Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ugly Molt continued...

The one good aspect of the Ugly Molt, is that it happens fast.  The typical molt can take 12-16 weeks.  And the Ugly Molt or fast molt can take a mire fraction of that, 4-6 weeks.

Coco started her molt about 10 days ago and look at her progress:

Ouch.  Look at those pin feathers.  That just can't feel good.
But the top ones have already started to open up.
Hopefully, it won't be too long before she doesn't have to sleep
with her bare butt out in the cold at night.

She lost almost all her wing feathers at once.  She just has the one row left and you can see how ragged they are.
Look at all those brand new wing feathers just pushing out from their keratin wrappers.

Oh, and her head and neck.  It's like she lost every feather there all at once.  She won't hold still for a second.
It's like she knows I'm trying to take her picture.  But you can see all the new feathers coming in and the
progress from last week.  (See last week's blog for comparison photos.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ugly Molt

Molting is the process that chickens go through each year where they replace their old, worn feathers and replace them with new ones.  Their feathers are more than just pretty, soft things that give them color.  They keep them warm.  If you've ever held a chicken and wriggled your fingers up under their down coats, you'll feel how very warm they are up under there.

Kind of like the warmth you feel when you wear a down jacket or vest or even sleep under a down comforter.  Mmmmm, so toasty warm.

Anyway, some chickens will molt slowly over months.  Others will just seem to drop every feather at once, something we call the "ugly molt".  I'm not sure which is better.  Faster molters will get back to laying eggs sooner than slow molters.  But they also look worse while they molt, thus the term, ugly molt.

Either way, Ginger is just finishing her molt and Coco has just started.  And Coco is molting fast.  I've been picking up all the feathers in their run each day.  But I just can't keep up with her dropping them.  It's so difficult for me to watch.

My sweet Coco.  Missing nearly all her neck feathers, clearly all her tail feathers and just looking so roughed up.

I know, I'm terrible for photographing her not so fluffy butt.  But I couldn't help myself.  I just can't believe
all her bare patches.  Look at the backs of her legs.  She's lost all her leg feathers too.

Oh, and her neck is just the worst.  And she can't reach those pin feathers to nibble them open from
their keratin wrappers so those will just have to open when they are good and ready.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Solving issues one at a time...

I took the peeper off Coco Saturday.  I just couldn't take it.  Her whole personality had changed.  She was so sad and forlorn.  Yes, it prevented her from pecking at Ginger.  But that was really driven over the fact that I was over treating them.  Cease with the treats, and that problem goes away.

Well, Coco also likes to peck Ginger off the roosting bar.  And the peeper didn't really help with that.  Because Coco knew that Ginger was right there just a few feet away.  So she'd lumbar down the roosting bar like a gymnast down the balancing beam right for Ginger and drive her off.

So I wondered, if I divided the roosting bar in half with something so they couldn't see each other, would that work.  And I think it just might.  I didn't get home in time to watch them go to bed tonight.  But they are exactly as this photo shows them from last night.  Coco on her side and Ginger on the other with the cardboard divider in the middle.

If you look closely, you'll see a flat piece of cardboard wedged up in the hen house.
Poor Ginger was first sleeping on the wood jump block to the left.  And then went over to one of the nests.
But you could see her urgent desire to be up on the roosting bar.
The chick continue to grow every day.  But it will still be months before they are big enough to roost with Coco and Ginger.  So enjoy your separate rooms while you have them girls.  Cuz the youngsters are growing up big and strong and they're gonna wanna roost with you before you know it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December Updates

Well, I have good news and bad news.

Let's get the bad news over with.  I lost one of the chicks.  I'm not really sure what happened.  But looking back at photos of them when I first brought them home, one was holding her wings out and low.  And the others are so healthy, happy and strong, that I really don't believe it was anything I did wrong.  I just think she wasn't meant to be with us more than those few, precious days.

So the three now officially have names, Honey, Sugar and Spice.  And my, they are growing up quickly.  They are ready for some dowels to perch on and things to jump off of in that ever shrinking brooder of theirs.

Honey, Sugar and Spice.  I have no idea how I'm ever going to tell these ladies apart.
Hopefully, they will grow up with unique personalities or distinct combs.

I just love how everything is a group sport at this age.  They eat, drink and nap together.
The peeper has worked in that Coco is no longer pecking at Ginger.  But it also has stressed her and she's beginning to molt.  It is possible that she was destined to molt and the peeper had nothing to do with it.  But I have my suspicions.  So I removed the peeper today.

