Ethel started having issues. She became lethargic, wouldn’t eat, and drank a lot of water. This went on for several days until I became really worried about her. She’d been “off her feed” before and bounced back on her own.

I had another chicken with crop problems of a different nature before. You may remember the chicken that ate so much she choked herself to death with her crop?

I, of course, checked out the internet for solutions to Ethel’s problem. There was an article describing a chicken acting a lot like Ethel that had an impacted crop. The solution was the massage the crop toward the chicken’s mouth. Reading more of the article, I learned that it is quite possible for a chicken to develop sour crop on the heels of impacted crop, because the food sits and starts to rot in the crop. Gross. The way of dealing with sour crop is to turn the chicken upside down and massage the crop toward the chicken’s head and get the putrid liquid to run out of her mouth. Double gross. And to top it all off, sometimes when a chicken has been through all that, they develop distended crop, meaning their crop is all stretched out forever. When this happens, they are more likely to have a relapse of impacted and sour crop.

I went out and had a talk with Ethel. “Ethel, you know I love you, right? And even though you’re old and don’t lay eggs anymore, I want to help you. Please, pass the food and be healthy.”

Ethel sat by the water and looked at me. She was too weak to put up a fight, so I massaged her crop. She kept chewing and swallowing as if food was going into her mouth.

Lo and behold, it worked. Ethel was up and eating the next day and is healthy as ever. Thank goodness we didn’t have to deal with sour crop!


Changing It Up

I’m changing up the dialog here on City Cluckers. I’ll still crow about the hens, but sometimes chickens are just chickens and have nothing exciting to tell. In those moments, I’ll talk about other subjects that hold my interest.

Things often happen in life that are hard to accept, but in the end, they bring about positive change. For instance, several years ago, my neighbor sprayed my blueberry bushes with roundup a week before harvest time. In the moment, I was pissed they ruined my ability to pick and eat my organic blueberries. AND, because they tainted my land and I dug up and moved the bushes farther from the fence line, I created enough room to build a Sweat Lodge in my backyard. Having the Sweat Lodge in my backyard had been a dream of mine for eighteen years. Voila` positive change from a negative situation.

This past fall, my dad was having physical problems and decided he needed to live with someone, so I rearranged my home to give him private space to live with me. As it turns out, he got over his physical handicaps through rehab and after a six week vacation with me, went back home. I decided not to re-establish myself in my old bedroom and den, just in case dad needs to come back sometime in the future. I don’t want to go through all the downsizing and rearranging again. In creating space for dad, I now have my dream of a healing retreat right here where I live. People can come stay with me, either Air B&B wise and tour the town, or come stay with me and do healing work- Sweat Lodge, eat organic food, massage, yoga, sound therapy….  I have a bedroom suite/bath for them and the den is now a sound meditation/yoga studio and classroom. Never, in a million years, would I have figured that solution out on my own. I thought I should have 125 acres with all kinds of fancy facilities to make a healing retreat work, and here I am, living in town, making it happen here where I am. More positive change! Gotta love it.

It’s Freezing Out Here

I took a trip during one of the coldest two weeks thus far this winter. Some serious cold weather was happening. When the “snow bomb” hit the east coast, I was down in the Deep South returning my dad to his home in Mobile, AL.

I lined up my regular chicken tender who lives across town and because I was worried about the reported below freezing temperatures stretching through my time away, I enlisted the help of my next door neighbor to be the early morning chicken waterer.

I knew that the chickens needed water more than anything else, and with the freezing temps lasting all day, they would need to be offered unfrozen water several times a day.

My neighbor did an exemplary job of making sure they had water, going out before he went to work and checking again when he came home for lunch.

Unbeknownst to me, two other friends were also helping me out. They reported their doings after almost a week of kind care.

My regular chicken tender had a four-wheel vehicle and actually traversed town on slippery roads to be there for the chickens at least once a day.

The chickens all survived the inhospitable weather. The only thing they suffered was mild frost bite of their combs. Can you believe they laid eggs all through that time?

I am ever grateful for all my helpers.

Bloody Egg

Happy Halloween! I thought it was appropriate that my chickens provided us with a gruesome egg today.

In the past, I’ve had chickens lay eggs with speckled shells, though not consistently. I always wondered why all the eggs that particular hen laid didn’t have spots. Now I know!

Yesterday, when I collected eggs, one egg-shell had spots on it. In the right light, the spots were red, so I washed the egg. All the spots came off. That had me curious and just a little concerned because I have no experience with this issue and have no idea which hen laid the egg. It was definitely not Ethel – her eggs are huge and oddly shaped, so it was either Rose or Ruby, but which one?

I checked online and found that blood spots on egg shells is a common occurrence and nothing to worry about. A capillary in her oviduct ruptured and created the spots. I’m just glad the blood was on the outside instead of the inside, which happens sometimes too.

I’m no longer getting three eggs every day. They’ve tapered off to two a day, which is a gracious plenty. I wonder if these girls are going to be affected by the waning sunlight as winter approaches. I’ll keep you posted.

