Monday, December 29, 2008

The Surprise Gift

The Engineer pulled a fast one on me. I thought we had agreed to not spend a bunch of money on each other for Christmas this year. And I think he held to that until the day before Christmas. Until he and the kid sneaked away for a little while. Then a gift for me suddenly appeared under the tree. A gift I certainly never would have expected.

You see, he decided to buy me a chicken related gift too. A brand spankin' new video camera! So I can spend even more quality time with my chickens and then bring you all quality entertainment like this...

Yeah, okay, okay, it might take me a while to figure out that whole quality thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do What Comes Naturally

Well, it's official. I've become "The Chicken Lady". Did you know this blog started out as a home improvement blog? No really, it did. Back when we thought we were going to transform this old farmhouse. Back before the economy took a nose dive and the real estate market tanked. Seems sort of silly to invest a lot of time and money in a house now days. So we do a little here and there when time and money allows, but no major renovations.

Here lately we installed carpet in the master bedroom. The only room with carpet in the whole house.

Then we painted and updated the upstairs bathroom. This is our family bath. Shared by all who inhabit the upstairs. I still need to finish hanging curtains and artwork. Who knows when I'll bother to get around to that.

But I'm not known for my home improvement blog. Nope. I'm "The Chicken Lady". You know you've been obsessing about chickens when almost all the Christmas gifts you receive are chicken related. One of my favorites was the sweatshirt my brother gave me...

But my point here is that it comes naturally to me. Chickens that is. Some of you will recall that this whole chicken adventure was all my Dad's fault. It's been one year since our current chicken project started. But really it all started thirty years ago.

Back when my Dad and I kept chicks in the basement.

That later grew up to be a colorful barnyard mix.

And the next thing you know they had friends. Lots of friends like ducks and geese.

And even a few turkeys.

That's me, many moons ago, petting Old Tom. My uncle is in the background. One would have to believe the combination of my uncle and the Pabst Blue Ribbon on the coffee table have something to do with how the turkey ended up in the living room. Nobody ever accused my Dad of not having fun.

So I just wanted to justify the direction this blog has taken. I get it honest. And I also wanted to warn you that, while around here 2008 was undoubtedly the year of the chicken. I think 2009 might just be the year of the turkey. But I plan to leave them outside...

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Mother Told Me to Pick This Very One

I hemmed. I hawed. I sat around poking myself in the head like Winnie the Pooh, saying "Think, think, think." But I just couldn't make up my mind. So many of the contest entries were fantastic. I mean Chicken Patty and Fertile Myrtle, Hello, how stinkin' funny is that?

Unable to make a commitment all by myself, I decided to form a committee. So on Christmas Day the committee congregated and after much heated debate and deliberation finally concluded that the names of the new girls will be...

Minnie and Pearl

Congratulations Marlene! Contact me with your e-mail address to collect your winnings. But like, uh, don't go getting too excited or anything. Cause, uh, like, uh, you won't be retiring on this prize.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mr. Edwards

Tell me he doesn't look just like him?

We're struggling with all the fabulous contest entries. I like them all. It's too hard to decide. It may have to come down to eny, meany miny, mo.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Name The New Girls Contest

It's an amazing transformation. Some will recall he burst on the scene here wild as a march hare. But not unlike Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie, Old One-eyed Calico Jack's rough edges are starting to soften.

He didn't quite know how to act around the ladies at first. In fact I think he was plum terrified of them. It stands to reason now that I see how many feathers are starting to grow back on his head. I never realized how literally henpecked he'd been before getting his own place. The poor bugger.

The new girls are still young. Too young for any shenanigans and Jack knows that. So he's actually been a gentleman in that regard. So my realization of being a chicken pimp hasn't materialized. In his rough and gruff manor he has been teaching them things like how to roost and where to find the best morsels though. Unlike Jack, the ladies are quite civilized and social. Their gentle influence is making a remarkable change in Old Jack's demeanor. In fact, they've even taught him some table manners and he's now eating out of my hand.

So now that it seems this relationship will last, I feel it's time to name the new girls. I didn't really want to continue the pirate theme since they're a different breed than the others and certainly better behaved. I considered a "ladies of the evening" theme. Something like Lola and Trixie or something, but now that doesn't seem right either. They're too nice of girls for that. So I decided to leave it up to you all.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile and are not reading the comment section, you're missing the best part. There are some really, really funny people reading this blog and some of the comments will make you pee your pants and cry like a baby. So who better to name the new girls? And there might even be a prize involved...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without Eggnog

And it just so happens I know someone, who knows someone else, who can get me some eggs. So over the next week I'll be testing out several different eggnog recipes. Hey, it wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't gain a few pounds right? Might as well get it over with.

Here is today's recipe. I stole it right off the Egg, Chicken & Other Favorite Recipes forum over at backyardchickens.


12 eggs - beat until light
1 1/2 cups sugar - beat in gradually
pinch of salt
8 tsp. vanilla (imitation vanilla is okay to use)
Stir in:
6 cans evaporated milk
3 cups water

Place in a glass jar (I used 4 of the quart jars) with a screw on top. Permit to ripen in refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

Makes 4 quarts.

