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.

Advertisements

Short Term Comfort

Its funny how much I have to say about these birds- with other farm/garden blogs, chickens seem to take a back seat. Well, I suppose if I was lucky enough to have a herd of goats, this blog would have a different name… Anyways, part of me can’t help but regret the level of care I have for these animals. Perhaps if I was detached, I would have processed my rooster in the summer time like a true farmer would. Perhaps I wouldn’t have cried so much when I thought Mary was going to die from that respiratory illness. I know one thing for sure. If I’m ever fortunate enough to have a real farm of my own, I’ll need to go about this animal husbandry thing a lot differently.

However, I’m glad that I have gotten to know these little critters. Mary, who loves being pet and held; Cora, who hates Mary and lays the best eggs; Mabel, who is skittish but lovable and so so soft. And Edith- a humongous, grouchy, but sweet rooster…

…who happens to be inhabiting my basement right now.

Why, you ask? Yesterday I strolled into the chicken coop to close the doors and apply bag balm to Edith’s comb. When I shined the flashlight on his head, it was covered in blood. I’m not exaggerating. His entire neck was bright red, and I could see it gushing from the tips of his waddles. I took a deep breath and walked back inside my home, and informed my parents that Edith would be living in the basement for the night.

They are very understanding people…

I brought him into the warmth of my basement and placed him into my chicken-rehabilitation-dog-crate (if you’re thinking about getting chickens, this is extremely helpful… I promise you will need it). He left a trail of blood on the basement floor as I carried him 😦

Once he was settled in the pine shavings, I tried to wipe off the bloody, matted feathers. This didn’t work, because the more I wiped off, the more was replaced by the still bleeding wound on his wattle. I tried to stop the bleeding with flour, but to no avail. He was very lethargic, which terrified me, but there was nothing I could do so I returned upstairs and continued with my night.

I was surprised when I didn’t wake up to a loud crowing coming from the basement. When I went downstairs, I braced myself for the worst, but instead found a very weak rooster- but still very much alive. He couldn’t bend over to drink and eat because his waddles hurt too much, so I hand fed him his food pellets dipped in water. He seemed a lot better after this, so I cooked some scrambled eggs and gave him some, which he eagerly consumed. When I offered him a bowl of water, he surprised me by shoving his entire beak in and taking several deep swigs.

At the moment he is doing much better- he even crowed a little bit! I wasn’t able to get all the blood off of his feathers, so it is still very messy. But as I write this he is sleeping next to a flat panel heater, resting up in his short-term comfort before returning to the frigid cold.

 

 

Sickness, Sadness and Stress

As I write this my attention wanders to a running mass of fur and teeth. A new puppy has entered the household. Before I go on, I’ll review the past week or two, which will clearly explain the title.

1 month ago A girl who lives a couple doors down in my sister’s dorm buys a little pug puppy, Boris, to keep her company. A Therapy Pug of sorts.

Three Weeks Ago She decides that managing a crazy puppy and school work isn’t possible. She meets my mother, an extreme lover of pugs, and sees how much she adores the puppy.

Two and a Half Weeks Ago… My sister texts my mother, asking if it would be okay to adopt the puppy into our home. My mother, against her better judgement, agrees.

Two Weeks Ago Wendell, our nine year old pug, gets sick. When I’m home alone, he leaps off of where he was sleeping on me, and runs in circles. He is clearly in pain, his tail is down, and he’s so very exhausted. I panic, and my neighbor brings Wendell and I to the animal hospital, where they decided that Wendell might have a slipped disc in his neck. They give him intense pain pills, and he is completely disoriented. A sadness hangs over our house, and dread creeps in as we remember we agreed to get another dog.

Two Days After Wendell visits his regular vet, who says it might be an inner ear infection. He gets antibiotics and continues to improve

That Thursday My mother and I drive three hours to my sister’s college to pick up Boris and my sister. He sleeps on the way home. Wendell and Boris meet outside our house in the dark. Both of them seemed submissive, and they hesitantly sniff each other’s butts, tails wagging all the while. When they go inside, chaos ensues, and Boris proceeds to complete several laps around the house. Wendell isn’t very pleased, and lets Boris know it by snapping at him when he overstepped his limits.

Thursday Night… The whole house awakens to mournful howling from Boris in his crate. This continues for all the nights following.

Wednesday I walk outside to my chickens and notice Mary has a strange bubbly discharge coming from an eye. Her breathing is rattling, and she sneezes several times as I watch in horror. Respiratory problems can sometimes be a death sentence for entire flocks. I grab Mary from where she sleeps that night and put her in a warm dog crate in the basement. I feed her bits of scrambled eggs. Meanwhile Wendell throws up a new antibiotic he was taking, and appears to be in pain. I feel so stressed that I might have a mental breakdown. Sadness once again covers the house

Thursday NightMy dad buys Duramycin 10, an antibiotic that goes in the chicken waterer for respiratory diseases in poultry. I make sure Mary drinks some. Yesterday was her first full day on it- No improvements yet.