And if you want to see an interesting site, check out Two Creative Chicks. You can find them on facebook and youtube. They posted one video on youtube of a chicken band.

Roughly Three Eggs a Day!

All the girls are laying now. The new girl’s eggs are small and cute. They get a little bigger every day.

Ruby has developed a peculiar habit of squatting down, wings splayed, thrumming her feet when I come into their yard. All the girls have begun to squat when I come in. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to have me pet them-which I do- or they desperately want a rooster. When I pet back to their tails, they promptly flag them in the air, which makes me think it’s about wanting a rooster.

Chickens have way more personality than you would imagine them to have. You wouldn’t think they would have the space for survival skills and personality in their teensy brains. It makes me realize how few brain cells it takes and how I must be majorly under-using mine.

While Rose is still a bit like Chicken Little with the sky falling, she is also very friendly and curious. Ruby has become the dominate hen and bold as you please. Ethel always greets me at the door first and her belly rules her mind.

So three eggs a day now! How awesome is that?

Tiny Eggs

Rose has begun to lay eggs. They are the tiniest, cutest eggs.

My grandkids came over the day she laid her first egg. They squealed when they saw it, cupped their hands and begged to hold it. The egg was given due honor and thanks before I cracked it into my smoothie.

Rose has been laying pretty consistently for the past four days. She doesn’t have a time schedule, like first thing in the morning; it’s all over the place. Once it was laid so late, there were two tiny eggs in the nest box in the morning. I thought maybe Ruby had started laying too, but that’s not the case. At any rate, Rose is definitely a girl, big comb and all.

I’m wondering if Ruby is feeling protective about the eggs or if I have a mole on the back of my right leg. Every time I lean into the nest box to clean it out, she takes a big peck on my calf. I’ve had to start holding out the other leg and occasionally swing it to keep her from coming over for a bite.

Won’t be long now before I can gather three eggs a day. That’ll be fabulous.

Thanks girls!

Comb Overs

When you buy pullets, you never know exactly what they will look like. Take Rose and Ruby. At the onset, I could tell Ruby would be darker than Rose and that’s as much as I could tell. Rhode Island Reds have a typical look that I’ve come to expect.

As they have matured, their color has remained true. Both girls have reached Ethel’s height. Ruby has the beginnings of wattles and comb. I’d say she looks butch, only in chicken speak the opposite is true. She has a small, upright comb so far and virtually no wattles.

Rose, on the other hand, has grown quite the comb. If she were a movie star, she’d be Ginger on Gilligan’s Island. Her comb flops over looking like it could cover one eye in a sexy, peek-a-boo style. Her wattles are not fully developed yet. In human terms, she’d be very feminine, while in chicken terms, quite male. I’m holding my breath hoping she, is really a she. The tail feathers still look very hen-ish. So far, so good.

And Rose was the skittish one – still is to an extent. She’ll raise a warning in a heartbeat and flutter around raising dust. Interesting though, she has become very bold as well. She surprised me the other day as I had my head in the hen-house cleaning out the poo by jumping at a button on my pants. No, I didn’t hit my head on the door frame when I felt the peck, but I could have.

Both girls have decided Ethel isn’t so scary any more and pay her no heed when she tries to warn them off some particularly succulent grass or juicy corn cobs. They just delve right in beside her.

I’ll keep you posted as to what sex the youngin’s turn out to be. Egg laying will be a dead give away.

Grass Fed

It’s corn season and the girls are thrilled when I come out laden with corn husks, silks and cobs. Of course they wish I was a lackadaisical eater and left more on the cobs. They love corn silks almost more than the cobs, which surprised me.

The two chicklets are getting bolder with Ethel. I’m no longer concerned that they might miss out on a meal. Rose is still a might flighty, which sets Ruby off. That only happens when I go out there to drop off goodies or work around their yard. I’ve never seen such a nervous Rhode Island Red – I’d expect it of a Leghorn.

We’ve been having so much rain that mowing the grass is an issue. You either have to mow it more frequently than you’d like in order to catch a decent mowing day – or hour – or wait til you need a bush hog.

I have a lawn guy come mow the front yard. We set up an every other week schedule, which hasn’t worked very well this week. I’ve been telling my neighbors I’m letting the grass reseed itself even though it’s a holiday and everyone else has taken extra care with their yards. It seems to rain every time he’s due to mow. Sometimes he sneaks in and does it a day or so early, but I’m betting he has a long list of folks who want their grass cut for the holiday and couldn’t sneak in here this time. Of course, he could surprise me and show up tomorrow, on the holiday, to mow.

The girls felt cheated when I dumped the grass clippings in their yard the other day. I had mowed five days before and after looking at the weather forecast decided I best go ahead and mow again. Usually I dump the bag at least ten times – it only needed to be dumped three times the other day. Sure made the job a lot quicker, not having to start and stop all the time.

I’m sure the girls love this wondrous and plentiful growing season as much as I do.

