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The Old Batz Farm

Chicken Problems: Saying Goodbye

A photo of MichelleHello Everyone! Usually I like to keep things light and fun, but sometimes life gets in the way.

All of you should be familiar with my 2 roosters; Chatty and Cashmere by now. For 17 months I have raised, loved and spoiled them daily. Chatty though, began to change when he got into the coop with his girls. This is normal as they become protectors instead of just the family pet. And Cashmere, as we all know has always been aggressive. Daily I have had to fight off one or the other when I go to let them and the girls out of the coop. I have been hurt so bad by the spurs that I have come close to passing out from the pain but being bull-headed I ignored it and continued on.

Well in January, I started getting sick and found a lump in my armpit that I watched. By May, it hurt and got big enough I went to the doctor. Come to find out, I had a bacterial infection, probably caused from all the daily spur and nail attacks. My 51-year-old body couldn’t handle the daily abuse and rebelled big time. Now, most people won’t think twice about getting rid of the cause, in this case 2 roosters, but for me it was very very hard just to even think about.

Finally one day, Chatty hit me so hard and fast I had to kick him across the run just to get away from him, and he still charged after me. I HAD to let them go. I have a wonderful food co-op lady, who let me bring them to her so she could get them to another woman for me. Yes, I cried the whole 30 minute drive there, with Chatty sitting next to me and Cashmere in a box in the backseat. It has been 4 days, and I still cry over what I had to do because the woman she was giving them to was going to kill them and eat them.

I tried Craigslist, but everyone wanted hens or roosters to kill. So, I was in a hard place mentally, but knew I had to give in and let it happen, though my heart was breaking. I would have not done it at all, but even separating Chatty from his girls to be in the house with me didn’t stop his attacking, whereas at one time he never attacked me away from them. Some of you will read this and think “good grief the woman is being stupid over some roosters,” but the ones who read my Blog know I raised these guys from day old chicks, spoiled them with treats and love. Chatty I had taught to walk on a lead, ride in the car with me and gave him his own chair in the dining room. So, for me, they weren’t “just” roosters, they were my pets who I adored.

Driving away and leaving them was very hard and all night I fought getting in the car and getting them back. But I also realize, I need to stay healthy for all my other pets who depend on me. I have 2 hens who live in the house because of deformities. I have a 14-year-old blind dog and a diabetic cat who all need daily care by me, and when I am sick it’s all I can do to get out of bed. So, yeah I had to make a grown-up choice, and I hated it every step of the way. I don’t see myself as someone who gives up or quits. When it comes to my animals, I will put up with a lot so they have a good safe life. Speaking of that, anyone interested in a 6-month-old biting pot belly pig?!

Until next time, have a wonderful chicken day.

Chicken Mating Habits: Learning About Roosters

A photo of MichelleHello Everyone! Spring is in the air!

How do I know this? Mating attempts have picked up with my 2 very fine boys. Now, growing up on a farm I have witnessed this wonderful time when the animals are feeling the love. Well, I am telling you right now, I am greatly disappointed in the roosters attempt to love their hens!

Let me go back a ways and tell you about Cashmere. He, as you know is my very aggressive Welsummer, which can be a good thing. But when he was just learning he was a male he was like a male dog out of control. Oh no, not with the girls, he decided my stuffed fuzzy teddy bear just had to be loved and loved a lot! When he felt he had done his job he would run over to the dogs bed and love on the corner of it. I must admit in some sick way it was the funniest thing I had ever seen, and he was so proud. He would prance around when he was done just singing like he was the “Man.”

Chatty, on the other hand never found anything interesting unless it was breathing and looked like a hen. I got to witness his first attempts, and I would say he just didn’t seem to get what needed to be done. My hen would watch him as he did what we call the “Happy Dance” around her, his head and body leaning in towards her. Once he got closer, she kneeled down like she should, and he mounted. Good so far. Problem was he didn’t know her tail needed to be up and out of the way. He sprayed my floor. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, I sure did. After a few times of him doing this over the next few days, he finally figured it out. We cheered for the boy, and the hen ran away.

Seems the 2 boys finally figured out what and who they were suppose to be mating with, so I was pleased. Chatty, being a Buff Orpington is a very big heavy boy, and he loves his littlest girls. Poor Bowzer who is as small as a Silky caught his eye on day. She was smart and got down quick but as soon as he put one foot on her a egg shot out! It hadn’t formed its hard shell so it exploded as it hit the ground. Bowzer was not a happy camper, I can tell you that. She ran over to the egg and put up quite a fuss. She learned when he does his “Happy Dance” to run as far away as she can now. Well, until yesterday.

We finally went and did our taxes, and the weather was so nice, I put all the girls from the basement coop out into the run with Cashmere. Cashmere woudn’t stop crowing, so I had to bring him in. I thought this would be a good time for Chatty to say “Hi” to the girls again. While we were gone Bowzer must have forgotten to run. My poor little girl was limping, and he had put so much pressure on her that part of her vent lining was exposed. Normally I have Tucks for an old dog, but I couldn’t find them. But I have DMSO, which is used on horses for muscle swelling or damage. I first washed her back area, then put a warm wet washcloth on her vent area while I held her. She enjoyed this so much she fell asleep.

