Archive for October, 2013

My First Goose Egg!

Friday, October 25th, 2013

(Broadcast 10/25/2013)

Raising chickens has been full of milestones. There’s the excitement of the day I brought them home, the relief of finishing the coop (and the worry of their first night sleeping in it), and the thrill of the first egg. Not all milestones are happy ones, though. There was my first sick chicken, which now looks more like it should be counted as my first chicken to have a stroke. There was my first run in with the horrors of vent gleet, and as a result, my first time standing in the yard blow drying a chicken. I suppose if you think about it enough, anything can be a milestone. I happen to like thinking about it.


When the chickens first started laying eggs, it was December, and you’re probably aware of the fact that December has pretty short days. The amount of light chickens get has a direct influence on how many eggs they lay. Or that’s what I was led to believe. As soon as they all started laying, it was half a dozen eggs a day for a good long time, darkness be damned. We weren’t prepared for such an ovoid onslaught, but it was cool to be finally getting eggs, and nice to see the chickens all pitching in. The fact that they were really sticking it to the darkness tickled me as well. I like the underdog, or perhaps in this case, the underchicken.


Underchicken, of Saturday morning cartoon fame.

As time went on, the six-eggs-a-day rule seemed to be getting more relaxed. If a chicken isn’t feeling well, they won’t lay, and it’s even pretty normal to not lay an egg every day. Sometimes, the eggs would be there, but would be one of those creepy “rubber eggs” I’ve talked about. There are a lot of factors involved in egg production, and it’s unrealistic to think they’d operate at maximum capacity forever, or even for very long.

egg factory

Summer came around, and some days we’d get three eggs, some days more. Some days they’d lay them in the nesting buckets, sometimes next to them, and in the last few weeks they’d taken to laying them on the far side of the roost, which is very difficult for me to reach. I know when I’m being screwed with, but everyone likes sticking it to the Man, and I suppose I’m the Man in this scenario. I put a plastic easter egg in one of the nesting buckets, and they eventually got the hint. And the number of eggs we got continued to fluctuate. The vent gleet episode took one chicken out of production for a while, so I knew we wouldn’t be hitting six then. The only one I can reliably even keep a tally on is Boss Chicken, since she’s in her own coop (or rabbit hutch, really) due to her handicap. She seems to be easing into an every other day routine, but again, not always. There’s fluctuation, but always eggs somewhere.

egg journal

I keep a journal of how many eggs each day.

So the other day when I went to check the eggs and Boss Chicken didn’t have one, I figured it was one of her days off. Then I opened the coop, and there were none in the buckets. I felt around in the shavings, since they sometimes like to bury them, but still nothing. So then I climbed into the coop to check the far side of the roost. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. It appeared everyone had taken the day off. It was close to Columbus Day weekend, so maybe they felt it was a state chicken holiday or something. The only thing I do know is that the only egg I got that day was a big goose egg.

goose egg

Listen to the goose.

I was initially a little worried that maybe their egg laying days were behind them, but they’re only a little over a year old, not even a year and half. They’ve got more time. I think the erraticness of their laying schedules was bound to align eventually, and there we were. The next day, we got more eggs. Next summer I may need to start thinking about what’s going to happen to our egg supply, but we should be good through the winter. That’s not to say I’m not going to start obsessively hoarding the eggs, but you might as well hoard them while you know they’re still coming, right? Right?


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Too Many Crickets!

Friday, October 18th, 2013

(Broadcast 10/11/2013)

If you’ve ever been outside, it’s probably not a surprise to you that there are things out there. You know, things: lions, tigers, bears – that whole nature trip. I often scan the darkness with my headlamp while walking out to the coop to see if I’m alone out there or not. I usually am, at least that I can see. But I think that’s only in terms of things large enough to have eyes that would reflect back at me. Certainly the tree frogs have been out there in force until it got chilly, and the wooly bear caterpillars seem to like our front steps, though sometimes it seems to be where they come to die. I fear we may be living on top of some sort of wooly bear burial ground. But dead wooly bears don’t talk, so I may never know. When I go out to take care of the chickens and it’s dark out, I often suspect I am not alone. The spiderwebs on the coop are a giveaway, but surely there are other things out there besides spiders, right? If not, why did I spend so much time on coop security?

lions, tigers, and bears

Oh my!

