Feeding Stations

We created these for two reasons – one far more important than the other. First the less important one –

1. Cosmetic reasons. It isn’t beautiful to have the place cats eat on display all the time. We want to hide their food place away from view when they aren’t using it. Especially as this area will be visible to people using the water closet if they are attending my workshops.

2. The more important reason – Happy is overweight. We’ve been trying to work on this and were quite successful last year but unknown to us over winter she began sneaking food from Grumpy. She put on almost the exact amount of weight that Grumpy lost.

Grumpy is a very slow eater thanks to her health problems with Horners Syndrome – she tends to make a bit of a mess when she eats. Happy inhales her food within seconds, then she goes looking for more. If we aren’t there to supervise, she will annoy Grumpy who will then walk away from her food, enabling the Food Vacuum to snorfle up anything left.

So all mealtimes are now supervised. If Grumpy walks away, we can close her food lid and she can eat it later on. Once Happy walks away, I get her favourite mouse on a stick and provide some exercise while Grumpy finishes eating.

Grumpy also gets secret kibble snacks in The Other Half’s office when Happy is not around to notice. Though the sound of Grumpy eating often attracts her.

The design is pretty simple, though the triangle shape was born from having less material on hand than expected. There is a strut on the side that locks the lid into the upright position.

This improvement plus the wonderful kitty litter enclosure I mentioned recently are so awesome. Happy tends to walk away without burying – well she thinks she buried it but she actually missed it entirely and sometimes it could be quite stinky so I would go and bury it for her. Since The Other Half added the fan to the kitty litter enclosure I have not experienced one stinky at all, and we have a lot less kitty litter escaping the enclosure.

kitties

Kitties Get A New Thing

Life for the kitties goes on much the same as it ever does – morning tuna – run around like a crazy thing for a few minutes after the tuna then find a nice spot to sleep the daytime hours away – rationed kibble during the day if one can be bothered waking up for it – see if you can sneak onto a lap at lunchtime for an extra warm nap – human sleep time AKA annoy the humans by first chasing each other around the house, meowing loudly at random intervals during the night, try to find a spot on the bed which keeps the humans awake.

Snoskred, as accustomed to living with a kitty as she is, always manages to fold herself around the sleeping kitty even when leaving the bed for a bathroom stop and returning to the bed folds herself into place perfectly, according to Happy Cat who never has to move. The Other Half is not so good at this trick and a kitty choosing to sleep on his side tends to get jostled a lot.

The past couple of weeks have been a time of much cleaning, decluttering, and general upheaval here in this household. We’ve gone all “Marie Kondo” even though I haven’t read the book, it was time to declutter. The house now positively sparkles and everything has a home to return to once it is used.

But one thing remained annoying to both of us – the kitty litter corner. First of all nobody likes to look at kitty litter. Secondly it tends to kick up some extra dust whenever it gets used. Thirdly the kitties were sometimes so intent on their burying of items that they managed to send kitty litter flying across the floor.

Fourthly we wanted to design a special kitty litter box and eventually move that out into the Nirvana permanently but were not sure what the perfect design would be, so The Other Half made a few possible designs and we thought more about how it would work. Then we procrastinated, until we decided to JUST DO IT. And here is what he made. We’re calling it The Kitty Litter Pod.

The door opens up for scooping but remains closed the rest of the time. Fans for the top are being printed on the 3d printer and will have charcoal filters added. But for now even in this format the Pod works a treat.

The kitties seem perfectly fine with The Kitty Litter Pod. Move their feeding stations though, that causes them to freak out and lose their minds. We did that too, and we have a design for building them a feeding station next!

kitties

This Makes No Sense

Kitty Litter is A Thing in our house. With two cats and a much larger than the usual litter tray – formerly an under bed storage container which seems to solve fighting over the litter tray issues we have experienced – we go through a decent amount of this stuff. So we would like to buy it as cheaply as possible.

In the past we have tried various different options. One that tends to work quite well for us is to buy in bulk when we get a special spend more to save offer from Petbarn. At least, that is what we thought, until we did the maths. We would have to buy 8 bags to get over $250.

8x 33.19 = 271.92 – 70 = 201.92 /8 = $25.24 per bag. And that also depends on them having 8 bags in stock, which is more of a problem than you would expect. Sometimes the kitty litter would be on special which made it more worthwhile.

