snowy days

The meteorologists were right. I’m sssssooooooo happy about it. Being holed up inside is one of my favorite things to be. And watching Gideon bunny hop through torso-deep snow brought so much happiness to my heart.
IMG_8566Gid could not get enough of the snow. He looooved it. Rolling, spinning, running, hopping, rooting, eating, barking and what seemed at times like dancing through all the powder. IMG_8300IMG_8275IMG_8276 IMG_8323 IMG_8390Tea, walks, bathrobes, fluffy socks, crunching snow, little puddles, netflix, naps, games, boots, cookies, blankets, icy fingers, and bright blue snow light.
IMG_8507 IMG_8567 The ladies would only venture out to an area we cleared of snow. They were not amused. IMG_8570 IMG_8568 IMG_8569Quickly the hens, and most humans in the neighborhood made their way indoors. To warm by the heater and look out the windows in wonder. I’m so sad to see melting this morning. Sigh.

Favorite snowy days moment: Matt and I stalked a few pre-teens around the neighborhood. Throwing snowballs and then hiding behind cars in hopes of confusing them. When they didn’t noticed, we decided an ambush was in order. What ensued was a 15 minute snowball fight that reminded me how hard it is to maneuver in snow.

The 7 Dwarves

It used to be the three musketeers. We’ve got a little sub-flock of three musketeers though. Miss Marple and two of the “chicks” (they are hens/pullets now, but I still call them chicks) are laying, so most days we’re getting three eggs again. Gosh I can’t describe how cool that is.

The bigger the flock, the more problems you’ll tend to have. More ladies to boss each other around, more chances for disease and more opportunity for pecking and all around chicken craziness. Recently, my absolutely favorite chicken Katniss, was getting her feet feathers pecked out. Now I’m not sure if that’s because she pecked them, then others saw the blood and went all psycho, or because someone singled her out. Either way, it was bad news. One day I found her hiding in the coop, blood spread all over the roost and dripping from her foot. Poor girl!

IMG_4885 IMG_5002 IMG_5003-001I love her. She jumps onto my lap and clucks sweetly. She also has the softest feathers out of all of them. I read that one way to keep chickens from pecking each other is to keep them busy and therefore distracted. Well duh. We tried out one suggestion, and so far I think it’s helped.

IMG_5430 IMG_5431 IMG_5454 IMG_5437 IMG_5435We strung wire through a head of cabbage (from our own garden no less) and hung it in the run. Let the chicken jumping commence. I love me some chicken watching time.

Annie

Sigh. Little lady I am SO proud of you. You paced around the coop for three days, trying to pop out that first egg. And you did it. I bet that was weird and slightly unpleasant for you. (See “egg labor” here…be warned.)560498_645838717854_1670373211_nAnnie, you are going to get your own special treat for this. I’m still confused why you don’t really cluck and instead you “scream cluck”. I could have sworn you were a rooster. Well, first things first…just get to laying!

 

Lyra-Girl

It’s been a sad couple days for my Hubby and I. Our hen Lyra died  two nights ago. A raccoon got into the coop and snagged her. We’re both so sad and feel incredibly guilty. For the past two years, we often wait until well after dark to close our coop up. We’ve never had a problem. Well this one time we weren’t so lucky. We got home late and following our normal routine we started to close everything up. As Matt approached the coop he noticed a raccoon scurry across the yard. He soon discovered poor Lyra-girl. We must have been just a few moments too late. She was in-tact except for an injured neck. We pray she went quickly. We buried her in the back yard and held Miss Marple for a long time. She narrowly missed being a raccoon snack as well. Now Miss Marple is out there all alone. Luckily for her, she’s got six buddies who will join her in a few weeks. Until then I take a chair out into the run and sit with her to keep her company.

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It’s odd. Matt and I actually grieve the loss of Lyra, not just a hen. The fact that I had about 80 pictures of her to choose from should tell you something. We’ve been talking about her individual quirks, her beautiful  feathers, her puffy cheeks and beard, her green eggs and memories of her crazy chicken-hawkness.

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I’ve come to realize that it will always be hard to loose a hen. The grief might become less and less shocking, but in reality hens die all the time. They get sick, they get eaten, they get in fights with cats/dogs/eachother, they don’t have very long life spans. Chickens die in chicken ways, which is usually not graceful. But when we think of our pets, we hope they die in natural and graceful ways. When they don’t, when they die suddenly and painfully, it’s all so tragic. So I’m working on how to reconcile these two elements of my pet-parenthood. How do I keep loving my chickens as dear pets, but grieve for them appropriately when they die not-so-pretty chicken deaths? Cause we’ve got 7 more to go folks and I’m really not looking forward to sobbing that much.

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If you feel like it, pop on over and read these old posts about Lyra (“A Brood Awakening” and “She’s Back.”)…they are some of my favorites.

P.S. To those with chickens…if you have a run to enclose your ladies make sure you lock them in there if you’ll be away past nightfall. If you don’t have a run, make sure you get them closed in their coop when it gets dark. You honestly never know when something might happen and it’s best to err on the side of caution.

And it begins again.

This is probably the best sight ever:

IMG_2345It’s been several weeks since the ladies laid their last egg for the winter. It’s been terrible …bearable. I will say right here and now, I’ve become an egg snob. We had to buy eggs eventually. It was sad. We didn’t put as much research into as we could have, but all the eggs we did buy, no matter how organic or free-range they were…were just sad. Sad little pale yolks, with sad flavor. And I feel sad for those ladies where ever they are…laying sad little eggs.

