Peepers has Pox

Peepers has fowl pox. Or so I believe.

He developed scabby lesions that look a lot like online photos of chickens with dry fowl pox. This is not really something to worry about; dry fowl pox generally clears up after a while.

Fowl pox doesn’t transfer to humans, but other chickens can get it, so I put Peepers in isolation. It’s a rather weak gesture because, in addition to spreading via direct contact, the virus transmits via mosquitoes. So I really need to vaccinate the hens before the mosquitoes start coming out, but the vaccine is difficult to find in my area. A feed store in a nearby town has me on a call list and I hope they will get the vaccine in the next day or so.

That extra dog kennel actually came in handy!

Peepers can still see his ladies through the chain link.

Peepers can still see his ladies through the chain link.

I made Byrd and Eddy whip up a chicken house for Peepers. They put together a great little hut in 20 minutes.

Peepers doesn't really like to roost, so the "perch" inside is a flat board that he can lay on.

Peepers doesn't really like to roost, so the "perch" inside is a flat board that he can lay on. Still, I usually see him sleeping in the grass.

Unfortunately, Peepers also started coughing and sneezing, which is not really an indication of fowl pox (at least, not the dry fowl pox), but more likely a secondary infection of some sort.

Infection requires antibiotics. Antibiotics require a vet visit. Off we went to the vet.

Peepers was cool as a cucumber, even though he was crammed in a cat carrier and bumped around in the car.

Peepers was cool as a cucumber, even though he was crammed in a cat carrier and bumped around in the car.

The trouble with chickens is that we only have one vet in the entire city who deals with them. And as would be expected, that vet considers chickens “exotic,” and charges insane rates for any sort of procedure.

I hate having to put a price on love. I love Peepers. But I can’t justify spending $500 (no joke) to officially diagnose his problem as fowl pox, run a bacterial culture to determine what type of secondary infection he’s dealing with, and get x-rays of his lungs.

Chillin' on the vet table.
Chillin’ on the vet table.

 

I felt really bad saying “Let’s just give him a general antibiotic and see if he gets better.” It’s not that we can’t afford to spend $500–we’re not choosing between food and vet bills or anything like that–but… geeze. Where do you draw the line? As it was, the vet visit and antibiotics cost me about $100.

His feathers got a little ruffled when the vet poked his butt (part of the checkup, I swear).

His feathers got a little ruffled when the vet poked his butt (part of the checkup, I swear).

Anyway, we got the antibiotic. Here’s hoping it helps. The good news is that other than a bit of sniffling, Peepers is still eating, drinking, crowing (sort of weirdly due to mucus in his throat), and strutting around like a normal rooster. So I’m thinking his infection can’t be so bad, and maybe the antibiotic will do the trick.

Interestingly, the vet said that Peepers had apparently regained sight in both his eyes. So the mystery of why he doesn’t fly, jump, or perch is left unexplained.

As for the other chickens, they are all doing fine. The ones with bald patches are growing their feathers back at last.

She's very proud of her single tail feather. I see some more feathers on the way, fortunately.

She's very proud of her single tail feather. I see some more feathers on the way, fortunately.

We are going to try trimming Crooksie’s beak ourselves this month, I think. We just have to find our old Dremel tool. I’ve been doing daily stretching exercises with her in the evenings to help her jaw re-align. She is not too bothered by it, but I don’t really know if it’s helping.

The beak looks almost normal.

The beak looks almost normal.

Star has improved greatly in her behavior around the chickens. This is a dog that used to run around and around the kennel, bark insanely, and pound her front feet against the chain link.

Star in a calm sit-stay right next to the kennel.

Star in a calm sit-stay right next to the kennel.

Make no mistake… I still don’t trust her around the chickens, but at least it’s not pure chaos anymore.

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Chickens and Vegetables

The chickens are doing great. Life is so dull, though I imagine chickens don’t care about excitement. Peepers is still a bit on the small side for a rooster. He’s about nine months old, I guess.

