Archive for the ‘Diseases’ Category

Hair Club For Hen

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Strange things are afoot in the coop. Some not so strange things as well. For example, it would seem that most of the chickens are molting. That makes sense, as the days have been getting much shorter, and that’s when nature decides that chickens will dump a bunch of feathers and then grow new ones. It looks like there have been pillow fights going on every night, but I’ve been through this before, so I know it’s actually molting. The tricky thing about molting when your chickens have been dealing with mites is trying to figure out what’s feather loss from molting, and what might be mites making a comeback. Last year I was never quite sure. The mites had really dug in. This year they may have been even worse, but I tried my new treatment of spraying them with a spinosad-based gardening liquid, and something has happened that makes me think it actually worked. Henny Penny is sprouting butt feathers.

Luckily her "down below" bits are covered, as this is a family show.

Luckily her “down below” bits are covered, as this is a family show.

You might think this is no big deal. Chickens lose butt feathers, chickens regrow butt feathers. Circle of butt life. However, I should remind you, or tell you for the first time depending on how long you’ve been around, that Henny Penny has had a bald butt for over a year. It was pretty bad. She was the first to lose butt feathers last spring when the mites first arrived. The other chickens lost butt feathers too, but none quite as badly as Henny Penny. Then, when it seemed the mites had been vanquished, the other chickens grew their feathers back. Not so Henny Penny. I began to worry that there was actually something else wrong with her. There did seem to be some other ailments out there that led to bald butts, but she never fit the full profile. She went through last winter with a bare butt, and luckily didn’t get frostbite, but it was a pretty mild winter. I was always keeping an eye on her, but she seemed fine otherwise, and at some point or another I think I resigned myself to never solving this particular chicken mystery.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

I write Sherlock Holmes chicken butt fan fiction sometimes.

Until a recent evening butt check. I sprayed them all with spinosad every week for a month this summer. I figured that ought to cover any mite life cycle. Then I had to just sit and wait. Feathers take a long time to grow back, so it’s always tough to know if a treatment is working. I’ve been so busy lately that I would check to make sure nothing was getting worse, but I didn’t have the time to work up another plan of attack, so my being preoccupied actually created enough time to for nature to run its course. I do believe the mites are gone, and I am basing this on the fact that Henny Penny has little feather nubs popping out of her formerly long-term area of baldness. At first I thought the dark spots were the mites themselves, as it’s been so long since there were feathers there that it seemed hard to imagine them ever coming back. But they’re there for sure. Each day they come in a little more. I wonder if it’s weird for her. Like when you wear shorts all summer and then you have to wear pants one day and it feels unnatural. Except this is all in the butt area.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Skinny pants are even harder to get used to.

Now the problem is that I’m so excited that her feathers are coming back, I’m totally worried that something is going to happen to destroy them again. I initially thought other chickens had been pecking them out. What if they decide to do that now? What if the mites mount a last ditch effort to reclaim their old territory? I gave everyone a bug spray top-up last weekend, and may go for a repeat dosing, just to be safe. I’d hate for things to look up, only to, er, bottom out again. But I’m now convinced that she just had a super bad case of mites that resisted all my previous treatments. For now, spinosad will be my go-to treatment, assuming we’ll have to deal with this again next year. I’m ready. The chickens are also ready, since they hate being sprayed so much, that if I keep the coop door open for too long, they suspect I’m up to something, and nervously make their way as far away from me as they can get. I tend to have this effect on people too.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Rag Pickins by Fred Van Eps)

August Slacking Continues

Friday, August 19th, 2016

When I finally get some time, you’ll get to hear about the inspiration behind this picture. Stay tuned.

Yes, that is a chicken in a bucket of sorts.

Yes, that is a chicken in a bucket of sorts.

New Frontiers In Mite Maintenance

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and mite infestations are nothing if not desperate times. I was powdering the poultry with the poultry powder, and I was protecting them with the Poultry Protector, and I did not see any progress. I may even have seen things get worse, but it’s always hard to tell once the mite ball gets rolling. And so, I returned to the internet to watch people fight, and to try to glean some helpful information out of what I witnessed.

Mite Ball - It's a ball of mites! (Not available in stores.)