But I’m past it now, since my ladies are on the move again. I actually opened the coop door the other day and saw a small pile of eggs in a makeshift nest just inside the door. I tossed an egg in the nesting box and threw a hen in there to check it out. Like magic, they began to use the nesting box again.The day previous we had given the coop a nice deep clean. Took everything out, swept, and filled it with fresh fir shavings. I told my hubby that I suspected they would lay soon and couldn’t bear the thought of them laying eggs “in such an unclean environment.” He just rolled his eyes.

But they must have agreed with me. Cause the second it was all fresh and clean…pow! They are little egg making machines. This picture was taken of Miss Marple while she was in mid birth push squeeze  plop.

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Poor girl. I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought she was just standing up looking at me. It wasn’t until I heard a soft “thump” that I realized an egg had just dropped from her lovely hind quarters.

I think I’ve already told you enough about my hen-spoiling habits that this won’t come as a surprise. But I just read that you can put fresh culinary herbs in your laying boxes, and it’s like aromatherapy for your hens. Basil, lavender, etc. Someone even used rose petals. One hen supposedly fell asleep in her box she was so relaxed. Chicks of all kinds in the wild rub against plants like this to get some of the natural oil.      !?

Here’s the picture I saw:

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Am I crazy or does that sound like a cool idea? It’s okay…you can say I’m crazy.

Sick Day

Miss Marple…don’t you go dying on me lady!

Miss Marple has either a sour crop or an impacted crop. Still figuring out which one she’s got. Basically her crop, the large sack in which food stays until it’s ground up, is swollen and squishy. Each morning a hen’s crop will be completely empty. If it’s blocked or there is a fungal infection happening, like in Miss Marple’s case, it will still be full in the morning. If you don’t heal her soon, she’ll starve to death. Removing a blockage can be impossible. Getting rid of sour crop can be tedious and time consuming. So today, I’m headed to the store to buy lotramin (syringing into your hen’s mouth will help battle the fungal infection) and V8 juice. In the meantime she’s chilling on my makeshift roost (they need a roost so they don’t walk in their own poo) and eating only what I give her. Hopefully over the next day or so her crop will begin to empty. I might have to help with that, but vomiting a chicken sounds so unpleasant. Though I know it can be necessary.

So hurry up and get better Miss Marple. Lyra is outside squawking her head off with worry.

Heartsick.

Yesterday sucked.

In the afternoon, because of a combination of factors; hypoglycemia, overheating, dehydration, & stress, I fainted in my car after I got up into it. In the past I’ve had seizures when I faint, so when I woke and realized what had happened, I called my hubby right away. My head and body ached, I was overcome with fatigue. I fell asleep on the steering wheel. I was asleep in my car, windows up, in the sun for maybe 20 minutes until my husband showed up. I was severally dehydrated and tired but, thanks to Matt, was able to cool off and we got home okay.

We came home to find that Amelia (my big yellow hen) was still “acting weird”. The past four days she’d been behaving oddly. She had a really pale egg, was hiding, acting broody, always standing, explosive poo-ing, falling asleep all the time. When I picked her up tons of water came out of her mouth. We knew she wasn’t doing well.

We brought her inside to cool off and I tried to rest. I couldn’t sleep, I was too worried.

So, around 8pm, we took her to an avian vet with a free first time visit just to get an idea of what was happening. Honestly I was really looking forward to the free education. I had a laundry list of chicken questions. But we got bad news. Her crop had distended and was swollen with liquid. Something was stuck somewhere and for a chicken…that is bad news. There were really no remedies that made sense for Amelia’s condition and honestly for her status as backyard chicken. I asked the vet if it seemed like she was in pain.

While I asked the question Amelia was just standing there sleeping, letting water drool out of her mouth. It was pretty clear. So knowing she was feeling so crappy, (the vet said, “She’s really, really sick, Haley.”) and might get to feeling even worse, we decided to fork over a few bucks and have her put down.

This was probably a lot more intense emotionally than finding her dead in the backyard. But I know it would have been miserable for her. We buried her late last night and cried together for a long time. Trust me. I know. It’s a chicken. But you know what, I raised her and loved her and will miss her a lot. I stroked her comb and head as she passed away, held her for a long time and just cried.

Our flock keeps getting smaller and smaller. I’m getting waves of guilt; did I feed her something wrong? Should I have noticed earlier? What if we brought her home and she bounced back? Should I even have chickens if I get this attached to them? Then thoughts, attempts at reassurance arise; “Haley, chickens suddenly die all the time”, “How long did you think she’d live?”, “You can get another one!”, “Don’t personalize her too much. She didn’t have human emotions.”, “God knows you’d love to see her again.”

Nothing but tears every time I woke up in the night.

This morning I thought it would make me feel better to go sit in the backyard with the other two. It didn’t. It doesn’t seem right. I know this post will seem so dramatic to me in the future. But really, this is how I feel. I’m mourning the loss of a loved pet.

Your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated as I go into a busy week. I co-direct a senior high youth camp on the Oregon coast and heading there physically and emotionally drained is never a good way to start the week.

I’d love to hear from you all. Thoughts, stories, chicken wisdom…I think dialogue would help me.

Here’s a picture of Miss Marple, Amelia and Lyra, all sleeping on their faces when they were only a few days old.