Peepers, Cackle, and the black sex-link (still unnamed)

Peepers, Cackle, and the black sex-link (still unnamed)

We get four eggs a day, or thereabouts (Cackle is still not laying). I’ve worked out a distribution cycle for neighbors and family since I really don’t eat eggs very often.

We had a scare the other day with a stray border collie that wandered into our backyard. I have green plastic fencing stretched to keep the chickens/dogs from walking out the side driveway, but it’s not particularly secure. A dog with enough drive could get through it.

The border collie hadn’t gone through the plastic fence, but its stare had pierced the mesh and was fixed on the flock. Peepers was squawking loudly. I came out to see what the noise was about, and saw the dog in half-crouch on the other side of the fence.

My presence broke the tension. The dog ran off down the driveway, and Peepers strutted off into the middle of the yard with his flock.

We have plastic fencing up around the vegetable garden too. It keeps the chickens out, no problem at all.

Canteloupe. No fruit yet.

Canteloupe. No fruit yet.

Squash. The rear right one got trampled by something (Dozer?) and the top broke off, taking a bunch of baby squash with it.

Squash. The rear right one got trampled by something (Dozer?) and the top broke off, taking a bunch of baby squash with it.

Yellow squash. Mmmm.

Yellow squash. Mmmm.

Mystery squash. I have no idea how to cook this, or even when it's ripe to pick.

Mystery squash. I have no idea how to cook this, or even when it's ripe to pick.

Green beans sprouting.

Green beans sprouting.

Corn sprouting (canteloupe is a little pushy there on the side)

Corn sprouting (canteloupe is a little pushy there on the side)

More dill than I know what to do with. Hey Monarch butterflies, this stuff was for you, so wth are you???

More dill than I know what to do with. Hey Monarch butterflies, this stuff was for you, so wth are you???

Sheetrock is not food

We hit our first major chicken farmer problem today.

We spent much of the day tearing the walls out of our back addition. Crumbles of sheetrock and tufts of pink insulation covered the dirt outside the back door, remnants of what didn’t quite make it into the trash trailer.

I didn’t intend to let the chickens out today, seeing that there was so much debris near the chicken coop, but I suppose it gets dull being stuck in a muddy coop for several days in a row (free range prevented both by heavy rain/flooding and our construction activity). So today after I made a last check for eggs, two of the braver hens darted out of the coop as I stepped out. They were literally pressed against my leg on the way through the gate–that’s how desperate they were to squeeze out of there.

So I reasoned, well, since two of them are out, I suppose I should let the others out. And I did.

The next thing I hear is Peepers: “Bip-bip-bip-bip-bip!” I’ve learned that this odd peeping sound means, “I’ve found something yummy!!” All the hens come running as fast as they can when he makes this noise.

I look down to see what he’s got and I’m horrified to see him pecking at a little piece of sheetrock. Peepers thinks sheetrock is edible. Worse, he keeps telling all the ladies that he’s found something delicious!

So I start flapping my arms and screaming “NOOOOOO!!!!” After scaring the chickens into the safe half of the yard (far from the construction site), I get Byrd, and together we herd the chickens back into the coop. Squawkers gives us a really hard time.  She did NOT want to go back into the coop!

So we are now facing a few options.

1. Move the hen house and chicken coop into the “safe” side of the yard, and erect a plastic barrier to keep the chickens on that side of the yard when they range. This is my preferred option. Byrd objects because he thinks the chickens will ruin the grass under the coop. He’s right, but then again, the winter rye grass that’s there now will be dead in another month anyway, so what’s the big deal?

2. Erect a plastic barrier around the construction area to keep the chickens out. I think this is harder because it will cramp Byrd et al when they are working on the house. They will have to be careful not to let debris fall outside the barrier, and they will have to keep their tools and trailer within the barrier. It’s not much space.

