Blended

Well, I did it; I turned the girls loose with Ethel today. It felt a little too soon, the chicklets are in the voice changing era of their lives. Peep, peep, peep, squawk. The squawk always startles them. Since I have to travel a lot, just seems the only fair thing for both my chicken tenders and the girls. Being stuck in the cage can’t be fun or healthy, and it’s a lot of work for my friends.

I made sure to have LOTS of greens for them, along with a couple of strawberries, spread out across the whole chicken yard. That way they wouldn’t be on top of one another trying to eat and fight at the same time. It worked pretty well.

Ethel only pulled a couple of feathers out of Rose and occasionally scared the bee-geezers out of the youngin’s. I stayed outside for about five hours, keeping an eye on the situation, working on the blueberry coverings to keep the squirrels and large birds from eating my blueberries. I managed to finish that job – now it’s time to get the netting over the raspberries.

Rose is the explorer of the two new girls. She checked out the inside of the chicken coop and thought the egg in there was fascinating. Her head turned from side to side until she got up the courage to sniff it. I wonder if she her instincts tell her she’ll be doing that soon? I watched this with my breath held as Ethel walked over and stopped stock still, watching Rose. I was sure Ethel was going to corner Rose in the house and beat the crap out of her. My fears were thankfully, unfounded.

The young ones tend to rush to the corner of the chicken yard and try to find their way out through the wire when Ethel decides she needs to show them whose boss again. I keep telling them “just run!” Being in the corner makes them sitting ducks and Ethel takes full advantage to land a peck or two.

I’m mixing the baby food with the big girl food hoping everyone will get the nutrition they need. The little girls should eat the baby food for another couple of months. No way to keep their food divided and guarantee they will eat their own food without separating them again.

So, they are now a blended family. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Home Sweet Home

I’m home after two weeks away. I don’t think the girls recognized me when I drove up. Usually I get a greeting of, “We’re starving out here, what have you brought us to eat? Go pick me some good greens, I’m ravenous.” They just looked at me and went back about their business. I’d like to think they’re snubbing me – their way of showing me they’re angry I was gone and left them here.

The youngin’s were happy to get back out in their run and eat grass. Can’t say I blame them. Being cooped up in a 3 X 4 cage, even though it was cleaned well every day, had to feel cramped.

I’m looking for signs it’s the right time to turn them loose with Ethel. Ethel is really interested in them and it’s hard to tell if it’s a good interested or a bad interested. I held Ruby for a minute before turning her back into the baby cage and Ethel came running over, with what looked to me, like hatred in her eyes. It would be interesting if she gave the chicklets more trouble than Bossy did. Of course, Lucy and Ethel were as big as Bossy when I turned them loose together. These girls are just starting to grow their wattles.

All I can say is, I’m really happy to be back home, sleeping in my own bed and back to my routine.

Full of Poop

We’ve had quite a bit of rain here in the past two days, so the chicklets had to stay under shelter. I know it’s been a couple of years since I last raised pullets and I’ve forgotten a lot, but geez, how could I forget how much they poop? Food in, poop out.

They have a cat carrier for extra protection when they need it and they love sitting on top of it. You know what that means, right? It is the most disgusting thing to have to pick up every morning and wash inside and out. There is no space that hasn’t been smeared with poop.

This morning, since they’ve been incarcerated, their habitat got a thorough cleaning. All the bedding came out, and fresh, dry bedding replaced it. I made a hook to hang their water-er from after receiving a suggestion from a friend that it would make changing the water much easier- and it does! So thanks for the suggestion!

I look forward to clear weather so they can go back out in their run during the day. I know they are too. It’s important that they have fresh greens, fresh air, clean water, clean food and clean surroundings. It’s hard to make that happen in a confined space.

Travel notes

Travel is a tad more complicated with teenage chicks. I have several trips planned and decided I should write out some instructions. Not that tending chickens is brain science, but it eases my mind to know I have some instructions to hand chicken-sitters, just in case the forget something. So here it is:

Chicken-sitters,

The job is a more complicated this time, with the little girls outside. Their cage opens from the top. The water is hanging from the top too, but shouldn’t be an issue with raising the top enough to remove containers. I used a simple half-hitch to secure the water to the top high enough that the girls won’t kick mess into it. You’ll have to remove it to fill it. Turn it upside down and “unscrew” it, pour in the water, screw it back together and invert. Make sure all the tabs are locked in place or it will leak all the water out in a short time. I have found it easier to tie the water container to the right height with the top of the cage closed.

Their food has a screw top as well. Fill the container with the food in the orange bag. If the bottom of the feeder still has food in it- which it usually does- without spilling, place the lip of the “jar” at the rim of the bottom and use a deft motion to invert it over the bottom and screw back on. Try to place the food where they won’t poop in it and where it won’t get wet from the water container. I know- it’s small in there!

