Monsters!

Considering whether to eat the camera.

Considering whether to eat the camera.

The broiler chicken countdown says 6 more days, but I would ship these mutants off today if I could. They were weighing in at about 4.5-6 lbs last week, so I’m thinking we’re probably where we want to be now (6+ lbs) Unfortunately, despite having about 10 weeks to prepare for this moment, we are totally not ready to 1) truck 24 live chickens out and 2) store 24 processed birds once they’re finished. We don’t have a portable cage big enough to hold them all for the trip to the processor, so I think what we’ve decided to do is pull out the 12 biggest birds and take them down in various smaller cages.  We’ll give the smaller ones a week or so more to grow and then take them down. I’m going to have to use the credit card to purchase a chest freezer because our house freezer is already full of the locally raised beef we got last month!

We ran out of food two weeks ago and had to start buying organic scratch grains from the local feed store to supplement and it has been costing us a fortune! The birds are terrible food wasters, and a lot of money went down the toilet because of that. We will have to improve our feeders for the next batch so we don’t end up with piles of expensive crumble all over the ground every day. Very frustrating!  We are moving the tractor twice a day and they are going through about 4 gallons of water per day as well. Luckily the weather hasn’t been too hot, and they’re in a cool area because they could definitely be drinking more.  The tractor is by no means cramped, but they are getting pretty feisty with one another AND getting feisty with me as well.  I got quite a peck on the finger this morning while I was hanging the water font back up.  Yep, it’s definitely time for them to move on to the next part of their journey.

 

 

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Bees!

Available Immediately: One story hive body, partially furnished by previous tenants, could use some spring cleaning.  Permitted for up to two additional stories, as needed. All mod cons. Nice neighborhood, lavender bushes nearby. If interested, call.

Available Immediately: One story hive body, partially furnished by previous tenants, could use some spring cleaning. Permitted for up to two additional stories, as needed. All mod cons. Nice neighborhood, lavender bushes nearby. If interested, call.

Holy smokes! That was a close one.

Over a month ago I contacted my bee guru and asked if I could buy another spring nuc from him this year (lost my last colony to varroa, but I want to try again). He emailed me back and said he put me on ‘the list’ and that I’d hear from him when the nucs were ready.

I did not hear from him. Hmmmm. I checked his website about a week ago and it said that due to heavy colony losses last year and super high demand, all the April nucs had sold out. I thought to myself, “Does that mean no bees even for the people ‘on the list’?”  And then I did nothing about it.  Well, I procrastinated.  I say this with the utmost reverence, Randy is a great teacher but very frenetic and can come across as, shall we say, brusque.  He doesn’t cotton to time-wasting questions and pleasantries. It makes it a little nerve-wracking to communicate with him. So I put it off.

Well, today for some reason I thought, “Gee if I want bees I’d better follow up with Randy or find em elsewheres, pronto!”  I sent out another email and got a prompt reply that I’d inadvertently been left off the email list of people who’d reserved nucs, and that I am free to come pick one up this weekend!

Now I know what I’m doing on Saturday. Hooray!

Improving?

Well, today is the third day of treatment with monistat, and I do believe they are getting better. Not the incredible turnaround I’d hoped for, but the two worst butts are definitely looking cleaner and drier today, and feathers are continuing to regrow (they grow fast!).  The two ameraucanas are fully integrated into the group (the banty Iowas still keep to themselves) and are out foraging and seem pleased as punch.  I’m going to treat them for 6 days and then stop. Fingers crossed we beat this thing!

This is not one of the sickies, but she was the only hen willing to pose for a photo. Now there's a happy chicken butt!

This is not one of the sickies, but she was the only hen willing to pose for a photo in front of my beautiful azalea bush. Now there’s a happy chicken butt!

 

When to Admit Defeat

I know, it’s been a while.  There’s actually plenty going on around the Domestead to report: the potato box we built last month now has lots of cute potato plants in it.  My other seedlings are coming along, and the garlic and onions and kale I planted in the winter garden are huge. Spring is in full explosion here in Nevada County, and the world is green and flowering and full of bugs. The goats are losing their winter coats and beginning to look svelte again.  I’m even getting ready to begin an exciting new project with my sister involving a cottage food business selling fancy cocktail mixers made from seasonal organic produce. Oh, and the Freedom Rangers are 8 weeks old and weighing between 3 and 4 lbs a bird.

But all that good stuff just cannot cure my blues, because all I can think about are those three new layer hens with the pasty butt problem. You see, they are not getting better. Not really at all.

Here’s the regimen I have been employing: Regular (not daily but nearly so) epsom salts baths; topical treatments of iodine and Gentian Violet; unfiltered apple cider vinegar in their water; a daily mash of organic oatmeal mixed with raw coconut butter and heavy-duty probiotics.  They get to spend their days foraging in what can only be described as a chicken wonderland, full of fresh spring greens and grasshoppers and worms, and their nights in a freshly cleaned coop stocked with scratch grains and layer crumble and fluffy fresh straw.

They’re living at a spa, basically. And they are not getting better.

