Category Archives: Chickens

My Mom got chickens

Mom's chickens

My Mom added two new young hens to her flock, and with the ensuing integration behavior problems she was almost ready to resort to chicken blinkers.  Yes, chicken blinkers are a thing.  I just wanted to bring that to everyone’s attention.

Just in case you want to make your chickens look like Teddy Roosevelt.

(The low bird was segregated for her protection and has regrown her plumage and gained weight.  So far no p’hens-nez.  All is well.)

 

Miracle chick

IMGP4853Throughout this post I refer to the chick as a “he”, mostly.  However, these chicks’ gender is still unknown.

My friends’ hen hid in the goat barn and hatched herself a little brood this early spring.  The two survivors were the cutest things, skittish little white puffs tightly attached to mom, learning to scratch, and changing every day – growing new feathers and  little tails overnight.

Then one morning they spotted what looked like a plastic bag hanging in an odd place in the paddock.  Through the binoculars it was definitely one of the chicks, hanging upside down, apparently dead. While P was looking at it though, the chick turned its head and looked at him looking.  “It’s alive!”

He ran outside to retrieve the little bird and had to cut it free from where it had got its foot tangled and been suspended.  I first saw it in his hand, wrapped in a towel.  It looked awful.  One leg was stretched out straight and unnaturally.  Motionless, fully extended and obviously useless, it was generally assumed broken.  Prepared to tape it up with electrical tape, I palpated the little bird bones all the way from heel to hip but didn’t find any obvious breaks.  The bird reacted minimally, although it was dozing off because he was being held with his head low.  His leg looked awful, though, hanging useless from his “hip”, so I figured at the least his tendons were all torn.

Would the bird survive?  He was put in a box, ate a bit of food and promptly pooped, which was hopeful, but he couldn’t drag himself around at all, and the lifeless leg stayed stretched out behind him at a pathetic, painful angle.

These pictures are from two days after re-releaseI consulted Google, found this, and crushed up an aspirin to feed him on a bit of juicy mango peel, prompting H.W. to dub me Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

(Do not feed poultry ibuprofen! Or the whole aspirin! See the link)

Mostly the chick sat still and quiet with his good foot under him and and the other sticking out horribly; sometimes he sent up a loud wave of lonely peeps.

Later in the day after the aspirin, I grabbed the chick, who flapped and dragged himself through his water dish in a pathetic attempt to escape, to inspect his/her leg again.  This time I bent the leg gently through the whole natural range of motion a couple of times and was satisfied it wasn’t broken, although it was clearly badly damaged.  He couldn’t grab my finger with his foot the way he did with the other foot, and it was stiff and lifeless.

Still later that night, I checked on him again randomly, and he was sitting with both feet drawn up under his body!

More surprisingly, the next morning, when I lifted the lid off his box, he promptly flew up to the edge of the box in an escape attempt.  I inspected his/her leg again and this time he could grip a little with it.  He hopped around his box a bit, too, when encouraged, but with an awful limp.  It still looked broken, even, wobbling and dragging behind him.

But by that afternoon, he/she was standing on both legs, like normal, and clearly very lonely.  It seemed a miraculous recovery.

I thought I would reintroduce him to his mom just before bedtime so he could still have more rest but be with her before he got emotionally stunted.  I misjudged when she was retiring, though, and put him back out with almost an hour of active foraging left.

It was adorable!  I put him down and he ran to her as fast as he could, but it was down a slope so that at the end he wiped out and slid into her legs like he was sliding into base.  She just looked at him, and that was all.  All three of them resumed waddling and pecking like nothing had happened.  I was worried he hadn’t had enough rest and his limp would get worse with the sudden return to exercise, but he was managing fine, keeping up.The chicks are ranging boldly farther from their mother these days

By the middle of the next day, the two chicks were indistinguishable again.  From how awful he looked initially, it was a miracle recovery.

Our best guesses are that he may have been hung upside down for a long time, even overnight, and that his leg emptied of blood.  Perhaps his vessels collapsed or even had nerve damage with a v

ery extreme case of having one’s foot fall asleep, so it took a long time to get back circulation and reennervate.  Perhaps he had strained or over stretched muscles or tendons that bounced back with the rest.

At any rate, a chick that seemed a hopeless writeoff returned to being a normal chick in 48 hours, and although his leg looked broken, it wasn’t at all.  I’ll be more inclined now to care for and nurture damaged animals in case they are able to recover.  It might not be as bad as it looks.

IMGP4852

First day of spring?

