Spring Cleaning!

Today John mucked out the coop. We do the deep litter method of chicken keeping. That means that – typically – once or twice a year it will be mucked out and started all over again with fresh pine shavings. Throughout the course of the year additional fresh pine shavings are added to the top, when things need “freshened up” so to speak.

Aside from finding a WHOLE BUNCH of chicken poo, John also found 10 – yes, I said TEN – eggs – all of varying age. Elijah, my inquisitive nephew, decided to squeeze one of the eggs to see what would happen! Yeah – rotten egg is not such a pleasant experience when you end up wearing it.

See that white egg there behind John?

This Welsummer was pretty put out with John as he worked. She’d come in – squak at him – supervise his work for a while, leave for a while, then come back and repeat!

BB – along with all of the other girls – was trying to figure out what the heck we were doing in her coop!

You see – we do have a plan! (Of course!) John reattached the door that was taken off last fall – so that we can divide the coop once again. The big girls will sleep on the side that the nest boxes are on…

and the chicks that we’ll be getting this spring will hang out on the other side of the coop!
We are looking at adding chicks from the following breeds this year:
Cuckoo Maran

I don’t know which of these we’ll actually be able to get our hands on – but I’ve started the process of seeking them out.

Tonight, the big girls were a little confused about all that was going on tonight when they were going to bed at first – but eventually settled down for the night just as they always do.

On a sad note. Angel, our California White with the prolapsed vent, has not responded to therapy. Even worse, her prolapsed vent seems to have gone necrotic – I believe she’s been pecking HERSELF. We had her in isolation – away from the other girls – so that they would not harm her – but apparently that wasn’t good enough. So we’ve decided to cull her from the flock. It seems the only humane thing to do.

What a Day!

This morning, as I was making William’s breakfast I happened to catch a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye – and lo and behold! What did I see? An escape artist!
Every morning, for the last several mornings, one of the California White’s has been managing to get out of the chicken yard and have at it without competition with the cat’s food. I can understand the motivation – but honestly, it can be a bit of a pain in the butt. Well, and then there’s the fact that solo chicken running around the yard seems – well – more vulnerable.

So – I made oatmeal for the girls, and the minute I took it in to them – escapee wanted back in. Go figure! Yeah, I wasn’t surprised, either.

So guess what! We had a GORGEOUS day today. It got up to nearly 60 degrees! Woo Hoo! SPRING WILL COME AGAIN! HALLELUJAH!

This is what Spring should look like:

And this…
and this…

and of course, this…
By the time the early afternoon rolled around, I decided it was time to let the girls out. Boy oh boy, where they happy to be out and about!

Caleb, hanging with the girls.

Pepper, running with her ball on a rope. She loves that toy!

And here’s Angel. Looks fine – but well, seemed a little more skittish than normal today.
I’d been keeping an eye on the California Whites because for the last three mornings there have been some VERY large white eggs in the nest boxes – and they’ve had quite a bit of blood on them. Hmmm… I decided I had to get to the bottom of this!
As it happened, I noticed that Angel had a BLACK butt. Yes, my chicken pictured above – like she looked like someone had held her over an open flame and singed her fanny. So I determined that I needed to catch her and get a closer look.
Yeah. Right. Not so much.

Thankfully, not much time went by and Jessica arrived home from school. Have I mentioned that my daughter is chicken wrangle extraordinaire? If not – let me just say it here and now: the girl has a gift!
So Jess and I set out to corner and catch the not so interested in being handled AT ALL chicken. Amusing.
So – we finally did it! We caught Angel and I did a little exam. Once I got a closer look it seemed as if her butt were just CAKED – like seriously – with poo, mud, dust, and some blood. Yuck. I realized that this was going to take a concerted effort, so Jess and I worked as a team. She held Angel, I found a large bucket and filled it with nice warm water, and then we set to… yep, bathing the chicken.
It took about 20 minutes, but once I had her butt all cleaned up – it didn’t take long for us to ascertain that something was more than just passingly not okay.
Warning: the pictures below are graphic! Like gross and ickey. Okay?