Then on Thursday I'm going to try MissPrissy's recipe.

12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 cups very cold heavy cream
4 cups very cold whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
nutmeg for sprinkling

In large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold in half of the sugar. Careful not to break the whites.

In an another larger bowl beat yolks until creamy. Fold in half of the sugar.

Fold egg whites into beaten yolks.

Carefully stir in the cream, milk and nutmeg.

Sprinkle with nutmeg.

So tell me, do you like eggnog? Spiked or plain?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pssst! Hey Mister...

what will it take for you to bust me outta here?

Beth's recovering well. She's not a very good patient though. She won't take her pills. I can't cram the pills down her throat, so I have to come up with creative ways to sneak them into her. Like cooking oatmeal or scrambled eggs for her. She really must not like the taste of the medicine because I can only feed her a treat a few times before she catches on and refuses to eat any more. I'm running out of options.

She also wreaked havoc inside her coop with her little shoe so I've removed it before she hurts herself. She really wants to go back outside with her friends. And Bob really wants her to come back. He's a man gone wild, searching for his lost love. I had to do football therapy on him twice yesterday. That's where I pick him up and carry him around like a football in front of all his ladies. Once humiliated he calms down a bit.

One more week of solitary confinement and it's going to be a long one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Indoor Recess

Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the cabbage is so delightful, and since we've no place to go, Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

I remember when I had to schlep out of the house every day and drive to work. The first snow of the season always caused major traffic headaches. So when I lowered the gangplank to let Bob and the girls out for the first time in the snow, and the first chicken stopped dead in her tracks causing a multiple bird pile up, it didn't really surprise me. Her assumption that it must be white flaky toxic waste strewn about was pretty darned amusing though. Finally after the mob pushed the first one off into the snow and she didn't die, a few of them proceeded to walk on out. A couple tried flying to dry spots then were too afraid to move any further. None of them liked the snow though and all decided hanging out inside the coop was a much better option.

We designed the coop according to the recommended space requirements for keeping chickens. I don't think the folks making that recommendation took a hen's aversion to snow into consideration though. Nope, if they're cooped up in the coop all the time, they need a little more elbow room. And something to keep them entertained to prevent them from pecking each others feathers out.

Entertainment comes easy. Throw some scratch on the floor and let them dig for it. Hang a cabbage and let it serve as a pinata. Teach them a few sing-a-long songs. Oh, I kid. But the elbow room thing is a little more difficult to manage. Only one thing to do. Somebody's gotta bail ship. Today we had a nice couple show up and take four of our fat-bottom girls home with them. They, the couple, were excited to be getting such fat, fluffy and pretty hens. I think the hens will be happy too. And everyone else will have a little more room to run and play. Blackbeard might be a little depressed though. I caught him cavorting with one of the big Brahma girls earlier in the week. She was six times his size. Funniest thing I've seen in a LONG time. What a stud!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beth's Boogy Shoes

So early this morning I packed Beth up and we headed out to the vet's office. I sat in the waiting room with all the dog and cat owners eyeballing me with their smug grins. Beth got to meet a pit bull up close and personal and wasn't all that impressed. In fact she pretty much just sat there good as can be. But even so we caused a bit of a stir. Seems they don't get a lot of chickens in the office. Go figure.

As we waited in the exam room we could hear the technicians talking about what scale they could use to weigh "the chicken" and whatnot. I think they were excited about having a chicken as a patient. A nice change of pace from all the four legged furballs. When the doctor examined her Beth just lied there and let her do it. She was as calm and sweet as she always is. Only pecked the light thingy they were trying to shine down her throat once.

The doctor was obviously intrigued by the ailment. She knew exactly what needed to be done. It was down right entertaining to watch the discussion between the vet and the vet tech. We were the highlight of their week. And while I had only signed up to get some antibiotics they really, really wanted to do surgery on her. And made me an offer too good to refuse.

You see, one of the reasons they wanted to do the surgery was to try out making a cast for Beth's foot. One of them had the brilliant idea to use an epoxy compound that was designed for equine use. It creates a foamy substance similar to a Nerf ball that can be custom formed to the hoof or in our case foot. It cushions the injured foot allowing it to heal faster. So they basically made her a little tennis shoe.

Lot's of photos were taken which I understand may be making the rounds in certain veterinary circles. So not only did she get her foot all fixed up, Beth's going to be famous. Of course, Beth doesn't care about that yet, she's still trying to figure out how to walk with the darn thing.

For the fellow chicken owners out there, the post-op procedures will be to change the dressing every two days and apply a triple antibiotic ointment. They prescribed an antibiotic, Baytril 68 mg 1/2 tablet twice daily and an anti-fungal Ketoconazole 200mg 1/4 tablet twice daily for 14 days. They stressed the anti-fungal needed to be taken when taking antibiotics because the antibiotic lowers their natural resistance to fungal infection. They stated her eggs should not be eaten for a month.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Not All Fun & Games

DISCLAIMER: If you're even a little bit squeamish, you might not want to read this post...

