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.


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..


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.


True Bargains

Sometimes you are not sure if the thing you are buying is a bargain or not. Especially if it is not something you regularly keep an eye on the price of. An example – you may recall in June, I bought a new blanket. I paid $42.50 for it. I use it on my recliner and Grumpy LOVES it.

So I thought I might go back and see if I could get another one around the same price, giving her other places to sleep other than my lap which she finds disruptive as I tend to get up more often than she would like AKA not stay perfectly still in one place for hours at a time. :) It turns out though, this was a genuine bargain.

At $79 she is going to have to put up with my disruptions. I will wait to see if these go on sale again and if they do you bet I will get another one because they are toasty warm and very pleasing to the Grumpy. Though we will soon arrive at a point where I switch back to my other rug – there are some days where this current rug is *too* warm especially with a cat added to it.

But not this week, as it is icy here at the moment. We got down to 3.1 on Monday, yet these past couple of weeks we have been having bushfires. Very little rain, no clouds in the sky, gorgeous blue sky days, but many of us are wishing for rain. Not flash flooding type rain, just long term sustained rain.. We need it.

Home, kitties

The Sleeper

You may recall this photo from a previous post. Since I got this new rug in June, we have an incredibly happy Grumpy. We have never seen her sleep this deeply before. Something about this rug sends her far away into cat dreams.

Recently there has been a new development – if we are not here of an evening, she will actually climb into my rug and curl up to sleep, surrounding herself with warm fluffyness.

What is that white thing you see? Toes.

We really should buy another one and cut it into four so she can have several cat sized new places to sleep.

Why are you disturbing me, if you aren’t turning the heater on? The least you could do is take a better photo of me, if you are going to post it on your blog!


Vale Queen

Last Saturday I noticed Queen was sitting down. This was unusual for her, she is normally a high energy girl. She also is Not A Fan Of Humans, so when I approached her and she was unable to take off like she normally would, fleeing like I am a demon chasing her, I knew she was a sick girl. In fact my first thought was we should take her to the vet right away to be euthanased, because she must be very sick if she would not flee me.

The Other Half was a bit more optimistic than I was, so he suggested we isolate her, examine her to see if we can find anything wrong, dose her with Ivomec which kills worms and any nasties, and keep an eye on her. Sometimes a chook just needs a bit of time away from the flock if they are not feeling the best.

After 24 hours we had seen some signs of improvement but we really had no idea what might be the problem, so I called the vet on Sunday to see if our exotic vet might be available that week. Unfortunately she was on holiday, but the vet on call convinced me to bring her in for an exam as she did have some experience with chickens and wanted to feel her abdomen etc.

We’d already done all of that ourselves but I wanted to at least get an antibiotic for her. If we’d put BeeGee on an antibiotic right away we may have had a better chance of fighting her ear infection. Queen had a high temperature. We took an x-ray – the only thing being seen was slightly larger kidneys, which pointed to a possible kidney infection.

She was still eating and her poops were fine, so those are good signs. She was able to stand and move about. We decided we wanted to give her a chance to fight the infection, so the vet gave Queen a long lasting painkiller shot, an antibiotic shot, a vitamin shot, and some medication for the next few days.

We set her up with our chook cam, so we could watch her 24/7 without disturbing her, and gave her some time. We only disturbed her twice a day for medication, adding more food and changing the paper towel in her enclosure, and at night we settled her in our special towel setup. Healthy chickens are able to tuck their head under their wing to sleep – unwell chickens are sometimes unable to do that, so you want to give them somewhere for their head to rest.

After our experience with BeeGee, I struggled quite a bit because I had done a lot of work with her, trying to bring her back to health. I really missed her. I was very determined not to get my hopes up and not to get too attached to this gorgeous chicken who suddenly was not fleeing away from me. But I knew that was her personality, so she must not be feeling well to be compliant and allow us to handle her.

We did see some encouraging signs – usually at night right after we gave her the painkiller she was able to tuck her head under her wing for a while. By Wednesday all of the signs were bad, so we made the difficult decision to let her go. It was the right decision for her. By the time a chicken shows you that she is unwell, she is usually *very* unwell.

Queen was one of our new girls, so we really did not have as much time with her as we hoped to have. She was not a fan of humans at all, which made her difficult to get to know. She was very flighty and able to fly. Her greatest joy was to fly up onto the fence next to the man cave and consider escaping to the other side, but the one time she managed to do it she did not enjoy being returned to the yard by the humans, so she would just stand there and look around.

She loved all treats but her most favourite was yoghurt and mealworms. When we first got her it took a while for her to work out how to get into the coop at night, and she would often end up on the roof of it rather than inside it. Eventually she got the hang of how to go to bed.

As I always post when this happens – there are 6 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.

One night at chook pen lockup time, The Other Half startled our Queen as she was returning to the enclosure. She took off like a crazy thing, flying over the fence. The Other Half called me and we had to run around to the other side of the fence to retrieve her, but she’d gone to ground in some blackberry bushes. I was to guard one end of the escape route, and the other half tried to capture her, but she’d seen enough, so she flew up into the sky and did a complete circle over the top of our house.

She flew right over the top of me like a majestic 747. It was a sight to see, and if I close my eyes I can still see it now.

Fly high, my Queen. Until we meet again, but next time please do not be quite so scared of me. :)

Vale Pets