Archive for May, 2015

Chicken Dirt Baths

Friday, 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.


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 (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Tornado Eggs

Friday, 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.


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 . . .

Friday, 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

Friday, 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.



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

Friday, 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.


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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