Their box needs to be taken out daily and washed. Best to make this the first thing you do. Dump the straw out in the pile by the compost heap. I have an old toothbrush on the blue bin near the garden hose. Wash with hose and brush, invert in the grass to dry some while you are doing everything else. When you’re done with everything else, put fresh straw in it and replace- making sure the door is held back by one of the bars of the cage so it’ll stay open.

I don’t tend to worry about securing the top of the cage while I’m working out there- just “off set” it so it won’t fall in, then close it fairly securely when you’re done.

You know the drill with Ethel. Her food is in the green bag, corn is in there too- small brown bag- and oyster shells in the yellow bag outside the metal can- scoop of feed, couple handfuls of corn and a bowl of oyster shells.

Straw is in the black plastic bag by the fence and compost heap. Please put a scattering over the feces in the little girl’s pen and in their box. Make sure to put the bag back over the straw to keep it dry. Typically, the little girls go out in a run to graze everyday, but I don’t expect you to do that. It can be a pain to catch them to put them away.

Down Fall

My backyard neighbor is having a tree removed near the chicken yard. Actually, so far, it was one relatively small tree and one gigantic old pine. I don’t know if there will be any others removed; we’ll see what tomorrow brings, as they haven’t finished with the ginormous tree yet.

I’m wondering what the chickens think when the tree parts fall. The falling pieces really jolt my house, which is further from the tree; theirs is right beside the tree! Ethel was kind enough to go ahead and lay me an egg, despite the racket. Tomorrow, the main trunk will come down. That should be jarring.

I left all the girls in their enclosure, figuring the tree removal was enough of a shock for them. And it’s supposed to rain for the next few days, so I suspect they’re going to be a tad tired of being penned in by the time it’s all over with.

I graze for them when they can’t get out to do it for themselves. There’s plenty of greenery to harvest, at least until I mow.

I did, finally receive my new lawnmower. It’s strange to have a lawnmower come in the mail vs. picking one out at the store. I think it’s the lazy woman’s way to shop, although I did have to go down to Lowe’s to order it. I tried three times to place my order via the phone, to be disconnected each time. I know, I could have ordered it online with minimal hassle, but my computer is ancient and I don’t like putting my credit card number out there in the ethers. No telling who will snatch it up.

I was busy working in the yard, covered with dirt and sweat and wearing really unfashionable clothing when I decided to place my phone order. After being cut-off three times, swearing, I washed up minimally, changed my clothes and headed to Lowe’s, thinking I’d complain about their phone service. And it was Easter. And the folks I worked with in person were so nice. I told them I was sorry they had to work on Easter and thanked them profusely for taking my order.

I was told it would be faster to have the mower delivered to my home vs. the store. Well, why not. Saved me a trip and having to load it in the car. The mower arrived today, four days later, instead of the ten days they told me it would take.  It was pretty simple to assemble and I used twist ties for the cord restraints that weren’t in the box. (This is an electric, plug-in mower.)

Looking for spare time and pretty weather to get out there and test my new mower.

 

R.I.P. Lucy

Lucy seemed to be doing better this morning, other than holding her wings loose. She actually ate some gruel I made for her out of laying mash and water, with some apple pieces in it.

Boy, was I wrong. When I went out later in the afternoon, I found her in the chicken house, head tilted back, eyes closed, and stiff as a board.

I gently picked her up and moved her to a spot in the garden, where I dug a nice hole for her, laid her in it, and covered her up – thanking her for all her wonderful eggs and creating so much fertilizer for me.

She certainly had a personality and way about her. I’ll miss her, and I’m certain Ethel will too. I’m glad the two new girls have joined the flock to keep Ethel company.

Since I’m not certain exactly what took her, I put everyone in runs so I could remove all the bedding and soil from the chicken yard and house, spray tea tree oil mixed with water in the hen-house to sterilize it, sprinkle everything with diatomaceous earth to kill parasites and re-bed everything in clean straw. I’m hoping that will be enough to prevent anyone else from “catching” whatever it was Lucy had, if it was something contagious.

I looked at all the literature out there for lethargic birds, and by all the descriptions I read about bird flu, craw problems and stuck eggs, none seemed to fit the bill. She should have died much quicker than she did, if indeed, she had any of those.

So long Lucy. R.I.P.

Murderer

I have become a cold-blooded killer. No, it wasn’t a mercy killing of Lucy. She’s still pitiful, but today she was up and moving when I got out to take care of all the girls and pecked at some popcorn, so there’s still hope for Lucy.

This was a rat.

I have been hearing rats in the house again and they weren’t going for any of my traps. I balled up some straw and shoved it into the hole they are using to gain access to my home, so I could tell when they went out foraging last night. Before I went to bed, I went out and checked- sure enough, straw gone. I plugged to hole with a brick and went off to bed.

Early this morning, I was awakened by something, but I didn’t know what. When I went out to take care of the girls and had put the chicklets (My next new baby girls are going to be named Chicklet and Juicy Fruit.) in their run- which is beside the house, I noticed the black plastic snap trap over by the fence. When I went to pick it up, I noticed a rat tail in the tap. I cringed and released the tail, then noticed the rat, who was attached to the tail, looking at me. Apparently, she had backed into the trap while trying to move the brick. Reflex- put the trap back on the tail. I didn’t want the rat to escape. We glared at each other for a while before I remembered the BB gun. Ah, I thought, more humane than having her sit there waiting to die of thirst and hunger. The BB gun is defective- no really- it wasn’t my aim. No BB’s would come out of it.

