Posts Tagged ‘parasites’

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)

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)

Of Mites And Men

Friday, June 17th, 2016

In spite of everything I do to treat the mites, the damage they’re doing to the chickens’ feathers seems to be getting worse. Steve and John are losing feathers on their backs at a rapid pace. I’ve been powdering them weekly with the “poultry powder,” but I don’t seem to be getting results. I decided it was time to reset the clock, as it were, by completely cleaning the coop and taking it from there. If I could wipe out anything that was living off the chickens, then maybe I could begin to get the things living on the chickens.

Maybe I overdo the powder a little.

Maybe I overdo the powder a little.

I’ve been a practitioner of the “deep litter” technique from the start of this chicken experiment. Basically, you cover all poop with wood chips, and once a week scoop out the worst of it under the roost, but leave the rest. This creates a sort of compost pile right there in the coop, and that helps keep it a little warmer in the winter. It seemed like a good idea when I read about it, but given my annual mite problems, I’ve begun to wonder if it wasn’t somehow contributing to these problems, by creating a large habitat for invisible bugs. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it was time for the annual clean out anyway, so I went at it. Usually I dump all the chips, spray the inside of the coop and any of the “furniture” with white vinegar to disinfect it, and then add fresh chips, leaving behind the faint scent of salad. This year, I had to take it a little further. Since I had read about using dishwashing detergent to kill mites, I went in with a bucket of soapy water and a rag first, and wiped everything down, making sure to get it into any cracks. Then I dried that off, and sprayed the vinegar. Then I wiped off the excess vinegar, and sprayed everything again with Poultry Protector. At this point, I figured I had covered all my bases.

It gets deep.

It gets deep.

The biggest surprise was how much diatomaceous earth was in the bedding. There seemed to be a good layer of it under all the chips, so I was amazed that any insect could live in there at all. So either what’s bothering the chickens is getting on them out in the run, or it’s something completely impervious to DE. Hard to say, but the DE may not be cutting it, at least at the level we’re working on here.

It's entirely possible they protect themselves in tiny space probes.

It’s entirely possible they protect themselves in tiny space probes.

I sprayed the Poultry Protector all over the run and outside of the coop as well. The bottle says to get the whole area, so that’s what I did. Of course, it’s not a very big bottle, so I had used most of it by the time I had finished spraying the run, but felt like I had enough to get the birds as well. Supposedly this stuff doesn’t actually kill the mites, but instead keeps them from reproducing. So they may live for a while, but it sounds like they’ll eventually die out. I’m pretty sure not reproducing is why there aren’t any more Shakers, so this should do it, even if it takes a little longer.

If the mites just held a dance like this, they'd be easier to spot.

If the mites just held a dance like this, they’d be easier to spot. (Those are Shakers, btw. This image is relevant!)

The same night I did the big cleanout, I went into the coop, and instead of dusting the chickens (which I had done the night before), I sprayed each of them in their bald areas with the Poultry Protector. It turns out chickens do not like being sprayed with stuff. They did their usual act of running into the corner of the coop and trying to get behind each other, but this time they seemed much angrier than usual. Luckily I could spray them from farther away, and it went much faster than powdering, so I was done before they revolted. I still have a little spray left, and I’ll use it next time I change out the chips, and this time I’ll be changing them all out, not just the ones under the roost. I think it may be time to try a different approach to coop maintenance and see what works. If I still find that I’m having feather loss, it may be time to try the “flea drop” method, which, unsurprisingly, is controversial on the internet. Basically, you dab some popular flea and tick liquid on the chickens and this does the trick, even though it’s not approved for chickens, and you have to chuck your eggs for a while. This feels like a nuclear option, so I’ll keep dusting a little longer, and see where it gets me, beyond covered in poison dust, of course.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Lu Lu by National Promenade Band)

It’s Mites Alright

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Well, it seems to be that time of year again. I was poking around through the archives, and it seems that last May I was wondering if my chickens had vent gleet or mites, and then I looked at my posts this May and here I am wondering the exact same thing. Given last year’s experience, I’m just going to assume we’ve got mites. And I don’t really need to assume, because I know the importance of chicken butt inspections, and I’m seeing feather loss in that area, and that’s the evil calling card of the mite. They seem to be the obnoxious summer renter of the chicken butt resort town.

Always with the Hawaiian shirts.

Always with the Hawaiian shirts.

