Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Long Weekend

it has been a long week. 

A week ago today, I had chickens begin to fall ill in the henspa. 

For those of you who have not read Calamity Acres for long, 
my late husband built a luxurious hen house for me five years ago, 
which we jokingly called "The Hen Spa".  This differentiated it from 
the old hen house, which the feral cats and raccoons have claimed now. 

Above, you can see two of the birds which fell ill myseriously. 

They were gasping and raling in their breathing... and I suspected 
one of several chicken diseases.  

Oddly, only three chickens were affected.  

The third girl cured herself, stayed in under the heat lamp for two days, 
and went out on the third day and has been fine. 

Bird number two, the red bird above... died later the day I took the picture. 

But, the mystery bird... the partridge cochin.... is still alive. 

I had the vet do a necropsy on the red bird.  She had pneumonia, he believed. 

As you can see, this poor cochin has NO neuromuscular control over 
her head and neck.  She can scrabble around a little, her legs aren't working right, 
but she pulls herself around... she cannot bend her head to peck or drink. 
I thought surely she would be dead on Friday. 

Her head lolls back on her back... and her breast bone is sticking straight up to the ceiling, it's 
unnatural.  Her eyes are closed most of the time, but she can open them, when I feed her. 

The vet told me to isolate them on Friday night, and Chris and I (oldest grand) took them 
over to the little red henhouse and put them in there for the night.  You see she still had some 
muscle control at that point. 

I did not sleep... the ferals and the raccoons and the opossums are used to 
checking this house for food every night... as well as the old henhouse... and I 
worried all night.  Both birds were in there, the red hen is out of sight at the right. 
I really don't think either could walk. 

It was the following day the cochin lost control of her neck, and the red hen died. 
I brought them back over to the feed room of the henhouse, if they were going to die, 
I wanted them to do it where there were familiar surroundings (because of course, 
I anthropomorphasize my animals).  

We were also working outside, the kids were out of school on Friday (thru this week) and Christopher was up from Garnett to help. 

He and Jax worked on clearing this fenceline of grapevine and weeds.  The grapevine was 
pulling it down. 

Jax and Paiton raked alongside the old hen house, and they had to keep stopping 
for their helpers. 

And there might have been some brunch at Ihop.  That's Paiton's favorite, 
the Junior Cupcake Pancake Combo... she ate it all... and Jax had 
the Nutella French toast, which also looked wonderful. 

Ooops... that's a blurry picture. 

By Sunday, the poor brown hen looked like this: 

No muscle control in the head or neck.  It was heartbreaking. 

I began feeding her a gruel of oatmeal, honey, water with vitamins and 
electrolytes, and some old Doxycycline a friend had. 

I use a dropper to get it in her, I am holding her tightly on 
my lap, she does still have a little fight in her, and can sort of scrabble around on the floor in the feed room, but... she can't get up on her feet OR eat, or peck, or drink.  So, we dropper it in four or five times a day.  This is no life for this beautiful chicken. 

My helpers and I worked in the flower beds Sunday night. 

We had almost two inches of rain on Monday, though, so we are 
having a little hiatus. 

Monday, I found a HUGE egg in the hen house. 

That is a Leghorn egg on the left, and a smaller brown egg on the right. 

As you see, I could not close the lid of the carton. 

Yesterday, another giant egg was laid. 

Here they are in the skillet this morning, both 

Lilly and Jes had them for breakfast. 

My girl Lil, who tore her ACL on the right hind leg partially a 
few weeks ago, has either aggravated or torn it more. 
She can hardly walk, or hobble.  I put a ramp at the steps for her, 
but she doggedly pulled herself up this morning.  She cannot go 
out except to relieve herself... and frankly, I am not sure right now where this is 
heading.  She is not a candidate for surgery because of her age and weight. 
I said last year I would get her home to Calamity Acres before she died, and 
I have, and she has enjoyed it for the last six months living here, where she grew up. 

We will talk to the doctor once more about it... but for now, I am keeping her on Rimadyl and Tramadol. 

Oh, there's this.... 
the partridge cochin's sister has 12 eggs under her in the 
hen spa.

I am waiting a call from the large animal vet, who is supposed to come and 
euthanize the poor hen this afternoon.  If this does not happen, I'll run her to 
my friend's and we will do it there. 

