Wednesday, March 19, 2008

hen pics

Edna on the hunt
This Americauna might be named Brangelina--seems an appropriate use for that name

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

over exposed eggs

as opposed to over easy

nest boxes

The birds like the plastic tub box in the hutch for laying their eggs. They do not like the cardboard box beside it. They kicked all the wood chips out of the cardboard box but always leave some in the other.

Edna (formerly Edsel) is the star athlete. When I hold out a jumbo mealworm, she darts in, jumps up and grabs it while the other chickens are still eyeing it, trying to figure out what to do. Even when I'm trying to offer the worm to someone else or holding it low so that Punkster and DartMouth can see it from under their top-knots, she grabs it first. Yeah, she's my favorite, even though she doesn't lay green eggs. I like her style.

Besides, I only want to spend so much time grasping a large mealworm between thumb and forefinger, watching it writhe around with its short legs waving.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Finally peace on the home front

Locking Punkster and DartMouth in the hutch for a couple of days and nights did the trick. They stopped picking on the others. Trimming off the sharp tips of their beaks might have had something to do with it, also. The method is to wrap the chicken in a towel and clip off the tip, up to but not including the vein. This blunted the sharp ends just enough to lessen any damage they could do. Maybe it took them down a peg but I can’t verify that. When a chicken is debeaked in the bloody and traumatic (to me) conventional way, just about half the upper beak comes off. The chicken can eat but not peck at others.

Now all six are co-existing in the usual way, with only the “get outta my way” or “hey, that bug’s mine” sort of pecking. The little ones still won’t go into the coop at night. Every evening this week I’ve had to pry them off the perch in the hutch and put them in the coop. There’s now a second perch in the coop but it’s not as high as the first due to the slanted top.

Genius inspiration struck today. I took the perch out of the hutch and put in a nest box made from a plastic tub. I cut down part of one side so that the hen could step in and not have to hop to the top rim and then down. I wasn’t quite genius enough, however. I cut the side too low. DartMouth immediately jumped in and proceeded to remodel the place, scratching all the wood chips onto the wire floor of the hutch where most fell through to the ground.

I think I have to do everything about three times to get it close to right.

Monday, March 3, 2008

musical roosts

the complexities of roosting door, rooster, wings
the complexities of roosting

When it's time to shut the coop door, does one just say, "Night, night, birds" and shut the door as usual? Noooo, one must first pluck a Modern off the top of the hutch and put her inside. Then one must fetch two Americaunas from inside the hutch. It is not easy to reach both arms through a small door, grab a large hen, pry her feet from the perch, and haul her out the door, preferably without breaking a wing or cutting one's hand on the wire of the door opening. And then do it again.

When grabbing a hen, it's best to hold her wings against her body; otherwise she'll flap madly and you'll have a hard time restraining her. But when trying to do that while reaching arm's length into the hutch, the simple grab isn't always effective.

Here's a tip: when you put the hen on the ground, which you need to do to get a better grip on her, run your hand with a little bit of pressure down her back. She'll flatten her back and stand still, not because she loves your gentle touch but because you have just imitated a rooster about to mount her. Works way better than hypnotism.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Eating and egging

I finally put a light in the chicken coop several days ago. I hadn't wanted to but I'm hearing about everyone else's hens laying except mine. Also, the chicken soup threat didn't work.

There's nothing inside the coop to hang the light from or grip with the attached tongs but I managed to balance it on a corner wingnut where it sort of stays up. It had the desired effect: Punkster laid an egg today. DartMouth has yet to cooperate. Or it may have been the other way around.

Matilda the snake, who hasn't eaten in months, seemed a little less restless today, so I thawed out a mouse and offered it to her. Holding it by the tail--you're supposed to use tongs but it'll be two years before I find mine--I wriggled the mouse, then laid it down on the dinner plate, a paper towel. Matilda came up to it and looked interested, flicking out her tongue and then circling around the way she sometimes does before striking. She positioned her mouth in front of the mouse's nose, got close...then whipped her head away like a kid going, "YUK!" Maybe it's the wrong flavor?

I have no idea how I'm supposed to know when she's ready to eat. It’s not as if she’ll give me a dirty look or make hungry-sounding slithers or sit there with her mouth open. At least she won’t scream or bark at me. I get enough of that from the others.