Her personality has definitely changed.  She no longer goes after Ginger.  But Ginger did insist on drinking water from the exact spot that Coco was drinking.  Coco gave her two fair warning Bok Bok's but when Ginger came back the third time, she got pecked.  But she didn't go cower in the corner.  She just moved over.  It's like she knew she was asking for that.  So maybe those 9 days with the peeper worked.  Only time will tell.

I also had a long chat with a fellow back yard chicken raiser, who pointed out that the big handful of seeds I'm tossing out to them daily is much to much.  It's so important that the majority of their diet comes from their feed which is balanced nutrition for their high protein, high calcium dietary needs.

If you follow my blog, you'll know I've blogged before about over treating.  It's so easy to do.  They are just so cute and curious and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when you come bearing things to eat.  And it was always around treats that caused the pecking and fighting.  So really, this may just be a blessing all the way around.

And honestly, those huge bags of black oiled sunflower seeds are quite pricey.  So I'll be very happy not to have to lug home those expensive extras.  The two hens may be mad at me for a bit.  But hopefully, they will get over it.  And maybe they'll decided that a nice hug and some love from their Flock Mistress is just as nice as a handful of seeds.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meet the Babies

They are bundles of cuteness.  And very happy.  I don't think my last batch of chicks were this content.

Their Flock Mistress, however,  is a nervous wreck.

It's dipping into the 30's here.  I'll pause for the laughter I'm getting from everyone who reads my blog except for my friend, T, who lives in Hawaii.

They seem to be fine under their heat lamp.  And I don't seem to have any trouble keeping one corner of their brooder at 95 degrees.  But I think I've driven my husband absolutely nuts with all of my worries.  What if the power goes out?  What if the heat lamp bulb blows in the middle of the night?  What if, what if, what if?  I can see why people love, love, love their broody hens who raise their babies for them.

Day 1 - SERIOUSLY, LADY!  We hatch.  Our mama is no where to be found.  We get vaccinated, shoved in a box and shipped off to this store.  We're just getting comfortable when you come along and put us BACK in a box and drive us an hour away and put us into, what I have to admit is a beautiful brooder complete with holiday lights strung around the top.  We're just getting warmed back up and NOW YOU WANT PHOTOS?  Well, stink eye and bird butt is all you're getting.  HRUMPH!
Day 2 - Com'on Girls, let's go check out the water-cooler.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Update on Coco

Well, the Pinless Peeper works!  It's been 48 hours with it on and Coco is a much more mellow chicken.  And Ginger is becoming more confident.  The two of them can eat out of the same treat bowl with no drama.  Although, when Coco looks up at Ginger, Ginger is clearly still scared and moves away quickly.

But the improvement has been so quick, that I'm really hopeful we can break Coco of this naughty pecking habit.

The one area that persists in being an issue is the roosting bar.  Coco hops up and just lumbers at Ginger like a gymnast down the balancing beam.  She KNOWS Ginger is at the opposite end.  The fearful squawks Ginger lets out just before hopping down, break my heart.  But Coco usually does this twice and then it quickly gets too dark for her to see and Ginger hops up, moves as far away from Coco as she can, and settles down.

My roosting bar is one four foot long bar.  I've been tempted to add two smaller pieces on either side to make it into the shape of a cross.  This way, I could easily house 5 full sized birds w/ out issue.  The house might be a tad small, but living where the weather is mild, my girls don't spend anytime in their house unless they are sleeping or laying.  So it could work.

The real problem is my lack of handyman skills.  But I suppose I should just go buy a small saw and a two by four and see what I can rig.  I could probably even just put them up and let tension hold them in place and watch them to see if it's a good idea or not.

The other thing I think will help is adding chickens to the flock so that Coco can't direct ALL of her aggressive tendencies towards one bird.  And I was afraid I was going to have to wait till February to pick up more chicks.  But I called the local feed store today and when she said they just received a box of Buff Orpingtons in, well, I quickly set up the brooder and headed over the hill.

So in my garage right now are four baby Buff Orpingtons.  OMG, can we say cuteness?  I only plan on keeping two.  But I wanted to be sure I GOT two girls out of the deal.  And already, I have my suspicions.  Stick your hand in there to adjust the feeder or temperature and one will come right up and peck at my hand.  Hmmm, not a good sign.  More to come on the babies.  Check back soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm a bad Chicken Mama

So I quarantined Coco yesterday from Ginger because she was bullying Ginger.  I'm not sure who suffered more, Coco, Ginger or me.  Coco gave me a tong lashing that was pretty brutal.  Ginger just stood there like, I don't want to be alone and I don't understand why I'm all alone.  And me, I was a nervous mother hen wreck.

