Category Archives: Charlie

Lesson 785 – No more chicken swaps in New Hampshire (for now)

look at me

I just started a backyard flock management course and during the first week I learned chicken anatomy and what to look for during a necropsy (autopsy.) I also learned how to do a physical exam on a live chicken and what to look for if doing a home visit for a flock that has an ill member(s).

And while this is all fascinating stuff (truly, I’m loving this course) it’s not going to be too helpful to many of the backyard chicken enthusiasts in New Hampshire.

Due to the discovery of sick chickens being sold at local chicken swaps, we are finding mycoplasma gallisepticum, or MG, a respiratory illness, and mycoplasma synoviae, or MS, which affects joints in birds in backyard flocks around the state.

If you purchased a bird from a flock that was contaminated (and some birds are asymptomatic) there is a very good chance that you might have brought the disease into your flock.  When you buy a chicken from a chicken seller at a swap, your name is recorded and the state then has access to that information. Continue reading

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Lesson 768 – Lessons learned

broken heart

This is the beauty, strength, and power of a community. In the hundreds and hundreds of replies I got about our Violet’s experience (and I’ve read every single one several times) I received some tremendous gifts.

 

There was a comment from another chicken owner who had had a similar experience with cinder blocks.

 

Shoot, yeah, we never get to quit learning and improving in this life. Even after 50+ years of chickens, I just found out about the cinder block thing. I flood irrigate so my coop is on blocks, and recently some of my girls decided that laying eggs underneath it was better than the nests. I had boarded it up, but they knocked one down and for several days we kept wondering where all the eggs were. By the time we figured it out and re-secured the boards solidly, they were so fixated on that being the place to lay that the next day I found one stuck in a cinder block hole! So stuck, in fact, that it took me a while to get her out…but that ain’t gonna ever happen again.

 

Another person shared some examples of other unknown dangers in the coop that I would have never thought were a problem. Now I know.

 

Other suggestions for coop safety:  Someone told me once that a piece of plywood leaning against a barn wall fell on one of her pullets and killed her.  Also: cracks in the roost —- toenails can get ripped.  It’s happened to my bird.”  

 

One fellow chicken owner left this fabulous suggestion to use when integrating chicks into the flock. I will be using this trick the next time we have chicks:

Squirt bottle. It’s my training tool of choice for chickens (when it’s not freezing out of course). I have trouble accepting pecking order sometimes and other times they simply take it too far as you have learned. Armed with a good squirt bottle I can inflict a “peck” from several feet away, and it only takes a few squirts to show them who is really the boss of the yard. It works like magic. They are pretty fast learners. The instant you see a behavior you don’t want, squirt. It shouldn’t take more then a dozen squirts for even the most determined behaviors. Take care, loss is never easy, especially when you feel responsible.

And I got a whole lot of compassion from people who understood my pain and my sharing of our story. Because of Violet, cinder blocks are either being removed or are being filled up in coops all over. Chicks lives may be saved.

Violet had a short life but just look at what she was able to do.


Thank you for making me aware of the issue. I have blocks in the house for the waterers. When the new chicks hatch they will be removed. Our grown hens are much too large to squeeze their fat bodies into a block hole and they have settled into their order… but with new arrivals things can get interesting.

I am so saddened by your loss. I am just now back into keeping chickens, with my first batch of four chicks, and a deep concern about how to provide a safe environment for them, secure from predators. I will now focus on inside safety as well, and keep your lesson (and Violet’s) in my mind as I plan their coop and run. Thank you for the courage to speak the truth and help others be aware of unknown dangers. Hugs!

***
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two. 

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Lesson 767 – One bird at a time

First of all, I want to say “thank you” to everyone who reached out to me on this blog and Facebook yesterday. The chicken community really does understand what these feathered critters mean to us and I have to tell you that every comforting word did its job. I still, and will always, carry the guilt for this one, but it was wonderful to be given so many hugs from fellow chicken owners.