This is what we’ve done for a few years now and the best part is having 8 bags on standby in the mancave, you can forget about it until you need to go and get a new bag.

Every so often we like to sit down and work out if we are doing things the most efficient way – and the cheapest way – possible. Having run out of kitty litter, and having received the spend more save more email, we did some maths on our end and looked at the “autoship” options.

Having worked in a warehouse for some time and knowing how much shipping costs are, I don’t think the pet companies have done any maths on this. I suspect it would be better $$$ wise to encourage people to go to their stores and purchase the bags at a reduced rate. But instead, they offer autoship. Which is basically they send the stuff to you every so often.

Sure, it is nice for companies to know that they have orders to fulfill regularly, but on the other hand folks can cancel at any time without a penalty, so there is no incentive to stick with the autoship option.

Sure, there are probably people who appreciate getting the kitty litter shipped to their door meaning they don’t have to lug it home from the store. But it costs money to ship things and a bag of kitty litter is *heavy*. 15kg to be precise.

One has to be at home to receive it, otherwise one has to go and pick it up from the post office, removing the handy factor.

We did the maths and it worked out to be slightly more expensive to do autoship – $26.09 per bag – *but* if we bought it from Petstock we earn points with them which kind of balances it out. And we don’t have to pay out $250 at a time. Shipping is free for the customer – but quite costly for the business. We thought we would give it a go.

When they shipped it, we discovered it gets shipped from MELBOURNE. We have a Petstock about 20kms away from us. Melbourne is over 800kms away from us, plus they likely send it via Sydney which adds on at least another 400kms.

But then let us add on $$ for cardboard and tape.. really this is not a good idea for any business $$ wise. It certainly isn’t good for the environment. The cats love it because they get more boxes. We ordered two bags and each had a box to itself. You couldn’t really put them together in a box, it would be far too heavy at 30kg.

Next time I am in the area I will ask our local Petstock if they are willing to match the autoship price so they get our $$ locally. That is the other aspect – when you buy online the money often does not go to your local store, it goes to head office.

Overall, autoship makes zero sense to me. Transport costs in Australia are enormous. When you think of the fuel, the wear and tear on the vehicles, paying the drivers, etc.. it is Up Money. I would think it would be far better to encourage customers to click and collect in store.

They could still make it a regular thing so the stores would know how much stock to have on hand for these orders. Allow the customer to pay a better price for the goods than the autoship price. That way the folks doing the buying are also doing the lugging, and rather than 1200kms of lugging our items to our home, it is just a short trip home in the car. But if you want to click and collect in store, you pay the highest price of $28.99!

At this point, I am not going to rule out the option of purchasing in bulk direct from China if I can find a supplier and the price is right. We have purchased plenty of stuff from AliExpress over the years. I’m thinking of ordering that kitty litter scoop – the plastic ones break way more often than I like.

country life, kitties

Sorry All..

At the moment I’m pretty amazed if I can remember my own name and where I live, I certainly have no spare thoughts to put together comments for your blogs or a decent post for this one. I do manage the occasional comment, sorry there are not more of them.

My offsider has mostly flaked out on me, I can’t rely on them to do any of the essential tasks that need to get done at this time of year, so it is all me all the time. It is a lot more work than I was expecting, but it is 100% work I am capable of and suited to. The levels of organization.. alphabetization.. I’m feeling pretty happy about it, while at the same time completely exhausted.

Today is my first full day off where I have no intentions whatsoever of dropping into work to make sure things get done, and I have some plans – hairdressing, Christmas Shopping, a nice lunch in Berry, then a stroll around a late night Christmas Shopping event. I might see if I can park the car somewhere it can be washed, too. Hopefully this might be fodder for a post next week.

Tomorrow I have another day off and I am going to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING all day. I need a day like that, before heading back into another 5 day stint of insanity. I might see if I can manage my November wrap up post, though.

Chooks are good if perhaps inundated with treats, kitties are good. We seem to have a rodent problem. They started chewing on the coop/run as they are locked out of it at night, and that is where the food now resides.

We’ve had to put some metal capping on. We may shout ourselves an electric chair for Christmas.

