Happy Fourth Of July!

July 4th, 2015

In honor of the holiday, no post this week. Everyone’s outside having cookouts and not listening to me anyway. See you next week!

Some people (and chickens) are sensitive to loud noises.

Some people (and chickens) are sensitive to loud noises.

Chickens And Mites

June 26th, 2015

Henny Penny has a naked butt. At first I suspected that it was from butt pecking. Suzy Creamcheese Junior shortly thereafter lost a bunch of butt feathers, and I even saw wounds on her butt that totally looked like pecking wounds. I was putting Blukote on the affected butts, which is an antiseptic, and is supposed to stop butt pecking. But the butt feathers continued to disappear, and/or not grow back. Then I noticed that one of the Mandrell Sisters was starting to lose butt feathers too. So I either had a rampant butt pecker on the loose, or this was something else. And the something else that it probably was was probably mites. The story you’re about to hear will make you very itchy.

pecky the kid

Pecky The Kid – as seen in the book Buttpeckers and Bad Hens.

I recently thought Steve had vent gleet. She may still have had it. I almost hope so, otherwise I put her through the epsom salt drink ordeal for nothing (see last week’s post for more details on the epsom salt drink ordeal). But she had a poopy butt, and in my experience, that means vent gleet. However, it turns out that having a poopy butt can also be a sign of having mites. So I had thought that I had chickens with multiple butt ailments, and only when I looked at the big picture did I see what was really happening. There may not be a phantom butt pecker on the loose after all, just a ton of tiny butt biters.

butt crisis

Steve’s existential butt crisis.

Mites can be very hard to see, but I thought I’d look for them anyway. When the ladies were resting on the roost at night, I grabbed a Mandrell, and gazed deeply into her featherless butt area. I did see tiny dark spots on her skin. They didn’t move, like mites often do, but they also didn’t look like they should be there. It was time to treat for mites, just in case. The “good” news is that like everything to do with chickens, there are a million opinions about how to treat this. One was to use diatomaceous earth in the coop to kill the mites. That was lucky, because I have a bunch of diatomaceous earth. I sprinkled it in their bedding, and waited. Turns out I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for, so a few nights later, I went in and patted some onto each of their butts, just to make sure it got where the little nasties were.

butt in the night

Things that go butt in the night.

People often complain that diatomaceous earth is bad for the respiratory systems of everyone who comes in contact with it. This may be true. Others say this is why you should use Sevin dust instead of diatomaceous earth, but if you read the label, Sevin is 95% diatomaceous earth, plus some poison. It also apparently is terrible for bees, and I am a big supporter of bees, so I crossed that cure off my list. The next thing I heard about was called “poultry powder.” This seemed to be the thing that people who didn’t like Sevin recommended. It’s also a poison, but allegedly less dangerous than Sevin, so I ordered some of this just to hedge my bets. Then I got it, and on the label it says it too is bad for bees, but only if you put it on flowers bees are pollinating. I wasn’t doing this, and there are no flowers near the coop, so hopefully no bees died in the treating of my chickens. However, chickens can die from mite infestations, so it was important for me to get this sorted out. I did the same thing with the poultry powder that I did with the diatomaceous earth. I snuck in at night, patted some on the infested butts, and hoped for the best.

love the bees

Love the bees

One dose won’t do it. I have to repeat this procedure in 10 days, since the powder doesn’t kill the eggs, just the live mites. So in 10 days the mite eggs will hatch, and then I’ll get those mites too, I hope. I also cleaned all the bedding out of the coop, washed the entire coop in vinegar, and let it air out. It smelled like a salad for a while, but who doesn’t like salad? I’m not sure how I’ll know if the mites are defeated, since feathers can take a while to grow back. This may be a slow process. I guess I’ll repeat the treatment as needed until I see butt feather regrowth occurring. I suppose I have all summer, huh? This is not the vacation I was hoping to take, but maybe with the right amount of marketing, butt mite excursions will take off. Another million dollar idea from my chickens’ hinders.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Guatemala – Panama March by Heftone Banjo Orchestra)

Steve’s Got The Gleet!