Mite Ball – It’s a ball of mites! (Not available in stores.)

There seemed to be more options for mite control out there than when I last looked, or maybe it was just that the current situation had Steve (or John) losing feathers all up her back, which really worried me, and so I read more before I collapsed in an exhausted heap. I was very close to using dog and cat flea drops on them and then just throwing out the eggs for weeks afterwards, as horrible as that would make me feel. It seems so wasteful to just chuck eggs, but you don’t want to eat them if they’re toxic, and I obviously was ready for the big guns. Then I stumbled across a thread that pointed out how odd it was that no one was talking about the product they had come to use. Then they linked to a study showing that it was effective against mites, and that you could eat the eggs after using it. You just spray it on, and since it’s just topical, it doesn’t affect their egg system (though the flea stuff is topical too, but perhaps chickens are more absorbent in that case). And to make it easier, the person who started the thread explained the ratio of water to poison (yes, it’s still a poison) to use, so you didn’t have to use the complicated math in the scientific study. This was a dream come true, even if this explanation of it sounds like I fell for someone’s paid endorsement.

Chicken infomercials

Chicken infomercials

The chemical is called Spinosad, and apparently it’s the by-product of some type of fermentation. This may or may not make it organic, and since what you buy in the store may actually be created synthetically instead of through the normal fermentation method, an argument about organicness broke out. I wasn’t so worried about what was organic or not at this point, I just wanted healthy chickens. So I bought one of the bottles of concentrate that contains this stuff, (there are a few different products by different brands) and mixed up a dose.

(file photo)

(file photo)

In spite of the fact that there’s a study about the effectiveness of this stuff on poultry mites, and that the company that holds the patent on this chemical says it’s cool for chickens, this is apparently still an “off label” treatment, unless maybe you buy the industrial vat of the pure stuff direct from the manufacturer. The concentrate I bought was for plants only, but the guru of it on the internet said this was good, and others backed up the claim, so I went in a-spraying. The chickens ran to the corner and tried to hide, but I got them all in their problem areas. Then I waited a week, and went in again. I even went in a third time a week after that. I’m not 100% sure, but it looked a lot like Steve (or John) was starting to grow back some feathers. This was a good sign.

Eternal vigilance is the price of feathers.

Eternal vigilance is the price of feathers.

The issue I’m now running into is that chickens are waterproof. So you can spray them in the area where the feathers have been cleared out, but not anywhere else. In some cases, it looks like the mites have migrated to the waterproof areas, and begun defoliation. So I’ve sprayed those areas too. The other issue is that the way this stuff apparently works is to jump-start the mites’ metabolisms, so they basically work themselves to death. In some cases, the de-feathering got worse before it got better, since the mites got some last bits of feather eating in before their passing. I’m keeping an eye on things, but for now, this seems to be something that mites have yet to develop resistance to. Variety is not only the spice of life, it can also be the death of mites.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Medley of Country Dances by Jaudas Society Orchestra)

Mites Or Gleets?

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Spring is a magical time of year. The flowers begin to bloom, eggs start filling the nesting buckets, and then I start wondering just what on Earth is going on with the chickens’ butts. My first thought is always vent gleet. Once you know about vent gleet, why would you stop thinking about it? I mean, aside from the fact that it’s gross, and usually means you have to either bathe a chicken or cut away dung-encrusted feathers. But otherwise it’s great, right? Not really. It’s bad business for butts. So in Spring, when the poopy chicken butts also bloom, my mind turns to vent gleet and it’s prevention and/or cure.

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

However, the cruelest trick the Devil ever played was giving other issues the same symptoms as vent gleet. Or at least maybe the grossest trick he ever played. What I learned last year was that nasty doodoo butt can also be caused by mites. So if you, like me, give your chickens nutritional support to ward off the gleet, and seem to have one chicken after another somehow developing gleet-like symptoms, it may not be gleet at all. It could be mites. This was the biggest discovery for me last summer. I thought the flock was falling to the gleet one by one, but finally realized that something else had to be up. And what was up was mites. And what they were up in was the chickens’ hinders. I figured this out because some of the chickens got nasty butt action, but others got bald butts. So I looked up bald butts, and that’s how I found that mites can also cause diarrhea as well as bald butts. I suppose at least it cuts down on the nasty feathers.

