Holy Crow

How quickly things change.  A couple days after writing that last post, I was feeling pretty happy in our adventures in keeping chickens.  Their coop has been much improved since last year with a new roof and coat of paint, we seemed to be doing a better job with the deep litter method and all then hens appeared happy and laying.  We had even come through the few VERY cold days (-20 F anyone?!) after the new year and temps were beginning to warm up.

So imagine my surprise, when Joe and I opened the coop up on a sunny Sunday morning to find our rooster, Pru, a little out of sorts.  He’d been getting bits of frostbite on his comb/waddles from the cold but we’d been occasionally putting Bag Balm on to try and help curb it.  But this morning, we took one look at his waddles which were massively swollen and knew something was very, very wrong.  I said to Joe, “This can’t be normal!  He looks like the elephant man!” so we immediately brought him indoors and set him up in a crate in our basement to warm up.

pru_sickLong story short, his condition went from bad to worse.  The swelling hadn’t really improved, he was just sleeping on his face the whole time and was very off balance and not able to stand up.  We were attempting to spoon feed him anything he would take every few hours (mushed up food mixed with water, yogurt, water) but he wasn’t really taking much in.  By Monday, his breathing was labored, his ears were almost purple and SO swollen they looked like they might pop, and he was barely opening his eyes.  Obviously rest wasn’t doing the trick and this was becoming a matter of life and death for him so I called our (dog) vet to see if they had any ideas for us.

As it turns out, there is an avian vet in the office and he would be in on Tuesday so we dropped Pru off first thing in the morning and waited for our appointment later that afternoon.  With some antibiotics, steroids and about a 5 second tutorial on how to IV hydrate and tube feed a chicken we brought Pru home later Tuesday afternoon.  Joe and I had a big learning curve on taking care of a sick bird and forcing food and water into him (I was so nervous about putting the tube down the wrong way!), but we managed it in the end.  His condition did finally begin to improve after a couple of days of care and when I heard him attempting a stifled crow one afternoon, things were looking up.  I’ve never been so happy to hear that sound (though I always enjoy the sound of crowing regardless).

So our little guy has made a great recovery in the couple weeks since all this drama unfurled and we’re sure he’s looking forward to getting out of the basement and back with his ladies.  If only this polar vortex would shift away and spring arrive!pru

I guess the lesson here is never to get too comfortable, the next challenge is just around the corner!

Roosters and Laying Hens

Happy New Year!  Well the new year has certainly kicked off with frigid temperatures and snow!  Winter is a particularly tough time of year to take care of chickens.  Nevermind dealing with snow wind and below freezing temperatures, as I remember last year with the 3 girls, there were bouts of boredom and feather pecking as well. Attempting to deal with the plucking was brutal and didn’t really stop until we finally separated the culprit- Reno Raines.  Reno is still separated from the flock (and as a note she doesn’t appear to mind in the least) as she started picking a fight with the new rooster (through a fence I might add). And since everyone else was getting along so well already, it just made sense.

coop in winter 2013-14

It’s hard to write Reno off completely though- she not aggressive towards people (though skittish) and for some reason she has never stopped laying eggs since she started last fall- even through winter and a molt. So separated from the others and in the comfort of her own enclosure she remains.

Reno (left) and Little Sister when the feather plucking all began last fall.  Note the bluekote on Little Sister while we tried (unsuccessfully) to save her tail feathers

Reno (left) and Little Sister (right) when the feather plucking all began last fall. Note the bluekote on Little Sister while we tried (unsuccessfully) to save her tail feathers

And speaking of winter and egg laying, something slightly strange has happened recently.  I don’t supplement light or heat for my chickens as I figure it is better for them to go through a cycle of not laying during the winter if that’s what happens naturally.  But then beginning in December, our new Orphington started laying.  Then shortly after Bobby Sixkiller has started laying as well (note- she did not lay at all last winter). I thought it was a strange coincidence that these two chickens are the only two I’ve actually seen our new rooster (Pru) trying to mate with.

And sure enough, in the last week we’ve started getting some green eggs from our little Ameraucauna as well.  Since we now have at least 4 hens laying during the coldest and darkest part of the year, it makes me wonder- does having a rooster around increase egg production in the winter months?  In the meantime, we’re happy to have our omelets in this cold weather!