Thursday, August 28, 2008
Summer versus Winter and all the days between ...
Since summer is ending here, then I will start with summer conditions and the preparations for winter.
During the summer, as you can imagine, the house that houses chickens, the food and everything else has to be changed, moved around, or otherwise altered. Just like you would do for yourself, the things you do for your chickens - or any other animals mind you - will have to be differed because of the weather.
For summer time the house that the chickens live in, does not need to be that thick, or in other words - insulated. Of course, depending on the weather of your summer, it may be a different option for you. Our summers typically range from anywhere from the upper 80's to sometimes the low 100's. I know. CRAZY!
In the summer you have to worry about heat exhaustion with the chickens as much as with anything else. It is a good idea once the heat starts in to make sure to check that they have adequate water and that they water temperature is cool. Chickens don't like freezing water, but they do like it to be pretty cool. With the way that our setup for the chickens is, is that they always have something over their water and food bowl since we live in WA and we do get a lot of rain. So during the summer, the water bowl will actually stay a little cool because of that shelter from the rain, by keeping the water cool. But, even still, I am fully capable of checking on that water bowl constantly to make sure it's not only clean, but it is an okay level and water temperature.
Chickens have a remarkable way to keep themselves cool. If you were to observe this, you might think something was wrong with them. Nope :) They are doing what is called dustbathing. They dig themselves a hole in the dirt, big enough for themselves to roll around in, while at the same time, they spread out their wings and bury themselves down. They basically look like they have did since they are COMPLETELY spread out. However, they are not. Simply keeping cool.
Another way that chickens keep themselves cool is to pant. Just like a dog does, or even a cat might if they get too hot, the chickens will pant as a way to cool themselves down.
For us, during the winter, I line the chicken coop with crumpled up newspaper. I shove it into the inch-wide gape between the wall of the coop and the wood in front since it's a wood crate. During the summer, I remove all of that paper and remove any other insulation I placed in there to protect the chickens from the cold.
We are now heading into winter, and the winter preparations would begin at this time were I still to have my chickens. The house is the first place that you work to make sure is warm for the chickens. Since the house that we used wasn't that large, I never placed a heater in there, but if it were bigger and I was able to, I would've purchased a space heater from the hardware store and made sure that the chickens couldn't get to it, but it would've kept them warm. Nothing too fancy. Just an extra heat source.
I've heard people place lights inside of the house also in the winter time because they want to keep up egg production. Now, this is all well and good for the person that wants to, but personally, for me, I chose not to. I wanted the chickens to live their lives as normally as they could. That meant that come wintertime egg production would stop. I didn't care about eggs during the winter time.
As I said above I crumple up pieces of newspaper and shoved them into the sides of the wall of the chicken coop and basically where ever I saw open space. I wanted to shrink down the interior size, as well as just give extra width to the walls so that once closed up, the coop would be as warm as possible.
As a side note: Always be careful that they have adequate ventilation. Even in winter I would make sure there was an opening in the top area - so they didn't have to worry about drafts (drafts kill birds), but they would have ventilation.
Not only did I fix the walls, but I also made sure that I would add plastic (the same you insulate inside windows with) to the roof, so that I shrunk it down, yet at the same time, the plastic kept the cold from coming in. I added old linoleum tile to the sides of the roof to hang down over the opening that was there so that when closed, it would cover so that snow and rain couldn't blow inside, but the hole was still there to allow ventilation.
Before I added that plastic to the roof though, I shoved newspaper inside and put a piece of cardboard up there as well. Just more insulation. I figured, the more the better. I tested the temps with a digital thermometer to see how well it worked. Our winters can get down in the 20's sometimes overnight and I didn't want worry about the chickens at night.
Depending on the style of your coop and all that, you may not have to do what I did, or would have to do it different. Of course, everyones ways are different. I'm simply giving you ideas to build on. I learned different methods that worked for my budget and my setup. Yours may be different, but will still work. Always look around for ideas and try different things. The chickens aren't picky ;)
For my chickens, they didn't like snow. I would go out there when it snowed and try to scoop as much out as I could - yes, from the entire coop. That way they wouldn't have to walk in it and freeze their feet, but at the same time, they wouldn't have to just because they didn't like it.
The water has to be kept a close eye on so it's not freezing, or frozen over. There are water bowls for pets that keep the water from freezing and are available for purchase, but again, my budget didn't allow for them, but yours may. I would just go outside a few times a day and place a half cup of hot water in their bowl and that kept it cool, but not too hot, or too cold.
I also made them a hideout so that while they were outside their coop and wandering around they could go inside that cover and the wind, snow, rain, etc., couldn't harm them. They were protected. As I said, they had for their food as well, but the hideout was fully boxed in, except for the front. That way they could stay hidden from the elements. Of course, before they got over their fear of the snow, there were a few nights that it started snowing and I had to climb inside (thank goodness I'm small!) in the dark and actually pull them out so that they could get put into their coop for the night. That was fun. Crawling in the mud in the dark to grab a chicken ... Yeh. Good times...
You just have to really give it some good thought, as you would for any animals you own, or even for people, what you will change and alter for the weather changes. They are in need of that change as much as anything else. It's all about common sense and putting yourself in their shoes. Would you want to have to walk outside in the snow ALL day with nowhere to hide from it? Would you want try to drink an ice cube? Or, burn in the sun because your place has no shade to hide from it? Just consider all the possibilities. Think through everything. Just like anything else, you will have to have to change things once in those moments. I've been out there working on that hideaway while it was - literally - pouring rain down around me and I was drowned by the time I came inside, with the wind blowing everything away I was trying to work with. Other times working while the snow has been falling all over, too thick to see too far, freezing my hands so bad I could barely work, no feeling in the extremities, while just trying to add extra snow protection for them while they hung out in the house.... Oh yeh ... Once again I say ... Fun times ... [laughing]
I would do it all over again though if it meant their happiness and safety because my animals are my life. They are all my babies.
