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Faithful Homesteader

Chicken Illness, Death and Lessons Learned

Faithful Homesteader

I had to say goodbye to another chicken this week, and I think this one was the hardest of all. When I lost chickens before, things happened so fast that we didn’t even really have time to try to save them. This time it seemed like we were doing good when we were able to get a diagnosis from the veterinarian. We knew what we needed to do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; but I did learn some lessons along the way.

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Our chicken Barbie had not been with us long, and soon after she came to us she went broody. We tried to break her, but she was stubborn. When we got her to stay out of the nesting boxes she decided to hang out on the roost, but she was definitely still broody. I think this is where all of our problems started. She did have opportunity to eat, drink, and take dirt baths, but we don’t think she was eating near enough and we are sure her immune system was weakened. We will definitely try harder to break our broody hens in the future.

We next had an outbreak of worms and as we were treating things we attributed anything unusual to that. After a little bit of time, we took in another poo sample to the vet to find out that Barbie had coccidiosis. We started the treatment for the whole flock and for the first day it looked like there was improvement, and then there wasn’t.

We mixed up a batch of Corid with half a tablespoon in a gallon of water. We used it until it was gone. We didn’t know that you should make a fresh batch each day. We had been successful in the past without doing that. If we ever have to deal with this again, we will make the new batch each day using two teaspoons for every gallon. I don’t know if this is what would have made the difference or not. All the other girls were good, but she still had the problem.

Since she was having such issues and seemed so low on nutrients, we tried to give her some electrolytes. But I learned after the fact that electrolytes with Thiamine in them are not good while chickens are fighting  coccidiosis. We stopped as soon as we knew. Again, I wonder if this would have made a difference, but we were certainly desperate to get nutrients into her.

We ended up taking her to the vet and it showed that there was some improvement, but she still had a lot of the coccidia. He gave her medicine that was supposed to go more directly to her gut, but again she seemed to have slight improvement and then relapsed.

She had become very skinny and it seemed like she had trouble eating. I ground up her food and gave her soft foods like pumpkin and yogurt. I tried not to give her too much yogurt, but it was one thing that she would actually eat. I ended up turning her food into liquid and we started giving her food and water by syringe. We tried the Corid again, using a fresh batch every day.

She was a real fighter and she gave me hope that she would pull through, but in the end she just became too weak. I bonded so much with her because I nursed her for such a long time. I love my chickens, but she was the first one that I actually professed my love to. I prayed so hard that she would pull through and when she didn’t I was just devastated.

It still hurts, and when I watch the other girls doing their thing without Barbie it doesn’t seem right. I miss her, but I will remember everything that I have learned along the way. I always want to do better for my animals who are my only babies. 

Chicken Happenings on the Homestead

Faithful Homesteader

I have had my hands full with all my chickens. There never seems to be a dull moment these days. I had been dealing with three broody chickens, but now only two. I was so glad when our girl Barbie finally gave up the broodiness.

Unfortunately, not long after her broody spell we figured out that she had coccidiosis. It has certainly been stressful for me to deal with that so soon after a worm infestation. Our girls are free range and we work to keep things sanitary on the homestead. We are currently treating the whole flock with Corid.

After losing three chickens unexpectedly over the years, I am a lot more proactive about getting our chicken poo analyzed if I notice anything unusual. In the past month, I have been to the vet twice for such analysis. Both times it turned out to be necessary.

Two of our chickens
Nailie and Kota

Between broodiness and the worm problem, we were not getting any eggs from our five chickens.  We have had four of our chickens for only two months and one chicken, Nailie, had never laid an egg. She is about two years old. We have been waiting for her to come around.

The other day we were gone for a short time, but before we left it seemed as if both Kota and Nailie were acting as if they could possibly lay. One of our broody chickens, Buster, was staying in the coop, but just outside the nesting box. When I came home, I saw her in the nesting box and sure enough when I took her out we had our first egg in several weeks. The only problem was I had no idea who laid it. Did Nailie finally come around?

We waited to see if one of them would lay again or give us some kind of clue. Finally, today I came home and found Nailie in the nesting box. I went inside and soon after, I heard her making a fuss. Buster had immediately laid on the egg again, but it was only for a moment thanks to Nailie letting me know what she accomplished. I am so happy that she finally laid an egg.

