Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fun in the Sun

Today was sunny with a high of 59 ˚. I looked out into my backyard to see my fowl having fun. My ducks were standing around grooming themselves and my chickens were either taking dust baths or sunning themselves.

Chickens instinctively take dust baths. It is their form of grooming and helps keep parasites out of their feathers. Even when my chickens were baby chicks with fluff and no feathers, they would practice taking dust baths in their bedding. Chickens also like to sit in the sun to soak up the rays of warmth.

Most ducks like to be clean. They usually will dunk their heads into the water, splashing it onto their bodies. After flapping their wings to spread the water, they run their beak through their feathers to groom. Dipping their heads in water also washes out their eyes and prevents eye infections. My male, Spot, is always dabbling in the water and grooming. Unfortunately, my female, Maxine, is not quite as fastidious as Spot. One good thing about her lack of grooming is I can tell them apart.

Seeing all the activity I couldn't resist going out into the yard. Needless to say my presence interrupted them, especially the ducks. The chickens came running to see if I had a treat. They definitely don't like missing any goodies I may have brought with me.

Little Red was the first to run to me. She is the most curious and feisty of my chickens. Goldie came second to see me. Rockett, who has recovered from her injury and living back in the coop, kept taking her dust bath. Twin 1 and #1 didn't have the time of day for me. The ducks, well they were their normal overbearing selfs. They came at me hissing, letting me know I was not welcome.

I walked through the yard and went into the coop to check for eggs. The ducks and Little Red hot on my trail. I grabbed the two eggs that were there and went out the other door. I came back around and surprised the ducks and Little Red. I believe I spoiled their fun of "chase and catch the human." Note bottom two pictures are the "chase" game.

Little Red



Twin 1

The girls sunning and taking dust baths under the work table.


Playing chase.

I switched my position during the game. 
What games do you play with your fowl?

Cabbage Heads

I like giving our chickens different things to eat. They get their laying mash, scratch and oyster shells on a regular basis. Other foods they get as treats are macaroni and cheese, lettuce, potato chips, popcorn, bread and chicken carcasses to peck.

Today I wanted to try something different. I cut up a head of cabbage and scattered it throughout the chicken pen. The ducks, especially Maxine, liked the cabbage. My hen, Little Red, ate several pieces. She usually eats whatever is thrown out there because she doesn't want to miss anything.

Maxine with the big piece of cabbage said "Yummy!"
Little Red gobbling up cabbage, as #1 wonders why red is eating it.
Goldie and #1 tried the cabbage but weren't impressed. Twin 1 and Rockett (Twin 2) wouldn't even come out of the coop to check on the treat. All the chickens and ducks normally come to me when I call "here buck, buck" (our chickens' clucking sounds like "buck, buck") because they know I have treats. Our cat, Prince, who is always looking for a treat, even came running when he heard me call.

Tail end of Little Red, Goldie and #1, not impressed with the cabbage.  
Rockett, "You expect me to get down from my perch?"
"I'm fine right here were I am!" says Twin 1
Prince, "Where's the treat?"
What treats do you give your chickens?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunny Day

We recently received quite a bit of snow, which you can read about herehere and here. Today was back to being sunny and mild. Our chickens were out having fun. They were scratching for food and looking at me for more food. Our male duck decided I was food.

Twin 1 
Little Red, Goldie, Maxine the duck
Spot eating my boot. I wonder if it tasted good to him?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Update on Rockett

Rockett is is improving quickly. We were talking about putting her back in the coop this weekend. The only problem is we are predicated to get 23.9" of snow.  I personally don't want to put her out until the weather clears.

 We have been taking her out daily in our backyard Barbecue area. This has allowed her to have some fresh air, stretch her legs and scratch around while we clean up her dog (I mean chicken) kennel. It is funny to watch her when we take her out each day. She doesn't understand she belongs outside. She tries to run back in as soon as we put her down, and waits at the back door when it's time to come in. She is a funny chicken, even if she doesn't understand she is a chicken.

Happy Rockett in her kennel. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rockett and New Chicken incident

03-10-11 I'm finally catching up on posts, after being very ill. This is a quick update, one not for the faint of heart.

