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Chicken 911 Update

Now it has been over a week of treatment, and the girls are looking better already! The feathers are coming back in on their backs and heads/necks of the first two hens, and they are running around with the flock, and not crouching when we enter the pen. The two Americana’s feathers are just starting to grow in on their backs and tails, one more so then the other. One does not seem to mind the treatments, while the other still spends all of her time hiding under one of the nest boxes. Both of their little bottoms are still naked and I repeated the lice treatment. I added black oil sunflower seeds to their diet to help keep them warm an heal the skin in the days to come. One of them, bless her little heart, even laid an egg!

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Chicken 911

As many know, our farm has a rooster-rehoming program, where we take in unwanted roosters, and place them into breeding programs or homes of people who can keep them. I would never encourage any backyard chicken owners to own a rooster who is not actively breeding their flock or who does not need one for lawn patrol for their free-range hens.
By nature roosters are mean and aggressive – even if raised from chicks and handled a lot. This is NOT a reflection of their keepers – it is the nature of the beast. It is a rooster’s job to be protective and aggressive towards any and everything he deems a threat to his ladies, this includes his keeper. This is their job!

At our farm we have used everything from a “rooster stick” (a quart size plastic milk jug with dry beans in it, duct tapped to an old broomstick) to a metal trash can lid used as a shield to enter some of our breeding pens. Once a year we do spur removal for our own sake as well as the safety and well being of the hens.

Our program is a service to the poultry keepers in our area who can keep hens but not crowing roosters. More often than not, one of those little yellow balls of fluff that the feed store PROMISED would all be female, turns out to be a boy. So when the day comes that “Jane” turns out to be “John” Oops…you really don’t want the neighbors to start throwing rocks at you at 5 am, or having to run for your life to keep from getting flogged and spurred every time you enter the chicken yard to collect eggs.

But at times, it is not just these crowing, spurring, bags of feather-covered hormones that get turned into us for placement. At times we get their counterparts, the unwanted or battered hens turned in as well. We also take in the girls who have suffered predator attacks, sickness, or neglect and do our best to heal and restore them. We will show you now the process and progress of four of these hens that have been brought in to us this past week.

white leghorn

first two

The first two brought in were a Leghorn and a Buff Orpington. Both had the feathers missing from their backs and the Leghorn’s head was picked at.  Both were covered in lice and crouched down on the ground if you tried to get near them. The first thing was to treat the lice and at the same time worm them. The next step was to spray the bare pink skin with Bluecoat to protect them from getting sunburned. I am sure that smarted a little bit at first, but soothed the bare skin and coated it from further damage.
By the next morning both hens seemed a bit better, and it was time to treat them again. This time a product called “No-pick” (you can get it at most feed stores and it is something you should ALWAYS keep around for first aid if you have any type of poultry) was slathered on the wounded areas and gently worked all the way down to the skin. This step is repeated every day, twice a day until the feathers start to grow back and cover the bare skin. This can take weeks sometimes, so we must be patient and keep up with the treatments.

second two2

second two
Two more birds were turned in a few days later in even worse shape. These two Americana hens were more bare skin than feathers and their tails were just about all the way gone, as well as their wings. Their heads were all picked up as well as their bright pink little bottoms. These two girls were also very frightened of being handled and flighty. I started the same treatment on them as the first two hens, and by the time I got done applying the Bluecoat, they looked like they had gotten into the studio with Picasso during his blue period. While I looked like I had been in a fight with a tagger during a Purple Haze concert! All in all, everyone felt better when all was said and done.
Stay tuned! Pictures will be posted every few days of their progress through the healing process.