I took Coco to the vet this afternoon because I didn't have the stomach to put a pinless peeper on her myself.  Turns out, the vet had never done it before either.  ACK.  It took him four tries before it didn't just come flying off.  And at that point, she had had enough.  He set her down and she closed her eyes, went limp and just rolled to one side.  I thought she was dead.  I was horrified.

I scooped her up in my arms and she clearly wasn't dead.  But she wasn't happy either.  I had all I could do not to just take the peeper off of her.  But I resisted.  I brought her home and put her out back w/ Ginger and she really came around.  The two ran around and scratched and pecked together.  But not at each other.

I even dumped a pile of meal worms on the patio for them to share and there was no fighting.  Clearly, the peepers slow Coco down and affect her ability to see what's right in front of her.  But I watched her closely and she can eat and drink and get up onto the roosting bar just fine.

So I'm going to leave it on for a period of time to get her to calm down and leave Ginger alone.  I'm not sure how long that will be.  Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coco's in Jail

I separated Coco from Ginger tonight.  She was bullying her.  I realize this is instinctive and to a degree, is simply normal chicken behavior.  But it's tough when you only have two hens and all Coco's aggressions are directed at Ginger.  While she wasn't drawing blood, she was preventing her from eating.  Which is not good.

Ginger has lost more than a pound over the last month while she's molting.  And being bullied away from treats and food is not helping.  I need Ginger to get her strength back.  The final straw was watching them go to bed. Ginger would hop up on the roosting bar and Coco would hop up and peck her off.  She did it three times and I knew I had to do something.  Ginger seemed so frightened.

So I set up their brooder pen in the garage for Coco.  They say you can separate a bully for about a week and that when you put her back with the flock, she'll be at the bottom of the pecking order.  I don't know if that will work with just two hens, but I had to try something.  And anything I try, is going to require some sort of separation.

Ginger already seems so much happier without Coco.  I hand fed her some worms before tucking her in for the night.

Coco on the other hand is not at all happy about this situation.  And she's half asleep.  I'm not quite sure what to expect tomorrow morning.  I'm afraid that Coco could hurt herself if she decides to really thrash around inside the cage.

But maybe, just maybe, penning up Coco and only giving her feed and water, while Ginger has full use of the house and run and treats all to herself, will build up just enough something in her to give Coco a swift peck back if she gets in her space.  That's all I need is for Ginger to stand up for herself.

Say a prayer for me, this is harder on me than it is for either of them.  We'll try this for a day or two if I can stand it that long, and then try introducing Coco back with Ginger and see what happens.

What's in a Name

Well, quite a bit it turns out.  When we decided to get chickens about a year and a half ago, one of the many questions that needed answers was, what are you going to name them?  There are so many good options for chickens.  So after much discussion and deliberation, we decided on the theme, The Spice Girls, and we'd pull names from items traditionally found in a spice cabinet.

We started w/ Ginger, Coco, Pumpkin and Poppy.  And if you've been following my blog from the beginning, you'll recall that Poppy turned out to be a rooster and had to go live elsewhere.  And we gave away Pumpkin a few months back after we finally decided that her bullying Ginger simply was never going to stop.  So in my mind, those names are now retired.

I desperately want to add two more Buff Orpingtons to my flock but this is a tough time of the year for additions.  Most of the big hatcheries have ceased production until after the new year.  And even then, it can take them most of January to ramp back up to full production.  Which means it will likely be February or March before I can pick up some day old chicks.

But that doesn't stop me from day dreaming about names.  I find myself pushing the grocery cart very slowly through the spice aisle as I look for ideas.  Honey Bear is almost a done deal for one the chicks.  Mrs. Dash we decided was also good, but probably for a Barred Rocks.  And I've read that while most are very docile and friendly, some can be feisty.  So we'll hold off on adding a BR for the time being.

I was looking at Backyard Chickens this morning and saw a big fluffy Buff Orpington named Butterball and fell in love.  Not at all a spice, but I'm thinking if I can stretch the boundaries of spices to include Honey, why not butter or turkey's, depending on how you view that.  Shoot, maybe we should just call them the Food Girls and give them food related names.

Course, then that opens up the gauntlet to names like White Meat, Dumpling, Extra Crispy and Drumstick.  And I have visions of me being out in the garden calling Drumstick, come here Drumstick, and what must my neighbors think.  I'm pretty sure they already think I've lost my mind getting pet chickens but I don't want to push myself completely into the Crazy Chicken Lady category.

So what do you all think; Honey Bear and Butterball?  Would love to hear other suggestions if you have them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Treats on a Stick

I got lots of feedback on my last post about my coop set up.  And specifically, the apple on a stick seemed to draw the most comments.