It's all about trial and error :)
And yes, those chickens DO like to help ...
Too much ...
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Lily a.k.a Lilith - Queen of the Underworld, passed away yesterday morning.
Oh, and there is that tear threatening again.
I am not sure what happened to her. I watched her first thing in the morning, eating from her food bowl, then choosing to lie down next to it in a little hole that she dug herself. (The way that chickens keep themselves cool in the summer is to dig little holes to lay in and they will stay cool.)
All I know is that at 11 am when I went outside to let her out of her pen - remember she's getting along with the dogs, so I allow her to run around with them every day in the yard now - I saw her lying there. It wasn't until I called her Lilybug a few times with no response that I realized - as I got closer - that she was dead. Happy early bday gift to me - my bday is the 15th of Aug.
Normally, as soon as Lily hears my voice, [blinking back tears] she would come running. She even had learned to walk up the stairs on the back porch to follow me and try to meet me sooner than having to wait until I got to the bottom of the stairs.
As you've seen on the video I had on the most previous post, she was beginning to truly become sweet and open. She was just like another dog. She was just about to turn 2 1/2 or so. I already miss her very much. [takes a long moment]
I miss her and want her back. I know it seems weird to invest so much in a chicken, but anyone that has ever owned a pet, dog would understand. She was affectionate, sweet, attitude of course! I just miss her so much ... [wiping away some tears] I'm not sure how I'm going to find someone to replace her, but I would like another chicken or two. I can't explain how sweet and just ... good ... it is to have a chicken. They are just as affectionate as any other dog or cat you could have. They are a bird and they know how to love. They know how to show it. They have their favorites. They have their moments as with any pet. They CAN be trained. They are not just some ... thing. I don't know how to say it any better than the way I would say it like my other pets. She was my friend and baby.
And now I have a pen that stares at me quietly outside. Empty.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Now we get back to discussing raising the chickens overall. I rechecked the last blog that I wrote about the chickens before the chicks and I was going to discuss weather changes.
That was until today.
I allowed the dogs outside to go potty at 3 pm - their usual time. I kept watching the chicken coop as I was enjoying one of my oatmeal cookies that I made with chocolate covered raisins, when I noticed that I didn't see Lily in her pen.
Oh look, there happens to be a chicken NOT in her pen. And there are three dogs running around the backyard.
Now, if it happened to be just Amber and Chewbacca outside going to the bathroom, not a big deal. Since they are the smaller ones. However, this is a big deal since Sabrina is also outside. Sabrina is my Australian Shepherd. Sabrina happens to be 60 lbs of killing when she wants to be. I have taught her to kill on command so I do not try to hinder that instinct in her.
But, this is my pet chicken we are talking about. The chicken is her sister. Not. Food.
Sabrina has, since day one, wanted to kill the chickens. It's been what ... over a year now since getting them? I've never allowed her to be near the chickens alone. I never allow her to get too close. She has ALWAYS took it upon herself to grab at them as they run past.
Well, that was also when Lily would run. Lily no longer runs. Lily takes on a group of crows - for your info a group of crows is called a Murder and that concludes school for today. Lily takes on squirrels that dare getting too close to the cage. She frequently enjoys even picking at my legs when I don't give her enough attention during the day.
Yes, she is a stinker - as my dad used to call me : )
As I was saying, Lily no longer runs from the dogs.
So, I look out to the corner, that is by her pen and oh look! a chicken! I promptly yell, "Stubborn Chicken!" Throw my cookie down, run out the back door and run to get her back in her pen before my little killer, Sabrina, notices she's with Amber by the pen.
Which promptly makes my mom run outside thinking something happened.
I go back inside, (so did my mom) finish off the cookie - which is of utmost importance to finish mind you - then realize that Sabrina had come over to her and didn't really pay her no mind. She was paying attention to the chicken, but was no longer with the PREY instinct in her and the KILL thoughts. She was paying attention to me when I told her to stay away from Lily and overall was fine. When normally, once that KILL hits her, good luck getting her attention. She is a one-track killing machine.
I thought I'd go ahead and let Lily back outside the pen and realized that we have now reached a new level of respect within Sabrina and Lily. Granted, little Miss Attitude Lily just prefers beating up the dogs when they harass her too much. Which makes me laugh because here are three dogs that are more than outweighing her, but yet ... they leave her alone. Reminds me of my mom's dog, Katie, that passed away near the beginning of last year. Her rememberance video if you'd like to see it is here - http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/noseyrosey/katie.html - it's a 15 min video, so I'd only watch if you have the time. I worked on it myself, same with the website it's attached to, for my mom.
Anyhoo, here is the video of Lily with the dogs out in the backyard. You'll see crap from us building a new staircase on the side of the yard, and get to hear me whisper yell, "Quit!" as Lily decides to poke at my leg. I have to wonder if Sabrina's new acceptance of the chicken is also something to do with being around the baby chicks.
It was tough to get the video, since, as you see, Lily insists on coming over to me, she wanted follow me around, and the dogs didn't care about being near her! Aggravating :p
And yes, her booty is dirty. Chickens that roost don't have that problem, but I don't care. It's not like I'm trying to win an award for her beauty. So she has poopies on her booties. Whatever.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Not one day after I wake up to find Amara passed away do I lose Chase. Same thing as everyone else. I thought, as you can read in the other post, that she might make it, but I truly wasn't sure. I thought she was getting her strength back. But truthfully, I think that half her problem was pure heartbreak. She was constantly coming to the edge of her home and screaming so I would go over and take her out to hold her. I think she did die more of a broken heart.
