nest this morning and snuggled in, so I’m hoping the next two weeks go off without a hitch. But now I have two things to worry about.   And also, am wonder long if getting broken egg on them damaged the embryos and Anny somehow knows.  Could she have gotten off those eggs because they wknt hatch and she knows it???

Yeah, too much to worry about.

😦