Rockett continues to heal. She is eating and drinking well. My son and I put her back in the bathtub today to clean her kennel out. She didn't enjoy being picked up but didn't fuss about being in the tub. It must have disturbed her to have her familair bedding changed because she didn't lay an egg today. At least she did continue to talk to us.

On a sadder note, our chicken Maude, became ill today with no advanced warning. My husband went to put up the chickens and found her wheezing and drainage coming out her nostrils. My husband made sure Maude was under a heat lamp and fresh water with antibiotics in it was available when he left. I asked if he wanted to bring her into the house to care for her and he was adamant one chicken in the house was enough.

A few hours later during the night, at my urging, my huband went out to check on her. He found her dead on the floor of the coop. We both were disturbed by the lost. We will miss her.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rockett Update

03-09-11 Quick update on Rockett.
Rockett is doing well. Her wound is dry and the edges are shrinking in. She is eating and drinking. She even laid an egg today. Her temperament is sweet and friendly, every time we check on her she coos at us. I'll try to provide a daily update on her condition.

03-15-11 Rockett still has an open wound. It is shrinking and remains free of infection. We have been letting her out in our garden and barbeque area, away from the other fowl,  for a few hours every day. She is not laying any eggs right now, my husband believes it's because of all the rain. (In fact none of the chickens have laid eggs in the last few days since it has been raining.) We plan on keeping her in the house until she is healed.

Rockett trying to jump on my husband's lap. 
She is quite comical. In the middle of the night if we go into the bathroom she wakes up and softly clucks, to let us know we are disturbing her. She must not be to disturbed too much though, because she always manages to eat a few bites before she nods back off to sleep.

Injured Chicken-Rockett

By having chickens I've learned tragedies happen, no matter what you do to prevent them. I've also learned how to word things in Google to get the answers I need quickly when an accident does occur. This post is about a recent incident to one of our chickens. This is not a post for the faint of heart. 

Rockett, a Bard Rock Chicken, is not one of our smartest. She usually stays in the coop all day, sitting on eggs, hers and the other chickens or eating. She is not very social with the other birds. Once we were cleaning the coop and put her out in the yard, she tried to hide from the others behind some piled up grass hay. The others ignored her and kept on scratching and pecking the ground.

The other night (3-8-2011) my husband went out to check on our six chickens and two ducks. He heard one of our chickens loudly squawking. He found our female duck, Maxine, on top of Rockett, attacking her. Our ducks are Muscovy Ducks, much larger and heavier than our chickens. Rockett was badly injured.

Ted, my husband, came in and told me what happened. He said, she may have to be put down. He was able to catch her long enough to look at her wound under her right wing. He wasn't able to contain her though because of her squirming.

When it was time to lock the birds up for the night, Ted found Rockett had calmed down and was in her nest box. He was able to pick her up and bring her to me to examine. We initially put her in the tub to be able to care for her. She had an open wound approximately 3" by 5"under her wing. She stayed surprisingly calm and even let us pet and examine her.

 I rinsed the area with saline solution while Ted held her wing up. (I keep generic saline on hand for wounds and flushing eyes. I buy it at Wal-mart for about $2. I then diluted some Betadine in water and  poured it on her wound, followed by more saline. No signs of infection were noted, (swelling, discolored drainage). I couldn't find the antibiotic ointment and made a mental note to get some the next day. (When I'd looked up how to care for an injured chicken it was recommended to apply it to the wound.)

We decided to keep her in the house to ensure her safety. We've found when a chicken has visible injuries the others will generally pick on them, making the injury worse or killing the bird. My husband went out and retrieved an old dog crate. (We keep this old, well used crate for times just like this.)  He put grass hay in it for bedding along with food and water. I'd put Terra-vet antibiotic in the water hoping this would cut down on chances of infection. I've used Terra-vet in the past when the birds had symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. It is a broad spectrum antibiotic and I hope it will work on preventing skin infections.

Partial view of wound. 
Old dog kennel, temporary home for Rockett. 

 I was concerned about her wound and comfort. To make sure she would keep warm I turned a little electric heater up to 76˚. My husband had to correct me on this, though. He said the heat would be too much for her because she is used to her coop being in the 50s.