I would place a shirt on the bed, lay down, then place her on the shirt. She would stumble around and come to lay by my face, cuddling in and going to sleep. I told my mom when I had her hold her sometimes was that I was trying to keep her awake. Same with Haley if you remember. I was trying to keep her awake so she'd eat more, bit she just didn't have the strength for it. I'm not going into the story. You can read the other's stories here-> http://adventuresinchicken.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html
They followed the same path as their sisters. As I pointed out to my mom when she thought she was doing well, her body wasn't as big as it should've been.
She suffered a heart attack at 5 pm - shortly after this video was taken. As you can see, her wings are larger than her body, which should be the other way around. I was feedng her some ground food, as well as some cat food to give her some extra - much needed, protein.
So yes, I'm sad, but more so ... angry. I'm angry that this had to happen so maybe others will learn. I'm angry that they didn't get to be spoiled like my other chickens were. It just plain old pisses me off. I want to hit things right now. I want to yell. I want to scream. But instead I will write because I'm in a very aggressive mood right now.
I am hoping that through my pain - at the very least - people will learn. As once someone told me, "The people that can handle the pain are the ones that are put through it. They are the ones strong enough to deal with it. They are put through the pain because through their pain is how others learn. That is why you had to go through pain like this, because you are strong enough to handle it, and in turn, you will help others learn." I agree.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
So this morning it happened. I woke up and Chase was screaming for me. I went in and checked on them and saw Amara lying on the bed area, dead. She'd died in the middle of the night obviously. I'm tired right now and very sad. She fought so long and hard, but had all the same problems as Haley did. What I'm most sad about is the fact that I wasn't with her when she died. I was with the other two and was holding them when they passed. With Amara? I wasn't there. [tearing up] That is what is hardest.
[deep breath] Amara had the same problems that Haley did. It simply took longer to affect her since she was a lot stronger. I wish that something could've been done. I tried the vitamins, tried everything I could. Nothing worked with her, same as the other two. She had all the same problems. Minus the sneezing. She had more of the sound in her nose/mouth area when she breathed ...
Chase is sad too. She calls for me when I'm not in the room. I took her out earlier and put her on a shirt on my bed. She walked over to me and nuzzled my face, then got as close to my nose as possible, and went to sleep. She's also been having the sounds when she breathes, like the other three. Let's just hope this one survives. She's always been the one that wanted me in the beginning, like Amara, so I'll be reallly sad if she dies as well.
These two that remained have always had simliar symptoms to the ones that didn't make it as well, but I was always hoping they wouldn't progress further. Guess I was not correct in that assumption.
[rubs face in hands] As you can tell, I'm not quite there right now. Everytime I lose one of my pets, no matter how many I lose, it's like the first time. I lose a part of myself and I become very emotionally drained for the next couple days afterwards - whether or not I've cried a lot, they are just a part of me. So I am sitting in my room with Chase in her spot, she's been quiet, but at least eating and surviving. I really hope she keeps going. It hurts too much to lose them. My littlest dog, Amber, is lying next to me on the bed and my other dog, Sabrina, and her keep checking on the baby chick that survives.
And, as with the other two. I buried Amara outside in the chicken coop in a small box with a purple washcloth. Lily helped. Aggravatingly though. But, she did her part.
Once again ... http://adventuresinchicken.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html - the dangers of cedar chips people ... :'(
That's all before I start crying again...
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
(Temporary pause in my story so I can go make some dinner for the fam and I though. Cornbread and what else? And if a 'certain' person - oh you know who you are big boy - suggests chicken I'm gonna hunt you down and ...)
So... You've read that two of the babies were sick. Well, since that post, Ruby (one of the Bantams) and Haley (one of the New Hampshire Red's) have since passed away.
Ruby. Ruby had a problem - as you can read from before - with her head. She acted like she had seizures a lot of the time. But, then they stopped. She seemed like she was doing better. She was healthy, running around, and everything else. But then, she had a funky way of walking. Like her legs were bothering her. I didn't think much of it since she was still eating and drinking just fine.
Then it went downhill. She stopped eating and drinking unless I tried getting her to drink through a syringe (without needle of course). All she wanted to do was to sleep. It broke my heart to see her not really having the strength to do anything but there wasn't too much that I could do for her. Two days. That's how long she, and it, lasted. Two days. One day she was fine, two days later, she died.
She started gasping at the same time that she stopped eating and drinking. There were so many things that it could've been that was causing it. I started administering Poly-vi-sol baby vitamins 3x a day for her. She could barely muster the energy to take the vitamins though.
Two days later from the day that she quit moving, eating, drinking - I woke up and looked at her. She wouldn't make it. I knew it as well as I knew that I was awake. Don't ask me how. It's just something I do. I started crying, but there wasn't much I could do. Again, I tried to get her to drink some water, but she was by this time, barely gasping. I thought it because she finally stopped, but I realized it was only because she no longer had the strength to do anything.
I picked her up and held her in my hand. I didn't want to put her down whatsoever. I was afraid to leave her alone and have her die without me. I wrapped one of my small tank tops around her as I held in my hand. I kept kissing her and she'd look at me, but then go right back to sleep. I think it took all her energy to even open her eyes. I couldn't stop myself from crying even then.
I finally had to leave her because I had other things to take care of - other pets that did still need me. Even though I didn't want leave her. So I placed her in a small basket in the tank because I didn't want Haley knock into her.
Back and forth I went. All day long. Every moment I could. I'd hold her for a bit, kiss her head and try to be there for her.