This, unfortunately, is a prolapsed vent. Darn it!

Poor Angel!

Anyway, eventually got her inito a second bath to make certain she was VERY clean (don’t want any infection to set in!), I went ahead and attempted to gently push the vent back into it’s appointed place! It stayed for about 10 minues, but then re-prolapsed. Darn it. I did get the Preparation H applied – and I’m hoping it helps her!

So – armed with excellent advice from older/wiser cihcken keepers, we’re keeping Angel separated from the rest of the flock, we have her in a location where she can’t hear the rest of life going on around her. It should be restful for her.

And we’ve also draped the crate she’s in with blankets – to help keep her warm.

I think we’ve done all we can for her just now.

I’ll keep you updated on Angel’s progress.

Bye Bye Speedy…

There’s something – I don’t know – kinda ishey that goes on inside you when you bring home baby chicks. You pretty much instantly love them all. They’re so tiny! They’re so funny! They’re so fluffy and adorable! How can you not love them?

Yes, it becomes VERY easy to bring baby chicks home! You might even find yourself bringing home more chicks than you originally :ahem: mentioned to your loving and supportive spouse. Somehow talk of eight chicks turned into more… But before there were more there were the first four original Hip Chicks – Rhode Island Reds Henrietta, Millie, Hallie, and Little Bit. About a month later came what were supposed to be five California Whites and five Dominques. Yeah, not so much – more like a bit of a hodge podge on the Dominiques – which, incidentally had a bonus chick thrown in.

Our second batch of chicks arrived shortly before my second trip to Spain of the year – I felt like a horrible chicken mom! But my kids – particularly Jess – stepped up to bat and really did a bang up job of caring for, loving – and naming (at least some of) them.

Here they are as little babies! Aren’t they adorable? Speedy is one of those cute little black and white puff balls.
Just a few weeks have passed here – look how big they’re getting! They were sure developing personality at this point. But even way back when – on the far left you can see Speedy – kind of off on her own, and looking… well… different.

A month later I was sure something was really wrong with Speedy. She was self-isolating, eating poorly, and seemed lethargic. We were worried. I hit the net and looked up every possible chicken disease and their symptoms – but she never really met the criteria of a specific disease.
We were fortunate to get some great advice from some other local Chicken owners and after some isolation, special treatment and quarters – Speedy seemed to get back up to speed!
Her favorite treat, by the way, was organic oatmeal (cooked up with some fruit pieces in it) with some yogurt thrown on top for good measure.

And while she did better – she never actually thrived. She would free range with her peers in the yard – but would oftentimes look confused about everything that was going on around her.

And while she was different – there were always a couple of her peers who would take – what seemed to be to us – special care to keep an eye out for Speedy and just hang out with her.

Speedy was always up for a good snuggle!

This probably sounds ridiculous – but honestly, this is how I most remember Speedy – looking kinda quizzical!
There were days when it almost seemed like she needed help standing or being steadied. It was so sad!
Here in late October it was just so obvious that Speedy was declining again. And I was getting ready to head out of the country again. And this time we had a chicken greenhorn chicken sitting – and I didn’t want him to have to worry about what to do for poor Speedy in the event of a crisis.

So we emailed Rancho de Kao – a little bit of chicken nirvana in the Portland Metropolitan area. We were warmly invited to bring Speedy over for a little stay at the spa while we were out of the country. We were thrilled to have chicken pros on the job!

We touched bases with Rancho de Kao while we were still in Spain and learned that one of her handicaps was that she just didn’t handle layer food well – she wanted baby food! So baby food – and lots of snacks – she got. Well, and just pampered all around. She did GREAT! Shortly before we were to return home we touched bases again and learned that we’d both have really nutty weekends our first weekend back – so we’d delay bringing Speedy home by a bit.

