A Boy and his Chicken

A boy and his chicken
Had a little chat
They pondered on the weather
And talked of this and that

To hear their conversation
You’d never even know
That only one was talking
A constant, steady flow

The chicken clucked and shuffled
The boy yakked on and on
While feeding Queenie bits of grass
He’d pulled out of the lawn

She stood and seemed to listen
She clucked and moved her head
But when the boy stopped talking
She quickly turned and fled

 

Spoiled Eggs

Skulking and sneaking
I thought she was dead
But here she is peeking
Now I’m filled with dread

She’s laying eggs somewhere
I watch her and wonder
Will I find them out there?
Which bush are they under?

I’ve looked in the tall grass
I’ve searched under sheds
I’ve peaked when I pass
All of my garden beds

But still I can’t find them
And I greatly fear
My sniffer will smell ’em
If I ever draw near

Guess What? Chicken…

Warning! This post is informational, but kind of icky. If you are grossed out by chicken butt problems, beware!

Something strange is going on with the hen’s butts.

Sure, they’ve molted and are now pecking at each other.

Sure, their butts are bound to be dirty with the constant pooping.

Sure, they’ve been dust bathing with their poop crusted bare bottoms in a dirt and diatomaceous earth (DE) mix.

So what the heck is it?

Now, I’m not a big fan of this breed. They are mean and horrible to each other and they have tried to peck my hands too many times to count.

That, however, does not mean I want them to suffer. Afterall, they do provide us with fresh, delicious eggs, entertainment and learning experiences for the boys (and us).

I went to my favorite chicken blog, Backyard Chickens to try and figure out what is going on.

Their symptoms, and the appearance of the disgusting, white/yellow foamish coating on their rear, is consistent with vent gleet aka “Nasty Chicken Butt”.

Blech.

Vent gleet or “Sticky Vent” is basically a yeast infection affecting female birds and, less commonly, males.

There are TONS of chicken websites out there describing this type of infection, so I’m just going to detail my plan of attack.

Treatment

First, I’m going to bathe the affected bottoms in a mix of water and dish soap.

Then, I’m going to put a molasses/water mix (1/2 C. molasses per gallon) out along with their plain water so they have their choice of beverage for at least a few hours.

Next, I’ll add 2-4 TB of vinegar/gallon of water and keep doing this for several days to, hopefully, kick out the nasty and prevent re-growth.

Finally, and this one is iffy given the temperament of these hens, I’ll feed them each 1TB of plain yogurt per day, also until symptoms are gone. Yogurt has probiotics and live cultures…good bacteria.

There is no way they will let me do this. It’s going to be difficult enough to get them in a bath, let alone get them to calmly take their tablespoon of yogurt.

I will likely just set out a dish of it and see what they do.

Prevention

In order to prevent another onslaught, I will make sure they always have fresh, clean water and dry feed.

I’ll continue to add apple cider vinegar to their water, backing off from 2-4TB to 1TB/gallon. I may also get some probiotic powder to add to their feed.

Yogurt, if the feeding plan works out, will be an occasional treat. 

Did I mention how gross this is? Just in case…

Ew! Gross chicken butts
White, yellow and foamy pus
Ick! There goes breakfast!

Softly

Happiness and joy abound
On quiet days like this
Sun sets softly on the ground
A bright and glowing kiss

The blue-sky changes orange then pink
The kids laugh, run and play
I walk around and ponder, think
How beautiful the day

All life’s sorrows, woes and fears
Are scattered in the breeze
No more crying, no more tears
On Summer days like these

Autumn’s coming, winter too
But I don’t mind at all
Plants will wither, die it’s true
As Summer turns to Fall

Until then, I’ll soak it in
I’ll hear the Summer sounds
Warm sunlight upon my skin
Wind rustling all around

A-Hunting We Will Go

The boys have been hunting bugs (and bug friends) all summer. We’ve learned all about butterflies, studied earthworms and have had our fill of Japanese beetles and squash bugs.

The boys never tire of taking their net out through the maze, vineyard, garden and fedge to catch whatever they can find.

This weekend we found not one, not two but three LARGE praying mantis on our property.

We were out catching butterflies when we found the first one. The boys captured it and brought it inside (in the bug house of course) to “study”.

Joe drew a detailed picture of it while Jake and I looked up some fun facts.

