chickmommy

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

The House That Jim Built

In Chicken husbandry on May 31, 2011 at 1:41 am

May 30th

The coop is done.  It’s move-in day for Violet, Rosie & Daisy.  My poor husband has given up the last two weekends building THE FINEST CHICKEN COOP IN ALL OF ENGLAND!

He’s also come home from work every night for the last two weeks, wolfed down some dinner and gone to the garage for at least two hours of carpentry.  Somehow my priming and painting skills became acceptable after our little weekend project turned into a two-week extravaganza!  I finished my meager contribution to the coop this morning by painting the final pieces of trim. Let me describe some of the features of this lovely little home.  The coop’s footprint is 7 ½ x 4 feet.  There is no bottom so it sits on grass.  The ladies can scratch and poop in the grass for a couple of days and then Jim and I move the coop to a fresh spot.  This way they always have a nice fresh piece of ground and our yard doesn’t get too destroyed by chicken shenanigans.  A little chicken poop is good for grass, too much will destroy it.  The top is enclosed for their nighttime comfort and safety.  There is a great little trap door that we can pull up at night to lock them down and in the morning it becomes the stairs to the bottom floor.

There are two removable doors on either end for hanging their food and water. 

On the top of both ends of the coop are nest boxes. These will be filled with cedar shavings and will provide a nice snuggly bed and later a place to lay eggs. Removable doors with a little screen window will allow me to gather eggs and clean the boxes.

Inside all along the center of the coop is perch where they will sleep most of the night. 

One side of the roof is removable so I can take it off every few days to clean and line the bottom with fresh newspaper. 

Jim built this from a plan, but modified it to match our house and look super cute. (my description–Jim would never say “super cute”).  It’s a fun, easy way to raise a few chickens in an urban/suburban setting.  They have lots of foraging room on the ground and a snug, safe bedroom at night.  Even if we never let the girls “free range” in our yard, they would still have enough room to live happy little chicken lives.  We do, however, plan to let them out in the evening to roam the fruited plain of the Burlingame estate while we sit in the back yard with adult beverages.  Tonight we will celebrate our little construction project with some champagne and chicken antics.

I’m going to try to be very nice to my sweet husband for at LEAST a week.  Wish me luck!

Advertisements

How Daisy Got Her Groove Back

In Chicken husbandry on May 28, 2011 at 1:51 am

May 28th

Today was Daisy’s checkup at the Vet and Dr. Glasscock proclaimed her an amazing chicken! 

She said my little bird was almost completely healed and she looked strong and healthy.  I have to bring her back next week to remove her stitches.  They are disolveable, but the doc thinks that they will start to pester Daisy before they disintegrate.  We were a big hit in the waiting room.  Lots of kids and grown-ups were excited to see a chicken in a box that wasn’t in pieces and covered in breading!  Daisy let everyone pet her and she made some cute chicken noises for everyone’s entertainment.  Two little boys were fascinated with her and asked me a million questions.  When they found out that she was going to lay eggs in a few months they wanted to know if we were going to hatch babies.  I explained that we wouldn’t have any chicks because we didn’t have a rooster.  Then the other kids asked “Why do need a rooster to make babies?”  I said, “Because the eggs aren’t fertilized unless you have a rooster so there won’t be any babies inside.”  Just then their mom came from the back and the kids left.  I bet that was an interesting ride home.

So now all is well in Chickenland.  The coop will be ready for inspection by Saturday night and if the girls approve of the construction they will spend their first night outside in the backyard in their new home. 

Buster thinks he might want to do some sleepovers with them too.  He’s always thought it was silly for bunnies to sleep in the laundry room.  It’s just not manly.

Rosie

In Chicken husbandry on May 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

May 26, 2011

I have neglected my middle child.  I wrote a separate post just for Violet because I was/am enamored with her intelligence and forceful personality.  I’ve been writing extensively about Daisy for obvious reasons (she’s doing just fine today).  Now I’ll spend a little time telling you about my other little “flower”.  Rosie as an Ameraucana.  This breed was imported from South America in the 1970s as the “Araucana” and was developed into the breed we see today. The mature bird will be mid-sized (about 6 pounds) and she is supposed to be friendly and calm.  Rosie will be the “showgirl” of my three chicks.  Her feathers are multi-colored and variegated.  She has huge round, ringed eyes and GREEN FEET!  As she grows she will develop little “mutton chops” that poof out of her cheeks.  She has a different kind of sound than a regular chicken.  Already her “songs” sound more like the birds at my feeder than the bwawk, bwawk, cluck, bwawk of a barnyard hen.  Finally and most fun–she will lay blue, green and pink eggs.  These birds are nicknamed “Easter Eggers” in the chicken world. I have probably taken more pictures of Rosie because she is so unusual looking.  Her baby pictures were the most adorable! 