The question then becomes what to do? Since this is becoming an annual thing, am I doing something wrong? Or is this just the cost of doing chicken business? Even if it is, how do I get rid of them? What seemed to work last year, despite my reservations, was the “poultry powder” stuff that’s got poison in it. I have been out there with that stuff two weekends in a row, and am currently in the “see what happens” period. As I learned last year, it takes so long for feathers to grow back, it’s hard to know what’s working. So I went in with the biggest gun I had, and am waiting for the smoke to clear. Somewhat literally – this stuff is nasty, and it takes some doing to apply it without poisoning yourself in a giant cloud of it. I go out in a hoodie with the hood up, one of those face masks you use if paint fumes bother you, and rubber gloves. I climb into the coop and powder every bird, which can be tricky since after one or two get done, the others get the memo and try to hide behind each other in the corner. Then, as I am covered in poison, I immediately go into the bathroom, throw all my clothes into the washing machine, and take a shower. It does worry me that I protect my own breathing holes, but can’t do anything for the chickens’. They don’t make little beaky respirators, so this is how it has to go. There’s ventilation in the coop, and I don’t throw it in their faces, but I feel pretty bad about the whole situation. Not as bad as I would if I let them be eaten alive by mites, though, so this is what it comes to.

When your nostrils are up top, things get tricky.

When your nostrils are up top, things get tricky.

I’ve been doing more research to try to find a better way. Some people swear by hosing the coop and the birds down with dishwashing detergent, while others say this strips the protective oils off their feathers. Some people say tea tree oil is all natural and will kill all the bugs, others say it will also kill the birds. Some people say Product X will do it, and then provide an affiliate link to that product, which costs $150 for a tiny amount. This all is reminding me of how it is I came to use diatomaceous earth (which some people also malign) and the poultry powder. After spending far too much time reading internet arguments, these seemed to be the least contentious cures. And for now, they’re the ones I already have.

It goes a little like this sometimes.

It goes a little like this sometimes.

I did come across a couple new methods that sound promising, and less messy and/or problematic. I don’t like to drop name brands (unless these brands want to pay me to do so, please see the “contact” link on this page if this is the case), but these seem to be pretty specific things. One is called “Poultry Protector.” It’s a spray, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it at our local feed store. You spray the coop and the butts, and that’s allegedly that. It’s cheap enough that it’s worth a shot. The other is something called “Red Stop Solution.” You put it in their water, and it somehow makes the chickens’ blood unattractive to mites, but will not mess up (by which I mean poison) their eggs. It’s a little pricey, but just putting it in the waterer seems less traumatic for everyone involved. It might be worth the cost to save whatever dignity I have left, assuming there is any. I’m not convinced about the mechanism of action, so it’s on my “maybe” list. I’ll continue to monitor the butt situation and bring in new tools as required. I beat the mites once before, I hope to do it again.

Winston Churchill fought his own battles against mites.

Winston Churchill fought his own battles against mites.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Twenty-fourth of May, mazurka, by the Band of the House, Fred Figner, Rio de Janeiro)

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)

Odds And Ends And Leftovers

Friday, December 4th, 2015

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can be hard to focus. People also tend to take their Thanksgiving leftovers and throw them all together and see what they can make (Mike Dukakis is a prime example). You have a bunch of things that don’t exactly make a whole meal on their own, but when combined with other loose ends, now at least you’re full, if not satisfied. I think that might be my new slogan for Too Many Chickens!, or at least the theme of this episode.

full, but not satisfied.

Testing out some postcards with the new slogan.

Suzy Creamcheese Junior has some feathers on her butt now. I’m not going to get my hopes up that this is the road to a non-bald butt for her, as this happened once before and then they fell out, but I’m going to at least get hopes. I’ll just keep them down. While her butt looks decent, the rest of her still looks really awful. Her right wing looks totally skeletal at the base. I realize it’s actually feather and not bone, but that doesn’t stop my immediate reaction of “Oh no!” every time I see it. Some little tufts seem to be sprouting in there, which probably means the new feathers are on their way, but they sure are taking their time. Her chest looks rattier than ever. Since that started getting fuzzy during the mite conquest, I’m not sure if it’s molting or mites. I make sure to get it when I give everyone a diatomaceous earth shakedown once a week. Only time will tell. Time seems to be pretty tight-lipped these days.


Why do I keep buying these awful clocks? This one won’t even tell me what time it is.