Finally, I went in there at 5 pm and I saw her taking really big intakes of breath. I couldn't stand seeing it though :( I picked her up - she was already pretty cold all day, and held her. I stroked her, kissed the top of her head and told her it was okay to let go. Okay, I more mumbled it out since I couldn't stop crying, but I told her it was okay to let go. She took two final breaths, then nothing. She died at 5:30 pm on Thursday, May 29, 2008. [Waves hands at eyes] Okay, so not crying anymore ... Anyway, I placed her in a small box with a purple washcloth, then taped up the box, placed a small pink flower on top of it, and buried her the next morning with Lily's help, in the garden where Lily is. That's the place I've buried Elysia and Circe before her...
Haley. Haley was special. Don't get me wrong. I adored Ruby as much. It was just ... there was something about Haley. She was sweet. She was adoring. She would've been the chicken that wanted to snuggle on your lap all the time. She was just special. She hurt the worse to lose. And it wasn't just me. Her sister and the remaining Bantam, Chase, also felt it. They were, and still are, pretty quiet now that Haley passed.
[Takes a deep breath] Okay. I'm doing this. Haley started out as me noticing that she wasn't as big as her sister. She was half the size of her sister. I feel pretty stupid, even now, that I didn't noticed it until two weeks ago. But, to be honest with myself, even if I didn't notice that her body was absorbing the nutrients the same way that the other chicks were, I don't think I could've done any different, or made any difference. She might have lived an extra week? But still, she wouldn't have made it. I realize that only because it took me until her death to realize that no matter what she was eating, her body just wasn't absorbing the nutrients.
You know what's funny? That one tiny little chick. An animal that can fit into the palm of your hand, can bring a strong woman down. Just this little being that can make you hurt so much. Oh, here I go again. [blinking tears back] Trying to get through this here ...
Okay. So... I noticed Haley just wasn't very thick. She was emaciated. Her body wasn't absorbing the nutrients from the food. I was told to get her on the baby vitamins (Poly-vi-sol Enfamil 3x a day) which is how I ended up getting them in the first place. You can buy them at Walgreens for about $10. Also, it was suggested to get Avia Charge 2000 to place in her water (McMurray Hatchery for around $40 for a 1b tub) for vitamins - also for the healthy babies I can use it. Also, some plain organic yogurt for digestion.
Then, when I asked for advice on the backyardchickens forum, about the watery poop, they suggested that I put electrolytes in her water. Purchased from local feed store for $4.99 for 8 oz, or a quick emergency one would be gatorade, or pedialyte. Better to use the one for chickens though.
I was so excited last week because she had a solid dropping. I was so ecstatic. I was so sure that it meant that she was getting better. And that her body was finally absorbing nutrients. I had so many of those times. I would get happy since she showed progress, then it bummed me out because she got worse. It was up and down, up and down, for those two weeks.
But she wasn't going up in progress. She was going down in progress.
The last two days, I ended up having to grind up her food and make it into water because she wasn't getting up to eat anymore. Her legs were failing her in strength and she had to hobble around. At first it was just one leg, but then both became too weak for her. She couldn't move herself around very well.
By that time, I'd placed her and Ruby in a separate aquarium because I didn't want the two stronger ones to knock them around. So Chase and Amara were in one tank, while Ruby and Haley were in another.
The last two days were basically the same as Ruby. I went in there a lot to feed her and continue the vitamins. The vitamins were supposed to make her start showing progress, but never did that happen.
The last day, it was the same. She continued to try to eat everytime that I gave her food. Everytime I gave her vitamins. Whenever I had to clean the icky off her bottom. She always kept fighting. Even until that last day, she would hobble around, then fall, but she fought with everything she had.
On that last day I saw it with her too. I knew that she wouldn't make it to nightfall. She was sleeping more and no matter what I tried, she couldn't stay awake long enough to even keep her eyes open. I did the same with her that I did with Ruby. I didn't want her be alone when she passed. I kept her in a small basket with a tank top wrapped around her and took her with me everywhere. It was warm for her, but just like with Ruby, I felt her body was pretty cold already, all day long.
I was crazily looking up info on both of them for two weeks, trying to figure out what was going on and what I could do. I couldn't figure it out. The tank was clean. Their bedding was cleaned constantly. They were on towels topped with pillowcases. I'd stopped using the shavings when I saw them trying to eat them. There weren't any matching diseases with their symptoms!
At 5:30 pm I went in my room to give Haley some food - through the syringe thing - and when I held her, she couldn't really wake up. I held onto her and kissed her, knowing that she was done. Then, as with Ruby, it started. She took a deep breath, only this time she jerked and slightly squeaked. I knew it was her heart giving out. I'd watched Ruby do the same, and I've seen my hamster and many other animals, suffering from heart attacks over the years so I knew her heart was giving up.
It hurt me so bad to hear her scream. She'd been opening her eyes to look at me the entire time, off and on and everytime I started crying. I couldn't stop it. It hurt me so bad. I knew I could 'cull' her as people on backyardchickens would, but it's not in my nature. I cannot kill an innocent animal. As much as it hurt me to see her in pain, as much as it hurt her to be dying. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, which is also what was causing me to cry. I just couldn't do it and it hurt so bad to watch her.
I held her and kissed her, crying the entire time telling her I was sorry and telling her she could let go. She squeaked a few more times as her heart gave out and I held her, taking big gasps. Finally, as I was rubbing her softly, she stopped doing it. I just sat there, not entirely believing it to be true. But, finally, I placed her in her small box with a pink washcloth and pink flower on top of the box, like with Ruby. She died at 6 pm, Saturday, May 31, 2008. [sniffles]
I've since figured out what the problem was. Please don't ever use cedar chips as bedding for any animals. http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=56286&p=4 Cedar oil poisoning.
And yes, I buried her the next morning, next to Ruby, with Lily's help.
Now, I'm closely monitoring Amara and Chase. Amara is showing weakness in her legs so I'm worried. Very worried.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Well, two nights ago I noticed that the same chick was half the size of her sister. :( Needless to say, I wasn't too happy when I noticed that it was from emaciation. She, Haley, was always smaller than her sister, but I noticed the other day that it was actually from not putting on weight.
