It was a long day…

I cleaned out my coop today. What a production that was. I locked the chickens out of the coop at around 12pm with their container of water and feed. I scraped out every last pine shaving with a giant snow-shovel, swept the floors, and mixed a solution of half vinegar-half water. With that I took a little scrubbing brush and wiped down the roost. I also tried getting rid of the horrible blood stains splattering the walls, but I don’t think that stuff is coming off any time soon… It looks like I converted it into a slaughter house or something. Well, maybe its not quite that bad.

I proceeded to rinse off the vinegar solution, and spray every last nook and cranny with Manna Pro Poultry Protectant. To be honest, I have no clue if it actually works or not. Its hard to tell with the chicken blogs scattered across the internet because they are constantly advertising for their sponsors. So basically I fell for their trap and purchased some at the Tractor Supply. As I was spraying, the nozzle fell off, and the bottle part went careening towards the ground. The liquid sloshed everywhere, and I lost about half of it. Ugh.

I opened every single window and aired the coop out a bit. As it dried I dragged a pallet over to the driveway and began scrubbing a waterer with the vinegar solution. I’ve been meaning to sanitize it for months, since it was the waterer Mary used when she was ill. I put it inside their coop, sparkling, along with all of the shavings and feeders, etc…

All of this took from 12pm to sunset. As the sun sank below the trees in the distance, I sat back and watched my chickens interact. The chicken saddle is continuing to work wonderfully for Cora, so I made a mental note to order one for Mabel, whose back has scraggly bald patches. That’s when I saw the gash.

Just under Mabel’s wing was a big cut, dark in color, being concealed under what little feathers she had left. If this had happened earlier this year, I would have burst into tears while thumbing through my “raising chickens manual” thing. But after all I’ve been through, this didn’t seem quite that bad. Once again, I find myself remarkably unprepared. All I have for a chicken first aid kit is Neosporin, some syringes, Tylan 50, Duramycin 10, Blu-Kote, and eye dropper and some paper towels. Since my parents didn’t particularly want to host another chicken in the basement, I had to venture out to the coop at dusk to deal with it.

Now, if you don’t remember, Mabel really doesn’t like people. “Doesn’t like” is a total understatement. She ran away for three days because she doesn’t like people.

Wanted chicken

Mabel is a free-spirit, meant to be admired from afar. These traits are rather unfortunate in this particular situation. Under the cover of darkness I crept into the coop and quickly snatched the unsuspecting bird from her spot sandwiched in between Mary and Cora on the roost. She started squawking, and struggling, kicking and flapping, all at the same time. I held on for dear life, holding her football style with her head underneath my arm. Finally she gave up, her little heart beating rapidly. I lifted her wing, and saw a mostly scabbed over wound with some dirt on it.

I syringed some warm water over it, rubbing gently. Before I could smother it with Neosporin, however, Mabel escaped from my grasp and began to systematically beat herself against the walls and windows of the coop. She knocked over my water, scattered my paper towels, and clucked in a panic to Edith, who is throwing himself against the chicken wire in an effort to rescue his hen. He clucks angrily at me, Mabel wails at me, and I am covered in dirt, pine shavings, and water.

As she continues to struggle I ask, out loud,

“What are you even trying to accomplish?”

She glares at me, and I tackle her little self as gently as possible to the coop floor. Once I have her under control I quickly cover her in Neosporin and Blu-Kote, then drop her in the pine shavings below. She fluffs up her feathers with as much dignity as she could muster, and returns to her spot on the roost.

It was a long day for both of us.

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Usefulness?!

I actually… think I might have done something.. useful!

Cora and Mabel have glaring bald patches on their backs. Cora’s wing.. I want to say elbow, but I know that isn’t correct.. is red from Edith mounting her constantly. I think Edith needs to dial down his enthusiasm a bit.

Anyways, I went ahead and ordered one of those chicken saddle things. I got onto Amazon, and finally found one for about ten dollars. It is camouflage with weird butterflies on it. I read the title of the product about ten times before ordering it, and yet I still managed to get a double-strapped one instead of single-strapped.

In case you aren’t an expert on chicken saddles (who isn’t?), I’ll inform you of the difference. A single strapped saddle is essentially a square piece of durable cloth with two loops of elastic on either side. The chicken’s wing is pulled through the elastic on either side. This design is far more comfortable for them, and easier to put on. But it goes both ways- it falls off just as easily.

A double strapped saddle has elastics that cross in the middle. Its hard to explain, but essentially there is a whole in between the two elastics, a separate loop if you will, that some how you shove the chickens head through. So this elastic thing is pressing against her throat all.the.time. I definitely didn’t want that.

I definitely am not skilled in the art of sewing. Not at all. Someone missing both of their thumbs could probably hand-sew better then me. And yet I fixed this double strapped hen saddle, and converted it to a nice single strapped one. It took me a few hours, which is kind of depressing when you think of the very minuscule amount of sewing I actually had to do. But I did it, nonetheless, and it works fantastically.

I slipped it onto Cora without much trouble, and she hasn’t succeeded in shaking it off during this 24 hours. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I feel so very useful!

Spring Is Here (Theoretically)

The little red coop is illuminated in the setting sun

The little red coop is illuminated in the setting sun

Spring is here, according to the calendar. The snow falling from the sky seems a little contradictory. Frankly, I’ve just given up. I have accepted the fact that warm weather is never going to happen again, and that I should just get used to the winter jackets and sweatpants.