I'd highly recommend raising chickens to anyone. They're fun to watch and provide hours of entertainment. It ain't all fun and games though. Nope, there's a very unglamorous side of raising chickens. I started off the weekend making chicken saddles. Or aprons. I've heard them called both. I can hear you saying "That's it, she's finally flipped her lid."

Why on earth would I ever do such a thing? Well, sometimes a rooster plays favorites. In this case Bob has a few girls that he uh, exercises, yeah uh, exercises more often than others. And all that exercising can wear a girl out to where she no longer has feathers on her back. Then when trying to grow feathers back, the other chickens see them, think they're something to eat and peck at them. The next thing you know you've got a bloody chicken. And that is really bad, because blood attracts even more pecking and the next thing ya know their innards are no longer in. Sorry, but that's just how it is. I told you it's not glamorous.

Sooo, I made them little chicken saddles out of two layers of denim. They attach around the wings with elastic and protect the back of the favorite hen. The feathers can grow back underneath without being pecked. And aren't they kind of cute? I think I might embroider their names on them. Or maybe applique some flowers for the girls with no names.

Then while I was out watching the fashion show I noticed my favorite hen, Beth, limping. I've told you about Beth before. She's the "special" chicken. She is one of the original chicks that we incubated and hatched ourselves. Her daddy was a Barred Rock just like Bob and her mommy was a Blue Ameracuana. So she looks like a Barred Rock but she lays blue-green eggs just like an Ameracuana. But that's not the only thing that makes her special. She's always just kind of beat to her own drum. When it comes to the hens, she's got the most personality. Or maybe she's brain damaged. I'm not sure, but I know she's special.

Anyway, after noticing her limping I noticed her foot swollen up like a little balloon. I scooped her up and brought her inside for a closer look. And it was what I was afraid of. Bumblefoot. It's a staph infection. They can get it by having a small cut or wound on their foot. Left untreated it is fatal.

The method of treatment is to soak the foot in Epsom salt. Then remove the scab and attempt to remove the hard pus material. An incision may need to be made in order to do so and you need to be careful not to cut the tendons or blood vessels. Then treat with antibiotic cream and bandage it.

I attempted the surgery. Twice. Problem is I only dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as a little girl. I didn't DO it. How in the heck am I supposed to know where the tendons or blood vessels are?

Another option for treating it is an oral antibiotic. So I called my dog's vet who happens to also treat chickens and asked if I could have whatever antibiotic would cure Bumblefoot. Unfortunately, the State of Indiana now has some law on the books that will not allow veterinarians to prescribe any medications without a prior "patient/doctor relationship". I asked how much this "relationship" would cost to establish. She said $47. I said, "You realize we're talking about a chicken, right?"

Anyway after giving it much thought, and determining ordering antibiotics online wasn't any cheaper, we've decided to pay the $47. I'm a visual learner and if I can watch the procedure once I'd be a heck of a lot less shaky when doing it myself the next time. And since this is a common chicken ailment it would be a skill worth knowing. Not to mention that we could then have access to any medications we might need in the future because while the "patient/doctor relationship" is supposed to be on a per chicken basis I could hear the vet tech winking on the phone. So Beth has a doctors appointment tomorrow at 11:oo a.m. I can't even imagine what my Dad would think of that. Taking a chicken to a vet. Craziness.

BTW, you know you're community is being taken over by city slickers when you call the small vet office just a few miles down the road and when you ask for medication for a chicken their response is "Sorry, but we don't treat exotics." Huh?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Unsolved Mysteries

Something went down. Something serious.

I've been putting all the knowledge I've gained watching all those CSI and NCIS episodes to good use lately. First it was Bob. His erratic aggressive behavior. Then the holes dug next to the run fence. Then Jack not leaving the coop.

Something went down. Something serious.

Then there was the abuse of poor Old Jack. And his desire to run and hide. Jack had never been the run and hide type before. He was more of a in-your-face kind of guy. What happened?

Something went down. Something serious.

After moving Blackbeard and his Wenches in with Bob it was like a huge weight had been lifted off Bob's shoulders. In fact, on Saturday while I was out milling about in the run Bob and I made up and he even sat in my lap for awhile. We did NOT kiss and make up though. I'm still leery of him getting near my lips. But what made him go crazy to begin with?

Something went down. Something serious.

Then I noticed the most important clue. When Jack jumped up on the roost to taunt Blackbeard about his new lady friends I saw it clearly. Jack's spurs were missing. He was walking around unarmed. It takes an awful lot of force to remove a rooster's spur. None of the other chickens were injured. So how did he break off his spurs?

Something went down. Something serious.

Then it snowed. Snow is good for crime scene investigators. You can see clearly the tracks in the snow. The tracks of the culprit that most likely came lurking around. The predator that Jack valiantly fought through the fence where he lost his spurs. He's not just a lonely old rooster afraid of his own shadow. He wasn't trying to cavort with one of Blackbeard's Wenches. Old One-Eyed Calico Jack is a disabled war veteran!