She still eats just fine and drinks water, but I talked with the people that know chicks (www.backyardchickens.com/forum) and they informed me that it's from her not getting the nutrients from the food that she needs. I needed to buy [Enfamil] Poly-vi-sol multivitamin drops and give them (3 drops) to her for the next week, 1 drop, 3x a day. The second week, I will need to taper them back and put them on 1-2 drops per day. After that, I will need to mix in Avia Charge 2000 into their water for her as well (purchased from McMurray Hatchery @ 1 lb for $33.50 - yikes!). This will replace the nutrients she isn't getting from the food. She may or may not make it at this point.
As I told them, she does seem to want to fight though. When she gets up, she is very weak so she will topple over sometimes as she walks, but otherwise she seems to be fighting. I told her she has to stay with me, she's strong enough to make it. She seems as if she does have the will to survive though. I am worried about her, but I'm doing everything I can. If she doesn't make it, then at least I know I tried my best.
I had my brother swing by Walgreens and pick up some Poly-vi-sol (he got Tri-vi-sol so he had to go back to exchange it) and just now went in to give her a drop. Well, I smell like baby vitamins right now because it was work to get her to let me put a drop in her beak. As I said, she's till strong and fighting so she wouldn't keep her head still. After I finally got a drop in her beak and she swallowed it, she told me straight out it did not. Taste. Good. She opened her beak and basically was saying, "Oh my god! That tastes awful!" But tough. It's good for her and she'll be getting more before beddie by :)
Now, the other day I asked them what could be wrong with one of my bantams. She has this tendency to topple over and just lay there, legs extended and scream. It's almost like she is having a seizure. It will take her a moment to get her bearings back and she seems to have to force her body to work after one of her episodes. Possibly a neurological thing they tell me. Okay.
Now, this morning, I was watching as one of the bantams laid on the other NHR wing that was out to the side. She wasn't moving and basically was just looking at me like she was unable to move. I opened the cage and made the bantam move - they are little pushy buggers! - and helped Amara up. I noticed that she had lost all strength in her legs. Oh great. On top of the rest?
I looked around online and could only find information about 'spraddle leg.' A condition that basically is where the legs splay out to the side. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Then, it occurred to me that probably all that happened was one of the bantams stepped, or jumped on her wrong and sprained her legs, or something, that made them weaken.
All I know is that I kept holding her up gently, trying to get her to use her legs, trying to support her, because if I didn't, she'd topple over on her face. It was both cute and depressing at the same time. I was horrified to think I'd have to deal with something like this too! Through getting her to slowly try out her legs, supporting her weight, holding her in my hands to rest without being bothered by everyone, as well as her tentatively using her legs, even when it meant crawling, she seems to be doing better. I've got to watch her closely now too though. Every two hours I am going back there and watching them closely. I'm basically feeling spent and not doing well. I'm tired and exhausted. Dizzy and my appetite isn't all there so I have to force it. That's also since I keep going to bed at 10 pm and waking up at 5 am or so. Ever since I've got them it's been around 5 am most days I wake up from them waking up.
Ick. We shall see how she does and if she'll make it. Everybody cross your fingers for me.
I'm contemplating whether or not I should make a separate place for the bantams and NHR now...
On to regular programming ...
Saturday, May 17, 2008
True, that chickens could survive on simply whatever they find out in the yard. Bugs, insects, grass, etc. Or, their favorite appetizer - slugs. Insert a huge icky face here. Blech! I can't even handle watching them eat a slug when they do. I give them to them, then turn my head. But hey, we all have our weird tastes.
Chickens can live and survive on simply whatever they find lying around. But, then again, we humans could live and survive on water and bread. But, I ask you ... What kind of life would that be? Bread and water? Yum. That's about the enthusiasm of chickens with surviving on anything that they find lying around.
But there are benefits to buying premade food, prepackaged foods, and supplements for chickens. Their health is better. Their overall appearance is better. And most importantly - they are more happy. That is, I would say, the most important, and beneficial, to feeding them a wide variety of things.
As any good book would mention, they need plenty of calcium, protein, fat, vitamins,etc. Just like us. The source of which is your choice.
Calcium's most valuable source is purchased ground oyster shell. Another is spinach and brocolli. Depending on your chickens tastes, and such, it may be different for you - google 'Chickens Calcium' for plenty of options. Or simply google 'Calcium food.' Chickens benefit from most foods the same way as we do. Nothing is the same for everyone. I, myself, since oyster shell gets expensive, simply prefer to not only give plenty of greens for calcium, but I pretty much have the ability to feed back their eggs to them quite often. They love it and will start doing a soft chortling sound for you when you give them things they relish and enjoy. Eggs are particularly good at receiving that sound :)
I prefer to cook the eggs before giving them back. I give them them the entire egg. That way, as you crumble up the egg before giving them back, it doesn't resemble as much of their own egg. Myself, I haven't had a problem with egg eating, but it can be quite a hard habit to break I've heard. They break an egg in their nest, purely by accident, then decide it's quite the treat! Then, they will do so from then on most of the time. However, I have had an egg break in the nest and them eat at it while there, but still, they hadn't bothered to continue - which I am extremely lucky for that.
Also, it's a great way to keep track of the calcium that they are receiving I've noticed, by paying close attention to the shell. Most store shells are quite thin and pretty much nothing. However, if you notice that when you break open an organic egg shell than you will see that they shell is quite thick compared to the store ones. This is a great way to keep track of calcium absorption for the chickens. Occasionally I have noticed the shells get thin. Mostly not. It's just a great way to keep track. If they get thin - like the store - you'll know to up the calcium. It's important for egg production - calcium - so if you have egg laying chickens, it is a very important to make sure they get enough. Think of how calcium affects our own bones - as a woman I'm speaking - and how brittle they can become without proper calcium. Same with chickens. As soon as they start laying eggs, they will need to receive proper amounts of calcium options.
