Posts Tagged ‘names’

Breaking The Bank

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

I’m not going to pretend that keeping chickens is the cheapest activity out there, but generally it could be worse. Once you get the coop sorted out, the rest is mainly small items like food and bedding. Those expenses, for me anyway, come once a month or so, and usually add up to about $20 for a bale of pine shavings and a bag of layer feed. I don’t have to pay for grooming or walking, like we might with a dog, and it’s certainly cheaper than say, owning a boat. Sure, I can’t cruise around a lake on a chicken, but I’m also not bleeding money. I can live without a boat.

Tends to work better with ducks, if you can get your hands on one.

Tends to work better with ducks, if you can get your hands on one.

Of course, there is always the issue of vet costs. For the most part, the chickens seem in good health, save for the mites and occasionally vent gleet, both of which I can treat on my own. Up until now, the only times I had to take a chicken to the vet was when Suzy Creamcheese Senior had a prolapsed vent, and when Boss Chicken’s legs gave out on her. I know my limits, and seek out the pros when needed. But a lot of ailments can be DIY projects. Sometimes messy and gross DIY projects, but that’s the price of savings.

Cost of rubber gloves not included in cost of savings.

Cost of rubber gloves not included in cost of savings.

Which brings us to the Great Bumblefoot Scare of 2016. During one of my evening chicken inspections, I noticed that one of the Mandrell sisters had a weird growth between her toes about the size of a peanut. Not sure what else to do at that moment, I reached out and poked it. It was pretty hard, also like a peanut. It didn’t seem to hurt her, but no one really likes being poked, so I stepped away from the chicken and took to the internet. I was worried that it was either a tumor, or something horrible to do with mites, but my search for “weird growth on chicken foot” brought up loads of pages about bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is when a chicken gets a cut on her foot, and the cut gets infected. They’re always scratching around in the dirt, so the likelihood of hitting something sharp is pretty high. So then I began to read about how to cure bumblefoot. For some reason, I had it in my head that rubbing some Bag Balm on the problem foot would do the trick, but I seem to be wrong about that. Everything I found pointed to the need to puncture and drain the abscess, or, if you were lucky, you might be able to squeeze out the gunk inside the growth, since there’s usually a cut at the bottom. I’m not very squeamish, but I didn’t like the sound of this. Then I read one of the step-by-step DIY bumblefoot surgery pages. I’ve had to ask my wife to hold a chicken while I stick my finger up its butt on a number of occasions. I was always pretty sure that that was the limit of her willingness to help with gross things. To ask her to hold a chicken while I cut open its foot and squeezed out nastiness was going to be too much. Actually, it was going to be too much for both of us. A scared, bloody chicken is not what you want to be around. The surgery also took a lot of time, and one page encouraged taking breaks to rest every so often. All I knew was that if we took a break, we would never be able to pick up that chicken again. I saw doom around every corner, until I read a line about how one person always does it herself because she doesn’t have a chicken vet nearby. Then it hit me. I had a chicken vet nearby! I was ready to hand this one off.

Not the chicken vet. Do not hand off your chickens to this guy. Abort mission! Abort mission!

Not the chicken vet. Do not hand off your chickens to this guy. Abort mission! Abort mission!

The next morning I called and made an appointment. “What’s the chicken’s name?” they asked.

“Uh, well, she’s one of The Mandrell Sisters,” I said.

“We need a first name,” they said.

“Ok, um, let’s go with Lurlene,” I said. The appointment was now set, and I finally solved the mystery of which Sister was Lurlene. Until I actually arrived at the vet for the appointment, and found they had written down Murlene. So there’s still no Lurlene, I guess.

And you thought cats hated to ride in the crate.

And you thought cats hated to ride in the crate.

At the vet, we noticed that Murlene had peanut growths on both feet. The vet did a close inspection, and thought there might be a puncture hole, thereby officially making this bumblefoot, though having it on both feet was a little unusual. She took Murlene out back, and five minutes later, they both returned. “Well, it wasn’t bumblefoot,” she said. It turns out that Murlene has loose foot skin, and each peanut was just packed full of dirt and crud. The vet soaked her feet in some water, and then just pulled the crud out with some tweezers. I was sent home with Murlene and a bottle of betadine to soak her feet in daily. I was also, if able, to soak her feet in epsom salt water daily to try to tighten up the crud area. Amazingly, she put up with this. Once I got her situated in the bowl of liquid, she just stayed put and cooed. I guess a good foot soak does wonders.

Like a day at the spa.

Like a day at the spa.

On the plus side, I didn’t do any unnecessary surgery. On the down side, a $3 chicken cost me $100 at the vet. That’s a bad return on investment, but I think I came out ahead by not unintentionally maiming Murlene by pursuing the wrong treatment. I’ll take the bright side on this one.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle)

Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License. No changes made, other than looping it.

And Then There Were Three

Friday, January 15th, 2016

For a podcast that’s about chickens, I sure have been talking about cats a lot lately. I should probably warn you that I’m about to do it again, because we lost our big tomcat, The Bone, the other night.