One person, who hatched some chicks yesterday even named a chick “Violet” in honor of our little bird. How beautiful is that? Violet’s spirit lives on.

I did get one letter from a woman who has decided to not follow me anymore because of what happened to Violet. She raised some interesting points in her email (which is now a Facebook post.)

She chastised me and said that you should NEVER introduce less than 3 chicks into a flock and while this is ideal, it’s not going to happen with some backyard chicken owners. Concord NH, for example, allows you to have 5 hens in your flock. If one died over the winter, you can either wait until more die to replace them or try to replace that single bird. Most people go with replacing what was lost. Flocks simply come in all sizes.

I got Violet as a single chick, just like I had gotten Charlie as a single chick. Neither bird had been planned but I wasn’t going to say no to them. In Charlie’s case, she lived because I was willing to do her foot surgery. In Violet’s case, she died, not because she was a single bird, but because I didn’t recognize a danger in the coop. Continue reading

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Lesson 766 – She’s just a chicken

Some are going to read this and say, what’s the big deal? She’s just a chicken.

Violet quietly died last night around 7:30pm. There had been signs of hope throughout the day but when she stopped eating, when fluids started coming out of her beak, when she went the entire day without pooping, I knew that things were not good.

Fortunately I had time yesterday to hold her, swaddled in my sweatshirt, in the sunshine. Continue reading

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Lesson 765 – Violet is in trouble

Today’s post was meant to be a celebration. A way to announce that Violet has been fully integrated into our flock with little or minimal damage.  It was going to be a post celebrating the power and tolerance of the flock.

And up until last night, it certainly looked like that was how it would turn out.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and our family spent much of the afternoon in our backyard surrounded by our foraging chickens.

After several days of being kept caged in the hen house in order for her flock mates to get used to her, I thought it was time for Violet to join the flock. Oh sure, the larger and older birds would occasionally peck her but being the very clever bird that she is, she would run over to me and hide from the others behind my feet.  Violet knew that this mama hen was looking out for her.

Violet was so very sweet that one of our visiting neighbors even got down on the ground to play with her.

“That’s one nice bird,” he told me while gently stroking her chest.

As the afternoon wore on and the sun started to set, I felt very comfortable putting Violet in with the others to roost together for the night.

“How much damage can be done overnight?” I thought to myself. Continue reading

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Lesson 762 – Violet meets the flock – step 2

Well look who survived the night?

Morning sunshine.

Morning sunshine.

I’m leaving for a 3 day camping trip with our town’s seventh graders (how else am I going to get into heaven?) and so won’t be around for Violet during the next few days. The plan is to let her be around the girls as they free range (babysat by my non-seventh graders) in the afternoon but to keep her in the cage while in the coop until I get back at which point I’ll see if she’s ready to be released.

The action part of Violet meets the flock part 2?

Relax, that’s all, just relax.

***
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two. 

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Lesson 761 – Violet meets the flock – step 1

The time has come. The weather has turned to the more reasonable temperatures of spring and Violet finally has enough feathers to get her through the cool (but not cold) nights. We have been putting Violet out in a “playpen” (a children’s moveable pen that I had gotten at a yard sale) while the rest of the flock was outside during the day, but we were always careful to keep her separated from any interaction with the rest of the flock.

The hens were curious but there was no aggressive behavior toward her. A good sign, I thought.

Today is the day we incorporate Violet into the flock. This will be done in a series of steps. The first step will be to put her entire cage in the hen house for a few days. This will ensure she is protected while everyone gets to know her during the night and day.

After the girls have gotten a chance to know how it is to live with her in their midst, we will let Violet mingle with the flock (while being supervised) to make sure that no one in particular picks too much on her. It’s a bit tricky because Violet is the only chick being introduced and there is the high probability that everyone will be tempted to put her in her place. I’ve seen the damage that excessive pecking can do, and let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight. Continue reading

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