Once Joe was happy with his work, he decided to let it go in our kitchen garden so it could continue to hunt.

Jake wanted to release it in the squash bed to “help Mommy”. He’d heard me grumbling about the squash bugs.

As we were releasing it…we found a second mantis. This one was bright green and sitting calmly on a large squash leaf.

Joe added the green one to his drawing.

Later, I asked Joe to turn the water to the hose on so I could fill the chickens’ buckets with fresh water and he found another mantis…this one even bigger than the last two.

We snapped a few pictures and he released it in the squash patch.

Now we have three teams, that we know of, working together to eradicate the homestead of squash bugs, Japanese beetles and other garden pests. One team in the squash patch, on in the rose patch and one out in the swales.

Go TEAM!

 

A Little Nest

Nestled deep in tangled vines
We found a little nest
It was made of grass and string
For a little egg to rest

The egg was white and tiny
With speckled brownish dots
The nest was snug and cozy
A perfect cozy spot

A few brown birds were flying
Circling in the sky
They cheeped and chirped down at me
A panicked, startled cry

I smiled at them and whispered
I don’t mean any harm
I just wanted to say thank you
For visiting our farm

Cast Out

A day like any other
The old hens all went mad
They attacked a little chicken
She looked so weak and sad

They chased her round the henhouse
They moved in as a team
White feathers flew all over
A gruesome, horrid scene

I made a quick decision
I had to move her fast
Out she jumped so quickly
She was free at last

Once she shook and cowered
And trembled hard with fear
Now she chirped and strutted
As slowly she came near

The new ones saw her coming
They knew she was no match
Three of them could take her
And win without a scratch

Our lonely bird, deflated
Ran fast under the coop
And there she hides and cowers
Cast out from both the groups

Swallowtails

Four black swallowtail caterpillars found their way into Joe’s bughouse a few weeks ago. We fed them from the plant we found them on and watched them grow and grow…and grow!

The biggest one made a chrysalis first followed by two more a few days later. Our teeny tiny guy ate his way steadily through the dill we’d stuffed the house with until, tired from all his munching, he joined the others and made a chrysalis.

A few days ago, the first chrysalis started to wiggle and wobble.

We’ve been watching it off and on, hoping to watch the beautiful swallowtail emerge. We never did get to see them make their chrysalis. We turned our back and poof! it was made.

The chrysalis went from bright green to a faded dull pea green as it shook and twitched.

And then…

Wibble, wobble, twitch
A butterfly breaking free
Emerges and flys

The Big Molt

The new girls are now half again the size of the leghorns and their feathers are fluffy and shine in the sun.

They are truly beautiful birds, and the old ones?

Well, they are looking…pretty bad.

Their feathers are missing, they are pecking at each other and raw red patches of skin are showing.

They’ve become more and more bedraggled over the past couple of weeks. We change their water regularly, keep them in food and clean out their coop so what the heck is going on?

I was sure they were slowly murdering each other.

Ray thought they might be molting.

I liked my explanation better, but I looked up molting anyway.

Bingo. Our leghorns are going through a rather hard molt.

Great patches of feathers are missing. Some of the hens look fuzzy with odd looking new feathers growing through stubby old ones, while others look like they’ve been plucked alive.

During molting, all of the feathers fall and new feathers grow. Feathers are more than 80% protein so growing them takes a lot of energy.

Energy that is normally used to lay eggs.

Our egg production has not gone down that much, but it has dropped from 11-12 a day to 8-9 a day.

In order to balance things out a bit, we are going to start supplementing their diet with extra protein.

They’ll get mealworms, sunflower seeds, fresh herbs and maybe leftover scrambled eggs…maybe.

Few fluffy feathers
Hastily hobbling hens
Bare, bedraggled birds

Little Brown(ish) Eggs

The new girls have started laying eggs!

At first they were tiny and cream colored with titanium shells. Seriously, they took a few good whacks to crack. Crazy enough, every one has had a tiny yolk!

After about a week, they started to get a little bit bigger and the brownish hue deepened into a nice caramel color.

And then today I collected the biggest so far. It’s barely smaller than the behemoths the old hens lay. It’s not as brown as the others have been, but it still has a cream hue.

Old hen egg (left) vs New hen egg (right)

The new girls were pretty proud of themselves and were rewarded with grapes…their favorite.

Little brown(ish) eggs
Growing so slowly in size
Soft and creamy white