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I am a 50+ yr old stay at home wife of a scientist/Military man.  I raise chickens for eggs, rescue dogs & cats & spoil them all.  I am a silver/metal smith & stained glass artist.  I, at one time was an secondary art teacher & Social Studies teacher.  I am sorta a eclectic earth mother who recycles everything I can get my hands on.  Enjoy working with power tools & even built my own 10ft by 6ft chicken coop.  am pretty much interested in learning everything I can thur books, magazines & friends. I enjoy veggie gardening & doing gardens just for the chickens. I also sew & love making pioneer style comfortable clothes for myself & adding vintage lace when I can find it. I am pretty easygoing, but need my coffee first before I am ready to face the world & day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wayward thoughts

Hello everyone!
There are more days than I can count, when I am somewhere inside my mind thinking of what better ways I can do things. I think part of this is my personally for order, that makes me re-hash ideas continuously. This can drive any other person to distraction. I notice my behavior with the chickens brings out the best or worse considering who I am telling my ideas to. Its funny in a weird way, as with my dogs & cats I can give them food, change their water, make sure they have a comfortable bed & be done with it...the chickens seem to drive me to the edge of insanity with what I COULD do for them. I build them a chicken coop, but because I am worried about the winter north winds making them sick, I build it inside my art shop with access to the outside run. do I stop there....Well Duh...NO! I put tarps on all the walls & flooring to help keep out mites & drafts. But this has a benefit as when it comes time to clean it, I can sweep down the walls & scrap the poo off the tarps easier than on the wood floors. I give them not 1 or 2 nesting boxes, but make 6 where as they use only 2. So I put hay in each hoping that they will find they like the extra boxes. The babies do tend to sleep in them at night so I guess it really wasn't a bad idea. I set up 2 heat lamps for the cold days & they also have a low flow fan for the really hot days. I put in 2 air vents, on 2 sides of the coop inside the shop area so they would get some fresh air, but not have it gusting through like a tornado. Now the Run is another brainy idea of mine...No boring run for my girls. It is heavily chicken wired & netted since the problem with the fishercat last year. I have a picnic table umbrella set up where they can get their fed without it getting rained or snowed on. I stuck it in the ground, so I have to bend over & crawl under it to get to the dishes, but they are happy with it I suppose. Well, Prudence does tend to complain about every little thing when I am in there. I know she is trying to tell me she had better ideas if I had just listened to her. I just finished a lean-to up against one shop wall in there with plywood & tarps so they would have a dirt area when the snows come. did I mention I did this on my own without help & whacked my head over & over trying to nail it to the wall. but again they seem to like it...Now will it be strong enough to deal with any snow that doesn't slid down it? I have one hen who never gets over her bumble foot, to us its like a stone bruise on our heel, but with them it will swell & create a scab. I have learned through trial & error, to fit her with little tape booties with cotton inside against the bruised area. She has pretty much lived in these since I got her in the spring, as she still wants to jump off high areas into concrete, wood floors & big rocks. She is so used to them being replaced now she will lay there in my lap & let me take off the old tape, wash her feet, check to see how the scabs are doing, medicate them & re-bandage them. I swear she thinks she has on pretty little shoes cause she will go out & in my mind show them off before she gets them all dirty again. I am just thankful not all 20 of them want these special 'shoes'& dive bomb rocks ect to get a pair of their own. I also get a lot of hens who get leg injures & after many failed attempts to help them finally decided to use a sling they can lay in with the bad leg hanging down below them. This took a while using different fabrics with holes cut out & using a step stool to tie it to so they wouldn't feel left out & could see what was going on in the dining room. A few years back I had bought one of those heavy netted chairs you can hang on a tree or from the ceiling on your front porch (think 1960's)...Well if that didn't seem to be the prefect thing to use once I remembered I had it....that took 2 yrs. Anyway, I can lay down a heavy piece of soft fabric with 2 holes cut out & put their legs through that then place them in the chair so the fabric nestles up against their breast area, but I can pull the legs out through the netting & I hang this whole thing from a plant hook in my ceiling beam. See I told you I just can't seem to let this go! I leave the house for any length of time & I worry about the 'girls'. When I went to my Sister's Reunion in California this last May, I worried every day about whether they were being fed & watered. I never even worried about my son like I do with these chickens, I am sure a therapist would have a lot to say about me. And don't even mention that I can't have them! Those are fightin' words! So anyway, I know I have a slight(???) problem when it comes to the 'girls', but I also wonder if others who raise chickens have these same insane thoughts/actions or if I am just one of a kind?
Have a great chicken day!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Preparing for the winter my way