My friend Mike picked her as his favorite because she was such a cutie.

Recently she has gone through an “awkward” phase. 

 She is the last to lose her baby down so she has a mess of down and pin feathers that make her look a little like Animal from the Muppet Show.  She also has this “ostrich thing” going on.  Her neck is super long and she stretches it out as much as she can when she checks stuff out. OK, I guess she’s STILL going through her awkward phase.

Her personality is more “chicken-like” than her sisters.  She actually IS chicken.  She’s afraid of everything and she usually doesn’t get too far from her protector Violet. 

Daisy makes a good pal, however when Violet is busy planning world domination.

She is the hardest to catch and the most unhappy to be held.  Currently we are undergoing a series of therapy sessions which might mitigate this problem.  She is an unwilling patient.  To get Rosie in the cage for the night has been difficult, but I have devised an evil plan that has worked well for the past three nights.  First, I put Daisy in the cage.  She is easy to catch because she still can’t run very well  😦 .  Then I catch Violet because she likes me and thinks we’re going to play “fly off the mommy’s shoulder”–PSYCH!  Then, when Rosie looks around and can’t find her sisters she flees up the porch steps and flings herself against the cage to get in.  I sneak up behind her and scoop her up.  I know this is mean but it’s also really funny to watch.  Please don’t call the authorities.

A Day at the Chicken Ranch

In Chicken husbandry on May 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

May 24th 

The girls discovered lots of new amazing things today!  Like, when Mommy moves one of the compost buckets there are lots of bugs and worms under it!  

Rosie found Mommy’s herb garden

and Violet learned how to sit on a chair (almost). 

Daisy had to show her the proper way. 

Violet and Rosie got high (off the ground)

and little Daisy is gaining strength daily, although she needs frequent naps,

and she still falls down a lot. 

This post is short on verbiage (Did you know this is how you spell “verbiage?” I didn’t.) and long on pictures.  Hope you enjoy!  Keep on Cluckin’!

Progress

In Chicken husbandry on May 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm

May 22nd

We started out day like we have for the past three days…giving Daisy her antibiotic.  I hold her and Jim parts her beak and squirts in ½ CC of yukky stuff.  This morning after taking her medicine like a big girl, she made a loud angry SQUAWK!  We don’t speak chicken but we’re pretty sure it was a four letter word.  After her medicine I like to put her in my lap on a pillow while we’re still in bed reading and drinking coffee. 

She sits quietly and coos and I stroke her little yellow head.  Jim emerged from the bathroom and saw our happy little scene and said, “You’re coddling that bird.”  My reply–DAMN STRAIGHT I’M CODDLING HER!  I ALMOST GOT HER KILLED! Poor Jim, he almost spilled his coffee.  Later on in the day we got to work on the coop.  No, it isn’t finished but it’s coming along beautifully and I don’t dare criticize Jim’s timeline because I need his labor and his tools! 

My job was to prime the structure before he begins to put on the roof, walls and doors.  I was doing a fabulous job; or so I thought.  After Jim made several comments on my priming skills, I calmly handed him the brush and went inside to do “woman’s work”.   And apparently I can’t drive or cook either.  I wonder why he keeps me around.  He says its “sunk costs” but I know it’s because I clean the litter boxes.  While I was hosing chicken poop off the porch, washing old towels covered in chicken poop (Daisy’s hospital bed cushions) and cleaning out the bunny cage, also encrusted with–you guessed it, the ladies were in the shade covered by the top of the cage.  I piled firewood all around the sides and top.  Maybe a lion could get my girls, but that feral cat would need a crowbar to break in.  Today was the first day Daisy was back with her sisters.  Rosie and Violet are being kind and gentle. 

Daisy can now eat without help. 