Kota has been acting as if she has wanted to lay for several days, but we have never found any eggs if she laid them. She doesn’t like to lay in the nesting box. Today she kept looking like she wanted to lay on top of the nesting boxes where they stick out of the coop. That would have been a perfect way to end up with broken egg on the ground. She likes to sniff around the lawn mower area too looking for a spot. Eventually she did let me know that she laid her egg in a hard to get to spot under our deck.

Now after weeks of no eggs, we have two girls on the job again. It makes me happy not just for the eggs, but that they are healthy enough to start laying again. I will be glad to see Barbie get all better from her illness. She seems active and alert, but in the morning she is very slow to come out of the coop. I am also ready for Buster and Lilah to quit being broody. I love all my girls and I want them to be healthy and happy.

Garlic — A Low Maintenance Crop

Faithful HomesteaderI am learning all about gardening from my husband. He is the gardener in the family, but I have been doing a few things around the garden over the years. I have a learner’s mindset and want to learn as much as I can about a variety of things. Previously, I planted some crops when my husband’s back was turned.

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Last fall I planted some garlic and this week I started harvesting it. It is kind of cool to see it all full circle.

The garlic was low-maintenance. It does well in our loose and sandy soil because it doesn’t restrict bulb growth. I put it in the ground, and mid-season my husband put compost on it and watered it once. Other than that, we just let it go.

My husband did take advantage of the henbit that grows in abundance in the yard. We use it as a living ground cover. When it gets hot, it dies and provides a mulch type cover. The seeds from the henbit fall right in place for the next year.

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I didn’t have any clue about when I should pick the garlic, but my husband is teaching me. He says that it is ready when the leaves start dying from the outside in. They turn yellow from the tips and eventually go all the way down.

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Now I am letting the garlic dry out for a couple of days before I cut off the leaves and the roots. Once I do that, I will lay out the garlic in the kitchen to further dry out and be ready for use. We have quite a bit of the garlic, so I think I will be looking for some friends who are interested in some homegrown garlic.

I don’t imagine that I will ever be a master gardener type, but it is interesting to see how it all works. This week, I also planted some flowers for the pollinators that I will be taking care of. I hope that it is not too late in the season for them!

Springtime on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderThings are busy on our humble homestead this spring. We have a lot of wildlife that hang out at our place. We certainly have no shortage of birds, and quite a variety at that. The garden is off to a good start. I sure hope we end up with corn this year. The last few years, the corn has not done well.

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One of our resident Blue Jays

We have a rabbit that has sure made itself at home on the homestead. My husband named it Fred. We enjoy watching it. My husband is just concerned that Fred will become too greedy when it comes to the garden. We will see how it goes.

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We think this is an Inca Dove

We have seen a couple of new birds coming around. We noticed a different looking dove, and we think that it is an Inca Dove. My husband was fortunate enough to see a Baltimore Oriole, but I missed it. I sure was frustrated at that. I did see a bright yellow Finch. I hope it comes around again so that I can get a picture of it.

I love watching all the birds. The hummingbirds seem comfortable around us. We have the feeder right outside our backdoor. I get a kick out of watching the Blue Jays with their evening baths. I really hope that this year the garden will attract the Painted Bunting once again. I definitely want to get a good picture of that.

I like that we are able to attract a variety of butterflies. I also enjoy all the other critters that hang out like the lizards, frogs, and toads. I was so sad when one of the lizards was crushed by our garage door.

Of course, we also have our chickens and fish for added enjoyment. Right now, we are dealing with three broody chickens, but I think one may be at the end of her broodiness. Our two non-broody chickens seem to have bonded, since they were left on their own. I will be glad when the broodiness is over and we have our fresh eggs once again. In the meantime, I will enjoy the springtime and all the good things that it brings.

Broodiness and Other Chicken Drama

Faithful HomesteaderMy life as a chicken mama has had its challenges lately. There is a lot of chicken drama on the homestead. It wasn’t that long ago that we brought home four new Serama chickens. We were enjoying getting to know them and spending quality time with them. Then Barbie went broody. Overnight, she was not the same chicken that we brought home. She was definitely mean and aggressive.

Our broody Barbie

I did my best to break the broodiness, but she is a stubborn one. I had always heard that broodiness could be a bit contagious, so I was worried about that. Even when I was able to keep Barbie out of the nesting boxes, she started just hanging out on the roost. I would throw her out often so that she could eat, drink, and forage some. Barbie even ended up on the roof of the house.

Barbie on the roof

It wasn’t long until our original hen, Buster, went broody. Once again, I did my best to break her, but she too can be stubborn. When she is able to get in the coop she will lay right outside the blocked nesting boxes. Next, our little Lilah started to act broody. I could not believe that I had three broody chickens on my hands. It has been a challenge for me.