With autumn here, my chicken responsibilities can be dealt with earlier and earlier. Sometimes in the summer, I would want to go to bed shamefully early, but it would still be light out. The downside of living close to nature but far from my job is that I have to get up awfully early to get to work on time. I didn’t feel right going to bed before closing the coop door, though they’re perfectly safe if I don’t. I actually leave it open on summer weekends so they don’t squawk to be let out at 5am. For some reason, weeknights are different, and I would force myself to be up past 8:30 so I could lock them in. Lately though, I can get my chicken tasks done even before my son’s bedtime. I suppose that’s the silver lining of shortened daylight. Then I can relax a little and go to bed at whatever ludicrously early time I choose.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man constantly tired.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man constantly tired.

A little while ago I was out doing my evening ritual of checking the food and water, and then saying goodnight to the chickens, and thinking again about whether or not I was alone out there. These positively extraterrestrial looking caterpillars have been out in the yard lately. They’re bright yellow and have antennae that look like horns. They don’t seem to be afraid of the coop area, which is foolish. Chickens don’t care if you look cool, as long as you are tasty. I even had one on my arm one night once I was back in the house. I have no idea how it got on me, but there it was. I put it back in the yard, and vowed to be more vigilant about stowaways.


This is supposed to be a caterpillar.

So the night when I came in and felt an odd tickle on my leg perhaps indicated I had let my guard down once again. “That’s a weird itch,” I may have thought. Then, as it progressed up my leg, it turned to, “that’s a weird itch moving up my leg,” and then further to, “I hope that’s not a tick on my leg.” Then I realized the sensation covered an awful large area for a tick. “Oh no,” I realized, “One of those caterpillars is IN MY PANTS.” In a surprisingly (for me) quick motion, I grabbed the outside of my pant leg in my fingertips right where I felt the weirdness. “There’s . . . there’s something in my pants,” I said to my wife. She gave me a look. “No,” I said. “I mean there’s someTHING in my pants.” That’s when the strain of profanity that indicated I had no next move started pouring out of my mouth. I had trapped the thing, but if I let go, it would be loose again. “The pants must come off,” I said, and proceeded to undo all the workings of them with one hand, while still containing the pant creature in the other. I stepped out of them, released my fingers, and then shook the pants, not knowing what to expect. I half worried that it was really only an itch, and I was now standing pantless and full of swears in front of a witness. But as I shook, there, on the floor, appeared a reasonably large cricket. I understand it is good luck to have a cricket in your house, so it must be even more so if they head up your pants. Lucky me. I went to find a container to catch it in to let it loose outside, and my wife called out that not only was the cricket o.k., it was also very “sproingy,” so I’d better hurry up before it escaped. I caught it in an old takeout container, and released it near the wooly bear burial ground.


They were pants . . . JUST LIKE THESE

A more vengeful person might have put it in with the chickens as a treat for them, but in spite of the scare it gave me, I bore it no ill will. Maybe it stowed away on me because it was trapped in the coop and knew it was doomed if it didn’t. Maybe it was just a pervert. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into all of this. I often worry about the big things that may be out there sniffing around the chickens, but there are plenty of smaller ones too. I resolve to be more observant, and to maybe tuck my pants into my socks from now on.


“Hey, whaddya say I climb up your leg?”

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Giving Chickens A Bath

Friday, October 11th, 2013

(Broadcast 10/11/2013)

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they find they need to give a chicken a bath. Wait, what? You say that’s not actually true? Most people haven’t ever bathed a chicken? Well, this is certainly unexpected. Regardless, I recently found myself in a position where I had to give not one, but two chickens baths, and I lived to tell the tale. I may die of embarrassment once the tale is told, but you know, I’ve had a good run. To keep the embarrassment to a minimum, I’ll only discuss the first bath today.

chicken hot tub

In the 80s, even chickens had hot tubs.

