Category Archives: Chickens

Havoc in the henhouse.

Ok, it’s officially December now.  It’s not time to be broody.  But I’ve been having a battle of wills with four broody hens, the most determined of which is Ursa Minor, and the peckiest is Fiesty, predictably.

Then I open the coop to this.  This.  And this.Not ok!

That’s seven.  Seven.  Seven broody, growly feather pancakes sitting on eggs.  I didn’t have seven broody at once all summer.  This is bad.  Maybe it’s contagious.

They win.  They are sitting on eggs, and since they’re not going to give up, they can keep them.  Likely, chicks will die right and left, because it’s not the right time or place to reproduce right now!

Jeez.  I can’t put them in nurseries in this weather.  It’s super cozy in the coop full of fur chickens all night, but if I isolated the broodies the way I normally do, for the safety of the chicks, the hens would be at risk of exposure.  They can die trying to heat their eggs in cold temperature.  They’re going to hatch in the coop, and then the moms will go right down the ramp for a meal and a dirt bath, and the chicks will die unattended.  That won’t be fun.  Only the bright, lucky or strong will survive.  (Ursa says: If you’d just let me keep the first eggs, they’d be hatched by now!)

I’ve got quite a number of eggs from them from taking them away, but I can’t sell them, because someone might have started baking them.  Therefore, I resigned to the will of the broodies, and went through and carefully marked every single egg, and now if I go through twice daily and pull out the unmarked eggs, then I can get the freshly laid ones out.  What a bunch.This little guy just hopped up to watch the proceedings.

Now all the hens are on edge when I lift the lid, because they know I’m going to lift them up and rummage through their eggs, and they hate that.  They all bristle and growl, and most peck, and then they indignantly readjust their eggs after I’ve been through.  Grumble grumble.

ruffled feathers

I stopped this little Barred rock hen who’s been wearing a denim jacket for a while, to see if she needed it still, or if her feathers had regrown underneath.  Three of the other jacket hens are out of their coats now.

This one happens to wear her coat like it grew on her, edges neatly tucked under her wings, and a perfect fit at her tail.  I never see her jacket askew.  But when I grabbed her to look under it, I messed everything up.

Boy, was I in trouble!

The indignation!  The resentment!  The phrase “ruffled feathers” really took on embodiment.  She was pissed at me for messing up her outfit, which she mimed very expressively, starting off with a vigorous head shake, of which I got this neat picture.Grrrrr! What have you done?!

Then she proceeded to adjust herself, irritated as all get out that I’d interrupted her day so inconsiderately.  Look at this mess!  Now I have to stop everything to fix it, when I was just about to get the good spot on the coop.  She went all over herself, digging in her wingpits where the elastics hold it on, combing her wing and tail feathers, tugging her coat this way and that – that was the neatest thing, that she actually tugged on and readjusted her jacket, just like she would her feathers.  She wiggled it back into place and flattened it, and put all her feathers back the way she wanted. She’s not over it, though.  Don’t think I’ve forgotten.


Cheeks put herself back in her box after breakfast yesterday.  I’m done.  Either I spent too much time with the other chickens, or she thought if she was settled back in her box when I got back, she might avoid the pill procedure.Today she just settled on her box.       In the greenhouse, all it takes to create a stir is a half dozen hay bale chunks set around.  They disrupt chicken run flow, make something to pick at, and they must all be inspected.  All the muffets have to find a tuffet.Sidewinder and Sidekick are still very much a thing.  They don’t spend every minute together, but close.  Sidekick is an interesting little chicken; I can’t figure it out.  Clearly half Silkie – feathered, five-toed feet, but clearly not all Silkie, with smooth feathers.  Pale feet, not black Silkie skin, but not albino, because he/she has black eyes.  Interesting little thing.Oh, this was funny.  I was taking pics of S&S, and behind them, the Colonel goes poking his head into the covered wagon, and Cream Puff and a brown Silkie rooster come shooting out!As pictured in lower left, making a getaway:)


Cheeks is a cutie

Her foot is still hot and swollen and she’s not keen on using it, so I hope she recovers.She’s dozing after her meal.  Now she asks to go back into her box when she’s done eating and preening.  She knows the routine. Birds’ lids close upwards. There’s the fattest squirrel: We mock this squirrel because he’s so fat, his little hands don’t meet in the middle over his belly.  He’s doing very well.  He’s thriving on sunflower seeds, or something.  He recently made an appearance, after a long time seeing no squirrels.  He seems to be living in the woodshed, pictured on his front vantage porch, but the local weasel also lives in the woodshed, poking a fearless little face out at me sometimes when I remove wood.  The little fat man is expected to lose to the weasel at some point, if his weight makes him too slow.  In the meantime, they seem to coexist in the same habitat (our woodpile).  How do these arrangements work?

forecast: slush

Yesterday we had a beautiful snow.The kind where the flakes pile up in delicate balance like they’re weightless.Right this minute, it’s snowing and raining at the same time.  Ugly!  It’s “supposed” to just rain, and wash away all this snow, but instead, it’s precipitating slush.Inside, it’s tropical, the little birds are growing up, four Silkie hens are insisting that they are broody, and I’m insisting that they’re not allowed to be.  Everyone needs some entertainment, so I have to get in there and build and shuffle stuff. Another Silkie cross.  Hair that won’t lie down, hobbit feet – a bad break when you’re a teenager.  They are quite unfortunate looking when they’re in the middle stages, but they turn out quite handsomely, depending on who they’re crossed with.  I have three crosses now.