June 19th, 2015

Vent gleet has been a continual burr under my blanket for a very long time. Some people call it “nasty butt disease” due to the lovely symptom of diarrhea, but it’s really a fungal infection of the vent (aka the chicken down-below hole). There are things you can do to ward it off, such as give your chickens yogurt, since probiotics are anti-fungal, and you can put apple cider vinegar in the chickens’ water for the same reason. You know what? I do both these things, and every year I have to deal with at least one chicken coming down with it. Would it be worse if I didn’t do these things? I don’t know, and I’m not willing to find out. It’s annoying enough dealing with one chicken that has it, I don’t want a bunch of them to get it at once.

Saturday Night Gleeter

Saturday Night Gleeter

For a while now, I kept looking at Steve’s butt in the yard and wondering if she had the tell-tale nasty butt. I would look quickly, see what looked like crustiness, and then a minute later everything would be fine. “A trick of the light,” I’d think, and go about my business. Then a little while later, this scenario would repeat itself. It eventually happened enough that I finally remembered that I kept thinking she had something up with her butt, and I should probably get a closer look. That wasn’t going to happen during the day while they were out in the yard; I would have to strike at night.

night coop

It’s easier if you bring a flashlight.

After the sun had gone down, and the birds were on the roost, I crept into the coop and took care of some business. Henny Penny and Suzy Creamcheese Junior had been having their butts pecked, so I gave each of them a dose of Bluekote while I was in there. (It’s an antiseptic thing to protect them from infection.) Everyone probably hoped that I had finished my tasks at that point, but then I grabbed Steve. You may have heard of people screaming bloody murder before. You may not have heard of a chicken doing this, but I can assure you that this is exactly what Steve did. You know bloody murder when you hear it. I flipped her on her back, which usually calms a chicken down, but this only seemed to make her angrier. She managed to get away, but since it was dark, as soon as she hit the ground, she froze, since she couldn’t see where she was going. I grabbed her again, and the bloody murder began anew.

bloody murder

Nobody ever whispers bloody murder.

Eventually, I got her to sit still, even if she continued to make an unholy racket. It seems Wyandottes like Steve have fancy butt feathers that are layered, so when I was able to get at them, I could see that she did have poo-caked feathers under her butt, but they would just tuck back up under other ones after she had pooped. This explains why I’d see them, but then they’d be gone in the blink of an eye. I took out some scissors, and tried to cut the matted feathers off with one hand, while holding her in the other. This was proving to be more difficult than any other chicken I had dealt with. I almost walked up to my son’s bedroom window and asked my wife to come outside and help, since I knew she was in there. I stuck it out on my own though, and got most of the feathers removed. You can theoretically soak a chicken in a bucket for 20 minutes to ungunk the feathers, but I have never been able to get one to sit for more than 3 minutes before we both have enough. Steve had already shown her feisty side, so bathtime was not going to happen. Snip snip, and then the next step began.

chicken haircut

We’ve all had bad haircuts before.

I brought her inside, where I had a mixture of 1 ounce of water with 1 teaspoon of epsom salts mixed in. This was to be administered orally to the chicken. This has always been the worst part of the treatment, usually leaving me soaking wet, since chickens don’t like being made to drink from a dropper. You gently pull on their wattles, and it’s supposed to open their mouth so you can squirt a little of the solution in. It does get their mouth open, but you usually have a nanosecond before it closes again. Steve, being a Wyandotte, doesn’t have much of a comb to speak of, but her wattles are quite large and luxurious. So much so that getting her mouth open was the easiest thing I had done all night. I got all the epsom drink down without getting any on myself, and briefly sat there amazed. Then I realized I still had an angry chicken to deal with, and brought her back to the coop.

If only I could convince them it's a trendy cocktail.

If only I could convince them it’s a trendy cocktail.