We have been holding her bowl under her beak but since yesterday she can hobble to the bowls by herself.  She can walk short distances but she falls down a lot and gets very tired. 

It’s a little sad to watch but she makes improvements every day.  She’s a great little trooper.  It’s a beautiful day here in Montgomery.  The sun is shining, my porch is clean and my little chicken is on the mend.  Life is good.  Hope yours is too.

Chicken & Pie

In Chicken husbandry on May 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm

May 20th

Daisy is very glad to be home.  Last evening we were all sitting in the back yard with Rosie and Violet pecking around our feet, while Daisy sat in her little recovery bed on the porch. We were outside for about 10 minutes when she got lonely and started chirping loudly.  We moved her bed to one of the chairs and she happily sat in the warm evening air with her parents and sisters. 

Occasionally Rosie or Violet would jump up on the chair to say hi and then they jumped back down to play in the grass. 

Daisy has to have small towels bunched around her on four sides because she isn’t able to sit upright just yet.  We put a small bowl of food and water in front of her beak several times daily so she stays full and hydrated.  Once in a while she’ll feel like trying to walk and she’ll hoist herself over one of the towels and plop head first into the box. We rescue her often and she seems to be getting a little more balance as time passes.  I got up twice in the night to check on her and she was sleeping soundly wedged comfortably in her “nest”.  This morning we had to give her a little syringe of antibiotic fluid and put some ointment on her two wounds.  Sammy one of our eight month old kittens looked on with great concern…and maybe a little hunger.

She took her medicine like a trooper and then we gave her food and water and she was ready for her nap. 

I had to go to work for three hours this morning (my job is so grueling, I actually have to work two whole days a week!) so Daisy had a babysitter while I was gone.  My daughter’s good friend Rachel is visiting us during her college break so she kept Daisy upright and full while I was away.

When I got home from work I walked around the house with her for a while and then made her a bed on the couch while I ate lunch and we watched House. Daisy and I both think Hugh Laurie is DA BOMB!  There was some leftover blueberry pie in the fridge so I had a small slice…OK I had a big slice.  Anyway, Daisy was watching me eat intensely so I put a little bit of blueberry filling on my finger (about the size of a pencil eraser) and stuck it under her beak.  Chickens LIKE blueberry pie!!!  The girl went to town on it.  She has a big blue stain on her beak but I’m not gonna wash it off because it looks really cute.  I’m pretty sure pie is not a recommended chicken staple but I’m going to give her a bit more tomorrow because my girl likes it so much.  So since we’re spending so much time together we’re learning that we have lots in common.  We both love House and pie.  She’s a groovy little chick and I hope she thinks the same of me.

Driving Miss Daisy…Home

In Chicken husbandry on May 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm

May 19th

Yes, my little yellow girl is home.  Here’s the 411.  I called the vet at 7:00 am and was informed that Miss Daisy made it through the night and was eating and drinking, although she was still very weak and could not stand on her own.  The doctor said she’d like to keep her until noon and if she showed signs of improvement I could take her home.  I arrived at noon and Dr. Glasscock (what perfect irony!) was holding Daisy and showing me how she was gripping her finger with her toes. (a good sign).   I highly recommend the Goodwin Animal Hospital and the lovely Dr. Lydia Glasscock for all your chicken emergency needs. 

 She sent us home with an oral antibiotic and an ointment to apply twice daily to her boo boos.  I set up her hospital bed next to her sisters’ cage.  I am using the Roger Hamster Memorial Cage for a temporary recovery center.  Roger (R.I.P) would be pleased at his contribution to the healing arts.  I made a little valley in a bunched up towel and placed Daisy in the center, facing Rosie and Violet.  She can smell, see and hear her sisters, but they can’t harass her while she’s still healing.

 

I held a little bowl of food and water up to her beak and she ate and drank a bit and then promptly fell asleep. It’s been a rough two days for this little chicken.  I check on her about every twenty minutes because she topples over often when she tries to use her legs.  The Doc said it would be a couple of days before she can walk normally. During Daisy’s overnight stay she received subcutaneous fluids, antibiotic drops, a steroid shot, pain medication, sedation, wound treatment, one stitch and very tender care by the devoted staff. 