So far I haven’t noticed any symptoms in my flock, but it is extremely likely that they will come down with the same illness.

The sickness Mary has is probably a form of a virus, in which case antibiotics will not help. What the Duramycin 10 does, is attempt to prevent any infections that might stem from the virus, which would be a very serious problem.

This Morning.. My mother woke me up, in tears, saying Wendell was not doing well. I went downstairs and he was lying down next to the fire, shaking with every breath in and out. He’s at the vet as I write this, and I can only hope and pray that he will have a few more happy, healthy years with us.

The relationships I have with my animals are strong. It might seem strange, but I look at Wendell like a sibling. He’s been around for much of my life, we have so many memories together. But when my animals get sick, my whole world seems to turn sour. Everything seems to darken, and I desperately want to be happy again. I cling to whatever shred of joy I have, I laugh too loudly at things I wouldn’t normally find funny. But the dread and terror of living without that sick animal is still within the pit of my stomach. Its like I’m sick as well. When Mary got sick, I regretted getting chickens for the first time. I asked myself, “How did you think you could do this? Can’t you see you’re doing a horrible job?” And I have no answers. Am I doing a horrible job? If you look at what has happened since May, the answer is yes. Two of my chicks died within a week, two turned out to be roosters. Mary swallowed my hair tie, Mabel ran away, Edith nearly ripped off Mary’s ear lobe, and now Mary is sick.

Much Squawking

I did it.

About an hour after I published my last post, I ventured outside. I spread the pine shavings in the new coop with my father, and got everything set up. Then I took a deep breath and walked into the run, where my chickens were cowering, away from the snow.

I bent down, tentatively calling “here chook chook chook chicken. EEEEEEEEEdiiiiiiiith.”. He emerged from the coop, fluffing out his feathers. I nervously edged towards him, and knelt in the snow, slowly wrapping my arms around him. He kind of jerked upwards, clucking, and I gently lifted him up. He stayed completely still, softly clucking, and I (completely astonished) carried him over to his new coop. He was such a sweetheart! Here I was, picturing squawking and biting and scratching. Lesson learned- Edith is the best!

I dropped him off in the shavings, and he stood their clucking. I shut the door and returned to the hens. I did the same thing, calling Cora forward. When I placed her in the shavings, they flew to the second level and clucked some more. Easy as pie.

Then came the hard part. For the next forty minutes I sat there, trying to get close enough to Mabel to grab her. I succeeded in snatching her, but she screamed and got a wing over my hand, flapping against the wall. Completely frightened off, I took a break and let it grow darker while I made some hot cocoa inside. Thirty minutes later, it was completely dark and still snowing. I finally regained my confidence and went back out again, sneaking up to the coop. Mary and Mabel faced the back of the coop, their tails pointing towards me. I quickly grabbed her, pressing her wings to her back. She screamed again, did the same thing as before, except I still was holding on.

Against all my philosophies and research, I grabbed her legs, and pulled her out of the coop while she hung upside down. She immediately calmed down, stopped struggling. Shaking, and talking softly, I brought her through the cold to her new, warmer coop. I lay her down on the floor, and she stayed there, stunned. The poor thing got up and crawled in the corner. I’m desperately hoping she is okay, that I didn’t harm her. I just figured it was better for her to be scared and in a safe, warm placed rather than content in a dangerous and freezing one. I hope I figured right.

Mary gave me no trouble, as I suspected, and all four are in the new coop. I just hope they’ll be okay.

All’s Well That Ends Well… Sort of…

The first part of today was spent walking through crowded streets underneath colorful leaves, looking at crafts and food. A festival of sorts. We dined on Apple Pie with cheese, fried dough with maple cream, indian pudding, and all sorts of food that we probably shouldn’t have eaten. It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp fall morning and afternoon. A perfect way to spend a Fall day!

But my mind would not stop wandering to my little hen (if I can even call her “mine”) all alone out in the wilderness, with no protection. Therefore, when we got home, the first place I went was the chicken coop. Edith, Mary, and Cora (the Rhode Island Red’s new name) were pecking around as usual. Whenever Cora looked at Mary the wrong way, she got a pecking to the neck/back, followed by a loud squawk.

I figured that I may as well let Edith and Mary out to see if they draw out The Escapee. So I locked Cora in the bottom of the coop (I don’t want her escaping and banding with her friend), and opened up the run. They pecked around for a bit, nonchalantly strolling through the grass while I hid behind the coop with a bag of scratch. However, when they heard the rustling of the bag of cracked corn and mealworms they came bolting over, giving away my position. This went on for a good forty minutes or so, with still no sign of The Escapee. I hadn’t seen her since Saturday morning. Finally I gave up and put them back in the run, letting Cora out as well. I began to go inside when out of no where a little white chicken came bouncing down the line of trees towards the run.

She just trotted right up, than spotted me, and disappeared into the trees immediately. But then I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could let Mary out and have her encourage The Escapee to come forth from the shrubbery. I locked Cora and Edith in the bottom of the  coop, swung open the fencing once more, and sat back on the steps about a hundred feet away. Sure enough, a white blob with fluffy cheeks came bounding through the grass. She headed straight into the little run, and when she got to the back, I sprinted as fast as my feet could carry me towards the run, slamming it shut right before The former Escapee’s eyes. Mary looked at me with confusion from the ear of corn she was pecking in the corner of the yard.

Grinning with relief, I sat in the grass. A heavy weight that was pressing on my shoulders was immediately released. I was grateful. After ten minutes of sitting there, I saw Edith lunge at Mary’s neck, just out of nowhere. Mary screeched, and lunged at Cora’s neck. It was bizarre, like a literal version of the pecking order. A few more minutes passed, I left and came back, only to see that Mary’s face was covered in blood, and part of her waddle or earlobe was split and hanging. Swearing, I frantically ran into the enclosure and grabbed her in my arms. She cooed, not struggling at all, while I placed her in a fenced in space next to the run. A few texts were sent to my neighbor/chicken supplier/boss, who promptly responded with advice.

Close to tears, I clumsily tried to wipe off her feathers with a wet sterile pad. Suddenly my mother appeared, and kindly prepared some antiseptic and gauze. She cleaned out the wound with ease and gentleness while Mary snuggled against me in my lap. After putting on some antibacterial, I put her back in the separate enclosure, and went inside to prepare my dog’s crate for chicken habitation.

My neighbor/chicken supplier/boss also appeared at the driveway, and inspected the wound. Than she applied something called Blue Kote, which makes the wound appear blue instead of red. This is useful because it discourages pecking, which can quickly turn cannibalistic when dealing with chickens.

Poor baby :(

Poor baby 😦

She seemed to think that it was perfectly fine, and not a big deal. Which leads me to think that the worst is yet to come :(.

Currently, Mary is snoozing in the basement in pine shavings with access to food, water, and grit. I’ll reintegrate her into the flock tomorrow (meaning I will put her back). Hopefully it won’t confuse the pecking order even further.

A word of caution. None of this is professional advice for wound care. In fact, quite the opposite. I really have no idea what I am doing. I’m just a girl who wants a taste of farming, who convinced her parents to let her buy a couple of chickens. Yes, I researched (and still am researching) a lot of chicken stuff beforehand, and yes I came across “words of caution” just like this one. Did I listen? Nope.

What I am trying to say, is that raising chickens isn’t all sunshine, baby chicks, cuddling birds, and colorful eggs. In the 23 weeks I have had these chickens, I have probably dealt with more stress, heartbreak, and fear in my entire life. Two baby chicks have died in my hands, I have been attacked by a cockerel I raised from  three days old, I have had to sell that bird to a man who I do not even know (with the only other solution being sell the bird to the slaughter-house), I have expected my favorite hen to die right before my eyes as she downed a stray hair-tie that I had inadvertently given her, I have searched and worried for three days straight about a chicken that I accidentally let escape, and I have watched them attack each other relentlessly over the small issue of who is dominant and who is not.

Have I regretted getting Mary and Edith? Not once. I can say without a doubt that this experience is making me a better person, and whatever comes my way I will handle. Because I have to. This responsibility is very real. And I’m loving every single minute of it.

Just Kidding…

Okay, so if you have read the last two posts, than you know today was a rollarcoaster of emotions for me. Last post suggested that it was over, and that everything was going to be okay. Just kidding.

Apparently, the previous owner of the escapee chicken, must have saw one that looked similar and thought she had returned. Nope. Because right when I was about to go out the door for a run at five o’clock, there she was. Yup, this little chicken was hanging out next to the fence, pecking in the grass.

Of course, I started panicking. So before I did anything stupid I called the previous owner, who calmly advised me to simply watch her, and see where she goes to roost. The hope was that if she roosted nearby, I’d be able to go out there and grab her. I sat at the door for an hour and a half, or two hours, watching her peck around. When the sun started going down though, she trotted her little chicken butt all the way through two yards and into the shrubbery, disappearing from view.

It looks like this experience is far from over. What makes it all worse, is that I’m working all day tomorrow, and won’t be able to come home until it gets dark. So this escapee will have to spend another night in the wild.

It has also occurred to me that not everyone knows the chicken vocabulary I’m always using. Surprisingly, I just sort of assumed everyone reads nonfiction books about chickens in their free time. Just to clarify, to roost is a term describing how chickens sleep. When a chicken roosts, they fly up to a tree branch or manmade horizontal piece of wood, sit down, and sleep there. When they are sleeping like this, it is easy to sneak up behind them and grab them. They roost whenever the sun goes down.

I’ll keep you updated, whether you like it or not.

II

Absolutely Positively Wonderful News

They found her! The lost pullet traveled back to her original home down the street! Words can’t describe my joy. Now I can start enjoying my new little pullet more, with that guilty feeling completely gone.

Just thought I should let you guys know. What an experience these two days have been.

A Really Happy Day With A Horrible Ending

Yesterday I finally got two chickens delivered to my coop! She came with her daughter, holding the two chickens by their feet. At first glance I thought they were dead, and there was a horrible misunderstanding. But she calmly assured me that they were in fact alive, and just extremely relaxed.

We put them inside the fence, and the two hens tore around the yard, putting their heads in all the little spaces, looking for an escape. One was whitish, grayish colored with adorable fluffy cheeks, the other a deep auburn color. After chatting for a while, they drove away in her car, and I was left completely alone with my new pullets.

Edith and Mary were chatting away in the fenced in pool area, both of them were extremely interested. At this point it was 6 o’clock, and the sun was already going down, so I figured I should try to get them in the coop so I could corral Mary and Edith back in their fence. These pullets had other ideas. They kept squawking, you could tell they were panicked and scared. I tried to calm them down, and succeeded in getting the auburn chicken inside, but the other just got even more scared when she didn’t see her fellow chicken.

I was just about to grab her when all of a sudden she squeezed through a tiny opening in the fence. Off she went, trotting across the yard, into the bushes. I ran after her, not exactly sure how to catch her if I found her. After weaving back and forth along the hedge, she flew over the trees, across two yards, and disappeared into the woods.

Just, gone.

I was shaking so bad, hyperventilating, and so, so confused. I just didn’t understand how that just happened. How could something so bad happen, after I had just been so overjoyed? I just didn’t get it. I still don’t. I keep thinking I hear a chicken whimpering from over the tree tops. Every squirrel or bird that passes, I think it is her. I am naive enough to think that she survived the night. I am naive enough to think that she would return to me, after the traumatic experience that I just gave her.

It really takes a toll on you, to go from that range of emotions. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

I just have to find a way to get over it. Because I wanted this time to be exciting, I wanted to be smiling, choosing names, not frowning, and moping about. I have to accept that she is gone, because I was irresponsible. And I can never. never. let it happen again.

Last night, Mary and Edith went to bed inside the coop, but the auburn chick stayed out. I went out in the pitch dark to close the roof, and there she was, roosting outside on the wooden handle (you can see where she was going to roost in the picture above). I had to sneak around and snatch her while she was sleeping. After everyone was within the warm coop, I went to bed with a heavy heart.

This morning I sat with them for a while, and Mary and Edith were being horribly cruel towards her. Pecking and chasing her, finally she ran and hid behind me. The poor thing.

Disaster Strikes!

Yesterday I strolled into the run, feeling extraordinarily sullen about the recent rooster events. I wanted to hug a chicken. After I got my chicken therapy, I noticed that I had dropped my hair tie on the ground. I went to pick it up, but Edith got there first and began sprinting around with it, the other two in hot pursuit. Then Sybil grabbed it, tug of war ensued, and then Sybil ran away with it. Then it went to Mary. They weaved around the coop, running up the ramps, dodging my legs until I finally grabbed it. Then they congregated around my legs, clucking, begging for it to be returned. Maybe it was their cute little chicken clucks, maybe it was my need to be happy, or maybe it was simple, sheer stupidity. I gave it back to them. After all, how could they swallow a hair tie?! 

My laughter was immediately stopped when I saw Mary with it in the corner. The other two were watching. I saw her tip her head up. I shouted “NO!!” and lunged for her, reaching her just as it slipped down her throat. I snatch her beak, prying it open, and peering inside. She starts squawking in alarm, and Edith flies at my face, protecting his hen. 

And now I wait. I wait to see if I just killed my favorite chicken. Its been 24 hours, and she’s been acting fine. My fingers are crossed. 

Photo Aug 01, 12 56 35 PMhttps://3lilhens.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/photo-aug-01-12-56-35-pm.jpg