Chickens, Home

Chook Time

This past weekend was the last one I will have to myself until after Christmas. Rather than clog it up with plans and going places, we spent almost all of the weekend at home, sleeping in, resting, reading, watching teevee, and watching the chickens.

Sometime on Saturday afternoon I noticed a lot of wrigglers in the pond, so we tipped all the water out. The chooks thought this was a great plan, and deeply enjoyed digging up the ground underneath, looking for bug treats.

Here is Finn, dustbathing until the white turns grey.

On Sunday afternoon, after plenty of lazing about, we suddenly decided it was time to do some jobs we’d been meaning to do for a while. I did clean out the chicken coop. For over 7 years now, the floor of the chicken coop has been covered with lino.

The lino has been deteriorating slowly, today part of it kinda gave up. It is ok, the floor is painted with many levels of undercoat and then Taubmans Endure. But I’d rather there be something between the sand and chicken poop, so next coop clean out we might have to figure out a new plan for this.

While I did that job, The Other Half did the clean out the gutters job. The chickens were gifted with the leaves and gleefully picked through them looking for bugs to eat.

Then they were given some corn on the cob, and the last bit of cabbage. Plus some blueberries. Earlier in the day they got watermelon, and the day before, egg and cucumber.

Every night since the fox attack, the chickens have been literally boarded into the enclosure each night with a piece of marine plywood. This was partially for our own comfort levels, but also because we needed to figure out a new door solution which we could rely on.. We believe we have worked it out, we have installed tracks for this door.

The trouble with this solution is they do need an adult to come and let them out in the morning. They are most unimpressed with this plan. The early bird has to sit inside and watch the worms from a distance, they cannot catch them.

Two weeks have passed, in which time the fox has not returned. We have a motion activated camera and we had a trap set up – we took the trap back today and have now moved into defense mode, with motion activated sensor lights. The only thing seen on the camera has been rats, and a one very stealthy cat.

Chickens

The Return

Keeping a chicken in isolation is not quite as easy as one might think. We’ve done this twice before now, with the help of our sick tent and setting up a large cardboard box in the nirvana. When Kitty returned home from the vet on Sunday afternoon, we tried setting her up out in the nirvana but all she tried to do was fly out of the box. Rest was what she needed, flying was not on the rest menu, so the small chicken tent was set up for her. She can’t fly out of that.

The photo you see above was sent to me by Sephyroth, all the way over in America. We have the technology, we will use it. This camera allows us to check in remotely and make sure everything is ok, without going into the room and disturbing her.

However unlike the previous chickens, Kitty was mainly bruised and just needed some painkillers, antibiotics to be on the safe side as there were a couple of tiny breaks in the skin, and time to heal. We soon discovered any noise that we made in the house disturbed from her rest. That was ok during the day, but we really wanted her to sleep at night, so efforts were made to be as quiet as possible.

In the day time, if you would walk past the door you could hear her making her little chicken noises in there – enter the room and she would chicken talk up a storm. For the most part we left her to rest with medication sessions in the morning and afternoon, and a couple of other checkins to remove any mess she’d made, and to collect her daily eggs. Yes, she kept on laying! However those eggs cannot be eaten by us or the other girls due to the medications. I can feed them back to her, though.

How do you medicate a chicken? Depends on the chicken. With our previous sick tent chickens, syringes were the order of the day. But with Kitty that meant a little too much handling her and we wanted to avoid that as much as possible – not because she would mind being handled, but because due to her bruising handling would be painful for her. We had to get creative.

We would measure out her painkiller, which is almost like a gel, and add it to tuna. Chickens love tuna, Kitty is a huge fan of it, and there would never be anything left on the plate. So that worked quite well.

At first I tried adding her antibiotic tablet to cucumber and I was surprised to find she went right for the little pieces of tablet I’d put into small knife holes in the cucumber. She did that for three or four doses and then suddenly decided she did not like the tablets, so would pick them up and drop them, then go back to eating the cucumber. Not so optimal.

But give Kitty a blueberry, regardless of the size, she is going to make very short work of it. Chickens do not have teeth, they usually pierce a blueberry with their beak and then swallow it whole. Kitty does not even bother with the piercing, I can’t quite explain what happens but one minute the blueberry is there, whole, and the next minute it is GONE. A small knife cut, pop the piece of tablet inside, and she is none the wiser about the tablet being there. The white thing you see in the middle of the blueberry is the tablet.