You used to be able to get this on a t-shirt.

You used to be able to get this on a t-shirt.

This year, since I noticed symptoms of gleet in Steve and John, I not only treated them for gleet, but I treated everyone for mites too. I’m not going down that road again. Egg production was way down for a while last summer because mites can really drain a chicken’s energy levels. Parasites are like that. Henny Penny still hasn’t grown her butt feathers back, either. They sprout, then disappear. So I’m not sure if I even fully vanquished the mites, or just beat them back enough to get everyone laying again, and all but Henny Penny back to fully feathered. But since I saw possible gleet, in I went with the diatomaceous earth to start fluffin’ butts as a pre-emptive strike.

Butts! Consider yourselves fluffed!

Butts! Consider yourselves fluffed!

I haven’t yet gone in with the “poultry powder” which is part diatomaceous earth, part poison, mainly because it’s part poison. As it is, I don’t want to put bedding with diatomaceous earth in the compost, because that alone will kill the good bugs who help break it down. I don’t want to be poisoning anything and everything that comes along. More than just bugs get into the compost, so I’m holding off on the nuclear option, for now.


There’s who in the what, now?

You’re supposed to apply the D.E. once, then again ten days later to break the life cycle of the mites. I’ve gotten into a weekly ritual, just to be on the safe side. I’m no math whiz, but I feel like this frequency must cover all my bases statistically, even if I start in the middle of a life cycle. I don’t know. But Sunday nights, butts get fluffed. If I make a routine like that, it’s much easier to remember to do it. If I have to do it on ten-day cycles, then I need to get calendars involved, and it’s just too much work. Since I get “Sundaynightis,” or dread of the coming work week, it’s easy for me to add things in my Sunday night rituals to try to offset it. Oddly, putting weird gray powder on chicken butts does seem to alleviate my symptoms somewhat. Not sure what that says about me, but here I am saying it.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Ma Rag Time Baby by Peerless Orchestra)

Season’s Gleetings!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

We had had a rough couple of weekends, and hadn’t had a chance to go grocery shopping. When you don’t have time to do anything during the week because you commute, you have to cram a lot into Saturday and Sunday, and when you’re exhausted from the cramming, the last thing you want to do is go to the grocery store. We generally have to go shopping on Sundays, which seems to be when all the sports or snowstorms happen, so it’s always a madhouse. That doesn’t help with the motivation to get to the store either. If I could go into work late one day a week so I could shop on a weekday morning, that would be ideal, but I see a tough negotiation ahead if I pursue that. So here we are. We were out of most things, including yogurt and apple cider vinegar, which are staples of my chicken regimen. Both keep some nasty stuff at bay, but I figured it was like taking vitamins. You don’t come down with rickets because you stop taking vitamins for a week, so a week without yogurt in a dish and vinegar in the water couldn’t possibly cause a problem, right?

What I've been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

What I’ve been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

Well, the butts of Steve and John told a different story. The story they told was one of gross cloaca disasters. Or one specific disaster we all know as vent gleet. I usually have a run-in with the gleet once a year or so, and here it was just as Spring approached. The plus side, if there is one, is that Steve and John both have such big wattles that it’s very easy to get their beaks open to squirt the mixture of epsom salt and water down their throats that I’ve always treated this with. This is not an easy task by any means, but bigger wattles give me an edge. So I grabbed them one at a time, trimmed all the super nasty butt feathers off, then brought them inside for their “medicine.” (Side note: I ran out of my stock of rubber gloves during this episode, and when I went to buy more, the drugstore was clean out. Like, an entire shelf’s worth of rubber gloves was empty. How does this happen? What was going on in Harvard Square that that many people needed rubber gloves? Luckily(?), there are actually two drugstores of the same chain a block apart, so I was able to get more. I didn’t want to be touching these butts bare-handed.)