Boss Chicken has been toughing it out in the cold, though we haven’t had a ton of cold nights so far. We’ll get one or two in the 20s, and then it’s back into the 40s for a few weeks. I decided to figure out a plan for what constituted too cold for her to be out there alone. The night I found her under the coop (which was the night her legs gave way) it had been 18 degrees out. She survived that being exposed in the run, so I figure that at the very least is a baseline to go off of. However, given my overdeveloped sense of worry, I think if it dips below 20, that’s when she comes in. Even though she’s more protected in her hutch than she would be outside, I’m still not willing to take too many chances with her. So hopefully by the time it gets that cold at night, we’ll have figured out the Spooky situation.


America’s Favorite Weather Chicken

Spooky, at the time of this writing, is in a dog crate in our kitchen. We gated the whole kitchen off, and then put her in the crate for extra protection as a means of introducing her to the household. Our big tom cat, whose real name is Hamish, but we call him “The Bone,” came up, took a look at her, snorted (he has sinus woes) and walked away. He has never been the one we’ve been worried about fighting with Spooky, though. He’s pretty unflappable and easy-going. Jenny, our tortie, is the one who used to try to smash through the glass door to get Spooky when Spooky would come to peer longingly into the house. Jennie did go right up to the gate and stare Spooky down, but it remained pretty civil. That’s a good start. Spooky just came out of heat a day or two ago, so I hope that will make things easier. The day we decided to go the dog crate route was the day she went into heat, so there was more howling than I would have liked. She’s much quieter now, but still a little freaked. It is a lot to take in, and our house is a bit of a mess. I’d be freaked too. I’m kind of freaked right now. But soon I think we may have one big crazy cat family, though we’re only at 4, and I’m told 6 is when you’re a crazy cat person. Almost there!

cat chart

This time of year, it always feels like you’re running around a lot, but not necessarily getting anywhere. We are running around a lot, but I feel like I’ve at least figured out a plan for the things I have some control over. Suzy Creamcheese Junior’s feather issues are out of my hands. Boss Chicken’s cold weather digs I totally have a say in. The Spooky introduction I can control, the behavior of the rest of the cats is, well, cat behavior. Good luck influencing those people at all. I’m doing the best I can. Hopefully Santa will notice.

He noticed!

He noticed!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Who’s Sorry Now? by Memphis Five)

Lousy Mites

Friday, October 30th, 2015

I was all at ease thinking the mites were long gone and once the molt was over, everyone would be back to normal. This is why I should never be at ease. The mites, I think they are back. I’m not 100% positive, but I’m maybe about 90% positive. What makes me slightly unsure is that they only seem to be affecting Suzy Creamcheese Junior, but at the same time, when they infiltrated the flock, they moved one chicken at a time. So maybe Suzy is holding onto the infestation somehow, and they’re going to begin to work their way back out, using her as a base station. I just don’t know. I’m still getting a handle on how these horrible things work.

how mites work

A little itchy reading.

Suzy has always been the one who seemed to get it the roughest. She didn’t lose quite as many butt feathers as Henny Penny, but she did also start to look like some chest feathers were being affected. One side of her chest got all ratty looking, but they never fully fell out, like on her butt, nor did they ever seem to recover. I wasn’t ever quite sure if this was just something to do with molting, or what the cause really was. It just sort of lingered, as a strange mangy reminder that feathers are a mystery.


Tufty in the front, bald in the rear.

She also seemed to be itchier about all this than the others. When I check them at night, I will often catch her picking at the edges of her bald butt, or under her wings. Under the wings seems to be a popular place for mites to gather, but she never seemed to lose feathers there. But, if she was picking at that area, it made me nervous that mites were present. I would get her under there with diatomaceous earth whenever I went in and gave everyone a dose of that. It just may not have helped.


Another popular mite gathering place.

What makes me think she still may be infested is that her tail feather growth not only seems stalled, but might actually be moving backwards. Even though all she had was new feather nubs, there seem to be fewer than before, and her bald spot in the butt area might be getting bigger. I can’t be sure, but I have some suspicions. Meanwhile, she is still picking at her underwings, and her chest tuft is still tufting. It could just be that with molting also going on now, that everything is going to take longer, since feather regrowth takes a while anyway, and a molt will just make it all go slower. Or she could have had it so bad that it never quite got fixed. What I think I’m going to have to do is try the mite poison again. There is a technique I have heard of in which you put the poison powder in a bag, and then put the chicken in the bag up to her neck, and then shake the whole thing so the chicken is fully coated with poison. This seems like a bad idea for a number of reasons, the least of which is trying to get a chicken into a bag. So I’m not going to try this. I’ll put on my contamination suit and head out there with the poison in the next night or so, and do it the old-fashioned way. I don’t like using poison, but I think in order to rule out further contamination, I have to. It’s getting colder, and she can’t be out in the winter with a bald butt. We don’t have much room in the house for chickens, though I do bring Boss Chicken in when it gets severely cold. I can’t move the whole flock inside, especially if they’ve got bugs. That would just create whole new worlds of trouble. Using the poison is probably the easiest thing at this point, and if worst comes to worst, I’ll get her a butt toupee.