Another great way of reducing waste it to simply set aside used egg shells when you use your eggs, let them dry - my girls never approve of wet egg shells! - and add (crumbled) them to whatever you feed the girls, or the cooked eggs and shells.
Please keep in mine that my chickens are pets and they are for egg production. Not meat. A lot of the things that I do for mine need to be ramped up if you choose to raise chickens to eat, or are not concerned about their well-being. This blog is only for people that truly want enjoyable pets and egg-layers. Though, just as everyone has different ways of raising children and any other pets, your ways may be different than my own. I'm sure on some things I do they are lacking, and others are over-kill. But then again, this is a blog to give people ideas. Or, to simply tell them how I raise my chickens. Not someone elses.
Another important feature of chickens is grit. Grit is pretty much anything that they can pick up and fill their crop with. What is a crop? A crop is where the food passes through before it gets digested and moved to the stomach. Chickens don't have teeth. Though they can pinch hard enough to rip skin if they want to! :) My mom just learned that little lesson when she decided to go out and trim some branches by the coop. Lily decided she needed to investigate the bare toes showing and my mom ended up with a nice little cut on her foot. My response, 'You heard me just saying that Lily wanted pick on the bare skin showing in the cut knee area of my jeans and you went in there with flip flops?" hehehe Yes, she - Lily - has attitude. Hence she got the queen of the Underworlds name - Lilith :)
Grit helps the chickens grind up the food that passes through. Grit is basically really small pebbles that they fill their crop with. Think of a grinding stone. That's the way the the grit works for the chickens. For us, we don't need to provide extra grit because our chickens have a dirt ground. They are able to go around and dig up dirt to find plenty of grit naturally. However, if you have a cement floor, or just want the option, you can buy packaged grit. Then, all you need to do is to provide them with that grit in a bowl, or scatter the grit on the ground for them. Typically, it's a good idea to have it accessable to the chickens in a bowl. I just like making life easier for the chickens.
Foods that I feed my chickens are pretty much anything and everything that I eat. However, unless you want your eggs to taste like fish, garlic, onion, or anything else icky as that, then I would suggest making sure your chickens don't have access to those foods. Can you imagine baking a cake with their eggs and imagine tasting a nice delicious piece of fish cake? Or how about having a nice garlic tang to your pies? That would be why it is very undesirable to feed your chickens food of that nature. What you put in does come back out. And in the case of eggs, it comes out to what you put into your body.
Uncooked potato skins aren't good for them either. Though I've heard some chickens like mashed potatoes, mine do not. And when my chickens don't eat something, I try and always make sure it's able to be taken up, otherwise you will end up with rats. And anything else. Though, if you ever watch, you'll notice the wild birds around your yard trying to get in there to nibble the delicious goodies the chickens get and most don't dare get into our coop because the chickens have always stood their ground quite well!
My chickens like anything that I give them with some exceptions. They don't do large pieces of apples. You'd have to shred those. Only because they are so hard. Same with carrots. They like the peels when we peel them for cooking, but if they aren't small enough, the problem with to big of pieces is the fact that the crops can become impacted if things get in there that are simply too big to pass through. I prefer to take that extra moment to chop up all pieces that they might not eat to be smaller. Same with tomato skins. It works to take that extra minute to cut them into smaller pieces so that the chickens eat them. And they do love tomatoes.
As for staple foods, it is really important to feed - in our case we use casserole dishes - the chickens in a bowl, their base food. That is the food that is always available to them. Having all those extras gives variety and additions, but the staple food is most important to them. Some people only feed that food, but we prefer adding variety as well. Chicken scratch, chicken layer pellets, organic pellets, etc., can be purchased from your local feed store. In our case we use Bothell Feed Store. Minus them telling my mom that the babies should be housed in cedar chips, they have been very knowledgable and helpful in all our questions. There are always going to be bad and good advice from those type stores, and anybody, but it's a good idea to research like crazy and go with your gut. Always take everything with a grain of salt, but still learn something from it. Even my info, because as I've said, this is my way. It may not be your way. That's fine. Nobody does everything the same.
The thing with providing all those other treats along with their normal food, is to make sure they are still eating their own foods. I used to do this by never giving them the extra varieties until after noon. Though, now I've learned that it's okay to give them anytime because my chickens will still eat their base food so they can have goodies whenever. But, no matter what I give them it is usually in a plate, bowl, etc. Otherwise if food is left out after they go to bed at night - though it can still happen during the day - then you walways have the possibility of rats and other undesirable creatures coming to feast.
Water. Water is a very important component in their diet. Always make sure that they have access to clean water. I'm not a stickler with their bowl of water. When it's hot I make sure that it stays cool. When it's freezing, I make sure to dump some hot water in once in a while and check to make sure that it doesn't freeze over. I keep it towards the warm side. Not warm, but definitely not cold either. Ice water is no more fun to a chickens throat I'm sure, then it is to ours. Hello brain freeze :) But, as with the food bowl, I simply use a glass casserole dish that we are not using for their water. Once a week I wash it out. Our chickens keep their food and water fairly clean. If it does get excess dirt and leaves, etc., in the bowls then I will clean them up more, but otherwise I only fully clean them once a week. I have many more animals and house cleaning to do during the week. I'm not going to kill myself when I know it won't get dirty and they will be healthy and fine. Stress is not going to make for a happy chicken mommy :)
Our food and water bowls, as I've said, are simply casserole dishes. Clear, plain dishes. I tried the chicken bowls and water bowls that my mom bought when we first got our chickens. They are the basics that you can buy from any place for chicken feeders. But I hated them. I liked the idea of being able to clean them. I am a bit of a clean freak. I didn't like the idea that the feed would sit there for a while and I couldn't get into them and into every crack to clean them. They were bulky and cumbersome. I just hated them. I went through quiet a bit before I chose the casserole dishes. For treats, I have a lot of excess stainless steel bowls from the dogs that I no longer use. I have small, medium and large bowls. They work perfectly to use for the chickens. Chickens love shiny things. They are drawn to the shiny silver bowls.