The Bone, watching the chickens in the yard.

The Bone, watching the chickens in the yard.

I’m sure your first question is “why the heck is his name ‘The Bone?’.” That’s perfectly fair. His real name was Hamish, however, my feeling is that you often give people and things names because you have to, and then when you get to know them, you find their real name. He went from “Hamish” to “Hambone,” and then from there you may be able to see that “The Bone” is a logical next step. It stuck. I did try to take it one step further and make up a story that he was named after Leon Redbone and that we should refer to him as “Leon,” but that was a harder sell. So The Bone it remained. And if you met him, it would make sense. He was like The Fonz, in cat form. Ayyyy.

He was also helpful around the house.

He was also helpful around the house.

When we got him, they thought he was about 6, but he had been living under someone’s porch, so they had no idea of his real age. We had gone to the shelter to look at this beautiful Maine Coon, but when we got there, he took one look at us and went into hiding. We then tested out every cat in the place. We needed one that was kid-friendly, and at one point my son, then about 2ish, just laid down on the floor and let cats crawl all over him. He was in cat heaven. There were some nice ones, but none of them really seemed like a good fit, or they had big chronic health issues that we didn’t think we’d be able to handle. Then we noticed this big gray fellow in a corner who had just been sitting there watching us. My son went over to say hello, and the cat stood up and immediately rubbed his face against my son’s, and that was all it took. We knew we had the one.

Perfect for hugging.

Perfect for hugging.

A few years ago, The Bone started to lose weight (he had become a fairly ample gentleman in his time with us) so we took him to the vet. They did a million tests, and found he had thyroid issues. This made his estimated age quite suspect, as cats don’t generally have thyroid troubles until their teens. So we figured he was maybe a few years older than we originally thought. With the thyroid issue treated, he put weight back on, but never got as big as he had been. Then in the past month he started to lose weight again. We brought him in, and all his bloodwork was fine. Then x-rays revealed that he had fluid in his lungs and abdomen, so he would need an ultrasound. The ultrasound doctor was hard to book, so we were waiting to hear, and then right at bedtime a few nights ago something was obviously wrong. The Bone was walking wobbly, and breathing heavily. My wife rushed him to the emergency vet, where it was determined he had congestive heart failure and a blood clot in his legs, that even if they could fix, would leave his back legs paralyzed, and they didn’t think they could actually fix it. And so we said goodbye.

Such a handsome boy.

Such a handsome boy.

The Bone had also had a chronic sinus problem that caused him to blow large amounts of snot on you without warning. He was so charming no one ever cared. He was the calmest cat I’d ever met, but once cornered a 150 pound dog just to show who was boss. He loved going to the vet so much they had trouble hearing his heart because he was purring so loudly. There has never been a cat like The Bone, and I’m not sure there ever will be. But I’m happy we knew him for the short time we did.


Adios, muchacho.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Ruminants (Instrumental) by Lisa Germano)

Music used under Creative Commons license: Ruminants (Instrumental) (Lisa Germano) / CC BY-NC 3.0

Time For Some Names

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Naming your chickens is a very important step in your role as one who chickens. Or at least I think so. There are plenty of people out there who are fine with chicken anonymity. It probably makes it easier if you’re the type who lops their heads off and then gets on with your life, but that’s not my style. I’m not a head lopper, or a neck twister, or whatever other ways there are of dispatching a chicken. To me, they’re pets who happen to also produce food, which puts them slightly above our cats. I’m not about to eat what those ding-dongs produce the most of. But pets need names, and I am not one who enters into giving out names lightly. But if I do give a name, I don’t always stick to it. My attitude is that you don’t always know what to call someone until you really get to know them. Because of this, I find myself in situations like where my cat Hamish is known as “The Bone,” thanks to the convoluted logic of my mind. If you know him, it makes sense. My wife often has to tell my son, “you know how daddy always calls things by different names.” I need to experience your essence before I can figure out your true name, man.


Your Essence, available wherever horrible smells are sold.

With our chickens, I had tried to not give them names the first time around. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I really thought I was going to mess it up and kill them somehow, and I figured no names would give me some sort of emotional distance. But because it turns out chickens had more personality than I was expecting, I found myself referring to them by names in my head, and those names stuck. Boss Chicken got her name because from day one she was all up in everyone else’s business, pushing them around. Henny Penny, as cliché a name as that is for a chicken, got her name because she was afraid of everything. Suzy Creamcheese . . . well I suppose she just seemed like a Suzy Creamcheese. And then there’s The Mandrell Sisters. They got their name because there were three of them, like the actual Mandrell sisters, and I couldn’t tell them apart, so a group name was the only way to go. I couldn’t just not give them a name after I had named the others, now could I? That’s just rude.

Mandrell Sisters

They even had their own TV show at one time.