DMSO is very strong, so you need very little, and you do not want to touch it! Why, you ask? Any that gets on your skin will make you taste a strong garlic-like favor that takes forever to go away. I learned about this as a teen on our farm, we used it on our cows, sheep and dogs for sprains, muscle tension or swelling. This morning when I checked on Bowzer, her vent was back to normal, but to be on the safe side I fed her greek yogurt and very wet feed last night. I knew I could handle the diarrhea much easier than her having to strain and injure herself more. Now she is still limping, so will retreat the leg with the DMSO and keep her quiet in the bathroom. Chatty did this to Mae-Belle also, not the vent injury but the leg injury so bad she could no longer use it. Mae-Belle was bigger but didn’t know to get down as quick and suffered for it.

Cashmere, on the other hand, is still doing fine with his mating, no teddy bear for him now. Though he is very tall, he weighs next to nothing, so the girls handle him well. Plus some of the bigger girls just peck at him to chase him off if they are not in the mood. His poor crown area is always scabbed up from the bossy girls in his bunch. I have decided now that Chatty, though a sweet boy, has got to have the heavier girls who can handle him. If you have ever heard the term “Big Lug” that fits him to a T. So once Bowzer is better she will go back with Cashmere until I get my Silkie male, and any other little girls I have or get will be with him. I know chickens really don’t have expressions, but I swear when that egg shot out of Bowzer  she was in shock and her little face got this distressed look of “My baby!” You couldn’t help laughing, but I did pick her up and remove her from the area while I cleaned up the egg. She’d had enough stress for one day.

I never realized the roosters will mate with whatever size hen that gets in their way. There were 4 larger girls in there with Chatty, but he had to pick on Bowzer. Well, I have learned another chicken lesson, fit the hens to the size or weight of the rooster! Even though it’s entertaining I hate the fact they end up with bad leg injuries. So it’s another day, and I will be getting 5 new hens from my neighbor soon. These girls are about 2 yrs old and big enough to handle Chatty (I hope). But I am sure I will see more eggs fly across the run eventually. Too bad he doesn’t understand “Bad Boy!” Or is a tad bit pickier about who he mounts.

Until next time, have a great chicken day!

Chicken Health: Performing a Hen Autopsy

A photo of MichelleI finally got the mites under control, and then my rooster, Cashmere blocked the coop entrance and wouldn’t let one of my hens in. She was very quiet, slow and not quite right, so I brought her into the dining room ER playpen. She ate and drank her water, but just seemed a tad bit off.

For us chicken people, we know when one of our hens isn’t doing right. Two days passed when I had to start forcing food and water down her with a syringe and knew she may not make it. Well, she didn’t I am sad to say. Since I have done autopsies on some of my other hens, I decided I needed to find out what went wrong with her. I waited until the next morning after refrigerating her to do the actually autopsy. I grabbed both of my animal/chicken medical books and started.

Most of us eat chicken and never think about what they look like unless covered in BBQ sauce. But I find it interesting of how the inside of a bird looks. Everything is neatly organized, and so much of it in a small place.

Anyway, everything looked good and healthy, no dead spots, worms, tears, etc. Then I found her heart. Instead of the beautiful ruby red color and firm, it was pinkish, 2 to 3 times the size it should be, and mushy like warm jell-o. Sorry if I just made you hate jell-o, but that’s what it reminded me of. The poor girl didn’t have a chance with the heart she had been born with. It made me wonder if the hens my neighbor and I had bought as day old chicks were all of the same mother or coop. She had 3 die suddenly, and this was my second one from this batch. They were also either red sexlinks or Rhode Island Reds that we lost. None of the black sexlinks seem to have this genetic flaw that we have noticed. Sadly it is not something you can prepare for when you buy day old chicks or even hatch your own.

Though I personally do not like cutting up my chickens to see what is wrong with them, I am glad I have the ability (stomach) to do so. I have learned many things by doing this, such as a hen that was gizzard bound caused by long grass, one with a sinus infection that went to the brain and now this abnormal heart. One of my dear friends called me the Poultry CSI, in jest. She is right though because everything I learn helps me and may help others.

On a happier note, three of the new girls are laying soft brown colored eggs. All the other girls have yet to start laying, which may be a good thing, because 12 hens times 7 days is a lot of eggs for 2 people to eat! Thank goodness my neighbors love eggs, I will be keeping them well stocked. Well until next time, may you have a wonderful chicken day!


Marigolds and Chicken Mites

A photo of Michelle Three days ago, my other Rooster Cashmere, would not let one of my red sex-link hens into the coop. Poor little girl was out in the run cold and scared, with Cashmere blocking the way into the coop. She let me pick her up, which let me know immediately she was not her normal self.

