Keeping Chickens (glamour, ew, green eggs, and opera singing)

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It was my turn to see if there was an egg stuck.  Ew.  If you didn’t read The Embarrassed Chicken and need a laugh, you ought to check it out.  That was Doug’s turn.  So, I found a produce bag because we didn’t have any gloves and went in to see what was the matter.  Oh, the glamours of chicken farming.  There was not an egg stuck but I do not know how far up you are supposed to reach!  Her vent was swollen and she seemed to be clogged but I couldn’t find anything.  So, we stuck her in a pot of warm water.  See if we could soften things up a bit.  She laid there like it was a hot tub and she’d had a hard day hiking, or fending off boys.  We took her out and put her in a warm corner of the coop.

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Daffodil was one of our last three chickens from our original flock.  She laid eggs religiously for three years.  She was tired.  I had read that chickens lived twelve years.  Seeings how Doug and I are not really the ax wielding, chicken beheading types, we figured we’d see these girls for a long time!

Daffodil and Peep, two of our first chickens.

Daffodil and Peep, two of our first chickens.

My friend Sandy’s chickens (she and Bill are not really the ax wielding, chicken beheading types either) lost almost all of their three year olds last year.  Just dead, face down in the dirt.  Sandy commented that she understood now why the farm women in the past culled two year olds in the flock.  You didn’t want to waste meat and if you waited too long you’d find them dead!

Daffodil lay on her side, barely breathing, her feet sticking out.  We moved her to the rabbit hutch because Owl wouldn’t stop humping her.  Teenage boy chickens, I tell you…

She died overnight.  We had known something was wrong because she was floofed up, sitting in corners, head down, eyes glazed.  But what exactly was wrong could have been anything from being constipated, a virus, or old age.  ‘Tis the life of a chicken.  She had a pretty good one here though.

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On a positive note, we have an interesting chicken.  I had looked at the local feed stores to see if they would get Olive Eggers but did not see them on the list.  The next day we had an egg in the coop that was a beautiful olive green.  The green against the blush, beige, blue, and chocolate colored eggs was breathtaking.  Our own Easter egg hunt each day.  Reeses, who was assumed to have been an Araucana like her sisters, must be an Olive Egger.  Does anyone know?  She is very friendly as well as showy.

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And our final surprise was when Owl started crowing alongside Christopher Robin.  There is a lot of opera singing going on around the chicken coop!

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Ups and downs and ins (ew) and outs, having chickens is fun, entertaining, sometimes sad, mostly fabulous work.  And the dozen plus eggs we are getting each day isn’t a bad reward!

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The Mystery of the Dead and Dying Chickens

She wasn’t standing at the back door like she often is, waiting for me to sit down so she can hop on my lap and fall asleep.  She was lying stiff and quiet on the soft straw beneath the alpaca shelter.  No sign of injury.  Shirley had just passed away sometime during the day.

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Meanwhile, Mahalia was standing still, her backside tucked, lethargic.  Now, we’ve had our questions about Mahalia before.  Soon after she grew up we wondered if she had an egg stuck when she took that stance.  If you haven’t read it, it was quite a fiasco.  She has never laid solid eggs.  This is her third year of laying occasional slips of eggs.  Suddenly, she was paralyzed, scooting her way around on her side with her wing.  Burrowing into a nesting box.  Her breast bone protruding, her stomach bloated and hot.  I have no idea how to euthanize a chicken.  This morning she is still moving her head.

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Yesterday, Ethel did not run for the fence as usual.  She is lethargic.  She didn’t run from us.  Seems tired.  Dead this morning.

These three were among our eldest chickens, in their third year, but not what I considered old per se.  No one knows.  Elizabeth asked if we fed them green beans or potatoes.  Someone working at the feed store told us of a gruesome way to kill them but had no ideas as to why they were sick.  Sandy looked in her chicken first aid book.  Nothing.

I do hope these are all separate incidences.  That they are just getting older.  That I will not start slowly losing my entire flock.

Any ideas out there?

Turns out there is a pretty bad upper respiratory virus hitting chickens in this area that is carried in on people’s shoes.  We have added a good amount of my herbal anti-biotic to their water with hopes that we can nip this is the bud!  Thank you so much for all of the responses and the concern!  I love a good homesteading community, international and local, that can help solve problems and cheer each other on.

 

The Embarrassed Chicken

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Laverne came dancing out of the chicken coop singing her own praises, clucking in operatic form announcing the arrival of her egg.  The other four rolled their eyes.  Big deal, the biggest chicken laid an egg the size of a sparrow’s, they laughed.  But Laverne was unperturbed in her singing and strutting about.

These chickens have brought us so much delight since we brought them home a chilly morning last April.  At one day old, the tiny fluffs fit in our palms two at a time.  They were precious and needy and we fretted over them so.  They became teenagers in August and since then put out a pretty steady egg a day from each.  So when Mahalia stopped laying last week, we got concerned.

Now, I prepare for new ventures (like getting my bee hives next Spring) by reading everything I can get my hands on.  I scanned the files of my mind to retrieve each article and wisdom I picked up about chickens not laying.  In the winter they do not lay as much, however, a red light can remedy that.  Check. The girls are teenagers and should lay right through winter.  Ok.  So, the only logical explanation is….gasp…the egg is stuck.

I read the article before the girls came to live here with a little horror and trepidation but carried on reading just in case the day should come that the information would be needed.  When your chicken is broody, not laying, sways her head side to side like Stevie Wonder, and doesn’t hang out with the other chickens as much, she may have an egg stuck.  Which could kill her.  My mother says matter of factly, it killed one of hers.

We already lost two chickies to early infant death.  Then lost three more to an evil four year old and his dog from next door.  So, I’m not antsy to lose any more of the girls.

She was sitting a lot.  One time she wasn’t hanging out with the rest of the ladies.  She sure ain’t laying.  She is not doing the head roll thing, but I imagine I caught this early.  With only five chickens I notice if one isn’t doing well.  I would like to remedy this before it gets too bad.

I go back into my files and remember that if you simply set the chicken into real warm water the egg may slide out when the muscles relax.  It seems weird and I am sure the neighbors wondered, but I took the soup pot out with the nice steamy water out to the coop.  Set her little backside into the water and waited.  Mahalia is quite patient and looked at me like, “Ok, I’m clean.”  Nothing.

A few days pass, she seems fine but still no egg.  I don’t want her to die.  So, after reading more information on the internet (we are like first time parents where we read every medical journal then worry over every single symptom) and learn that we must lubricate the duct and feel for an egg.

Another day passes and we muster the nerve.  My friend, Pat,  gave me some disposable gloves and told me to man up in no uncertain terms and be a good chicken farmer.  So, Doug and I traipsed out to the coop.  I swooped her up sideways, Doug dipped his finger in olive oil and stuck it in her woohoo.  She screamed, “What the f#@k!” That’s what is sounded like with all the flapping of wings and squawking, the other girls freaking out.  “No egg,” Doug says matter of factly.

It seems that maybe it is just cold and she is taking a break from laying.  We will keep watching her and make sure she doesn’t turn into Stevie Wonder.