She seemed to be doing quite well, and by Thursday when she decided to leave the sick tent for a stroll around the spare room, we both felt like the weekend would be a good time to reintroduce her to the flock. Friday morning was her last dose of painkiller, so we would only have to worry about giving her the antibiotic – which is difficult when there are other chickens nearby who loooooove the blueberries too.

When we got home from work on Friday I gave her the afternoon antibiotics, and then we carried the sick tent out into the yard. I will not lie, we were both a bit unsure what would happen. Sometimes girls are not accepted back into the flock, or they have to put up a fight to regain their position. We let Kitty out into the free ranging yard first and the other girls were so excited to see her.. there was a lot of noisy chicken talk..

Then we let the girls out to join Kitty, and it was like she’d never been away. She took up her normal place in the flock, second on the pecking order right underneath her sister Lizzy. They all went into the garden bed to madly dustbathe, and we humans had a nice hug to celebrate this moment. There may have been salt water in our eyes, too.

She has been out living the chicken life all weekend, we have not been very far away so they’ve been allowed to free range and have had a great time eating all the bugs they can find. We did 4 doses of antibiotic hidden in the blueberries, and I distract the other girls with a different treat while The Other Half gives her the blueberries.

Lizzy is asking what kind of treats do you have for us, human? I think the better question would be.. what treats haven’t they had? They have been terribly spoiled this past week. Tomatoes, fresh corn on the cob, cucumber, cabbage, blueberries, watermelon rinds, mango, tuna, egg..

Chickens

Vale Foo

No matter who you are or what your feelings on chickens may be, spending 10 minutes with Foo (and Finn) would easily convince you that chickens are the best creatures on the planet. No matter who visited, Foo was not shy. Foo would run right up and see if you had any treats, making happy chicken noises.

These two chickens Foo and Finn were almost impossible to tell apart. Foo had a comb that stood up straight, Finn has a little floppy part at the back. Here Foo is the chicken standing up, Finn is looking for a treat on the ground.

These two were partners in crime, often taking Dark Comb along for the ride. Will I ever be able to see Finn without thinking of Foo? Probably not. I still see Red Comb and Purple Comb when I look at Dark Comb. In some ways that will be a great thing because I loved Foo, and in some ways that will be a constant sad moment.

Foo loved all treats equally for the most part however greatly and very noisily enjoyed lactose free yoghurt time, splashing yoghurt all over the other chickens if at all possible.

Foo was such a happy and joyful chicken who should have lived a long treat filled lifetime in my yard, which makes this loss all the harder to accept.

Kitty has so far survived the night, they did x-rays and nothing is broken that they can see, but the expert chicken vet will be looking at them today and may call us if she sees anything of concern. We gave her medication to her this morning which was way more difficult than it sounds, we have some hope but given past experiences with unwell chickens I do not want to get my hopes up. She is another chicken with a lovely personality, so calm and chill and very friendly to humans.

Our trap was baited last night, nothing was caught. We did not sleep especially well.

I won’t say what I normally say when we lose a chicken in this post, because at this moment there are only three chickens in the yard – Kitty is in the sick tent in the spare bedroom. Please keep a good thought for her, that she might be able to return to the flock.

Vale Pets

Vale Diana

Of all the experiences we have had so far keeping chickens, the past few hours have been some of the worst for us. About 5:30 this morning I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. I heard some chicken panic noises, so I ran to the back door, opened the curtains, turned the lights on, and ran out. That particular act saved our Grey Pekin, Kitty, who had already been grabbed by an extremely large fox that had managed to get into the chook pen – she has two teeth bruises but luckily it did not break the skin.

At first we could not see, well, anything. It was still dark out. The other half went to find torches, and I checked on the girls but really was so disorientated by what was going on, I wasn’t sure of anything. I could see feathers on the ground so I knew someone was badly hurt, I just did not know who, or where they were. I could see four of our girls who were very freaked out and had all woken up and were now running around the chook pen. But this meant two were missing.

I soon found one of the white girls who was broody in the laying box. By now the other half had returned with torches, and we found Diana laying towards the back of the pen. There was nothing we could do for her.