Into the ER playpen she went, after I checked her over. Besides white pasty poo, she seemed fine, but to be on the safe side I let her stay in the house with me so I could watch her. Nutmeg was not eating much or drinking water, so I finally found cream of wheat, oatmeal and strawberry Kefir that she showed much interest in. After two days of this, plus the syringes of baby vitamins and water, I had something crawl up my arm while I held her. WE had mites!

Nutmeg, one of the red sexlink hens

Since it was very late, I was not about to go out in the rain to clean out the coop right then and there. But being a concerned momma, I did make a kitty liter and wood ash tub for her. Well, did she use it like I had hoped to dust herself? No, she fell asleep in it.

The next day, after a trip to the vet for my cat Frankie’s rabies shot, it was time to strip and clean the coop. We had just had 24 hours of rain, but now it was nice enough with the sun out to not have to wear a coat. Oh by the way, I live in Massachusetts, bet you were wondering where this was all occurring . A full 20 feed bags full of old straw, poo and scattered feed came out and into the now visible gardens.

I am an earth mother of sorts and hate chemicals if I can keep away from them. I have used herbs for years and knew that marigolds have many benefits besides looking nice and keeping bugs out of your veggie garden. I just so happen to have a bag of dried marigold heads, so I cooked them up on the stove to make a very strong tea. Not the prettiest smell by any means, but I hoped it would be a good wash for all the wood in the coop.

My coop is a series of outdoor playhouses fixed together to create one large area plus its attached to a 3-by-4-foot wood coop box all inside my shop. Needless to say, my shop is covered in tons of dust now until the spring when I redo the coop.

Where was I ... oh yes mites. I washed down all the walls, branch perch, and door leading out into the run with the marigold wash. Then, because I have read they used to use old motor oil on the wood to deter mites, I grabbed a bunch of old marigold salve I had made a while back and coated the wood in the coop with this. In my mind, it’s safer and if the hens peck at it, it will not harm them. It’s lard based, so it will seal the wood some just like the motor oil did back when they used that. I also created a large wood ash and wood shavings dust bath for them that I put out in the run while I was cleaning the coop. The girls were in it before I could walk away, and Cashmere, being a gentleman, waited for them to bathe first before he got in. More on that boy in later blogs.

So, now I can just hear the old timers and experts saying “Why in the world would she use marigolds?” Well, my reply is this: One of the chemical washes used to clean coops with lists marigolds as one of its main ingredients. This plant is a mild antiseptic, it’s antibacterial and many bugs hate it. So, not only by washing the coop in it to scare off the bugs, if the chickens do peck at the wood it won’t hurt them. Plus by having their feet resting on the perch oiled in it, they are somewhat absorbing small amounts, which is good for them and it heals any bottom of the feet wounds.

Did you know a famous chicken company that advertizes on TV, feeds their chickens marigold blooms? Marigolds have benefits for your chickens so if you have never thought about it, plant some and give them the heads fresh or dried.

Back to the mites, Nutmeg has improved since I put in the dust bath, the girls and Cashmere are happy with their new clean home, and I am wondering ... if the mites left Nutmeg and my dining room has wood walls, do I need to wash my whole house in marigold tea because now they are at home in our house, instead of on the chicken?

My Life with Chickens

Good morning, chicken people, and welcome to the Old Batz Barn!

As a teen, my Dad decided I was smart enough to learn about all the medical info on our farm and house animals. Good thing, because it has come in handy now that I finally gave up the “city” life to return to a smaller blue collar town. Now, most of you will be saying a 1/3 acre of property is not a true farm, but for this woman it is enough! All I wanted was a few hens and a nice veggie garden. Simple, huh? Not if you have a dear neighbor girl who raising chicks from eggs, and you (being me) can’t resist the small fluffy chick that runs towards you the day after it is born. Chatterbox aka Chatty came home with me that day and started my “hen” raising a year earlier than I expected or was prepared for. No coop, no run, no chick feed and only a cardboard box with a light to put her in. Well, I made do, and she, a Buff Orpington grew into a beautiful bird.

At 4 months old, I heard this awful sound come from her, and I thought, Oh, no! She’s choking! Yes, you got it right, my girl was trying to crow. Well, I had already fallen in love with him, and was not craigslisting him, he was staying! Chatty is now over one year old, has the run of my downstairs and sleeps at night in a big metal dog crate. He rules over the 3 cats, 1 dog and my husband, but is momma’s little boy. I trained him at about 2 months old to wear a rabbit harness and leash so that I could take him out with me into the garden and yard. Oh how my neighbors laughed over this one. They came out just to see him in his pretty harness, not too close mind you. He is VERY protective of his momma. He no longer needs that harness, as he will follow me where ever I go and comes running if I call his name.

Rooster Chatty

Chatty has been my re-training of living and dealing with chickens, good training I must say though. Since him, I have had 5 more roosters and at least 20 or more hens come my way. Not all healthy like him, some I have lost, some went to new homes and some are still in my house in the ER nursery.

I hope you will follow me as I write about the fun, sad and crazy things that happen with me and my “kids” each week. Until next time, have a wonderful chicken day.

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