She can't go on... I can't go on, seeing her like that. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chicken Tales

Spring is finally coming to Calamity Acres, I'm sure of it. 

I am greeted by birdsong every morning when I step aside, though 
the mornings are still crisp and chilly. 

By afternoon, I change from the Carhartt to my lighter jean jacket. 

I am getting more done around the place, though still plagued with the med-related muscle weakness. 

Monday, I had to make a run to Leavenworth to pick up some 
things I had had to have altered.  

Look what I saw as I started back through the countryside!  My first 
vulture of the year, you know I love them.  

I got home and actually saw another above Calamity Acres that afternoon. 

They're baaaacccckkkk! 

Lilly Ann has torn her ACL slightly, and went to the vet yesterday. 
She is NOT a surgical candidate at her age, so we are medicating and keeping her 
quiet.  So far, she is doing well.  

That's the cat/raccoon bowl, she was guarding it Sunday night. 

Pretty demure looking, huh?  She has to be muzzled tightly at the vet, 
she will not tolerate anyone to do anything to her, and that included me and Keith. 

Raccoon-proofing, every night. 
The bird seed is in that can for the wild birds.  
It's expensive, and one night when it rained, the coons knocked the lid off. 

This is one of my two partridge (color) cochins. 
She will be a year old in May, she has only just started laying. 
She is, as of this morning, on four eggs.  Gone broody, not even a year old. 

These noises are the noises she will make to the babies when they are born.... she is still getting up in the morning to run out, go to the bathroom, and eat and drink.  As the days wear on, she will stop doing that.  IF she does, indeed, stay on the eggs, I'll have to move her to the feed room where the other hens cannot bother her.  

There are the eggs this morning, hidden behind and under the next box.  Two are hers, the brown, and two are another hen's. 

This is a sick chicken, and here let me make some comments that are not 
going to make me popular with the chicken community on Instagram. 

This is a sick hen.  See the hunched appearance, the closed eyes... 
in fact, I checked her for a crop impaction,  but it did not seem as if she had one. 
I gave her a 50/50 chance of making it through the day on Monday. 

This was yesterday, she was still up... her crop area looks kind of big to me, but 
does not feel hard.  Her eyes are open, and she was walking around, but mainly stood RIGHT UNDER the warming lamp, a brooder light. 

 Last night. 
The lowest roost. 

I honestly did not think she would make it through the night.  Sometimes chickens just die.  They are remarkable at hiding illness, it's to prevent them being preyed upon. 

This was her and a friend this morning as I started cleaning the henhouse. 

However, I stopped after fifteen minutes, I had the hens who were trying to lay in a tizzy fit. 

Okay, here's what I have to say about the hens. 

I have some upper respiratory in this flock, these all came from the Ag Hall, and 
they had it there.  I had it in my old flock, too. 
I guess if I was really being STRICT, I would cull (kill) everyone who "barked". (the sound they make when they are coughing) I'm not. 

My plan is to finish cleaning the hen house this afternoon, and then to clean the water fountain thoroughly, and add antibiotics to their water to help them get over this. 
I think the hot/cold weather changes are exacerbating it. 

I also found this this morning, and this DID dismay me. 
I am going to catch and soak her after I go to a meeting early this afternoon. 
I have NO idea what's going on here, and don't like it.  I think the antibiotics are 
going to help a bunch of birds. 

The majority of the flock and Ferdinand, the rooster, are out all over the place every day, ranging down into the pasture and all over the yard.  It's a delight to see them. 

(taken through the front window) 

I see a lot of first time chicken and duck owners bringing their birds in the house.  They snuggle the birds, and I always wonder... do they wash their hands?  You just never know 
what you are bringing in the house, and I try to wash my hands without getting unduly 
upset about zoonotic disease.  I don't think I would ever keep any in the house, 
at least not this house, where there is no basement or mud room. 

Darn raccoons. 

If you enlargen this, you will see perfect possum footprints on the right, I 
found these on the deck this morning. 

Our beautiful sunrise this morning. 

God is good. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

And the Branches Came Down

Friends, it's been a week. 

Northeast Kansas has seen it go from the 60's to the 20's outside, 
with snow flurries, terribly gusting winds to 40 mph, and everything 
in between. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the young men from 
Forest Keepers Tree Care were here working, despite the 
insane conditions outside. 