3. Stop letting the chickens free-range until the construction is complete. I don’t want to do this to the chickens. They really love their range time. And construction might last for months.

Guess we’ll see what Byrd decides is the best option.

Peepers bites, Crooksie goes to the vet

Okay, perhaps the wrath of the zombie chickens is a real thing after all.

Peepers bit me yesterday. It wasn’t hard and I think it was a mistake. I was putting Crooksie into the hen house and he chomped down on the back of my hand. I think he was trying to peck Crooksie and he missed (because he is, after all, half blind and therefore has poor depth perception).

The reason I was looking at Crooksie was to inspect her beak. It is crooked, and the result is that it doesn’t wear down properly. I noticed yesterday that the bottom part of the beak is starting to curl inward on itself.

So I took Crooksie to the vet today and got her beak filed down a bit, which should help her with things like eating and drinking. We’ll have to go back and get it trimmed every month or so for a while, but the vet is hopeful that if we are consistent about it, the beak will realign and start to fit together normally again.

Aside from her beak, Crooksie got a clean bill of health.

This one is Crooksie.

This one is Crooksie.

What happens to eggs on Easter

The awesome thing is that these eggs are already “colored” naturally. I had a pastel assortment of pink and blue eggs that are ready for Easter without the need for dye.
Step 1: Hard boil

Step 1: Hard boil (the night before--sorry the picture is so dark)

Step 2: Put in really cute basket with cute stuffed bunny

Step 2: Put in really cute basket with cute stuffed bunny

Step 3: Try to get dogs to pose beside the basket without eating the stuffed toy.

Step 3: Try to get dogs to pose beside the basket without eating the stuffed toy.

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Come on, look cute or something.

Step 4 (no pictures): Take the basket of eggs to the Easter family get-together and hold blind taste tests with these eggs and store-bought eggs. Nine out of ten people preferred my eggs and commented on how yellow the yolks were. It was a lot of fun!

Zombie Chickens

Dennis and his dada James gave Peepers this fine award. I imagine it was simply because Peepers is a chicken, not because the blog is particularly amazing. Or because Peepers is a zombie.

zombie_chicken_awardThe text that goes with it is as follows:

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…

Now, much of the text is true, especially the bit about grace in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. I’m well known for my refusal to panic, even when things are at their most panic-worthy. I’m not so sure about the “inspiring words” bit, though.

The threat that comes at the end intrigues me enough that I think I will, in fact, refuse to pass this award on to anyone. Bring it on, zombie chickens!!

And here is a recent photo of the chickens for your viewing pleasure.

OMG OMG fresh grass clippings yay!!!

OMG OMG fresh grass clippings yay!!!

This is the best time of year for the chickens. Our yard consists of soft, moist rye grass, and our evil mulberry (or something) tree is staining everything with its delicious purple berries. So the chickens gorge themselves during their afternoon field trips (free range from 3 PM to sunset). They better enjoy it while it lasts–summer is just around the corner, and it’s going to be hot and miserable.

Pics of the Chicks

Peepers, Squawkers, Cackle, and the new black sex-link hen

Peepers (rooster), Squawkers (left), and the new red and black sex-link hens

The new sex-links are missing feathers in patches. Probably a result of feather-picking by other chickens. We are hoping the change in scenery will help: fewer chickens in a larger area, and free range every afternoon.

The black sex-link hen--she has a bare spot at the base of her tail.

The black sex-link hen--she has a bare spot at the base of her tail.

"No pictures! I'm naked!"

"No pictures! I'm naked!"

The new Ameraucana is very pretty. She’s a bit of a loner and likes to do her own thing while the rest of the flock stays fairly close together. Here she is scratching the dirt in the coop while everyone else is halfway across the yard.

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"Field trip schmield trip."

Since the new Ameraucana has a crooked beak, I’ve started calling her Crooksie. She’s the only one of the new hens that I’ve needed to name so far, because her affinity for wandering off means I frequently have to ask “Where’s Crooksie?”