We had one other chicken, Kota, that was laying, and I thought she might be going broody. She was not herself, and I was worried about her. She did quit laying, but it turned out that she had worms. That was the last thing that I needed. It put me in high-strung chicken-mama mode. When I got the diagnosis from the vet, we brought home the dewormer ready to take on the fun task of trying to give all the girls the medicine.

It was not fun, and we still have to give another round of treatment. Barbie was pecking at me while my husband held her. After my husband put Lilah back in the coop and grabbed one of the other hens, she attacked him. None of the girls are used to us handling them, but the broody ones are easier to catch. Lilah has even flown onto our shoulders and hung out. That was a new one for us.

I am worried about Kota because her poo still has a bit of yellow in it, but it is much better than it was. She does seem to be doing the normal chicken things other than laying eggs. I think she is more active than earlier in the week. Our other hen, Nailie, has not been laying, so she and Kota hang out together while the other chicks continue their broody ways.

It seems like the broodiness is never going to end. Since nobody is laying we have been locking out the broody girls for much of the day. I hope that will help at some point. They can’t stand it. I am ready for everyone to get back to normal and back to being productive. I want all my girls to be happy and healthy.

New Garden, New Technique

Faithful HomesteaderOnce again, my husband is changing things up for the garden this year. He always likes trying new methods. He seems more excited and committed to the garden this year. The past few years he has been more lax about it. This season, he is using ground level beds. The garden is already producing well.

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My husband put together the beds using three 2"x8”x8’ pieces of untreated wood. We certainly don’t want any chemicals leaching into the soil. One plank was cut in half to use for the end pieces. He just nailed everything together. He dug trenches where the beds were going, set the beds in them, and filled it back in.

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The ground level beds are supposed to help with a particular weed that has plagued us since we moved to our humble homestead. The weed shoots long runners underground deep into the soil. It kills the plants. The beds are housing the majority of our crops this year, and my husband is tilling around the external perimeter of the garden trying to keep the runners from coming up.

The ground level beds allow us to put down a thick layer of mulch for the health of the plants. As it decomposes over the season, it will provide beneficial nutrients to the plants. It also keeps the soil temperature down and keeps moisture in the soil. The boxes are also helping us keep things organized and compartmentalized. In addition, my husband is planting grass in between the boxes. This is to provide a ground cover. Like the mulch, it will also keep the soil temperature down and help maintain moisture in the soil.

The in-ground beds are better for us here in North Texas. Raised beds are not ideal because the soil gets too hot being elevated and exposed, and it shortens the growing season. We have had success in the past with lowered beds when we were dealing with drought conditions. They did not work so well the year we had excessive rain.

We have a lot to look forward to in the garden this year. Our asparagus has been doing so well that we got tired of eating it. We planted six varieties of tomatoes and four varieties of peppers. We also have corn, zucchini, straight neck squash, flat squash, okra, marigolds, and Asian beans. As always, I am hoping for a successful garden!

Trimming Our Chicken's Nails

Faithful HomesteaderWhen we bought four laying hens from a local hobby farm, my husband noticed that one of the hens had extra long nails. He had read that could happen for different reasons, like sometimes they don’t have enough room to scratch. Our girl, Nailie, walked funny, and she was not scratching when we first got her. We named her Nailie because of her long nails. My husband was determined to get her nails trimmed. Since the girls were skittish around us, I wasn’t sure how well that would go over with her.

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My Baby

My husband asked me to pick up some small clippers from a pet store. I went straight to the bird section and found just what I needed. We decided to grab her from the roost when she went in for the evening. My husband had read that if you hold a chicken upside down, it would calm them. He had me hold our little girl just like a baby. She was just so adorable and definitely calm.

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The Long of It.

We sterilized the clippers with alcohol. My husband used a flashlight to see the difference between the living and the dead nail. He cut the nails between 1/8 and 1/4 inch past the living spot, being careful not to cut into the vein. We definitely didn’t want to make our girl bleed. He had general knowledge about cutting the nails, but he also verified the process online.

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The Short of It.

Now that we have her nails trimmed, she is walking better and scratching. We are happy to see her doing well. We suspect that we won’t have to trim her nails again, but we will certainly keep an eye on things. In the past, I had trimmed cat nails, but this was the first time that I was involved with trimming a chicken’s nails. Trimming nails does make me a bit nervous. I was glad to have my husband involved in the process.