I’ll need to do this again. It usually takes two doses to work, so after the first dose, you get to spend a few days thinking about how much fun it will be to do again. I’m still dreading it, since she’s such a firecracker, but hopefully the wattles will work in my favor once more. I can’t handle an epsom drenching. Not when it’s humid like this.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Whistling Rufus by Heftone Banjo Orchestra)

Chickens And Mantids

June 12th, 2015

If you’ve been following my chicken journey from the beginning, you’ll know why I got chickens. If you haven’t been, let me get you up to speed. The short version is that we live in a place overrun with ticks, and wanted to control them in a way that didn’t involve spraying poison all over everything. We live out in nature, and we’d like to keep it as natural as possible. Chickens, who are voracious tick eaters, seemed to be the way to do this. Guinea fowl are apparently slightly more effective at eating ticks than chickens, but they also roam a lot more, and we’re trying to stay on the good side of the neighbors. Letting your weird dinosaur-like bird wander into someone else’s yard is frowned upon in some communities, ticks or no ticks.

guinea hen

Not everyone wants to see this when they look out the window. Their loss.

Knowing this about me will allow you to understand my thought processes when it comes to pests. We currently have a plum tree that has been besieged by aphids for the past two years. I could, I suppose, go out and get some highly effective, if highly poisonous, spray to put on the tree, and that would be the end of that. But if I didn’t want to do that to the yard, do you think I’d want to do it to a source of my food? If you answered “no,” you’re correct. I tried releasing ladybugs on the tree last year, but they didn’t stick around for very long. I had a landlord who used them quite effectively once, but her batch must have been more attentive than mine, because mine flew away without eating a thing, and I had an aphid smorgasbord right there ready to go. I’m trying the ladybugs again this year, but also some bigger guns.

buffet

Coming soon to a mall near you.

Last year I bought some praying mantis egg pods, but I think I got them too late in the Spring, so by the time the mantises hatched, they didn’t have enough time to get to the size where they could eat anything we needed them to eat. We have something that comes through and shreds the leaves of any leafy green we plant right about the time it’s ready to pick. I figured mantises would be the right bug for the job, so this year I ordered them very early. They need warm weather to hatch, and of course, this Spring has been ridiculously cold. It was 45 recently. In June. June! In spite of this, the mantises hatched anyway, and it was very cool to see how tiny they were, and to watch them fan out all over the trees I had put the eggs in. Ants tried to eat one of the pods, but it was too late. The mantises were already on the loose, and while tiny, hopefully they were eating whatever they could get. If that meant ants, good. The ants are adding to the aphid issue, as ants like the nectar aphids leak out, and actually “farm” aphids for this.

ant farm

In plum tree, ant farms you! (Too many possible ant farm jokes, and this is what I went with. See the collected works of Yakoff Smirnoff if you don’t get it.)

As I watched the mantises drop from the eggs into the tree, I noticed the grass was also covered in them. It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to let the chickens out. I looked at the hundreds of tiny mantises and realized this was an all-you-can-eat mantis buffet right here, and decided, as much as it pained me, to leave the chickens in for the day. Once my little friends had some time to find their way to safer havens, the chickens could roam free again. I figured maybe a day or two would do it.

mantis safety

If only it were this easy.

The next morning I took my son to baseball, which is absurdly early. When we came home, my mother-in-law was mowing the lawn. As I pulled up the driveway, she was right where all the mantises had been under the tree. I had thought to leave her a note not to mow, but figured we’d be home so early no one would dare to mow before then. I was wrong. I had saved the mantises from the chickens, but had the mower gotten them, or had they found safety overnight? I suppose I can only wait and see if any show up once they’re larger, and easier to spot. I hope they lived, because I’d really like some kale from my garden this year. A cruel irony would be if the thing that eats my greens is the one thing mantises don’t eat. If so, I will buy more beneficial bugs, and I will win this battle. No one eats my plants but me. And maybe the chickens, when I have a surplus.

mantises hatching

Eat! Eat, my hearties!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Peaceful Henry by Heftone Banjo Orchestra)

Chickens And Reading

June 5th, 2015

I don’t get to take vacations very often. Even if I have time off from work, I usually have about 100 ideas for creative projects I want to be working on, or work to do for one of my side jobs, or both. It’s kind of exhausting. And when I do get to take time off from my full-time job, I rarely get to sleep in, either because of having to take my son to school, or the chickens making an unholy racket at 5:30 in the morning, or just my general long-running history of unsatisfying sleep. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that the standards for what constitute a vacation these days have fallen considerably. It’s like the time I realized that all I really wanted was to go to bed at 11 and get up at 7 like I used to. That’s a pretty sad fantasy, but here we are.

