Posts Tagged ‘Chickens’

Chickens Are Mean

It’s been nearly a week since our new chicks came home and were lovingly adopted by our broody Silkie. It poured rain for most of the week and she and the trio spent their time in the coop. As the weather improved, they spent more of their time outside. That’s when the problems began. This Silkie has always been at the very bottom of the pecking order. I’ve red stories of new mommy hens going to heroic and insane lengths to protect their brood, but unfortunately she couldn’t stand against the venom of fellow bantam. If this little Brahma wasn’t my child’s favorite, she’d be soup by now. But even if we had BokBok stew (yes, my child named her), that’s not to say another bully wouldn’t do the same thing to the new family.

What to do? I supervised some flock together time, but it was tragic to see the feathers flying and panicked quartet running about. I scolded BokBok and tossed her out of the run and coop area, but she was relentless. This was chick endangerment and could easily result in the death of a little one so I separated the family in a makeshift brooder currently residing in the garage. At least they are still happily getting along.

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I really should have a predator-proof isolation coop. It would have been useful during the bloody chicken scare and for future cases when chickens need to be separated. I’m also trying to keep my expenses down, so the DIY weekend project is to construct a chicken tractor made from recycled pallets. I guess I better start taking them apart…

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Chick Adoption Day 3: First Day Out

Our #1 Mommy has successfully adopted our 3 incubator chicks. After two days of rain, the sun came out and so did the little family. Concerned about how the other chickens would react, I made sure everyone had plenty of free-range time and I also added shrub-like branches from our orchard pruning to give the new family more cover. They love it!

The trio still spend most of the time underneath warm mommy with only an occasionally downy head popping out to look around.

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As the day warms up, the trio venture out sometimes to investigate.  If only you could hear the family “talking” to each other!

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Egg Insomnia and Chicks Having Chicks

Dear Chickens,

Do you sleep peacefully through the night or toss and turn in your chicken beds? Do you stay awake fretting about the future of your disappearing eggs?  Do you ever experience egg insomnia? Mommy is suffering from pregnancy insomnia, a fabulously Internet-based self-diagnose.  Apparently it effects 78% of all pregnant women and Mommy is wondering why she wasn’t part of the other group in blissful repose.

Or perhaps there is something more on Mommy’s mind tonight that makes sleep illusive.  Something that causes Mommy to fret about the future of my children, the world’s children.  It made me think about your first eggs, my darling chickens.  Do you remember that time?  Did it feel natural and right and in harmony with nature?  Or were you frightened by the changes happening to your body? But you were chickens and I think ready for the responsibility of creating all those delicious eggs we so hungrily accepted without much thought.  And so what if there was an errant egg in the garden instead of the nesting box?  They were just eggs and you could leave them for Mommy to find.  Like a game of hide and seek.  Or a chicken-instigated Easter egg hunt.

Today I learned through the grapevine that a neighbor, a young teen, recently gave birth.  Yes, darling chickens, people mommies give birth to live chicks, not eggs.  I know, no egg shells, that must be so strange to you.  However, I’m not tossing and turning over the lack of calcium carbonate.  This neighbor is only a chick herself.  How will she support herself and this new little person so helplessly dependent on her?  How will she finish school with a baby in tow?  What are the odds of the daddy rooster staying with his little flock?  What about their future?

There is no going back here.  Our neighbor chick is prematurely a mommy hen and in our culture and time, it is almost certainly dooming her and baby to poverty.  What is poverty, you ask?  Chickens, this means that she will have to work very hard and yet still find it difficult to find a nice coop and eat organic feed and roam large pastures with tasty grass and bugs.

So this brings us back to sitting up sleeplessly tonight.  Wondering if anything could have been said or done.   Fretting about the future when in a mere decade our little family will have matured to the point where this is a biological possibility.

Mommy, I hear you say, perhaps you should just concentrate on today’s sunshine and delicious weeds and that particularly juicy grub in the compost pile.  Chickens, I reply, you’re right:  I should focus on the blessings of today.  But I am responsible for our flock and I also need to think about tomorrow.

Love,

Mommy

Orpington Update: I Think She’s Ok!