Our dogs, which live inside with us, didn't understand what was going on. They kept looking at her and sniffing her through the crate. Our female, Princess, is not used to being around any of our fowl. She is too spastic and we're afraid she would hurt one of them. Our male, Max, is a lot milder. He actually goes with my husband at night to herd everyone into the coop. He has been known to gently pick up a chicken and put her in if she can't find her way.

Mild Max checking on Rockett

Being a city girl and a nurse, I always want to care for a hurting animal. My husband accuses me of trying to change nature. I just can't help it though. I feel the animals are under our care and we need to do the best we can for them. Even if it "goes against nature."

Not sure what will happen from here. I will keep you posted.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blue Chicken Game

Our enjoyment of having chickens has overflowed into my husband's creative side. Our family loves to play games and loves our chicken pets. To put the two together my husband created the "Blue Chicken Game." A fun and fast-paced game where players "hatch" their own chicken.
Front of game box.

The object of the game is to be the first to place your chicken piece card in a numerical sequence. You first start with the egg, which coincides with the number one. Once you have that you can start building. Each player taking turns to try to finish first before their hand is "scrambled" or a "thief" steals a chicken piece.

1st card needed. 

The game is geared for ages six to adults, two to six players. The game is colorful, fun and educational, teaching numbers and sequencing. Cards are 3" x 4" in size, making it easy to hold for little hands. 

For a chance to win this exciting game become a follower of this blog and leave a comment below letting  me know you want the game. Entry to the give-away will end March 14, 2011 at 9:00 AM Pacific Time. One random person will be chosen and announced by 12:00 PM Pacific Time the same day . Check back here to see if you are the winner.

03-15-11 No comments were left asking for the game. I have 2 followers though. If any of my 2 followers would like to leave their contact info in the comment section by 3-17-11by 9:00 AM Pacific Time I will send you a game.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When It All Began...

My son, Christopher age 17, started the whole undertaking of having chickens. We were still living in Tennessee, planning to move to Rural Northern California. Chris was 12 at the time. Driving in the car one day we were discussing animals. Out of the blue, he asks for two or three chickens for pets. "Why on Earth would you want chickens?" was my response. His reply "They're stupid." For the next few minutes we discussed the perceived lack of intelligence of the requested pet. After the discussion, I gently explained to him it was not legal to have chickens where we lived and it would have to wait until a future time and location.

The time came in April of 2007. My husband of five months surprised me one day by saying "Go to the feed store and pick your chickens out. I've already paid for 12 of them, plus all the supplies to get started." I was surprised, my jaw dropped and I thought "Where we going to put them?" We lived in a one-room apartment in an unusually small town (population 21). Thankfully my in-laws had a farm and once the chicks had grown their feathers, they went to the farm.

Off to the feed store after work I went to pick out my new babies. They were all so cute! I was excited and nervous. I didn't know a thing about baby chicks. Raeanne, the store owner, quickly gave me the rundown on types of food, how to feed and water and how to keep them warm.

Lessons from Raeanne included:
  1. The feeder shown above allows the chicks to feed without soiling all the food, limiting waste.
  2. There is a starter food for chicks that is needed before they grow into adults.
  3.  Fresh water is needed daily. A container with a red bottom waterer was given to me. I guess  chickens can see color.
  4.  A heat lamp is needed until the birds grow all their feathers.
Lessons I learned on my own with my first batch:
  1.  Chickens will drink out of blue containers too.
  2. They like to huddle together at night; sometimes. 
  3. They are pretty content living anywhere: plastic containers, greenhouses, dog houses, metal barrels, etc.
  4. Some of them like to be held, others don't.
  5. They can be trained to come when called.
  6. They have various personality traits: talkative, curious, friendly, stand-offish and feisty.
  7. Skunks eat chickens, all parts except legs and pelvic bones. 
  8. We have a Federal Trapper in our area who catches skunks. 
What lessons have you learned with your first batch of chickens?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Coming Soon!

Coming soon to a computer near you, Chicken Scrawls!  Recipe one Tennessee city girl with a teen son, transplanted to Northern California. New husband, born farm boy, turned Graphic Designer, who doesn't like farm life. Add a bunch of chickens, what do you get? A blog about our family's life with chickens in our backyard. The love, laughs, tears, and lessons learned about chickens. (Might just add an egg recipe or two also). Join me by becoming a follower and enjoy our escapade!

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