Chickens I have heard (I always say 'I've heard' because I haven't had nearly the problems I've heard that people have had to deal with, with mine.) like to dump their water, food bowls, etc. They advocate having the feeders/waterers lifted and raised in some way. I have mine sitting on top of two short lengths of 4X4's that have a piece of small plywood on top to make a table. They haven't had too many problems with knocking it down, stepping on them, soiling, anything. I have an opening of 10 inches or so around the entire food and water bowls so that no chicken crowds another. Since they are all girls, if one crowds another, then of course, they will peck each other. Anything to prevent that, I'm all for.
Items they enjoy though are:
Tomatoes, Mac and Cheese, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Lettuce (sometimes), spinach, carrots (shredded), apples (shredded), corn, beans, smashed garbanzo beans (they can't crush them and they are too big otherwise), peas, weeds (as long as no pesticides), grass clippings, fruit (no citrus fruit), peaches, Cheerios, tree leaves (when still green of course), pasta, small (or crushed) cat food, small (or crushed) dog food, wheat bread, on and on.
You'd be surprised at just how much food a chicken can take in!
Next up? How about the weather changes?
Have a question? Just ask :)
Friday, May 9, 2008
What do they eat?
I'm tired today. Why? Well, certain little individuals believe that I need to wake up at 5 am, instead of the normal 6 am that I wake up at. Not getting my normal sleep is not fun. And certainly not fun for anybody that has to be around me ;) Combine little sleep and having to do this and that all day, plus try to get things done of my own? Woo hoo ... :) Kidding. I'm a new momma and I am constantly called on - what's new?
I was told just last night that my brother wants me to put in his new parking light on the '67 Impala that he and I are restoring. Then my mom says, "No. We are working on the stairs for the deck." Side note: Our deck stairs broke in half at the bottom, needless to say I was the one nearly plummeted a couple feet to the ground. These were the stairs my dad built a looonnnggg time ago, so now they need replacing and my mom and I are re-building new ones. Anyhoo, I told them both, "It's good to know that I have say in what I am doing tomorrow." :D
I'm tired and can't think, where was I? Oh yeh. So ... I said that yesterday I would tell of the new game that the chickens have learned and enjoy.
You can hear me suck in my breath. Why? They discover a nice little wound (god knows where I got it) from the back of my wrist. Chickens are drawn to peck at red/blood. They see an interesting spot on my hand/wrist and they feel that they need to peck it. Granted, Lily, could hurt worse, but imagine poking a needle into an open wound. That would be what I felt while filming :p
And yes, the little chirping you hear I hear right now as I am sitting in the living room. I hear that 24/7. Turn up the volume on the computer and make it ear-splitting almost. [laughing] Now you know what I am used to :) They get louder as they get older. That is their happy chirping. You want hear what they sound like when they want mommas attention? Well, let's ust say it is much more louder and ear-splitting. Though, that is usually only one of the bantams when everyone else is napping that does that sound. However, this morning, Amara decided that she needed my attention and was screaming her little head off. When the bantams scream it's loud, but the New Hampshires are quite loud when they want be.
As if you couldn't get enough, here is another. They think that they need help me with filming so you can see them pick on the camera strap as well as the cap that goes on the lense to the camera.
I said yesterday I would talk about their setup. So let's discuss the setup ...
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I end up with a nice little mark to show for it. Sometimes my wrist, sometimes my hand, as you can see. But always something :) Yes, it's her way of giving attention. She is a female after all. She has her moments. If you scratch her neck, she'll purr like a kitten. Okay, maybe not literally purr, but her eyes close and she loves it. Other times? Look at the picture again.
The thing is? I don't actually feel it. And hell, I've been bitten by all my animals, scratched, you name it. I am constantly rough housing (I know you're not supposed to, but like I care?) with my dogs and I've gotten some pretty horrible marks all over my arms from Sabrina (my Australian Shepherd). Trust me, there is a reason why she has proven her worth at teachign her to kill on command. She can inflict some serious damage when she wants. And yet I still rough house :)
But, unless you are really sensitive, I don't think most of the time you'd even know Lily hurt you until you see the mark. Though I know for sure that if she wanted to, she could really hurt you, but because the marks aren't as bad, I know she isn't trying to hurt. Only make a point. If you want take a stab at what that is, go right ahead ...
For some updates. I've since learned how I had to change the food bowl because they would not stop kickng the food out. Grr ...
Same idea as the water bowl. I was also able to take down the middle barrier since they can't kick stuff around anymore.
Works pretty well. They tried to kick the food out and around, but no luck. They kept slipping and finally realized that they can't do it. The bantams enjoy getting one foot in and one foot and out can get some food kicked out and around, but not too much. And it cannot fly all over the place thankfully :)
Had another problem arise two days ago. When I went to turn on the heat lamp, it popped and that was the end of the bulb. Now seeing as how I don't have the money to replace it I needless to say had a moment ... S***! I turned on my Sun Glo light bulb that I was using to start some tomato plants in my room and placed it over the aquarium. I still had the night heat lamp, but I knew that it wouldn't give off as much heat as the other bulb did. But, I knew that the temp was warm from the Sun Glo bulb. It worked. I can regulate the temp by having a towel placed over the top and move it to open more air, or less, to adjust the temp.