While I was there I met a little potbellied pig being treated for some ailment.  I didn’t ask because of patient confidentiality.  It would have been rude.  The staff had been singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm right before I arrived.  They said they just needed a goat to complete the menagerie.  I was singing Eee-I, Eee-I OWE as I paid the vet bill.  Jim had predicted a total of $100.  I guessed $300.  I was closer.  She’s worth it to me. (You’ll have to ask Jim if he feels the same)  I’m glad to have her home and feel lucky that I have a supportive hubby who has a good job to pay for chicken repairs.  Daisy is up for visitors but no rough housing!  Come on by and say howdy if you’d like to take a look at a $271.17 chicken.  We paid $1.75 for her at The Feed Lot (she was marked down from $2.50) so that’s a 15,385% increase in her value!  Jim says she’d better lay golden eggs! Thanks for all the response I got from yesterday’s post.  Who knew a little yellow ball of fluff could generate such concern and compassion.  I have very kind friends.  Thank you from me and from Daisy the Wonder Chicken.

Near Tragedy

In Chicken husbandry on May 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

May 18th

This won’t be a funny or entertaining post but maybe one that other novice chicken keepers can learn from.  Yesterday afternoon I had the girls in the yard in the bunny cage.  They were pecking in the grass enjoying the sun and I was checking on them frequently while I did housework.  I was filling their water jug when I heard a chicken sound I’d never heard before.  I ran to the back door just in time to see a feral cat race across the yard with a yellow bundle in her mouth. 

I yelled at the cat and chased her into my neighbor’s yard screaming at the top of my lungs.  As the cat leapt over Terri’s picket fence she dropped my little Daisy on the grass.  I got to her quickly and leaned over her still body.  She was bleeding and motionless.  Then she blinked.  I gently scooped her up into my arms and ran in the house with her.  I wrapped her in a dish towel and put her on the couch while I ran out to the yard to check on Violet and Rosie.  They were huddled in a corner of the cage.  The door was wide open.  Somehow the cat had managed to open it even though it has two clips on either side.  I quickly got them on the porch and locked the screen door. 

I ran back inside to find Daisy staring into space and making quiet little peeps.  I held her in the crook of my arm and called Jim.  He was on his way home from work and I told him to please hurry.  When he arrived he fixed up a cardboard box with shavings to isolate Daisy from her sisters.  We checked her wound and put Neosporin on it.  These were the instructions from the chicken book.  We put food and water in with her and covered her cage with a towel to keep her calm. 

The vets were all closed by this time and the emergency/after-hours vet did not have any experience with chickens but he offered to euthanize her if it came to that.  I helplessly waited thru the night until the veterinary offices opened this morning.  I checked on her several times during the night and she made little sounds so I knew she was still alive.  She was unable to stand or sit this morning and would not eat or drink.  I dipped her beak into her water dish and she seemed to get some down but would not drink on her own.  I was in the car with Daisy driving to the nearest vet at 7:00 am. 

The first receptionist was very kind and helped me give her some water with a small syringe.  None of the vets at the first place treated birds but she made several calls until she found one who thought she could help.  Kelly, I’m coming by later with a thank you gift.  Your kindness was overwhelming.  I arrived at the second vet and they were helpful and reassuring.  The Vet was a tall, lovely woman with the face of a twelve year old.  She handled Daisy gently and examined the wounds. Daisy was bitten above the shoulder pretty severely and she found another smaller wound under the wing.  Dr. Glasscock’s plan was to sedate Daisy, pluck the feathers around the bites, clean and dress the wounds and give her subcutaneous fluids while she was anesthetized.  They were warming up the incubator while she examined her. 

So, I sit here typing this and waiting for the phone to ring.  I know she’s just a chicken.  I had chicken for dinner two nights ago.  How can I care so much for a barnyard animal that until a month ago I would have described as a dumb, uninteresting creature?  She’s hurt because of me and I’ll never forget that even if she heals and recovers completely.  The pain and fear she felt all night and is feeling now is because I was careless.  A bunny cage is no match for a hungry cat.  Even though it was locked, and it was in my own fenced back yard in broad daylight, I should not have left them unprotected. 

 The coop is coming along nicely and my chickens will not be outdoors again until they are safely inside their new home.  It may be too late for poor Daisy, but Violet and Rosie will not suffer her fate.  I will certainly post news of Daisy (good or bad) as soon as I hear something.  I’m not certain that I can keep writing about my chickens if she dies.  Last night in a desperate attempt to feel some hope I asked Jim if he thought Daisy would be OK, knowing of course that he had no answers.  He hesitated and then said, “Sure Deb, she’ll be OK.  We need the eggs”.  I do love that man.