They’re happy as clams, mind you. They’re laying, they’re eating voraciously, and even getting along pretty well with the other chickens, who don’t seem too interested in bullying given that they all have plenty of food and space and diversions. Feathers are starting to grow back on sad little tail knobs and the smell is far less offensive. But they aren’t getting better. Pasty butts and constant watery discharge are unabated.

I am switching to the big guns now. The natural remedies are not working, so it’s time to get some drugs. I’ll be picking up some Monistat cream AND suppositories today, and starting tomorrow they will get all of the above plus some cream up their hoo-has and a dose of suppository down their gullets. Yes, that’s right. You actually feed them 1/3 of a suppository daily. Goes without saying we won’t be collecting eggs for a while, which is a shame given that the forage is especially fine at the moment and the yolks have been coming in bright orange and big as saucers. But no, I’ll be chucking eggs for the next few weeks until the drugs are out of their systems. And, because it’s very hard to tell which egg belongs to which hen (somehow even the sickies are laying clean, fresh looking eggs out of those nasty bottoms), I won’t be able to keep any eggs.  Just in case you’re keeping score, that’s going from 4 beautiful eggs from 4 healthy hens each day a month ago to NO eggs after acquiring 4 new chickens.

And if they aren’t better after that? I think it will be time to admit defeat. So you see, even with all the promise and life and abundance surrounding me at moment, I am feeling the gloom that comes from contemplating one’s defeat.  The possibility of having to wring the necks of three otherwise perky hens with incurable vent gleet has got me in a deep-winter funk even as I sit among the lilacs and butterflies.  And so, to you on this glorious spring day, I bid you a bah, humbug.

Guess What…? Chicken Butt :(

This week I adopted 4 young layers (two Aracaunas and two Iowa Blues) from a woman in town who is moving out of state.  She had A LOT of chickens.  The Fella and I had been talking about getting a few more layers, and figured we’d get some chicks once the Freedom Rangers were out of the brooder.  That kept getting postponed for one reason or another, so when I saw the post on our local ag listserve about lots of laying hens up for adoption, I decided to go for it!

I noticed something funky about the way they smelled right away, but they had been in a pretty crowded and muddy run, so I figured they were just poopier than my girls ever get.  The previous owner said she’d consolidated them into the space to make them easier to catch, and given that there were several other big runs that were empty, I’m inclined to believe her.  She also said that the naked butts on some of the girls was because they’d been in with a rooster and he’d been having his way with them.

Fine. I drove home with my 4 stinky new chickens in the back of my tiny car.  And then carted them in transport cage in a wheelbarrow up the hill to the henhouse.  It was evening and they were pretty freaked out, so I didn’t do much in the way of inspecting them.  I waited until it was totally dark before putting them in with my other girls.  In the morning all but the two new Aracaunas came right out for breakfast. When I opened the coop to check on those two, I was greeted with a smell so nauseating I truly almost threw up.  And that’s when I noticed their butts.

Gross gross gross gross beyond words GROSS!  White cheesy pasty nastiness dripping out of their vents (aka buttholes).  You don’t get a picture, and you can thank me for it.  I’m actually gagging as I write this.  Poor girls, they have vent gleet.

Vent gleet is basically a yeast infection. It can be caused by stress, filthy conditions, antibiotics, wormer, etc.  There are many remedies out there, from monistat (just like people use) to epsom salts and apple cider vinegar to betadine washes.  I’m going to use a multi-pronged approach: 1) add raw apple cider vinegar to their water supply (requires getting a new plastic waterer as mine are galvanized) which will help the sick girls and hopefully keep everyone else healthy; 2) give the sickies an epsom salt soak to clean up their bottoms and help clear up any secondary infections (can’t use antibiotics! for all I know that’s how they got it in the first place); 3) apply betadine and Gentian Violet to the area, which will hopefully suppress the yeast/fungus overgrowth; 4) feed them yogurt to help get their gut flora back into balance.  Oh, and definitely give the coop a good scrub down.  All the while trying as hard as I can not to puke from the putrid stench.

So.

Much.

Fun.

I don’t know what to say about the woman who I adopted them from.  She seemed a nice enough lady, but I mean really? How can you let animals get so sick and not do anything about it? And how can you give them away to other people without telling them about it? It’s super messed up. Luckily it’s not really contagious (although if I don’t treat them then secondary infections, some of which may be contagious, could spread to my healthy hens). But that’s not really the point, is it? If you have animals in your care, you should CARE for them. End of story.  I am just really disappointed, although maybe it’s a good thing I got these poor girls out of those awful conditions where they can get treatment and hopefully get better.  Anyone who’s had a bad yeast infection or case of athlete’s foot knows what I’m talking about. Ouchie!  Poor little chicken butts.

p.s. The hens are otherwise healthy, active, eating, and even laying eggs already, so I am optimistic that they’ll get better with treatment.

p.p.s Here are a few links re: vent gleet that I found very helpful:

http://www.tillysnest.com/2012/12/vent-gleet-prevention-and-treatment.html

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/vent-gleet-aka-nasty-chicken-butt