I've always felt bad keeping my girls penned up even though they have a HUGE run for just the two of them.  So I'm always on the hunt for ways to amuse them during the day.  I have no idea where this metal spike came from or what it's suppose to be used for.  I can't tell you how many times I almost tossed it out over the years we've lived her because it was just taking up space.

But I use it ALL the time now to give treats to the hens.  I you can't find one like this, go to the irrigation dept. of your hardware store and you'll find large U shaped hooks used to anchor drip irrigation lines in place.  Those will work great too.

Below is a Black Oiled Sunflower head that I saved from this summer.  I grew a bunch of these and when the flowers were done, and before the squirrels could get them, I cut them and dried them in the sun (under a protective cage, again so the squirrels couldn't get them).

And once a week or so I'll put one out for the hens.

Black Oiled Sunflower Seed head spiked into the ground inside the girls run.

And about an hour later, this is all that's left.  The seeds are pretty tight in the flower head so it
can take them a bit to work them out.  Once they get it started though, it disappears pretty quickly.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tour de Coup

I've seen others do blog tours of their chicken set up and so I thought it was time that I do the same.  Maybe this will inspire others who are lurkers, thinking about getting chickens, to take the leap.  It's loads of fun.

I thought about having chickens often and never thought it was possible.  I kept telling myself: "I live in the city.  I have neighbors on either side of me.  I have such a limited amount of space.  I don't have time."

Well, one day we went to a BBQ at a friend's house who has a yard even smaller than mine, and fenced off in the corner of her backyard were four, fat, happy Buff Orpington hens.  And I was in love!

So a few hours on the internet researching possibilities and voila, we now have chickens.  Be sure to research the local laws and ordinances for your area.  Turns out, we're allowed to have up to 6 hens w/ out a permit provided we house them 25' from our neighbor's house.  And because we're on a corner lot, with large side yards, that was pretty easy to accommodate.  (You can house them closer than 25' provided you have written permission from the neighbors.)

My other concern was about time.  Chickens are vulnerable to predators and need to be locked up at night and let out at first light.  My crazy schedule would make that a challenge.  So I thought, what if I built a predator proof run and just put their house in the middle of that.  Then I could check in on them at my convenience and not have to worry about getting up early to let them out or home in time to lock them up at night.  Put in an over sized waterer and feeder and now I'm on to something that just might work.

Not being handy at all, I had to find someone to build out a predator proof run and house for my hens.  This actually proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  I called handymen, wood workers and fencing companies and once they heard the word chicken, they hung up.  And in this economy too!

But with a little persistence, I found a GREAT fencing company to build out my run and cover it with heavy duty welded wire.  I opted to buy a ready made hen house and had it shipped to my driveway.  I took care of burying welded wire around the perimeter of the run to keep the digging critters out.  And after that was all in place, had a general contractor who was eager for work, come back and build out a frame above the run to cover it with corrugated sheets to keep the hens shaded and dry.

The one thing you'll notice that is very different about my setup is that the sides are all solid panels.  Our house is one side and the other three are solid fence boards.  Their only window to the outside world is the wire gate and above the run.  I'm not sure that's the most ideal situation, but it works for us and I don't think they really care.  They have no idea that a much bigger, crazy world exists outside their four walls.

Here are the fence guys building out their run.  You can see on the far left how the fence will come right down the property line.  On the right is the wall of the garage.  And that's their house just sitting in the middle of the run.

Basically the same shot as above only a few hours later as they are installing the fence boards.

Here you can see where I've pulled away dirt from the exterior fence line and stapled welded wire down and out away from the fence to keep digging critters out.  I also used 8" metal spikes to secure the wire into the ground.
And the finished product from the street side.  I had a BUNCH of extra bricks that were in a pile so I lined them up against the fence to give me one more deterrent layer against digging critters.  I know that won't stop them but it makes it obvious visually if something's been digging.  And thus far, we've had no issues.
And the Spice Girl's house.  Which we refer to as the Spice Cabinet.  I've since changed the icicle lights to chili pepper lights.  These hand crafted hen houses are amazingly well built and I simply adore this style.
This is the view from the entrance to their run just off our backyard.  You can see their house is up against the garage where it ALWAYS stays in the shade.  And if you look up, you can see the corrugated metal roof over their welded wire roof that keeps them shaded and dry.
Their run is 7' tall inside making it really easy to go in and out of there.  So I keep my compost bin (black box on left) in side their run and they have a fiesta when I move or turn it as it's full of bugs.  I also keep my wheel barrow in there because I have no other place for it.  They nap under it in the summer and perch on top of it in the winter.
They use the compost bin as their stage.  I frequently find one of them up there just cackling her head off.