Playtime!

In Chicken husbandry on May 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm

May 16th

The girls are just over four weeks now and they’re getting a little too big for the bunny cage.  They still sleep in it at night on the screened porch, but every morning I put the top part of the cage on the grass. This way they’re still enclosed, but they have fresh grass to scratch and peck in.  At least twice a day I let them free range in the yard with the kittens safely locked on the porch so they can stretch their wings and get some fun exercise.

When I open the cage door they put on a show worthy of Cirque de Soleil.  Here’s the routine…

Daisy mid-flight!

I open the door and they all run out single file with Violet usually in the lead.  They run around in large circles for a while and then they re-enact a scene from The Matrix.  Violet fancies herself in the role of Neo played woodenly by Mr. Keanu Reeves.  She flies up in the air and meets one of her sisters in brief but deadly mid-air skirmish.  Well, it’s more hilarious than deadly.  It really reminds me of those macho chest bumps you see in baseball when they make a touchdown or goal or whatever. I’m not really into sports that much. After the play fighting is over they run around the yard in a tight little chicken gang looking for adventure and bugs.  I’ve seen them eat grass, dirt and the occasional insect.  Today I saw my “special” little bird, Daisy catch a fly with her beak!  Snooze you lose Violet!  I can usually catch Violet easily and she lets me hold her and walk around the yard.  I read that handling them a lot makes them tame and eventually some chickens will actually jump in your lap for a snuggle.  Violet is very calm and she makes little cooing sounds when I tell her how pretty and smart she is. Finally I put her on my shoulder and she flies off landing gracefully beside her sisters.  Rosie and Daisy don’t like being held very much but I still give them mandatory love a few times a week. 

Violet, Rosie and Daisy's backside

Jim has begun construction on the portable chicken condo.  He’s using the basic blueprint for the CHICKEN ARK http://handcraftedcoops.com/ but he’s modifying it somewhat to make it look more like Casa de Burlingame.  Instead of a wooden slat roof he’s using tin and I’m going to paint it red and white and put a little chicken weather vane on top.  All the other chickens will be so jealous!  If you know my husband Jim, you know that he has many fine qualities but “fastness” is not one of them.  He promises me that my girls will have a home by this Sunday but if that actually happens, please be on the lookout for flying pigs!

Violet

In Chicken husbandry on May 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm

May 14th

This chick deserves her own blog entry.  I’ll start by saying that she was my least favorite chick when we first brought the girls home.  She was small and black—the least visually interesting of the three.  Daisy was a beautiful golden-yellow with a round fluffy shape, and Rosie had amazing eyes and a pattern of four colors on her striped and spotted little body.  Violet..well, she was small and black. In less than 24 hours however, this little girl had me completely charmed.  She pushed her sisters out of the way for the food trough (I’m the oldest of three girls and my sibs might describe me in much the same vein), ran to the front of the cage when she saw me, and she was the loudest and most active.  Later, as she grew, she learned that if I approached the cage with my hand out, there would be a wiggling treat.  She has NEVER let either sister get a first taste!

  She’s almost always first out of the cage in the morning (Rosie sometimes, Daisy never) and she runs the fastest, flies the highest (almost two feet!), and chirps the loudest.  Are these admirable qualities in bird or human?  Perhaps not, but she has endeared herself to me nonetheless.  In reading about raising chickens, many of the books warn that there is indeed a pecking order and that sometimes a chicken can bully her sisters to injury and sometimes death.  Often an aggressive chick seeks out weaker ones to peck and push and chase until isolation of the tormented bird becomes necessary.  This is not the case with Violet.  She is an aggressive little girl, but she has never pecked either of her sisters and I have even seen her “groom” them on occasion.  At night when it is time for bed, she, Daisy and Rosie snuggle together in the corner of the cage and sleep in a multi-colored pile of fluffiness.  It makes me smile and breaks my heart just a little bit.  There is good in even the most bossy and selfish of us all, (JoAnn, Robin, are you paying attention? ) and there is room on this earth for birds of every feather.

Pretty Girls

%d bloggers like this: