I’m off to DC to talk to the FLOTUS, POTUS, and SCOTUS (FLOPOSCO for short) about chickens. Or not. However, no post this week due to travel. Next week I hope to have a nice surprise for you, so hang tight.
Archive for September, 2015
Well, there’s no doubt now that some of the chickens have begun to molt. Henny Penny feathers are everywhere Henny Penny has been, as if she’s leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find her way home, except that she never really strays that far from home. Lately they barely leave the vicinity of the run, but that just must mean that the bugs around there are so good, there’s no need to travel elsewhere. Under the roost and the run itself are both getting lined nicely with her feathers, like there’s constant pillow fights going on. In the interest of not being left out, others are also joining the molting festivities. I spotted a Steve or John tailfeather in the coop the other day, and one of the Mandrell Sisters has a stumpy looking butt because all her tailfeathers have fallen out. It looks a little silly, but they’re chickens. Looking silly is kind of their bit.
I’m actually pretty glad that they’re molting so early this year. Last year I don’t think they started until December, and it was really cold. That’s not a good time to go out without a jacket, or too light of one, which is basically what they’re doing when they molt. Lately, around here, it’s been extremely hot. We’ve had a couple of weeks of it being in the 90s, only to finally have it get seasonable again in the last week. September is usually when I look forward to temperatures getting comfortable, but this year took its time. So shedding some feathers in the heat probably makes sense. It’s like taking off your shirt. Your chicken shirt. Luckily, our yard is pretty private, so we don’t have to worry about anyone peeping at our shirtless chickens.
The unseasonably warm and dry weather makes me wonder if this is any indication of the winter to come. Probably not, but after getting hammered so badly by snow last year, I need some small bit of hope to cling to. I’m not ready for another winter of any kind, but certainly not of the proportions of last year. Even if it wasn’t snowing, it was freezing, and it was usually snowing. I have a great picture I took of ice on the train platform that I nearly lost my hand trying to get because of how cold it was. That’s the price I pay for art! But the memory of the cold makes me especially concerned about the chickens being re-feathered by the time winter gets here. Having exposed skin in those sorts of temperatures, especially with the wind we also got, is not a good idea. If I thought molting was something they could plan, I would think they’re getting a jump on things because they too remember last year. I think it’s really just a lucky coincidence.
The downside of molting is that we get fewer eggs. Plenty of loose feathers, but not many eggs. We’ve got a pretty good egg stockpile, so I think we’ll get by. But at some point we’ll eat what we have, and hopefully by then the ladies will be back in business. Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior are all breeds that are supposed to be good winter layers, so hopefully they can prove themselves this year. There’s nothing more shameful than having to buy eggs when you have chickens you won’t shut up about. Hopefully my plan to have a steady supply throughout the winter months thanks to Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior will work, or it’s back to wearing disguises to the grocery store come January. I suppose I could make one out of all the feathers they’re shedding right now. That wouldn’t draw any attention to me at all.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Tishomingo Blues Introducing Some Chocolate Drops by Yerkes American Marimbaphone Band)
There are exciting things going on in the land of butts, so I thought I’d give everyone a butt update. I was going to shorten that and call it a “buttdate,” but then it occurred to me that that might mean different things to different people, and so it remains “butt update.” Not to worry, this is an update about animal butts, mostly chickens, so hopefully it won’t venture into TMI territory.
The big news is that butt feathers are very much making a comeback, much like skinny jeans and 90s music. I would say that butt feathers serve a more noble purpose than those other things, but I suppose pants are important, regardless of the style, so I’ll let that one rest. However, upon last night’s butt check, I saw how much progress we’ve made on the feather front. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s butt is looking like a little porcupine with all the feather buds sticking out of it. That’s a great sign. The feathers are moving right along, and soon her bald spot will be gone, so we won’t need to consider a feathery comb-over anymore. On the down side, her chest seems to be looking ratty, and I’m not sure if that’s mite related, or if she’s molting. It’s looked this way all summer, so I think it may be at least part mites, but I’m not entirely sure. I’m going to keep hitting it with some diatomaceous earth once a week until it starts to look better, just to be safe. If it is mites, I don’t want them to move back down to her butt and undo all the progress there.
Since SCJ was looking so good, I also went and checked Henny Penny, since she was the first chicken to experience the loss down below. She’s making progress, but not as much as Suzy, but I guess she also has a longer road to travel back to wellness. The little nubs of feathers are becoming more plentiful, but she hasn’t reached the porcupine/pincushion stage that Suzy has. I checked the remaining butts, and everyone seemed to be sprouting new growth, so this is all promising. The others had pretty mild infestations, so they don’t have nearly as many feathers to grow back. I will definitely remain vigilant, since I now know just how bad mites can be, and how long a road back to wellness it is.