I don’t know whose butt toupee that is, but it’s terrific!

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Hawaiian Twilight by Hawaiian Trio)

Too Many Kittens!

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

The chickens continue to molt, but rather than get deeper into the mechanics of all that, I thought I’d share an exciting update with you regarding the “lover boy” cat who had been paying us visits, sometimes in the night, when I would be surprised by his glowing eyes. You may recall that I mentioned that I had seen this cat using our yard as a toilet, and it didn’t appear that he/she was healthy, based on my observations, and terrifyingly deep knowledge of animal poo. We had been wondering if we should try to catch him/her and pay a visit to the vet. Well, this past weekend, my wife did just that, and we have some news. (I suppose the most important part of the news is that the cat I thought was a lover boy is actually a girl. I’m leading with this information just so I can stop having to say him/her each time. Gender has been determined, now pronouns get easier.)

kitty love

Remember this guy? Turns out he’s not a guy.

The mystery cat had been around the yard quite a bit in the last week or so, and ideas of how to catch her were getting tossed about, but we had trouble moving beyond getting a live trap and putting some cat food in it. The downside of that plan was that who knew what we might actually catch instead of the cat, since so many other critters are around? We never came to a full decision on technique, and then on Saturday she appeared on the steps next to the sliding door again. Later that same day, my mother-in-law came in to ask if that was our cat on the front steps. Apparently our visitor had been sitting outside the door, as if waiting to be asked inside. She ran off once my mother-in-law came in, but shortly after that, she was back at the sliding door again. We opened the door slightly and put a can of cat food on the steps. She moved away when the door opened, but only about 100 feet. As she returned to gorge herself on the food, my wife slipped out another door and slowly crept up beside her. The cat kept turning and checking her out, but the food was too good to abandon, and so once my wife was close enough, she slowly went in for the grab, and got the cat. She didn’t put up much of a fight, and we put her in a dog crate with some food and water, and then my wife took her to the emergency vet, as our normal vet was closed. In the meantime, it being so close to Halloween, my son named the cat Spooky.


Don’t mind that she’s not actually a black cat.

The vet says Spooky is either a stray, or a very poorly cared-for pet. She has fleas (which they treated), worms (which we are treating), untold numbers of ticks which we are pulling off as we find them, is possibly pregnant, and is FIV positive. That last one is the big issue, since FIV is spread by biting, and if she joins our other cats in the house, there’s going to be at least a little of that. Our shyest, meekest cat has tried to murder Spooky through the glass when she would come visiting, so that doesn’t bode well for peaceful introductions. We’re going to talk to our regular vet to see what options we have, but chances look good that we may have to find Spooky a different home. This may not sit well with my son, who is madly in love with her. But we don’t want to risk the health of all our other cats, either.

Note the look of concern on the cat's face regarding transmission.

Note the look of concern on the cat’s face regarding transmission.

Spooky is  extremely sweet. It seems odd for a wild cat to be so nice, but perhaps she is an abandoned pet. I’m not sure how she’s survived outside alone for so long, since there are so many predators. The vet thought she might be three, and if that’s the case, we have no idea how she survived last winter outside, if she indeed was outside then. She’s very mysterious. But right now she’s snuggling up in the blankets we gave her, and eating all the food we can give her, so she’s quite happy. We even made “Welcome home Spooky” signs to greet her when she got back from the vet.

My son's is much cooler than mine.

My son’s is much cooler than mine, as evidenced by my using his drawing as the previous illustration.

Spooky is not a chicken, but she probably went sniffing around the coop while she lurked the grounds. She’s kind of small, so I don’t think she’d win a fight with a chicken either, no matter how hungry she was. However, one less predator is out on the streets, and one more kitty is taken care of who wasn’t before. Now we just need to figure out where she’s going to live.


Look at this sweetie. Just look at her.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Fuzzy Wuzzy Rag by Handy’s Orchestra Of Memphis)

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)

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