Can you say heat lamps?!
Up here in Massachusetts, USA it can get pretty cold if you live near the New Hampshire & New York borders. Plus we live on a slight hill that when it snows we get huge snow drifts in our yard. Last year since I had to bring all the chickens into the basement because of the Fishercat for the winter I didn't have to worry about whether they were warm enough. Since I built the new coop, even though it is inside the shop its up against the north facing walls so the wind will hit that area...as well as the run. I did line the inside of the coop walls with tarps which should help with any heavy winds but I also know that since its 8 ft high to the ceiling the heat will rise & the chickens need extra heat especially when the run door is open during the day. Today it is cold & rainy, so I have on a traditional light heat lamp in one area & a red light heat lamp in another area. I already have 4 girls who have decided its too wet & cold & are hanging out in the coop. I know that chickens can handle the cold as long as its not below freezing but when their little combs get all purple I worry. I try to clean out the old bedding hay at least weekly but in the winter I let it go longer & just dump more over it if its not wet & icky. The floor is also tarp-ed so when I do have to clean it up its easy for me to get to all of it.
During the winter I try to have the extra grains, dried fruit, oatmeal ect ready in big lined metal trash cans in the shop so that when I fix their warm morning meal its easy for me to get to. I bring out a 1/2 gallon milk jug with warm water in it & mix it up out there so I don't have to battle with feeding dishes through the snow...I have dropped stuff trying to get it to the run before so learned my lesson.
At night when I close them up in the coop from the run area I just grab the feed dishes & clean them for the next morning. I don't use traditional chicken feed containers for this. I found at a thrift shop the lidded antipasto plastic dishes. They have the separate areas for olives,ect...well anyway they work great for feeding the hens special foods since they can all get around it, so less fighting or climbing over the dishes. I have 3 of these I got for .99 cents each & I use the lids as well if I am doing raw vegs or fruits. Plus if I am doing fruit &/or vegs I can do them up the night before pop on the lid & put them in the frig until the morning.
The girls run is on a slight hill as well so when it rains they end up with a muddy mess since it runs down through the run....snow tends to pile up in certain areas as well. During the rainy times I go out & throw down bedding hay so they don't slip & slide every where or if I am cleaning out the coop I just throw the coop hay out there for them to tromp & have better footing. I do shovel out as much snow as I can during the winter, but I can never get it down to the ground so out goes more bedding hay. It has become my new best friend during icky weather!
One thing that I find important is to check all the hens/roosters at the beginning of the cold spells. I grab the medical kit & pick up each chicken, inspecting eyes, beak, comb, waddles, feet, vent ect so any injures or things such as toenails needing trimming or treated. I do this in the spring as well but when they decide not to spend as much time outside I think its a good thing to check them all before they winter over mostly indoors.
During the winter its easy to check on them since you pretty much have to pick them up to get them out the door into the run...well anyway mine have decided if its nasty outside they ain't goin!
I also check the run fencing for any areas that need repair before the snows come since I don't want any unwanted wildlife getting through an area I might have missed earlier on. I do the same with the bird netting I have over the run as well & fix, tie down or replace.
I also make sure the hiding boxes I have in the run are tarped & in good repair so they have a place to hang out if they will go outside & not be in the snow.
I do not have a electric water heater so I try to keep the water in the coop near a heated lamp for them but I do check it often during the day if we get a really cold spell. I tried to put out water in the run last year & they didn't use it they preferred the ones in the coop. I keep a metal tray with hay on it under the water so they can spill the water & its easy to clean up.
Another thing I have found my girls eat like pigs during the winter so I make sure to give them lots of chicken feed along with cracked corn all day long. I also have feed set out at night since they have the red lighted heat lamp on they do get up for a midnight snack.
I also make sure they have apple cider vinegar in their water since they are in more & can get more parasites. During the warmer months I do this but maybe once a week in the winter each time the water gets changed they get a cap full of water per gallon of water. I also try to remember to put chicken vits either in the water once a week if I forget to put it in their warm oatmeal mix.
The two biggest things I watch for in the winter is:
frost bite of combs & waddles
more fighting or picking at each other
My chickens get along really well but if in the coop all the time they do tend to get cranky with each other over nesting box or perch space.
Well I think I have covered everything that I do for the winter months, but you never know I may find something else that I forgot & will surely add at a later date.
Have a great Chicken day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Animal Medical kit

Like any good Momma, I had to have a medical kit set up for the animals. I already had some basics for the cats & the dogs but with the chickens I needed a lot more. Who knew these 2 legged little things would have to have 10 times the amount of stuff that a dog needed in an emergency. I tend to go over board with things but with this I was glad too, since I have had to use all over it at one time or another with the chickens.
I have 2 medical kits set up now, one in the house the other in the chicken coop though some stuff I have to bring out with me to the coop since here it tends to freeze in the winter & liquids don't do well in there.
Ok now for the long list of items I keep & what I used some of them for. You might as well grab a cup of coffee or tea its a long list!

Gauze: sheet & roll

Sterile bandages

Q-tips

Vetrap (horse) self sticking bandage tape: This is one of my favorites for using on the feet for bumble foot. Its almost impossible for them to remove.
Iodine wound wash

Rubbing alcohol

Witch hazel

Mineral oil

DMSO: I learned about this living at home where it was used for muscle injures on the sheep. It has this weird effect that if you get even the tiniest amount on your sink you taste a garlic taste that last forever! Anyway I use it for leg problems & extended prolapsed vents.