I also had a run-in with a different animal butt this week. Remember the cat that scared me in the dark and is stalking one of our cats? Well, I ran into him/her in the daylight the other day, so it wasn’t nearly as frightening. He/she is actually quite a pretty cat, however, at the time we met, he/she was in the process of using some of the leaf litter at the edge of our yard as a litterbox. I suppose pretty much all the animals around here do, so it’s not worth getting worked up over. I decided that I wanted to pet this mystery cat in the hopes of us becoming friends, so there are no more surprises in the dark. I waited for him/her to finish his/her business, and then I made my slow approach. I got very close, and that’s when it turned out that he/she wasn’t done. #1 had been taken care of, but #2 still needed dealing with. And as #2 got dealt with, it became clear that this cat might not be feeling so well. I imagine outdoor cats can eat any number of things that can give them parasites or make them sick, but it got me wondering if this cat even has a home. This isn’t the best area to let your cat outside in due to predators (and this isn’t even addressing the issue of outside cats generally being a bad idea anyway). If he/she has survived so long, is that because he/she has a home, or because he/she has very good survival instincts? He/she is fairly slight, and clearly sick, so I have no way of knowing. No collar was present, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I managed to get close enough to get in a quick pat, and then he/she decided to take off, leaving me wondering if we need to try to catch him/her and get the vet involved. I suppose we could then see if the cat is microchipped and belongs to anyone. I’m not sure how easy it will be to catch him/her, or if it’s even my business. I just hate seeing animals that don’t seem to be well cared for, and this one has some of the hallmarks. Then, if he/she has no owner, the bigger question becomes: do we need another cat? Do we even have room for one? How do we even catch a possibly wild cat? Too many questions, too many chickens, too many kitties?
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Shake It and Break It by Lanin’s Southern Serenaders)
Well, my little August break was nice, but now it’s back to work. I mean, it was still back to work in terms of the chickens, since I couldn’t just go on a vacation from feeding them without any repercussions, I was just taking a break from talking about them. Not from talking to them, though, which I find myself more and more aware of now that there are sometimes people in the house next door. I suppose they’re the ones who need to get used to it, not me. I’m so used to it I don’t even notice I’m doing it half the time.
Beyond my own experiments in inter-species communication, things have been pretty good with the chickens lately. The mites still seem vanquished, and butt feathers are still sprouting. Maybe not as fast as I’d like them to, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned since getting chickens, it’s that everything ends up taking way more time than it’s supposed to. Case in point: building the coop. Hopefully that was a one-time event. As I predicted, molting season may be combining with butt feather regrowth season, since I’ve been seeing a fair bit of Mandrell Sister plumage floating free in the coop lately. I suppose seeing it early is better than seeing it later, since last year they all molted quite late, and it was a very cold time to not be fully feathered. I figure if you’ve got to grow some feathers back anyway because of the mites, why not just dump a bunch and totally start over? I’m not sure that’s how it actually works, but I need to impose some sort of logic onto all this.
We haven’t seen much of the turkeys lately, but that doesn’t mean they’re not around. I suppose since August is when many people take vacations, who’s to say turkeys don’t do the same? Probably people who study turkeys. But since I’m throwing around hare-brained ideas, I might as well get this one in there too.
One big event that happened during my hiatus is only marginally related to the chickens, in that it only happened because I was going out to the coop to feed them. But if they weren’t there, I wouldn’t have been out there alone in the dark, so I guess it’s totally related to the chickens. So let’s proceed from there. I’ve mentioned before that where we live has basically every predator that you can get in New England. I haven’t seen them all personally, but the farmer down the street has, and so I am generally quite vigilant about keeping everyone safe. In the winter, I always look for tracks around the coop in the snow, but so far I haven’t seen any. Either the animals can tell the electric fence, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, is not something to mess with, or they just are really bad at figuring out that there are chickens in there. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying I’m a little surprised that we haven’t seen more break-in attempts. But the other morning as I was coming out with breakfast, I saw a set of eyes reflected in the light of my headlamp. (Sadly, those glorious weeks when it’s light when I get up have passed.) Normally, if I see some eye reflections, they turn and disappear as soon as I approach. This time, not so much. In fact, the eyes began to approach me. This was not good. I quickly began to make out the shape of the creature, and I began to worry that I was looking at a baby bobcat, which could possibly mean that there was a mama bobcat nearby. As my bowels contemplated voiding themselves, I happened to catch a shadow of a tail in the ever-shortening distance between me and the eyes, and thankfully realized that it was just a regular cat, and one we see pretty often. I joke that he’s one of our cats’ boyfriends, since he sits outside the sliding door and looks in at her, but she seems to hate him, so I guess maybe he’s more of her stalker. Either way, if he’s trying to get in with her, I recommend he knock off the scaring me in the morning. He stopped walking towards me when he got to the steps of the sliding door and assumed his place, gazing indoors at our cat who clearly was not pleased about having a visitor. The chickens were safe, and ⅓ of the cats were annoyed. A pretty typical morning.