Not to mention, I have them in my bedroom. Where else could I have them? No place else. I have them on my dresser - you can see in the pics below with my cat, that I had to move my Tiger face that my brother gave me off the dresser, so that they could fit on the dresser under the window. But anyhoo, they are in my bedroom. My bedroom with the heater on, window closed, door closed, heater vent open, gets HOT! I usually have to have my window cracked, heater vent closed, door open, then it stays a steady 60 degrees which I like. And yes, even in the winter I prefer the window cracked open. Aaahhhh ...
I've since named the New Hampshire Reds
If you can't read it correctly.
Amara is the one on the right. It was also a wolf name and anyone that knows me knows how much I love wolves. Her names stands for 'Immortal' and she is the dark.
Haley is the one on the left. Her name stands for 'Heroine' and she is the light.
Don't mind what they are laying on. It's a digital thermometer. They don't bother it and it's one of two that help me keep track of the temp of where they lay. They are laying atop the heating pad which also has another baby diaper (the old cloth type) on top of it, under them. I have another thermometer (was used for the gecko my brother used to have) in the upper center of the cage to tell me the overall ambient temp.
Posing for the camera.
Helping me clean the cage are my helpers. My Amber (pom mix) and my mom's Shih Tzu Chewbacca (black one). He is such a little boy.
Now why was my door open! What did I find?
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
They want play at who is going to be Queen of the water! Bow down to me they say! hehehe
As you can see behind them. I had to place a long index card between the two dishes to keep them from kicking the food into the water though. So now when they drink and eat they have a private room. It is folded down slightly at the bottom (about an inch) and shoved under the dish, then the sides have tape on the aquarium to keep it from moving, and keep it upright.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
These are two baby Bantam Chickens. I couldn't keep from touching them. Could you? I picked them up, then it happened ...
They fell asleep in my hand when I picked them up. I took advantage and took a bunch of pictures. Called the feed store here in Bothell (Bothell Feed Store) and found out that there birthday is April 28, 2008. Two days old. :)
Okay ... Now wait? Where are they going to be housed? They are going to need somewhere warm. After all they are babies. Oh great. I ran to grab my chicken books and gathered up three of them. I found a page stating that babies at this age would be needing 95 degree temperature (decreased steadily by 5 degrees each week). Steady. Draft free. Clean. Dry. Uh ... Hmm ...
Oh! Of course!
My mom had them in a styrofoam container that was used by a shipping company for shipping my brother's fish that he bought. It was large, but I'm picky. I didn't like it. That, and the fact that I know that chickens eat styrofoam. How? Well, probably because of the fact that we have inside the chicken house outside, used styrofoam insulation. The chickens learned that when they poked holes in it, they could eat it. Hey, why not? Looks good. So they did. Day after day after day. I had to go out there each day every few hours, checking on the styrofoam once I realized that they would try to eat it. I kept having to place tape over the holes so they wouldn't notice. Needless to say, they just made another hole. So each day, in the beginning, they had themselves a nice snack of some styrofoam. Luckily, only lasted a few days overall and never enough to hurt them. I took care of that problem. Ha! Too smart for there own good. Er, except for the eating styrofoam part.
Now what was the epiphany?
A reptile cage! My brother used to have a gecko. He bought a hood for that cage you see above. In this hood was a heat lamp and a night heat lamp. The night one was used to simulate the moonlight while providing heat still for the reptile. That way they didn't have to worry about losing heat. I ran to find my brothers book on geckos and it stated that the temp they needed was 80-90. Night temps just a little lower, but still close to that. Perfect!
I also had my mom's heating pad that when placed on low provides just about that, depending on how much cloth you have on it. Adding more washcloths will lower the temp it provides for the babies. So, combined with the heating lamp, the heating pad and my rooms natural warmth when I keep the windows shut (oh god do I have to?) my room, the aquarium was around 90-100 degrees. It kept fluctuating.
A screened lid on top provided adequate ventilation and the clear glass of the aquarium allows the babies to keep track of where I am. I go and come from my room quite frequently so they get to see me constantly. I'm in and it and around a lot.
K. Now. Book says water bowl cannot be too deep and if it is, provide some rocks. Otherwise babies can drown. Hmm ... Ooo! My graduated glass bowls. Some of them come in mere tablespoon sizes, all the way up to more than 4 quart size. I found a small one, placed a couple rocks in it so they could get the water, but it wasn't deep enough to drown in, while at the same time, the rocks would provide footing in case they did fall in. Good.
Food bowl. Hmm ... Maybe using just a bigger size of the glass bowl would work? Seems to be good. They can get at it just fine. Boy, these guys are small! But, oh so very cute!
So, the cage bottom is the leftover cedar chips from the box they came in. Only used a little though. The bottom layer is a small baby blanket then the heating pad in the corner, then another washcloth or two on top, then their food and water. All set. Should be good to go. They seem to be enjoying their new digs.
But ... I don't like the thought of them by themselves. I would like them to have something to snuggle. I'll find a small toy from the doggie excess toys box and place some of the feathers I've collected off of Lily and the others when they motled (shed old feathers) and shove them up it's neck so it has some feathers. That way, it will seem like a momma chicken, while the feathers might have the other chicken scent on it so that they can get used to the scent of Lily outside (maybe).
Good. They seem to like it. They seem to be going right to bed. I'm hoping that they will sleep through the night all right. It's night, night time, but I can't use the light of the day heat lamp - though it gives the right temp - it is too bright. Can't use the night heat lamp because again, too bright. [crosses fingers] Hopefully just the heating pad with an old cloth diaper surrounding them, as well as this little stuffed dog will do the trick. Hopefully they will stay warm. I know the pad itself - with them laying upon it - will be even warmer, but still ...