Remember my discussion of “vent gleet,” aka nasty chicken butt disease, from a couple of weeks ago? Maybe not. The gist of it is that I have a chicken that had a problem that involved really nasty tail feathers due to, let’s say cloacal issues. I did everything the internet said to do: I cleaned the feathers (opting to trim off the nasty ones), I administered an oral dose of epsom salts, I put apple cider vinegar in the water, and I dealt out lots of yogurt. She seemed to be doing well, until a week later when I stuck my head in the coop to say goodnight, and I noticed her tail feathers were befouled anew. You notice these things when the coop door is righ at their rump level. I shook my fist at the chicken butt gods and angrily approached the internet for guidance.

soiled rump

The look on my face upon seeing the soiled rump.

Upon rereading the article about vent gleet that had originally guided me, it did mention that sometimes two treatments were necessary. In my lust for success, I guess I missed that part. But at least it could still be vent gleet and not something worse. I redid all the original treatments, and hoped that this time it would stick.


Treat, and retreat.

Then I got to thinking that the one thing I hadn’t done was give the chicken an epsom salt bath. This was suggested partly to help soften the nasty feathers for cleaning, but also to help with the affliction itself. Vent gleet can be caused by fungus or parasites, and the epsom salts can help to defeat both those things. As a good chicken dad, I began to think that maybe I should give this a shot.

The problem with giving this a shot was that the time I had to dedicate to bathing a chicken was time that I was the only one home besides my son, who I was supposed to be watching. I thought I could interest him in helping out as a father/son project, but he was already annoyed with me because I told him he needed to come outside instead of watching TV all afternoon. So taking away something he liked and offering to supplement it with something that actually sounded kind of awful was not appealing. He opted to sit in a chair out in the yard and occasionally glare at me while the rest of this went down.

stink eye

The old Stink Eye

I got the only bucket we had, and hoped a chicken would fit in it. I added some epsom salts and water, and took it outside. I thought once more about if I really needed to do this. I had trimmed the chicken’s dirty feathers again, but maybe there was more going on in there that I wasn’t getting with the trimming, or couldn’t be trimmed away. Yes, I should do this just to be safe. I took the chicken and proceeded to the bucket.

chicken equation

An equation.

She kind of fit. I could at least get her butt down into the water. I called to my son to look at daddy, he’s doing something ridiculous. He grunted in response. The chicken squirmed a little and looked around, as if to see if anyone was watching. No one seemed to be, though we can’t rule out NSA spy drones. She sat still for about 3 minutes, and then the attempts to escape began in earnest. There was squawking and kicking, which means there was also splashing. I had a good grip on her wings, so she couldn’t flap them, but this was becoming more unpleasant by the minute, and it was never really very pleasant to begin with. I held on for a couple more minutes, then finally let her out. She was in there for a total of five minutes, tops. The instructions said to keep her in there for 20 minutes. No chance of that happening without me having a team of chicken wranglers.

I let her out in the yard, and figured since it was sunny and warm, she could dry off in the sun. At that moment, a cloud came by and somehow managed to blot out any sunlight for half an hour. I knew what I needed to do. I went and got our longest extension cord, and a hair dryer.

hair dryer

The cord was long.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever stood in your driveway holding a wet chicken like a baby while blow drying it, but it’s certainly an experience I never anticipated having. Cars were going by, but no one seemed to notice. The chicken lay there on her back, seemingly content. The smell of hot chicken feathers filled my nose, and I realized I had gone to a place most people never go to. I am still wondering if this is a good thing. But the chicken was dry, and so far we haven’t seen any more dirty butt feathers on her. We also haven’t seen any of the neighbors. But if we do, I suppose we’ll find out very quickly which ones saw my foray into chicken hairdressing.


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Chicken Waiting Room

Friday, October 4th, 2013

There’s no Garden Guys show today, so there’s no Too Many Chickens! either. To hold you over, here’s a video featuring some chicken excitement:

(I don’t endorse Mercedes, but I do endorse chicken hijinks).

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