Now that we’ve got three new ones, I knew the naming issue would come up again. My parents, who I split the chick order with, first considered doing a Mandrell Sisters type group name for their chickens, and then settled on Gladys Knight and the Pips. It works out well, since Gladys is a different breed of chicken than the Pips, and she’s also the Boss Chicken of that bunch. We didn’t have any strong personalities here with our new ones, so that made it harder to come up with anything. I wasn’t too worried about it, though. I knew with time I’d figure something out, and I was so focused on getting the new chickens integrated with the old ones, that I barely had time to think about names anyway.

midnight train to georgia

Leaving on the midnight train to Georgia, by way of Tidmouth Sheds.

Then my son began to ask what I was going to name them. I told him I hadn’t thought of any names, and suggested that he could name them if he wanted to. I knew the risks involved here. When my wife was his age, she named her dog “Oscar the Baseball Player.” To be honest, that’s not too far off from some of the names I come up with anyway. The new chickens are two of one breed, and one of another. My son said he wanted to name the lone one Suzy Creamcheese, since the original Suzy Creamcheese died back in spring, and he had been fond of her. I said we couldn’t name her Suzy Creamcheese, because there had already been one, but we could name her Suzy Creamcheese Junior. He was o.k. with that. That left the two of the same breed. He thought about it for a few minutes, and then decided he wanted to name them Steve and John. My wife pointed out that the chickens were girls, but he didn’t care. Seeing as how I once had a girl cat named Phil, I was in no position to complain. And frankly, I don’t think I really have anything to complain about. Steve, John, and Suzy Creamcheese Junior are names that any chicken would be happy to have.

name day

Chickens are so excited the day the new names come out.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Dance Of The Priestesses of Dagon (Saint-Säens) by The Victor Herbert Orchestra)


Rebuilding The Flock Part 2

Friday, August 29th, 2014

When we left off last week, I had ordered new chicks, and my mother was going to take care of them for a couple of weeks until their Marek’s vaccines had kicked in. I had forwarded her the email about new chick care, and was waiting for her to read the part about “pasting up,” also known as when their tiny butts get clogged with tiny poops. She did get there, and seemed less than thrilled about this prospect, but on the other hand, didn’t really dwell on this part, because she felt pretty overwhelmed by the whole email. I assured her that like most sets of instructions, it seemed like a lot, but wasn’t so bad when you actually got into it. It boils down to: keep them warm, make sure they have food and water, and check their butts for the first week or so. She calmed down, and shifted back to being excited about the chicks arriving. I did get the occasional text message with a question, but this was more out of wanting to do a good job with the chicks, rather than “oh no what have I done?” This was a good sign.


Usually with more swearing and sad faces.

Then, the chicks arrived. As soon as she opened the box and saw them, it was all over. She was no longer worried, she was thrilled to death over how cute these things were. The question texts turned into texts about how adorable they were and how much she loved them. Another convert to the chicken side had arrived! My father apparently had yet to come around to them, but it didn’t really matter because my mother was so into them.

When I first got my original batch of chicks, I didn’t have a coop. I managed to build one, but not without a large amount of stress during the whole process. My parents learned from this experience, and ordered one online. Of course, they were only getting three chickens, which gives you many more affordable options than I had when I started with six. More than five chickens puts you in a whole different coop bracket, and it gets expensive. Maybe this was why my mom was being relatively relaxed about everything. They had the coop issue sorted out. They even have a dog kennel to put the coop in, and use as a large run. A little hardware cloth on that, and they’ve got a pretty secure chicken space.

dog jail

Formerly dog jail.

My father did slowly begin to start coming around to the chickens, though he wouldn’t admit it. Since they were keeping three of the chicks, and I had three chickens that I referred to as the Mandrell sisters, he wanted to give theirs a blanket name like that. He was leaning towards the Andrews Sisters, though he admitted it wasn’t as catchy as the Mandrell Sisters. If you’re going to name your chickens, this can be a good way to go, since it still gives you a tiny bit of emotional distance. You’ve still named them, which means you’re attached to them one way or another, but a general, catch-all name keeps you from getting too attached. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. The important thing was that if he was thinking of names, that meant he must be coming around to the idea of keeping chickens. After all, if he hated them, why would he bother to give them names? Unless it was the kind of thing people tend to do to identify anonymous people they always see and dislike, like “creepy thong guy,” “leg disease lady,” or “that smelly guy on the train with the big bag of equally smelly garbage who in spite of it all seems to have a job he goes to every day.” This didn’t feel like that, unless my father secretly had a vendetta against the Andrews Sisters. He was getting there, but still gave me a line of, “I don’t think this a good idea. I don’t know why your mother is doing this,” when I was visiting.

andrews sisters

All packed into the same nesting box.

Almost two weeks had passed, and so it was almost time for me to take my half of the chicks home. But I hit a snag. I could only get out to my parents’s house on a weekend, and the closest weekend to the two week quarantine period was slighty earlier than two whole weeks. How exact was the two week window of the Marek’s vaccine? Did a few days make a difference? Would they be fine, or should I wait? Now who was worrying needlessly?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Fourteen Days by the Blue Ridge Highballers)

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