Dare to dream.

Dare to dream.

I work for a university, and the last week of May is always really hectic on campus. We get Memorial Day off, which is nice. Then I can’t work on the following Thursday because that’s commencement, and due to security reasons, you can’t get into my building. There’s a huge ceremony right outside. So I’ve gotten into the habit in the past few years of just taking the rest of that week off. Then I only have to use a few vacation days, but I get a week off, and I at least get a break from the commute. As usual, before I had even put in for the time off, I had already made a completely unmanageable list of things I wanted to do while I was home. Spoiler alert: I accomplished one, maybe two, tops. I did get to let the chickens out every day, which was big for all of us. I’m not even entirely sure where the rest of the time went, but I started no new projects, and only barely kept up with the existing ones. But like I said, no riding the train, so that was nice.

Ants on your face? Better than riding the train.

Ants on your face? Better than riding the train.

By Thursday, I was completely wiped out, and decided it was time to bag productivity and just sit out in the yard and read while the chickens ran around. I’d get to relax, and they’d get a nice long bout of free-ranging. I brought Boss Chicken over to her favorite hosta, and she happily began a dirt bath underneath it. I sat at a table in the yard a few feet away with a book, and started reading. You probably already see where this is going. Boss Chicken, normally kept out of sight by the hosta, decided she wanted to be out on the grass. The other chickens, who usually work the far edge of the yard for bugs in the leaf litter, decided they wanted hang out near where Boss Chicken was. They will attack her if they get too close, and she has leg problems, so she can’t fight back or run away. So I’d read a sentence, get up and chase the others away, sit back down, read another sentence, get up, chase them away, sit back down, blah blah blah. I decided sitting at the table was a no-go, so I moved a chair over to where Boss Chicken was, and she sat next to me. The other chickens circled like feathery sharks for a while, then wandered off to do their thing, whatever their thing at that time was. Chicken trends are super hard to keep up with.

You're gonna need a bigger coop.

You’re gonna need a bigger coop.

And that, of course, was when the squawking began. Since I was right there, Boss Chicken wanted to be patted. I would try to read with one hand, and pet her with the other, but my book was large and unwieldy, and if I took my hand off the Boss, she began to loudly squawk until I put it back. I appreciate that she enjoys my attention, and that she’s tame enough for petting, but it really made it impossible to read. I put the book down and spent the rest of my time out there resting my hand on her back, and staring off into the distance. I suppose that’s a kind of chicken meditation, so it was not without its benefits. It just wasn’t how I had planned my afternoon.

meditating chicken

Chicken meditation isn’t offered at many gyms yet.

Even though reading was a wash, I still got to spend time outside, the chickens got to roam, I got to pet a chicken, and I came back inside without any ticks on me. Even if I had come back inside covered in ticks, I’d say that still beats a day in my windowless office bookended by fights for a seat on the train. I’ll take whatever sort of vacation I can get.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Siesta by Jahzzar)

Chicken Dirt Baths

May 29th, 2015

The other day my son came running up to me while the chickens were in the yard. “Steve’s laying an egg and not in the coop where they’re supposed to go!” he said. I had a feeling I knew exactly what he was talking about, only Steve wasn’t laying an egg.

worst game show.

Worst game show.

“Is she over by the big pricker bush in the dirt?” I asked. He confirmed that this was the case. “I don’t think she’s laying an egg, but let’s take a look,” I said, and we walked over. Steve was there in the dirt, right where he said she was, but when I said to wait a minute and watch, we saw Steve roll over on her back and then flip a bunch of dirt all over herself. “I don’t think she’s going to lay an egg there,” I told him. “It looks like she’s taking a dirt bath.” I knew this was dicey territory to get into, as my son is forced to take baths when he gets dirty, how come the chickens get to take baths right in the dirt? I explained a little more that the dirt is how they clean themselves, even though people clean themselves by washing off the dirt. It’s a feather thing. He hasn’t tried to take a dirt bath instead of a regular one yet, so maybe I’m over-worrying. And even if he does, his new thing is spraying himself right in the face with the hose, so I think we can get him cleaned up pretty easily. Now, if I could just get him to stand in the garden while he plays the hose-in-the-face game, I could cover a lot of tasks that need doing around here.

bath and a sprinkler

Bath and a sprinkler, two bits.

Steve really seems to enjoy that one spot by the pricker bush. I think there’s a particularly good patch of sandy dirt there, which must be the hot tub of the dirt bath world. Some people put sand in their chickens runs for bathing purposes, but it doesn’t look like I need to. I’ve caught her over there lazily rolling around and flinging dirt all over the place, but any time I try to get video of it, she immediately stops and acts like nothing’s going on. The minute I turn off the camera, she’s back to rolling and flinging. Apparently chickens get camera-shy, or at the very least, resent my attempts to put them on Facebook. I suppose I wouldn’t want video of me taking a bath on the internet either. Chicken baths are very entertaining to watch though, certainly more so than my own.

bath

To the observer, anyway. I get a lot of thinking done.

I don’t think all of them have a preferred spot, but Steve obviously does, and Boss Chicken does as well. When she’s out of her hutch, and when the hostas are in bloom, she heads right for the biggest one, sits in the shade under it, and digs a nice hole for bathing. She’s got shade, she’s got dirt, and she’s got bugs aplenty. She also gets a little cheesed when I pick her up and put her back in the hutch later, but why wouldn’t she? I’m coming in and putting an end to the dirt party like a buzzkill. I also tend to laugh at how much dirt she gets all over herself, so I guess I’m a double jerk.

dirt boss

It often looks a little like this.

Chicken dirt baths are pretty win-win. The chickens get to clean themselves, and it provides plenty of entertainment for anyone around to witness it. If there was a channel on TV that was just footage of dirt baths, I’d probably watch it. The problem comes back to them acting like everything is normal when I come around with the camera. I suppose there must be exhibitionist chickens out there. I’ll have to check some reference books and see if I can find which breeds have more theatrical tendencies, and once I get this chicken bath TV project off the ground, perhaps my first million will roll right in.

chicken bath TV

Call your cable company and say, “I want my CBTV!”

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: “Vivacity” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com))

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Tornado Eggs

May 22nd, 2015

One of the nice things about my son being more involved with taking care of the chickens is seeing him get excited and make observations about the various things the chickens do. Since his main job is to gather the eggs, a lot of his commentary is egg-based (or poop-based, because there’s a lot of poop, he’s seven, and I set a bad example). I’ve pointed out the differences between the different eggs, so he can start to figure out who lays which ones. He knows that Henny Penny’s eggs are smaller and darker than the ones we get from the Mandrell Sisters. It’s very easy for him to pick out Steve and John’s eggs, which are the smallest and palest (we’re hoping the eggs get bigger as Steve and John grow, but they’re almost a year old now, so maybe this is it). And he knows that Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s eggs are speckled, and this seems to be the thing he is most excited to look for.

speckled egg

Rich with speckly goodness.

There are certain occasions where he gets even more excited than when we find a speckled egg. Every so often we’ll get an extremely long, pale egg, and it is always greeted with a “WOW!” and sometimes a “look at that crazy egg!” I explained to him that sometimes people call these “torpedo eggs,” because they’re long and sort of torpedo shaped, but since he doesn’t know what a torpedo is, he ends up calling them tornado eggs. Tornados he knows about. It’s not quite as cute as when he was three and called the elevator the “alligator,” but I’ll take what I can get while it lasts.

alligator

He may have been trying to warn me about something.

Whenever we get a tornado egg there is always a discussion about who could have done it. I’ve never been able to figure this out. They’ve shown up ever since we’ve had chickens, so I would guess one of the original crew is behind this. I’ve always suspected a Mandrell Sister, since the coloration of the egg is about the same, but since it’s a mutant egg anyway, the color could be messed up too. Unless I put a camera in the nesting bucket, we may never know. And that’s probably not going to happen. It feels a little creepy. Sometimes these sorts of giant eggs are double-yolkers, but we’ve never had one that was, that I know of. I should check with anyone I’ve given eggs to over the last 3 years to see if they had any giant, double-yolked eggs, but I don’t think I have that kind of time. As far as I can tell, the occasional big egg is nothing to worry about. The shells are fine, they’re just a little big. It sometimes looks like it was something that might have hurt a little, but everyone is walking fine, so maybe they’re built to take it. I’d be sitting a little gingerly if I dropped a tornado egg, but I think I’d have bigger things to worry about if I was suddenly laying eggs.

call the doctor

Another one of those calls.

Tornado eggs, or torpedo eggs, are both safer than their namesakes. They seem to be safe for the chickens too, and they give my son something to marvel at while he helps me out with the chickens. This seems like a situation in which everybody wins. Except that I keep getting hosed on the double-yolk front. I’m seeing the glass half empty here, because my glass can hold two yolks. Come on, mystery torpedo egg chicken, make me proud!

single yolk

There can only be one.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Gypsy Blues by Paul Whiteman And His Orchestra)

On the road . . .

May 15th, 2015

I’ve had to do some last minute traveling, so no podcast this week. In the meantime, enjoy Boss Chicken channelling Peter Gabriel in the early period of Genesis. See you next week.

may flowers

Butt Pecking

May 8th, 2015

Back when we first got the chickens, there was some butt pecking going on in the flock. I now suspect that it was just that the babies needed some more space, but not having any experience with chickens, I freaked out a little. I was worried it was going to be a fight to the death or something, and that would not do. I ended up searching the internet high and low for “butt pecking” and after much reading, expanded the size of the box that they were in, and things got o.k. again. That problem was solved, but a new one arose. I noticed that after that, any time I did an internet search that began with the letter B, “butt pecking” popped up as a suggestion. In most instances, this wasn’t a big deal. However, as the tech support guy at work, people often come to me with questions, and sometimes the thing to do is look up the answer right then and there. So there was the risk that someone would come to me with a problem that started with B, and then, as they looked over my shoulder as I searched, they’d see I’d been looking for butt pecking. Eventually, I stopped worrying about it. “Maybe this is a good way to get people to stop coming to me with their problems,” I thought.

Yep.

Yep.

Butt pecking is back in my search history again lately. They’re not chicks anymore, but butts are getting pecked anew. It started with Henny Penny. One night I noticed her butt was featherless, and I panicked, thinking she might be egg bound. However, she’s reliably laying eggs, and pooping up a storm, so I don’t think it’s that. It happened at the end of the winter, so my thinking now is that the other birds may have been eating her feathers for protein. I’ve read that this happens. I put some Blu-Kote on her butt just to make sure nothing got infected, and she seems to be o.k. otherwise.

The blue butt of unhappiness.

The blue butt of unhappiness.

Then the other day I noticed that Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt looked a little worse for the wear. Sure enough, her butt was getting pecked too. And hers looked even worse than Henny Penny’s. She had lost fewer feathers, but had a couple of open cuts. I Blu-Koted everything right away, and then did Henny Penny’s area again for good measure. Henny Penny’s feathers do look like they’re starting to grow back, but her skin seemed a little red. That may have been because I was holding her upside down and she was freaking out, but I decided to look it up anyway. There is a pretty epic thread on one of the chicken forums I read about red, featherless butts that are also squishy. The squishiness of her butt was what made me think it might be a stuck egg. The thread speculates a lot, but there seem to be no real answers, or at least consistent ones. I’m not sure regular butts aren’t also this squishy, and you just don’t notice because of the feathers. And since Suzy Creamcheese Junior is also getting pecked, it makes me think it’s more of a pecking situation going on, rather than anything else. The chickens may be getting bored, and butts are an easy target. I put a cabbage in there today to give them something to occupy themselves with that wasn’t a butt. I’m also going to throw some diatomaceous earth in the coop to rule out parasites. This seems to be one of those issues that can be caused by a whole range of different things.

sell the sizzle

I believe this is what’s known as “selling the sizzle.”

There’s also the chance that I’m looking at two entirely different problems. The squishy butt problem could be egg peritonitis, which is what killed the original Suzy Creamcheese. But other people with chickens with red, featherless butts have said their chickens get it and just soldier on for years. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt problems could be a result of a pecking order situation. There are really no clear answers. I’ll be monitoring the situations and applying antiseptic creams, salves, and unguents as needs dictate. And in the meantime, should I find time at work to search for more butt pecking advice, maybe I’ll consider clearing my search history. Though, if butt pecking is the worst thing you have in there, you’re doing pretty good, as long as you’re still talking about chickens.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: 1909 – Mlle. Modiste (Mademoiselle Modesty) Selection by Victor Herbert Orchestra)

Chicks And Ticks

May 1st, 2015

The other day at work I had a discussion with some coworkers about ticks for at least 20 minutes. It is tick season again, after all, and so that means it’s time to complain about ticks. (We’re hopefully done complaining about snow for a while.) There was a lot of squirming, use of the word “nasty,” and the general feeling that we were just all going to itch for the rest of the day. And in case we weren’t, I was sure to mention that bedbugs also exist, so hopefully at that point itchiness was a slam-dunk. “They don’t have these tick problems in the South,” was brought up, but the presence of roaches that can fly was deemed possibly even worse. So finally we just expressed our general disgust with both ticks and flying roaches, and got back to work.

flying roach

Roaches always fly first class.

I have to say I have a slightly mixed set of feelings about ticks. If it weren’t for them, I never would have gotten chickens. We got the chickens to eat the ticks, and I think it’s safe to say that getting chickens has been a very pleasant experience for me, even with the number of times I have had to stick my finger in one of their butts. But ticks are also disgusting disease-spreading parasitic monsters, and I’d be fine with them not existing. But they do, so I have to assume they serve some purpose. Is it merely as a disease vector? I complain about the mosquitoes a lot, but I can see that mosquitoes serve as food for bats, and I love bats. I understand that though mosquitoes are also unpleasant, disease-spreading monsters, they have a role to play. They suck, but they’re someone’s food. Who eats ticks in the wild? Anyone? Not me.

theater ticks

I only eat ticks at the movies.

We had a very mild winter a few years ago, and the following summer, the tick population surged. All the talk was that it was because we need the cold and snow to kill the ticks as they await spring. So this winter, with the feet and feet of snow we got, must surely mean that we have wiped them out really good, and there will only be like 10 ticks this year, right? Nope. Now everyone on the news is just talking about how the snow actually insulates the ticks and protects them from the harsh temperatures. Mild is no good. Frigid and snowy is no good. I suspect there’s really nothing that will keep the populations down, and the news just tells us that whatever sort of winter we had was the wrong kind just to dash our hopes that this year will be a mild tick year. I wouldn’t put it past them.

tick report

Most news networks are on the payroll of Big Tick.

My mother in law found three ticks on herself after just being out in the yard the other day. She hadn’t even ventured into the leaf litter like I usually do. That’s not good. On the plus side, I know I had already had my first tick incident of last year on Marathon Monday, and that’s come and gone and I’ve remained tickless. But spring has just begun. They’ll get me for sure, it’s just a matter of when. My personal record is four on me in one day. Not something I’m looking to beat, but it’s out there.

tick track

My marker is at the ready.

I take all the right precautions, and still get these awful creatures on me. They even get into our house. Do we need to start keeping chickens in there? That might not sit well with the cats, or the carpet. I’ll let the ladies out as much as I can to try to decimate the tick population, but I know they can only do so much. We need a lot more chickens working a lot more hours to really get results. I may have to quit my job and dedicate myself to eradicating ticks in the yard by means of chickens full-time. I’m sure it pays well, and will provide good insurance to cover the inevitable tick-borne illness when one sneaks past the goalies. Ticks are awful, awful things, but we’ll just have to deal with them living where we do. At least I got chickens out of the deal.

chicken

A chicken, in case you’ve forgotten what they look like.

 

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: 1910-The Flatterer by Victor Herbert Orchestra)

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