Alushield Spray: I first learned about this when I took care of hoorses in my 20's. I had a colt that went thur barbed wire & the vet had me spray this on the wound to seal & protect it. When Cashmire fought off the raccoon or fishercat his comb got really cut up so I put this on it after cleaning it to help seal it from infection. Please note this is a silver color & the other Chickens will peck at it so you might do as I did & separate the wounded one from the others until the silver wears off or you wash it off.

Styptic powder: used to stop bleeding

Antibactic cream

Hemoriod cream: good for use with extended prolapsed vents

Vicks: great to use for nose, chest, lung colds

Pick-no-more lotion: I use this since I have a few hens that like to peck at the tail areas of the other chickens, they rip out feathers & cause the area to be red & inflamed. This stuff I guess tastes bad so they tend to leave the area alone long enough for it to heal.

Baby Nose suction cleaner: This has become one of my favorite items when the chickens get nose drainage problems, specially it the colder months. It cleans out the sinuses really quick so I can get the Vicks on the beak & help them breath better. Just like babies they will fight you on this, but it really does help.

Nail trimmers: I use this to trim the beaks as well as any overly long toe nails.

Scissors

X-acto blades & holder

Shot needle & syringe: I have used this for draining abcesses so I don't have to cut them open if not needed.

Plastic syringes: these are great if you have to force fed, water or liquid medicate.

Turkey Baster: Same as the plastic syringes but can put more food or liquid into a chicken.

Doggie/puppy pee pads: This is one invention I am very happy with since I often have a sick or weak hen in the house. Dragging hay, bedding ect is so messy & laying down newspapers can cause their legs to slid out from under them. I use these in the ER cages & can change them as often as needed.

ER playpen, dog crates, cat carriers, rabbit cages
: I have at least one of these set up in the diningroom at all times since I never know when I will need one. I have even used a few towels in the bathtub as a temp home for a sick chicken.

Vits: I keep on hand pellet & liquid chicken vits plus I have regular liquid baby vits for the babies or really sick ones that can't handle a dose of the stronger vits. I also mix this with their wet oatmeal in the winter a few times a week since it can get so cold here.

Dry Baby food cereals, baby food jar vegs: These come in handy when you have a sick or listless chicken who needs good type food fast. I have found that when I can't get them to eat if I mix this with their dry pellets/crumble they will try to eat it.

Chloroform: Yeah I know this one is not normally on someones medical list but since I have a chemist for a husband I was able to get a small bottle of it. When I know my chickens won't make it or are too injured to survive instead of the hand over the nose & beak or snapping their necks I can put them to sleep with the chloroform & by keeping it over their nose once they are asleep it will stop their lungs & then heart. They go so much more gentle this way.
Before I ask my husband to get me some chloroform I would turn them upside down then hold their beak closed & fingers over the nose holes. This took forever it seemed & they would fight which tore me up. It only takes a little on a paper napkin but be warned if you inhale it you may end up with a headache. Trust me, I leaned over it while tending to the chicken & got a monster headache.

Face mask: yeah I wasn't using it when I chloroformed that one time! I found some great ones at a drug store that are like the ones they use in a hospital & I like them better than the shop type ones. These I don't have problems with my glasses fogging up as I do with the others.

I am sure you have or will have to deal with bumble foot sometime while you have chickens. If they fly down on too hard of a surface over & over they get a huge bump on the bottom of their foot usually with a scab. messing around with the gauze i came up with a handy idea that lets the chicken walk easier & the others don't pick on it. I cut off a 3 inch piece of the rolled gauze & re-roll it really tight to make a tube then I tape the ends together to make a donut. where the donut hole is I use a bit of cotton ball with some antibactic cream on it. I put this over the bumble foot area so it cushions the area then use the Vetrap self sticking bandage tape to wrap the bottom of the foot to cover the donut & then bring the tape over the top & wrap it around the leg part. I don't go overboard on the tape as I want them to be able to walk comfortably but have the protection from the dirt ect. By the time its done they look like they have an old fashioned men's spat on. I keep this on until its super dirty then change it until the area is back to normal without the scab. I have one girl Madeline who seems to live in them since she is forever having bumble foot on both feet. She has no trouble with them & is so used to them now she no longer tries to tear them off. I also get the different colors of Vetrap bandage tape to blend in with the leg...I have black & also got a cream color. for those of you who don't know where to find this, you can find it at any feed/livestock place that sells items for horses.

I have used everything in my medical kit at one time or another with the chickens but try not to use the rubbing alcohol or witch hazel when I don't need to since it burns & I hate to put them thur more pain. But I do use them to clean the X-acto blade, scissors, ect so I don't transfer any more germs to the chicken.

Most of these items are also used for my dogs & cats if needed, specially the bandages, cotton balls & iodine. I also keep baby farm animal dried milk in my pantry to use if needed along with the extra jars of baby food.

Well I hope this is of help for someone who like me needs a good medical kit & can't find a poultry vet anywhere in the state.
Have a great Chicken day! M'