Cheeks and sprouts

My worm bins were full of little sprouts.I pulled a bunch of them up, and they were pepper sprouts!  All growing in a clump where I chucked in pepper innards.Pale, but apparently they get enough light in there.  The worms are hiding.  There sure are a lot of them though.  I have to start selling worm starter kits. Cheeks digging into her windowsill meal.  It’s funny to me to see how much she likes variety (now she’s eating again).  One day it’s egg and seeds, one day chicken grain and oatmeal, one day apples and cheese, turning up her beak at yesterday’s favourite.   So I just keep giving her more of whatever she’s eating today, and she ate nearly half an apple.  That’s a lot for a little chicken crop.

Cheeks eats

I set her on  her Tupperware with a view, and she stood there looking like she’s one-legged.   She demolished her food – chicken food and long grain brown rice- a big hit.  She even sampled the potted plant mix.She ate so much rice she passed over her seeds.  Outside, the grosbeaks are congregating in the snow.She made an unholy mess of the windowsill, but I was just so happy she was eating.   Nothing that won’t clean up in seconds.I’m so glad she’s diversified from a two-item diet, and the force-feeding is over.  She ate and ate, I refilled her rice several times, and then… a nap. Yeah, I bet you’re tired.

Cheeks is thinking out of the box.

Cheeks is making a comeback.  I got her antibiotics and baby aspirin last week and started the daily regime of shoving them down her beak.

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to force feed her, so I tried everything to entice her to eat on her own, hoping her appetite would improve when the infection in her foot was controlled – kale, spinach, quinoa, beef fat, oatmeal, rice, coconut oil, raw egg, cooked almonds, cheese, cream – all things a well chicken would go crazy over.  Rather surprisingly, the only thing she would eat on her own was roasted unsalted sunflower seeds (and later, pie crust).

Force feeding it was, unfortunately.  I whipped up a blend of oatmeal, raw egg, and fruit juice.  I thus serendipitously nailed the recipe for replica vomit.  Should you ever need such a thing, you’re welcome.

For a couple of days, I held her on my lap morning and night, her head in one hand, forcing her beak open like  a baby bird, and squirted in the mock vomit.  She’d cough, sneeze, struggle, and shake her head, spraying me with it with every move, but it got in her.  Then I’d hold her and coax her to drink water, and offer some sunflower seeds.  I’d hold her some more and we’d birdwatch and I’d work some with her on my lap.  That’s how we discovered that she’d also enthusiastically eat pie crust.  Not the pie (pumpkin)- just the crust.

The force feeding seems to have worked, though, as her energy and attitude are up.

Where’s my foot spa?

You can see her amputated middle toe.

I took to setting her on top of a Rubbermaid where she could see outside for bit after breakfast (while I wiped down myself and surroundings and cleaned her box). She seemed pleased,  ate sunflower seeds off the windowsill, and yesterday stood for quite a while on one foot giving herself a good going over, combing all her feathers.  She’s grown back in well after molting.   When she seemed tired I put her back in her banana box where she had a long nap and she was lively again around lunch time.  She was also energetically scritching around in her box last night, and ate a tiny bit of chicken feed – a promising development.

I really hope that force feeding is soon over.



Afternoon lounge

I took down the cross members that allowed the birds to hang out (and poop) over the Silkies.  That wasn’t working for anyone but the poopers. But now the birds are teetering around on the perimeter like it’s a long way to tightrope walk.Hens beefing through the fence.  Someday, we’ll settle this.The little chickens are adorable, hanging out together in little friend groups.  Someone is showing their (Puff)cheeks lineage. Do you see it?  Oh, I see it! Adorable!  Sidewinder and Sidekick resting in the doorway sunbeam of Chris/C.P.’s coop.

House chicken 2018

Cheeks is in “intensive” box care in the house.  At the end of October, she somehow got the end of one of her toes torn or bitten off, pretty cleanly.  I was horrified but it can’t be reattached, so what can you do?

She’s been spending her days in a chickery safe from harassment but still with the other hens in the GH.  I figured she needed safe time to heal and the the wound would close and she’d make a recovery.  Appetite, check, using the foot, check, lots of time resting but normal behaviour.

Then suddenly, she wasn’t using the foot anymore and it’s swollen and hot.  Infection entered her amputation and grew in her foot.  In spite of eating apparently normally, she’s also lost a lot of weight that I hadn’t noticed as she had molted before this happened.  So she’s not in good shape.  Certainly not the beauty she used to be.

What I now know that what I SHOULD have done at the time of the injury is stitch the skin closed over the break and polysporin the heck out of it and bandage it up and maintain the dressing.  All of that seems completely obvious in retrospect, but I guess I wasn’t thinking right.  She was still so darn active and feisty that confining her to a box or bandaging her foot seemed ridiculous at the time.   Now she’s fighting infection and I have to push antibiotic pills in her beak 2x/day (hates it!) and give her foot soaks (loves it!).  This could go either way.She’s in a modified banana box.  We can call her Cheekita.  Spunky enough to be sticking her head out to look around is a good sign.