And another shot of trying to turn the compost bin.  They get right under foot and while I used to be able to do this in about five minutes.  It now can take me a half hour while I shoo them away and gently try to scoop up and transfer the compost w/ out scooping up a hen.
Here's a wider shot of the inside of their run.  I try to keep lots of leaves on the ground which I spike w/ sunflower seeds to give them something to scratch for during the day.  I had plants in there originally but they destroyed those.  On the right you can see an over sized suet feeder which I'll fill with greens for them to peck at. 

Apple on a metal stick is always a crowd pleaser and gives the girls something to peck at.
And this is what I come back to at the end of the day.
And their Life is Good treat bowl.  Because life IS good for my girls.


And these last two photos is why we do this.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the photo of my three happy hens in each of their favorite nest boxes quietly going about their business.  And the bottom photo was from earlier when they were just starting to lay.  That was the first day we received an egg from each of the three hens on the same day.  And yes, back then they fought over the same nest box.  Their colorful eggs are like jewels to me and to this day I still get excited when I lift up the lid to the nesting boxes to find these treasures.

I hope you enjoyed my tour. 
If you have questions about anything I've done, feel free to post comments and I will answer.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why it's a chicken, of course!

What do people, who love chickens, dress up as for Halloween?  Why a chicken of course.

Well, I couldn't bring myself to don a full chicken suit for the office, but I did sport my crazy chicken hat for the day.  It was loads of fun because I couldn't see myself.  I had no idea how dorky I looked.  But anyone who came to ask me a question that simply couldn't keep a strait face.  It was lots of fun.

Waiting for Spring

I know, it's not even winter yet.  But I really want more chickens.  And we're headed into the season where the hatcheries slow down production and most stop until after the first of the year.  And while they start up in early January, the chickens might still be on slow production as they finish their molt.  And then of course, you have to wait 21 days for those eggs to hatch and the chicks to ship.  So it's going to be February before I have easy access to more chicks.

I really want four hens for my flock.  I started with four hens when I started this adventure a little over a year ago.  But as you know if you've been following my blog, Poppy turned out to be a rooster and we gave him to a family that has some property and wanted to expand their flock of two chickens.

And then about a month ago, we gave away Pumpkin who was a bully towards Ginger.  To the point of not letting her eat food.  She now lives not terribly far away, with two other hens, and is hopefully at the bottom of that pecking order getting a small dose of what it feels like to be pecked at.

And that's how I ended up with just two hens.  Who get along like sisters and are such sweet chickens.  But I worry constantly, what if something happens to one.  One chicken is a VERY lonely chicken.  So I'm eager to add to our flock of Spice Girls.

And as much as I want a mixed flock of hens who lay a variety of colored eggs, I've come to the realization that to have a better chance of having multiple hens who get along well with each other, I should buy the same species.  So more Buff Orpington's are in order.  Ginger is a Buff Orpington or BO for short.

We've selected names for our newest additions, Honey and Spice.  But for now, they are just a fantasy I dream about while I wait for spring.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Easter Eggs

Unless you have chickens, you are probably just used to the white or brown eggs that most supermarkets sell.  But chicken eggs come in a wide variety of colors from blue, green, pink, brown,  dark chocolate brown and some have spots.  Like Coco's eggs.

No two are ever alike.  Some have lots of spots like the one from today.  And others are nearly all brown with no spots at all.  She's been laying eggs for 6 months now and I still scamper outside when I hear her sing the egg song.  I can't wait to see how she's decorated her egg for the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What does Moulting look like?

Here is one of my favorite photos of Ginger, fully feathers out and looking gorgeous.

And here is Ginger missing all her tail feathers.

Notice the hole at the back of her neck?  She can't reach back there to nibble off the keratin wrapper around those new feathers so those will take longer to blossom out.

She's just so sad looking.  I was really worried that she was loosing weight too.  But she HATES being picked up while molting.  Experts say that it's rather painful as pin feathers push out the old feathers.  So I've tried to oblige and not pick her up.  But I did tonight and set her on the scale and she's holding tight at 4 1/2 pounds.  Which really is a relief to me that she's not loosing weight through this process.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feathers, Feathers and more Feathers

Ugh, I think Coco might be moulting.

For those chicken novices, moulting is the process chickens go through each fall where they shed their old worn feather and replace with new ones.  And the books all say that chickens don't moult their first year.  So I wasn't quite sure what to expect for my girls as they are just a year old now.