Longtime readers will remember our beautiful old 
walnut three which we called the Green Goddess... here she is last summer. 

She was mostly dead at this point, and had stopped dropping walnuts some years 
ago, but poison ivy and Virginia Creeper used her as a support, and of course, 
the birds were everywhere in her branches. 

I snapped this picture of her on Monday evening, as I came out of the 
hen spa.  

Her base (huge) was shifting and the trunk had twisted, and in the winds 
of the last few weeks, many pieces of trunk and branches had fallen down. 
Keith and I had put off taking care of it as long as we could, but she 
was becoming dangerous. 

And here, in the other direction, is Mabel, the huge silver maple by the house.  Mabel was also 
getting to where she would drop bits and pieces of her branches, and some 
were dangerously close to the deck. 

There was also one that hung down and brushed your head as you mowed, you 
can just barely see it to the right, behind the pole.  

Mabel this morning, as I came out of the henspa.  

Notice the cross bar on the last fence section near where you see Lilly standing, is gone.  That is the only damage done in two days of intense tree removal. 

Mabel is now good to go for a while, the dangerous limbs have been removed, and 
she is safe to sit under.  Some of the limbs showed sign of rot within, and the arborist 
told me it was lucky we got them down. 

Notice the bird flying at the top of the tree!  

Where the walnut stood.  From her rings, it was estimated she was close to or over 
100 years old, just as I had always thought.  That mound of wood mulch is not from her.... the walnut shavings were hauled away as they are toxic.  

Approximately twenty decent-sized saplings and young trees were removed from the old hen yard. 

I left a clump in the middle, right behind me in this picture.  
These trees, and the trees removed from the side of the barn/shop... were what went into the mulch. 

Some of these trees were 16 feet tall (maybe 20) and were pretty big around. 

I can now start re-habbing the fence around this yard.  Some of it is tilting, but the exterior fencing is still in decent shape, and yes, it's going to be a pain to fix.  Slowly, but surely, we'll get it done. 

I don't expect to use it until next year, I have to figure out a place for the ferals to sleep, first. 

I also had trees along the road removed or trimmed from the bank.... and one walnut there 
which was trimmed back considerably, since it had dropped a huge branch last fall that was 
still hanging dangerously.  That is all cleaned up.  I wish, now, that I  had had them remove all the 
small saplings from the road bank, as some are growing way too close to the fence. 

I was impressed with the safety precautions, the crew leader, who did the trimming, 
tied off carefully before he cut each branch, and moved slowly and methodically. 

Remember, it had plunged to the twenties, and the wind was blowing, hard. 
Some branches had to be tied and lowered to the ground. 

Each worker wore a helmet that also included a speaker phone, so they could communicate. 

I stayed on the porch it was SO COLD. 

As the branches came down, they were promptly ground. 

Little by little, the big tree came down. 

But not without some drama, enlarge that picture and you will see it was blowing snow. 

The crew chief laughed after he was safely back down, saying he had had to grab around the trunk at one point to keep from being blown off. 
And then there was this: 

There had been a piece of metal pushed or pounded into the tree at some point, probably 60 years ago, and it caused some problems... the scar of it is on the right, where you see a darker place to the right of the central opening.  (not the red).  It did cause a little problem. 

However, they left me with a four foot high trunk, smooth on top, as I requested... I am going to 
put planters up there.  (I think).  

I asked them to haul the huge trunks away, and they did, on Wednesday.  I was in the 
house concentrating on something and did not see the big crane truck come and 
drag the trucks onto it's bed!

They have a small mill at their place, and are going to put that wood to good use. 

Lilly was in and out, (remember, it was cold) keeping an eye on things. 

Jester mostly did this. 

Oddly enough, the chickens were unfazed through the whole ordeal, despite the loud noise of the grinder, etc., and the big machines moving all over the yard.  They went about their business, shifting themselves away from where the men were working. 

I also saw an unusual phenomena, but did not get a picture.  The maple tree was the 
last thing they did.... and after they had finished and were getting ready to go, 
I stood with the crew chief in the yard and saw hundreds of birds flying around the maple.  He told me he sees it all the time, it's as if the birds are recalibrating in their minds where the tree is now, 
and what shape it is in.  Fascinating!

Peace has returned to Calamity Acres. 

Friday, March 2, 2018


I just this moment realized I have not posted since Monday, it seems like the week 
flew by. 