Little Orphan Phoebe

It was a first birth for Claire and I was frankly surprised it went so rough. Her mom had always had an easy time getting her kids on the ground, and some of the time did it without any help. I was sure she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. This time I was wrong. It was Monday morning and I noticed that her udder was quickly bagging up (of course she was not going to do it over the weekend, when I had time off work- doe’s code of honor). She started to get “that look” in her eyes and I knew her time was drawing near. I called in to the office to let them know I would be late, and started my watch. By noon she was picking at her food and talking to her side- it should not be long now. By 2 pm she was down on her side pushing, but by 2:30 she was not making any progress. I got out the gloves and the lube. There was a tiny pair of feet in the birth canal but not a head to be felt. Not good. I let another ten minuets go by and still no progress. I have done this enough to know when it is time to call the vet. Dr. Bailey was not in the office but I did have his cell number. He was only a few minutes away and came right over. He could feel the feet as well, but not the head with them. He tried to turn the kid, and then only had the head, but no front feet.
There just did not seem to be a way to get this baby into the proper position. “Well” I said at last “Just bring the kid out head first.” Dr. Bailey always likes to have the feet as well, but decided to deliver the kid without then this time. After some pushing, and a few screams from the doe, a tiny doe kid was pulled into the world. Dr. Bailey was surprised to see she was still alive. He handed her off to me and reached back in for the next one. Again after much pushing and pulling, a tiny buck kid was retrieved, weak and sputtering, but alive. He weighed in at only 1 lb 6 oz, and she just under 2 pounds. I am not sure if it was the traumatic birth or just Claire’s take on being a new mom, but the doe did not seem to want to have anything to do with these newborns.  As Dr Bailey looked down at the two tiny, struggling babes on the blanket, he looked at me and said that I now had my work cut out for me. I think it was his kind way of saying these kids really did not have much of a chance at this point. If I could get them past the first 48 hours they might have a chance.

Newborn Phoebe

For the rest of the afternoon, I milked out the colostrum from the VERY uncooperative mother, and fed the kids with an eyedropper. I followed the doe around with the babes, hoping she would bond with them. Not only did she not want them anywhere near her- she actually turned around and butted them away, hard!
By that evening the night air began to chill, and I had no choice but to go to “plan B”, and bring the poor little things into the house. I found a large cardboard box, lined it with a plastic trash bag, and covered the floor with newspapers. Next I put down a heating pad, and then some large towels. this would keep them snuggley and warm. Both were too weak to suck on a bottle, so I fed them every 4 hours with the eyedropper throughout the night.
By the next morning, the little doe was strong enough to stand a bit, and I once again took her out and tried to introduce her to her mom. This time Clair knocked her for six, so I took her right back into the house. I came to the sad reallity that I would now be raising my very first pair of orphan kids.
The first 3 days were very tedious, keeping up with the feedings every 4 hours around the clock. By day 4, the little doe was finally able to latch onto the nipple of the bottle, but the little buck kid continued to grow weak, and he left us that same afternoon. It was touch and go every day with the doe. She did not gain much weight, and chilled easily. She was not able to stand up very well, and seemed weak in her front legs. Sometimes she did not want to eat at all, and I had to revert back to the eyedropper. I bought some Pedilite to keep her hydrated, and put a few drops of Red Cell in her milk at each feeding. Still she struggled.
I remembered when one of our goats had been anemic the year before, and we had given her injections of B-12, so I began to give the little doe 1cc of the B-12 every 12 hours.
At 1 week of age, she seemed unable to walk altogether, and was still not gaining any weight. I would hold her in my lap and move her little legs for her, so her muscles would not atrophy. This went on all through the second week of her life, until I noticed she was sometimes able to stand for a few minuets. I began to get behind her and just scoot her along so she would have to take small steps. I slept on the couch with her curled up in my arms to keep warm.
By week 3 she was taking more steps on her own, but was all but lame in the right front leg. I began to feed her a few teaspoons of greek yogurt every day, and continued the B-12 shots. She began to walk a bit more. Then one day I found her in her box laying stiff on her side. It looked she had seizured. She was still alive, so I got her upright and got her moving again. At one month old, I gave her 1cc of CDT and prayed. She still weighed a good pound less then the set of twins that were born a week after her. Her right front leg still buckled out in front of her, causing a limp.
More shots, more bottles, more prayer – day after day. I never even did name her, for fear every day that she would not live. Then the day came at last when she took a turn for the better. Her legs became stronger, she started to walk with ease, and then she delighted me one day when she jumped up the porch steps. At 5 weeks I tapered the B-12 down to 1 cc every other day, and then tapered off of it. We named her Phoebe, and she is now doing quite well. She downs 4 cups of milk replacer everyday, has gained weight, grown, and has started to nibble at some hay.

Our healthy, happy girl.

Now, at 6 weeks old, we go in back and have “play dates” in the nursery pen with the other moms and babies. We then race each other back down the driveway and into the kitchen. I marvel at her sweet but spunky personaility and try not to think back on those hard days we had together. Each day now she is less and less dependent on me, and goes off to explore her world more and more without me, but that’s ok. That is as it should be. As much as I enjoy the special bond we share I will be glad for the day when she will be able to go out and join the tribe.
For now I will just enjoy the last few weeks of the bottles, and the cuddling, and the sweet goat murmurs she whispers in my ears.
All the worry has been worth it, and it reminds me that I am indeed a goatherd, and to always be humble before God’s creatures.