Wisteria gone nuts. I think that's the red sex-link beside it.

Wisteria gone nuts. I think that's the red sex-link beside it.

Our remodel project has moved to the exterior of the addition (technically, the rear addition, since house has had multiple additions). I had to comb the dirt carefully to pick up nails, plastic pieces, foam, insulation, and all sorts of construction debris so the chickens wouldn’t accidentally eat any of it.

Mmm... bugs!

Mmm... bugs, not nails!

More Chickens

Oh my. I have more hens. I bought two more, and got an additional one for free.

We are now officially one chicken over the city limit (five chickens) but I’m really hoping no one will notice. I’m buying the neighbors’ silence with eggs.

I got a black sex-link and a red sex-link. These are prolific brown egg-layers.

The black sex-link has very pretty feathers with a metallic green sheen. Her eggs are smallish, and she is the smallest chicken of the bunch. She’s also one of the braver hens, and will come around to eat things from my hand with Peepers and Squawkers while the others peer at me suspiciously from around the corner of the hen house.

The red sex-link is missing most of her feathers, poor thing, but I think a bit of time and some free ranging will do her some good. She lays HUGE eggs.

The third hen is another Ameraucana. She was given to me for free because her beak is a bit crooked; the top and bottom parts don’t come together perfectly. She eats fine, but I can see how this might be a problem in the future, because the beak doesn’t wear evenly. Well, we will see how it goes. This Ameraucana is also fairly small–she’s very young–and she has a lot of white feathers around the head and neck. I wonder if she will stay this color? She’s very pretty.

Peepers is truly in heaven. He spends all his time strutting his stuff for the ladies. (They are not impressed.)

The amazing thing is that with three more hens, we get three more eggs a day–so in the one and a half days I’ve had them, I’ve gotten five eggs. The eggs are a lovely array of pastel blues and light pink-browns. They’ll be killer for Easter and I’m hoping their flavor will give me an edge in Mousse-fest 2009 (my family’s annual mousse-off).

I do have some photos of chickens and eggs but haven’t uploaded them yet. Will do it soon.

Still need names for the new hens, too.

Also, the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour is coming up! I’m so excited. I want to see what other people’s coops look like.

Chickens are dangerously addicting.

Spring Days

I’ve gotten over my initial worries about letting the chickens roam. Nowadays, I open their coop for free range in the backyard from about noon to dark. The chickens put themselves back in the coop when it starts getting dark. They haven’t left our backyard yet, even though the back fence is a mere four feet high. Hopefully they realize there’s a dog over there (untested around fowl).

Chickens framed by wisteria about to bloom like crazy.

Chickens framed by wisteria about to bloom like crazy.

Where'd my ladies go?

Where'd my ladies go?

This used to be a leaf pile. Then the chickens came. Now it is a leafy expanse.

This used to be a leaf pile. Then the chickens came. Now it is a leafy expanse.

On the back porch for a drink from the dog water bowl. Over 90 degrees today, and we were all panting--chickens, dogs, and humans.

On the back porch for a drink from the dog water bowl. Over 90 degrees today, and we were all panting--chickens, dogs, and humans.

Success with Star

With a lot of training over the last month or so, I’ve managed to knock Star’s prey drive toward the chickens waaay down.

Now I can let the chickens roam loose in the backyard for several hours in the afternoon, and I don’t have to put them away (which is like sheep herding only much crazier) every time I want to let the dogs out for a bit.

Of course, I still supervise when dogs and chickens are in the yard. I can tell Star still has inappropriate thoughts about doing bad things to the chickens, and when I see that look come over her face, I get her attention right away.

But her behavior has changed distinctly. It is now very manageable and I expect her to get better over time.

Dozer, as always, is completely unconcerned with the chickens. He’s been around all kinds of critters since he was a little puppy, so it’s no surprise.

Pit bulls and chickens, living in harmony? Can do!

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