Spring is springing even more. 

We have had a chain of lovely days this week, except for rain on Wednesday.  That was okay, because 
we need it. 

Tuesday afternoon, I got five Cinnamon Queens from a young man here in 
Leavenworth County.  They are 18 months old, but still laying, and in good shape. 

There is a sample of their eggs, from this morning.  Nice. 

My plan is to open the door of the feed room tonight, and let them mingle with the flock after 
I have shut the pophole door.  
Tomorrow, they can go out into the free world (and I'll pray I don't have to chase them around with a
net in the evening).  They came from a big pen, so the grass will flip them out. 

Tractor Supply is having a sale this week. 

I am stockpiling potting soil. 

I have two things to say about it.  At TSC I can literally pull up alongside the pile and 
load my bags.  I do not have to get a cart and lug that cart across a store.  
I am going back for 8 more tomorrow, while it's still on sale. 

See that large green planter to the right, you can just barely see it.  It takes two bags of potting soil, and part of a third to fill it. 

I have two more close to that size, and about 20 in smaller and medium sizes. 

So, Dennis Patton, the Johnson County Extension Agent, wrote a good article in the Kansas City Star last week, talking about the differences between potting mix and garden soil. 

I have always used garden soil in my pots... well... 98% of the time. 

Potting soil is lighter and formulated to provide nourishment for those plants 
in the pots that need good root systems to support them.  There IS a difference, 
and you see, I am now a believer. 

I have 13 bags, I am going to get at least 8 more tomorrow. 

Ferdie was a great help, as you can see. 

I'm working towards a long-term goal of having another hen house 
up and running next year... and having a bunch of brown leghorn powerhouse egg layers in it. 

I have a lot to do before then. 

Like this, only twice as much. 

In all the years we have been here, since 2005... this huge old 100 year old walnut has stood by the barn.  Its' base is shifting, causing the bark to come loose... and you see, its' arms are being truncated by the wind.  It is VERY tall.  There are no walnuts any more, and frankly, it is a danger.  So, this week, I had a tree company from Lawrence come to give me advice on it, the huge maple near the house,  three trees on the bank that have dangerous deadfall in them... and the many young trees that have grown up in the fenceline of the old henyard.  

The bid was surprisingly manageable, and lower than Keith and I had feared in the past, so... I am going to get it all done.  The company should be calling me to schedule soon... I'll take lots of pictures.  I'm leaving the chickens in their yard that day, because equipment will be going back and forth across the yard.  It is cheaper to get it all done at once, by the way. 

They will grind up everything, leaving me mulch, except for the two walnuts.  That is not good mulch. 

(the other walnut is on the bank by the road, and a dangerous limb is hanging from it.) 

This is a garage that sits near the shop/barn.  For years, we just backed the mower into it, and stuck gardening stuff in it.  You see it was full of trash.  

This is it after an hour's hard work this afternoon.  I am going to also get rid of the 
stuff you see sitting along the wall, minus a few partial bags of mulch.  See the lightbulb
hanging there in the back?  It did not come on when I pulled the string, however, I have NO idea if Keith ever replaced that bulb.  There is also a good plug next to the window at the back, that needs
screen put back in it.  

So... the east end is completely open, but the rest of the building is in good shape. 
Power is at the barn/shop right behind it.  
Remember, these two buildings went with the original house on the property, which sat just east of them.   I have already made arrangements to have them painted this spring. 
This building was used by us as a stable one winter, for Beau, our Shetland pony, and 
his little mini-mare companion, Lily. 

Why not a hen house?  The wall could be closed in....with a window for ventilation... the power restored.... a pen built out in front of it... less than putting up another building, or a radical overhaul on the old henhouse where the cats live. 
So, I'm thinking. 

I had Jester boy's portrait done this week, as I had Lilly's done two weeks ago. 

Gianna Alvarez is the artist, she is at #LittlePawPaints on Instagram.  She does a 
great job. 

I'm looking for two good frames to get these hung. 

Speaking of Jester, he has an infection right now, and has been in some 
discomfort this week.  We visited the vet today, and he is on a seven day regimen of 
antibiotics to get him all straightened out.  That will be good, as I have had to get up 
in the middle of the night, sometimes several times, to get him outside fast. 

Our beautiful moon last night. 

I caught this blue boy just right this afternoon!