 

 

 

Spring Egg Olympics 2012

We have been in full swing with the incubators since the Easter chick rush, and we have been selling chicks almost as soon as they hatch these days. We have met some wonderful new chicken keepers and some really nice 4-H families this season, as well as repeat customers.

Here is the lineup that made our “Odd shape egg contest” finals this spring.

Top row is a normal size/shape standard egg.  Below that you can see some of the funny attempts our girls have made so far.  The bowling pin in the first row is my fave.  The big green oval at the bottom was a double yoker!  Yes, as you can see,  some of our hens have a great sense of humor!  Way to go gals!

The tradition of the Easter bunny

From the beginning of time spring has symbolized new life and rebirth. Eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility, as were rabbits and hares for having so many offspring in this season. The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the United States somewhere around the 1500’s with the German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area. Their children were told the legend of “Osterhase”, an egg-laying hare who brought gifts of colored eggs to good children if the child made a “nest” of their caps or bonnets the night before. The first story was published in 1680 about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden. The tradition of making “nests” for the rabbit soon followed. Eventually the nests made from caps and bonnets turned into baskets, and the eggs were replaced with candy and small treats.
So in the spirit of tradition, we brought the farm bunny, MacGyver, to St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ojai to play the part of “Osterhase” on Easter Sunday. He turned out to be a real trooper and the children and parents alike all loved him being part of the day. Even Father Jeff took a break from his busy day to enjoy a moment with the Easter bunny.

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Daylight Savings Time and Ready for Spring

I have always liked the concept of daylight savings time, but when it actually comes around it always messes me up for a few days. First, I always have to remember the “spring forward, fall back” thing, to be able to remember which way to turn the clock. Then I have to fight with the VCR, microwave, clock in my dashboard and my cell phone- I am really bad with all things tech, so this is a problem for me every year. It always takes a few days for my body to adjust to the “extra” or “missing” hour-but I never did understand why they say we gain or lose an hour, when there are still 24 hours in a day. We did not “gain” an hour in our lives-if that really happened we could just give ourselves more hours in time and at some point I think it would cause some time warp in the universe. I guess it is just something that the government cooked up so we would not have to drive to work in the dark in the winter months when the days are shorter. Anyway, to me it just feels like jet lag, but without getting to go on vacation. I do like getting home and being able to get a couple of things done in the goat yard before it gets dark though.

I am ready for spring. We have had over 2 1/2 months of freezing temps every night and no rain (and remember, we get to complain because this is Southern California.) Everything has been brown and crunchy for a long time. I am starting to see little signs that spring is trying to peek out in a few places, hoping that the freeze is over. The last frost date for our area is April 9th – so we may still get hit with some low temps again, but it has been 38 degrees and above for the last 4 mornings in a row. So this gives me hope that the worst is already over. The plum tree has put out a timid row of blossoms and the mulberry tree has broken bud. I planted out some artichokes that we started in the greenhouse a few months back, and put down very heavy layers of mulch to protect them. I also put some rose clones into the ground that had been hardening off outside near the house, and have moved more from the greenhouse to the front garden to get them used to the outside temps. I have tomato starts that I am chomping at the bit to plant out but I know full well I will have to drag out the Wall-O-Waters and keep a close eye on them if I do.

I have been eying the boxes of seed packets on the kitchen shelves that I have earmarked for this planting season but I don’t want to jump the gun. I will not let myself be seduced by their glossy photos and promises of days to harvest. I know the ground is still too inhospitable to plant warm weather veggies, no matter how tempting it becomes. It will only end in heartbreak otherwise.

We are on the dark side of the moon cycle this week, so I will spend this week battling weeds, pruning the last of the frostbitten canes and branches and putting up bean poles and trellises.

The incubator is now full of eggs that are set to hatch the week before Easter and the fertility is up in all of the breeding pens now. I got the first turkey egg of the season yesterday so I am sure the other game birds will follow along soon. I have been keeping an eye on the nursery pen, and have my birthing kit cleaned up and organized, and a stack of clean towels at the ready.

Spring is always a crazy time on the farm, but I am ready!

Quinn’s Twins!

Buckling #1

Buckling #2