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

I’m not sure if it was Steve or John who was the easier of the two, but one of them was a breeze. Open, epsom, open, epsom, open, epsom, until it’s all gone. I think I even managed to not get any on my pants, which is rare. I usually can be counted on to miss at least one shot, but not this time. Then I brought in the other one. Let’s just say it was John. John wasn’t having any of this. My pants got soaked, then she got away, and it was just a big struggle, even with the wattle advantage. Then I did the thing they warn you not to do. I squeezed the dropper too hard and I got some down the wrong neckhole, so liquid went into her lungs. I could hear it rattle with every breath. I had no idea what to do. I held her upside down in the hope that the liquid would run out. It didn’t. I looked online, and I found a lot of people saying not to do this, but no one saying what to do if it happened. I figured all I could do was ride it out. A ton didn’t get in there, so she could breathe, but enough was in there that she rasped. I put her in the coop, then she sneezed, and that actually seemed to make the rasping better. I had to hope it would sort itself out.

It went a little something like this.

It went a little something like this.

I posted on a messageboard for help. No one really had any input on how to handle this, but one person asked why I was still doing the epsom trick. I said it was because that was a thread that had been stickied on that website. The other poster pointed out that vent gleet is fungal, so it’s much easier to just spray their butts with athlete’s foot spray for two weeks. You’re supposed to do it twice a day, and I don’t see them sitting still for this in the mornings, but nights are easy. So I’ve been doing that in lieu of the second dose of epsom salt. John’s breathing was fine the next day, and the gleet seems to be on the outs. I do have one lingering concern, though. Last year what I thought was a vent gleet outbreak was actually mites. So is it really the gleet, or am I fighting the wrong foe? Time will tell.

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Some Smoke by National Promenade Band, record scratch sound effect by: simkiott)

Welcome To 2016!

Friday, January 8th, 2016

It was New Year’s morning. I decided to let the chickens celebrate by giving them some of the mealworms my mom had given them for Christmas. I mixed the worms in with the scratch I’ve been putting out to give the chickens the protein they need to get through their molting, opened the door, and stood back to watch the fireworks. Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior were the first ones out, as usual. The old guard, like me, prefer to get up slowly and greet the day at their own pace, if possible. The n00bs hit the scratch, but didn’t seem to pay much attention to the mealworms. Then the old guard got to the ground, noticed the mealworms, and went straight for those, ignoring the scratch. Then it hit me – the n00bs had never known the joy of mealworms, so they were probably wary of something new. Then Steve (or John) ate one, and I saw the realization that these things were a delicacy dawn on her, and finally, all of them started attacking the mealworms with gusto. Luckily, no fights broke out. But I hope it was at least a good start to a new year that they have absolutely no concept of.

Say what again?

Say what again?

Don’t worry, Boss Chicken got some mealworms too. She actually was a little more excited about breakfast than usual for some reason. Often I’ll take down the piece of wood I use as a wind guard to her inner sanctum in the rabbit hutch, and she’s pretty reluctant come out. Why get out of bed if you don’t have to? But she seemed to sense this day was different, perhaps by the fact that I was reading way too much into the actions of chickens, and she came out and starting digging into her food before I even put the worms in. It’s nice to see her excited, because very soon it will be time to bring her inside, if only for a day or two, which may dampen her spirits. I keep checking the forecast, and Monday’s overnight has gone from 18 (which I decided was my cutoff temperature for leaving her outside) to 10, and now to 5. Single-digits are a definite no-go for a solo chicken. I have decided, at least temporarily, to keep her in a storage bin rather than the dog crate she usually goes into, in the interest of keeping the pine shavings more contained. I still have to get said bin, but they are easy enough to find. I’m also going to put her in a different room than I normally do, since Spooky is currently in Boss Chicken’s usual winter room. That way the Boss will be free from feline attention, wanted or unwanted. Best to not stress out a chicken or tempt a cat.

There's also an app, of course.

There’s also an app, of course.

We’ve been slowly introducing Spooky to the rest of the cats. Oddly enough, the rest of the cats don’t seem to mind Spooky much at all. Our big tomcat walked right up, sat down, and looked at her as if to say hello. Spooky hissed and ran off. She did the same for our tortie, who seemed a little less welcoming, but nothing beyond hissing went down. “As long as they don’t fight, everything will be fine,” I said to my wife, since the only way Spooky could transmit FIV to the others would be by biting.