A few days ago it looked like a wild ax murderer went through our coop. Splashes of blood littered the floor. Our Buff Orpington was dripping blood from her mouth and roosting in an odd position. Everything being closed on Memorial Day weekend, I trawled the Internet for answers and the results scared the $#%! out of me. Was it the deadly infectious laryngotracheitis which would necessitate the culling of my entire flock? But there was no gasping, swelling, or lesions. Had they been poisoned by plotting neighbors? I couldn’t believe it. Did she get into a fight? Although the blood was bright red and fresh, I couldn’t detect any physical damage.

The next day the blood had dried into a black ring around her beak. There was no fresh bleeding. She even laid an egg, but continued to roost in an odd position in the nesting box. She came out periodically to eat and drink, leaving her broody compatriot inside to sit on eggs. Or empty nests.

This morning you would never know anything happened to her. She’s up scratching in the run with the ret of flock, minus broody Silkie, who stubbornly refuses to get off the nest insisting that she CAN be the first to incubate unfertilized eggs.

The conclusion? The miraculous healing and lack of any symptoms from the rest of the flock lead me to suspect a physical injury, possibly from our aggressive top hen that has bullying the other ladies. I miss our Speckled Sussex, who was taken by a hawk a few months ago, because during her reign at the top she was always decent to her flockmates.

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Help! There is Blood Dripping from my Chicken’s Beak!

I’m a wreck. I went out to the henhouse this morning to check for eggs. Everyone was looking for some treats as usual and I doled them out as usual. While everyone (except our broody Silkie) was eating, I checked for eggs, but instead found blood. What?! I took a closer look at the ladies and found our Buff Orpington had blood dripping, literally dripping, from her beak. Cornell Cooperative Extension, like everything else on Memorial Day weekend, is closed. I’m worried for her if its an injury and I’m worried for the rest of the flock if it’s contagious. I Googled it and I’m not encouraged by the results. What do I do? Help. Help. Help.

Here are some pictures of our sick girl. As far as I can tell, her sinuses don’t look swollen.

This is what alerted me to the problem in the first place. A frightening puddle of blood. She did come out of the henhouse when I brought food, ate some, and then she and some other ladies were curious when I took my camera out and came back inside.

Another clue is that there isn’t just the dripping blood, but some blobs of bloody tissue. I checked for external injuries, but see any signs.

In looking back on the past week, I wonder if my Silkie truly is broody or perhaps she is manifesting signs of something more sinister? Fortunately, Silkie is blood-free.

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UPDATE 6/2013:  She fully recovered.  After the dripping blood cleared, you could see where part of her top beak was missing. A year later, her beak has completely regrown so I suspect it was some sort of mechanical damage either from a a flock-mate or something around the yard.  Since we don’t have chicken-cam surveillance, I guess we’ll never know.

 

The Broody Experiments

Silkie is broody. The previous evidence of constant sitting and lack of eggs pointed towards this, seconded by readers’ comments (thanks!), and yesterday’s experiment confirmed it for me. If she were sick, she would be too ill to get around, right? So I locked all the chickens out of the coop and run for the afternoon. Mean mommy, but everyone else finished laying and I made sure there was water and food. And what happened? Silkie free-ranged with the others for a few minutes and the proceeded to pace the door, trying to get back to the nesting boxes. Pace, pace, pace. She must have really wanted to get back to those phantom eggs. At least it got her up and moving and off the nest just as a wire-bottom cage would, except that I have free-range and no wire-bottom cage.

This weekend’s chicken treatment is to continue intensive free-range therapy. Will the experiment yield the desired result?  Hypothesis:  Hopefully.

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Broody or Sicky?

For the past week, this is the scene confronting me each visit to the coop: Silkie sitting.

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Yes, I know that Silkies are notorious setters, so we had a few chuckles about Silkie and I simultaneously deciding it was time to brood our respective eggs. However, as the week has progressed, I’m getting concerned because other than sitting burning hot, she’s not showing other typical brooding behavior. For example,she’s not  at all miffed when I retrieve eggs from under her and unceremoniously remove her from the nesting box several times a day. Not even a hiss or peck or indignant fluffing of feathers in my general direction! Docile as a doll. When placed on the cool ground, she just sits there dazedly for a few minutes before wandering off.

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Sometimes I can get her to eat and drink. Other times, it’s just back to the coop. She’s not visibily missing any feathers and I’ve done a thorough search of the area for plucked feathers just in case. She also feels like she’s a healthy weight and I can’t detect any signs of an egg bound hen.

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What’s your guess: Is she broody or sick? Let’s hope for broody because she’s the best-natured broody hen I’ve ever encountered!

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