The lazy chickens have retired early...I peeked my head in and found this...

This New England weather has gotten me so confused. It rises into the 40s, and all of a sudden I’m walking around outside with just a t-shirt shirt and jeans on. But then it starts snowing the next day, and it is back to the multiple layers of coats, sweaters, and socks. I just know that the tulips, crocuses, and daffodils are trying to arise from the dirt. If only there wasn’t a foot of snow barring their path to the sun.

The other day I strolled outside to my chicken coop, and did a double take as Edith stepped out into the run. His comb had fallen off, leaving a strange looking (for lack of a better word) nub… I started laughing immediately, but halted when he glared at me, as if to suggest that it was my fault. I retreated back into the warmth after doing the daily chicken chores, feeling slightly bad that his once majestic comb has been diminished so completely.

The other issue I have been facing is eggs. I have too many!  I’ve resorted to handing them out by the half-dozen to neighbors, out of complete desperation for more fridge space. I really want to sell them, but I’m not sure if I need a license for that, and since my chicken operation is supposed to be “covert” (I’m pretending that my neighbors can’t actually hear Edith serenading them in the mornings) I don’t want to draw extra attention to it. I’ll have to do some more research. Farm stands are a really popular thing in my town- people just set up a table on the side of the road with a box for money and piles of fruit vegetables. Asparagus and strawberries decorate these stands in the spring time, and then lots of corn and tomatoes in the summer. Pretty much every turn you take leads you to another one. Why not have one of my own?

The Chickens Getting Ready for Bed

Photo Mar 18, 6 40 58 PMThey were slightly offended by my intrusion A curious angle of chickens roosting...

Seedlings

I started some seedlings earlier this week! These past few years I have utterly and completely failed at getting my little plants to thrive. I’ve had an especially frustrating time with the heirloom peppers I’ve tried over the years. On Monday I filled a flat with four Asters, four peppers, and eight lettuce plants. Or maybe it was eight pepper plants and four lettuce plants… perhaps this is why I’ve been failing at this…

But not to fear! I have a chart with the information somewhere around here. I followed the directions carefully, filling up the bottom tray with warm water, soaking  the black, absorbent mat that goes underneath the flat itself in more warm water, expanded the little soil pellets, sowed the tiny seeds, and covered it all with a thin “germination sheet”. Then I quickly cleaned up the layer of dirt on the kitchen counter before my family laid their horrified eyes on it. They just don’t get it sometimes 🙂

I probably could have easily done all this without the silly Burpee seed kit, but took advantage of it as it was left over from last year. Hopefully they sprout.

Photo Mar 09, 1 47 00 PM

If anyone asks, those crumbs are brownies…

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And if they don’t, I shall try again. After all, I’ve got to have something to distract me from the idea of chicks that I can’t have, and my rooster troubles.

Uncertainty

Spring showed itself today in the form of a warm, breezy afternoon. With the new season, comes the longing for chicks. I keep stealing glances at the Tractor Supply, and searching baby chick pictures on Google. Its an addiction. No, really- there is something called “chicken math” which is basically a giant excuse chicken owners use to get more chickens. For instance, if I had 20 chickens, but three of them were roosters and five were no longer laying eggs I would reason that instead of 20 chickens, I had 12, because roosters and old hens don’t count. So really, I need 8 more hens.

Photo Mar 11, 5 53 47 PM Photo Mar 11, 5 54 02 PM

I find that this way of thinking is extremely tempting as pictures of fuzzy chicks fill the screen. And I think. What kinds would I get? If I could of course… I go onto hatchery websites and fill up my online “cart” with different breeds, pretending that I am chick shopping. Then comes the scheming… If I just got three more, and expanded the coop slightly then I could…

You get the point. You also probably think I’m crazy.

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But something besides chicks eats at the back of my mind. Mr. Edith has been mating with all three hens for the past few weeks. As you know, he is a large beast. I observed (its not as creepy as it sounds) him mating with Mary, who is quite a big hen, and he completely pinned her to the ground. A gust of air seemed to whoosh out of her, followed by horrified squawking. Mabel, a very small girl, has a bare patch on her back, exposed to the air. So does Cora. And his spurs are developing right before my eyes.

Edith is becoming a real rooster. Not the cuddly buddy he was earlier this year, though he still lets me pick him up and pet him. And he is doing some damage to my hens. Or, his hens, rather. I know he would die for them, he is gentle with humans, and even does the mating dance for Cora. But I also know that he would be better off with more hens to mate with- more than three.

Photo Mar 11, 5 54 54 PM Photo Mar 11, 5 54 55 PM

With these thoughts in mind, I feel immediately guilty. How am I supposed to tell if this is just greedy me trying to make room for more chickens, if this is cruel me getting rid of an animal for doing its purpose, or if this is practical me looking out for the safety of my hens. My mind is certainly troubled. The very last thing I want is for him to end up being processed and butchered. He is such a fantastic animal! And he is so very good to me and his girls. Mr. Edith has even grown on my parents, and his crowing is music that soothes my soul. Any advice from my fellow chicken owners?

Once again, I am at a loss on what to do.

On the bright side- I’m now getting three eggs a day! Mary, the new egg layer, produces a gorgeous light brown-shelled egg