“Well, they kind of have to fight to establish the hierarchy, don’t they?” she replied. “How do we stop that?”

“I suppose we sit them down and explain it all rationally,” I said. “I’m sure they’ll listen once they know all the facts.” This is not going to happen, but they have all kept their distance during Spooky’s forays into the regular part of the house, and so the more familiar they get with each other, the less likely a battle royale is to break out. And then we’ll have a happy cat family, and a chicken who gets her normal winter digs back. I am absolutely sure this will go as easily as I am imagining it, because that’s how everything always works, right?

Cats like PowerPoint presentations, right?

Cats like PowerPoint presentations, right?


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: On The Mississippi by Prince’s Band)

End Of The Year Wrap-Up!

Friday, December 18th, 2015

I’ve been doing Too Many Chickens! since January 2013. I’ve been posting about my chickens on the internet for even longer than that. When I first got chicks, I was so excited that I filled up my Tumblr with any little thought I had about them, and that eventually grew into this. First, as a segment on Garden Guys Green Revolution Radio, and then finally here, as a podcast. That’s a long time to be talking about chickens, but I’m still learning as I go, and I’m laboring under the delusion that if I share my mistakes, it may help other people, or at least entertain them. Pointing and laughing at people who don’t know what they’re doing seems to be a popular pastime. At any rate, I’m going to keep doing it, but let’s stop and think about what 2015 had to offer.

point and laugh at me

Just another day in my life.

This year was fairly eventful due to the mite infestation, which I’m still dealing with. It started in the beginning of the year, when I thought it was feather pecking, then as it spread from one chicken to another, I thought it might be more feather pecking, then vent gleet, and finally it dawned on me what was happening. Then I tried multiple means of treating it – diatomaceous earth and “poultry powder.” The affected feathers are still only just coming back in, but it took a long time to treat, and feathers aren’t the fastest-growing things in the world. I’m trying to feel positive that 2016 will be a year of butts with feathers in our household. You’ll hear about it one way or another.


May branch out into a butt-only podcast.

None of the chickens died this year, which is nice to report. That’s an improvement on 2014. I’d like this trend to continue, but I don’t really have much control over it. Even the best cared-for chicken can die under mysterious circumstances (like the late Mandrell Sister), or a disease there’s no cure for (like the original Suzy Creamcheese). I do what I can, and the rest is up to nature. I’m not going to slack, but I realize that even if I do everything perfect, there are still things out of my control. That counts for non-chicken things too, but those things often aren’t as fun as chickens. What’s the point of not being in control if it doesn’t come with chickens?

Being in control with chickens is the ideal situation.

Being in control with chickens is the ideal situation.

It’s almost the winter solstice, and we’re getting very few eggs. This happens every year, and it’s one of the few things that happens every year that I remember happens every year. Once the days begin to get a little longer, the eggs will trickle back in, and by Spring I’ll start to worry about what to do with all the eggs again. It gives me something to look forward to even when we’re still in the dead of February. I never really paid attention to the fact that February has longer days than December until I got chickens. It just always felt like the last awful month to get through until winter was over. Being more in tune with the daylight thanks to eggs has made February slightly less of a drag. I’m still no fan of winter, but I can see a literal bright side to it now.

Got the "Look On The Bright Side" calendar this year. Not sure it's working.

Got the “Look On The Bright Side” calendar this year. Not sure it’s working.

Mites aside, 2015 was a pretty good year for the chickens. I hope 2016 is even better. All it really has to do is avoid parasitic infestation, and it’s a big step up already. Looking ahead in the shorter term, I’ll be taking the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day off, and then we’re back in business January 8th. Happy holidays, happy new year, and may all your eggs be double-yolkers.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Everybody Hula by Helen Louise and Frank Ferera)

Butt Update

Friday, September 11th, 2015

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.


Not even chickens want to hear about some stuff.

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.

moving mites

They’re very DIY.

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.


Don’t confuse a porcupine with a pincushion. It never ends well.

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?

It's happened to all of us, but hopefully not out in the yard.

Lovercat has a problem. It’s happened to all of us, but hopefully not out in the yard.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Shake It and Break It by Lanin’s Southern Serenaders)

Hello September!