Good to be Home

I was off and running again and, at last, have returned home. I don’t think the girls remember me. There’s no “Hi, how are ya’s,” or “About time you woke up! We’re starving out here,” when I open the back door in the morning. They pretty much ignore me and go about their business. They are still happy when I bring them grazing materials, however.

The yard had three weeks growth by the time I found a spare hour to mow. I recently bought another plug-in electric mower and discovered it works best with the bagger attachment in place, which is great for the chickens, because I dump all the grass clipping in their yard. I was surprised to notice they prefer chopped up grass over the long grass I typically harvest for them. The more greens they eat, the richer and darker yellow the yolks.

Chickens are natural grazers with a side of bugs. I’m not sure where the whole-“feed them grain” idea came about. I should research that. I’m guessing it started when the chicken industry began. Throwing out a little scratch so they come running when they see you and stick closer to home is different from having a main diet of grains.

It’s good to be home again tending to the girls and my garden.


My chicken tender had to extend her duties with the girls recently. She was only supposed to have a stint over the long Memorial Day Weekend while I was glamping, which ended up being expanded by six more days.

It was a soggy, wet weekend. We were in camp swampy, as we dubbed our site, slogging through mud, in the drizzle, setting up our tents.

The second day of the Memorial Day weekend, I received an urgent text from my sister, informing me our dad had taken a fall, hit his head and was in the neurological ICU unit of the hospital.

I was frantic trying to figure out how to get all the way down to Mobile, AL from Virginia. I had ridden to the camp with three other ladies and certainly couldn’t expect them to cut their weekend short. Renting a car seemed the most logical solution, when one of the women said she had frequent flyer miles and starting figuring out how to get me to Mobile that night. That’s what I call a sweet, caring woman!

During all my anxious figuring, my sister sent me the phone number of the hospital. Even with spotty phone reception, I was able to talk with my dad and his nurse. They reassured me he was doing fine and wouldn’t be released until sometime early in the week and I should plan to come down upon his release because he would need me more then.

I did my best to let the trauma go and enjoy myself, though there was a little cloud over me all weekend. And bigger clouds over the whole camp, intermittently releasing their pent up rain all over us.

When the weekend was over, we packed up all our wet belongings, threw them into the trailer and made our way back home, knowing that everything needed a good drying out. One woman offered to dry my tent out, knowing it would be a moldy mess by the time I returned home and managed to set it up to dry. Thank goodness for wonderful friends!

It was hustle time once we got back. Unloading the trailer, (we had an enclosed Uhaul trailer this time- worlds easier to pack than the open trailer we typically use.) stuffing my belongings into my car, hauling them back out again, trying to open as much out as I could all over the house to let things dry.

I washed three loads of laundry, packed water, food, clothing and toiletries to ready myself for my four a.m. departure to Mobile, along with making sure the chicks were well stocked with food and water. I was pooped when I hit the bed.

My plan was to stay with my dad until the following Sunday. I managed to accomplish a fair amount for him while I was there. He now has a walker and one and a half shelves in his freezer (which also got a good defrosting) are full of wholesome food. With pleading on my sister’s and my part, he will have some extra help. (He listens to her much better than to me.) I left Sunday feeling like I did all I could for now.

The ride home was eventful. I managed to set my alarm for the wrong time and ended up waking at two a.m. I had everything packed in the car before I looked at a clock and realized I could have slept much longer. Oh well.

I made it through Atlanta before having to pull over and take a nap. I zonked out for two hours. After refreshing my water bottle and taking care of necessities, I was off again- for a mile- before traffic slowed to a stop. For two hours we crawled our way one whole mile. Why is it people don’t know how to merge into one lane? I was really happy I had that rest break. I actually did a Sudoku and listened to a whole CD waiting for things to open up.

Everything went along fine until I hit Fayetteville, NC. I couldn’t go any further without sleep. I pulled into the first available parking spot at the rest area, dropped the car key in the cup holder, reclined my seat and was asleep before I laid my head back. When I came to again, I really needed to pee, so I grabbed my purse, locked the doors and headed to the bathroom. Yeah- the key was still in the car.

All my necessary documentation was also in the car when I went to call AAA. I have a dumb phone, so I had to ask a fellow traveler if he could get the number for me, which he did. When I called the number, the automaton asked me to type in my account number- yeah, not happening- or bypass that and hit the pound key. Where was the pound key on my phone???? So I just hit a key. Eventually I was able to get everything straight with a real person and an hour later, my knight in shining armor showed up.

I was amazed by how quickly he was able to open my car door. He had a thin plastic “bladder” he inserted through the door frame and pumped up creating an opening. He then stuck a rubber coated wire with a crook in the end through the opening, and released the lock. The whole thing took about thirty seconds.

I finally made it home.

The chicklets and Ethel were just fine and dandy when I saw them the next morning. They thanked me for the grass I harvested for them and otherwise ignored me. I’m thrilled to have a good, responsible chicken tender who doesn’t mind being flexible- makes my life so much easier.