When we returned from vacation a few weeks back, Ginger was dropping feathers and fast.  Clearly, she was moulting, but was it her regularly scheduled moult or was she forced into it due to stress and shock from being bullied away from food by Pumpkin while we were away.  We'll never know for certain.

Regardless, of whether it's a stress induced moult or a regular one, she's moulting and going through the pieces.

I don't think she'll do a complete moult this year as she's not losing lots of feathers. At this rate, it would take her a whole year to replace all her feathers.  But the new feathers are coming in nicely.  She doesn't want to be held and I can understand why.  She feels like a porky pine all covered in pin feathers.  She spends her days nibbling away a the keratin coating around those pin feathers to release them.  Sometimes when I go out to visit she's covered in bits of keratin and it looks like she has dandriff.

This morning, there were four black feathers from Coco.  These two are tight and I honestly have to wonder if one isn't inspired by the other to mimic their behavior.  I do hope that Coco has just lost a few worn feathers and is not going to moult this year.

It's a stressful process for chickens and they will stop laying eggs for the duration which can be anywhere from 2-4 months.  Coco is the only one laying eggs at this time and it would break my heart if both were to stop laying.

I know it should be old hat by now but I still get so excited hen I find an egg in one of their nest boxes.  They are little gems made with love just for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Baby needs Corrective Shoes

Ginger is pigeon toed.  I'm not quite sure when or how this happened.  When she was a chick, we used to call her Turbo because she was the only one of the four who would scratch and dig her way through the pine shavings in their brooder all the way down to the tarp.  She loved to motor around that big brooder and kick and scratch anything and everything.

I never thought that she would be the one to grow up and have no interest in scratching in the garden.  But she doesn't.  And I've come to the conclusion that it's because she's pigeon toed.  She walks around just fine but when she stops, she's usually standing with one foot on top of the other.

You can see how her feet are pointed towards each other in this photo.

And since she doesn't scratch, she doesn't wear down her toe nails.  I've trimmed them a few times in the past but she REALLY doesn't like it.  And I feel so bad doing it to her.

So today, I took her to the vets office for a professional toe nail trimming.  They did a lovely job.  And they also gave me the confidence to keep doing this myself.  Hopefully, every other month will be often enough to keep them from getting out of control.  That's six times a year.  I think I can commit to that.  The question is, can I get Ginger to buy into that plan?

While her feet are not crossed in this photo, you can see how they are pointed in towards each other.
Maybe if I bribe her with a big tub of meal worms after each trimming session I can convince her that getting her nails trimmed is a good thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Think your chickens don't recognize you? Think again!

Check out this adorable video.  I know, it's of a goose and not a chicken.

I will admit, earlier this year, I wasn't so convinced that my own chickens recognized me as opposed to any person who came out to say hello and bring them treats.  They just don't show emotion like dogs with their wagging tails or cats with their meow-meow-meow.

But that all changed when I took Coco to the vet earlier this year.  Coco was never a lap chicken.  She doesn't like to be touched or held.  But she'll let me pick her up.  And you can tell she doesn't like it, but is merely tolerating it.

So at the vet's office, I had her up on the table but right next to me so I could stroke her to keep her calm.  But when the vet tried to pick her up, she took flight, did one lap around the room and very deliberately landed in my arms burying her head in my shoulder.  It was very obvious, she wanted nothing to do with the vet and that she trusted me.

Ginger will also very willingly run into my out stretched arms for me to scoop her up.  She doesn't do that for anyone else.

So for those who think their chickens don't recognize them, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm up to 2.3 Chickens

I'll bet that title got your attention.  How on earth do you get .3 of a chicken.  Well, THIS is how.

Mr. Bird - the girls new mascot.

We stopped by my favorite little nursery over the weekend and they had a new batch of metal chickens out front.  I've been eyeing these guys for years and just couldn't find one that screamed, "take me home with you" till now.

Coco and Ginger seemed indifferent to the newest addition to their garden which is fine with me.  I really don't want to do anything more to rock their world right now.  I think Mr. Bird is just what they needed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Little Update

Well, it's been a wild week indeed.

Coming home from vacation to three hens not getting along was tough.  Giving Pumpkin away was even tougher.  But I didn't realize how traumatized Ginger was.  She wasn't eating.  She wouldn't eat out of my hand and wouldn't go for treats.  There were no droppings under her roosting spot in the hen house.  None.  When this happened two days in a row, I couldn't take it.

I took Ginger to the vet who thoroughly examined her, did a blood panel and even checked her dropping for parasites.  He could fine nothing wrong with her.  He said to give her what ever she'll eat to get her to eat and hope that it passes.

So I picked up a bunch of meal worms and ordered a bunch more online.  She ate a few one day.  And then ate a whole tub of 100 the next day.  Although she scarfed through those pretty quickly and I have to question if I really got 100 in that tub.

Last night I picked up a 100 live crickets and separated her from Coco and sat there and hand fed her each and every last cricket.  If you'd never held a live cricket, you have no idea how much those things stink.  And I have a poor sense of smell.  Anyway, she still seemed hungry so I gave her another 50 giant meal worms and checked on her after she'd gone to bed.  She was snuggled up next to Coco and all seemed right.

This morning, I was alarmed because there were no droppings under where she slept.  I thought how can that be?!?  I stuffed her before bedtime.  But then I noticed 4 HUGE broody droppings over by the gate and I'm guessing that those had to be hers.

This morning she readily ate out of my hand and side by side w/ Coco.  Which is a challenge.  Because Coco is like a giant Hoover machine.  She won't peck at Ginger for her food but she'll take it right out of her beak.  I had mixed up a bunch of meal worms in some powdered feed and was giving Ginger the worms and Coco just the feed.  Well, Coco is very smart and was suspicious she was getting a raw deal.  She stood up tall and peeked into my treat bowl and saw the wriggling worms and just went gonzo.  So I just let the two of them at it.  Coco got most of it, but Ginger got enough to get something in her tummy to get her going.

I feel as though we're past the worst of this and Ginger is coming around.  Coco doesn't seem to miss Pumpkin which is good.  I know those two were buddies.  And Coco and Ginger seem to be bonding well and my hope is they become best friends so that I can add two additional birds in the spring without much issue.

I'm still trying to decide what breeds to add.  I really want docile hens and I keep reading how much they like to be with a buddy who looks like them.  So I'm heavily leaning towards another Buff Orpington like Ginger and a Black Astralorp.  The BA would look like Coco but have the docile nature of an BO.

Would love to hear comments from those with Astralorps and Orpingtons and hear what you have to say about their personalities, are they docile, do you have pecking issues, do you have one of each and do they get along well, etc.

On a side note, I did get an email from Pumpkin's new owner who said she's settling in nicely.  She's clearly at the bottom of the pecking order and doesn't get super close to the other two hens.  But that is all to be expected as they figure each other out.  Hopefully, the newness wears off soon and she starts to lay her beautiful green eggs.  I know they will love her like I did once they find one of those emerald little gems in a nest box.

Monday, October 3, 2011

And then there were Two

I went away on vacation for a week and my worst fears came true.  Pumpkin started picking on Ginger again.  I'm not sure when it started but when I got home, Ginger had some blood on her comb from a good peck and there were some feathers in the run.  When I went to scoop up Ginger to cuddle her, she ran away from me.  It broke my heart.  She's always run to my open arms and begged to be cuddled.

Pumpkin has always had it out for her.  And I've tried a number of things to break her of this naughty habit, my fear was always that if their Flock Mistress went away, would the naughty habits return?  And they did.

I probably should have recognized and addressed this fact a long time ago.  I was really naive when I thought I could pick up four different baby chicks and those would be my four for many, many happy years.

So I'm about to go out and pack up Pumpkin to take her to her new home.  I'm sick about this.  I have tears in my eyes as I write this.  I feel like I'm giving away one of my children.  And that I failed them as a mother.

But Pumpkin has a stronger connection to her Asian Jungle Fowl roots.  She's always been wily and feisty.  She never liked to be held.  Not even as a chick.  But we loved her just the same.

I regret letting my desire for a colorful egg basket determine the breeds of chickens I chose.  I wish I could go back and start all over with two Buff Orpingtons and two Barred Rocks or Cochins.  But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  And I have to believe that this has happened for a reason.  What?  I don't know.  And may never know.

We love you Pumpkin.  And we always will.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No Eggs Today

I didn't get any eggs today.  :-(  It doesn't happen very often, but it has happened before.

I can't say that I'm surprised.  It's been super warm this week, mid-90's here since last weekend.  And after a very mild summer, I can imagine that this has stressed the hens.

Fortunately, I've had a flexible schedule this week and could give them some cool treats in the afternoon and hose down their run to cool them down.  I also think that my presence here in the afternoon is confusing to them.  They all line up at the gate wanting to be let out into the larger garden to free range.  But when I let them out, they hit their favorite spots quickly and then go stand in a cool, dark corner.

The fog layer is building up off the coast and should start to push in, so cooler weather is not far behind and hopefully, the eggs will follow.

I'm fortunate in that my girls are not quite a year old yet.  This means they won't molt this year.  Molting is the process where chickens replace all of their feathers with new ones.  It's a stressful process for them and requires lots of protein to produce all those new feathers.  And as a result, they stop laying eggs during that process.  Once they finish their molt, it's usually winter time where the days are shorter and many hens simply don't start back up until spring time.

But my girls should continue to lay through the fall and winter this year.  And my goal is to add a new chick next year meaning, I'll have one hen laying through the fall while the others, molt.

But today, I miss my beautiful egg presents that my girls usually leave for me each day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coco LOVES Banana

Here's a cute little movie I shot of DH trying to eat his banana and Coco explaining to him that she loves banana and would really prefer that he share it with her.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

June Beetles are Good Eats

Also known as a June Bug, they are really quite pretty.  They look like giant emeralds and glisten in the sun with this iridescent shimmer.  And lately, some of the droppings in The Spice Girls run have had bits of iridescent shimmering green bits in them.

Fully grown June Beetle.  They sound like a GIANT bumble bee when they fly and they tend to fly in circles.
June Beetles will lay eggs which will grow into these grub and then morph into June Beetles in the late summer. 

So I've had my suspicion that they were eating these things but I just couldn't believe it.  But it's TRUE!

My husband took the girls some spinach the other day and was holding it for them while they nibbled at it.  When all of the sudden there was this loud buzzing sound and what looked like a giant humming bird buzzed into the girls run.

Coco suddenly lost all interest in spinach and ran over to where the beetle had landed.  She grabbed it in her beak and it got away.  She grabbed it again and again it got away.  This happened several more times before she got a good hold on it and wrestled it to the ground and took her prize off into the corner where she could choke it down on her terms.

You can't watch something like that and not think of the movie Jurassic Park and realize how close chickens are to their cousins, the dinosaur.  My girls are so sweet and gentle but watching Coco deliberately and viciously go after her pray just makes me glad that they are as small as they are.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ginger's in BIG Trouble!

My sweet little Ginger has become a bad girl.  I fully expect to come home one of these days and find her with a tattoo on her arm, her wattles pierced, drinking whisky strait from the bottle and smoking.  I don't know where I went wrong with her.

Ginger has always been the baby of the group.  Even though she's the same age as the others.  She always has to sleep right in the middle of the group.  She HATES being alone.  She'll squawk incessantly when both her sisters are laying eggs and she's left alone in her run.  And she's a mama's girl.  She's always the first one to run up to me and jump up in my lap and inspect me for treats.

And unfortunately, she is also at the bottom of the pecking order of the three.  I don't have a big problem with pecking but it's taken some experimenting to figure out how and when to doll out treats so that they don't peck at her and drive her away.

And on more than one occasion when she's been bullied away from treats, I've let her follow me into the garage and help herself to a few meal worms strait from the farm.  Yes, I know what you are all thinking, I've taught her this naughty behavior.  And sadly, I must agree.

So this morning, I let the three out for just a few minutes of free range time while I cut fresh flowers for the house.  So I was back and forth in the garden.  And then decided to give their run a dusting of DE.  I've yet to find a mite on any of the three but it's something I fear and dread so I give their house and run a good dusting once a month or so.

I went back into the garage to put the DE away and just as I was exiting, I heard a sound.  I stopped and thought that was odd.  And when I turned around, I saw it.  Ginger's fluffy blond butt sticking up out of the meal worm farm.  OMG.  I ran over and scooped her up out of the farm.  Mind you, this is the next batch of worms I'm starting so I don't pull any worms out of this tub to feed them.  (And yes, I need to get a lid for this second farm.  It's on my To-Do list.  And just moved up several spaces.)

Anyway,  she's stuffed to the gills.  She had to have been up there for at least five minutes and probably closer to ten.  She was fat and happy and quite proud of herself.  I sat down on the back stoop with her and we had a long chat about her naughty behavior and what a bad girl she was.  And what does she do, she croons out her long neck and wraps it around mind and lets out a few soft peep peep peeps.

And yes, I melted.  How can one be angry at that?

But the next batch of meal worms is definitely going to be smaller than I had planned due to today's naughty activities.  Sigh...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Is it just me?

Or do chickens fluffy backsides remind you of old fashioned tennis panties.

Let me start with the fact that I cannot believe I'm blogging about how cute a butt is.  But since my girls spend most of their time with their heads down and their fluffy butts up in the air as they forage for tasty treats, I find I spend more time looking at their fluffy butts than any other part of them.

But you have to admit, they are quite proper in that their backsides are completely covered up with fluffy soft down feathers.

But back to my original question.  Do their fluffy backsides remind you of old fashioned tennis panties?