Friday, September 4th, 2015

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.

chicken talk

They don’t talk back . . . yet.

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.

chicken butt

Guess What? Bald, but recovering chicken butt!

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.

idea bag

I’ve got bags and bags of these things.

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.

kitty love

If I’d noticed the eye reflections were shaped like hearts, I’d have figured it out sooner.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Snake Rag by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band)

A Mite Impatient

Friday, July 24th, 2015

When someone I care about is sick, I worry a lot. Right now six people, er, chickens, I care about have mites, and so I get preoccupied with thinking about how to make sure this problem is taken care of. I’ve tried diatomaceous earth, and I’ve tried “poultry powder,” yet their butts are still featherless, and egg production is down. I powder them with one substance or another once a week, and yet I don’t see any progress. I even went into both our fireplace and wood stove and took all the ashes out and put them in the chicken run. This is so they could take dusts baths in the ash, which is supposed to fight mites. There are a few things I haven’t tried yet, and I’ve been reluctant to do so, since they all have side effects of some sort or another.

side effects

Also, probably diarrhea. It’s always diarrhea.

In my original post about the mites, I mentioned that Sevin dust is one big gun people turn to for mites when other cures fail. It’s mostly diatomaceous earth, but has poison mixed in. It’s a different poison from what’s in the poultry powder, and apparently quite bad for bees. It’s also not technically approved for use on poultry, so there’s that too. But I was worried enough that I was beginning to think that maybe it was worth a shot. But I just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it, so I looked into other ideas.

other ideas

Sometimes they keep this bucket behind the counter.

You can apparently use the type of flea and tick drops that you put on cats and dogs on chickens, but I get the feeling this may be a mildly sketchy, or at least “experimental” treatment. You need to use a very specific brand of the drop, one not easily had at any pet store, so you need to find the right source. You also have to apply it to a chicken, which seems tricky. I have had a hard time putting this stuff on dogs, and they sit still. A squawking, unhappy chicken in one hand, and flea and tick juice in the other is not my idea of a good time. And to top it all off, if you go this route, you can’t eat the eggs for weeks afterwards. I like eating the eggs. I’m good at it. I also share them with people and spread chicken goodwill. Throwing out large amounts of eggs was just not something I wanted to do. If you can’t eat them, I’m sure they can’t go in the compost. Dumping them in the trash seems so wasteful. I put this idea on hold too.

trash can.

Gonna need another can.

The last option is to give them a flea dip. This, again, got into the weird territory of “you can only use very specific brands of flea shampoo that are hard to find and probably expensive.” Also, you have to dunk the chicken in a bucket of water. Frankly, I have had an easier time getting my finger up a chicken’s butt than I have soaking them in anything. Plus, then I’d have six chickens that then need to be dried off (Boss Chicken doesn’t seem to have the mites, for some reason). I was beginning to develop a vision of what hell must be like. Blow drying six chickens is straight out of Dante.

A job not even Satan himself wants to do.

A job not even Satan himself wants to do.

Back in the winter our local feed store closed. A few months later, it opened back up under new ownership, much to my surprise and delight. I swung by the other day to get more chicken food and bedding, and a guy who worked at the old version of the store was now working at the new version. He had always given me good advice in the past, so even though I was there for something else, I asked about the mites, and what I could do. He asked if I wanted an organic solution or otherwise. I said at this point I’d try either. I mentioned that I had tried diatomaceous earth, and he said “well, that’s the organic option.” Then he showed me a different brand of the poultry powder than the one I had. I said I had tried that too, but their feathers weren’t growing back, and the eggs were less frequent than usual. He said this was pretty typical, and as long as I got some anti-mite stuff on the chickens, in the nesting buckets, and in the coop, the problem would go away, but it might take a few weeks before I noticed an improvement. They need time to recuperate, and sometimes that takes longer than I like. On the plus side, I’m doing everything right. Everything except being patient, that is. I can work on that, and see if I’m better at it by the time my birds have some new butt feathers. I think it may take even longer than that. My impatience is much peskier than mites, and just slightly less bitey.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Memphis Tennessee by The Gulf Coast Seven)

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