We couldn’t see what was responsible for this, and our main focus was to get the other girls safely into the enclosed chook coop and lock them in. That was a lot harder than it should be – of course they were very freaked out, and we were quite freaked out ourselves.

Once we’d put them inside and locked them in – there is no way anything can get inside there once the doors are closed and latched, no access points, we went back inside to look on the cameras at the time of the attack, and we saw a massive, medium dog sized fox roaming our yard. I did not keep watching, but the other half did, in order to identify how and where it got in. It was incredibly quick – on the cameras it was still roaming our yard at 5:27am not yet having made it inside, and we got out there just a few minutes after that.

We went back out to check on the girls and find the hole – it was still dark at this point. It wasn’t until the other half sent me inside to research fox traps and I turned around to see Diana lying in the garden bed that the full magnitude of what had happened struck me, and I’ve been a bit of a mess since then.

Obviously we will be reviewing our enclosure – by 6:50am Diana had been buried, the hole in the outer chook pen had been resolved via The Other Half, some extra mouse mesh and wire ties. He’ll spend some time today checking for other possible weak spots, we will add in sensor lights and look to hire a trap though all the places are shut locally today. The girls will be locked in at night and we may add in extra slide locks, all of them will be padlocked each night.

Once you have a fox visit and attack, they will return, guaranteed. It is what they do. Our only option is to up our game security wise, set some traps, and catch it. But this thing was HUGE, so it might be more difficult to get a trap that will fit.

We are keeping a very close eye on Kitty, she may have internal injuries that we cannot see. She may not survive, though it has now been two hours and she has made it this far, this kind of shock can always take a bird as a surprise. Once we fixed the hole we let the girls out of the coop, though the others were slow to exit they have all gone out into the yard. Kitty has not ventured out as yet.

In a slightly concerning note, one of the other girls – I think Foo – though not attacked by the fox and not injured as far as we can see, appears to be somewhat unwell. She had a thin shelled egg this week, she has now made a little nest for herself in one of the spare laying boxes I posted about on Friday and is resting in there. We will be keeping a close eye on her as well, and if required she will be off to the vet today.

Diana was probably our most challenging chicken to keep in recent times. Her sister Queen was very flighty, and Diana was similar. She did not love humans too much and kept her distance but since Queen passed she had begun to thaw towards me slightly, especially as I am the bringer of treats.

I had begun to think there might be a day when she took a treat directly from my hand – that is what I was working towards. Not sure what her thoughts were on that. ;) We had to trim her feathers a few weeks ago after she got up onto the top of the chicken enclosure.

Just last night, when it was time to shut the girls in, Diana took off in the opposite direction in a very determined manner, and The Other Half had to get very creative to convince her to go back inside. She loved all the chicken treats but was especially partial to cucumber and meal worms. We will miss her.

As I always post when this happens – there are (presently) 5 other chickens in the yard for whom life continues. They live minute by minute, sucking the most joy out of each and every moment, whether it is a dirt bath, finding a bug, eating a treat from the humans.. all we can do is love them while they’re here, protect them the best we can from predators, know when it is time to let them go, and remember them when they are gone.

Afternoon update – In my shock this morning I had accidentally scheduled this post for next week, somehow. But this is good as it gives me a chance to update. Kitty and Foo are now at the vets, being monitored. The vet was cautiously optimistic. Foo turned out to have a cut to her breast, we are not sure whether this was the fox, or whether she caught herself on something in the panic. We have picked up a very large dog trap from the local council, which we will be setting up. The girls will be locked in tonight.

We have kept chickens for a long time now and we are extremely lucky that this has been our first fox attack. That doesn’t make today any easier. It is never easy to lose a much loved pet, and when it might be 3 of them at once, that is three times as difficult. I will keep you updated on the other girls when I know more.

Vale Pets

Somebody Is Watching..

As I made the preparations for Cottage Pie last week, I had this feeling, somebody was watching me.. and then I found out I was right. This is Foo. However over time, as the two white ladies usually travel together in a pack, their name has become finnfoo or foofinn.

Immediately afterwards I heard this song in my head. We have that song on our playlist. The original is actually a Michael Jackson song. I like the techno beats version better.

Chickens