You have to understand that the rat, while trying to rid itself of the trap had run through the chain link fence, thought better of that and ran back through a different hole several times and eventually tied its tail in a strong knot onto a piece of the link.

I had to go mull over a solution for a while. Several hours later, I thought I had it figured out. When I went back out, the rat looked to be doing a yoga head stand. I prepared a bucket with water, intending to finagle the rat into a plastic can, hold it in place with the lid, while I untangled its tail, then dump the rat into the bucket and cover the top. Her tail was tied too tight in the fence and I really didn’t want to cut its tail off, causing more pain and horror for the rat, so I had to come up with another solution.

I figured it out pretty quick. Out to the garage I went, picking up my trusty shovel. It wasn’t pretty. I covered my shoes and the bottom of my pants with a feed sack, figuring this was going to be bloody. I wanted to close my eyes, but knew my aim would probably be off if I did. I was groaning. The first thrust of the shovel, the rat squealed and writhed. I had to do it one more time before she succumbed.  She is buried in my garden with many apologies.

There is still another rat in the attic, so the brick has been removed again, more straw inserted in the hole, trap back in place. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Boycott

I have arranged lodging for Ruby and Rose in the big girl pen. They spent their first night out there last night. At first, both Lucy and Ethel thought the presence of babies was a lot of fun. There was a lot of strutting and talking going on.

Lucy: “I remember when I talked baby talk.”

Ruby: “OMG, you’re so big and scary. I’m going to hide in this box.”

Ethel: “We have this big area, while you’re limited to that small cage.”

Rose: “Would you look at the size of their poop!”

This went on until the sun went down and everybody went to bed. This morning, things looked a lot different. The youngins’ were still quick to hide, Ethel was still strutting her stuff, but Lucy is on boycott. She has decided to strike. No eating, no egg laying, just sitting on her duff in a huff.

I decided to leave Ruby and Rose in with the big girls today, to see how things progressed, instead of moving them out to their run in the grass. Lucy never did give up her pouting. We’ll see what transpires tomorrow.

Growing Like Weeds

Ruby and Rose continue to grow at an alarming speed. I have them in the tallest box I own and I can see the tops of their heads a mere quarter-inch below the top. This is the stuff sci-fi movies are made from- plants that grow at tremendous speeds, animals that grow to defy sanity.

They are taking forays out into the yard now. I have a baby run that attaches to an enclosed dog crate so they have the best of both worlds. They tend to stay at one end- the one with their food and water.  When I first turned them loose in the run, their eyes dilated to pin pricks, and they seemed to gasp for air. It was easy to see their dinosaur heritage that day, I was envisioning velociraptor. They were glad I stayed close, giving them a familiar reference to hone in on.

Rose, in particular, looks like Larry of The Three Stooges, or maybe Bozo the Clown. Her teen head feathers are in, making the top of her head look sleek, while all around her head are the fuzzy reddish baby feathers. I have to work to keep a straight face when I look at her.

Ruby is more than willing to come over and sit on my hand to be delivered back into the box at the end of the day. Rose, well, she is a bit more obstinate. I keep telling her she’ll be much happier co-operating, instead of being grabbed when she makes a pass. I am willing to sit and wait on her for about fifteen minutes, and then it’s time to move on.

It won’t be long before they’ll graduate to a pen inside the chicken pen to become acquainted with their aunts, Lucy and Ethel.

Changelings

Ruby and Rose are continuing to change daily.  They are now in a tall box because they kept sticking their heads out through the bars on the top covering the small box. Ruby has a row of baby feathers in a straight line down her chest which looks rather strange. I’ve been trying to take pictures of the girls to show you guys, and, well, you see what I got – nothing to show what I’m talking about.

I wonder if the girls are eating the baby feathers as they come out –  maybe for extra protein? With all the shedding of baby feathers they are doing, downy feathers should be wafting up as the girls move around. When I had them out today playing in the kitchen, they were pulling feathers off one another. They are adorable to watch grooming each other. The only place they have down now is under their wings, on their heads and the stripe Ruby is sporting.

Both of them have come to recognize my hands as safety, warmth (although my massage clients would contest that statement) and adventure. When I place my hand in front of them, they either snuggle into it or climb aboard for a ride.

Baby chickens poop A LOT. They were out with me in the kitchen for an hour and I swear I cleaned up twenty-five poops. Since I was busy making skin cream while they roamed the kitchen, I figured cleaning the poops up as they happened, would prevent the accidental soiling of my socks. Their box has to be cleaned up every day now. I’m really looking forward for some warm days so I can put them outside to play in the grass in their run.

Ruby and Rose
In the Kitchen

I know there are more changes to come. Even bigger poop is just one of them.