Tough Poultry Weekend

Beautiful Winona in better days.

It was a tough weekend. I ended up putting Winona into the dog crate as a temporary sick coop and placed her in the shed. I really didn’t think it would come to this nor did I think I would need an infirmary any time soon. All my birds are young, healthy, and I don’t hang around other chickens collecting germs. Plus, I had no problems with my first flock several years ago. But this has taught me I need a sick coop as soon as I have chickens. The rest of the flock is, as far as I can tell, healthy as horses. More on them in a moment.

When Winona was too sick to come downstairs to eat or drink, that’s when I moved her. If I brought her water, she’d drink it. I gave her chick food, but I’m not sure if she touched it. In the sick coop, she is not eating at all (I tempted her with soft carrots and strawberries) and I don’t know if she’s even drinking. I’m very sad for her. I’m also seeing the need to learn to butcher chickens so I can take sick girls out of their misery. All in all, it’s been a downer.

Then to top it off, I lost one of the keets. I was so thrilled when I brought them outside over the weekend. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, as much as their little high-strung selves can. When I went to bring them in, three of them flung (yes flung!) themselves against the fence, screaming to get away. Once I gently put them in the box to go back inside, I went to capture the 4th. This little bugger went to the far end of the run and squeezed out through the fence. (It’s a different fence that what is in the back of the run – same style, slightly wider – that the other three hurled themselves upon.) Wonderful.

He ran to the garden bed without the coop, and squeezed through again. I chased him around the chicken yard a few times (yes, it was comical!). I thought if I gave him a break, he’d calm down. So I brought the others back to their home and came out with the box, hoping to capture him. And he was no where to be found. And still hasn’t been found. I tried flushing him out of some brush, but he obviously wasn’t there. I’m trying to image the little thing hiding so well, and being able to eat, that he’ll liveIMG_0416 wild and free but the reality is he probably contributed to the circle of life.

So it’s been a sucky poultry weekend. And the keets are currently banned from going outside again for awhile. We’ll have to revise the fencing a bit. Which is a shame because the weather has become better and enjoyable. A great opportunity to acclimate.

And, while I definitely understand their benefit in pest control, I’m starting not to like them so much. Chickens are definitely much calmer and practically train themselves. Hopefully, the guineas will become calmer with age.

To top of the fun, the quints have learned to escape. They jump/fly/helicopter right over the fence. Brownie is generally left behind so she and Beulah are becoming friends. I’ve given up trying to lock them in. They wander the yard so we get the benefit of their bug eating and naturally-produced fertilizer. It’s another fencing issue I hope to address this weekend.

I think I’ll end there and mull over necessary improvements so I don’t run into these problems again. I hope you all had a better weekend than I did!

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Summer Days, Winona, & Keets

First, a Winona update: She hasn’t improved, but doesn’t seem to have worsened. When I got up to feed and water the flock this morning, I saw that all of the quints were just gone. Completely gone, not even in the yard — although Brownie was still in the pen with Beulah and Winona. So, after watering and feeding, I took the opportunity to give Winona some chick food and gatorade. I put it up in the coop for her, so she wouldn’t have to come downstairs. It took a little while, but I did see her drink. Not sure if she ate. I also put the dog crate together and placed it in the shed if I think I need to move her. At this point, were she infectious, I would see symptoms in the flock so I’m pretty confident she is not. Whatever is bothering her — slow recovery from the extreme heat or an internal infection, it seems to be just an issue for Winona. However, should I see signs in other birds, quarantine for symptomatic chickens begins.

Then I went to look for the girls. Went in the forsythia, looked under the addition Mr. Hen House is building, looked in the front yard, looked in the back 40. Nothing. Then I saw Snoop looking at the brushy tree stand between my and my neighbor’s houses. There was one of the girls, trying to get in the yard and couldn’t figure how to get past the fence. I went out to herd her and the rest of the flock came running out. So I led them back to their home and they walked right in. Of course, they are pretty good flyers for chickens so I expect them to pop out again. And I’ll take the opportunity to give Winona chick food and gatorade again. She did seem a little more perked after her treat this morning, but that could be wishful thinking.

Since it is a lovely summer day, I put the keets outside for the first time to start them getting used to the great outdoors. It also provides an opportunity for the chickens and keets to get used to each other. I took the space between the two raised beds that are being used for the pen and sectioned it off. I then put a tarp over one end for shade. And then I got the keets. They are SO HIGH STRUNG! I reach in the crate and there’s jumping and screaming like I pull feathers off them whenever I touch them. And for the record, I don’t. Such little drama keets. I was able to gently scoop them into a box and brought them out. Once they stopped freaking out, they huddled for a moment and then started eating the grass. They hadn’t yet found the water when I left, but they are very close to it and as they gain confidence, they’ll find it and their food. I threw a couple of Japanese beetles in, but only one keet showed interest. It’s early yet. I’m sure they’re confused and overwhelmed. I’ll be checking on them soon.

For your enjoyment, here are several pictures. Enjoy!

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The section between the two garden beds where the keets are. They will be going in at night.

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It’s a big scary world out there!

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mmmmm, green stuff.

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One of the quints trying to figure out what’s going on.

And here’s my corn. It’s doing pretty good but I seriously need to weed. I look at weeding like dusting… I like the results when I do it, I understand why it needs to be done, but I really really hate doing it. It’s a personality fault.

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Chicken Nipples & Winona

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See the water bottle? Girls just ignore it. Sigh!

In preparation for changing how I water my girls, I put a big ‘ole hamster water bottle outside the coop. Just could not get the girls interested it. So, seeing their love for the gatorade, I filled it with gatorade… still no interest. I’m working on a plan, well, sorta, because I’m at a loss. The whole reason for changing to the truly awesome, homemade watering system with chicken nipples is to make my life easier while keeping their water supply cleaner, for longer periods of time.

Before I go farther, let me explain the term “chicken nipples” — which I think is probably one of the worse names imaginable. (As my friend Randi says, it may be awful, but it’s a great name for a band!)

Chicken nipples  are the piece of equipment where the water leaves the watering system that the animal uses to drink. Very similar to the stainless steel piece in the hamster water bottle above. So it made sense to use that as a training mechanism. But until I figure out how to get the girls interested and realize their favorite liquid in the whole world is there, it’s basically useless. I am open to any ideas. However, removing their current water bottles is not an option. Chickens need hydration.

And now Winona… I think I need to revise my “diagnosis” of Winona. In addition to keeping her eye closed and not laying eggs, she began sleeping — a lot. And her eating is off. She is still eating and drinking, but not to the same level as before. So I did some research on the google. One woman described what her grandpa called “going light,” as in the chicken just stops eating and drinking, loses a bunch of weight, and dies. No one on any of the blogs really knew why and several had similar stories. Very depressing, especially after I picked Winona up and she had definitely lost weight.

So, I tried washing out her eye with some Clear Eye, on the chance that was bothering her — okay, it’s obviously bothering her as she keeps it closed. That didn’t seem to be successful so I may buy some more Clear Eye and try again. I then put in some serious thought about removing her from the flock and setting her up in the dog crate until she either passes or gets better.

I chose against doing that, for several reasons. One, this has been going on for awhile and she is the only one not doing well. The rest of the girls are incredibly active. I can barely keep them in their pen anymore. I see potential problems for the garden!

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Winona settling down for the night. She likes to be close to the back door.

But also, Winona is still eating. And Beulah is almost always by her side. If Winona goes to sleep in front of the coop, Beulah will either stand over her or nap with her. Winona decides she’s done with the day and goes upstairs to sleep, Beulah usually goes with her. I think Winona would be incredibly lonely if separated and that might be the thing that sends her over the edge. Plus, she HATES cages. Frankly, she can barely stand the pen of two large raised garden beds. Since Brownie and the quints are not harassing her, and everyone else is showing signs of incredible health, Winona stays for now.

And I think I saw signs that she just might be getting better. She was up with the rest of the girls this morning and walked around pen for a little while. Now I did catch her napping this afternoon, and she went up to bed early, but I am hopeful. I try to give her treats when I can, although Brownie and the quints tend to gobble everything up. So we’ll see. Even if she never lays another egg, I would hate to lose her. I never thought I’d miss her assertiveness, but I do. I know she’s not herself when she’s not giving me the hairy eyeball.

Before diving into my weekly rant, here are some photos of the girls helping us with the Japanese Beetle issue:

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And the rant: this week, it’s the U.S. Postal Service. This link is about what’s happening with the Post Office in Berkeley, CA. However, it contains information on the overall problem with the U.S. Postal Service. Most likely, it’s not what you think. Yes, digital communication and trade have made a dent in postal revenue, but the larger issue is the 2006 law Congress passed on retirement funding. It’s unreasonable and it’s problematic. It needs to be corrected and soon. In my ever so humble opinion, we lose the Post Office, we may never recover from the impact on the economy. UPS and FedX are great, and definitely have a place in the large scheme of things, but they do not offer the service or low rates we get from the USPS.

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Heat Stress

IMG_0386It’s been hot and humid. Hasn’t really changed except for some stormy weather here and there. It’s getting extreme, as it just isn’t ending. The chickens are panting and sitting in the dirt trying to cool off. I haven’t seen eggs from Winona in a few days. So I looked up heat stress in chickens. While the information I found was mostly geared towards commercial enterprises, I was able to not only identify the signs of heat stress (all of which my birds have), but how to alleviate it. Symptoms of heat stress (not all inclusive):

  • Panting
  • Holding wings away from body
  • Not eating during the day
  • Runny poop
  • Egg shell quality drops (Winona!)
  • Egg production drops (Winona!)

First, what I’m doing right. Hydration, hydration, hydration. Shade.

What I added after my research: a bowl of Gatorade. Giving the birds electrolytes helps relieve the symptoms of heat stress. Since I have not seen anything like this in the feed store, Mr. Hen House suggested Gatorade. When I poured the first bowl, they just stood there, looking at it. I had to leave, so when I returned, the first thing I did was check out the bowl. It was empty!

IMG_0388Okay, let’s try this again. I added more Gatorade and the girls started drinking right away. So I won’t put them on a diet of Gatorade, but a little treat of the chilled drink in the afternoon will be a nice treat. I even put a small dish in with the keets.

To keep airflow in the coop at night, but not give up safety, I put a bit of fencing over the back door. I can’t close it, but that’s okay for now. Rain generally does not get in that entrance and it will add air to the sleeping area at night.

I may add more shade. A mister was also suggested, but that’s a little out my price range for now. It’s going on the long-term list, though.

I’ve also noticed a change with Winona. Normally my most assertive girl, she ignored me when I put down the first bowl of Gatorade. When I returned to refill, she was hiding behind a milkweed plant. I have noticed her IMG_0392keeping one of her eyes shut most of the time. At first, it was her right eye, but unless my memory is totally whacked, it’s now her left eye. Really not sure what the problem is. It does not look inflamed, nor do I see anything in it (she has opened it a few times and I check it out). I  noticed a couple of the quints have become a little more assertive, pecking at my boots even. I’ll keep an eye on lovely Winona (no pun intended!) and see if I can figure out what’s going on. Maybe it’s just part of the heat stress. Or maybe the quints have gotten assertive and took her place as head girl. In any case, it needs to be monitored. I worry about her.

Stay cool everyone!

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Calcium & Eggs

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Winona eyeballing the camera.

I recently noticed Winona’s egg shells seemed thin. One of the things I love about backyard eggs is the superthick eggshells. I’m a bit of a klutz and tend to drop things. When I dropped backyard eggs on the ground, they didn’t always break, or even crack. However, Winona’s eggs  sometimes break when I pick them up. I also noticed that many times, before gathering them, they were cracked and oftentimes completely broken. (I’m a little worried there is some hen house egg-eating going on.)

Anyway, it hit me — while I’ve been great ensuring they had grit to help with digestion, give them treats, ensure they have plenty of water and food, I had dropped the ball on giving them calcium (generally ground oyster shells). I usually pick it up at the local feed store, but every time I had been there, the bags of calcium simply weren’t there. So I tried again and fortunately, they had some in stock — finally!

So I crawled in the coop and added the calcium in with the grit. The girls went right to it, even Brownie and the quints and they aren’t laying yet.

Beulah is doing great with her eggs. Thin shells have not been a problem I’ve seen with her. I’ll keep monitoring the situation to see if Winona’s shell quality improves.

And the coop is making progress:

Coop almost done

The coop is almost finished!

Next is trimwork. When done, it will have lovely white trim to contrast against the barn red. We’ll then be able to work on improved an feeding and watering set-up.

In closing, I thought I’d link you to a post on the reasons why some people should rethink getting chickens. While I’m a big advocate of pretty much any type of critter-keeping, fact of the matter is, some people really shouldn’t. Not because they are mean or cruel, but because their heart simply isn’t into it. It’s insanely unfair to the animal to get shuttled around or neglected simply because the human that got them didn’t think things through.

Have a lovely day!

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Treats, Feathers, Bees

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Beulah and a quint. After devouring the watermelon!

So I’ve been giving the girls left over salad and fruit. They love it. As you can see, the watermelon rind has been picked absolutely clean. They like strawberries, lettuce, blueberries, and fresh corn. Now if I could only get them to eat weeds!

The weather has been up and down: overcast, rain, sun; overcast, rain, sun. Not that I miss the overwhelming heat and humidity of the holiday weekend, but a break from the rain and humidity would be nice. I am able to open the back door to the coop, though, unless it’s windy and rainy, and that helps keep it aired out. I also got the last of the flashing up on the roof today so Mr. Henhouse can now move on to the finish trim.

Otherwise, the girls are doing quite well. As you can see, the quint in the photos is slightly bigger than Beulah. They’re going to be big girls when they are done growing up. They are also sounding like hens and not chicks. My little peeps are all grown up! Well, almost. No eggs yet.

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Lots of pretty feathers and no where to go.

The keets are also doing well. Growing feathers like crazy! They seem to grow faster than chickens. They will be ready to move into the big crate this weekend and their bodies look to be almost fully feathered. Their little heads still have fluff and stripes. I’m looking forward to them running around with all the extra room. And I’m sure I’ve said this, but they talk and eat constantly. They’ve started to exhibit grooming behavior. Not surprising with the feathers coming out. I did notice they seem more easily startled in the opaque tub where before, in the smaller transparent tub, they were more calm. I may have to move to all transparent tubs going forward. I want them to be calm, not high-strung. But, they are young and I’m sure that’s the biggest part of the behavour.

The bees seem to be doing well. I’ll be going in this weekend to check it out and, if not too hot, apply a powder sugar treatment for mites. I prefer to do that every couple of weeks and they’ve had time to get settled to their new home. The method I learned is to put in a tray under the screen bottom of the hive (many “bottom boards” have removable trays) after spraying with a non-stick spray or oiling. As you close up the hive, you sprinkle powered sugar to the top of each box. As the bees clean off the sugar, they also dislodge mites, which fall to the tray and get stuck in the oil. You remove the tray the next day and, voila!, instantly reduced the mite colony in the hive. I dislike doing this when it’s too hot as it drastically reduces air flow and can make the hive hot. Bees are great at maintaining the temperature of the hive, but I see no need to make it more difficult for them.

I’ll end with some pictures of the bees going in the hive and enjoying milkweed bloom. No politics today. It’s too depressing.

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Bringing home the pollen!

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Keets, Keets, Keets

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They tend to stand in a row. And, they are starting this “standing straight” behavior. They look like little armless people.

Okay, I’m a little keet happy right now just because they are so darn cute. They’ve moved to a bigger tote and do nothing but eat all the time! Feathers are coming in fast, too. I give them one more week in this larger tote, then they move into the big box until we start the integration process. I’m a little nervous about that. Winona can be a bit assertive and she may get the others riled up over the keets. So I need to find a way to get them in the garden boxes but still segregated. And, I want to teach them to follow me so I can “hopefully” train them to their territory (the back yard) and keep their trips to the neighbor’s yards to a minimum.

With that said, we can’t wait until they are big enough for the yard! Japanese beetles are here and they eat up everything. We need our little keets to get big and strong and eat all the bugs. I have tried milky spore and nematodes with little success.

Now, I know I said I need to always keep the heat lamp on no matter what. I have to revise that a bit. Like a lot of the country, we experienced a severe heat wave, with extremely high humidity, over the holiday weekend. I did turn off the lamp during the afternoons and early evening. The keets were crowding the water dish (not seen in the above photo, it’s on the opposite end of the tote) because the heat lamp was too much duringIMG_0356 that weather. The lamp was turned back on late night through early morning. Now that the heat wave has broken, we’re back to heat lamp all the time. I really watch how they behave to ensure they get enough heat without overheating. This whacked weather makes heat management interesting.

Next post I’ll post some pics of the hens, I promise! Brownie and the quints are getting big and developing the nice soft bum feathers that laying hens get. I cannot wait to get eggs from them.

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