"Hoooo, still cold...alternate feet, alternate feet!"

Yesterday, the chickens were bounding around outdoors all day.

They pop out of their door when it’s opened like they were under pressure, scamper all over the paddock, around the barn, and the woods behind the coop, like was normal for them when the snow first appeared. It seems as long as there is some bare ground to explore, they don’t mind the snow.

Today, however, the “first day of spring”, there’s a solid new blanket of heavy wet snow and more coming down.  So the chickens are inside again.

The freeloading late bloomers are laying!

We hadn’t checked on the chickens for a few days and H.W. came back from the henhouse telling me I’d better come see for myself.  I hadn’t even noticed hearing them for a couple days (their food and water supplies last for two weeks so we can ignore them at times), so I freaked out.  “Just tell me if they’re dead“, I wailed, on my way out to the henhouse without a jacket, but he wouldn’t.

The chickens were fine, milling nervously in the corner with their necks stretched tall and tilting their heads at us, cheeks comically fluffed out.  The big event was prominently featured front and center in the first nest box- eight perfect pale blue eggs.

I’m so proud!  Our chickens are all grown up!  Finally.  They were due to start producing around November, but that was the beginning of winter.  So they helped themselves to a whole ‘nother season of free feed before starting to earn their keep.

I was expecting some “starter eggs”- gnarled, diminutive, or otherwise dubious quality eggs while they were “breaking in”, so to speak, but all the eggs are uniform and perfect.  Next, I’m all excited about getting an incubator, and multiplying the flock.

First getting the little blighters

Peeping hens

I was lying on the floor the other, day, probably making a list, when all the chickens came up to the window and started looking in at me.  Pecking on the sill and canting their heads to look out of one beady eye then the other, they peered in the window, eye to eye with me.  I only got awful pictures through the glass, but this one caught one rooster shaking out his big old mane, as he’s wont to do.

Do everyone’s free range chickens run around all winter?I was leaving their coop closed some days, because I thought it was too cold, but it seems no matter how cold it is (-10C), they come rolling out of the henhouse at 8am and spend all day outside trucking around being chickens.  Sometimes they stand on one leg like storks and get pretty puffy, but they definitely like it outside, trolling the compost heap and looking in the front door.

Surely they’ll start spending their days indoors when the snow gets too deep, though.

Coons!?

A new threat to the chickens: raccoons.  We’ve been getting relaxed about shutting the chicken hatch at night, and that was a bad idea.  Came home one night and there were three little pairs of beady eyes, one raccoon just trundling out of the henhouse; last night HW busted one in the henhouse again.  Clearly that’s who upset the food trough the other day.  Luckily they seem to prefer chicken food to chicken for food at this point.

Chicken lasagna

Action shot!

The henhouse got a fall cleaning/ “henhouse makeover” in fall colours.  The abundant maple leaves provided a big new spongy carbon layer, piled in over top of the dung and old grass that has been piling up.  It’s like lasagna gardening, only lasagna composting.  It makes the henhouse smell really good again too.  Now when I open their hatch, I hear crunching inside as they start walking towards the door.

I love the chickens!  They’re all grown up, and there are far fewer, because most of the roosters got eaten, but the little flock is so mischievous and amusing and … lively.  It’s just nice to have animals roaming around being animals, murmuring to each other and sneaking around, popping around the corner of the barn, and scratching in the hay with their butts in the air like little schooners.  They hover around when we’re working or raking leaves, waiting to reverse our work or dig for uncovered treats.

They can fly quite well, too, as I discovered when I was dumping leaves in the henhouse. I guess it scared the willies out of them, and they went flying out the door over my head in a panic.

They vanish completely for hours every day though.  I was wondering where they were hiding, and it turns out they DO roam around in the woods.  There were sightings of them back in the woods.  That’s so awesome.  Wild chickens!  Like the wild chickens of Hawaii.

 

Chicken condos!

 

The girls are almost due to start popping out eggs, so it was time to give them boxes.  I was quite happy to repurpose a decrepit pile of assorted drawers, feed boxes, and hutches, formerly used for a rabbit raising op.  Chickens aren’t fussy, and what the assortment of boxes lack in beauty they make up for in saving time.

We just tacked them back together where they were falling apart and tacked them to the walls however they would fit, and presto, chicken condos!

Also a deluxe new pole near the ceiling for them to roost on, since they crowd together every night, teetering on the highest point of the branch.  I think height on the branch equals status.

Time to start laying, ladies!