About a week ago we learned that Speedy had been doing wonderfully one day – taking little treats from an outstretched hand – and then later in the day withdrew. By nightfall she’d gone into her bed, and shortly thereafter she died.

We were so surprised! But not.

Poor Speedy.

We subscribe to Backyard Poultry magazine. We’d just received our subscription for the month and one of the articles mentioned that when one has a chick that just doesn’t thrive – it should be culled from the flock. In my Grandmother’s day (she was born in 1912) that would have been a no brainer. Today? There are vets that specialize in treating poultry! Who knew?!

For us – we love our backyard flock. But feeding our kids takes priority over money that might go toward chicken vet bills. There are those who would be horrified by that… of course, they might also fall into the camp that chicken are people, too! We’re not quite there. We love our birds, yes – but they are not humans. We will care for them to the best of our ability. We will provide for them appropriately. We will work hard at keeping a healthy balance.

So, while we’re sad that Speedy is gone, I honestly feel a little guilty that we didn’t cull her from the flock months ago. I’ll be pondering that for some time to come, I’m sure.

Speedy’s under the weather…

From June 23rd to the PDXBackyardChix Yahoo Group:

Above are three pictures of Speedy. These were taken yesterday.

She continues to reject solid food. Well, she’ll eat meal worms, and she’ll eat a little yogurt. She won’t eat the chick starter. But she does drink some water. I found a great web site with disease info: http://www.welphatchery.com/poultry_health.asp She doesn’t seem to have the symptoms of one particular disease. The things I would say she does definitely have include: loss of appetite, weight loss, seems droopy, much less vocal, doesn’t mind being picked up or handled at all (that’s a change), one of her eyes seems to close more than the other. Her eyes do look normal when they’re open (no color change or anything), so I wonder if she got pecked by one of the other chicks before we got her isolated.

She really looks not so great. Her stools are watery – but no blood. She just seems really, really weak. She does walk a bit, but mostly just huddles and prefers to sit in a location where there’s some sun. She’s lost a few (less than 10) feathers. We’ve treated her with everything we know of. She honestly just doesn’t seem to be improving at all.

We continue to keep her isolated from the rest of the chicks, day and night.

I just keep wondering if we should euthanize her – is she suffering? What do you guys think? I would very much value your input.

Our prior posting regarding Speedy below…

From June 19th to the PDXBackyardChix Yahoo Group:

When we went to pick up our order of chicks at the end of April there was a mishap and our 5 Dominiques accidentally got integrated with a bunch of Marans. It took Kelly a while to go through and try to figure out which was which – and I went home with a “bonus” chick, which he thought *might* be a Maran. That chick, we believe, is Speedy. She’s a little different from all of the other chicks – yes, she’s black and white, but seems almost tail-less. It is not at all unusual for her to kind of cry a little – almost like she’s looking for a buddy.

All of the girls are often out in the yard free ranging – they tend to travel around in two or three groups – divided either by age, or by breed. It’s really trippy to watch.

The past couple of days it seems like Speedy has seemed a little disoriented. Today it went a step further and she began to self-isolate – we’ve not seen this to this degree from her yet.

When I picked her up this afternoon I was shocked at how light she’s become! My daughter and I decided to put her into the coop with a treat of some yogurt and cracked corn, and see if she was willing to eat. She consumed the treat fine – but then went to rest – laying her head down almost like she was exhausted. When it was bedtime and the girls were arranging themselves on the roost, Speedy got knocked off and roughed up a bit by the oldest girls. My daughter and I stepped in to intervene and pulled her out. First we tried adding her to the side of the coop with the baby babies (4 weeks old) – but even the babies would pick on Speedy! We felt horrible for her!

So we’ve put her into a pet carrier with a nice bed of pine shavings and her own supply of medicated chick starter and water. She was pretty stressed out initially when we brought her into the house, but after Pepper the wonder chicken dog sat with her for a while she settled down. Right now she’s zonked out and sleeping like a baby.

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions? I’m worried for her!